Our Expeditions: July 2022
Good Riddance 2020
and 2021


Week ending: 31st July: Doonfoot


For the first time in a few weeks the weather prediction for the west was head and shoulders better than the east. The tide too was favourable - rising throughout the visit, bring birds nearer the shore. We had a very unfortunate hold-up on the journey though due to a bad road accident. This resulted in a later than usual breakfast in Stewartfield Morrison (excellent, 10/10 : perfect in ever way).

Courtesy of Weather Pro  and BBC Tides

We were a bit disappointed when we arrived at the Castle Walk car park to find rather gloomy conditions, although we could see blue skies further south. Undeterred, we set off for the mouth of the River Doon, first taking the rough path past the pond that is behind the car park. The path passed through a very dense area of plant life. The view below shows a large area of Reed Mace behind a massive flowering Great Willowherb.


Although the pond was birdless we did set about exploring the impressive array of wild flowers and insects that were thriving on its banks. I started with a picture of the sizeable group of tall Yellow Loosestrife and followed this with a snap of a Honeybee at work on beautiful Water Mint flowers. John pointed out that a Green-veined White butterfly had landed on a Catsear flower. Next I noticed a Red Soldier Beetle on a Wild Carrot flower head.

Yellow Loosestrife Honeybee
Green-veined White Butterfly Red Soldier Beetle

Also on Wild Carrot were the hoverfly Eristalis arbustorum and the Common Greenbottle, Lucilia caesar. I also shot a rather attractive half-opened Wild Carrrot flower head. My eye caught sight of an unfamiliar flower near the pond edges. It turned out to be Hemp Agrimony ,
a newbie for us.

Eristalis Arbustorum Lucilia Caesar
Wild Carrot Hemp Agrimony

Eventually we reached the mouth of the River Doon where we were slightly disappointed to find that it was being used as a training area for paddle boarders. Hence the usual bird life that normally gathers there were absent. We did see one of those displaced species, the Mute Swans just beyond the river mouth.


We moved round the dunes to get a better view of the very end of the river mouth. I snapped a wee Linnet that had been watching me carefully from its perch on the dune vegetation. We could see a large number of birds assembled on the shallows. John pointed out a few Lapwings and also a Rook. I could see a pair of Jackdaws hunting shellfish. I also made out a distant line of Redshanks at the edge of a shingly bank. A juvenile Herring Gull swooped over the shallow waters providing me with a nice photo-opportunity.

Linnet Lapwing
Rook Jackdaw
Redshank 1st Cycle Herring Gull

The majority of the birds gathered at the mouth of the Doon were, unsurprisingly, gulls. The picture below shows a Great Black-backed Gull with a Herring Gull and juveniles.


The paddle boarders were starting to impinge on the bird colony so we decided to return to the car and drive to the Greenan Car Park. This took us past the pond again where we encountered three bumblebees, namely the Red-tailed bumblebee on Smooth Sow Thistle, the Carder bumblebee on Red Bartsia and the Buff-tailed bumblebee on Wild Angelica. We also found Meadow Brown and Large White butterflies hiding in the long grass. John then came across a small fly with black wings and a yellow abdomen, Sciara hemerobioides , a type of “fungus gnat”.

Red-tailed Bumblebee Common Carder Bumblebee
Buff-tailed Bumblebee Meadow Brown Butterfly
Large White Butterfly Sciara Hemerobioides 

We drove the short distance to the Greenan Shore car park and immediately set off to explore the shoreline before and after the Greenan Castle. On the area to the west of the car park there were large numbers of House Sparrows in the hedgerows, many of them in their first year. John spotted a flighty Goldfinch atop a Common Ragwort. After some stealthy manoeuvres by me I managed a satisfactory shot. We moved through the hedgerows to the dunes where I found some interesting wildflowers such as Lesser Burdock, Wild Leek and Tansy.

House Sparrow Juvenile House Sparrow
Goldfinch Lesser Burdock
Wild Leek Tansy

John, who obviously had his eye in, noticed that almost every Common Ragwort plant was loaded with Cinnabar Moth  caterpillars. As we rounded the crag which held Greenan Castle, the only birds we saw were a passing adult Herring Gull, a Black-headed Gull and a third year Herring Gull paddling in the shallow water pecking at seaweed, presumably for invertebrates.

