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Answering a call of Nature

Recently, a day's work was cancelled at the last minute when the spare part we'd been waiting for finally turned up but was not what had been ordered. Gah! Still, the sun was shining, the sky was blue and there was a rarity loitering at a wetland pool in the West Mainland. Better still, checking my life list, the bird wasn't on it. There will be plenty of dreich days this Winter so I reasoned that making the most of the fine weather was probably allowable. The pool in question was quite close to the shore, so we left the car at a nearby car park and wandered along the coast. There were loads of thrushes about, a trend for a few weeks now, with Blackbirds, Redwings and Fieldfares to the fore. A small flock descended to the ground before our eyes and we were pleasantly surprised to discover that they were Song Thrushes. Song Thrush But on to the pool, for the main event! This diminutive wader is a Grey Phalarope, a species which breeds in the Arctic and then spends much of Wi
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Going viral

This year, in Orkney, wildlife news has been dominated by one topic, bird flu. This might please Stoats, as they've been in the headlines a little less, but everyone else is very concerned about the effect on seabird, wader and wildfowl numbers. Scotland holds 46% of the world population of Northern Gannets and 60% of the world population of Great Skuas. It has been heart-breaking to witness so many dead and dying individuals of these two species during the breeding season. And dozens more species are affected by the disease. The current outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) amongst domestic and wild birds is the worst ever seen in the UK. Monitoring by DEFRA, whilst encompassing reports of wild bird mortality, seems to focus on the poultry industry. As a wildlife watcher this has been rather frustrating, with no outlet to be able to do anything to help wild birds. Fortunately, NatureScot have now launched an HPAI surveillance project which allows volunteers to assis

Food web and a tenuous thread

To be fair, the Daddy-long-legs spider is very much a bit part player in today's blogpost. It has been hanging around by the fruit bowl for a few days now, presumably in the forlorn hope that some fruit flies might be attracted to the over-ripe bananas. Whilst this room is never particularly warm, the spider seems oblivious of the fact that there's not going to be any flying insects around for a while. I can't bring myself to break the bad news to it. Or maybe the spider just fancied a change from all those corners of ceilings? However, Megan had remarked that irrespective of whether there were fruit flies or not, I hadn't snarfed the bananas. This was true, my fruit intake having waned this week, which I can only put down to all the gales and horizontal rain having an affect on my appetite, leaving me to hanker after more hearty, comforting food. This morning, at the supermarket, there wasn't a fresh banana to be seen on the shelves, presumably due to the afore-men

Autumn cleaning

It's mid afternoon, a haar is rolling in and the skies are darkening as a November morning's gloriously sunny weather succumbs to its inevitable fate. I am frantically trying to avoid social media and all sports outlets in an attempt to not see the score of the Scotland v New Zealand rugby match, because when Megan returns home from work, we can watch the game together. For better or worse. And, yes, you did read that correctly, earlier it was the most perfect Autumnal morning, so much so, in fact, that I happily engaged in a spot of housework. I know! Much to the cats' disgust, the place was vacuumed from end to end, followed by the 'hooverings' being deposited in the compost heap. Two loads went through the washing machine, first the contents of the laundry basket and then a big throw from the sofa. Once all this was hung out to dry, I cleaned the bird feeders, refilled one of them and hung that out too, together with some apples for the Waxwings Blackbirds. Pred

Ticks

It was a very serendipitous moment. A morning's work was cancelled when I arrived on site to find no-one around and the building securely locked. Several phone calls later, with the work re-arranged for another day, I headed home much earlier than expected. As I wandered into the lounge, ruminating about how I was going to plan the rest of the day, I happened to glance out of the window into the garden. A bird flew up from beneath the seed feeder and disappeared into an Alder tree. I didn't know what it was, but I did know that it was a species I hadn't ever seen before. Without taking my eyes off the spot where the bird had vanished, I called for reinforcements, preferably armed with binoculars. By the time another set of eyes was trained on the Alder tree, I could breathe out and upgrade my "I don't know what" to an "I have an inkling." My garbled description was along the lines of bigger than a House Sparrow, smaller than a Blackbird, a blur of br

If it's Autumn in Orkney...

Readers (either of you) may be wondering what has happened to the reporting of one of Orkney's annual natural events, a fixture in the calendar that is as reassuringly regular (in these most irregular of times) as it is, by turns, calming and dramatic. Yes, it is once again Grey Seal pupping time, a roller coaster blend of cuteness, doting motherly love (well, for the first six weeks of a pup's life) and testosterone-fuelled shenanigans. This year, our pilgrimage didn't occur until peak pup, which meant full beaches, frayed nerves and testy bulls, with more drama than we were anticipating. A few of the rocky coves in South Ronaldsay, where a coastal clifftop path gives good views of the pupping beaches without disturbing the seals. This was the only wildlife which was photographed close up, everything else was shot with lots of zoom from a good distance away. Oh, it's possibly Fried Egg Fungus? A content pup A mum and pup dozing together Two pups which have moulted out

Autumn festivals

Autumn has seemed to carry on where Summer left off, with the occasional pleasant day crowded out by a welter of wetness. At least I have been able to keep dry this week, with trips to Caithness and Shetland avoiding the worst of the rain and gales. Out and about in Orkney on All Souls Day, I found this newly-emerged moth as I was leaving a customer's property. It's an Angle Shades whose wings have not yet fully extended. I relocated it from a window frame to some sheltered vegetation.  Bonfire Night and its fireworks hold no great charm for me, but I was delighted to see this huge clump of Ivy in flower whilst on a walk in Finstown, which was a mass of exploding rockets as it provided a useful source of nectar late in the year. Nearby were a couple of Blackcaps, a male and a female, diligently foraging through the leaves and stems for food. However, before I could photograph the warblers, a muffled shout alerted me to an even greater wonder. Above us, in the branches of the tr