A buzzard calls

while winding gentle spirals in the sky,

a dynamo,

inducing fear and panic in its prey below.

Should mouse or vole forget how easily their moves are seen,

by microscopic eyes that lead the hungry talons down,

then it may disappear,

becoming nestlings’ vital food,

their hungry orphans left abandoned in the field.



James McLeod Campbell


        
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August 12th 2018:

Troon

The weather forecast was very poor - the whole of Central Scotland was to be cloaked in a gloomy sheet of slow-moving rain. But in the south-west the rain was to clear by late afternoon, which offered us a glimpse of opportunity for some nature photography. We headed down the M77 towards Ayr, making our customary pit stop in Kilmarnock ASDA for breakfast (7/10 - duff toast and cold cafe), but as we approached the turn-off for Prestwick, the rain had stopped and we decided to settle for nearby Troon.

We parked in the South Beach car park and walked towards Meikle Crags and in the far distance we could see Ayr. First up, a pair of Jackdaws pecking at something or other on the seaweed-strewn foreshore. I spotted some small waders ahead of us. For once, a dog walker helped us out as his best friend put up the birds, who then flew past us. I shot multiple exposures from which I could see they were mainly Dunlin with a few Ringed Plovers. I could no longer see Ayr as it had been shrouded in rain advancing from the south. We turned tail and made for the car. On the way I snapped a Carrion Crow as it foraging on the stinking seaweed.

Jackdaw
Dunlin
Ringed Plover
Carrion Crow




We relocated to the Harbour car park, by which time the rain arrived. As we waited for it to pass, a reproduction Viking boat sailed past. I Googled “Viking longboat Troon” but ended up none-the-wiser as to what it was doing there. From the picture it seems well kitted out with engine, radar, aerial and cabins so it may not be local, and could have been just making its way around the coast. From inside the car I photographed the Vikings as well as a drookit Cormorant that seemed right at home in the rain. On the grass, by the car, a very damp Starling was raking through litter for any tit-bits it could find. Meantime, a small, twin-hulled boat had appeared offshore. It had what looked like four divers onboard. After watching it for some time John thought they were laying marker buoys, for what, I don’t know.


Cormorant
Starling





Three adult Herring Gulls parked themselves on the grass beside a car whose occupants were devouring fish suppers. The gulls were very vocal, but unsuccessful in the efforts, as the greedy humans ate the lot. The rain stopped about an hour before we were due to leave so we got out the car and walked north towards the Harbour wall. Oystercatchers on the rocks had their beaks under wings as they rested at high tide. A few small waders scurried ahead of us. They were Ringed Plover and Turnstones, but they fled before I could capture their images. On the wall there were a few Shags, but little else.

Herring Gull
Oystercatchers
Ringed Plover
Shag




On and around the pebbly beach below the sea wall there were several species of wildflower still in bloom. Prettiest of these was a patch of Pencilled Cranesbill, a type of Geranium. Possibly a garden escapee, it’s flowers were attractively covered in pearls of water. Next I noticed the yellow crucifer, Sea Radish. It had only a few flowers as most had gone, leaving swelled, seed-rich ovaries. Clinging to the wall, a Silverweed plant, sometimes mistaken for a buttercup, still had its distinctive yellow flower. There were a few patches of Common Ragwort growing at the base of the wall. The beauty of the nice, wee yellow flowers belie the fact that all parts of the plant are poisonous to mammals, including us, if eaten.

Pencilled Cranesbill
Sea Radish
Silverweed
Common Ragwort




Another wildflower in the running for the prettiest bloom was the Common Bindweed. Even in the low light it was beautiful. Less attractive, Sea Rocket was another plant showing seed capsules. Each capsule contains a pair of smooth, brown seeds. Our exploration of the seashore flora was interrupted by the croaking of a Sandwich Tern that was diving for fish. The light had improved well enough for us to be able to see the lighthouse on Lady Isle. The small island has quite a bit of history.

Common Bindweed
Sea Rocket
Sandwich Tern
Lady Isle Lighthouse




We decided to have a scan of the area to the south end of the car park. Before long, John uttered, “There’s Sammy at one o’clock!” (our code for “I see a Seal just to the right of straight ahead!”). In fact, it was a Grey Seal taking a bit of a breather between dives. We sat on our wee 3-legged stools on a slipway, giving us a grand view over the rocks. Some divers had just been fishing offshore and were cooking them in the area just behind us. So with the smell of BBQ in my nostrils I photographed in quick succession two ever-present favourites, a Pied Wagtail and a Rock Pipit. Our final capture was a nice one, a female Wheatear. I remember seeing one in the same place in August last year. Maybe it was the same bird.

Grey Seal
Pied Wagtail
Rock Pipit
Female Wheatear




So, after a promising start, the middle of the visit was a bit of a damp squib, but once the rain stopped we got a lot of sightings in a short time. We celebrated that “grand recovery” with tea and caramel-iced eclairs - Yukmm-ee. Hoping to see the sun next week.