Cinnabar Moth Caterpillar Herring Gull
Black-headed Gull 3rd Cycle Herring Gull

We paused for a few minutes to watch some action that was taking place a couple of hundred metres away in Ayr Bay where three Gannets  were diving for fish. After circling above the fish shoal each bird dived repeatedly from heights of 20 to 30 metres, piercing the surface of the water like a javelin.

Gannet

The west side of the Castle ruin was very nicely lit by the Sun which had by that time graced us with its presence. As always, we started our return journey by walking eastward along the edge of the field adjacent to the east beach. We are usually rewarded with interesting sightings and Sunday was no exception. In a few minutes we had a few pictures of a Willow Warbler  that was hopping between branches of the Hawthorns. A juvenile Robin then made a brief, shy appearance. After that I heard the familiar call of a Yellowhammer. We had no trouble locating the bird as it was sitting boldly singing on top of one of the Hawthorn Bushes. As we retraced our steps back around the crag I snapped a shot of a passing Common Gull. My final shot was of a male Stonechat  sitting on a fence post not far from the car park.

Greenan Castle Willow Warbler
Juvenile Robin Yellowhammer
Common Gull Stonechat

After our initial travel holdup that lasted just over an hour we definitely managed to use the remaining time gathering a satisfying range of images. We were a bit disappointed that we didn’t see many waders. Perhaps that was due to the disturbances caused by the paddle boarders at the mouth of the Doon. My favourite sightings were at the end of the trip when we saw the Willow Warbler, Yellowhammer and Stonechat in quick succession. Our usual tea and strawberry tarts were delightful and a nice reward for our efforts. Let’s hope summer holds out for another week


Week ending: 24th July 2022: Belhaven Bay and Dunbar Harbour


We headed for Dunbar this week. The weather maps on my WeatherPro app showed that cloud and rain was piling in from the west but fizzling out before it reached the east coast. Our breakfasts at Dalkeith Morrisons cafe were excellent (9.5/10:-0.5 for the small plates), setting us up well for what we hoped would be a successful day’s nature-watching.

Courtesy of Weather Pro  and BBC Tides

We started at Belhaven Bay. As we walked to Seafield Pond the tide was starting to cover the sands. Some House Sparrows were gathered feeding at the sea wall and further along the wall I noticed a patch of Field Bindweed. There were about a dozen Carrion Crows foraging on the sand, including some juveniles. 

House Sparrow Field Bindweed
Juvenile Carrion Crow Carrion Crow

There were also many Black-headed Gulls with their juveniles. A little Pied Wagtail was flitting between them as it chased and caught flies. Further back on the beach was a large flock of Greylag Geese.

Black-headed Gull 1st Cycle Black-headed Gull
Pied Wagtail Greylag Goose

When we reached Seafield Pond it was populated with many Mallards in eclipse plumage. An adult female followed by five juveniles swam towards us probably hoping for bread.


In the centre of the pond there was a Black-headed Gull standing on a discarded container. John spotted a single drake Wigeon  standing on the far side of the pond. Not far from it we could also just make out a Moorhen . A lot closer to us there was a Coot grappling with some pond weed.

Black-headed Gull Wigeon
Coot Moorhen

We walked to the far end of the pond, passing a family of Mute Swans, two adults and seven cygnets, careful not to disturb them. However, they started following us.


My attention was drawn to a couple of butterflies that were on Creeping Thistles that were dotted along the reeds: a Ringlet and a Green-veined White. When I’d finished photographing them I turned to find that I was surrounded by the seven large cygnets. Thankfully they quickly moved away towards one of the static caravans where its occupant had appeared with food. As we settled on our stools by the side of the pond we were visited by yet another family - a female Mallard with her ducklings, which were younger and hence more cute that the older ones we’d seen earlier. Before we left the pond area I snapped a pretty Great Willowherb flowering on the bank and also got a shot of the partially hidden statue of a man with a fish on his head.

Ringlet Butterfly Green-veined White Butterfly
Juvenile Mute Swan Mallard Ducklings
Great Willowherb Man With Fish

Just as we reached the sea wall something put up the whole Greylag flock. It was a grand sight accompanied with the stirring sound of perhaps a hundred honking geese.


On our way back to the car we were pleased to see a pair of Tree Sparrows  by the wall. That was the first time we’d seen them at Belhaven.


