Thursday 28 September 2023


We were staying in Grinton in Swaledale near relatives and a short walk from the Dales Bike Centre. My Specialized Rockhopper Comp didn't come with us but was in Kirkwall for a service, I thought I'd have a day out on an eMTB. I've been admiring the Trek Powerfly range in Inverness recently as we've passed through and DBC have some Powerfly 5s for hire. Orkney is relatively flat and the trails I cycle are not steep and only occasionally slightly technical. When we lived in North Yorkshire it was so steep around our house that I barely went out on my bike (the faithful Kona Lavadome I've owned since the 1990s), the Grinton area is similarly challenging with some steep, long climbs to get on the tops. One of the thoughts around the eMTB plan is to dispense with one of our cars and replace it with an ebike. 

Selfie, on the tops.

Briefly: going uphill is a revelation. I stayed in the lowest two settings all morning, used very little battery (a fifth), climbed everything I attempted and went miles and miles; the Trek is a heavy beast at 22.5ish kg; nipping from Grinton to Settle and back for the shop was a short breeze; it was a hell of a work out, 5.5hrs on the bike, and some really decent climbs which the motor takes the edge off; descending was body battering, especially the upper body and on steep descents the bike is almost uncontrollable due to the weight and the brakes locking (Canyon make a bike with ABS which would be handy).

On top.

Conclusion: I'd like one, but if in North Yorkshire I'd go for full suspension (more control, less hammering of the old body). A hardtail eMTB would be ideal in Orkney and would comfortably replace a car, the extra weight being handy in the wind. Not many eMTBs have fittings for racks etc, Trek and Specialized do. The Bosch motor and easily removable battery are big pluses for the Trek, Rockshox fork for the Specialized. 

Whilst on the tops I found a pair of Ravens, I really can't remember when I last saw Ravens in North Yorkshire, but they do wander at this time of year. There were also Red Kite and Buzzard in one spot. However, the Red Grouse situation was mad. Many, many flocks of 15 to 20 mostly undersized birds, I saw hundreds during the morning. Most of the moorland is just a giant Red Grouse farm, like the fields around our house in Orkney for sheep and cattle but instead Ling kept short. I don't remember it being like this before, twenty years ago. I came across two shoots. I can't see the "sport" in this, the flocks come up from under the wheels, some individuals you can almost pick up. Aside from the aforementioned species there were lots of Meadow Pipits but otherwise one Kestrel and one Golden Plover made up the whole list for the morning on the tops. It all stinks of money and privilege. This in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, a complete travesty, the moorland should look nothing like this. And I do not have a "problem" with shooting per se, I do have a problem with environmental devastation, particularly in the light of the plight of most of our native species and the climate crisis. (I could also have a rant about the Pheasant industry and the impact of that but...) Most of the trails I rode have been "improved" for shooting access, scars on the landscape from my point of view.

In the afternoon, following meeting up for lunch at the DBC's rather good cafe,  I toodled off to the other side of the dale and to the old lead mines. More shooting going on which I managed to avoid.

Here I did find some more natural trails and got muddy on some very claggy bridleways. Also, nearly came off on a very, very steep piece of downhill road with loose surface. So Trek Powerfly 5 = 8/10, Yorkshire Dales National Park (Government) management of this fabulous place = 3/10.

Tuesday 26 September 2023

Yorkshire Moths.

We went to Yorkshire for a week. I took two Heath traps with me and trapped in the two gardens that I used in October 2021. The first night the garden in the village did well with NFM Shuttle-shaped Dart and Light Brown Apple Moth, which I don't think I've seen previously. Brown-spot Pinion were in both gardens and also new I think. Earlier in the day a leaf mine in a cherry (Prunus), in the garden up the hill, was from a Stigmella species I thought, feasibly, S.oxyacanthella. And a small brown job eventually turned out to be Beaded Chestnut. So a good do!

Beaded Chestnut.

Brown-spot Pinion

Cherry leaf, upper.

Cherry leaf, under, mine maybe from Stigmella oxyacanthella, re-identified, thanks CC, as Lyonetia clerkella.

Light Brown Apple Moth, Epiphyas postvittana.

Shuttle-shaped Dart.

Other species seen or captured included: (up the hill) Red Admiral, Nettle-tap, Silver Y, Setaceous Hebrew Character, Blastobasis adustella, Large Yellow Underwing, Lesser Yellow Underwing, Dark Arches, Large Wainscot and Common Marbled Carpet; (in the village) Green-brindled Crescent, Yellow-line Quaker, Red-green Carpet, Autumnal Rustic, Diamond-backed Moth, Common Wainscot, Blastobasis lacticolella, LYU, DA.

Common Wainscot - upperside of hind wing examined and was pale.

Brindled Green Crescent.

(Red-green Carpet) or maybe Autumn Green Carpet - thanks SS. Unfortunately I didn't photograph the hind underwing. I did photograph Red-green Carpet on another date, to be added.

Silver Y

Yellow-line Quaker.

The next night it rained a lot, late on. I brought the moor side trap in very early, and the village trap a few hours later. The moor side trap produced a very nice Least Yellow Underwing, Noctua interjecta. I took a specimen of this as the ID required good views of the upper side of the hind wing.

Female genitalia

Wings, uppers, fore (top), hind (below). The hind wing confirms the ID. Fore wing length14.4mm.

Pretty chuffed with this, a decent record and NFM.

However, more good stuff to come as when I brought the village Heath in there were some moths in the mouth of the trap and on the wall, nearby.

Canary-shouldered Thorn, male, very nice, it was in the mouth of the trap.

