Tuesday 23 April 2019

Small and Imperfectly framed

Well, as Bank Holiday weekends go, at any time of year, this Easter weekend has been rather spectacular, with bright sunshine and record-breaking temperatures in many parts of the UK. Even here in Orkney, always tempered by a sea breeze, it has been really peachy.

So I was keenly anticipating that I would be bringing you several reports of wildlifey adventures from the lands beyond the north wind, but I'm afraid all I can offer is this paltry effort. I've barely ventured from the house for four days, completely lacking in energy and reduced to gazing out of the window at the pleasant Spring days. All very odd.

However, I did have one small natural history mystery to contemplate, because on Sunday morning I ambled to the back door to stand in the sunshine, and happened to notice a tiny insect climbing up the wall by the door frame.

This peedie creature is all of 3mm in length, and is a species of weevil. As there are more then 600 species of weevil in Britain and Ireland, and my insect field guide shows less than 30, identifying the wee scrappit is proving difficult. Various local gurus are trying to nudge me in the right direction, but I'm beginning to suspect that for a definitive answer, we will require (a) better photos, for which I don't have the apparatus, or (b) dissection, for which I don't have the inclination. Even when I'm bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (if that's not showing too much of a mammalian bias).

There are several excellent identification keys online, but I come up short as regards level of microscopic detail and knowledge of beetle anatomy. So I will battle on, looking through a plethora of photographs in the hope of at least narrowing down the options to a single Genus.

One joyous consequence of my enforced inactivity, is being able to watch a flock of Oystercatchers, perhaps a couple of dozen strong, as they roost and forage in the fields over the road. They have been around for at least a week, and I do not recall this happening in previous recent Springs. Yes, a pair will normally set up a territory close by, but this big bunch of boisterous birdness is filling the air with their piping, night and day. Yesterday morning, particularly, there were several ear-splitting flybys, right above the garden, the flock resplendent in black and white plumage and orange bills against a wonderful azure blue sky. I think even Our Lass would forgive them the 1am piping for that spectacle.

And speaking of bird calls, I have been hearing, but not seeing, Golden Plover quite a bit of late. These birds are still around, so it is possible that the sound is coming down from high-flying flocks, but try as I might, I have not been able to spot them. I am now wondering if one of the local Starlings has caught me out, yet again, with the latest addition to his repertoire.

UPDATE: Local guru LJ has suggested a probable ID! A species, Leiosoma deflexum, looks to match the size, shape and colour, and crucially feeds on Buttercup, of which we have plenty.

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