 We relocated to Dunbar Harbour where we expected to see colonies of Shag  and Kittiwakes, and we were not disappointed. We had a quick look at the seascape from Dunbar Battery. The panorama was rather short of birds but looking along the harbour towards the old castle we could see that the Shags were still nesting on the rocky crags to the north of the harbour entrance. Just before we made for the viewing gallery I snapped a shot of some Sea Holly that was growing in the Battery’s “Coastal Garden” although it was not the wild variety. A short walk later we were watching the fascinating behaviour of the many Shags that were on and around the colony, the top of which was white with the droppings of its occupants. The Shags were very active as they flew in and out of their rocky perches. There was hardly a moment when I couldn’t see at least one bird flapping its wings.

Sea Holly Shag...

On top of the highest rocky column there was a line of young Kittiwakes tended by a snoozing adult.


Adult Shags were continually arriving back at the colony after catching fish from the Firth of Forth. When they landed they were immediately accosted by their fledglings, now just as tall as them, whose heads plunge deep into their parents’ gullets to retrieved regurgitated fish. I watched also as some adults, rather than landing on the top of the column, landed in the water, then paddle onto the rock and climbed almost to the top in order to find their young to offload their catch. After watching and photographing the Shags we moved to the harbour entrance to watch for passing Fulmars. Unfortunately we didn’t see any. Hopefully they were not victims of the Birdflu. However we did see a passing Grey Seal  that checked us out before disappearing beneath the waves.

Shag....
Grey Seal

Next we turned our attention to the walls of the ruin of Dunbar Castle, a now annual site of a large Kittiwakes colony.


Almost every square centimetre of ledge space was occupied by families of Kittiwakes. The cacophony of their “kitt-I-wake” calls entertained at first but soon became irritating. Like the Shags, the adult Kittiwakes were continually commuting between sea and nest as they dutifully fed their young. Arriving adults greet their partners heartily with an intimate crossing of beaks. The young appeared to be of fledgling age and we did see a few in the air.

Kittiwake...
Fledgling Kittiwake 1st Cycle Kittiwake

After our very enjoyable and productive time at the harbour we decided to move to Winterfield Park to have a quick check of the cliffs there before taking tea. I didn’t expect to see much but we managed quite a nice haul for such a brief stop. We started with a pair of juvenile House Sparrows that were waiting on the shrubbery for their parents to feed them. I also photographed a Pied Wagtail carrying a grub. Next we plonked ourselves on a cliff top and scanned the rocky islands below. I spotted a Cormorant flying onto a small island followed by a feeding session similar to those I’d observed earlier with the Shags. John then pointed out that there were 5 Seals  swimming in between the small islands albeit distantly. Just below our cliff I snapped a nice shot of a foraging Oystercatcher. My final shot of the visit was of a bonny wee Meadow Pipit that had landed on the path in front of us.

Juvenile House Sparrow Pied Wagtail
Cormorant Grey Seal
Oystercatcher Meadow Pipit

All in all it had been a very satisfying visit with plenty to see in delightful weather. My favourites were undoubtedly the Shags and Kittiwakes and of course the Strawberry tarts we washed down with strong tea. Here’s hoping next week will be at least equally satisfyin


Week ending: 17th July 2022: Stevenston


We were slightly disappointed with the weather predicted for this week, a record-breaking heatwave. However while England was sweltering underneath cloudless skies we had the usual grey skies and the odd shower. After checking with my WeatherPro iPhone app I decided west was best and we headed for Stevenson, starting in the Morrisons cafe for breakfast (9.5/10: excellent - well done John for including black pudding).

Courtesy of Weather Pro  and BBC Tides

We started our quest at a rather gloomy Stevenston Point. The sun was threatening to break through the hazy clouds but we could see Cormorants and Shags on the rocks. There was also a group of 5 Sanderlings in summer plumage  on the Sandy beach to the east and we had a distant view of a lone Curlew.

Cormorant Shag
Sanderling Curlew

On the north edge of the Point a group of 9 female Eider were in repose.


John was busy looking for insects in the grassy fringes. He pointed out the many Red Soldier Beetles that were on Yarrow flower heads and several Garden Grass-veneer moths  that we unwittingly disturbed as we passed. We each got a bit excited when we realised that there were Common Blue butterflies moving between the yellow flowers of Birdsfoot Trefoil. We also were pleased to see a few Meadow Brown butterflies about, which I managed to photograph rather more quickly than those of last week’s visit.

