The Burn at the side of my son's house at Windwick.

A new one for me.

At the end of last month, I found a plant that was new to me, it was on the banks of the burn-in the damp vegetation,  it had reddish stems and flower buds, the front of the leaves were green and the whole plant was covered in white Downey hairs, the flower heads were drooping and although the buds were partially open they were showing orange-pink flowers, a short search on google gave me the answer, water avens, (Geum rivale).

water avens, (Geum rivale)

One week later and I visited the site again to obtain more pictures, the problem with this is the plant loves to grow on the boggy ground and the flower heads droop down, making it necessary to lay flat on the ground and point the camera up to frame the image, success does not come easily ,

water avens, (Geum rivale)

Well worth getting wet.

Water Avens

Water avens is a locally common plant that inhabits damp places, such as riversides, wet woodlands and damp meadows. A close relative of Wood avens, it's nodding, bell-shaped flowers are multi-coloured, They appear from May to September and are followed by feathery seed heads. The cup-shaped flowers have dark red sepals that surround orangey-pink petals and a cluster of yellow stamens; they hang delicately on long, purple stems. The round leaves are usually found at the base of the stem. Mainly found in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Locally common in parts of England.

 In Orkney, we have many nature photographers covering the bigger subjects such as Birds, Seals, Otters and not forgetting Whales & Dolphins, so I try to cover the other smaller but just as interesting and often overlooked by the casual observer, so you might get a few bigger subjects but mainly the ones passed by many.

A pleasent surprise on on the east shore.

At this time of the year in Orkney, things start to move a bit faster, with the warmer weather and the endless day's life pick's up a gear or two, This little fellow I have tried to photograph a number of times over the years but only ever managed to find one or two subjects, my luck was in last week when I took a walk along the east shore of the bay, only ten minutes into my walk I caught a green glint of light in the vegetation along the shoreline, on closer investigation, it turned out to be iridescent green beetles, not one or two but over fifty in a large patch of Dock plants.

Green Dock Beetle - Gastrophysa viridula


Length 4 to 6 mm. A small green-golden beetle the elytra often seem to have a sheen. Usually found on Dock plants, it can be seen anywhere that Dock is present, such as roadside verges and field margins. The pregnant female is very noticeable. Her body becomes so swollen that the wing cases are totally displaced. The larvae feed on Dock leaves. Its Status is Common and widespread in Britain but being so small often overlooked, I walked on along the shore with a wide smile, having the satisfaction of finally getting some good images.

Down by the little Burn.

Saturday 5th June,

I was down at Windwick, South Ronaldsay over the weekend, at Damiens house to tackle the ever-growing vegetation, one of the jobs was to cut a path down to the burn, when we had finished, I sat down with a cup of coffee watching the gently flowing water as it made its journey to the sea, it was not long before I spotted something moving in the water below, on closer inspection, it turned out to be an Elver, over the next thirty minutes we watched another eight travelling up the Burn the largest being around four inches long, the water in the burn is runoff from the fields and Blows Moss, a large boggy depression between two hills, there are a few very small areas of open water but mostly reeds and thick wetland vegatition.

Anguilla anguilla, Elver

The European eel is widely distributed within European freshwaters and can be found in a wide variety of freshwater and estuarine habitats. Its journey to the Sargasso Sea is one of the most impressive feats of animal migration observed in nature. But very little research has been carried out to work out whether this is the only site used by European eels to reproduce. No silver eels – the migratory adult form – have ever been caught in the open ocean.

It’s also unclear:

• whether spawning takes place at one time of year only or over an extended period

• how long it takes the eels take to reach their spawning grounds

• how many of the eels that leave Europe make it to the Sargasso Sea to spawn

While watching the Elvers navigate the Burn I also noticed one Three-spined Stickleback, over the next few weeks I watched this one fish in the same little pool out of the main flow, this was the only fish spotted on this length of the burn. This possed a few questions, the 1st, how did the stickleback get in the burn, there is no loch from which the fish could come from, this is a drainage burn, I asked the question on Orkney Nature Facebook page, two answers were plausible, the 1st A young Child may have put it there, 2nd A bird may have brought a fish egg on its feet or feathers, the 1st answer is only remotely possible, there is no access to the burn except this one house and the last owner was a man of seventy who never married and lived there from the age of ten, the 2nd answer even more remote, I think I am right in saying the nearest body of water with fish in is on the next island as the crow flys around eight miles away, and then land in a burn under thirty inches wide. Google had the answer, Sticklebacks can live in salt water, so the fish may have come by sea.

The Burn exits twenty feet above the high tide mark. Elvers can travel out of water but not the Stickleback.


The Lonley little Stickleback.

No comments this time, just a burst of colour.

Don't forget to double click the images

for a larger view.

Cuckooflower Cardamine pretensis

Common dog-violet, Viola riviniana,


The Potter or Mason wasp (Ancistrocerus oviventris)

 The Potter or Mason wasp (Ancistrocerus oviventris) is one of two Potter wasps in Orkney, the other being(Ancistrocerus scoticus) oviventris being the most common they build their nests out of mud and small particles of stone when the cell is finished the female stocks the cell with a paralyzed caterpillar on which she lays her egg. They are easy to tell apart as oviventris has six yellow bands in her abdomen and scoticus has three

A mamoth build.

On June 5th this Potter wasp (Ancistrocerus oviventris), below completed her first egg cell. on July 9th, she completed the last egg cell, not sure how many eggs as some cells are small some are big, a mammoth build for such a small insect.

The 1st cell compleat. The cells behind & above her are Last years cells.

A few more cells compleated .old cells are repaired and reused.

Laying the last egg.

The topping off ceramony.

The finished build just the cell on the left need's topping off.

The Materials to hand.

As can be seen from the two pictures below different materials have been used, the nest on the left was constructed from clay this was being collected  from a nearby building site, the nest on the right was at another site and was built with crushed stone which had been used on a recently top-dressed track, so it would seem  they are willing to use whatever materials are to hand.

Made with clay.

Made with crusshed stone.

A few questions I need to get answers to.

I have carried out a series of searches on Google on the subject of Mason or potter wasps, but there is limited information, the questions I need answering are as follows

1# How many eggs are laid in each cell, as I have only been lucky enough to observe the adult placing one caterpillar in the cell, but the cells are quite large, so there may be more than one egg.

2# How long before the eggs hatch and the young leave the cell, the only information suggests when the eggs hatch the food store only lasts around twelve days.

3# How do the adults & young spend the winter, do they hibernate and if so together or on their own.

Hopefully I will be able to answer some of these questions next year.

Heath Spotted-orchid

Northern Marsh-orchid

Marsh cinquefoil Potentilla palustris

Marsh cinquefoil's intense magenta hue brightens up the wet places in which it likes to grow. Its flowers are shaped unlike many others in the UK, appearing like two five-pointed stars, one smaller and a deeper purple colour set above another, larger and paler. The flowers can grow up to 2.5 cm in size on a plant up to 45 cm tall. Its leaves are toothed with a blueish-green tinge on their underside.  More commonly found in Fens, marshes, bogs, wet pools. The best time to see this in flower is early summer , It is a good source of nectar for bees and flies with one weevil - Phytobius comari - which feeds on little else (and hence is known as the 'Marsh cinquefoil weevil').

Marsh cinquefoil Potentilla palustris

Marsh cinquefoil Potentilla palustris