Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Pond life

A few weeks ago, on a walk with the Flora group of the Orkney Field Club, in between all the orchid wrangling and what have you, I was shown a flooded quarry that had potential as a dragonfly site. Once I discovered who was the land owner, I was fortunate enough to be granted permission to survey the site for Odonata. This afternoon, I had some free time and, more importantly, lots of sunshine!

Whilst most of the site is probably too deep for odes, there are shallows at the margins, with emergent vegetation likely to appeal to a damselfly larva looking to take the next rung on the ladder of Life.

It is also home to lots of these wee guys...

so maybe not so hospitable for insect larvae of many species?

After a few minutes of searching, I came across a Blue-tailed Damselfly, and then another and another.

There were Large Red Damselflies too.

All damsels so far, approximately 15, were mature adults, and I couldn't discount the possibility that they had flown in from elsewhere. However, just as I was retracing my steps, I spotted this very fresh immature one, pale-coloured, milky wings and not far from the water's edge. It may well have just taken its maiden flight. I think it's a Blue-tailed Damselfly, but no amount of searching could locate the exuvia from which it had emerged. So the breeding status of the site is unresolved.

I did find Large Reds ovipositing in tandem, so they are trying to breed here. Time will tell whether they are successful in that endeavour.

And whilst we're on the subject of mating, back home at Tense Towers, later in the evening, the local Hares were looking decidedly frisky.

It's not just March when they go mad, y'know.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Hit me with those laser beams

As musical references go, this one is not from a track in my collection. I'll leave you to decide whether the inclusion of the stone wall is intentional.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Coincidence and serendipity

Coincidence and serendipity in equal measure, that's how I'm calling it.

When I switched on my computer this morning, I had an email from a cousin in London, asking about the identity of a moth she had rescued from a cobweb. It was a Hummingbird Hawkmoth, a fantastic insect to see, let alone experience up close and personal. I was very envious.

Photo credit: Cousin J
In the late afternoon, Our Lass returned from work and was keen for a walk around the usual circuit, so off we went, catching up on the day's events and soaking up some sun. Returning home, as we reached the garden wall, we could see something fluttering around the front of the house, flying up towards the soffits, and then moving along the wall. It didn't appear to have the colours of any of the butterflies currently on the wing, but there was too much daylight for a big moth to be out and about.

Beseeching Our Lass to keep her eyes on it, I hurried around into the garden and to the front of Tense Towers, where I was guided to the spot where it had last been seen... "Just above the light."

Yep, this is the opposite view to the one I normally post.

And above the light, tucked up at the top of the wall and under the soffit was a dark shape.

Now I could see that it was a moth...

A Hummingbird Hawkmoth!

And the really serendipitous part? If we had not gone for a walk and had, instead, been sat at home, possibly even looking out of the window... we probably wouldn't have seen it.

Yellow and Blue

Within the confines of Tense Towers, 'Yellow and Blue' is a much-appreciated track by local duo Saltfishforty.

The weekend's wildlife also took on these hues or, at least, the roadside swathes of buttercups and surreptitious damselflies kindly obliged.

A day-flying moth "Nothing to see here... move along now."

Helophilus sp hoverfly

Another hover, Leocozona lucorum

Poplar Hawkmoth

Likely to bee... a Heath Bumblebee (Thanks for the advice, John!)

Blue-tailed Damselfly, Ischnura elegans, the rufescens form of the female

Summer solstice 2017 (northern hemisphere edition)

Today is the Summer solstice in the northern hemisphere, traditionally marked by either waking up at Stupid o'clock to view the sunrise, or pulling an all-nighter from the previous evening's sunset. A stone circle is optional, but does lend the occasion a frisson of gravitas.

Regular readers (check your medication, folks) will know that I'm not great at late nights and that also, although mornings are easier, 4am is very not the panacea I'm seeking.

Hence this photo, a panorama from the front door of the sunset on 20th June 2017, taken at approximately 22.25 whilst clad in my dressing gown. Neither the Oystercatcher or the cow seemed to mind.

(Click to enlarge)

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Dawning realisation

Our Lass spent a week in Paris recently, ostensibly as part of a re-union, but the real reason was to see how many times Birmingham Airport could lose her luggage. Twice, as it turned out. It's a skill.

At Charles de Gaulle airport, as she prepared to return to home, she overheard an English lady, in the same queue, complaining that Disneyland Paris had been full of French people.

I think this attitude tells you much of what you need to know about the predicament in which the UK currently finds itself.

Whilst I voted to Remain within the EU, I can now see that Europe is probably better off without us, dumb-headed pillocks that we are.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Early birds and insects

Sunday dawned bright and... [struggles for the correct descriptor]... [what was that unfamiliar sensation?]... oh yeah, warm! The temptation to be up and out was too much to resist so, probably earlier than was advisable for finding Odonata, I park the car by Inganess Bay and slung some optics around my neck.

The previous night had seen quite a bit of rain, which left the path very squelchy underfoot and the Wideford Burn with an obvious flood line, high up its banks. On seeing these signs, a few worries surfaced that I may have called the sojourn wrongly, but calm was restored when it became apparent that there was plenty of insect life on the wing.

As I walked upstream alongside the burn, Sedge Warblers were whistling and scratching their jazzy songs. Reed Buntings were also calling, though I suspect that when it comes to song, the Reedies are still in the Primary 1 Music class. Sand Martins and Swallows flew overhead, whilst several other species perched conveniently close to the path, in the early sunlight.

Meadow Pipit

Redpoll sp. (male)

Redpoll sp. (female)
Once over the main road and into the lightly wooded portion of the valley, more insects could be seen, basking in the warmth offered by the shelter of some trees. It still wasn't 'core hours' for odes, but a few Large Red Damselflies fluttered amongst the vegetation, along with butterflies, hoverflies, and a few day-flying moths.

In fact, I was well and truly distracted from Operation Odo by the sheer amount of other things to see.

I didn't have a clue what I was looking at, but it was clear that insects were pedalling furiously through their life cycles. Later, the knowledgeable folk of the local Insect page on Facebook were able to put names to the images: pupa of the Magpie moth (TG); a day-flying moth Micropterix aureatella (NC); eggs of the beetle Gastrophya viridula (AG); caterpillar of the Garden Tiger moth (TG); and, a fly Leucozona lucorum (AF). Thanks, guys!

I was on firmer ground with the damselflies, quite literally, as the path is intermittently boardwalked at this point.

A female Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans

A pair of Large Red Damselflies Pyrrhosoma nymphula in tandem
It was a grand start to the day.