ending: 25th April: Musselburgh,
Musselburgh was my long awaited destination this week. I parked at
Levenhall Links and made my way to the Scrapes via the sea wall. Sadly
the sea was bereft of birds. I did however get a shot of a passing Grey
Heron. It was uncommonly high in the air, probably because it was being
pursued by gulls. At the Scrapes I was pleased to see a handsome Pheasant
traversing the near edges of the ponds, stopping occasionally for a sip
of water. I was disappointed though to have missed a Spoonbill that had
been seen earlier before it had been spooked by a lady yelling on her
runaway dog. I wasn’t too sad as I got nice shots of the
antics of a jealous Shelduck
defending his mate.
Next I walked to the mouth of the River Esk. I spotted a Reed
Bunting singing from the top of a bush, and further
along there was a hovering Kestrel .
The tide was high and there were Mute Swans and large flocks of
Oystercatchers flying in from the Esk-mouth.
|Juvenile Mute Swans
There were also passing Curlews and Carrion Crows and a single Redshank
was foraging on the water’s edge in the very chilly breeze.
Mid-channel there was a pair of stationary drake Eider
resplendent in their summer plumage.
From time to time there was a series of passes of birds rushing
seawards. These were Gadwall ,
Herring Gulls and Wigeon .
I continued my walk up-river to the footbridge bridge where I saw a
drake Mallard taking a break from chasing female Mallards
At the west side of the New Bridge I spotted a Grey
Wagtail flittering over the rocky river shingle
catching flies. A bit further upstream its pair of cousins, the
Pied Wagtails, were similarly employed. There were a few
Canada Geese loitering around the island, no doubt waiting for bread to
be thrown by people parked by the water. As I got into my car I noticed
some Green Alkanet growing by the wall.
I decided to retrace my steps back to the car, popping back into the
Scrapes on the way. From the north-most hide I photographed a huge
flock of Oystercatchers that had been disturbed by an unseen menace. A
pair of Wigeons remained unalarmed, as did a solitary Curlew at the
back of the north-most pond. I photographed a nice patch of Red
Deadnettle that I found growing just off
I also got a glimpse of a Speckled Wood butterfly warming itself on the
grassy banks by the path. Just as I exited the Scrapes entrance I
caught sight of a Chiffchaff that had been Chiffchaff-ing on top of a
tree. I came across a pair of Bullfinches nibbling on bushes by the
path on the south side of the Scrapes.
I next decided to chance my luck at Port Seton. Below was the view
looking west from Port Seton:
When I arrived there were birds standing on the partially exposed rocks
of Wrecked Craigs. The closest were Knot
and Turnstones and a bit further out a Cormorant was tolerating the
waves that were lashing its rock. I wandered out to the edge of the
harbour mouth and I spotted a single Razorbill
diving some 100m offshore. It was also spotted by the large flock of
Herring Gulls that flew out from the harbour and descended on it and
whatever it had found to eat. My outing was finished nicely when a pair
of sunlit drake Eider paddled past me at a range of about 10m.
Week ending: 18th April 2021: RSPB Barons Haugh,
The pictures below were taken on Monday, Thursday and Saturday mornings
at Barons Haugh and Dalzell Estate. The Haugh was disappointingly
bereft of birds during my visits so I concentrated my efforts on the
surrounding area which was alive with a great variety of passerines
(perching birds). This time of year is the start of the breeding
season, so there was a lot of territorial chatter to be heard. Goldfinches
were twittering and Wrens
were whistling emphatically. The recently arrived Chiffchaffs
Warblers were perhaps the commonest bird calls
heard. The Blackcap’s
song is, to my ear, a random collection of notes (although
I’m sure it must make sense to the birds). I love the mellow,
warbling tones and variable tempo of the Robin’s
song and I feel that it is a bit of ventriloquist as often
it’s sound seems to emanate from the next tree.
In Dalzell Estate I revisited the Nuthatches’
nest that I photographed a couple of weeks ago. I was pleased to see
them still attending to its construction by adding mud and leaves to
the tree-hole entrance. I also managed pictures of a Chaffinch
and a busy Treecreeper.
I was excited to see five species of butterfly this week. A pretty
Small Tortoiseshell was first to cross my path, followed by a rather
ragged Peacock. I discovered a deliciously neat female Orange Tip
(which doesn’t have orange-tipped wings) dining on a Cuckoo
Flower, but I had to wait until the following day to capture an image
of the male (which does have orange-tipped wings).
|Female Orange Tip
|Male Orange Tip
My fifth butterfly, the Green-veined White, is easily confused for the
female Orange Tip since each have white-coloured upper-side wings.
However the undersides are completely different in colour. The
Green-veined White has, well, green vein-like markings! I also
photographed a couple of hoverflies, Eristalis Arbustorum and Syrphus
Ribesii. I was delighted to get pictures of one of my favourite
hovering insects, the Dark-edged Beefly (although it is formally in the
family of flies, rather than hoverflies). To feed, it hovers at the
front of the flower and inserts its feeding tube into the nectaries.
