Archive - February 2017

26th February

Belhaven Bay      Dunbar Harbour

When we entered Dalkeith Morrison’s for our usual breakfast (and as usual it was an excellent 9.5/10) the weather was glorious, but when we left it had deteriorated with rain threatening. We were not then too hopeful that we’d get any well-lit pictures but nevertheless we headed for Seafield Pond, Belhaven as a few nice things had been seen there in recent days, such as a Great Northern Diver. When we arrived there there was no sign of the diver but the sun actually broke through so we just sat and waited to see what would appear.

The first birds we noticed were Grey Herons in trees on the opposite side of the pond. A Cormorant passed overhead going somewhere in a hurry. A fine-looking drake Pochard surfaced feet from where we were sitting. Just then a fellow birder pointed out a Kingfisher across the Pond on trees near the Grey Herons.

Grey Heron

Two inquisitive Mute Swans swam over to us encouraged by the scraps of John’s toast he was scattering on the water. Tufted Ducks joined in – unusual for them to take bread. A Curlew flew in from the Bay and landed several metres away on the grass and started probing for tasty treats.

Mute Swan

Beyond the swans I spotted a Little Grebe warily diving for small fish. At the north end of the Pond I thought I could make out a Red-breasted Merganser – confirmed when it flew past us heading for the south end of the pond.

Satisfied with our sightings we decided to head for Dunbar Harbour where an Icelandic Gull had been seen the previous day. On our way back to the car some Wigeon were dabbling away at the other side of the seawall followed by a Curlew picking its way through the saltmarsh.

Little Grebe
Red-breasted Merganser

At the Harbour there was no sign of the Icelandic Gull but a small flock of beautiful, sun-lit Eider were swimming in the water along with the many gulls such as the Great Black-backed Gull.

As we walked around the Harbour we noticed House Sparrows foraging in blue-coloured fishing creels stacked on the harbour’s edge.

Female Eider
Great Black Backed Gull
House Sparrow

We moved on to White Sands where unfortunately the weather worsened. So without any further photos we travelled to Port Seton and finished the day with tea and Danish pastries. We were well satisfied!

19th February

Skateraw, Belhaven Bay

It was a bright and breezy morning at Skateraw. I was on my own as John had an important appointment he couldn’t miss. I had just had my usual fine breakfast in Dalkeith Morrisons (9.5/10 leaky teapot) and was seeking the reported Water Pipit. I positioned myself by the old limekiln south of the seaweed the birds were feeding on. Straight away a wee Redshank landed a few metres from where I was sitting and on the rocks a Curlew was wandering, probing for tasty morsels, every so often delving more deeply and occasionally getting a feed. A few Pipits started to land around the seaweed no doubt after the invertebrates breeding there. A Meadow Pipit posed a few feet away and a noisy, nervous Oystercatcher paddled across my view seemingly not noticing my presence.

Meadow Pipit

A fine Pied Wagtail joined some Rock Pipits on the seaweed as a Curlew appeared low overhead making its familiar high pitched call as it passed.

Pied Wagtail

In the distance I got a bit excited at a paler, greyer-looking pipit was sitting on a rock. Could it have been a Water Pipit – sadly no, it was a Rock Pipit probably of the littoralis sub-species. Another pretty Pied Wagtail and a Redshank flew in, startled by the now steady stream of dog walkers having their Sunday lunchtime walks on the beach – time to move on! As I left the Car Park I noticed a Weasel in the undergrowth. To my astonishment it came towards the car just as I lowered the window to photograph it. It scampered once it had figured out it was being watched.

Rock Pipit-littoralis
Pied Wagtail

Seafield Pond, Belhaven

Flushed with the success of seeing a Weasel I made my way along the path at John Muir Country Park at Belhaven towards Seafield Pond where there had been a few nice sightings (including Divers and Pintails) in the previous few days. Only a few steps into my journey I noticed close by a handsome Little Egret sitting on a grassy bank. At the pond a Grey Heron stood at the opposite side while a flock of Wigeon were busily dabbling on the grass.