Red Solder Beetle Garden Grass Veneer Moth
Common Blue Butterfly Meadow Brown Butterfly

We sat and watched for any passing birds and we were rewarded by sightings of a 1st-year Black-headed Gull, an Oystercatcher, a Shag and a fairly close Gannet (which we hoped would dive, but it didn’t).

1st Cycle Black-headed Gull Oystercatcher
Shag Gannet

The arrival of four cars with jet skis on trailers persuaded us that we should perhaps move on. I suggested that the sand dunes to the west would be a good idea since Grayling butterflies were reported there during the week. We moved the few hundred metres to the Shore Road car park and, while John sat and watched for butterflies, I investigated the mouth of the burn from the footbridge. A Sedge Warbler made a rather unexpected appearance in a large patch of Sea Radish. John meanwhile had located a Small Heath butterfly and I managed a capture using my long lens. We walked to the paths along the dunes where we immediately came upon more Common Blue butterflies, including a female.

Sedge Warbler Small Heath Butterfly
Common Blue Butterfly Female Common Blue Butterfly

We settled on our wee stools for a bit and scanned the area. I spotted a Cinnabar moth caterpillar on Common Ragwort. After about 20 minutes of waiting and looking we were delighted to find a Grayling on the rough footpath. These are red-listed as their numbers have plummeted in recent years. It didn’t stop for long but I managed a fairly decent picture. There were birds on the dunes, mainly Starlings and Meadow Pipits and we also encountered Goldfinches but they didn’t settle long enough for me to get a photo.

Cinnabar Moth Caterpillar Grayling Butterfly
Juvenile Starling Meadow Pipit

There were lovely patches of Wild Thyme along the paths and we also saw lovely blue Sheep’s-bit. We also saw tiny-flowered, but very beautiful Eyebright and there were lots of yellow Lady’s Bedstraw poking out of the long grass.

Wild Thyme Sheep's-bit 
Eyebright Lady's Bedstraw

From the top path along the dunes we had a fine view over the beach, with the Point in the distance.


On our way off of the dunes a wee male Stonechat landed on a wooden post several metres in front of us. It had an insect in its beak, probably food for a hungry chick. Simultaneously, a juvenile Linnet appeared on a bush high to our left, looking warily in our direction. I got a nice shot of a juvenile Starling launching off of another tall wooden post. And just before we exited the dune area I spotted a Grayling feeding on Wild Thyme.

Stonechat Juvenile  Linnet
Juvenile Starling Grayling Butterfly

Our final stop in Stevenston was the Ardeer Quarry LNR. From the car park on Moorpark Road we started our circuit of the site with a walk along the pond (which is the remains of the old quarry).  A female Mallard was in a panic, flying noisily around the end of the pond. We could hear what sounded like a duckling coming from a large drainage pipe at the corner of the pond. After a few minutes the two were reunited. Let’s hope they live happily ever after. We could also see a family of Mute Swans paddling near the large island - 2 adults and 4 juvenile cygnets. There were very pretty Pink Water Lilies growing at the pond’s edge and also a very large section of Reedmace growing on the north side of the pond.

Female Mallard Mute Swans
Pink Water Lily Reedmace

Here’s a closer look at those cygnets:


Just to the north of the pond John spotted a dragonfly, a Common Darter, which was hanging motionless under a grass seed-head. Near the railway line I photographed a few wild flowers: Meadowsweet, Purple Loosestrife and Rosebay Willowherb. The last two are often confused as they  both have purple spikes.

Common Darter Dragonfly Meadowsweet
Purple Loosestrife Rosebay Willowherb

Next I was attracted to the beautiful yellow flowers of Hairy St John’s Wort. At the east side of the reserve I managed to photograph a beetle, Bronze Carabid, that was running across the footpath. We were disappointed not to have seen more wildlife at the old quarry - for example, we’ve seen Buzzard, Kestrel and Roe Deer on previous visits. But that's the nature of naturewatching! Back at the pond John spotted a Ringlet butterfly  that looked a bit worse for wear. On the pond we could just see the cygnets sheltering in the reeds from the warm sun. I had a clear view though of an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull that had the whole pond to himself.

