Sunday, 10 December 2017

Swimming things and that storm

Rat swimming

(Vimeo link - )

Beside our track is a very tiny burn, more of a ditch really, but surprisingly rich in wildlife. This rat was panicking after Cora scared it and it leapt.

Today I was off to do the WeBS counts. I walk from home for most of it, I have three places to count. The Shunan and Loch of Bosquoy are about a 90 minute or so walk depending on how distracted I get. It was cold but still at first and there were showers of hail and sleet pushing through from the west, mostly brief. However, down by Bosquoy the sky darkened and a heavy shower cam through. I sheltered, hunkered down with the scope just behind a gorse clump beside the Burn of Layane, again little more than a glorified ditch. I'd been sitting for a few minutes and the dog was off doing dog stuff when there was a water sound and out of the corner of my eye I saw a swell on the burn's surface. The gorse has long been suspected of being an Otter holt, nothing showed and I went on counting duck. A scan with a scope a minute or so later and a view full of Otter. I watched him fishing for quite a while before going on with the count, he would have been (distantly) visible from our kitchen.

Dog Otter fishing

Storm Caroline came through on Thursday, quite fierce although it didn't seem too bad, perhaps because it was the day time. Louise battled to save the big shed alone as I was at work. The wind blew the end window in and then ripped the side door off, it had a good go at the end doors too. So yesterday was mend the shed day, accomplished in a fashion. Snow followed it with the usual scary road conditions, Louise and younger daughter enjoyed tobogganing down the new road.

Little Auk

This was found on Friday on the pavement at the entrance to work. As there were no pupils in I scooted of to Palace to let it go. Put on the beach it just sat there, a nice snack for a passing Geeb, so it being lively I chucked it in the air and it flew off strongly to the south, hopefully to regain the ocean at some point.

Bosquoy, WeBS day

Not much to report from the WeBS, Pintail drake at Loch of Sabiston and Shoveler at Bosquoy and at The Shunan. 

I do enjoy a beer and our local Lidl (other supermarkets also sell beer) often has a surprise. There are plenty of Scottish breweries now brewing some excellent drinking (what a change from the not so distant past when it was hard to get a drinkable beer in Scotland). This Yippie IPA does not look or taste much like an IPA though, good as it is, bitter I would call it. A bit strong for me too at 6.5%. I mostly buy Scottish beer but Tesco here regularly stocks Heart and Soul and Pride and Joy, both excellent and brewed in Cragg Vale where we used to live. More beers may shortly be featured... As  may be deduced beer is usually consumed whilst I cook.

Monday, 27 November 2017


 Looking to the Brough

 Gannets and Noup Head (Westray)

 Looking east

 Common Gull

Common Gull

On NW winds I'm checking every gull as it comes west, coasting. It's always a good sign if there are a few Great Black-backs and this afternoon there were a good few of them coming west. Eventually this fine Iceland Gull was picked out from the crowd. (Not as sharp as I would like, really.)

I'd better check the age but maybe a 3cy.

I'd been pretty engrossed in all this and then thought to head to the tea room when Louise reminded me that I was meant to be planting trees at 2pm, and I had the keys... Quick scoot back to arrive just ten minutes late. 

The Woodland Trust had provided us with another 400 odd trees most of which we put in the ground before it got dark. These are to try and create a bit of habitat and a bit of shelter on our very exposed school grounds.

The West Mainland Farmer's Ball (and the harvest home) is always an interesting and largely very enjoyable event. We headed there last night to support younger daughter collecting her various pony riding awards. Best is to see folk of all ages dancing together, tradition and culture kept alive enthusiastically. The down side is quite often (but not always) the speaker. (There are certain things that it really is not appropriate to make a joke about.) The Orcadian language is very much alive here, and that is a more positive aspect of these speeches. I still have to listen very hard to understand all that is said. 

I meant to post this the other week, Buzzard P, locally bred four years ago and hanging out in the trees next door, I finally managed to read the tag. There is currently another tagged bird hanging out around Bosquoy, I've still not managed to read that tag.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017


The title of my friend (from primary school) Chris Nicholson's book about Thomas Hardy's later years, and the season that has now arrived. Wet and windy and cold. The pellet boiler is gobbling sacks of pellets, the pallet of 100 sacks bought a month ago has dwindled, I need to remember to order more this week. My office in work is nice and warm, perhaps the warmest room in the building, but on these dark evenings I'm not keen to go out to the car in the cold. Tonight the short walk across the playground left me very wet, rain has been unremitting today, pony fields half submerged.

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You need know very little about Hardy to enjoy this book, the relationships in this biographical fiction are compelling.

A few seawatches of late, the best included three Glaucous Gulls and a couple of Little Auks. Otherwise not much turning up, four Blackwits at Loch of Bosquoy were a surprise.

 This distinctive House Sparrow with a white tail feather has been with us for quite a while, I think about five years, I didn't record his presence for a few years (regretfully).

