Our Expeditions: October 2021
Good Riddance 2020

Week ending: 10th October : Musselburgh

I was on my own this week as John had to call off due to a minor mishap. I forgot to copy the usual screenshots from my WeatherPro app, suffice it to say that the weather was to be brighter and drier in the east. I opted for our old faithful location, Musselburgh. As a slight compensation for the lack of weather pics, I include below a picture of my lonely Morrisons Small Breakfast (excellent 9/10: -1 for slow service). After parking in the first Levenhall Links car park I strolled to the sea wall and along to “The Scrapes”. On my route I was disappointed how dull the light was and surprised how low the tide was. However, I did get my first shots of the trip since there were Oystercatchers, Bar-tailed Godwits and Common Gulls on the beach.

Bar-tailed Godwit Common Gull

At the Scrapes, from the central hide, I got dim shots of the Teal  and Wigeon  that were hard at work dipping and dabbling for invertebrates in the damp edges of the ponds.


In the back scrape there was a mass of Lapwings. I remember wondering how long it would take them to take flight, as is their usual behaviour.

I didn’t have to wait too long for the Lapwings to become spooked. They circled a few times before returning to their previous positions. I think they made most of the other birds edgy, such as Woodpigeons.


Wood Pigeon

I moved to the left-most hide, not expecting to see anything that I hadn’t seen already. However as I sat down, a pair of Black-tailed Godwits flew in and settled on the grass in front of the hide. With the birds no more than 10m away, it was a great photo-opportunity.

As if that wasn’t good enough, a Ruff joined the Godwits, and then a Curlew . The latter was about 5m away.

Ruff Curlew

Meanwhile, beyond all the action in front of the hide, a large number of Greylag Geese were squabbling loudly. I don’t know what set them off but it was quite a few minutes before they settled down. In the pond to the right, a group of Starlings were having a bathing session regardless of the commotion.

Greylag Goose

As I photographed the Starlings, some Dunlin  flew in and started foraging around the pond edges.

I was pleased when the Dunlin gradually moved nearer the hide, although it was a pity the light was poor. A nippy wee Pied Wagtail appeared on the pipes at the side of the scrape, posing conveniently until I’d fired off a few shots. The birds were briefly disturbed when a Grey Heron swept past the hide and began exploring the area to the left of the hide. Satisfied with my haul of shots at the Scrapes, I decided to check out the the mouth of the Esk. On the way out of the reserve I noticed some Large Bindweed still in bloom at the path side and a group of Common Inkcap fungi between the trees at the reserve entrance.

Pied Wagtail Grey Heron
Large Bindweed Common Inkcap

The cloudscape over the Boating Pond was stunning.

Near the sea wall (which was fenced off), I photographed a Carrion Crow holding what looks like a crab pincer limb. My next captures indicate where it might have come from. At the Esk mouth I watched a Curlew catch a Crab and bite off its limbs before swallowing its body, shell included.

Carrion Crow

I didn’t see anything else of particular interest at the Esk so I retraced my steps back towards the Scrapes. I encountered a large Brown Slug on the footpath that was in danger of getting squashed by the frequently passing cycles. I noticed that Oystercatchers and Mallards were starting to return to the Scrapes from their time at the shore. I also saw a Guillemot less than 50m from the seawall. There was a final bit of excitement when a group of about half a dozen Grey Partridges  passed rapidly overhead and on to Morrison’s Haven. They were most likely put up by one of the many dogs being walked in the area.

Brown Slug Oystercatcher
Mallard Common Guillemot
Grey Partridge

Well, despite the often gloomy conditions I enjoyed my Musselburgh outing. Highlights were the close views of Black-tailed Godwits, Ruff and Curlew at the Scrapes. I finished the day off with tea and chocolate biscuits (two strawberry tarts would have been over indulgent). Hopefully John will make the next trip, and maybe bring the sun with him

Week ending: 3rd October: Port Seton and Aberlady LNR

The weather forecast for Sunday left us no option but to head for the Lothians since east or west of there was to be showery. So we decided to start at Port Seton and then move to Aberlady. High tide was mid-afternoon so I reckoned we might like to finish back at Wrecked Craigs, Port Seton to catch the birds as the incoming tide moved them closer to the shore.

We had breakfast at Dalkeith Morrisons (8/10: fine food as usual but service was slow) before popping in to Wrecked Craigs at Port Seton. On arrival we could see the three Forth bridges beyond Leith to the West.

We expected that it would be quiet but we were pleased to see the rocks were well-populated with a variety of birds which I immediately set about photographing. A well-lit Common Gull standing on a small rock and a sleeping Curlew standing among snoozing Bar-tailed Godwits were our first captures. A small flock of Ringed Plovers flew in onto the rocks and soon afterwards a large Golden Plover  flock moved in.

Common Gull Curlew
Ringed Plover Golden Plover

The Golden Plovers, which I found out this week are called Kapustarinta in Finland, settled on rocks about 50m out.

