The image above was taken from the Burray end of the  Fourth Barrier, looking East out across the Pentland Firth and the North sea. The Barrier links the island of South Ronaldsay to the island of Burray, 

All of these pictures on these pages have the Latin names included where possible. Some images are sent to the appropriate Facebook Group, for identification, these include, Orkney Wild Flowers and their habitat, Orkney Fungi & Lichen, Orkney Insect open Forum, UK Hoverfly Group, plus a few more. Date & Location, including UK Grid reference, are given for most posts. Some locations just say The Hope; this is St Margaret's Hope, on South Ronaldsay, My Home. Where there are Comments; these are from experts, from the various groups.

Welcome to 2021. The start to the year is usually quite slow, firstly the weather can be a bit unpredictable with limited opportunities to get out with the camera, but hopefully, I can manage a good selection of images and information.

Great start to the New Year, possible a 1st for Orkney & North Scotland.  

First found on 20th September 2020, Grid Ref: ND445945. One small patch growing on sphagnum moss? against the base of a small cliff. the first time only managed one picture in failing light, and that was not too great, posted to Orkney Fungi & Lichen without any results, so went back next day it had disappeared, Slugs or snails I suspect,

My Original picture .

Found again 31/12/2020. Again Posted to Orkney Fungi & Lichen. Any ID on this one, please, not sure if it's a Fungi or Lichen, less than 6 mm across. Thanks.

This time I got a result.

Lee Johnson, This is one of the bryophilous fungi. I would hazard a guess at Arrhenia retiruga (small moss oysterling). I am not sure it has been recorded in Orkney before. 

Julian Branscombe, Admin, Amazing. Not one I've seen before. I'll look into its status in Orkney. Where did you find this, Mike? And do you know what the moss was? Or can John Crossley tell from the photo?

John Crossley Amazing, I have never seen one before. I think the moss might be Hypnum cupressiforme, but being frosted (?) it is hard to see. I would need a clearer photo to be sure. Or I will go and look.

Mike Hoy to John Crossley, New picture, If that is not any better, please pm, me and I meet up with you.

John Crossley, Thanks. Still looks like H c, but I would like to see it just the same. Maybe tomorrow.

Mike Hoy No problem call me.

John Crossley, Mike showed me the oysterling. This photo shows the moss better. It is Isothecium interludens, a fairly common species in Orkney. The fungus was also growing on Kindbergia praelonga, a very common species everywhere. Not too fussed what it grows on then. Think it is new for Orkney, N Scotland in fact.

John Crossley, I should have tagged you for last two comments and pics,  Julian Branscombe

Arrhenia retiruga (small moss oysterling) Fungi. (Enlargement)

Well, I think that was a good result, considering that the fungi measure only 5-6mm across and the whole patch was only around 250mm diameter, over the last few weeks I have searched along the path north & south without finding any more, the original patch has now died away but hopefully will be back next autumn.

Tuesday 5/01/2021. The Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis).

Almost gull-like, the Fulmar are members of a group of birds known as 'tubenoses', or 'petrels', which includes the giant albatrosses. The fulmar glides low over the sea on stiff wings, with shallow wingbeats, gliding and banking to show its white underparts then grey upperparts. Fulmars are pelagic (meaning they live entirely at sea) outside of their breeding months. When they're hunting (as opposed to scavenging) they are ocean divers, At its breeding sites, it will fly high up the cliff face, riding the updraughts. Fulmars are a common sight in Orkney nesting on rock ledges from the highest cliffs right down to just above the high tide line. The Fulmar has a good defence when it comes to predators, it regurgitates a foul-smelling liquid at anything that gets to close, including Man.

Northern Fulmar, Fulmarus glacialis.

Close-up showing the tube nose

Saturday 09/01/2021.

Two Autumn/ Winter visitors missing this year are the  Waxwing Bombycilla garrulus, a Winter visitor from Scandinavia. ...  And the Snow Bunting Plectrophenax nivalis. Hopefully, we still have a few months yet so still a chance.

The Waxwing

Bombycilla garrulus

Waxwing Bombycilla garrulus, Winter visitor from Scandinavia. ...  Waxwings are starling-sized, stout-bodied, short-legged birds with an upstanding, pointed crest. They have black throats, black wings with white, yellow and waxy red markings and yellow-tipped tails. Just one species breeds in Europe and visits the UK erratically in winter during 'irruption years'.

The Snow Bunting

Plectrophenax nivalis ,

The Snow Bunting Plectrophenax nivalis, Snow buntings are large buntings, with striking 'snowy' plumages. Males in summer have all white heads and underparts contrasting with a black mantle and wingtips. Females are more mottled above. In autumn and winter birds develop a sandy/buff wash to their plumage and males have more mottled upperparts.  breeds in the Arctic (from Scandinavia to Canada), and winters in the UK, mainly around the coast. There have been a few reports recently, but none that I have connected with yet.