Pictures of the Week:

Herring Gull
Ringed Plover


Rock Pipit
Female Wheatear




August 5th 2018:

Musselburgh

This weekend we returned to one of our favourite sites for the first time in about 15 weeks - Musselburgh. Reports of bird sightings on social media were encouraging, as were weather predictions, so by mid-morning on Sunday we found ourselves tucking into breakfasts in Dalkeith Morrisons prior to what we hoped would be a productive few hours around the mouth of the Esk and Scrapes.

We parked at the Levenhall Links and made our way across the 100m footpath across wild grassland. We saw lots of butterflies there including the Small White and the more flighty Meadow Brown (which managed to evade the camera). We also snapped a White-tailed Bumblebee on a Perennial Sow Thistle. At the sea wall John pointed out a pair of immature Herring Gulls fighting over a Starfish. We moved westwards accompanied by the familiar call and sight of Oystercatchers as group after group sped from their resting places in the Scrapes towards the feeding grounds at the mouth of the Esk.

Small White Butterfly
White Tailed Bumblebee
Herring Gull
Oystercatcher




The familiar “rusty door hinge” call of the Sandwich Tern was next to draw our attentions. They too were streaming seawards out of the Scrapes in fair numbers. We noticed that a few of them were juveniles and we theorised that parent birds were tutoring their latest offspring in the skills of fishing. This was supported by our observation that many were returning back to the Scrapes with silvery fish in their bills. On our way into the Scrapes I took a few pictures of 7-spot Ladybirds nesting in the grassy verges of the path. Just outside one of the hides a few Speckled Wood butterflies were very active, males searching for females and frequently tussling with other like-minded males.

Sandwich
Tern
7 Spot Ladybird
Speckled Wood Butterfly




As expected, since the tide was now low, the Scrapes were a bit short of birds. A single Lapwing sat opposite the middle hide and a pair of Shelduck were feeding in the middle of the centre scrape. A distant Common Sandpiper foraged far to the right, but, apart from some distant Mallards and a Curlew that was it. I noticed a large patch of Hare’s-foot Clover immediately in front of the hide and manage a fairly good picture using my big zoom lens.

Lapwing
Shelduck
Common Sandpiper
Hare's-foot Clover




As we left the Scrapes, John directed me towards a Meadow Brown butterfly, which, for once, sat still long enough for a quick shot. On the footpath that lead us back to the seawall we came across three rather nervous juvenile Pied Wagtails scouring the path for invertebrates. The flew off as we apprached. At the seawall we had a close encounter with a strangely approachable pigeon. Each of its legs were ringed, which could indicate that it was a Racing Pigeon having a bit of a pit-stop. As we sat observing the pigeon, a Kestrel sped past and proceeded to hunt the grassy banks that run parallel to the “promenade”.

Meadow Brown Butterfly
Juvenile Pied Wagtail
Racing Pigeon
Kestrel




As we continued west, I noticed what, at first I thought was a golf ball, until I discover it was a small Peeling Puffball. This fungus releases its spores by the action of raindrops, each drop causing a “puff” of spores (hence the name) that are then carried away by the wind. We leaned on the wall scanning the sea, lamenting how vacant it looked when we realised that the action was going on around our elbows. A tiny, well-camouflaged Zebra Back Spider (Salticus Scenicus) meandered across the top of the wall seeking out its prey. This little jumping spider uses its 4 eyes to stalk its prey before pouncing on it. Next we encountered a small brown Larch Ladybird clinging to the landward side of the wall. This Ladybird, unlike its 7-spot cousin, uses camouflage as a defence. It usually resides in wooded environments, so how it managed to get onto a sea wall is a bit puzzling. Our final discovery on the wall was spotted by John - a Broad Damsel Bug. To allow me to get a picture, he encouraged it onto a fag packet, ( I'd found it on the ground and was taking it to a litter bin! Ed.).  I think you’ll agree, it’s not a pretty creature.

Peeling Puffball
Zebra Back Spider
Larch Ladybird
Broad Damsel Bug




We found many more birds when we reached the Esk. There was a very large flock of Mute Swans at the mouth of the river. A pair of adults with five large cygnets glided past us. Then there was a bit of a commotion when a female Mallard flew across the river chased by a Black-headed Gull. The duck had got hold of a crab and wasn’t going to let it go. After a brief struggle it flew up the river leaving the gull trailing far behind. A minute later, a Great Black-backed Gull flew over the calm scene. We wondered if it would have intervened had it passed seconds earlier.

Mute Swan
Female Mallard
Black-headed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull




More of the “usual suspects” were to be seen going about their business on the riverside, Redshank, Bar-tailed Godwits and Curlew. The sky had become overcast and the light was low so we started on our return journey. The sea remained disappointingly bereft of birds but microlight aircraft buzzed westwards overhead giving me something to photograph.

Redshank
Curlew
Bar-tailed Godwit
Air Jockey




Just past the east end of the Scrapes I got a nice shot of a 2nd cycle Back-headed Gull on the shore (see “Pictures of the Week” below. Close by, a 2nd cycle Herring Gull was finishing off a Razorshell. On a large seaweed-covered waste pipe Eider and Cormorants were lounging in the gloomy conditions. Just as we reached the car, a pair of Buzzards circled overhead but the poor light meant my shots were little better than silhouettes.

