Archive - August 2020

Week ending 30th August: Barns Ness and Torness

This week I headed east, past Dunbar, to Barns Ness hoping to see some migrant action. The weather prediction was very encouraging - bright with no rain or strong winds. As I got out of the car I was treated to a fly past of a pair of Mute Swans. A good start. The tide was low as I started my walk along the seashore towards the Lighthouse. A Turnstone was scrambling over piles of stinking seaweed searching for invertebrates to eat. I noticed a female Wheatear  moving among distant rocks, obviously checking me out. A pair of Linnets were also dodging nervously across the foreshore.

Mute Swan Turnstone
Female Wheatear Female Linnet

I rounded the lighthouse and walked along the seaweed-strewn beach to the east for about 400m when I noticed a flock of Sandwich Terns on rocks about 50m from the shore. I sat on a large rock to observe them when I became aware of quite a few Ringed Plovers and Dunlin foraging a few metres from me. They were against the light and I couldn’t easily get on their other side without disturbing them. I did though have an excellent view of a large Herring Gull.

Barns Ness Lighthouse Juvenile Ringed Plover
Dunlin Herring Gull

After doing my best to get decent shots of the waders I turned my attention to the Terns.

Sandwich Tern

They were very noisy and active. The parent birds were diving for fish and returning to feed their chicks. The tide was incoming so I waited patiently as it encouraged the Terns to move to rocks nearer the shore. However, my observation session was abruptly and rudely ended when a dad and his 2 kids chose to explore those rocks, out of the, literally, miles of empty beach, alarming all of the birds I’d been photographing. Pissed off, I returned to my car and drove a few miles further east to the Torness Power Station car park. Just as I was about to get out of the car I noticed a tiny insect on the dashboard. It is was Conosanus obsoletus, a leafhopper. True to its decription, it hopped swiftly onto the car floor, never to be see again.

Sandwich Tern
Bug - Conosanus obsoletus

There is a public walkway, immediately the north of the Power Station, which offers great views of the Firth of Forth. As I progressed along the walkway I passed a few anglers plying the skills trying to catch Mackerels. My plan was to photograph any passing birds or Cetaceans even. Thankfully the signs were encouraging as within a short time I had snapped passing Curlews and Shag. I also captured an image of a Rock Pipit loitering on the sea wall.

Shag Rock pipit

The walkway leads to a harbour and an excellent viewpoint. The picture below shows the panorama to the west of the Torness Power Station.

There were a few juvenile birds flying past. The largest I saw was a first year Lesser Black-backed Gull. It glided past with an authority to match its size. A lot smaller, and less imposing was the 1st year Common Gull that appeared soon after. With its smaller, pink and black beak, and it’s warm brown feathers, it was a far prettier bird. The most plentiful gulls on view were the Black-headed Gulls. A juvenile sped past. It’s plumage was a mixture of juvenile and adult markings. I noticed a Shag diving for fish below my observation point. It kept an eye on me but seemed to know that I was unlikely to interfere with its efforts.

1st Cycle Lesser Black-backed Gull 1st Cycle Common Gull
1st Cycle Black-headed Gull Shag

I was pleased to see that there were a few passes every hour of one of my favourite sea birds, the master of the wind currents, the Fulmar . There were more frequent fly pasts by another of my favourite seabirds, the Gannet. One particular pass was very close and provided another very welcome photo-opportunity.


Passing less often than the Shags, were Cormorants. It is often tricky to distinguish between the two. I usually see if the yellow patches of the face encompass the eye, in which case it is a Cormorant. Shags have eyes well clear of the yellow patches and have rounder heads and thinner beaks. As I walked along the upper walkway (usually used in gale conditions) I came across a Peacock butterfly on the gravel of the path. My next capture was quite exciting as it was a juvenile Osprey. It flew in from the Firth and passed about 15m above my head.

Cormorant Peacock Butterfly
Juvenile Osprey

I was heading back to the car fairly chuffed with my sightings, but they weren’t over. I had one final thrill. I noticed some walkers had stopped and were pointing out into the Firth. It was a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins. There were at least 8 dolphins moving eastwards, surfacing briefly in pairs, then plunging beneath the surface for a few seconds, before re-emerging again. It was difficult to predict where exactly the dolphins would surface. I soon realised that if I watched the lead pair, the next pair would surface in the same area, so I trained my camera at those patches to catch the dolphins as they broke the surface. I noticed that there was at least one calf in the pod. The pod passed in a matter of minutes, but their passage was great while it lasted.

