Week ending: 27th February: Skateraw, Belhaven Bay
My WeatherPro app told me on Saturday evening that the weather in the Lothians was to be
sunny and fairly mild; milder and sunnier that on the West coast. We hadn’t visited Skateraw since
last November so we headed along the M8 and A720 (Edinburgh Bypass) to Dalkeith Morrisons
for breakfast (6/10: very poor - slow queue, slow service, cool food, and, still, small plates) before
driving South along the A1 to sunny Skateraw Bay.
On reaching the Skateraw car park we climbed the path to the East to the viewpoint on top
of the old Limekilns. Below is the view across the bay.
We noticed that there were birds below the Limekilns so we walked back down the brae again to
investigate. We found a flock of Redshanks standing on the wave-lashed rocks.
Eventually the rising tide dislodged the Redshanks, giving me the opportunity of a flight shot.
Looking up to the top of the Limekilns, where we had photographed the panoramic bay view, I
spotted a wee Robin Redbreast looking down at us. Meanwhile, on piles of rotting seaweed
washed up on the rocks, there were Rock Pipits feasting on the very many invertebrates,
including flies (see below).
Looking towards Torness Power Station I could see about nine Cormorants perched on the
railings of a tall concrete tower close to the pier. John directed me to a group of Mallards that
were bobbing up and down in the quite choppy water between Chapel Point and where we were
sitting. Soon afterwards a female flew away from the group and passed overhead, allowing me to
snap it as it flew over. I got another flight photo-opportunity when we spotted a biggish flock of
Linnets that were commuting between telegraph wires and the field below.
Below is a shot of the said Linnets perched on the wires.
We walked around the bay towards Chapel Point where we got a very pleasant view of Barns
Ness lighthouse. Note the large flock of gulls on the water in the middle distance. The wind was a
lot stronger at Chapel Point, whipping up the waves to a white, bubbling, crashing foam. I got a
pleasing shot of a Redshank as it flew over the breaking waves. John noticed a Pied Wagtail
foraging just below where we were standing. Further out on the rocks, just before where wild
waves were breaking, we both saw there were two Sanderlings standing. Actually they
were hard to miss as their mainly white plumage contrasted with the colour of the rocks.
Then a group of birds flew in, which at first we thought were Redshanks, but were in fact Purple
Sandpipers. They landed beside the Sanderlings. John noted that that was the first time
we’d seen them at Skateraw. John, who was spotting well, pointed out a Red-breasted Merganser he had seen riding the tall waves about 150m from our position. He then had another fine
discovery, this time of a Cormorant flying in breeding plumage, about 200m away.
Our last shot taken at the Point was of a pair of incoming Mallards just before they joined the
Sandpipers. On our way back to the car I got shots of Oystercatchers that were paddling on
Skateraw Beach. There were also Pied Wagtails feeding in the field just before the cottage. As we
drove out of Skateraw we noticed a Hare asleep in a field near the Power Station. At first we
thought the brown mound was brown grass but when John noticed it had an eye then we knew it
was most probably a Brown Hare . This was confirmed when John spotted similar brown
mounds in the next field.
|Female Pied Wagtail
Our next stop was the Shore Road car park at Belhaven Bay. We walked along the path
overlooking the Bay where we noticed a pair of Teal in a reeded drainage ditch to the left of
the path. We soon came upon the main flock beautifully lit by the winter sunshine as they dabbled
in the Bay close to the sea wall.
Other birds we photographed at the Bay included a flypast of a handsome Herring Gull, a Curlew
pulling the worm out of the sand and an Oystercatcher walking along a water channel. As we
turned towards Seafield Pond we spotted a fine-looking Carrion Crow standing defiantly on the
At Seafield Pond I got shots of a Moorhen and a drake Wigeon that flew overhead. We sat
by the pond and, for once, we fed the remains of some toast from our breakfasts to a couple of
Mallards. It wasn’t long before just about every bird on the pond descended on us. Most flew off
disappointed as our half slice of toast can only stretch so far.