A lovely day on Sunday, relatively calm and the Sun, that absent friend, joined us for a day. So, the Rooks came prospecting as they do on any kind day from now on.

Taking the recycling out to the car last week I discovered that the council supplied, weighted bags were in a bit of a state, holey. Rodent damage. The traps in the kitchen have not caught anything for a few weeks now, the one House Mouse that I caught was a loner. A transfer of a trap to the garage and four nights in a row I've caught Wood Mice. The first one had been half-eaten by its cam-padres, a surprise, I wouldn't have expected Wood Mice to do that, there may of course be a larger rodent lurking. The poison and the cats have kept the rats under control outside, but there is evidence of their activity.

The Otter at the bottom of the track that we saw over a few days has not been seen for a while, then the other night the girls were driving back from the ponies in the early evening and came across a large (dog probably) Otter just by our front gate. They had great views in the headlights.

Listening -

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Aimee Mann, Kamasai Washington and The National, take a look at the film made to go with Kamasi's album, here:

 I think the talk went ok, glad it's done.

Up and coming - a bit of a hop on Saturday night at the West Mainland Farmers' Ball.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Fire and other things

A bit of a blow at the end of October and a couple of seawatches produced hundreds of Kittiwakes, about a third were juvs, Gannets, Great Northern Divers, Snow Buntings and a nice biscuit coloured, juvenile Glaucous Gull. An interesting looking gull was also seen, unidentifiable for sure but most likely just some sort of eastern/Baltic argentatus Herring Gull.

The bird looked strikingly pale when first seen (but that might have been the light), the very dark head, neck and upper breast was striking. Interesting black in the primaries, P6 and P5, various other features might lead to a possible Yank Herring Gull, but they're next to impossible to identify unless they show off conveniently in front of you in good light for a few hours, or conveniently die so the wings can be carefully examined.

Big aurora here right now, but the moon is too bright to see it properly. 

Louise enjoyed the foam storm when we went for a walk.

A couple of good bonfires over this weekend.


 Our garden, Sunday

I'm still working on this talk for a fortnight's time for the Field Club, getting there slowly.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Last resting place - maybe

Nine years of good service 60,000+ miles (it had 20 or so thou on the clock when I got it) but a blown head gasket would seem to be the end. As can be seen it is in the Fiesta graveyard, there's a third one in the background. Maybe some parts will go on further journeys. It went up and down, or maybe down and up, to Yorkshire a few times - one memorable journey on a very rough Aberdeen crossing with a hamster, two goldfish and two cats, and there was still fresh water around the goldfish when we got here (one of those lasted until this year as well). It also spent the best part of eight years negotiating the track pretty much every day, sometimes three return journeys a day (out and back was a mile off-road), more miles off-road than 99% of 4WD vehicles. Hopefully the recipient will be able to salvage some bits and make one working Fiesta.

Whoa, that was a great gig, the business. I went along not expecting too much and was blown away, great guitar playing, great musicianship all around. If you can't get to see this band (next stop Germany, then Holland and back to Wales) the 2015 Cardiff gig is available as a DVD, 2x CD package. The stage is a bit small at the Town Hall and the guitar tech/stage manager was thankfully alert as Andy backed off to the edge during a brilliant Apache medley (not on the Cardiff set list).

NC I would recommend this. I think you'll like it a lot more than the Richard Dawson I played you (which is still my album of the year....)

Bird stuff, a huge Redwing arrival which brought me a Mistle Thrush at Northside, a patch tick (that's the other patch at the seaside.) And just Redwings in their hundreds all around the house and The Shunan. No extras though. 

 There were eight Brambling exhausted on the track and then two males around the feeders.


Lots of these around.

A couple of these too - Blackcap

Whoopers have clearly had a good year with lots of family parties, last year there were hardly any. The local pairs did not raise any young in contrast.

Frustratingly it keeps raining at night, often very heavily and I'm loath to put the traps out to get soaked, probably should risk it the next still evening.

Busy, busy trying to sort out the parking space, squeezing three vehicles and two trailers without risk of "the unfortunate reverse" as has occurred, oops. Elder daughter passed her test so a replacement for the Fiesta had to be found rather rapidly, bright red Corsa - watch out.

I'm still very interested in crows, and these two characters down at the end of the track posed nicely.

 Hybrid crow, black feathers on the upper tail coverts and on the rear flanks, and dark feathers bleeding at the nape (juv Hoodie also has a vague demarcation between the black and the grey but that would have moulted out by now I think),  a subtle one. Lots of crows around here at the moment, mostly Hoodies.

Hoodie, this one looks like a pure individual but I'm not sure it is possible
to be certain about any individual.

Last week was sunny, sometimes and windy sometimes, quelle surpris, we had to abandon one walk as there was every chance we would be blown into the fence and end up entangled. Lovely a day later up above Skaill Bay.

 The hound quite likes the wind.

Above Skaill


Snow Buntings were a nice treat at Birsay today.

Record shot.