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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11th February 

Skateraw and Belhaven Bay

I was on my own last Sunday as John had an important Birthday Party to attend. With sunny weather predicted in the east I set course for Skateraw, East Lothian, where a Water Pipit has been reported. I stopped into Dalkeith Morrisons for a Wee Scottish Breakfast. After last week’s poor brekky I have to report that Dalkeith showed how it should be done – delicious, on time and excelled service, and, I got a table with a comfy seat: 10/10! My euphoria was dashed though when I arrived at Skateraw when I saw how many dog walkers there were at this small and relatively remote beauty spot. I tried for a time to locate the Water Pipit but the birds were spooked by the rampaging dogs. I did though catch a picture of one of the spooked birds, a Curlew as it flew overhead. A couple of Rock Pipits tweeted my attention to some patches of seaweed by the old Limekilns but they were very restless. Some Redshanks sheltering on the rocks managed to find some peace there. I walked round the bay to Chapel Point. I’m glad to say it was free of dogs and people, but not birds. As I sat on my stool a few Racing Pigeons sped past. I think they may have been from one of the houses in Skateraw hamlet.

Curlew
Rock Pipit
Redshanks
Racing Pigeon





As I sat at the Point sheltered from the cool wind but warmed by the winter sun I was able to get some shots of the many birds that were coming and going. There were quite a few Black-headed Gulls and on the rocks a few Rock Pipits were foraging for food. Three Mallards flew past, two males and a female, heading for better shelter west of the Point. I nearly got a snap of a Wren but it was too nippy for me!

Black-headed Gull
Rock Pipit
Mallard
Wren




The Barns Ness Lighthouse was clearly visible from the Point. A male Goosander passed me flying towards it followed by a beautiful lit Carrion Crow. I decided then to return to the car and drive to Belhaven, west of Dunbar. As I drove up the brae to Skateraw I passed a field of Curlew. I parked the car and shimmied up the grassy banks to sneak a few shots.

Barns Ness Lighthouse
Goosander
Carrion Crow
Curlew




Further up the hill I found a large flock of Rooks feeding on a sprouting crop field. I had quick look for Tree Sparrows at the houses but without any success. At Belhaven Bay I was greeted by a wee Goldfinch singing his head off. I was looking for Snow Buntings but initially they were nowhere to be seen. However there were many familiar and well illuminated birds in the Bay, Black-headed Gulls, and close in, dabbling furiously, Teal.

Rook
Goldfinch
Black-headed Gull
Teal




As the Bay slowly filled with seawater as the tide advanced, and the Teal moved between the salt pools, the sands appeared blue as the waters reflected the clear azure sky. I photographed a handsome Redshank that, I found out later, had been tagged and flagged in 2014 in the NE of Scotland. As I returned to the car, thinking I was finished for the day, I spotted some small, light-coloured birds fluttering about some 150m away between the burn and the sea. So I walked past the car and over the steel bridge over the Burn and walked slowly towards the birds. As I got closer I very quickly saw they were indeed Snow Buntings and managed to get to within about 30m of the flock before they were put up by a passing jogger and his dog. Another bloody dog-walker spoiling it for the birder!

Teal

Redshank
Snow Bunting




Although I got a few nice photos of “familiar “ birds, I think the Snow Buntings made the day. The nice weather helped too, and tea and a chocolate biscuit helped round off the nice feeling of satisfaction.

Pictures of the Week

Mallard
Rook


Teal
Snow Bunting


4th February

Pow Burn and Troon Harbour.

This week we took ourselves “doon tae” Troon to check out the reported Glaucous Gull. Thankfully the weather predictions were all good, so although it was overcast first thing, we set off filled with optimism. By the time we got to the Kilmarnock ASDA cafeteria the sun was breaking through. We were however less happy with our breakfasts which were cold, skimpy and poorly cooked (5/10). The food there is usually much better. As we were passing Prestwick it seemed a good idea to have a wee look for anything interesting along the Pow Burn. When we arrived there we were surprised to see there was noisy building work being carried out on the periphery of Prestwick Golf Course. We hoped that birds would not be scared by the building activities. A very big grey cloud had covered the majority of the sky, though the sun was fighting to get through. There were few pesserines showing, but on the Burn some Black-headed Gulls were resting. And before too long the cloud had broken and I spotted a pair of Teal basking in sunlight.


