What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.


Leisure By WH Davies

        
Our Expeditions

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12 November
Stevenston, Saltcoats, Irvine Harbour

With sunny weather across the whole of the Central Belt, we had a large choice of destinations and, since we had gone east over recent weeks, we headed west to Stevenston Point. From the Point, the the Isle of Arran set in a deep blue sea made a picturesque backdrop. Straight away we noticed Black-headed Gulls and Sanderling off the the north side of the Point. We edged a bit closer, careful not to put the birds up, and found a closer enclave of a dozen or so Sanderlings. Also, a Common Gull was among the many birds feasting at the water’s edge.

Arran
Black-headed Gulls/Sanderlings
Sanderlings
Common Gull




As we photographed the birds, to the east of Stevenston, High Kirk wind farm dominated the view. The blades were turning steadily in the bitter north wind, helping to meet Scotland’s domestic electricity needs, but of course the Sanderling and Redshank I was snapping were unconcerned with windmills. Later we found Ringed Plovers off the south side of the Point. They were scurrying about frantically then pausing like little statues, probably believing that being still made them invisible.

High Kirk Wind Farm
Redshank
Sanderlings
Ringed Plover




Just as we left the Point a single drake Goldeneye landed and started diving just to the north. It only stayed a few minutes though before pressing on north. We drove up to Salcoats Harbour – always worth checking. As we left the car, an impressive big Great Black-backed Gull juvenile drifted low above our heads. The tide was out and people were on the rocks within the harbour so there weren’t many birds there. We ambled around the promenade hoping for better luck at the tower. We were in luck as a pair of Curlew were feeding below us, lit wonderfully by the low autumn sun. Other birds there included the ubiquitous Herring Gull,…

Goldeneye
Juvenile Great Black-backed Gull
Curlew
Herring Gull




… some Turnstones, Ringed Plover, and a Redshank that was aggressively poking at something deep within the seaweed. We observed the rocks for a while before heading back to the car. A busy Starling caught my eye, its plumage lit up in a full spectrum of colours by the bright sunlight.

Turnstone
Ringed Plover
Redshank
Starling




At the harbour’s grassy edge, just below the car park, we came upon a group of Greenfinches. We see far fewer of these handsome birds since their numbers were badly affected by disease. The birds we saw seemed healthy enough. We briefly checked the other side of the harbour but we only came away with a picture of a nice little Rock Pipit. We then moved on to Irvine Harbour for our tea and pastry. We found some juvenile Shags diving below the footbridge. They made great subjects as they were dramatically lit in the now amber light of the near-setting sun. Across the River Garnock large flocks of Wigeon and Lapwings were very active, but quite distant.

Greenfinch
Rock Pipit
Juvenile Shag
Wigeon/Lapwings




It had been another very enjoyable day that had yielded more than a few great photographic opportunities. We celebrated, as usual, with a warm cup of tea and, for a wee change, John had purchased a couple of rhubarb tarts – what’s not to like?

Pictures of the week:

Starling
Greenfinch


Juvenile Shag
Curlew



5th November: Musselburgh

We started this week’s adventure with a tour around Airth that turned into a classic wild goose chase, that is, a wild Snow Goose chase, that ended, appropriately enough, without a sniff of a Snow Goose. It was lovely weather for it, but we cut our losses and headed for Musselburgh.

It was noon before we got our first picture (well, we couldn’t miss our Morrisons breakfast!). It was of a pretty little Goldfinch by the banks of the Esk (see Pictures of the Week, below). In the mouth of the estuary a big flock of Greylags were bobbing up and down in the choppy waters. Closer to the seawall a few female Goldeneye were diving away unconcerned by the sea conditions. A single Greylag Goose flew past followed by a female Wigeon, the first of many such passes we’d see.

Greylag Geese
Female Goldeneye
Greylag Goose
Wigeon




It was a bit cold and breezy with low, bright autumn sunshine that got brighter as the early cloud cleared away. More Wigeon flew past probably heading for the safety of the Scrapes. We then had a sudden arrival of around 50 twittering Twite. They landed on the seawall and, when they were satisfied it was safe to continue, they one-by-one descended to the feed at the grassy fringes of the path. Meanwhile a solitary Pied Wagtail foraged amid the puddles without giving any attention to the noisy invaders. As I moved cautiously towards the Twite, trying to get some better shots, they were put up by a passing jogger who smiled in amusement as he observed my obvious frustration. John drew my attention to a male Eider diving for shellfish just below the seawall. We were lucky to find it struggling to down his latest catch – a small crab.

Wigeon
Twite
Wagtail
Eider




As we plodded on, we disturbed what I thought at first was another Twite but later realised it was a female Reed Bunting. The male couldn’t have been far away but we couldn’t see it. At the Scrapes we were disappointed to find the birds were well back from the hides. Large numbers of Redshanks, Bar-tailed Godwits and Oystercatchers were in evidence, but not much else. We were informed by birders we met in the hides that a Greenshank and Spotted Redshank were about, but we didn’t see them. Since the light was dimming as the sun got lower in the sky, we started back to the car. There wasn’t much happening in the sea, probably due to the choppy surface, however our main attentions were drawn to the frequent fly-pasts. I managed a decent shot of a young passing Cormorant.

Female Reed Bunting
Redshank
Bar-tailed Godwit
Cormorant




More Wigeon continued to fly past us, their colourful plumage beautiful highlighted by the low sun. A bold Carrion Crow flew overhead. A bonny pair of well-lit Black-headed Gulls were the last of our aerial observations. I think it’s a shame we underrate these birds, like we underrate Mallards, Starlings and other common birds, as they are very pleasing to the eye. As we reached the end of the seawall John pointed out the Greylags we had seen at the start of our walk, now they were so far out binoculars were required to make them out.

Wigeon
Carrion Crow
Black-headed Gull
Greylag Geese




The final drama of the day unfolded as we prepared for our tea and Danish pastry. Some daft person had forgot to pack the flask of hot water – OK it was me! So it was off to the famous Luca’s cafe for carry-out tea – the day was saved!

Pictures of the week:

Goldfinch
Twite


Wigeon
Reed Bunting



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