Archive - April 2022

Week ending: 24th April: Doonfoot

Finally, after a five-week gap, John and I set off together for a day of watching, and photographing, nature. Our destination was Doonfoot, on the south of Ayr. My WeatherPro app predicted near ideal conditions, dry and sunny, although with a chilly East wind. On the down side, the BBC tidal prediction was a very low tide for most of the time of our visit.

Courtesy of Weather Pro  and BBC Tides

So after a decent breakfast in Stewartfield Morrisons, East Kilbride (9/10: slow service, but very good food), we drove down the M77 to the Greenan Castle car park in Doonfoot. We set off on a circuit which took us South along the beach, past the castle. The beach and seashore looked entirely devoid of birds so we decided to concentrate more on the dunes and hinterland. The first part of that route was along a hedge-lined strip of short grass at the edge of the low sand dunes. John spotted a Red Admiral butterfly that was sunning itself on some Nettles. The descending tones of a Willow Warbler caught our attention and I managed a distant shot as it sat atop a Hawthorn bush. There were Red Deadnettles and Dove’s Foot Cranesbill on the grass strip.

Red Admiral Butterfly Willow Warbler
Red Deadnettle Doves-foot  Cranesbill

We next encountered more Willow Warblers in the bushes just north of the Castle. Without much effort from us these allowed us some very close pictures. That was probably because they were obviously in reproductive mode and we were very still and careful not to upset them. We also encountered several brief sightings of Goldfinches, however they were very elusive and I didn’t manage one shot of them. Near the base of the Castle’s rock I was pleased to find and photograph a few shots of Greater Stitchwort and Lesser Celandine.

Willow Warbler...
Greater Stitchwort Lesser Celandine

We walked along the edge of the field to the South of the Castle, where we were delighted to find a Greenfinch feeding on the bushes. We also saw a singing Whitethroat belting out what seems to the human ear to be random series of notes. More Goldfinches taunted us as they played hide-and-seek, again without getting a photo. However, we were also visited by a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly and then another Red Admiral. I was able to capture images of them as they briefly paused for a recharge of heat from the sun.

Greenfinch Whitethroat
Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly Red Admiral

Wildflowers were blooming in the borders of the field. I snapped some pretty Red Campion and some not so pretty Dog’s Mercury. At the Castle we watched a large queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee buzzing around Hawthorn blooms. In the same shot there is a 7-spot Ladybird (bottom right). We clambered up the steep slope to the Castle ruin. I wondered what it might have looked like in its heyday.

Red Campion Dog's Mercury
Queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee / 7 Spot Ladybird Greenan Castle

There was a fine view to the south-west of Greenan Castle. You can just make out Arran and the Mull of Kintyre on the horizon.

We walked eastwards along a rough path along the edges of cornfields. We watched Starlings searching out worms along the grassy paths and a watchful Blackbird perched above us on a telephone cable. 

Starling Blackbird

Below is the view to the North over Ayr. Note the very low tide. We were distracted by another flock of twittering and flighty Goldfinches while taking this shot. Try as we might, we were unable to find them in a photographable position.

We descended from the fields onto a well-surfaced path. We decided to search the hedgerows lining the path and were rewarded with shots of some common garden birds: a Chaffinch, Dunnock and, at long last, a Goldfinch posing wonderfully on a tree branch. A warbling Robin added to our joy as it too sat briefly overhead as we rested briefly for drink.

Chaffinch Dunnock
Goldfinch Robin

I noticed a large black fly, probably the Bluebottle Fly, Calliphora vomitoria landing on a strand of long grass. And then an energetic Green-veined White butterfly appeared on the scene. After a brief chase I managed a couple of quick shots, the one below showing nicely its veins of green on the underwing. As we wandered away from the hedges John spotted a growth on the branches of a tall Dog Rose tree. We reckon it is a spent Rose Gall called Robin’s Pincushion. It is caused by the Gall Wasp which lays eggs on the leaf or stem. Just before we returned to the car park I got a nice capture of a female House Sparrow perching on a rose bush at the back of a garden.