2nd Cycle Herring Gull
Eider
Cormorant
Buzzard




After the longer-than-usual circuit we were more than ready for our tea and buns with cinnamon icing. Not a bad outing with some nice pictures taken and even a couple of newbies, the Larch Ladybird and Damsel Bug. What a pity it ended on a literally dull note as the Buzzard shots could have been great - oh well, maybe next time!

Pictures of the Week:

Sandwich Tern
Shelduck


Speckled Wood
2nd Cycle Black-headed Gull



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Archive   
August 2018
5th Musselburgh
12th Troon
July 2018
15 -18th Orkney
8th Gullane Bents, Aberlady
1st Troon Gailes Marsh
June 2018
24th Doonfoot
17th Barns Ness
9th Baron's Haugh
3rd Saltcoats, Stevenston, Irvine


May 2018
27th Ardmore Point

20th Aberlady
13th Stevenston/Saltcoats/Troon
6th John Muir Country Park
April 2018
29th Barns Ness
19th Leighton Moss
15th Musselburgh
6th Skateraw/Belhaven Bay
1st Aberlady
March 2018
25th Barns Ness/Dunbar Harbour
18th Stevenston/Saltcoats/Irvine
11th Maidens/Doonfoot
4th Strathclyde Park
February 2018
25th Ardmore Point 
18th Musselburgh
11th Skateraw/Belhaven Bay
4th Pow Burn/Troon Harbour
January 2018
28th Maidens
21st Musselburgh

14th Aberlady
7th Musselburgh
December 2017
31st Belhaven Bay
24th Skateraw
17th Troon/Irvine/Ardeer
10th Stevenston/Saltcoats/Irvine
3rd Doonfoot/Loans
November 2107
26th Musselburgh
19th Barns Ness
12th Stevenston/Saltcoats/Irvine
5th Musselburgh
October 2017
29th Skinflats
22nd White Sands/Barns Ness
15th Skateraw/Belhaven Bay
8th Musselburgh
1st Stevenston/Saltcoats
September 2017
24th Tyninghame Bay
17th Stevenston/Saltcoats/Irvine
10th Barns Ness
3rd Pencaitland/Musselburgh
August 2017
27th Troon/Irvine Harbour
20th Belhaven ....Barns Ness
13th Musselburgh
6th Skateraw
July 2017
30th Musselburgh
23rd Doonfoot
16th Stevenston/Saltcoats/Irvine
2nd Aberlady
June 2017
25th White Sands/ Barns Ness
18th Skateraw/Belhaven Bay
11th Musselburgh/Port Seton
4th Barns Ness/Musselburgh
May 2017
28th Tyninghame Bay
21st Belhaven Bay/Dunbar
14th Barns Ness/Torness
7th Pow Burn
April 2017
30th Doonfoot
23rd Stevenston/Saltcoats
9th Musselburgh
March 2017
26th Maidens/Turnberry
19th Dunbar
12th Musselburgh/Port Seton
5th Hogganfield Loch...Belhaven
February 2017
26th Seafield/Belhaven/Dunbar
19th Skateraw/Belhaven Bay
12th Stevenston/Saltcoats/Irvine
5th Pow Burn
January 2017
29th Haddington/Belhaven Bay
22nd Doonfoot
15th Saltcoats
8th Musselburgh
1st Hogganfield Loch
December 2016
18th Belhaven/......Torness
11th Skateraw/Barns Ness
4th Torness/Belhaven/P.Seton
November 2016
27th Doonfoot
20th Kilbirnie.......Irvine
13th Musselburgh
6th Stevenston
October 2016
30th Gullane/...Musselburgh
23rd Troon
16th Musselburgh/Port Seton
9th Pow Burn
2nd Doonfoot
September 2016
24th Port Seton/Musselburgh
18th Tyninghame Bay
11th Musselburgh
4th Stevenston/Ardeer Quarry
August 2016
21st Dunbar/White Sands
July 2106
31st Skateraw
24th Aberlady
17th Barns Ness
10th Musselburgh
3rd Musselburgh
June 2016
26th Strumpshaw Fen, Norfolk
19th Musselburgh
5th Kinneil Lagoon
May 2016
29th Belhaven/Barns Ness
22nd Stevenston
15th Doonfoot
8th Musselburgh/Port Seton
1st Lochwinnoch/Muirshiel
April 2016
24th Pow Burn
17th Musselburgh
10th Musselburgh
3rd Musselburgh/Port Seton
March 2016
27th Hedderwick Hill
20th Musselburgh
13th Doonfoot
3rd Ardmore Point
February 2016
28th Pow Burn
21st Musselburgh/Joppa
14th Stevenston/Irvine Harbour
7th Spott,Skateraw,Belhaven
January 2016
31st Musselburgh
24th Yellowcraig
17th Strathclyde Park
10th Skateraw/Torness
3rd Balloch
December 2015
27th Banton/Hogganfield Lochs
20th Figgate Park
13th Musselburgh
6th Torness
November 2015
29th Lochwinnoch/Stevenston
22nd Aberlady
15th Musselburgh
8th Musselburgh
1st Hound Point
October 2015