Black-headed Gull
Female Teal
Drake Teal




Midstream, a lone Curlew had spotted me and was shuffling off towards a large flock of Redshanks roosting on the bank. As we reached the Burn mouth, a Common Gull was diving into the water but didn’t seem to catch anything. To the south, Ayr was still looking gloomy

Curlew
Redshank
Common Gull
Ayr




As we walked along the beach we noticed a few Ringed Plovers on the water’s edge. One conveniently posed for a few seconds allowing time for a couple of shots. There was a large flock of Wigeon about 30m offshore. They weren’t up to much. They were just bobbing up and down as the waves passed. To the north, Troon seemed to be seeing a lot of the sun, or so I hoped as we were going there soon. A passing jogger and his dog spooked the Wigeon and they went up and settled about 400m to the south.

Ringed Plover
Wigeon
Troon
Wigeon




As we moved along the dunes our attention was drawn to a nippy aeroplane performing some daring manoeuvres as it passed us heading towards Prestwick Airport. A startled Curlew fled along the banks of the Pow Burn. We returned to the car and zoomed the short distance north to Troon Harbour. As I left the car I was being watched carefully by a beautiful adult Herring Gull as it sat perched atop a lamppost basking in the now constantly bright sunlight. On the rocky shoreline I could see many birds including several Cormorants drying their feathers in the heat of the sun.


Curlew
Herring Gull
Cormorant




It didn’t take very long to locate the Glaucous Gull – all I had do was to follow the lines of sight of the spotting scopes of the few birders already present! It was a large bird with pale plumage, pink legs and feet and whose beak was pink with a dark tip. It’s name is derived from Latin, and means literally “bluish grey of green or dull grey”, a description that didn’t quite match the bird we were looking at as it was a younger bird. It wasn’t shy and and was certainly enjoying the many chips with which the birders we enticing it, and the other, more common birds. After taking far too many shots of the Glaucous Gull, we turned our attentions to the rocky shoreline and immediately spotted a large flock of small waders resting on the rocks. They were predominantly Ringed Plovers, but I decided to climb down onto the rocks for a better look. As I was sitting on a rock observing the Plovers, a foraging Rock Pipit passed me only metres away, providing an excellent photo-opportunity.

Glaucous
Gull
Ringed Plover
Rock Pipit




On my way along the beach, I was being watched by a chirping male House Sparrow, its fine plumage was well illuminated by the strong sunlight, and a singing Starling (see Pictures of the Week). The tide was coming in but the rocks were still a hive of activity with Cormorant and Shag coming and going as they took time off from diving for fish to dry their feathers, and Herring and Black-headed Gulls hanging about for opportunities to steal each other’s tasty morsels. Amid the gulls a pair of Eider seemed to have drifted into the mayhem, finding themselves unable to dive without harassment. Actually I think the female Eider was trying to escape the attentions of the male and was using the crowded scene to lose her amorous pursuer. A passing pair of jet skiers didn’t seem to scare the birds – perhaps the birds were used to such disturbances.

House Sparrow
Eider
Cormorant





At the other end of the speed spectrum a large boat of rowers were cutting the waters to the northwest of Troon. It was the “Marr Voyager” of the Troon Coastal Rowing Club who meet at weekends. John then pointed out that there were a few Sanderling with the Ringed Plovers. I located one and got a distant picture. Beside it was a Herring Gull with a orange ring (A:B24; see Pictures of the Week). A juvenile Herring Gull was being chased by other gulls attempting to rob it of what it had in its beak – a Starfish. Our final picture was of a Turnstone turning stones in amongst the Ringed Plovers before it and all of the small waders were put up by a family playing with a ball on the sand.

Troon Coastal Rowing Club
Sanderling
Herring Gull
Turnstone




So it was a very enjoyable trip. The weather was bright and sunny, the birds were plentiful and obliging and we got photographs of the Glaucous Gull – mission accomplished! We celebrated with a cuppa and a pair of chocolate fondant eclairs, each! It seemed a shame to leave the sunny shores of Troon but I suppose that was a much better sentiment than feeling you’d rather be at home.

Pictures of the week:

Glaucous Gull
Herring Gull


Ringed Plover
Starling



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