Wednesday 29 July 2020

Like a Hole in the Head

The other day, I received a report of a damselfly in an odd location. The damselfly was in an odd location, not I. Looking up the supplied grid reference, I could see that the pool was very near the coast, but the species in question, Blue-tailed Damselfly, can stand a bit of brackish water by all accounts. The recorder also recommended that I wear wellingtons if I was going to plodge about there, as the pool was a bit smelly.

Monday morning, after a look at the week's weather forecast and a discussion with Eagle-eyed M, a decision was made to go and look NOW. The area was Rerwick Head in Tankerness, a place I had not previously frequented. Within a few minutes, we had found the pool, it had plenty of emergent vegetation, was popular (even on a cool blustery day) with craneflies and hoverflies, but very not with damselflies. The water was a thick brown colour, the mud smelly and not even a Blue-tailed Damselfly was going to call this home. We reckoned the sighting had been a fly-through, and we pottered off along the clifftops wondering what else was about.

Lots, as it turned out.

Every sheltered hollow had a few Common Blue butterflies and Meadow Browns. Several of the Browns were rather amorous.

On the cliffs, Black Guillemots were sat about, looking very dapper, making their shrill calls of sanguineous song. 

We followed the wildlife's lead and took shelter, sitting in one particular hollow to eat our lunch. The occasional Red Ant wandered over the rocks, and another tiny creature appeared on one of my wellington boots.

The pen is mightier than the sw-asp

It really was quite small! Unfortunately, from these photographs, it is impossible to ID the insect to species, or even Genus. However, according to the good people of the Bee, Wasp and Ant Recording Scheme, it is a chalcid wasp of the Family Pteromalidae. My curiosity always falls short of needing to take a specimen for ID purposes. In my book, the thirst for knowledge should not be blood-thirsty.

The hollow was by the Hole of Roe, a spectacular... er... hole in the cliff. It is about 15' high and 12' across and is 25' above beach level. The rocks here were quite different from elsewhere in Orkney. The cliffs were weathered in a way that made them look like mille-feuille pastry, whilst the rock surface undulated as if a series of waves had turned to stone. For the last 60 hours, I have had the strangest hankering for a large vanilla slice.

A gorge-ous day on Hoy

The forecast was a bit iffy, but for the last day of the 2020 National Dragonfly Week, Our Lass and I headed for the island of Hoy. I had not organised any official events this year due to pandemic restrictions, but the dragons and damsels don't know that! 

Large Red Damselfly

A recently-emerged Black Darter

Common Blue Damselflies in tandem

Black Darter

Black Darter

Emerald Damselfly (top) and Black Darter (bottom)

Emerald Damselfly

A distant dragon - Common Hawker

One of the pools on Wee Fea

Fledgling Cuckoo being fed by a Meadow Pipit parent

Coal Tit

A roadside Field Gentian

Field Gentian

Common Hawker

The Candle of the Burn of the Sale

The Burn of the Sale running through a gorge

Lunch in the rain

White-tailed Eagles (chick on left, adult on right)

Searching for Golden-ringed Dragonflies (unsuccessfully)

Grass of Parnassus

Monday 27 July 2020

Skailling back...

or "Getting on Marwick".

Last Friday was a peach of a day, much sunnier than forecast and ideal for a walk on the west coast of mainland Orkney. Our Lass and I parked by Skaill Bay and set off towards Marwick along the low clifftops.

Rock Pipit

You've either got or you haven't got... stile!

This sea stack is known variously as Stack of Roo or Castle of Geostic

A portal to another realm

Stack of Roo

A Fulmar family

Risso's Dolphins out to sea


A parasitic wasp Amblyteles armatorius


Looking north towards Marwick Head

A tranquil rockpool with the Atlantic beyond

Our Lass and the Old Man of Hoy

Hoy and a lumpy bit of mainland Scotland

A fish fossil with a limpet shell for scale

Still looking north to Marwick Head

Looking south towards Skaill



Stack of Roo

It looked to be a glorious day at sea too

A bit like a shield bug, but I don't think it is

Ringed Plover
The there-and-back route was about eight miles and, out of condition as we are, I'm ashamed to say that we slumped into the car exhausted upon our return. On the way home, we stopped off at an Italian restaurant for a takeaway (2 x 12" Vegetarianas and a couple of desserts).