Fly-Calliphora Vomitoria Green-veined White Butterfly
Rose Gall Female House Sparrow

We relocated to the Castle Walk car park for a brief investigation around the adjacent pond and the area along the outflow of the Riven Doon. We saw a drake Mallard and watched a very accommodating male Pied Wagtail as it picked its way along the stream adjoining the pond and the River Doon.

Drake Mallard Rook
Pied Wagtail...

The river estuary was hosting what looked like a paddleboard class with around ten novice paddleboaders. That ensured that there were no birds there. We could see only the usual assembly of Gulls further downstream, but, satisfied with our haul of pictures thus far, we decided not to venture beyond the aforementioned stream. Instead, we finished the trip with a few shots of flowers we saw around the pond. I discovered a bonny bush of Common Scurvygrass , an awful name for a pretty flower. Apparently its association with scurvy arose from the navy’s use of the plant as a dietary supplement to help prevent scurvy. John found a patch of long grass where Daffodils and Common Bluebells were blooming. On the way back to the car I noticed some Field Speedwell on growing on the short grass.

Common Scurvygrass Daffodil
Common Bluebell Common Field Speedwell

Surprisingly, we saw no coastal sea birds apart from Gulls on our long-awaited outing to the coast. However, we were very pleased with what we saw, particularly the Willow Warbler and Whitethroat and, of course the butterflies. We had our first tea and strawberry tarts for over a month to end the visit (only to discover the pastry was a bit soggy). Let’s hope the weather keeps up for next week, and the tide is more favourable

Week ending: 17th April 2022 : RSPB Baron’s Haugh and Dalzell Estate

There was no Sunday visit this week as both John and I had Easter Bunny commitments. However, on Saturday afternoon, I managed a couple of hours at RSPB Baron’s Haugh  where I had a fairly productive time. The weather was dry but dull with only very brief spells of sunshine. I usually approach the RSPB reserve from the adjoining Dalzell Estate, as it offers the possibility of more sightings. My first picture was of multiple Birch Polypore fungi attached to a Silver Birch tree. My first bird sighting was of a Magpie on a tree in the Japanese Garden . In the woods adjacent to the Garden I snapped some nice shots of a Blue Tit and a Great Tit as they fed on Alder flowers.

Birch Polypore Magpie
Blue Tit Great Tit

Spring wildflowers were blooming and I photographed quite a few on my passage through the Estate. Primroses were dotted throughout clearings in the woods while Wood Anemones and Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage were growing at the pathside. As I “wandered lonely as a cloud” I also encounter crowds of golden Daffodils. I noticed that the Lesser Celandine flowers were charmingly half shut due to the dim light. As I descended the stairs to the Chestnut Walk there were Bluebells coming into bloom - the first of very many.

Primrose Wood Anemone
Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage Daffodil
Lesser Celandine Bluebell

Left and right of the Chestnut Way was packed with Few-flowered Leeks whose “oniony” smell filled the air. I also noticed charming pink Cuckoo Flowers. I thought I heard a Woodpecker tapping on the bark of a tall Horse Chestnut tree. In fact it was a Nuthatch , probably preparing a nesting site.

Few-flowered Leek Cuckoo Flower

Eventually I reached the much eroded banks of the River Clyde. (Great care was required at several parts of the route due to the damage caused to the paths by the river floods. They were impassable, particularly around the Phoenix Hide.) I was delighted to hear and then see a Chiffchaff, my first of the year. Near it, a Blue Tit was performing acrobatics as it fed on Hawthorn leaf shoots. On other Hawthorn bushes further along the path I encountered another first for the year, a very accommodating Willow Warbler  that allowed me to capture some very nice shots and even treated me to a wee song. Later, another Chiffchaff appeared further along the path, close to the Centenary Hide.

Blue Tit Willow Warbler

Looking across the river I could see a few Goosanders sitting on the riverbank while a juvenile Mute Swan swam in front of them. In the trees outside the Centenary Hide I managed a few shots of some Chaffinches courting in the branches. Sadly, there was little to see from the hide.