Still, the bread brought some nice birds much closer such as a wee “peeping” Coot and a few
raiding Jackdaws. Lastly the heavy squad appeared - a pair of Mute Swans waddling across the
grass from the southern corner of the pond. There was nothing for them of course - just a picture
for me. My final shot of the day was of a gorgeous gold weather vane that shone brightly over the
Week ending: 20th February 2022: Figgate Park, Duddingston Loch
It was back to normal for John and me this week and it was definitely a Sunday when the best
weather was in the East. Storm Franklin was approaching from the West and high winds were
predicted, so I opted for Figgate Park and Duddingston Loch - sites that are protected to some
extent from the high wind. So after a breakfast in Dalkeith Morrisons (9.5/10: -1 (still) for the small
plates), we nipped along the A1 to Figgate Park. It wasn’t cold and the wind was subdued by the
high trees that surrounds the park. I warmed up the camera with a snap of a Woodpigeon that
was pecking at the grass near the park entrance. We made our way to the boardwalk hoping to
see an Otter . Within five minutes an Otter made several short appearances. It was quite
small, probably a juvenile.
Moorhens and Mallards were in the reeds around the edges of Figgate Pond (the remains of a
Clay pit ). A juvenile Mute Swan suddenly took flight towards the feeding area which is
opposite the boardwalk. We noticed Canada Geese gathered on the path side close to there.
|Juvenile Mute Swan
From the feeding area we could see a Cormorant drying its out-stretched wings.
We left the pond and walked along the paths that follow the Figgate Burn. I got nice shots of a
Robin, Crow and Blackbirds. I spotted and photographed a Grey Squirrel posing on the
park edges, despite the attention of uncontrolled dogs. The Squirrel fled the scene and as it did I
noticed some of blooming Snowdrops - surely a sign that Spring is on its way.
Back at the pond we had great views of a few Goosanders and Mallards that were at the
As we headed for the exit, John noticed Great Tits and Blue Tits feeding amongst saplings. I then
spotted a Bullfinch on the park’s bird feeder. I also got a close shot of a wee cock House
Sparrow and nearby a female Blackbird and a Dunnock on the grass verge below bushes.
Before we left the park we searched for any flowers that were in bloom. The official first day of
Spring is the 20th of March. We had already seen Snowdrops but we quickly came across Red
Primrose, Crocus and Winter Aconite . I was pleased to see a some Red
Deadnettle in flower. After looking at our past pictures, only the Primrose seems to be an
early bloomer. As we reached the gate I took a picture of a flower of a Blackthorn tree.
Next we drove a few miles to Duddingston Loch, which is to the south of Holyrood Park in
Edinburgh. After parking the car we were delighted to see a Pheasant at the bottom of the
stairs that lead from the road to the Loch.
In the same area we quickly encountered a pair of Canada Geese and a Pink-footed Goose .
The latter had a sore-looking head injury. Looking onto the Loch I snapped a Mallard in flight that
lead my eye to a diving Little Grebe.
There were a dozen or so Mute Swans. I watched a big dominant cob see off a couple of weedy
young Swans. There was a nice pair of Mallards on the bank and what looked like a hybrid
Mallard just taking to the water, somewhat harassed by the other birds. We walked about 150m
to the so-called Hangman’s Rock where I got a fine view across the Loch to the heronry. I
counted 5 Grey Herons perched there. The picture below shows one flying over a pair of Canada
Geese as it moved between perches. A few Teal can also be seen in the background. Below the
Rock three Gadwall emerged and swam to the middle of the Loch. At that point it started
rain so we retreated to the car. We were briefly entertained by a little Robin that I attempted to lure
towards the car using bits of biscuit. It took the biscuit but eluded the camera. A large Magpie
wasn’t so shy.
