Our Expeditions


8th September

Skateraw and Belhaven Bay

The BBC weatherman predicted that the best weather in Central Scotland was to have been in the East. Both John and I agreed that Skateraw would be a good choice since we had not visited there since the Spring (12th of May). As we had our breakfast in Dalkeith Morrisons (9.5/10: excellent but John’s fried tattie scone was hollow and over-cooked) the weather was more cloudy than I’d expected, but I figured it would be less so to the East. And so it proved, with most of the sky brilliant blue with warm sunshine more than compensating for a rather chilly breeze. I stopped the car just past the row of houses at the start of the harbour approach road. I had seen some beautiful butterflies on flowers of Buddleja, the Butterfly Bush . We got some nice pictures of Red Admiral and Peacock (taken by John) (see “Pictures of the Week”, below). We were watched by some captive species, namely Fantail Pigeons, a wee dog and, rather unexpectedly, a possible Long-eared Owl (caged). Rather more free were the many swooping Barn Swallows catching the last of the airborne insects before the seasons turn cold and they head south to warmer climes.

Fantail Pigeon Nice wee Dug Long-eared Owl Barn Swallow

Between flights the Swallows rested on the overhead telephone wires, offering welcome photo opportunities for me. I also snapped a Tree Sparrow alongside the Swallows, as well as a juvenile Starling. There were also flocks of flighty, noisy Goldfinches dashing about. Some of them were feeding on Thistle seeds in an adjacent field. At the side of the field a group of Rabbits were watching us carefully (see “Pictures of the Week”, below).

Barn Swallow Tree Sparrow Juvenile Starling Goldfinch

We parked and then walked along the shoreline towards Chapel Point at the west side of the Bay (shown below: view from Links Cottage). Note Torness Power Station dominating the scene.

I followed a juvenile Pied Wagtail as it trotted it’s way along the sandy beach, occasionally dashing to catch a fly. On the water’s edge a half dozen Ringed Plovers  were feeding. There were several juveniles in the group. A solitary Dunlin made its way along the damp sands. At first we thought it was a Knot, but on closer inspection we could see it was a wary Dunlin.

Pied Wagtail Ringed Plover Juvenile Ringed Plover Dunlin

We left the beach and came to the ruin of a small building. My eye caught sight of a leaping Common Field Grasshopper . I followed its movement until I was able to photograph it with my trusty wee Lumix LX5. Close by I thought I’d found a found a newby hoverfly on some Common Ragwort only to find it was a common dronefly, Eristalis Arbustrum , with less usual markings. We trekked through  high grass to reach the edge of the rocky shore. Looking west we could see a beautiful view of Barns Ness lighthouse with the Bass Rock in the background (see “Pictures of the Week”, below). As we sat taking in the view a female Linnet landed on the rocks in front of us. Those rocks are in fact very interesting to geologists since they are part of an extensive shore platform  that shows evidence of a variety of processes of weathering and erosion. We pressed on through towards the Point, flushing a Redshank as we did so.

Common Field Grasshopper Hoverfly - Eristalis Arbustrum Female Linnet Redshank
While at the Point we saw only a Rock Pipit and a passing Curlew. It was very quiet so we walked back along the grassy west edge of the bay. I photographed a pretty clump of Common Knapweed  hanging over the side of the low cliff. Another flock of Goldfinches swarmed over our heads and settled on a bush not far from the memorial at the edge of the Point.

Rock Pipit Curlew Common Knapweed Goldfinch

With the sunshine still bright we drove down to Belhaven Bay and walked to Seafield Pond  for a brief hour. The tide was low and the seashore was about half a mile from our path. A lone Curlew was pecking at this and that as it wandered along the exposed sands. A Herring Gull flew over our heads and joined the quite large mass of gulls that were roosting on the dry bay. As we turned off the path and down toward the pond, we paused at a flowery corner as I had spotted a Humming Syrphus (Syrphus Ribersii) as it explored the Great Bindweed that draped a bush. I heard the familiar song of a Robin and quickly located it as it hid behind the leaves of a tree .