As usual I was on the lookout for any interesting wildflowers. I found
many instances of tiny flowering Dog Violets on the west facing banks
by the footpath. Dandelions were also in full bloom, as were the Barren
Strawberry plants. The banks of Few-flowered Leeks were at their prime
but I could see the next set of wildflowers sprouting through them,
such as Crosswort, Garlic Mustard and Comfrey. Also in full bloom at
various places around the reserve were patches of Wood Anemones and
near the car park I came across a few Cowslips just beginning to
As I wandered the reserve I occasionally came across some mammals,
namely Roe Deer and, of course, Grey Squirrels. Others told me of Foxes
but there was no mention of Otters.
The Scottish Parliament First Minister made
an unexpected announcement that enabled unlimited travel throughout
Scotland. I took advantage of this new freedom on Saturday afternoon by
visiting Hogganfield Loch for the first time in 20 weeks. Unlike at
Barons Haugh, where water birds were scarce, as always there were
plenty of them on Hogganfield Loch. It was nice to see a couple of
pairs of Great Crested Grebes, one of my favourite birds. I noticed a
nesting Coot on one of the artificial islands. Nearby a Canada Goose
was sunning itself near the water’s edge. Also on the water
there were quite a few Goosanders, seemed unconcerned by the presence
of the people on the shore (at BH the Goosanders are much more
|Great Crested Grebe
I took a few portrait shots of birds on the water nearest the car park.
The strong sunlight helped show up the colours and contours of the
faces of the birds - Mallard, Whooper and Mute Swans, and Tufted Duck.
I snapped a lochside shot of a male Pied Wagtail as I headed to the
pond area to the east of the Loch. In the middle of the pond an
aggressive Mute Swan was chasing any bird that got anywhere near the
nest. I took a pleasing shot of a perching Woodpigeon followed by a
shot of a passing Grey Heron.
There were many small birds active in the trees around the pond.
Recently arrived Blackcaps, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs were
filling the area with their songs. I also managed a shot of a permanent
resident, a Dunnock.
Week ending: 11th April 2021: Strathclyde Park
This week I visited Strathclyde Country Park over several days and
accumulated a nice set of photos, which I’ve presented below
arranged by location.
The North end of the Loch was fairly quiet over the week but the
Jackdaws and Crows were always at hand to liven up the proceedings. Of
course, there were Robins warbling in the bushes, and Greylags honking
on the shore.
Car park 4 is a popular spot where
people can park near the water’s edge and feed the birds
without having to carry their loaves too far from their cars. With so
much bread on offer there are usually many birds waiting to be fed -
well, it’s easier than searching for food elsewhere. Whilst I
seldom feed the birds, I do take advantage of the situation to seek out
photo-opportunities. The lively Goosanders are always good for a quick
snap, as are Greylags
and their hybrids. Jaunty wee Pied Wagtails often appear on the scene
to mop up the crumbs.
|Greylag X Canada
However, the feeding-time action heroes have to be the gulls. Although
they are despised by most of the people throwing the bread, who would
rather their food went to the “nicer”, quieter
birds like ducks, swans and geese, rather than the noisy aerial
robbers, photographically speaking, the gulls are much more fun. The
gull species parked at car park 4 are Black-headed,
Herring, Lesser Black-backed and Common Gulls.
There is also a lot of action further from the shore. This week there
were literally hundreds of small Sand
Martins that had flown in from Africa especially to dine on
the vast numbers of flies now emerging from the Loch. The Martins nest
in the sandy banks of the River Clyde, hence their name. Also feeding
offshore are dozens of large Cormorants, many hunting for fish in
diving groups as large as twenty. It always amazes me that they are
largely unnoticed and people aren’t gasping in amazement as a
group passes. Snapping flying Mallards is a personal favourite
activity, as is searching for passerines such as Blue Tits, in the
bushes around the car parks.
At the opposite side of the Loch, the mouth of South Calder
is often rewarding for nature watchers. There are Grey Squirrels is the
woods (and also Roe Deer). Mallards and other ducks feed in the often
calmer waters. It is probably the best area in the park to see a large
variety of wild flowers. This week Wood Anemones caught my eye.
I was delighted to discover that the Plantation car
park was closed for repairs. With no people
or cars there, it meant that there were many more birds than normal.
and Chaffinches were my first subjects.