Hairy St John's Wort Bronze Carabid Beetle
Ringlet Lesser Black-backed Gull

By the end of the trip the skies had just about cleared and the promised heat was beginning to kick in. We sat on our stools, on the shaded side by the car and I poured tea and demolished a couple of big strawberry tarts. We were each well satisfied with what we’d seen and photographed. As I alluded to above, we always wish for more, but we fairly enjoyed the experience, especially the dunes, which we’d not visited in recent years. We’ve pencilled it in for next time though.

Week ending: 10th July 2022: Skateraw and Torness


At last, summer has arrived! The weatherman on the telly cheerfully announced that the weekend would be sunny and warm, with little chance of rain. He also said that there could be coastal mist on the west coast, so we I opted to go east to Skateraw, one of our favourite destinations. We popped into Dalkeith Morrisons on the way and received very fine breakfasts (9/10: -1 due to the toast being too thick for John’s egg on toast).

Courtesy of Weather Pro  and BBC Tides

After parking we walked up to the viewpoint on top of the old Limekilns. The picture below shows the fabulous view that greeted us:


On scanning that scene we were pleased to see a family of Shelducks and also a few Blackheaded Gulls. Looking towards the looming presence of Torness Nuclear Power Station I spotted a bird flying towards moving with a strange jizz . On inspection of the photo I discovered it was actually a Peregrine Falcon  carrying its latest kill, what looked like a Fan-tailed Pigeon (there’s a dovecot in the Skateraw bungalows). We moved along the path towards where the bird was, but it had dived out of sight. I snapped a Common Wasp by the boundary wall as we awaited its reappearance.

Shelduck 2nd Cycle Black-headed Gull
Peregrine Falcon Common Wasp

John spotted a pair of Linnets sitting on the farm field wire fence. The path by the wall overlooks the bay and a look over the wall was rewarded with views of a few Oystercatchers lazing on the rocky shore and Shelduck  bathing in the blue shallows.

Male Linnet Female Linnet
Oystercatcher Shelduck

I scanned the verges of the path for insects on the wildflowers. There were very many Red Soldier Beetles on Knapweed and Hogweed flowers. I was delighted to capture some nice images of a Yarrow Plume Moth that was on a Hogweed flower head. On another Hogweed I got pleasing shots of a Marmalade hoverfly. We also saw many very active Ringlet and Meadow Brown butterflies but unfortunately didn’t manage to get a clear shot of either of them. As we returned to the car park I was attracted by the blooming Knapweed and by the large Beach Rose bushes that still had some flowers but were mostly displaying large red hips.

Red Soldier Beetle Yarrow Plume Moth
Marmalade Hoverfly Common Knapweed
Beach Rose Beach Rose Hips

We passed through the car park and walked up the road. The beach was beginning to fill with people taking advantage of the warm, sunny conditions to sunbathe, swim, paddle, scare away the wildlife etc. (as they have every right to do, unfortunately). In the field adjacent to the road I photographed a beautiful blue flowered plant, Lacy Phacelia . John pointed out a stationary Ringlet that was within a good range of my 600mm lens. After snapping it I used my LUMIX TZ70 to get photos of a large Red Valerian plant near the cottage. We headed next for Chapel Point and moved past the remains of another building, where a family was setting up a tent (!). In the long grass beyond the ruin I spotted a 6-spotted Burnet  feeding on a Knapweed bud.

Lacy Phacelia Ringlet Butterfly
Red Valerian 6 Spot Burnet Moth

The view to the east of the Point of Barns Ness shows the lighthouse and long sandy beach, along which we have trekked many times. You can also see the Bass Rock, home to a nationallyimportant Gannet colony. Sadly it has been hit this year by an outbreak of Avian Flu


There were very few birds on the rocks at Chapel Point, probably due to the people we had observed as we arrived, who were walking out over the rocks. At first we could only see a young Starling on seaweed piles and a few Oystercatchers on the periphery of the rocks. Just before we moved off, a couple of Curlew flew in, probably returning after the beachcombers had gone. I came across a Small Heath butterfly nestling in short grass as we walked along the raised edges of the bay on our way back to the car.

Juvenile Starling Oystercatcher
Curlew Small Heath Butterfly

We noticed also a pair of Pied Wagtails on the rocks below us and John signalled that there was an Oystercatcher on a small boulder. It was eating shellfish which looked like Limpets. As I photographed these we could hear and eventually see a female Reed Bunting on the bushes behind us. My final capture at Skateraw was an image of a Common Carder Bumblebee on a Red Clover flower.