Little Egret
Grey Heron
Male Wigeon
Female Wigeon

After a short time a couple of Curlew joined the Wigeon. The light was fading as the cloud thickened so I decided it was time to get back to the car for tea and chocolate biscuits. The Little Egret by now had moved into a ditch by the path but as I sneaked up to watch it feeding it was disturbed by yet another dog walker.
I did though get a couple of flying shots!


Little Egret

No Water Pipit, Divers or Pintails but I did get other nice shots. I might return midweek when there are fewer dog walkers.

12th February

Stevenston, Saltcoats, Irvine Harbour

It was yet another cold, overcast Sunday with little chance of any sunshine, ( Bloody freezing. John P) so we were not filled with any great optimism as we set off for Stevenston Point. The Cafe in Steventson Morrisons had once again served us an excellent breakfast only blighted by their naughty habit of cutting the pre-buttered toast non-symmetrically meaning that it was impossible to match the halves together to make a toast sandwich (so 9.5/10).
On arrival at the Point we were delighted to see a large flock of waders on the rocks. These turned out to be Sanderling, Dunlin and a few Grey Plover. We waited for an hour until the light improved sufficiently to allow reasonable pictures to be taken. However the birds were put up, leaving the rocks virtually empty of birds apart from a few Cormorants.

Grey Plover

We decided to move north to Saltcoats Harbour and we were not disappointed there either. While leaning over the sea wall to capture an image of a Black-headed Gull, I spotted Dunlin and Purple Sandpiper quite close in. On the rocks a Redshank and 3 sleeping Dunlin watched my awkward manoeuvres.

Black-headed Gull
Purple Sandpiper

Moving further along the wall a bold Herring Gull stared at us expectantly but it was to be disappointed as we don't feed the birds – especially large gulls. Instead I was interested in snapping the movements of a nippy Rock Pipit as it flitted around on some piles of seaweed and around a small flock of Turnstone. Just before we returned to the car I got closer than usual to an Oystercatcher which was sheltering from the strengthening wind.

Herring Gull
Rock Pipit

Satisfied with our haul of pictures so far we made one final change of location to Irvine Harbour. The wind there was very stiff and chilly. John photographed a Feral Pigeon and a Pied Wagtail from inside the car. I spotted a bird in the distance diving in the river. On investigating it turned out to be a female Merganser downing a small Eel. On my way back to the car I also got a picture of a juvenile Goldeneye eating a small Crab.

Feral Pigeon
Pied Wagtail
Female Red Breasted Merganser
Juvenile Goldeneye

5th February

Pow Burn Troon

Dull and grey skies covered most of Central Scotland. The only bit of encouragement to be had from the weatherman was that brightness was to spread from the south west. That being the case we headed for Pow Burn near Prestwick Airport. After our usual small breakfast at ASDA in Kilmarnock (9.5/10 dribbly teapot!) we arrived at the north end of Prestwick golf course to start our circuit around  the Pow Burn. Unusually, after that walk we had only seen a Curlew and a bunch of Redshanks. There was nothing else for it, we had to move on to a second location – Troon. We parked at the public car park adjacent to the harbour. A Herring Gull was having a wee drink from a rock pool while further out a Shag sat on rocks drying its wings.

Herring Gull

The sun began to break through the clouds and flock of Golden Plover flew past in seeming celebration. As we scanned the rocks we were aware of a House Sparrow, Robin and Pied Wagtail foraging around the car park for scraps left by car occupants.

Golden Plover
House Sparrow
Pied Wagtail

These small birds were later joined by Feral Pigeons eager to share in the chips being consumed by a driver sitting in an neighbouring car. As we were about to leave we noticed a Herring Gull devouring a crab. And just as we started packing away our gear a lazy Harbour Seal turned up just beyond the shoreline.

Herring Gull
Harbour Seal

It had been a slightly disappointing trip in terms of pictures taken but when I consider the atmosphere and beauty of the area, we had a great time, and of course we always enjoy our tea and Danish.

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