Saturday, 20 August 2016


A brief excursion to South Ronaldsay on Wednesday.

Common Blue


There was a Greenshank on the shore too. All near Loch of Liddel. A trip to the Bistro to celebrate exam successes, well done Mollie! (And Liam.)

Back at home an early(ish) morning walk produced a juvenile Cuckoo, most likely fledged quite locally I suspect.

Huge numbers of Episyrphus balteatus have appeared in the garden, 340 counted on 16th and 210 counted on 17th. The spinach plants from last year are now in flower and these attracted at least 100 on 16th. A small number of dark individuals were also recorded.

At least 100 on this spinach which we've allowed to go to flower

Not much excitement with moths, as far as I know that is with a number of bottled specimens of micros to get checked over. A Nettle-tap was in the MV, a first for the trap, the run of Gothic continues with another on 15th in the actinic and likely Common Wainscot to be checked. The first Autumnal Rustics have begun to appear.


Autumnal Rustics

Waders are beginning to come through now with 13 Knot on the beach at Palace and a Greenshank yesterday. Rain and a strong south-easterly this morn means I'll be out hunting for rare things when the forecast end of precipitation occurs shortly.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Ring-necked Duck

A slightly tricky ID with this drake being in eclipse plumage, Loch of Bosquoy, Sunday.

Last Monday the seawatches produced 13 Sooties, 48 Manx and two Stormies, very enjoyable.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Tales of murder

Set off on this track by this post -

I had taken these pix on Tuesday mind.

"Look, pal, I ddna doo it!"

"It wasna me."

This is a Bonxie, or Great Skua well known for avian terror. Also responsible for terrorising Louise on an occasion when she wandered in to an occupied territory. A scary big bird.

 This is a snail killing fly, maybe Tetanocera sp, of Sciomyzidae

Lays its eggs in the snail and the larvae eat the snail alive, nice. That'll teach the beggars to eat my broccoli. 

Now I was going to post some Empid pictures here too, a predatory fly, but can't find the images at the moment for some reason.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Hover time

My kitchen rocket plant which has attracted so many hoverflies to a sheltered spot just by the front of our house over the last couple of years did not reappear this year. Last year we tried growing some Nicotiana in the vague hope of attracting Convolvulus Hawk-moth (bit of wishful thinking I know), the plants did grow and flowered at the right time but didn't really attract much, let alone the hawk-moth. This year we tried some dwarf sunflowers, some in pots (currently tucked away in the conservatory so the wind doesn't destroy them) and some transplanted into the veg patch (fingers crossed with those). I also came across a random crucifer and put it in a corner of the bean patch. The last couple of days have shown the value of these plantings.

 Sunflower and Episyrphus balteatus

 Two Episyrphus balteatus and a Syrphus sp on the crucifer

 Female Eupeodes corollae on the flowers (id the yellow runs across the margin from upper to lower body surface).
 Female Syrphus, either vitripennis or torvus, to get to species level need to see the extent of the tiny hairs on the 2nd basal cell of the wing, a microscope job.

Out and about down the track and around the Wee Wood there have been huge numbers of hovers. Cheilosia illustrata has just begun to be seen in some numbers. It is a small and not especially good mimic of bumblebees.

Cheilosia illustrata on Hogweed

Most hovers were on Creeping thistle heads.

 Creeping Thistle by the side of the track

I counted 139 Helophilus pendulus between the Weee Wood and the hawthorn hedge, but there were 100s more than that I suspect.

 Helophilus pendulus mating

 In amongst all the H.pendulus I did find this pair of Helophilus hybridus. Black line between T2 and T3 absent in male and  hind tibia with apical half (rather than third) black.  I usually find that the stripes on the thoracic dorsum are less bright.

 H.hybridus, pair mating and Empis livida

 Syritta pipiens showing the enlarged hind femur

Syritta pipiens and thing (LJ can you get that to family?)

Sericomyia silentis a wasp mimic

 Male Platycheirus manicatus, front tarsi enlaged, dull thoracic dorsum, yellow/orange and black

Female of the same species showing the sticking out face (females do not have enlarged tarsi).

There have been some good moths lately as well, I'll post them shortly.

Windy and quite wet here today, not much good for insects but I got a new bike the other day, well I've had the Kona for 26 years so I don't think I'm being too extravagant and got a good deal via the Cyclescheme (tax free (ish) purchase). So time to get muddy...

Saturday, 30 July 2016


I've been running the actinic down in our Wee Wood these rainy nights. Last nght was the first time for ages I'd run the MV, not a huge catch but a few micros of interest. Micros are a bit of a pain in many respects even if they are in the trap that is no guarantee that they will make it to a usable image or in to a pot. I usually try for both unless they are something like Eucosma cana (seen quite a bit and distinctive), Cnephasia sp (need to be dissected to get to species level), or totally worn (surrender!). Usual scenario - see micro, grab camera, aim at moth, look in screen, press button and review shows it flew off in that moment. Or - get pot, get paintbrush, moth flies and lands on outside of pot, on me, on nearby surface, and then vapourises never to be seen again. Even if I get a decent image then identifying micros is a whole other ball game... Sterling and Parsons is excellent but still a challenge. Fortunately the recorder is very helpful and so are some of the folk on the local Facebook group. I've recently signed up to the UK Yahoo group as well. But micros are worth the effort as some of them are lovely things.

Acleris bergmanniana, a lovely wee thing and quite local

Agonopterix nervosa, new to me but common

Agriphilia tristella, a large "grass moth"

Fairly sure this is Scoparia subfusca

I can't figure this one out, a dark form of Endothenia quadrimaculana maybe. Whatever it is I see it quite often.

On The Shunan the juvenile Moorhen and juvenile Coot are closely associating, following each other around and feeding together. The adult Moorhens are still present but the adult Cotts left ten or so days ago.

Yesterday this Blackwit with a damaged leg was feeding by the track. In order to change its feeding place without flying it would balance on its bill and one good leg and flap to maintain its balance.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Poor, neglected blog

I haven't posted anything for ages, I will try to back-fill from here...

Smart but nasty! I originally identified this as Notch-horned Cleg, Haematopota pluvialis, but it has been pointed out to me that the similar Black-horned Cleg, H.crassicornis has been recorded here, or is at least possible. I need to look at all the photos now and see if I have one from the right angle to see the notch!

I think this photo shows the notch...

Yesterday I saw the first two Udea lutealis of the year, the first one was conveniently in the garden.

Decorating for the last few days, I managed to get a splinter in my finger.

It was straight down under the nail and broke off, ouch! The dissection kit for insects came in handy!

The day before I pulled this out of the MV trap.

Not great pix, I have it in the fridge and will try to get better ones but it is Palloptera quinquemaculata (confirmed ID) which until recently had not been recorded from Orkney.
Palace this evening and there were quite a few waders at low tide at the burn mouth, 15 Sanderling, 25 Dunlin, a Turnstone, some Ringed Plover, good numbers of Redshank. Only the second Arctic Skua of the year flushed everything briefly.