Wednesday 13/01/2021. 

A bright sunny day, a chance to get out for a while, it was well below freezing last night so there was a heavy frost and it was a bit slippery underfoot, a good chance for some interesting pictures.

The direction of the light alters the colour of the ice.

Frozen puddels on the farm track.

I took the pictures below of frozen puddles in a local car park, at first I thought the patterns were ice crystals, but on closer inspection, they turned out to be fine vegetation blown by the wind into the puddles then frozen. But still a pattern created by nature.

The original picture.

Inlargement showing vegitation.

Friday 15/01/2021.

This morning while tidying up some vegetation in the garden, well I call it a garden but in fact, it's a small yard with a few flowerbeds, well I was clearing up dead plants and found around twenty long brown grubs/ larvae, they were very slow-moving, so decided to set up the camera on the focus rail in the shed and get some good closeups. when finished I posted them on Orkney insects Facebook page for identification. 


Results from Facebook.

David Fitzpatrick Leather jackets maybe

Mike Hoy, Author.Not sure, these are around 10-15mm long and I.5mm round, not fat like leather jackets, and they were on the surface of the ground, I believe Leather jackets live under until they change. But then I could be wrong. 

David Fitzpatrick, Mike Hoy, yea seems like an odd time of year for them too 

Lee Johnson.  Bibionids most likely, often seen on top of soil under litter etc in good numbers. 

Bibionidae (St Mark's flies) 

Bibionids are relatively large and robust nematoceran flies with sexes that differ substantially in appearance. Males are large-eyed, black-bodied, relatively hairy and usually with a pale wing membrane. Females, by contrast, have tiny heads with much smaller eyes, bodies and legs that can be extensively red in some species, and wings that are darkened in some species.

Pictured below, Bibio pomonae, common name red-thighed St Mark's fly or heather fly. Picture taken march 2020.

Red-thighed St Mark's Fly ( Bibio pomonae)

Saturday 16/01/2021.

More cold frosty weather today, but with a few spells of sunshine, spent around an hour up at the Ruff, not a lot of suitable subjects, but managed a few pictures of frosted leaves & grass stems, things must be looking up as I saw my first flying insect, no idea what it is but it was worth a few shots, see images below.

Ice crystals on Bracken.

Please click/Tap on any image to enlarge.

24/01/2021. Grid Reference: ND445937

Elderberry, Sambucus nigra,

Common names include elder, elderberry, black elder, European elder, European elderberry, and European black elderberry Elderberry is a deciduous shrub or small tree not native to Orkney, but frequently found planted around the county, growing to 6 m (20 ft) tall and wide, The bark, light grey when young, changes to a coarse grey outer bark with lengthwise furrowing, prominent. The leaves are arranged in opposite pairs, 10–30 cm long, pinnate with five to seven (rarely nine) leaflets, the leaflets 5–12 cm long and 3–5 cm broad, with a serrated margin. The young stems are hollow. The English term for the tree is not believed to come from the word "old", but from the Anglo Saxon æld, meaning fire, because the hollow stems of the branches were used as bellows to blow air into a fire You can find these planted along the Pier road in the Hope . Interestingly the trees on pier road are mostly 3" -9" diameter, but there are much larger trunks that are now dead and decaying some of these are over 24" in diameter, dead to ground level with new growth, growing from the base this can be seen in the picture below, the upright dead trunk has new growth on the left side 3" in diameter and joined to the dead wood. The Pier road Elder's flower each year and & produce berries but they never ripen, maybe the season is not long enough , unless the birds are eating them first.

Please tap or if using a mouse click on image to inlarge.

Elderberry, Sambucus nigra,

The image on the left shows one of the largest dead trunks with new growth on the left edge, this is around three inches in diameter.

The right image showing the effects of wind and rain on dead wood, the timber is dense and very hard and takes a long time to rot.

I have never seen any Fungi on these dead trunks, but the timber sometimes has green staining this is caused by the fungi, Green Elfcup  Chlorociboria aeruginosa although the fruiting bodies are seen infrequently in autumn.

Wednesday 27th January 2020

Patterns in the sand, Black stained water percolating from a sand dune at low tide, my guess would be something buried under the sand possible old bonfire residue or something like that. the water appeared at around eight different spots around the low watermark, instant abstracts at each turn of the tide.   

Saturday 30th January 2021.

Continuing with patterns, this time in stone, Orkney has plenty of sandstone of varying density from the hardest which was used for Millstones to the softest which we will look at here. Sometimes soft sandstone got mixed in with building stone by accident, where this happened the weather took over, and as you probably know, Orkney can be windy at times, the buffeting wind acted like a tumble dryer on the loose grains of sand in the cracks of the sandstone spinning them around in there confined spaces and over many decades enlarging the holes to produce the patterns pictured below.   

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