It had been a very satisfactory trip that got off to a great start with an Otter sighting and continued
thereafter with plenty other interesting sightings - despite the sometimes gloomy weather. We of
course had tea and strawberry tarts to celebrate before returning home in wet and windy
conditions. Hopefully we will get calmer weather next week.
Week ending: 13th February:2022 Hogganfield Park LNR
John and I couldn’t manage our usual Sunday outing this week, so the subject of this week’s blog
will be Hogganfield Park LNR, which I visited a few times throughout the week (as I do most
The main attraction for the many casual walkers that visit Hogganfield is large flock of Mute
Swans, supplemented during the winter months with a handful of Whooper Swans .
They gather by the car park to receive many loaves of bread and I’ve even seen them downing
Naan bread, presumably left-overs from Indian restaurants. We are discouraged from feeding
them bread though, as apparently it is much better to give them bird seed, although the birds
don’t seem at all unhealthy on their bread diets.
For such large birds Mute Swans are surprisingly mobile, often flying the length of the Loch to get
One of my favourite birds to watch are the Goosanders . As well as being beautiful, their
aggressive antics are entertaining as they compete for bread with the huge swans. I also like
watching the feeding and mating habits of Feral Pigeons, of which there are many, usually assembled
on the railings. They are perhaps less appreciated than the swans, but it is quite exciting to
photograph them in flight. Just below their perch, on the now disused bird-viewing platform, I
noticed a pretty Moorhen resting on one leg.
Another bird worth watching is the gorgeous Goldeneye,
especially when the drakes are trying to woo the females. They throw
their heads back as far as their tails while uttering a painful
sounding croak. No such performance from drake Mallards. They
persistently follow the female until they surrender to the
drakes’ looks and perseverance.
A bit of a star visitor I saw this week was the Red-headed Smew, a pretty little female who
has been on the Loch since last December. I watched it diving for fish while being followed by a
juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull that was ready for the first opportunity to rob the Smew of her
catch. “No chance”, she seemed to be saying as she flapped her wings in defiance.
It is actually rare to see a Herring Gull at Hogganfield. The Lesser Black-back Gulls dominate. So I
was pleased to see a first-year Herring Gull among the frenzied mass of birds receiving bread.
Another bird that has been a rarity since last summer has just turned up before the start of Spring.
I’m talking about the Great Crested Grebe , probably my favourite of all the birds at
Hogganfield, certainly for photographing. Unfortunately it was sleeping throughout my visit, but it
was good to see it. There seemed to be a lot of Moorhens around the edges of the Loch, both on
and off of the water. I wonder if the increase is due to last year’s offspring reaching adulthood and
are yet to disperse to other sites to get their own patches.
|1st Cycle Herring Gull
|Great Crested Grebe
I got a very close shot of a Grey Heron as it flew through bushes to avoid flying over other
walkers, only to encounter me on the other side. It was flying to what is developing yearly into a fine
heronry on trees at the east side of the island.
Most visitors to the Park walk only on the main circular road around the Loch. I, though, like to
supplement my journey by walking the paths to the east of the Loch. Those pass around a
charming pond which sits in a marshy area with trees and bushes at its east end. There it is
common to see everybody’s favourite, the Robin, as well as the loud but elusive Wren. Other
familiar birds that may be see and heard there include Blue Tits , Long-tailed Tits,
Goldfinches and Bullfinches.
To anybody who can manage, I recommend a wee walk in Hogganfield Park where you can’t help
but watch nature wherever you look. Hopefully John and I will manage our nature-watching visit
further afield next Sunday. The weather at this time of year can be challenging but that is part of
the enjoyment that we look forward to each week.
Week ending: 6th February 2022: Musselburgh, Prestongrange, Port Seton
More wild, wet and windy weather was threatening from the West, so it was a no-brainer that we
should head East, hoping that the worst effects of the approaching fronts would fizzle out before
they reached East Lothian. Our strategy however was not to stray too far from car just in case it
did. We started the day in Dalkeith Morrisons for breakfasts (9.5/20: -1/2 for tiny plates).