John directed my attention to a pair of Bar-tailed Godwits working the on the shoreline just East of the Craigs. One of them was leucistic, glowing white in the strong sunshine. Eventually the “normal” Godwit flew onto the rocks to join the rest of the flock.

Bar-tailed Godwit

The Ringed Plovers didn’t get long to rest since a dog walker decided that her dog would like a wee scramble on the jagged rocks. It wasn’t long before the other birds were also put up so we took that as our signal to move to Aberlady.

At the Aberlady LNR  there were many birds on the Peffer Burn. Most prominent of these were Greylag Geese. Quite a few Wigeon were scattered around, on and off of the water. We could see that there were more geese further out in the Aberlady Bay so we decided to cross the wooden bridge to investigate. On our way over I snapped a passing Redshank that sped over the bridge. John then spotted a Buzzard that was gliding slowly toward us from the conifers on the other side of the Burn.

Greylag Geese Wigeon
Redshank Buzzard

Also from the bridge we could see Teal dabbling in the shallows. At the other side of the bridge we made our way across what John and I call “butterfly alley”, a rough path through the tall grass sometimes rich in butterflies. We stood at the edge of the Pow Burn estuary and observed the panorama. It was rich in bird activity. A very large flock of Starlings passed across the scene. These were followed by eight Little Egrets settle about 80 m away beside masses of geese - a mixture of Greylags and Pink-feet.

Teal Starling
Little Egret

Next there was a movement of the largest number of Oystercatchers I think I’ve seen. They were on the far edge of the Bay, probably put up by the advancing tide.

As well as geese, there were large numbers of Curlew. I managed a shot of the Curlews (and a Little Egret) flying over Greylags.

The Pink-footed Geese  were located in rather distant and poorly-lit positions making photography difficult. However occasionally groups of Pinkfeet flew in, so providing better photo opportunities. Ever so often Lapwings would take to the wing and circle the site a few times before taking up their positions once again. I spotted a Kestrel overhead. It attempted a hover over the east margins of the bay, but an aggressive Carrion Crow chased it off.

Pink-footed Geese
Lapwing Kestrel

 Just as we decided to head back to the car, a Little Egret flew overhead on its way to join the others already on the ground. As we crossed the wooden bridge I photographed a Curlew that was picking its way through long grass on the edge of the Burn. At the car park we found a white (probably leucistic) Greylag among normal Greylags gathered on the banks of the Peffer Burn. I snapped a shot of a passing adult Herring Gull.

Little Egret Curlew
Greylag Geese Herring Gull

Just before we left, John remarked that he had seen over 50 Shelducks swimming in the Bay. 

We drove to Seton Burn at the Eastern edge of Port Seton. Often there are birds gathered where the Burn flows into the Firth of Forth. On arrival we saw a juvenile Gannet patrolling the area, and nearer the shore there were groups of Red-breasted Mergansers and Wigeons. Also a pair of Mute Swans were foraging very close in.

1st Cycle Gannet Red-breasted Merganser
Wigeon Mute Swan

We returned to the car park adjacent to Wrecked Craigs. Having watched earlier the clearing of birds from the rocks by inconsiderate dog walkers, I was surprised to find masses of birds assembled on the same rocks. Most of them were sleeping. A juvenile Herring Gull was soaking up the sun as it stood on a small rock. A snoozing Curlew was standing in the middle of a flock of Bar-tailed Godwits, as was a single Golden Plover. More Golden Plovers flew in for a time before a family appeared on the beach. They were armed with pond-dipping nets and were moving onto the rocks.

1st Cycle Herring Gull Curlew
Golden Plover

The birds became more alert. The Oystercatchers and Godwits stretched their necks. The Redshanks didn’t seem to be as alarmed. I now was able to make out a single Knot now that heads were removed from under wings. As the family moved in, the birds migrated further back onto the far rocks. John and I walked a 100m to the harbour. On the way there I photographed a wee Turnstone that was on a large boulder and a singing Starling that was perched on top of a lamppost.

Oystercatcher Redshanks
Knot .......
Turnstone Starling

At the Harbour entrance there were a few Eider, the drakes now resplendent in their familiar black and white plumage. A juvenile drake flew in to join the others and gave us a nice fly-past. A Razorbill surfaced just below the harbour wall, but swam further away when it saw us. The final picture taken was of a isolated shower raining down on an oil tanker as it made its way down the Firth of Forth.

Drake Eider Female Eider
Juvenile Eider Razorbill......

The day had gone much as I had envisaged. We saw a large number of birds in bright light. My favourite sightings were the Golden Plovers and Little Egrets, and it was nice to see the Pinkfeet back again for their winter visit. John and I had tea and strawberry tarts and wondered if Morrisons will be able to sustain their supplies of Strawberry tarts throughout the winter. Hope so as they’re delicious

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