Male Goosander Juvenile Mute Swan
Male Chaffinch Female Chaffinch

At the bend in the path near the Phoenix Hide I spotted a Blackcap, but it evaded the camera. But as I tracked it I was fortunate enough to photograph a passing Long-tailed Tit. I also came across some lovely Dog Violets and Barren Strawberry flowers.

Long-tailed Tit...
Dog Violet Barren Strawberry

The view from the Phoenix Hide was marginally better than that from the previous hide. I got snaps of a Coot and a very distant Mute Swan’s nest - but little else. I continued my circuit along the riverside with pictures of a Mute Swan and a Carrion Crow.

Mute Swan Carrion Crow

Just before the Causeway Hide I managed photos of a shy Robin and one of several Goldfinches that were cavorting high in tree branches. One of the most interesting sights I saw, a first for me, was a Raven mobbed  by three Carrion Crows. Apparently such mobbings are common and tend to happen when the Crows are nesting. My final shot was taken from the Marsh Hide where I was lucky enough to see a Gadwall  (as the light had become very poor).

Robin Goldfinch
Raven / Carrion Crow Gadwall

It was a satisfying circuit. Baron’s Haugh is a fine nature reserve that nearly always rewards the discerning observer. I was doubly rewarded with tea and biscuits back at the car. Next week, with any luck, we should be back to normal

Week ending: 10th April 2022: Jim’s Garden and Strathclyde Country Park

Our usual Sunday visit was once again cancelled this week. I did though manage to get shots of interest from Thursday to Sunday in and around my garden and also during a couple of short visits to Strathclyde Country Park. To supplement my reduced diet of birdwatching I have revived the use of the bird feeders in my garden. We have plenty of feathered friends, mainly Starlings and House Sparrows. Other common garden birds pop in and out such as a Blackbird pair hunting for worms.

Starling House Sparrow
Blackbird Female Blackbird

House Sparrows antics make them very photogenic, as I think the pictures below illustrate. They can often be seen keeking out of the hedgerow before dashing for a sip of rainwater from the flower ornament or a few seeds from one of my feeders. At this time of year the cock Sparrows can be seen throwing shapes like nightclub posers to attract the females.

House Sparrow

Flowers are beginning to grow and they, of course , attract insects. It was pleasing then to see several species of Bumblebee  visit my freshly bloomed Pieris Forest Flame shrub - Tree Bumblebee, Buff-tailed Bumblebee and Early Bumblebee. And as a bonus I came across a Clusterfly, probably the (Narrow-cheeked).

Buff-tailed Bumblebee Early Bumblebee
Tree Bumblebee Narrow-cheeked Clusterfly

A couple of Blue Tits have discovered that my feeding station has reopened. They nip in and out of the garden carefully avoiding the more dominant Sparrow flock. I also spotted a Great Tit on a neighbours tree. Hopefully it too will visit my garden for a free feed and a beer photo. The Feral Pigeon flock haven’t quite discovered the feeders - yet. A solitary Pigeon turned up on Sunday to hoover up some of the spillages made by the messy Sparrows. A surprise visitor turned up as I was reversing out of my driveway. A Greylag Goose waddled slowly across the road bringing the heavy traffic to a standstill. Unfortunately I had an appointment so couldn’t hang about but concerned pedestrians were trying to help it as I left.

Blue Tit Great Tit
Feral Pigeon Greylag Goose

I also read of three interesting visitors to Strathclyde Country Park so I made several brief visits to see if I could get pictures of them. The first of these was a juvenile Iceland Gull. It’s plumage had no dark markings so it really stood out in a flock of similar-sized gulls. It wasn’t hard to find as it “comes to bread” so I stood in Car Park 4 and waited for people with bread and before too long I had some fairly decent photos. The second bird I was after was a female Scaup  that had been seen with the Tufted Duck flock. I had to wait until my third visit to Strathclyde Park to see it drift past Car Park 4. It is distinguished from the female Tufted Duck by a broad white band above the beak and the absence of a tuft on its head.

