Week ending: 27th August: Ardmore Point
The weather predicted for Central Scotland for Sunday was pessimistic - both the Lothian and
Ayrshire Coasts would probably experience dull, rainy conditions. However, the areas in between,
sheltered from the north wind by the highlands, could have brighter, dry weather. Ardmore Point in
the inner Clyde estuary is one such place. My WeatherPro app predicted it would experience fine,
dry conditions after a dull start. And so it proved. We had a decent breakfast in Dumbarton
Morrisons (8/10: OK, but no black pudding available and some items were cold) on our way to
On arrival, the weather was indeed dull, but we could make out Curlew and Oystercatchers feeding
on the South Beach. We started our clockwise walk around the peninsula, photographing a close,
low-flying young Herring Gull and a rather more distant Gannet.
|1st Cycle Herring Gull
A larger number of Oystercatchers were amassed on a temporary island that had appeared as the
water level fell.
We got a much closer shot of a Gannet when we left the South Bay, then John spotted a Grey
Heron standing in the field behind us. I snapped a Carder Bee that was exploring some Common
Ragwort flowers and also noticed nice Green Alkanet flowers (which are actually blue).
|Common Carder Bumblebee
John pointed out a second Grey Heron in the field but I disturbed it as I attempted to photograph
it. I followed this with a Small White butterfly that had landed on Sea Radish flowers. John drew
my attention to a young Shag that was drying its wing atop a boulder just offshore. We could also
just make out some eclipse Eiders sitting at the end of a line of rocks that run into the water.
|Small White Butterfly
|Eider in Eclipse plumage
Below is the view looking east from the line of rocks:
There were also Red-breasted Mergansers on the line of rocks. They looked as if they were
shedding eclipse plumage.
Flocks of Starlings were busy foraging on the rocky shore just in front of us. I moved a bit closer
to the line of rocks to get a better view of the Mergansers and on the way I came across a juvenile
Robin. We moved on and passed a Curlew that was walking on large boulders by the water’s
On our way to the North Bay John pointed to a big Woodpigeon on a tree, away to our right. We
passed a rock where two Herring Gulls were voicing their concern at who knows what, watched
by a large Great Black-backed Gull. Nearby, a pretty Black-headed Gull was preening on another
rock. I managed a shot of a beautiful Harebell just as a fly landed on it.
John mentioned that the bees were very active around the many flowers we passed. As he spoke
I noticed a Buff-tailed Bumblebee on a spike of Rosebay Willowherb. I followed that with a
shot of another on Sheeps-bit Scabious and completed the trio with a Carder Bee leaving a
Himalayan Balsam flower. This became a quartet when I noticed another Carder almost buried
among the stamens of a Sow Thistle flower.
A noisy flock of ducks passed overhead. Unfortunately they were silhouetted against the overcast
sky, so we’ve been unable to identify them. I was able to identify the small Shag that flew past
and also another Gannet. I was pleased to see another Red-breasted Merganser, preening on a
large boulder near the shore.
I was photographing many of the interesting wildflowers we passed. As I did this it occurred to me
that the names of many of these ended in “wort”. That suffix is derived from the Old English word
'Wyrt', meaning plant, herb or root, but through time it came to signify that the plant has a
particular use. E.g. Woundwort, plants can be prepared in a particular way and applied to
wound to speed the healing process. Likewise, Stitchwort can aid a stitch in the side,
Gypsywort was thought to be used by Romani people to dye their skin (although they
seemed to use it actually to dye linen and ground leaves of Sneezewort can cause a
As we approached the start of the North Bay, a Curlew was flying out of the bay and lone juvenile
Grey Heron was standing motionless on seaweed-strewn rocks. As the tide receded, there were
many Oystercatchers probing the damp sands. I spotted a Redshank as it passed one such bird.
On the far side of the bay I could just make out a pair of Shelducks .
Our walk along the north side of the peninsula produced nothing until we reached the last section
that leads to the car park. A large number of geese, mainly Canada Geese with a smaller number
of Greylags, descended honking onto the sands of the North bay, although they were a bit too far
away for a decent shot.
John noticed a Robin on the last bit of path. I think it may be a young adult as it seems to still
have remnants of its juvenile plumage. Back at the car a wee Wren was making its way stealthily
along the hedgerow, skilfully managing not to present a clear image for my camera lens. I noticed
there was a bird feeder on the wall of the lodge house at the entrance to the Ardmore House. I
very quickly managed a shot of a Chaffinch and Blue Tit as they clung to the feeder.