Bottlenose Dolphins

If I was chuffed before I saw the dolphins, then after I had nailed a few decent shots I fairly skipped back to the car. Of course I celebrated with a strong cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit. It’ll be hard to top this visit next week - but I’ll give it a try

Week ending 23rd August 2020: Musselburgh

With another rainy weekend predicted I ventured East on Wednesday to take advantage of the sunny conditions at Musselburgh. I parked near the mouth of the Esk, before the cadet hall, and on leaving the car I got some charming shots of some House Sparrows bathing in a puddle outside the Hall. Swallows were perching on its walls and Starlings were amassed on the tall roof aerial. I also spotted a moth (which I’ve yet to identify) in a tuft of grass by the riverside fence.

Female House Sparrow Barn Swallow
Starling Moth T.B.C.

The near bank of the river was fairly well populated with birds. A male Pied Wagtail and its juvenile were foraging in the water’s edge. At the other end of the size scale, a Mute Swan was napping with one eye open while balancing on one leg. A group of Goosanders were also having a wee rest, ever-watchful for the next threat.

Pied Wagtail Juvenile Pied Wagtail
Mute Swan Female Goosander

As I moved past the Hall, a handsome Starling and young Jackdaw were on the short grass searching for titbits.

Starling Jackdaw

At the Esk mouth, many birds were making the most of the last moments before high tide. Prominent amongst these was a large flock of Greylag Geese  quarrelling and generally making a racket. A small flock of Turnstones flew in and I snapped one scurrying between small rocks with the remains of a crab. As I did so, I could hear the familiar creaking call of a Sandwich Tern as it headed east. A pair of Mallards were taking turns going bottoms-up as they dabbled in the shallows, watched carefully by a family of dark-coloured, mainly juvenile, preening, Eider.

Greylag Geese Turnstone
Eclipse Mallard Juvenile Eider

The waters of the Firth of Forth were becoming very choppy. From past experience I didn’t expect I would see much on the walk from the Esk mouth to the Scrapes so I decided to take the car. On entering the middle hide at the Scrapes, the assembled Canada Geese were a pleasing sight.

A lot of Greylags came cruising in, probably the same birds I’d seen at the Esk mouth, and landed close to the Canada Geese. Oystercatchers too were piling in, joining the hundreds already there. A few Lapwings  were dotted around the edges of each scrape, the odd one occasionally taking to the air to exhibit its aerobatic skills.
Greylag Geese
Oystercatcher Lapwing

In recent years the Scrapes have been a summer destination for some Ruff  and the odd Spotted Redshank , and this year was no different. They usually don’t stay much longer than about a week. The resident Common Redshanks are smaller, with lighter markings than the Spotted. A pair of eclipse Shelducks were dabbling.

Ruff Juvenile Spotted Redshank
Redshank Eclipse Shelduck

I scanned the Forth on my walk back to the car. Plenty of Black-headed Gulls passed and also a few Sandwich Terns. I caught a sight of a close-in Sandwich Tern as it scanned the rough waters for fish. I also got a quick picture of a passing Linnet  that was having a rest on the sea wall. Soon after, a female Goosander bolted eastwards over the increasingly churning waters.

Black-headed Gull Sandwich Tern
Linnet Female Goosander

Just before I turned onto the footpath that would take me to the car park, I snapped a shot of a Cormorant that was perched on a yellow structure 50m offshore. By that path I took a quick shot of a Tall Melilot plant and next to my car I snapped a bunch of red berries, one of the many bunches on the Rowan trees lining the car park.

Cormorant Common Mallow
Tall Melilot Rowan Berries

It had not quite been wall-to-wall sunshine but the weather was satisfactory and I managed some satisfactory pictures. It was one of those trips where there was plenty of bird action wherever I went. The highlights were certainly the Ruff and Spotted Redshank but I also enjoyed seeing the Sandwich Tern and watching the antics of the Greylags. A spot of tea and a chocolate biscuit went down well.

Week ending 16th August 2020: Ardmore Point

On Thursday night the BBC weather prediction was for poor weather at the weekend, while it was to be sunny in the west on Friday. With this in mind I decided I had better make my weekly trip on Friday rather than Sunday, and that Ardmore Point would be a suitable destination. As it turned out though, when I arrived there the weather was very gloomy due to low cloud. This was to have burned off by the afternoon. I waited a bit for that to happen but when a flock of Canada Geese flew into the North Bay I followed them in. The tide was on the way out and the damp bay was devoid of birds. On my trek along the north side of the Point I noticed along the path side many lovely Betony flowers. I came across a Robin’s Pincushion  on a Wild Rose bush. This is a growth induced by the Gall Wasp. At the north-west corner of the Point I sat amongst the now seeding Sea Radish plants and observed the birds feeding at the water’s edge.

