Archive - April 2017

30th April


The weather predictions favoured the west coast so we headed for Doonfoot as Grasshopper Warblers had been recently reported there. Of course we went via Kilmarnock ASDA cafeteria where we had a delightful 'Wee Scottish Breakfast' with 2 slices of toast. 
Near the Doonfoot car park there was only only a solitary Mallard feeding in the disappointing morning gloom - although wee bits of blue sky were approaching from the south. We ventured onto the beach at the mouth of the Doon where masses of birds were feeding. Mute Swans and Oystercatchers were in the majority. A pair of Rooks were foraging close by, one with its food pouch bulging.

Mute Swans

A flock of Dunlin flew in and landed fairly close to where we were sitting although they were hard to spot in the poor light especially since they were well camouflaged against the sand and seaweed. The Redshanks too were hard to spot. On the way back to the car we noticed Greenfinch and Reed Bunting in the bushes.

Reed Bunting

After a short drive to the Greenan Shore car park we set off on a walk past the Castle. The light was steadily improving and straight away we heard the familiar and slightly peculiar call of the Grasshopper Warbler. It was very close perching on a bramble bush. Further on we were entertained by a singing Willow Warbler. Very soon after a Common Whitethroat made an appearance accompanied by a bold Blackbird who was probably guarding its nest so we moved on.

Grasshopper Warbler
Willow Warbler
Common Whitethroat

Beyond the Castle, a family of Cormorants were very active on the rocks. As I photographed them a Rock Pipit popped up and conveniently posed for me, its beak stuffed with what looked like nesting material. At this point we were at last treated to some sunshine and we started to make our way back to the car. We came across another Willow Warbler belting out its familiar tones only a few metres away. Further on a Starling was on the top of a Hawthorn bush easily picking off St Mark’s Flies.

Rock Pipit
Willow Warbler

Next we found a Stonechat perched high on a reed. It saw us but curiously didn't fly off. I wish they were all like that! In the next bush a Goldfinch showed off its finely coloured plumage. As we made our final approach towards the car park a female Wheatear appeared some 20m ahead of us. John and I cannot recall seeing one at this site before, although I dare say locals would disagree.
As we sat by the car in bright sunlight, munching our Danish pastries and congratulating ourselves on an excelled haul of sightings, a cheeky wee cock House Sparrow waited in the trees for a bit of our snack - no chance pal. But there may be crumbs.

House Sparrow

23rd April 2017

Stevenston and Saltcoats

Good weather was predicted across the Central Belt of Scotland and there were no outstanding reports of exotic birds to chase so our chosen target location was a bit random. We hadn’t visited Stevenson for a good few weeks but what swung it was we would be able to travel down the new M8 “missing link” that had just opened that very morning. We stopped at Stevenston Morrisons for our usual breakfast which was, as usual, excellent.
At Stevenston Point we were met by a small flock of Jackdaws apparently digging up the soft clay of a dried-up puddle presumably looking for invertebrates to eat. On the rocks a Cormorant was drying its feathers watched by an Eider doing the same thing before flying off.


We waited and watched for passing birds such as Gannets and Terns but we soon concluded we would be better moving on to Saltcoats to check the Harbour area. Unfortunately we were a bit disappointed there also.We found only a Redshank and a few Turnstones, but we were entertained by the antics of a male and female House Sparrow as they tried to catch flies by the seawall.

House Sparrow
Female House Sparrow

As we made our way back to the car we were keenly watched by a bold Herring Gull. We returned to Stevenston to Ardeer Quarry NR hoping for better luck. As we started our circuit at the Pond we immediately saw a Mallard with a group of Duclair Ducks. They keenly made a beeline for us hoping for bread. A nearby Robin probably had a similar idea.

Herring Gull
Mallard Drake
Duclair Duck

As we reached the south end to the reserve where we were more sheltered from the wind we came across several interesting insects. A Peacock butterfly was clinging to a wall soaking up the bright sunshine. Orange Tip butterflies were flitting from flower to flower but a female Large Red Damselfly sat very still, possibly freshly emerged from its under-water nymph form. John spotted a hoverfly, eristalis arbustorum, had landed on some Gorse.

Orange Tip
Large Red Damselfly
Eristalis Arbustorum

I thought I saw a female Orange Tip butterfly (upper wings black and white with no orange and underwing intricately patterned) but it turned out to be a Green-veined White (underwing with free veins). The rather random-sounding song of a Blackcap drew our attentions away from invertebrates, and soon afterwards the descending tones of a Willow Warbler attracted us further around the estate. John pointed out a Wren hiding in a leafless bush after it had uttered its surprisingly powerful song for such a tiny bird.

Green Veined White
Willow Warbler

As we passed a house bordering the site we found a Greater Periwinkle plant with its beautiful purple flowers. Close-by there was a large patch of Wavy Bittercress and Red Campion. As I scanned the marsh area for Roe Deer I could just make out a Buzzard on the ground. Maybe it was sitting over freshly-caught prey.

Greater Periwinkle
Wavy Bitercress
Red Campion
Common Buzzard

As we completed our circuit we commented that the Reed Mace at the edges of the pond were like candy floss. At the car park Starlings were scouring the grass for worms – occasionally dropping one.

Reed Mace
Reed Mace

So as we supped our tea and chewed our lattice pastries we reflected on what turned out to be a very fruitful trip. It was a pity we didn't start at Ardeer Quarry NR!

 9th April 2017


It was another Sunday where the weather was to be best in the east so we headed for our old faithful destination – Musselburgh, where we always seem to find something of interest. We stopped for our usual hearty breakfast in Dalkeith Morrisons (9/10 from me – point dropped for overcooked bacon, but otherwise excellent).
John's breakfast of poached eggs on toast was a disreputable 1/10. To be fair you shouldn't be able to play golf with a poached egg. At Musselburgh we parked not far inside the entrance of Levenhall Links as the road to the Scrapes carpark was too bumpy to risk damaging my car’s suspension. We walked along the seawall road and immediately spotted a female Long-tailed Duck, and further along the road we spotted a male. As we watched the repeated dives of the ducks I heard a calling Reed Bunting in the grassy banks behind us, and soon we spotted it perched in a bush. Then a pair of cavorting Skylarks flew onto the road and one of them sat on a boulder and “froze” just in front of us.

Female Long-tailed Duck
Male Long-tailed Duck
Reed Bunting

Off the seawall the expected Velvet Scoters were diving fairly near the shore. As I photographed them a flock of Wigeon flew past, followed by a lone Red-breasted Merganser. A group of four Gadwall passed some 50m offshore.

Velvet Scoter
Red breasted Merganser

We decided to move to the hides at the Scrapes and once there we were pleased to see it reasonably well populated with birds, mainly Oystercatchers and Redshanks. Shelduck were dabbling in the far pool. I then started snapping a female Reed Bunting when the Oystercatchers went up, startled by a Peregrine Falcon swooping on the flock.

Female Reed Bunting
Peregrine Falcon

The Peregrine circled rapidly for a few minutes before disappearing to the west. As order was restored couple of Meadow Pipits landed on a patch of daisies in front of the hide. As we returned back along the seawall road one of the ever-active Skylarks landed nearby on a fencepost. My final capture was of a male Eider stretching its wings.

Peregrine Falcon Meadow Pipit

As we munched merrily on our pastry lattice washed down with strong, warm tea we agreed that once again Musselburgh had come up with the goods.

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