The weather had turned out better than expected. After a dull start, warm sunshine and light
breezes made for a very pleasant walk. We would like to have seen more birds though and the
usual Seals were nowhere to be seen. Perhaps they were off breeding somewhere. I was however
pleased with some of our insect and flower shots. We finished the trip with tea and strawberry
tarts, after which a Common Wasp decided to finish of the tart by consuming the last bits of syrup
from my cup. You’re welcome Mr Wasp!
Week ending: 20th August 2023: Troon
This week we headed west to Bonnie Troon on the Ayrshire coast. Our last visit there was in
February so we were looking forward to the sunny day predicted by my WeatherPro weather app.
Unlike a lot of destinations, Troon actually has a Morrisons Café, which, of course we visited (10/10:
excellent service, and food) prior to getting the camera and binoculars out of their bags.
We parked very close to the supermarket at the North Shore Road car park, which overlooks the
whole of Barassie Beach. As can be seen on the photo below, the tide was low when we arrived.
There is a rough path from the car park onto the beach. The 10m long path
was rich in wildflowers and insects. John got the ball rolling when he spotted a Meadow Brown
butterfly sitting on Marsh Woundwort. He then directed me to a Small White butterfly, which
eventually landed on yellow flowers of Sea Radish. Our next three sightings were
three members of the Nightshade family: Bittersweet , Black Nightshade, and most
surprisingly, Tomato. Each of the flowers have the same form but different colours and only the
fruit of the tomato plant is edible. (Interestingly, the Potato is another member of the
|Meadow Brown Butterfly
|Small White Butterfly
Still on the short path, I observed the green bottle Lucilia Caesar on
Mayweed flowers and then noticed the hoverfly, Eristalis Arbustorum,
resting on small boulder. Eventually, we made our way onto another
rough path that leads along the edge of the shore to a viewpoint. We
came across patches of the foreign flower invader, Himalayan Balsam,
whose flowers were being visited by Carder Bumblebees. I found another
white butterfly, which is probably a Large White female, resting on
some sun-soaked foliage. And, while John scanned the beach for birds, I
was delighted to find a Small Copper butterfly dining on Common
I was observing Bindweed clinging around Himalayas Balsam when yet
another white butterfly, another Small White, descended onto a large
leaf on the ground at the edge of the path. I didn’t manage any
pictures of birds on the beach, as any birds that were there we had,
very common and too far away. I was, however, impressed by the very
rusty colours of lichen on some of the the rocks dotted along the
shoreline. I think it may have been Elegant Sunburst Lichen.
John noticed that the large hedgerow that lined the path consisted in
part, of Sea Buckthorn trees which were loaded with orange berries.
These are rich in vitamin C and have a variety of medical uses. We
returned to the car via the mowed grass at the other side of the hedge.
I nearly stood on a newbie, a Blackening Waxcap . Near the car, a
family of Carrion Crows were foraging. I snapped a juvenile crow that
was checking the edibility of a dead leaf.
|Small White Butterfly
|Juvenile Carrion Crow
We drove the short distance to the parking area at the west side of the
harbour peninsula. As we made our way onto the sandy shore north of the
car park, John noticed a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly on Sea Radish.
As I photographed it, John mentioned we were being watched by a family
of Starlings that were perched on the top of a harbour building. A
Cormorant and a Shag flew past low, side by side over the water,
although I think it was a chance encounter. We settled on our 3-legged
stools on the flat shore rocks in order to scan for waders, or anything
of interest. I got a pleasing shot of an Oystercatcher before we
noticed that a significant number of Ringed Plovers were gathered on
the low rocks at the water’s edge. I also noted a pair of
snoozing Dunlins with them.
|Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly
|Cormorant / Shag
As birds were displaced by the incoming tide, a group of Sanderlings
came into view. Most were resting with beaks under wings but a few were
foraging. As time went on, more and more Plovers moved closer to where
we were sitting. There was also a big adult Herring Gull sitting
watching us from the top of a big boulder.
The Sanderlings joined the migration , flying past us to join the
A pair of passing walkers disturbed the Adult Herring Gull I had
photographed earlier causing it to take flight, flying south, possibly
joining the “chip patrolling” gulls that were gathered
around the parked cars. John pointed out a summer-plumage Turnstone
that was wandering on low waterside rocks. A juvenile Pied Wagtail was
wagging its way along the base of the seawall trying to keep up with a
couple of adults wagtails. We both noticed the steady number of Shags
that were flying around the end of the sea wall, out into the Firth of
Clyde. One came close enough for a pretty decent shot.
|Juvenile Pied Wagtail
We moved closer to the north end of the sea wall and saw that there
were quite a number of Shags perched on the wall.