Canada Geese Betony
Robin's Pincushion Sea Radish

There were signs that the cloud was lifting. Some small areas of Helensburgh were in sunshine and the tops of the hills were nearly visible.

I spotted two similar-looking birds on shore-side rocks, a Curlew  and a Whimbrel . The Curlew is bigger with a longer bill. The Whimbrel has a distinctive dark band on top of its head. A pair of walkers put the birds up and provided me with a nice photo-opportunity.


Offshore I saw few distant Eiders, but a bit closer in there was a juvenile Red-breasted Merganser and a Shag diving for fish. A ragged-looking female Wheatear  appeared on a rock to my left and a large Herring Gull flew northwards.

Juvenile Red-breasted Merganser Shag
Female Wheatear Herring Gull

I continued my trek around the Point, avoiding the very muddy path, preferring to pick my way along the rocks and through the marshy areas of grass. An hour after setting off, the sun was shining brightly and the skies were mainly blue.

I was pleased to see many butterflies on my walk. Most numerous were the Large White, Peacock and Small Copper  I saw a single female Meadow Brown.

Large White Peacock
Small Copper Female Meadow Brown

I also saw quite a few bees. Honey Bees were very keen on the plentiful Common Knapweed flowers. I could have sworn that the Buff-tailed Bumblebee was sleeping on the Sea Mayweed. I snapped a couple of nice shots of Carder Bumblebees, the first on Devil’s Bit Scabious and the other on rather damp Himalayan Balsam which caught the bee as it emerged from inside the flower. I also came across Red-tailed Bumblebees but didn’t manage a picture.

Honeybee Buff-tailed Bumblebee
Common Carder Bumblebee Himalayan Balsam

As the sun continued to warm the Point I got photos of a Bog Hoverfly  and the more common Marmalade hoverfly. Another common insect I saw was a Red Soldier Beetle on Sea Mayweed. My most pleasing insect picture was of a Common Green Grasshopper  that caught my eye as I photographed the beetle. I followed it visually as it hopped through long grass until I was able to get a clear shot.

Bog Hoverfly Marmalade Hoverfly
Red Soldier Beetle Common Green Grasshopper

Of course, on my circuit I kept a keen lookout for interesting plants. Sea Asters  were growing on the edges of shore at all point around the Point. These are daisy-like flowers with lilactinged petals surrounding orange pistils (flower centres). I also photographed what I thought were Sea Asters but I noticed that their foliage was more like that of the related Common Michaelmas Daisy . Other flowers thriving on the grass-covered rocks were Eyebright, Lady’s Bedstraw, Sea Campion and Thrift.

Sea Aster Common Michaelmas Daisy
Eyebright Lady's Mantle
Sea Campion Thrift

I have long enjoyed the Green Alkanet of Ardmore. The example pictured below nestled below a small tree, surrounded by Rosebay Willowherbs and Large Bindweed. I was surprised to find a fruit-laiden Apple tree beside the shore. Its days may be numbered as the sea has taken much of the land around and in front of it. My final capture of the day was a shot of some Montbretia, probably a garden escapee.

Green Alkanet Large Bindweed
Apple Tree Monbretia

As I supped a cup of strong tea and nibbled a chocolate biscuit I reflected on my pleasing haul of pictures. Although the tide and initial lighting conditions were against me, the Whimbrel, Common Green Grasshopper and Bog Hoverfly were good finds, and my favourite photograph was of the Carder Bumblebee on the Scabious. As I write this I hear that next weekend’s weather is to be wild, wet and wind. We’ll see.

9th August 2020:  Maidens, Turnberry Point, Doonfoot  My Garden

This Sunday I decided to head southwest to sunny Maidens in South Ayrshire. Just before I left home though, the day got off to a fine start when I noticed a Sparrowhawk in my back garden. As I peeped my camera out the back door it seemed reluctant to fly off with its prey, an unfortunate juvenile Starling, so I managed to nab quite a few shots.


