Wednesday 25 October 2023


 Two moth traps, out for two nights, one moth caught.

Angle Shades.

It was worth a try, down in the South of England it seems traps can barely avoid large numbers of rare migrant moths.

Other moth stuff has involved collecting more Gorse seed pods, a painful activity, and also Ash keys; looking for larvae.

I also had some dissections to carry out to sort out some identifications from specimens I received. The dissections proved very useful, two almost unidentifiable specimens of Noctuids mooted as rarities were proven to be more common species. However, Marbled Coronet and Lobesia littoralis were both proven. (Thanks again to SS for his help.)

Marbled Coronet.

Perhaps not my best work, but good enough.


Lobesia littoralis.

Again, maybe not my best work but...

I carried out some more Agonopterix dissections, all four proved again to be A. heracliana

On the bird front a Ring Ouzel, just the third for the patch I think, performed nicely in the back garden.

Male Ring Ouzel, an adult.

The light was not the best on a very dreich day. ISO 10,000.

Some other bird photography was a little easier.

Blackbird; if I had to say I'd suggest 1cy male, but that could be wrong.

I had a trip out to check on the local Barn Owl again which afforded excellent and extended views. Hopefully folk will keep their distance as I think it has every chance of staying the winter.

Barn Owl.

We went for a stroll past Loch of Wasdale and into Binscarth Wood. No Coal Tit was found but it was a lovely walk on a beautiful, still West Mainland day.

Leaves, light, water.


Back in the garden the Brambling flock got up to 14 and there have been over 100 Redwings through most days. Blackbirds and Robins have been noticeable migrants. An influx of Reed Buntings and two Stonechats, the first for a long time, were down by The Shunan where today there were six Common Redpoll and a large flock of 110 Fieldfares. 

Lunchtime today I got a phone call, "There's an egret near our house, in the field opposite the farm entrance." (Thanks IK.) Sure enough, and as suspected, this turned out to be the elusive Cattle Egret which allowed a brief photographic opportunity.

Cattle Egret.

But then, it was up and away. for no apparent reason

Thursday 19 October 2023


I went for my Covid and Flu jags on Tuesday, so felt fairly rubbish on Wednesday and didn't do much, bit of a walk at Stromness, failed to find the Kingfisher, did find some Coleophora larvae and took a sample, promptly lost it whilst beginning the dissection, it vapourised, somehow; darn!

Today has been spent in front of the computer trying to sort out some records. Cleaning my own data and raising questions about other records (huge thanks to SS for lots of assistance). The questions arise from information in the new Pyralid and Crambid Moths book. I've had the book for a few days now, and what a fabulous achievement it is. Apparently, it has taken the best part of 15 years from beginning writing it to publication and initial distribution. Well done to Mark P, Sean, Mark T and everyone else involved. If you're interested in moths don't hesitate, just get a copy - - still with £15 off.

Ok, so I used to go birding with Sean quite a bit, and I've got a great story that he won't like about crashing his (Dad's?) car on the way to Dunge one time, and the very cool woman whose car he'd just back-ended, "Do you always stop like that?" (Sorry SC.)

The questions raised are around a couple of species of Eudonia, if you have the book you can see question marks over Orkney for E. lineola and E. alpina. I've just scrubbed my two E. alpina records having gone back to my photos (all kept by date).

Eudonia angustea.

Eudonia alpina occurs early, from May to July, and not into August, and is larger, usually, than E. angustea. I haven't found Sterling and Parsons that helpful for this species, comparing photos with the illustrations, although to be fair if I'd read the text more carefully... (and listened to MP) I might have done better. Anyway, remedied now.

I fared a tad better with the Cattle Egret than with the Kingfisher. We had another look for it and got distant but acceptable views.

Cattle Egret, 2nd Orkney record, thanks to MT for relocating it.

I also managed to see my first definite Orkney Barn Owl, which was in the area of where I've had a few possibles from the car, at night, over the years. It was a very white one, so likely from Scotland and not Europe.

Up to seven Brambling have been in the garden with three Chaffinch, a couple of Greenfinch and six Goldfinch, so perhaps our variety of feeding birds is returning, the last few months it's been very thin.

Brambling, male.

Brambling, female.

Chaffinch, male.


On the birding front, a bit of a disaster, I took the scope out of my rucksack to use it the other day and it was a bit knackered.

Nikon ED 50 Fieldscope, a bit unwell.

It got that dent a few years back, I guess that had compromised the airtightness of it. I'd been out in the rain and hadn't opened the sack, so humidity had got in I suppose. Fortunately I still have the very old but faithful Zeiss, but it's not nearly as easy to carry as the Nikon. It will shortly be on the road, to the Nikon Repair Service.

Currently, there are apples on sticks front and back, and a feasible Waxwing was heard going over the other afternoon. It's been a while since we've had them in the garden.