A few passing Gannets drew our attention, although we would like to
have seen even one of them dive, but they didn’t. We moved back
along the shore towards the car and when we moved off of the sandy
shore I snapped some Bloody Cranesbill that were growing at the
edge of the car park. We sat by the car for a few minutes, scanning the
rocks for any action. We were amused at the antics of a Starling that
had taken possession of a chip and was running from, and dodging any
Starlings that had their eyes on it. A older Starling was watching us
from the top of a waste bin.
The Ringed Plovers we had photographed earlier had amassed on the rock
below where we were sitting.
We decided to move to the Titchfield Road car park for a wee stroll
along the prom where we often see birds on the rocks and seaweed piles
that line the shore. The photograph below shows the shore at the car
park with Troon seafront and South Beach in the background.
There were some Turnstones and Ringed Plovers active on the shore at
the car park.
We set off for the walk along the promenade with some pessimism since
we could see that there were holidaymakers on the walls and rocks we
were aiming to explore. I photographed a Black-headed Gull in the hope
it may turn out to be an immature Mediterranean Gull. It wasn’t.
A bit of a sea breeze had started to blow which drove waves against the
rock below the sea wall, making it a bit too wild for birds to settle
on. However just as we were about to call it a day, a summer plumage
Turnstone turned up along with its juvenile. I think the parent
was caring for its chick otherwise it probably would not have been
there in such inclement conditions.
The weather had been kind to us as we had seen rain showers in the
distance, but it had remained dry and sunny in Troon. We had a healthy
set of varied sightings. My personal favourites were the trio of
Nightshade plants, the Sanderlings and the parent and juvenile
Turnstones. We had tea and strawberry tarts as we agreed that it was
one of those days when it was nice just too be there. Hopefully we can
experience that on our next trip.
Week ending: 13th August 2023: Musselburgh and Port Seton
John and I headed for Musselburgh this week. Sunday’s weather across the whole of the Central
Belt was to be similar to last week’s weather - mild with showers and sunny intervals. I was
particularly drawn to Musselburgh since reports in social media indicated that it was rather
teeming with birds, most prominent of these being the juvenile King Eider and a Stejnegar’s
Scoter. Of course, we nipped into Dalkeith Morrisons for our usual Sunday morning
breakfasts (10/10: excellent food and service).
We parked at the Levenhall Links car park and then walked towards the sea wall near the
Lagoons nature reserve, known popularly as “the Scrapes” (now the “old” scrapes since the recent
opening of the “new” scrapes, the latest section of land reclaimed from the coal tip used by
Cockenzie power station). My first shot of the trip was of a glaikit-looking juvenile Carrion Crow. I
followed that, eventually, when it settled, with a snap of a nippy Wall Brown butterfly. At the
sea wall there were Goosanders on the water and some preening on a narrow sandy shore. John
spotted a Razorbill as it surfaced about 40m away and then a juvenile Common Guillemot that popped up a bit further along the water. John was then delighted to see a Common
Seal, possibly a juvenile, surface near a group of Goosanders.
|Juvenile Carrion Crow
|Wall Brown Butterfly
|Juvenile Common Guillemot
It would be fair to say that the Goosanders “legged it”, hastily paddling as they didn’t fancy being
the seal’s next meal.
We could see a large flock of Eiders spread along approximately 400m of water near the sea wall.
With well over 100 birds in the flock, picking out the King Eider seemed impossible. To make
matters worse very dark clouds were gathering and we could already feel spots of rain. So it was
with a bit more urgency that we paced along the road beside the sea wall. Although we had
increased our pace we managed to notice passing Oystercatchers and a few nervous Linnets that
were flitting about the wall. John warned me of the approach of first a Sandwich Tern and
then a Gannet. I knew the juvenile King Eider plumage was mainly a light shade of brown so
as I scanned the huge flock gather before us, I snapped any brown ones with their head raised
(since most were snoozing with heads under wing). I wasn’t doing well and I was very pessimistic
as to our chances of locating the King. However a very kind fellow observer may have noticed my
exasperation and very kindly pointed out the King Eider which happened to be one of the closest
|Juvenile King Eider
Suddenly, the skies opened up and deposited a week’s rain in a matter of minutes. Luckily I was
semi-prepared and had a rain jacket in my back pack. John wasn't as lucky though as he had no
rainwear and his clothing was saturated within a minute. Luckily the downpour only lasted a few
minutes and I was able to locate and photograph the huge scoter flock that was positioned at
least 500m from the shore. The picture below conveys the size and remoteness of the flock:
These next photos were as detailed as I could identify but I could not distinguish a
Stejneger’s Scoter within the mass of Velvet Scoters. (I subsequently read on social media that
there was also a Surf Scoter in the flock.)
