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


23rd July 2017 Doonfoot

While the rest of Central Scotland lay under a depressing layer of grey cloud, the west coast was a lot brighter with frequent sunny spells. So we were glad then to have chosen Ayr as our Sunday destination- specifically Doonfoot.

Stomachs filled with excellent Kilmarnock ASDA breakfasts we emerged from the car and sat by the River Doon to see what we could see. First up was a small flock of Redshanks sitting warily by the salt pool in the dunes. A striking Piebald Pigeon joined us for a brief spell before it was spooked by passing dog walkers. The tide was high and the river mouth was peppered with many of the usual species of bird such as Black-headed Gull and Lesser Blacked-backed Gull. There was a very noisy juvenile Black Headed Gull persistently pestering its parent for food.

Piebald Pigeon
Black Headed Gull
Lesser Black Backed Gull

A pair of untidy-looking Mallards paddled close, probably sniffing for bread. Overhead Swallows and House Martins were rapidly swooping in irregular patterns as they hunted flies. I managed to capture a couple of shots after many failed attempts. John pointed out the unusual sight of three horses being ridden in the shallow sea off Ayr beach. He thought they were police horses out for exercise.

House Martin
Juvenile Barn Swallow

Just as we decided to get off our stools and move on to the Greenan car park a small flock of Oystercatchers flew overhead. As I stood up I noticed a pair of juvenile Goosanders on the shore lurking behind a bank of sand. At the car there was a lovely patch of Yellow Loosestrife looking kind of lost in the long grass. After a short drive we were welcomed at the second car park by the busy chirping of House Sparrows in the bushes. Many of them were juveniles a handsome male sat above them (see “shots of the day” below).

Female Goosander
Yellow Loosestrife
Juvenile House Sparrow

Amongst the Sparrows a beautifully-marked Starling was perched on a high branch. We made our way along the narrow path through the dunes. It was overgrown with vegetation but we kept our eyes open for any small creatures lurking there. A Garden Spider munching on an unfortunate victim was first to be noticed, then a pair of very pretty 6-spot Burnet Moths, followed by a rather uncommon Large White butterfly. That gave us the run-around before I managed a decent shot (see “shots of the day” below for the latter two). A juvenile Carrion Crow kept an eye on us as we passed. I spotted a red gall on a Rose leaf. It was produced by the Gallfly.

European Garden Spider
Carrion Crow
Gall of Gallfly

The more common Green-veined White was the next butterfly seen followed by a Ringlet. At this point we noticed a shower of rain over Ayr. Concerned it was heading our way we made our way back to the car. On the way there I found a Red-tailed Bumblebee on some Ragwort. John pointed out a host of small insects on a flowerhead of Wild Carrot. We later identified these as sciara hemerobioides, a type of fungus gnat.

Green Veined White
Red tailed Bumblebee
Sciara Hemerobioides

We arrived back at the car earlier than usual. Although disappointed at the lack of birds in the dunes, we were pleased by the insect pictures. After tucking into tea and buns we headed home listening to the Open Golf. Pictures of the day were the juvenile Black-headed Gull yearning for its mum, the proud father House Sparrow, the gorgeous 6-spot Burnet Moth and the rather restless Large White butterfly.

16th July 2017 Stevenson, Saltcoats and Irvine Harbour

The Weatherman was predicting it to be “best in the west” so we set out for Stevenston Point, via Stevenston Morrisons of course. It wouldn't be right to start watching nature with empty stomachs!

As we parked the car on the Point I noticed to the south a pair of Sandwich Terns diving for fish. My very first shot caught a Tern actually carrying a fish. A bit further offshore an immature Gannet was following what I'd presume was its parent. They dived several times before vanishing to the south.

2 - 3 year old  Gannet
Adult Gannet

John spotted a small flock of Sanderling scurrying along the shore always just ahead of the advancing waves. Unfortunately they were spooked before we could get closer but were pleased to come across a Grayling butterfly sunning itself on the concrete seawall. Then a Curlew, followed by a Shag crossed our view as we followed the example of the butterfly by taking a short seat in the sunshine.