At Musselburgh we parked by the River Esk at Millhill. As we got out the car a pair of Jackdaws peered down at us from a tall tree. You’ll notice the blueness of the sky. We were keen to
capitalise on the good light before the next shower rolled in. On the river shallows, a Carrion Crow
was paddling around the Herring Gulls waiting on the next person with bread to appear. Several
Canada Geese were quarrelling by the island. The Goose below was giving its wings a good flap
after confronting a junior goose.
|1st Cycle Herring Gull
Goldeneyes were parked midstream posturing between dives. One of the females seemed
particularly keen, while the other flew away followed by a persistent drake.
A brief walk upstream to search for Dippers was unsuccessful, but did result in some nice
Moorhen and Oystercatcher shots and a neat picture of a Black-headed Gull standing on a
midstream rock. Just before the Roman Bridge, we watched a preening female Goosander stretch
her wings. The sunshine continued as can be seen by the way it lit up the Mallards’ feathers.
There was a bigger than normal assembly of Mallards gathered around the slipway, waiting for
We had a brief and largely fruitless look at the mouth of the Esk, so we decided to move to the
Scrapes. The Sun was still shining as we arrived and we were pleased to see that there were quite
a few birds in the reserve. We could see large numbers of Wigeon and Oystercatchers on
the grass between the scrapes.
A pair of Teal were the next to catch my eye as they dabbled at the far edge of the middle
scrape. Also, near them, a Pheasant was probing the grass. There were also large numbers
of Lapwings. They were very unsettled at times, often taking flight and circling the site several
times before spiralling back onto the rear scrape.
Below is a shot of the Lapwings preparing for their next flight.
Whilst snapping some of the Wigeon flock that had ventured onto the left-most scrape, I noticed a
drake Shoveler in their midst. It didn’t seem to like their company and it wasn’t long until it
shifted to the middle of the scrape. He shouldn’t have bothered since most of the birds on the
reserve suddenly took to the air - for no obvious reason. Once they had settled, John noticed a
solitary Dunlin appeared, on the closest scrape, with some Lapwings. Also, a few Curlew flew
nearer the hide and proceeded to wash and tidy up their plumages.
Happy with the collection of shots we had accumulated at the Scrapes, we decided to have a
wee look over the sea wall. As we exited the reserve I noticed Goldfinches were around a puddle
in the car park. Better was to come though. At the back of the reserve John noticed a
woodpigeon clinging onto a sapling that was a mere 10m from us. However on raising my camera
I very quickly established that it was in fact a Kestrel. I managed more than a few shots
despite it noticing us and flying off into an immediate hover and then into the reserve.
We drove a half mile along the road to the Prestongrange car park to have a look around
Morrisson’s Haven. Only a single female Eider was on the water. In the air were Herring Gulls and
Carrion Crows. The one pictured below was dropping shellfish onto the rocks, to get at the food
inside. A wee Robin was sitting inside a low path-side bush, but I managed a shaky shot through
|1st Cycle Herring Gull
Just before we returned to the car we watched a few Turnstones foraging along the rocky shore.
Following that we drove the short distance to our final location, Port Seton. The tide was still very
low and only a lonely Curlew was patrolling the shore. We walked to the Harbour where we saw a
Great Black-backed Gull resting on top of the harbour wall, but that was all, as the sea was very
rough due to a stiff breeze. As we returned to the car I noticed an Oystercatcher close in as it
picking its way through the seaweed.
|Great Black-backed Gull
We finished the day in the car, with our usual tea and strawberry tarts. We both agreed that the
highlight of the day was the Kestrel and I also enjoyed the Shoveler. The light had held up and the
rain stayed away until we drove out of Port Seton. It was a pity about the chilly wind, but of
course, it was Winter
Highlights - February 2022
We present last month’s gallery of my favourite pictures I’ve taken during February 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.
GREAT CRESTED GREBE
ON THE TREE
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