To escape the rain we hastily retreated to the cover of trees around the boating pond. We watched
a family of Mute Swans and could also make out a family of Little Grebes diving for fish.
Eventually the rain went off and we walked to the (old) Scrapes. From the middle hide we were
pleased to see that the reserve was teeming with birds, and I set about photographing them,
starting with a Curlew that was just in front of the hide. A Black-headed Gull was wading close to
A Redshank flew in just as the Sun came out and John noticed an eclipse plumage drake Mallard
in the middle of the lagoon. Scanning the rear lagoons he also pointed out a pair of Dunlins
foraging on the near side. (These may, though, be Curlew Sandpipers). A large flock of Bar-tailed
Godwits then flew into and around the reserve…
|Mallard in Eclipse plumage
… before settling on the rear lagoon.
We moved to the rightmost hide where we saw very active Lapwings. There were also a pair of
Greenshanks and several Ruff wading near the hide. A juvenile Pied Wagtail
appeared briefly at the grassy edges of the water before darting off further around the lagoon.
|Juvenile Pied Wagtail
Finally we moved to the leftmost hide. There were quite a few Redshanks, mostly snoozing.
I noticed a solitary Black-tailed Godwit harassing the Redshanks not far from about a dozen
Little Gulls that were preening at the water’s edge. An incoming Woodpigeon redirected
my attention to the left to where a pair of large Grey Herons were standing in the water, hiding in
plain sight. John redirected my gaze to the right of the hide, where a juvenile Shelduck was gliding
over the water, occasionally submerging it head in search of invertebrates. The next shower was
moving in so we decided to relocate to Port Seton. Just outside the reserve entrance a beautiful
Peacock butterfly fluttered around a bit before settling onto a Creeping Thistle.
At Port Seton we were delighted to see the Wrecked Craigs were hosting a healthy number of
birds. However, before we could photograph them, we had to endure another very heavy shower
of rain. Thankfully we watched the rain “stoatin’ aff the grun” from inside my warm and dry car.
The rain passed and we were able to quickly scan the rocks before the next shower arrived.
Sandwich Terns were arriving periodically carrying small silvery fish in their beak, calling
persistently as they searched for their chicks. There were also a few Common Terns standing on
the rocks among the Sandwich Tern chicks. I also noticed a Curlew and a Bar-tailed Godwit
standing fairly close to the shore. Overhead there were the usual comings and goings of Gulls,
such as the Common Gulls …
|Coming down so hard it was going back up!
… and the Herring Gulls.
In the gloom, we almost overlooked a pocket of small waders that were scurrying about in
shallows in the middle distance: Turnstones and Ringed Plovers. There was also a trio of summer
plumage Knots , preening and snoozing beside a Black-headed Gull. My final shot was of a
We managed to have al fresco tea and strawberry tarts before it rained again. It had been a very
productive visit during which we amassed a very pleasing number of observations. Most notable
for me were the King Eider, Godwits, Ruff, Greenshanks, and I do love Terns. John pointed out
though that it was the first time in our 17 years of Sunday outings that we’ve taken a soaking from
the rain. I hope it’s as long until our next soaking
ending: 6th August 2023: Doonfoot
My WeatherPro predicted that the best Sunday weather in Central
Scotland would be in the East. However there were several events
planned in and around Edinburgh so to avoid any problems on the roads,
we (yes John made it this week) instead headed westwards to Doonfoot in
Ayr. The weather there was to be nearly as good as in the East. We
popped into Ayr Morrisons on Castlehill Road for our customary
breakfasts (8.5/10: very good, the only blemish was slightly overcooked
fried eggs (-0.5). Read on to find out how Morrisons lost the other
Some cheery House Sparrows welcomed us to the Castle Walk car park. As
predicted, the Sun was blazing and only a few clouds were scattered on
a mainly blue sky. We started our walk to the mouth of the River Doon
by taking a path behind the car park beside a small pond. John pointed
out a Red-tailed
Bumblebee that was feeding on Sow Thistle. I
followed that up with a shot of a Small White butterfly that had a
damaged wing and a Tree
Bumblebee on Water Mint.
John then beckoned me to get a shot of a Carpet Moth that had landed on
foliage just in front of where he was sitting. We couldn’t
see the pond such was the height of the vegetation that surrounded it.