Pleased with my first pictures of the day, I drove to the M77 and within an hour I was parked at the picturesque Maidens just to the south of Culzean Castle. Sadly, but unsurprisingly, the seafront was rammed with families enjoying the warm, sunny weather. I walked briefly along the harbour to see if there was anything of interest. I admired the vibrant colours of Wild Rose hips and soon after I caught sight of a Green-veined White butterfly on white Buddlea. A Pied Wagtail and Carrion Crow were on the damp harbour sands and, by the pier, a bold Shag was diving for fish. But apart from some oystercatchers and a few distant Redshanks and gulls, I could see that there was little chance of seeing much more.

Wild Rose Green-veined White Butterfly
Pied Wagtail Carrion Crow
Shag Oystercatcher

Before re-locating to Turnberry Point I cooked up a late breakfast on my new gas stove. It was well-yummy. I next drove the short distance south to the car park at Turnberry golf course. My heart fell a bit because it was full to overflowing with quite a few cars on the grass verge. My car became one of them. On getting out of the car I spotted a Brown Hare  looking at me in the adjacent field. On my way across Trump’s golf course I felt it was only right to photograph some of the lovely Harebell flowers that lined the path.

Brown Hare

I sat on the rocks below the lighthouse and waited for the birds to show up. The truly stunning view from the Turnberry Lighthouse is dominated by Ailsa Craig to the south and the Isle of Arran to the northwest. I could have sat there all day sea-watching.

A pair of Herring Gulls landed on the shore in front of me. Next, a large Cormorant sped past from the north, followed by a pair of Gannets, an adult with a 2nd year bird, passing from the south, about 250m out. It is fair to say that only these few birds passed in the time I was there. So once again I decided to move yet again to another location, Doonfoot.

Herring Gull Cormorant

After a short drive north into the southern outskirts of Ayr I parked at the car park near the mouth of the iconic River Doon, famous for its connections to Scotland’s Bard, Robert Burns. I was pleased to see that there were many birds there, dominated by Mute Swans and Gulls.

On my way out onto the beach to get a closer look at the mass of birds that were on the rocks in front of the river mouth, I passed a nicely lit female Mallard. Several Black-headed Gulls were very active as some sunbathers threw them bread. On the rocks I noticed, and could hear the familiar “peeweets” of, Lapwings. Luckily they took flight and circled past me a few times before settling once more on the rocks.

Female Mallard Black-headed Gull

Looking north to Ayr beach I thought for a moment of the well-publicised crowded beaches of Portobello and Bournemouth. It seemed that not much social distancing was going on in Ayr.

From my stance on the water’s edge I had a much closer view of the flock of swans and could see Redshanks assembled on the rocks 50m away. Within their ranks I could just see a solitary Greenshank. A “squadron” of Oystercatchers flew in and landed on the rocks.

Mute Swans Redshanks
Greenshank ( Bird in profile) Oystercatcher

Meanwhile, there was trouble brewing in the Swan  flock. A large dominant cobb had his plumage set to attack mode and was cruising through the anxiously scattering swans looking for a scrap. After much silent jeopardy he seemed to have ended his mission and I started walking back to the car. I then heard the familiar call of a Whooper Swan, only with a tone of desperation. The cobb had caught the Whooper and was about to drown it. I got a couple of disturbing far shots as it seemed to finish it off. The Whooper should have been in Iceland, so maybe it was unable to fly. I’d a good look for it, hoping it had escaped, but, as the cobb dried its wings, I feared the worst.

Mute Swan Whooper Swan

It was a dramatic end to a busy day. My perseverance has lead to a pleasing set of pictures at several locations. I celebrated with a cup of tea and a delicious scone and jam. The weather had been very fine, but a bit on the warm side for me. However I’ll put up with it for next week if I have to.

2nd August 2020:  Musselburgh, Port Seton

It was a typical “showers-with-sunny-intervals” sort of Sunday this week. I opted for a visit to Port Seton because my last visit there was a bit disappointing in that the weather was dull and I didn’t get pictures of Sandwich Terns feeding their chicks. I was a bit early for the tide, so I started with a short visit to Musselburgh. I parked at the mouth of the River Esk, by the Cadet Hall. The view from the sea wall looking towards Portobello and Arthur’s Seat was representative of the day - partly sunny, partly dull.

On the near bank quite a few Juvenile Eider  were gathered with a few females. Turnstones were scurrying around them often squabbling. A group of Goosanders emerged from the water and sat preening their feathers.