After realising we were not going to get many pictures sitting on the seawall we drove the short distance north to Saltcoats. At the end of the Harbour I snapped a Shag as it flew past. Further round the promenade John pointed out a Harbour Seal lounging on a rock relatively close to shore. I thought a patch of Sea Mayweed was worth a photograph as I was watched by a Herring Gull hovering above me, no doubt checking if I had any titbits worth pinching.

Harbour Seal
Sea Mayweed
Herring Gull

It had been a very pleasant and varied trip, celebrated as usual with tea and pastry (chocolate eclairs). Our pictures of the day were of the Rook, Sandwich Terns and Saltcoats Harbour Seal.

2nd July 2017

Aberlady LNR

We headed East where the good weather was predicted. Aberlady seemed a good choice as we'd not been there for some time. After our brekky we made our way there from Dalkeith avoiding the various road closures due to the Iron Man event. After parking we crossed the rickety bridge and were optimistic as the weather was sunny with a wee bit of a breeze. Along the path we came across White Bryony – a climbing vine languishing in the long grass. Then John noticed a few 7-spot Ladybirds. We managed to guide one onto a 1p coin to emphasise its scale. We entered an area of heath we’ve named “Butterfly Alley” as in the past it has produced some nice butterflies. Immediately I came across some nice Hop Trefoil, then as we moved further into the heath we were serenaded by a very obliging Reed Bunting perched atop a bush.

White Bryony
7 Spot Ladybird
Hop Trefoil
Reed Bunting

As we sat and waited for the butterflies to arrive I noted 4 species of Orchid – Common Spotted Orchid, Northern Marsh Orchid, Twayblade and Pyramidal, only to later realise the Pyramidal was in fact a Common Spotted!

Common Spotted Orchid
Northern Marsh Orchid
Common Twayblade
Common Spotted Orchid

Again, still waiting, I caught sight of a tiny Common Froghopper sitting on leaf. Then, at last, a Narrow Bordered 5-spot Burnet fluttered past before resting on small plant. OK it was a moth but it was along the right lines. As I took a few photographs I was distracted by some unfamiliar heads of grass that turned out to be (after a quick Google) a variety of Quaking Grass. Finally, we were joined by a solitary Common Blue butterfly resting from the stiff breeze on Bird’s Foot Trefoil bloom.

Common Froghopper
Narrow Bordered 5 Spot Burnet
Quaking Grass
Common Blue Butterfly

We left Butterfly Alley fairly pleased with our sightings, although the wind undoubtedly kept the butterfly count low. Passing Marl Loch I took some shots of some tiny but very pretty yellow Common Tormentil before noticing a Ladybird hunting aphids – yes, the bonny wee bug is a vicious killer! I then captured a few pictures of Ragged Robin and also got my boots damp snapping some Marsh Lousewort.

Common Tormentil
7 Spot Ladybird Ragged Robin
Marsh Lousewort

Next we searched unsuccessfully for Stonechat but it seemed every bird was a Reed Bunting. We settled by a patch of Viper’s Bugloss where a Red-tailed Bumblebee was feeding frantically, before heading back to the car. We stopped for a time at the Marl Loch, attracted by a lonely Prickly Sow Thistle. John spotted a young Pied Wagtail skipping on the extensive pondweed.

Viper's Bugloss
Red-tailed Bumblebee
Prickly Sow Thistle
Pied Wagtail

At the pond’s edge a Mute Swan stood preening as a Black-headed Gull floated past. I captured a picture of a single Weld plant hiding in the long grass. Back at the car as we had our tea and pastry I noticed that the shrubbery at the edge of the car park were mainly Crab Apple trees, which was quite appropriate as our Lattice pastries were filled with stewed apples.

Mute Swan
Black Headed Gull
Crab Apple

It had been an interesting day with a varied haul of pictures.

Shots of the day were Reed Bunting, 5-spot Burnet, 7-spot Ladybird and Hop Trefoil



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