Goldfinches flew in small groups and twittered on the tree tops. I was
delighted to hear the “descending” song of the
Willow Warbler for the first time this year. I
managed a few shots of it as it hopped about the branches of a willow
bush. I was even more delighted to capture photographs of a Blackcap as
it belted out its song, a seemingly random collection of notes. As I
was photographing the Blackcap, a Wren appeared from the hedgerow
In the air 100 metres to the south there was a huge
of Sand Martins - almost a starlinglike murmuration. They were
probably chasing a rising mass of insects (or maybe they were freshly
arrived from Africa). I also noticed what at first I thought were
Martins sitting on the top of the bushes on the car park, but soon
realised they were my first Barn
Swallow sighting (and photo) of the year. They were
resting between spells of chasing flies. I photographed a Blackbird as
I checked out a patch of Red Deadnettle that I found growing at the
edges of the car park. This wildflower is less common in the West of
Scotland that elsewhere in Central Scotland.
Common Daisies are very common throughout the country. I got pictures
of several insects in the Plantation Car Park. A Common
Wasp was feeding on the flowering hedgerow while Red-tailed
and Buff-tailed Bumblebees
searched the grassy edges of the car park presumably for suitable
Week ending: 4th April 2021: RSPB
Barons Haugh and Dalzell
My couple of visits to Barons Haugh this week started on a dull
Wednesday. The view from the Marsh Hide was fairly encouraging with a
large Grey Heron creeping amongst the reeds at the far end of the pool.
A few ducks,
Gadwall, Wigeon and Teal, were at the opposite end, while a Moorhen, a
member of the Rail
family of birds was busy to front of the hide.
It was a similar roll count at the Causeway Hide. A Coot, another
member of the Rail family, was dipping for pondweed close in to the
right, as a drake Teal paddled past. I noticed more Coots fighting at
the far right side of the Haugh with a Grey Heron looking on. A bit to
the right of the commotion there was a pair of Mute Swans preparing a
nest in the reeds.
I snapped a nice shot of a pair of drake Gadwalls lifting off heading
towards the Clyde. I followed them round to the Pheonix Hide where I
was pleased to see a pair of Tufted Ducks below the hide, but sadly
little else. I moved to the seat just west of the Hide and was
delighted to see a Kingfisher
darting just above the surface of the river over to a riverside perch
some 150m away. Above the river there were many tens of Sand Martins,
members of the Hirundine
family, swooping with smooth but unpredictable paths, the sound of
their chirps reminding me that Spring was well under way. Below is a
I next headed for the Centenary Hide. I watched a pair of courting Blue
Tits that were feeding on a Willow tree. As a Magpie glided past, I
noticed a Roe
Deer cautiously picking its way through the long
grass to the left of the hide. It was followed by its pair of juveniles
who were soon spooked by the sudden splashing sound of Coots fighting
on the Haugh.
As I neared the Chestnut Walk I heard my first Chiffchaff of the year
and, after a wee wait, it obliged me with a decent pose from which I
got an acceptable picture. It used to belong to the Warbler
(linkF) family but has now been designated to the separate Leaf Warbler
family (although not by the RSPB it would seem). Next I passed a large Tree
probably a queen, that was motionless on the path. I suspect it was
injured. At the graveyard at the start of the Walk, a calling Wren gave
me another photo-opportunity, which I took. Dandelions are, of course,
a real pain for gardeners, but in the wild, as it were, they are as
beautiful as as any wildflower.
On Friday I once again headed for Barons Haugh, starting with a walk
through Dalzell Estate. I met a fellow birder who very kindly showed me
the location of a tree in which Nuthatches were
nest-building. He pointed out the tree hole they were lining with mud,
probably to make it more difficult for predators to penetrate the nest.
Over half an hour we watched the birds making repeated visits carrying
mud and leaves into the nest.
My friend then very generously pointed out another tree that
was being visited by nest-building Treecreepers .
This too we watched for a half hour, once again taking care not to
disturb the birds. In that time we saw them making repeated visits,
carrying nest-building materials such as leaves and branches. The nest
was out of sight behind a large crack in the tree trunk. It was amusing
to see such a tiny bird manipulating long twigs through the crack in
I managed a snap of a Goldfinch that had been twittering through much
of my nest-watching. When passing the graveyard at the bottom of the
White Walk, the very familiar call of the Chiffchaff allowed me to
locate the wee beauty and get a nice shot of it announcing its
presence. As I walked along the path that follows the course of the
River Clyde (part of the Clyde Walkway, in fact), there were,
unusually, Oystercatchers on the opposite banks. Further along I heard
the unmistakable erratic call of a Blackcap. Sadly it never showed,
however, I did manage a nice shot of a Long-tailed Tit.
As I neared the Phoenix Hide I captured shots of a female Goosander (a
member of the family of Ducks) on the Clyde, and on the bank, a large
Mute Swan. Just past that hide there was a drake Gadwall paddling near
the far bank. My last shot of the trip was of another Treecreeper,
taken near the car park. It was uncharacteristically stationary leading
me to believe that it was waiting for me to pass to allow it to fly to
We present last month’s
gallery of my favourite pictures I’ve taken during April
2021. They are not listed in the order they have been taken, but
according to a series of themes. I’ve kept commentary to a
minimum, preferring to let each picture talk for itself.
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