Female Pied Wagtail Oystercatcher
Female Reed Bunting Common Carder Bumblebee

We decided to relocate to Torness Power Station car park. Viewing from the concrete coastal walkway can often be rewarding. We got off to a good start when John spotted a Goldfinch nibbling at something at the edge of the car park. On the walk down to the walkway we saw Sparrow flocks moving around the area. There were a fair number of Barn Swallows sitting on the wire fencing around various Power Station facilities (see below). There were also many House Sparrows but we suspected that there could also bee a few Tree Sparrows, recognisable by their brown caps. Once we reached the walkway I managed, after some early frustration, to snap a Yellow Shell Moth  that was fluttering its way along the concrete walkway.

Goldfinch House Sparrow
Barn Swallow Yellow Shell Moth

Barn Swallows lined up along the top of the wire fencing:


The picture below shows the view from the concrete walkway looking roughly south-east to the Berkshire coast.


We watched a few long range passes of Gannets before one made a relatively close pass enabling the fairly nice shot shown below. I followed this with a picture of a House Sparrow that was perched on the railing at the Lifeboat harbour. We sat at the quayside for 15 minutes watching for birds flying over the water past the Power Station, however all we managed were distant views of a Shag and a pair of Sandwich Terns.

Gannet House Sparrow
Shag Sandwich Tern

Our route back to the car park was via the upper walkway, designed for use during stormy conditions that might flood the lower pathway. It provides not only a great view of the Firth of Forth but also a decent view of the land between the Power Station and the walkway. I spotted a Mason Wasp, Ancistrocerus trifasciatus, on the path and managed a quick photo before it flew off. John finally brought another piece of frustration to an end when he pointed out a Meadow Brown butterfly that was sucking nectar from nearby Ragwort flowers. Common Mallow flowers were blooming by the wall, although the plants were very small, indicating that their soil was probably lacking in nourishment and perhaps water. There were quite a few healthy-enough Chicory plants along the grassy edges of the path. Earlier I mentioned that we could see Tree Sparrows mixing with House Sparrows. This was confirmed when John discovered a bush on which there were several Tree Sparrows. Our final bit of excitement at Torness came as we were preparing teas. I was attracted to a commotion in the undergrowth at the side of the car park, when a Stoat suddenly ran out from the long grass onto the road, chased by a large buck Rabbit. I lunged for my camera but it was all over before I got it to my eye. I did though get a shot of the angry Rabbit.

Mason Wasp-Ancistrocerus trifasciatus Meadow Brown Butterfly
Common Mallow Chicory
Tree Sparrow Rabbit

What a lovely day, both in terms of weather conditions and in enjoyment of the delights of the natural world. Shot of the day has to be the Peregrine Falcon with its kill. It was a pity we missed a shot of the Stoat but it had been thrilling nevertheless. We needed a wee flask of tea and nice strawberry tarts to calm us down. It just so happened we had those very things in the boot. They say the good weather may very well last until next week. Yes please.


Week ending: 3rd July 2022: Tyninghame Bay (John Muir Country Park)


This week John was back as we drove to John Muir Country Park (JMCP) which encompasses Tyninghame Bay near Dunbar. According to my WeatherPro app, the weather in Central Scotland was predicted to be mild but cloudy, with rain showers feeding in from the west. The BBC Tide Tables page predicted low tide levels throughout our visit so the sands of the Inner Bay would be exposed.

Courtesy of Weather Pro  and BBC Tides

As usual, we had breakfast at Dalkeith Morrisons (8/10: nice food but -2 for slow service and small plates) before driving down the A1 to Dunbar where we parked in the JMCP car park. Near the entrance I noticed a flowering Great Mullein  plant - a newby for us so we were off to a flier. On our way to the saltmarsh I snapped a juvenile Starling that was watching us from on top of a Hawthorn bush. I also photographed a Red-tailed Bumblebee feeding on a Meadow Cranesbill flower and then a Meadow Pipit that was sitting on a log on a drier-than-usual Saltmarsh.

