Category Archives: Ecology


I don’t normally ID micromoths, because I have enough trouble as it is with macromoths and they are big and bright and there’s only about 900 species, unlike micros, which are tiny, grey, need a microscope to identify correctly, and there’s thousands of species.

But some in the moth trap this morning looked lovely, so I got the internet to ID them for me:

 Lozotaenia forsterana
Lozotaenia forsterana

Eudonia lacustrata
Eudonia lacustrata

Also had a few of the usual – Light Emerald, Mottled Beauty and The Ghost, of which I always seem to only get females, no males – wonder what that is about?

The Ghost

St Kilda Bird List

Tables are terrible in WordPress. Here is my thrilling list of birds from 3 weeks on St Kilda, because some people are interested in that sort of thing; and yes it is alphabetical and not taxonomic because I have yet to earn my millions devising a way to get Excel to sort a list of birds correctly.

Black guillemot Cepphus grylle 
Black-headed gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 
Bonaparte’s Gull Chroicocephalus philadelphia

yes yes, Excel can do “custom sort lists” but there’s a 255 character limit on them.

Brent Goose Branta bernicla
Canada Goose Branta canadensis 
Carrion crow Corvus corone 
Collared dove Streptopelia decaocto 
Common chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita 
Common Guillemot Uria aalge 
Common gull Larus canus 
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 
Dunlin Calidris alpina 
Eurasian Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 
European Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria 
European Storm-petrel Hydrobates pelagicus 
Great black-backed gull Larus marinus 
Great northern diver Gavia immer 
Herring gull Larus argentatus 
Hooded crow Corvus cornix 
House martin Delichon urbicum 
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 
Leach’s Storm-petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoa 
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 
Lesser redpoll Acanthis cabaret 
Long-tailed duck Clangula hyemalis 

there’s 9,059 characters in the BOU bird list

Long-tailed Skua Stercorarius longicaudus
Manx shearwater Puffinus puffinus 
Meadow pipit Anthus pratensis 
Northern Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 

I bet you could do it with a visual basic thing

Northern Pintail Anas acuta 
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe 
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus 
Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba 
Pigeon Columba livia domestica
Pink-footed goose Anser brachyrhynchus 
Puffin Fratercula arctica 
Razorbill Alca torda 
Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator 
Redwing Turdus iliacus 
Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula 
Rock pipit Anthus petrosus 
Sedge warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus 
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 
Snipe Gallinago gallinago

or a macro

Spotted flycatcher Muscicapa striata 
Swallow Hirundo rustica 
Tree pipit Anthus trivialis 
Tufted duck Aythya fuligula 
Turnstone Arenaria interpres 
White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla 
Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus 
Willow warbler Phylloscopus trochilus 
Woodpigeon Columba palumbus 
Wren Troglodytes troglodytes hirtensis
Yellow wagtail Motacilla flava 

Ben Macdui

I thought I’d take advantage of the weather and go climb Ben Macdui, the second highest hill in the UK after Ben Nevis. Also, thinking about it, also the second highest hill I’ve ever climbed, after Mount Olympos in Greece, which is more than twice the height!

For various reasons, I reached the car park at Linn of Dee way later than planned, so after a couple of hours walking through hot, muggy Glen Lui, I decided to camp on the shoulder of Sron Riach.

Camp.. in my new tent! A Wild Country Zephyros 2. Although quick and easy to put up in the rain, I struggled to get it really taut, so it would be a nightmare in a wind. The inside is very spacious, it’s a 2 person tent, but very light at 1.8kg.

Anyway, the other interesting thing is that I saw a Black Mountain Moth! They are spread throughout Europe, but only found above 600m.


The next morning broke with a beautiful, clear dawn. I set off at 6ish to the summit of Ben Macdui, spotting a Ptarmigan on the way.

It was a long walk down, particularly the walk along Glen Derry, which was just a bit knackering. I couldn’t get my rucksack to sit right and as a result developed a very sore shoulder muscle on the descent, still with about 12 miles to go. Luckily the views were stunning and more than made up for it.

The weather really was perfect, but I think my next walk won’t have such an epic walk in, at least not until I’m feeling fitter and have remembered how to work my backpack.

If you’re really interested, I have uploaded this walk to ViewRanger, where you can have a look and download the gpx.

Butterflies and moths and spreadsheets

Back home after a month on St Kilda, I have already had the moth trap out twice and today the lawn was alive with butterflies while I mowed it (but leaving about half of it unmown for nature, not because we have about half an acre and oh my god it’s 30C out here).

Dark green fritillery
Dark Green Fritillary


And a few from the moth trap..

Moth bros
Golden-Y and a Map-winged Swift

Poplar Hawk Moth
Poplar Hawk Moth

I also wanted to start keeping a good record of things sightings, so I had a search online for hints on setting up a good and useful spreadsheet. I’ve heard of MapMate before, a biological recording software. I didn’t think I’d need that just yet, but it would be good to arrange data in a way that would be easily imported into it. Happily, the MapMate Beginner’s Excel tips has a layout. Spreadsheets! so exciting!

Gull eggs

I checked over the main gullery the other day, as most of our smaller gullery has mysteriously lost their eggs. Plenty in the main gullery, thankfully, plus a few odd eggs.

Blue eggs

And a tiny third egg, that won’t be viable.

This egg has been damaged, possibly by one of a crowd of rooks that were foraging about in the gullery. The young inside is far too young and won’t survive, but it was still alive when I found it.

This egg has been predated – a bird has poked its bill straight through. Rooks, Heron and other gulls will predate gull eggs

Also, it was my day off today so I went to the Farne Islands in Northumberland to look at seabirds, because I clearly don’t do enough of that.

It was really wonderful, I miss cliff-nesting seabirds!

Roe Deer on the camera trap

Had a look at the camera trap today, it had nearly 200 images in just over 5 days! Mostly grey squirrel and roe deer, but also a brief view of a fox and a male roe deer. Most lovely was nearly a hundred shots of a roe deer family, grazing and grooming each other:

Roe deer usually have twins, and are unusual in that they are the only even-toed ungulate to undertake delayed implantation, where after fertilisation, development of the egg is halted for nearly four months, until the conditions are better for pregnancy.

They are also solitary and territorial for most of the year, so the female here will probably be the same that we’ve seen on other occasions.

It’s very small

I found a newt when I was clearing away some more stone and dirt from one of the old, rundown walls. It was cold but floppy, so not dead. I put him in a box in some sunshine while I tried to find out if waking a newt from hibernation will kill them.

As he slowly came back to life, I found that it doesn’t, hooray! Amphibian And Reptile Conservation suggest to put it back where you find it, or somewhere safe and frost-free. I released him next to one of the compost bins.  Run free, little newt.