Curlew Herring Gull Hoverfly - Syrphus Ribersii Robin

The Pond was populated mainly by jaded ducks but no swans. I took an arty shot of a young Moorhen feeding, silhouetted against the light. There was a large area of flowering Amphibious Bistort  at the water’s edge and a watchful male Little Grebe was diving for fish some 30m from us. But that was about it. On the way back to the car we did see a Speckled Wood butterfly sunning itself on the short grass.

Juvenile Moorhen Amphibious Bistort Little Grebe Speckled Wood

It had been one of those days where we had a very pleasant time observing familiar sightings and not really caring that we hadn’t spotted a rarity. We were just glad to be there. As usual our tea and cake, cream and jam muffins, rounding things off nicely. On the drive back I realised I was yearning for some west coast action, so let’s hope the weather picks up in the west for our next trip.

Pictures of the Week:

Red Admiral Peacock
Rabbit Barns Ness Lighthouse

1st September

Musselburgh and Port Seton

With last week’s car problems firmly in the past, we drove to Musselburgh to follow up some interesting sightings there. Dalkeith Morrisons served up a pair of lovely breakfasts (9/10: -1 for skimpy bacon) that set us up for a few hours of feathery excitement. The weather was sunny as we parked in the Levenhall car park with more of the same predicted for the rest of the trip. We walked from there down to the sea wall. I’d visited there on the previous Monday when I photographed some Common Seals  lounging at low tide. Unfortunately the tide was even lower on Sunday and the seals were nowhere to be seen. However the beach was packed with birds, mainly noisy Sandwich Terns. A group of Oystercatchers and Bar-tailed Godwits  were foraging in the same area for invertebrates, and a bit further along John spied a couple of Turnstones still showing signs of their breeding plumage (See, “Pictures of the Week”,below).

Common Seal Sandwich Tern Oystercatcher Bar-tailed Godwit

There were a few flowering plants still in bloom. I was drawn to a big clump of Tufted Vetch that was showing seed pods, and vivid yellow Ribbed Melilot, widespread in the area. It is a traditional herbal medicine used in the treatment of heavy legs, bruises, sprains and insect bites. Several patches of Scentless Mayweed were also on show. A few hundred metres offshore there were several small groups of Velvet Scoters  bobbing in the sea swell. We had a good look for the Surf Scoter but this was difficult as the birds were distant and appeared to be roosting with their beaks tucked under their wings.

Tufted Vetch Ribbed Melilot Scentless Mayweed Velvet Scoter

We moved into the Scrapes, starting with the north-most hide. On our way in we watched a lovely Speckled Wood butterfly  as it explored a Bramble bush (also see, “Pictures of the Week”,below). From the hide we were pleased to see lots of birds. Greylags were close in and a few Knot  were wading, probing the mud for invertebrates. A Curlew stood on the edge of the second scrape, watching for danger.

Speckled Wood Greylag Goose Knot Curlew

We were greeted with a flypast of Lapwings . We couldn’t see what put them up, but it was an impressive sight.

Looking to the far left we could see a line of various bird species, mainly Lapwings with a few Knot, Dunlins and a couple of Ruff. I think a Curlew Sandpiper  may be amongst them.

Also on the second scrape was a Black-tailed Godwit still in its ruddy-coloured summer plumage. A single Lapwing wandered on the edge, the Sun catching its plumage at the correct angle to display its iridescent colours. The view from the next hide was much quieter with only a few wading Redshanks to the right. The third hide was a bit better. A Curlew was fairly close to the hide, poking the damp ground at the edge of the scrape. In the South-East scrape a pair of moulting Shelduck were roosting.

Black-tailed Godwit Lapwing Curlew Shelduck

I spotted a Ruff  working its way across the back edge of the South scrape. It was disturbed by the arrival of a pair of squabbling Redshanks and ran (not flew) across to the SE scrape. We decided to retrace our steps back to the car. As we left there were large numbers of Oystercatchers, Curlew and Godwits pouring into the reserve. I snapped a Painted Lady butterfly on a Dandelion noting to John that we’d seen far fewer of them than in recent weeks. John thought it could be one of the next generation born in Scotland and about to fly south towards Africa.