And, there were three Copper Underwing agg on the nearby wall. One escaped but I captured two rather worn ones. A bit of a tricky determination these, especially as I'd not seen one before. I took the specimens and brought them back home for some dissection.

Head to show labial palps, which were pale below.

I broke the aedegus whilst opening it and the top lot of spine-like cornuti should actually be under the lower set, anyway, there are just 11 or so of them and not 30 so that makes this moth A. pyramidea, Copper Underwing

Male genitalia with the aedegus in place.

The uncus is the top bit that is hanging down, this is a lateral view.

So this all adds up to this one being Amphipyra pyramidea, Copper Underwing, as opposed to A. berbera, Svensson's Copper Underwing. Again, good result.

The second moth was a female, on this one the wing colour was a bit more helpful, handy as I wasn't gentle enough with the genitalia dissection and distorted the crucial bits.

Fore wing.

Copper Underwing.
Also in the trap A Yellow-line Quaker, two LYUs and a Common Marbled Carpet.

I didn't trap the following night but on the night of the 20th the moor side trap produced, Red-green Carpet, Yellow-lined Quaker, 3; a Canary-shouldered Thorn, Spruce Carpet, Common Marbled Carpet, and a Feathered Thorn, plus another Copper Underwing, another male.

Despite the wings being inconclusive, the other factors allowed identification as A. pyramidea.

Canary-shouldered Thorn

Spruce Carpet.

Feathered Thorn

Yellow-line Quaker

Thursday 14 September 2023

Fossils, not.

 A very low tide at somewhere we walk fairly often, mooching about on the rocks, looking at life in rock pools. I looked at my feet and I was pretty much standing on these.

Not plant fossils.

I'm very ignorant about such things, geology and paleontology are a mystery to me. However, KF at Stromness Museum knows a thing or two about such stuff so I mailed her. And back came - "I think you have found examples of where the seaweed Desmerestia has burned the algae (and lichens) off the stones with its sulphuric acid. You see it at Birsay quite often. There is a science festival talk on seaweed from a few years back with Andrew Want, Rebecca Marr etc where they explained it and that's where I learned about it."

This made a bit more sense to me as I couldn't understand how the "fossils" showed through the lichen Verrucaria maura (Tar Lichen, the black stuff in the images). If you google there are various papers in Research Gate. Interesting and quite beautiful as well.

What else this week? Well I went twitching. Something I do about once a year. Was it a rare passerine on Papay, or seabirds steaming past NRon? Nope it was this...

Platycampus luridiventris, a sawfly, and a larva at that.

A smart wee beastie, quite different from most other sawfly larvae and well worth the drive down to Westshore, Burray where it was in BH's garden. The usual hospitality was enjoyed and Louise and I had a tour of the garden, thanks LH. 

We also saw another sawfly, Hemichroa crocea, which I'm not sure I've seen previously. It's one of the species where lots of the larvae aggregate. They do this weird synchonised waving, I presume as a defense mechanism.

Hemichroa crocea, also on Alnus glutinosa - not the best images, wind and lack of light, my excuse.

I then had a poke around the roses, which were clearly being, or had been, mauled by something. Eventually, on a nearby Mullein (Verbascum sp) I found this.

Pachyprotasis rapae, which I have photographed here before as an adult (if you search the blog - box top left - you'll find the pictures).

By being a tad too slow I missed photographing a male Vapourer which we noticed on the living room window whilst drinking tea, darn! More on Vapourer in a bit.

Some days earlier I had visited another garden, going to fetch some moths to dissect. BR lives off grid up a long track, so the RAV4 was employed to make the journey.  When we arrived, well, not quite at the house as BR was ringing Meadow Pipits and had his vehicle parked in the road, with a mist net set across the way too. Mist net furled we headed up to the house for tea and a chat. It wasn't a blizzard of Vapourer Moths but there were a lot of them, 30 or 40 flying everywhere. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a settled one to photograph.

The moths collected, a couple of Ears agg. and a Common Rustic agg.

Amphipoea lucens, Large Ear, with A.fucosa the spines on the clasper should overlap. However, whether these two are really separate species is questioned. A.fucosa is associated with sand dune and salt marsh habitats, A lucens is more catholic in its habitat preferences.

Second Amphipoea lucens.

I nearly made a mistake with the rustic though. As I almost presumed it was Mesapomea secalis, that's what I was expecting. Fortunately, I dissected out the cornutus and then realised on looking at images on the websites that I'd got a male M. didyma. So of seven or eight dissections I've found two M. didyma, it's clearly much more common than was thought previously.


Mesapomea didyma.

On the bird front, the first signs of autumn are with us. This week Grey Wagtail has flown through the garden a couple of times and a female Merlin shot by yesterday afternoon. The Whooper Swan chicks are now nearly as large as their parents. Teal and Mallard have reappeared on The Shunan in numbers with twenties, approaching thirties of each.

Shag with sandeel, Evie.

A few autumn moths have put in an appearance, nothing spectacular, just the standard fare of wainscots, Silver Y and Pink-barred Sallow.

Double-striped Pug, a nice surprise.

Large Wainscot.

Small Wainscot.

The most exciting moth of the week escaped before I could photograph it, just as I reached for the camera, it flew over the house and away. I think it was Marbled Beauty, but it was gone.

My hunt for additional Calliphoridae species proved successful with a small bluebottle being identified as Protophormia terraenovae. It keyed out pretty well, which was handy.

Pre-archostichal bristles absent.

Calypters dark brown, upper one with black hairs.


Hypopleural bristles present.

Protophormia terraenovae, face doesn't extend forwards, body and head 9.7mm, wing 8.4mm.

First catch your Calliphorid, not especially easy. I've found sneaking up on them with a sample tube to be the best technique.