1st Cycle Iceland Gull...
Female Scaup....

The third bird I was seeking was a Little Gull, however it evaded me until I got a distant sighting on my final visit to Strathclyde Park. Of course, I did see plenty of other birds. The aforementioned Tufted Ducks were fairly mobile and could be seen almost anywhere on the Loch. The Jackdaws are always a good watch, like the one shown below having a quick bath.

Little Gull Tufted Duck

The Loch’s Cormorant flock gather near the Roman Bathhouse. 

Around the same area a Carrion Crow looked down on me as I got some nice shots of a warbling Robin. Soon after that I spotted a Sparrowhawk being harassed by an angry Crow. I also got shots of a feeding Magpie and a well-illuminated Greylag taking the sun on the shore of the loch. My final shot is of a cheeky Grey Squirrel that was beside my car as I returned from observing the Little Gull. As I raised my camera it ran off but stopped some 10m away and held a pose until I had my shot.

Robin Carrion Crow
Sparrowhawk / Carrion Crow Magpie
Greylag Goose Grey Squirrel

I am confident that John and I can travel a little further afield at the weekend. Let’s hope that we get some nice weather

Week ending: 3rd April 2022: Strathclyde Park

This is a shorter Blog this week as I  was restricted to one very short visit on Saturday to Strathclyde Country Park. (We hope to get our regular Sunday visits back to normal before too long). It was a pleasant afternoon at Car Park 4 where I spent an unexpectedly active hour recording some birdy events perhaps unnoticed by the majority of the very many walkers circulating the Lochside pathways. A good example of this could be the activities of the Mallards that were gathered at the side of the Loch, ostensibly to receive bread from the kind humans. They were doing this, but between feeding sessions they were still noticeably very active, in fact, exited, with much preening, flapping and head-nodding.


 … and some female Mallards were flying off. However other females were apparently swimming up to, perhaps wooing the drakes (males). They would then suddenly dive below the water followed just as suddenly by a drake.

The surprise to anyone watching is that the two ducks surfaced together - very together. I then realised that the Mallard flock were engaged in courtship behaviour. The surfacing ducks were copulating.

But unfortunately for them it was “coitus interruptus”:  their romance was cut short by another drake who fancied a bit of the action, or perhaps he was the wronged partner of the female. In any case it all finished with a big splash and a chase.

The Mute Swans were also showing signs of courtship. There seemed to be a hierarchy at work where the dominant cobs (males) are aggressive towards the younger cobs. The other sign of courtship is where the cob and pen (female) come face-to-face and bow their heads. Dipping their bills into the water. This is accompanied by brief entwining of their long necks. I did not see any of the Swans pairs continuing to full copulation, but I suspect if I had watched for another hour I might have. 

By comparison with the Ducks and Swans, the Greylag Geese  were much less animated. Maybe they court later in the month.

There was no evidence I could see of courtship amongst the Gulls  - Lesser Black-backs, Common and Black-headed Gulls. They all seemed much too interested in mobbing people throwing bread.

Black-headed Gull Common Gull
Lesser Black- backed Gull

Jackdaws too were seeking bread, or more correctly, bread crumbs left by the bigger birds. I noticed a large Cormorant flying southwards along the middle of the Loch. At the other end of the size scale many walkers were complaining of the Midges, of which there were many. They needn’t have worried as they were Chironomid Midges , non-biting midges.

Jackdaw Cormorant
Chironomid Midge
After snapping shots of the Midges I noticed that more Cormorants  had grouped in the middle of the Loch and were hunting fish as one large diving flock.

It was a very impressive site watching about twenty Cormorants continually diving and moving down the Loch at about the speed of a fast walker. I have in the past seen them bring fish to the surface, but not so on this occasion.

I retired to the car for tea and biscuits before returning home. It had been brief but interesting hour spent in Car Park 4. Hopefully John and I can soon get back to the coast.

Highlights - April 2022

We present this month’s gallery of my favourite pictures I’ve taken during April 2022. 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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