I was sent a few moths to dissect to confirm the ID. I chickened out with an Elasticha, rather rare and small, so I passed that on to more expert hands (thanks MY). However, I did tackle a Depressaria which turned out to be D. sordiditella. Second county record I think so a nice one.

Depressaria sordiditella, male. (Thanks to MY for confirming.)

Dissection of a pug was interesting. Their genitalia are pretty much as hard to unpick as are the whole moths. However, I got it to Common Pug in the end.

The moth traps also did some business with a couple of Mottled Umber, two more Red-line Quaker and a late Rosy Rustic.

Mottled Umber, males.

Red-line Quaker again, I'm having a record year for those.

Mottled Umber is approaching favourite moth status, perhaps something to do with that weird face you can see on the thorax.

It is really blowing tonight, it's doing that thumping thing it does in the gusts and it's due to continue all night and into tomorrow with heavy rain as the supporting cast.  Coming from the east, so maybe there'll be some interesting birds in its wake. There might be some interesting moths too, the traps will be out as soon as possible after it has done with its weather.

Hoy High (it's actually on Graemsay) from the Stromness shore.

Friday 13 October 2023


If on the day of the EbT I'd have dropped in at The Loons I would have found a Ring-necked Duck. As we went past on our return from the coast I had thought about it, nearly stopped, but didn't. That, of course, would have thrown the timings out for the afternoon, and then perhaps the Eyebrowed Thrush would have been in our garden undetected. Been and gone, unseen.

Anyway, I did subsequently go and see said duck, twice. It's a confiding beast, generally hanging about and feeding right by the hide.

Ring-necked Duck.

There have been a couple of other interesting birds within 15 minutes of home (by car). We dipped the Cattle Egret on Monday by about five minutes as the cattle were moved and it relocated. That was en route home as we were coming back from South Ronaldsay (more of that later). But in the rain, rain and more rain yesterday we went for another look... and failed again. To rub in some salt we also dipped the Glossy Ibis on the same wee tour around.

On Sunday we had early visitors, locals hoping to see the EbT. It had gone but we all enjoyed a bit of a gab, emptied my moth traps, for the total of two Angle Shades and a Silver Y hiding in the conservatory, they keep coming in for the Honeysuckle, finding their way in by the windows that are open a crack.

It is an Angle Shades.

Monday was as fine as the Met office promised, although the thick, drizzly mist was initially disconcerting. Despite it we headed for South Ron. Louise fancied a walk and I had a couple of lifers lined up, a cunning plan as Baldrick would have it.

We walked from Windwick north. It's a spectacular bit of coast. Goldcrests came in/off the sea and landed feet from us, I chose to look rather than photograph. 20 or so Whoopers went north, 80 or so Pink-feet whirled around. There were a few Silver Ys and I was hopeful that the cases I found on smaller rush might be Coleophora glaucicolella, but they turned out to be C. alticolella after all.

Case bearer, Coleophora alticolella.

Near Windwick, looking south.

Before heading to the very good cafe for a late lunch, the planned twitching excursion was actioned and we headed a mile or so off down small byways to South Flaws cemetery.

Things were not promising when we arrived. Signs of recent grass mowing... However, we were seeking small things and began to scour the close mown grass. Louise came up with the first of the sought. 

Cordyceps militaris.

The colloquial name is Red Caterpillar Club which sounds as if there should be a mighty garish rave involving vivid Lepidopteran larvae somewhere out in the wilds. But the club refers to the shape of the growth, not a gathering of like-minded moths, garbed similarly. The biology is interesting though, as this fungi is a parasite of moth pupae and grows up through the soil where they have buried themselves to spend the winter. No, the moths will not emerge.

One more thing to find. We'd just about given up when some bright yellow caught my eye, and there was the tiny Meadow Coral.

Clavulinopsis corniculata.

Mission accomplished, off to the cafe, which specialises in some very tasty Middle-Eastern food, perhaps surprisingly, sited on Burray (the next island north).

As we were leaving the cafe, a phone call (thanks AL) alerted us to Orkney's 2nd ever Cattle Egret. We shouldn't have stopped for a quick Tesco shop. We arrived as the kye were being moved, no egret to be seen. 

I've seen plenty of Cattle Egrets though, although but one in the UK. I'd not previously seen Calliphora loewi which I caught in our kitchen on our return home. A window had fortuitously been left open. It took me pretty much all the next day to identify and photograph but I got there in the end. A real northern specialty, but not previously recorded with certainty from Orkney. Armed with my new key it wasn't exactly a piece of cake to ID but it was possible.

Male genitalia, diagnostic.

Calliphora loewi, just 150 or so records on the NBN.

It's been a stormy week and it looks like continuing. A half-hearted seawatching expedition ended up being more of a photographic outing. More hooley to come, 60 - 70mph gusts forecast for the weekend.

EbT post-script:

The twitch.