Within that foliage I noticed Hemp
Agrimony and Yellow
Loosestrife . I also got a photo, from distance, of
a clump of Michaelmas Daisies.
|Common Carpet Moth
When we emerged from the path onto the banks of the bonny River Doon I
looked back along the shore to Greenan Castle.
We sat at the Doon scanning the birds that were gathered on the
estuary. The tide was low but rising very slowly. The only duck we saw
was a solitary female Mallard. I also spotted a distant Grey Heron
amongst the throng of gulls. They were mainly Lesser Black-backed and
Herring Gulls of various ages. We saw no Black-headed Gulls. John
directed my attention to a shallow area of the estuary where Jackdaws
and Rooks were active. As we made our way off of the riverbank I came
across Sea Mayweed where insects were feeding. There was a tiny Mining
Bee (exact species difficult to determine from a
photo) on one flower.
|Mallard in Eclipse
|Mining Bee (TBC)
We decided to explore the opposite side of the river. We paused for a
few minutes on the footbridge when we noticed a family of Mute Swans
feeding on bread just upstream. These are shown in the picture below
along with the cygnet and Mallards.
The swans, including the cygnet, left the water probably following the
bread-thrower. John then noticed a juvenile Goosander cruising
downstream eventually joining the ducks. What I thought was another
Mallard flew in and landed on the water. When I viewed the photos I
concluded it was in fact a female Gadwall. Before leaving the bridge I
photographed a beautiful Lesser Black-backed Gull (yes, I think gulls
are very pretty) swimming just below us.
|Juvenile Mute Swan
We strolled along the footpath towards Ayr, watching for any bird or
insect activity. I saw Common Comfrey was still in bloom and followed
this with a shot of an unsuspecting Carrion Crow as it pecked at
seaweed as I viewed it through a gap in the thick foliage. There was a
fair bit of Marsh Woundwort that was attracting lots of insects, such
as the Red-tailed Bumblebee and Grayling
An impressive wild flower garden had been created, presumably by the
Council, on the extensive area of short grass on the opposite side of
the path. There were blue Cornflowers, Red Poppies and
Corncockle as well as a sea of yellow Corn Marigolds, irresistible to
an army of hungry hoverflies such Eristalis arbustorum, shown below.
Rather disappointed by the dearth of birds, we made our way back across
the footbridge towards the car. Below was the stunning view of the Doon
estuary as seen from the bridge.
We relocated a few hundred metres west, to the Greenan car park. On
arrival there was a female Stonechat watching us from a fence post. We
set off on our usual circuit around the castle, starting on the field
just west of the car park. There I came across a Fairy Ring Champignon (aka Scotch
Bonnet ) as well
as another Small White butterfly on yellow Sea Radish flowers. As we
passed the cliff below Greenan Castle, a wee Rock Pipit flew down to
|Fairy Ring Champignon
We walked along the small beach at the opposite side of the castle and
positioned ourselves at the side of the field of barley to the south,
where we paused a while to observe the surroundings. I watched Large
White butterflies cavorting on the Sea Radish. John alerted me to a
Yellowhammer that was sitting with a beakful of caterpillars atop a
Hawthorn tree. Our walk along the edge of the barley field produced a
Small Tortoiseshell butterfly that settled on yellow Common Ragwort. I
noticed also that the Mugwort
plants were in bloom, with brown flowers. John also pointed out a
Brown-lipped Snail parked on Fern leaves.
When we reached the foot of the slope that leads to to castle plateau,
a wonderfully-patterned Peacock butterfly landed beside us on Creeping
Thistle and posed obligingly for pictures. We climbed that slop
(slowly) and made our way south along another the edges of another
barley field. John found that parts of the large hedgerow at the
eastern edge of the field contain Damson bushes that were actually
bearing small Damson fruits. He also found a Meadow Brown butterfly
shortly before I tracked a Goldfinch that I heard land on the hedgerow.
We completed our circuit of Greenan Castle, arriving back at the car
just as the Waverley paddle steamer steamed west past us on its circuit
around Ailsa Craig.
As I mentioned earlier, we were unhappy that there weren’t
more birds to photograph, however, the invertebrates, such as
butterflies and bees didn’t let us down. Besides, It was one
of those good weather days when one looks at the beauty of the
surroundings and is just pleased to be there. We would like to have
celebrated with tea and strawberry tarts, however, Morrisons
didn’t have any (-1) so we made do with rather delicious
chocolate eclairs. Come on Morrisons, get it sorted for next week.
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