Juvenile Eider Female Eider
Turnstone Female Goosander

I made for the Scrapes hides and on the way I found the sea was very quiet on the bird front so I photographed some wildflowers. There were many patches of yellow Tall Melilot  and Wild Parsnip with their yellow umbels, upon which I spotted a large wasp - Ectemnius Cavifrons, motionless. Hairy Tare  with its tiny lilac flowers was growing around the foot of these plants. At the hides, Large Bindweed was blooming on bushes at the edges of the footpath.

Tall Melilot Wasp - Ectemnius Cavifrons
Hairy Tare Large Bindweed

The Scrapes were quiet. I should not have been surprised since the tide was still fairly low. Conditions were better on Tuesday when I saw a very well-populated scrape in front of the middle hide. Dunlin were foraging in the pond weeds, Black-tailed Godwits sat prominently midpool as croaking Sandwich Terns circulated overhead. I also saw a few Speckled Wood butterflies near where I found the Bindweed.

Dunlin Black-tailed Godwit
Sandwich Tern Speckled Wood Butterfly

On Sunday though, in an attempt to get some better sightings, I decided next to relocate to Port Seton where I knew the tide would soon be high and, if the Sandwich Terns were there, the incoming tide might be encourage them closer to the shore. I needn’t have worried because when I arrived there were already hundreds of noisy Terns on the Wrecked Craigs. Occasionally, some threat or other caused them to take flight before they eventually settled once more.

On the rocky islands about 100+ metres out I noted a variety of birds including Cormorants, Great Black-backed Gull, Goosanders, Herring Gulls and, as I’ve said, Sandwich Terns.

Cormorant Goosander
Herring Gull Sandwich Tern

Closer to my stance on the promenade I snapped shots of a flying Redshank and a summer plumage Knot.

Redshank Summer Plumage Knot

On the near rocks the usual collection of gulls were assembled. I got nice shots of Lesser Blackbacked, Black-headed and Common Gulls. Just as the excitement was beginning, almost as a portent of the imminent delights, I became aware of a huge circular halo around the sun. As the tide advanced, the Terns filtered forwards to occupy rocks nearer the shore, so displacing the current occupants such as Oystercatchers.

Lesser Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull Common Gull
Halo Oystercatcher

One-by-one the Sandwich Terns flew in along with their young and took up their rocky residence, albeit for a short time, since the waters were soon to completely cover the rocks. I saw a couple of Common Terns distinguishable by their orange, black-tipped beaks (Sandwich Terns have black, yellow-tipped beaks).

Sandwich Tern
Juvenile Sandwich Tern Common Tern

I next witnessed one of the many minor dramas typical of bird life. Through my camera viewfinder I sighted an adult Sandwich Tern flying in with a fish. It circled the rocks trying to find its chick. Despite the ongoing melee it located it fairly quickly, perched on a barely exposed rock. It hovered over the chick and passed it the fish. Within seconds a Common Gull descended on the chick and easily robbed it of its meal. The Gull flew off to consume it in a quieter place. The chick would have to wait for its next meal.
Sandwich Tern
Common Gull

The tide eventually emptied the rocks of all birds and a relatively calm silence was re-established. I was pleased to have witnessed an hour of excitement worthy of a slot on an Attenborough wildlife documentary. It certainly saved the day from being run of the mill. There was only one shower (at the Scrapes) and a fair bit of sunshine so I came away well pleased.

Highlights - August 2020

Below we present August 2020's gallery of my favourite pictures. They are not listed in the order thay have been taken, but according to a series of themes.


Cormorant Black-headed Gull
Curlew Gannet
Kittiwake Sandwich Tern


Brown Hare Juvenile Common Toad
Bottlenose Dolphin
Little Grebe Coot
Female Gadwall Juvenile Female Goosander
Ruff Grey Heron
Female House Sparrow Herring Gull / Sandwich Tern

Bog Hoverfly Antler Moth
Dragonfly: Common Darter Common Green Grasshopper
Dragonfly: Southern Hawker Honey Bee
Wasp: Pimpla Rufipes Marmalade Hoverfly


Juvenile Osprey Buzzard
Canadian Goldenrod Devil's Bit Scabious
Grass of Parnassus Himalayan Balsam
Knapweed Lady's Bedstraw
Spring Beauty Vipers Bugloss
Wall Red Admiral
Small Copper Peacock
Painted Lady Large White
Green-veined White Meadow Brown
Bramble Honeysuckle
Rowan Wild Rose
Sea Radish Raspberry

Back To Top