Great Mullein Juvenile Starling
Red-tailed Bumblebee Meadow Pipit

As we walked along the edges of the saltmarsh we came upon a Narrow-bordered 5-spot Burnet Moth  that was on a Red Clover flower. Nearby were some delightful Meadow Cranesbill flowers. John directed me to a Ringlet Butterfly that had fluttered in and come to rest on Clover leaves. It was probably a female inviting the company of a male. Further along the track I noticed a Red Soldier Beetle delving deep inside a Thrift flower.

Narrow-bordered 5 Spot Burnet Moth Meadow Cranesbill
Ringlet Butterfly Red Soldier Beetle

A Reed Bunting could be heard calling from one of a number of small bushes along the periphery of the marsh. We quickly located and photographed it. It was a similar story for some Goldfinches that had been quite evasive at first, but after some excellent bin work from John, we quickly were ably to track down and photograph. In order to reach the beach we decided to cross the marsh while we could before we reached the point where the stream that runs through the marsh was too wide the step over. On our crossing I managed to snap a juvenile Pied Wagtail and then a Skylark both of which were foraging amongst the low vegetation

Reed Bunting Goldfinch
Pied Wagtail Skylark

As we rounded the edges of the dunes that border Tyninghame Inner Bay I got a nice photo of a White-tailed Bumblebee that was scouring the nectaries of a Sow Thistle flower. Since the tide was low, the sands of the Bay were almost completely exposed except for the winding passage of the River Tyne that was finally reaching the sea having flowed 30 mile from its source in the Moorfoot Hills. We could see a few birds that were on that channel so we decided to trek across the sands for a quick reconnaissance. On the way we encountered “beached” jellyfish. The one shown below is a Cyanea Lamarkii, the Blue Jellyfish . The birds turned out to be Curlew and Oystercatchers. Using his binoculars John reported that further upstream, beyond my camera range, there were a half-dozen Shelduck.

White-tailed Bumblebee Blue Jellyfish
Curlew Oystercatcher

The view to the southwest is dominated by Traprain Law, the site of an ancient hill fort . Next we had to cross the grassy sand dunes since we reached a barrier and sign that prevented us from continuing to the river mouth. This was to protect a nationally important Tern nesting site. Halfway across the dune we reached a clearing where we were joined by a wary Meadow Pipit. There were Viper’s Bugloss flowers growing in the clearing.

Meadow Pipit Viper's Bugloss

When I looked more closely at the area surface I found very small flowers: Scarlet Pimpernel  and Common Storksbill. We also found some beautiful pink Common Centaury on the path as well a lots of prettily-patterned Brown-lipped Snails.

Scarlet Pimpernel Common Storksbill
Common Centaury Brown-lipped Snail


At the beach we walked to several metres away from the breaking waves and sat on our trusty 3- legged stools watching for any passing birds. Straightaway we watched several Gannets making repeated dives about 150m from where we were sitting


We watched the flypasts of other birds: Shag, Sandwich Tern, Herring Gull and Eider. There were no signs of waders though

Shag Sandwich Tern
Herring Gull Eider

The final flypast was the closest - a Curlew passed within 30m of us as it took a shortcut over the dunes to reach the Inner Bay. On our return transition over the dunes John spotted another Reed Bunting, this time carrying a beakful of grubs. I dutifully got a picture. I also snapped some Common Valerian and also Restharrow, a plant with very lovely flower which got its name since large clumps of it could stop (rest) a farmer’s tool for tilling the soil (harrow).

Curlew Reed Bunting
Common Valerian Common Restharrow

When we looked over to the conifer forrest we were both shocked by the extent of the damage caused by the storm Arwen  that struck on November 26th 2021. We had heard that trees had been uprooted but we didn’t realise quite how bad it had been.


I discovered an unfamiliar moth, a Common Rustic on a Ragwort flower. At the saltmarsh we found a female Linnet perched on a log. We also watched a rather shabby Willow Warbler hopping amongst branches of a large bush. My final shot of the visit was of a wee Robin that was boldly sitting on a Fence-post at the edge of the car park

Common Rustic Moth Female Linnet
Willow Warbler Robin

The weather had been a bit dull but there is nothing dull about our collection of sightings. Fourteen bird species, eight invertebrates and eight flower species. My favourite moments were seeing the diving Gannets and the flowers of the dunes. We had tea and, after a 3 week gap (roll the drums), strawberry tarts (cymbals!). Hopefully we’ll continue the habit next week, when we might even experience a summer day.

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