Ruff Redshank Oystercatcher Painted Lady

On reaching the sea wall a pair of very scruffy moulting Linnets landed near us on the wall, a parent bird feeding its fledgling. The tide was close to its predicted 6m height. Sandwich Terns were fishing 50 mts offshore. Occasionally one passed with fish in beak presumably seeking its chick. We were on the look out for a pair of Black Terns that had been seen the day before. They didn’t show but a Common Tern  passed us flying west. A single female Eider paddled past and soon we were on our way to Port Seton to catch the last of the incoming tide.

Linnet Sandwich Tern Common Tern Female Eider

When we first arrived at Port Seton, at the site of the old outdoor pool, we were disappointed to find that most of the rocks were still exposed with a large number of birds, mainly Sandwich Terns, sitting on rocks 200 mts offshore. We waited for these birds sitting to be encouraged to move nearer the shore by the incoming tide. Our plan worked as an increasing number of passing birds, such as Cormorants and Bar-tailed Godwits, soon made us realise that the water was rising relatively quickly. I took some pictures of a Herring Gull just before the thrashing waves encouraged it off of its rocky perch.

Cormorant Bar-tailed Godwit Turnstone Herring Gull

Less than half an hour after our arrival our plan had worked since the Sandwich Terns had moved and settled much nearer to the sea wall. This allowed me the opportunity of taking some nice shots. The vast majority of birds were of adult Sandwich Terns and their juveniles. Occasionally an individual Common Tern had a wee rest on the near rocks. The one shown below is showing summer plumage. But unfortunately we didn’t see a Roseate Tern or a Black Tern.

Sandwich Tern Juvenile Sandwich Tern Common Tern

As had our tea and Danish pastries we had little to complain about as we had photographed many sightings, most of the birds, in sunny weather. Sure we had dipped on a few of the rarer birds but that’s the nature of the hobby. However it wasn’t quite over for me. That early evening as I was at home washing a few dishes, a female Sparrowhawk  dived onto my hedges, home to a flock of House Sparrows. Although it’s move was fruitless,  it waited on top of the hedgerow for 10mins, probably aiming to catch any bird that was stupid enough to make a dash for it. However it soon was up and away on its next mission (see, “Pictures of the Week”,below). A great end to an already enjoyable day.

Pictures of the Week:

Turnstone Speckled Wood
Sandwich Tern Sparrowhawk

Back To Top

September 2019

1st Musselburgh/Port Seton
August 2019

25th Hogganfield Loch
18th Barns Ness
11th Musselburgh / Port Seton
4th Maidens/Turnberry
July 2109

28th Belhaven Bay / Dunbar 
11th Hogganfield Loch
7th  Doonfoot
June 2019
30th Musselburgh/Port Seton
23rd Inner Tyninghame Bay
16th Seafield Pond/Dunbar Harbour
9th John Muir Country Park
2nd Musselburgh
May 2019
26th Pow Burn
19th Stevenston
12th Skateraw
5th Garnock Estuary

April 2019
24th-28th Arran
21st Hogganfield Loch
14th Portmoak Moss
7th Troon
March 2019
31st Doonfoot
24th Musselburgh
17th Stevenston,Saltcoats,Irvine
9th Hogganfield Loch
3rd Baron's Haugh
February 2019
24th Hogganfield Loch /Cathkin Marsh
16 - 18th Strathclyde Park
6th Kilspindie / Musselburgh
2nd Hogganfield Loch
January 2019
27th Fairlie / Portencross
20th Stevenston Point / Troon
13th Figgate Park/Duddingston
7th Hopes Reservoir
December 2018
30th Skateraw/Barns Ness
23rd Musselburgh

16th Tyninghame Bay
9th Aberlady/...../PortSeton

2nd Musselburgh

November 2018
25th Doonfoot/Irvine Harbour
18th Skateraw / Belhaven Bay
11th Troon / Irvine Harbour
4th Stevenston /Saltcoats

October 2018
28th Ardmore Point
21st Troon/Pow Burn
14th Stevenston/Saltcoats/Irvine
7th Musselburgh

September 2018
27th-30th St Andrews
23rd Balgray Reservoir
16th Musselburgh
7th Barons Haugh
2nd Aberlady
August 2018
26th  Stevenston
19th Turnberry
12th Troon
5th Musselburgh
July 2018
19 - 22nd Orkney
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