21st September 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Impressive whale sighting

, by , in

A POD of four killer whales pro­vided an impressive spectacle on the morning of the 15th, travelling south from Gulberwick to Mousa Sound where they remained until early afternoon.

The group then moved northwards again and were off Ocraquoy and Fladdabister later in the afternoon. Viewing and photographic condi­tions were ideal – calm and sunny. Photographic identification confirm­ed that the same pod was photo­graphed in Bluemull Sound in March by Malcie Smith. The four, as part of a larger group, were also photographed in June in the Pentland Firth. Other members of this larger grouping were photographed by Jim Nicolson off Sumburgh Head in April.

A basking shark was seen in Oxna Sound off Scalloway on the 14th, and on the 18th there were 40 Atlantic white-sided dolphins off Wester Quarff.

The white-sided dolphin is from two to 2.8 metres in length and has a strongly sickle-shaped dorsal fin. The back is black with a contrasting long white oval blaze below from which extends an elongated yellow-ochre band. This species is common in the waters west of Norway, around Iceland and Faroe, off the Northern Isles, west of the Outer Hebrides and in the northern North Sea. In Shetland, fishermen used to call them “looper dogs” because of their leaping displays.

It is always sad to see an otter corpse by the roadside. On the stretch of road between the Fladda­bister junction and the approach to Cunningsburgh, this was the second animal to be killed in a month. Maybe another otter crossing sign is needed.

There was an influx of migrants this week including wood, barred, icterine, willow and garden warblers. Garden and willow warblers were widespread, while other warblers were recorded in the South Mainland.

Other migrant species included marsh harrier, long-eared owl, spotted flycatcher, robin, cuckoo, greenfinches, chaffinch, tree pipit, stonechats, whinchat and turtle doves. There were also reports of common and two-barred crossbills with 11 of the latter at Sumburgh Head on the 11th.

The flock of knot at the Pool of Virkie numbered 42 on the 11th and there were also a few bar-tailed godwits, two ruff and a greenshank in the South Mainland. At Cunnings­burgh there was a flock of 31 swal­lows, some of which were probably from this year’s broods.

Also in Cunningsburgh, Lowrie Simpson enjoyed the sight of a merlin hunting a cabbage white butterfly near his house. There was a swallow in the vicinity, so perhaps the merlin was initially attracted by the swallow and then switched its attention to the butterfly, swooping and diving in a display of aerial acrobatics.

The moth trap continues to pro­duce a varied catch with up to 20 species recently, but it also provides an interesting by-catch of other invertebrates such as ichneumon wasps, hoverflies, lacewings, ear­wigs, harvestmen, craneflies, cad­dis­flies, caterpillars and beetles.

On the 18th I trapped a burying beetle. This species, Nicrophorus investigator, is black with bright orange bands on the wing cases. These beetles bury small corpses of mice or birds by digging a shaft under the carcase and hauling it down into the soil. The female lays her eggs nearby so that the develop­ing larvae will have a ready source of food.

Burying beetles can fly well and are attracted to light.

This is the first time I’ve caught this species in my trap although I’ve trapped N. humator, which is black except for clubbed orange tips to its antennae, several times.

Joyce J. M. Garden