Archive - February 2023

Week ending: 26th February: Ardmore Point

My WeatherPro app predicted a high pressure weather system parked over West Central Scotland. Consequently, I opted for a visit to Ardmore Point on the north coast of the Clyde Estuary near Dumbarton. Prolonged periods of sunshine were expected - music to my ears, and, although the skies were cloudy when we set off, by the time we reached Dumbarton the sky was blue and the sunshine was strong. We had breakfast in the Dumbarton Morrisons Cafe (7/10: Very nice but marks were deducted for tiny plates and lukewarm food).

Courtesy of Weather Pro  and BBC Tides

After parking at the Ardmore Point car park we set off on a circuit around the Ardmore peninsula. Near the Ardmore House gatehouse we saw our first Daffodil blooms of the year. In the same area we also saw Crocus and Snowdrops, also in bloom. As I photographed these flowers with my trusty wee Panasonic LUMIX TZ70 in macro mode, John took charge of the Nikon D500 with Sigma 600mm zoom lens and captured great images of a House Sparrow, Robin and Dunnock that were active around the back of the gatehouse.

Daffodil Crocus
Common Snowdrop House Sparrow
Robin Dunnock

The path took us out of the South Bay and along the Clyde Estuary. The Sun was in the west and so was behind all of the birds we observed along the shore, such as a small flock of Wigeon and a beautifully silhouetted Curlew on a rock. A bit further on we also saw Redshanks and a pair of Common Seals lounging in the shallows.

Wigeon Curlew
Redshank Common Seal

However, we kept a good eye on the fields and trees to the right of the path. Those yielded nice shots of a Carrion Crow, House Sparrow, Starling and another Robin. I also spotted a white bracket fungus (as yet unidentified, ) on one of the trees.

Carrion Crow House Sparrow
Starling Robin

Below is a view of the South Bay looking back from the path as it first meets the Clyde Estuary. Note the beached boat.

While I was taking the above shot I was hearing a Wren singing from some gorgeous Gorse bushes that were carpeted in yellow blooms. On investigation I located the Wren fairly easily. As we made our way along the path, recently improved by the laying of gravel, we came upon some oak saplings covered in Oak Galls. At first we thought the Galls were berries, but we now believe they are more likely to be Galls

Gorse Oak Gall

We rested on our 3-legged stools for a few minutes at a patch of short grass at the edge of the shore. We were attracted to that spot by the Crocuses growing there and also by yet another Robin that was hunting for insects in a seaweed pile. John suggested it was the same Robin following us round the circuit. There was also an elusive Wren which managed to escape the gaze of my camera. We were delighted to see our first insect of the year, a queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee. It seemed to be moving rather hesitantly as I photographed it, and no wonder, it was carrying a massive load of mites. The good news is though, that most types of mite aren’t harmful to their hosts and in fact they may help the bees by keeping their nests tidy and pest-free.

Crocus Robin
Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Queen)...

Near the North Bay John noticed a Shag flying and diving quite close to the shore. I don’t think I’ve seen a Shag with a higher diving “arc”, but if it caught anything then it didn’t bring it to the surface in the time we were watching.

Eider Shag...

This is the view north-west towards the Gare Loch, taken from where the path first meets the North Bay.

I snapped a furtive female Blackbird as it probed seaweed for invertebrates. At the North Bay the tide was beginning to fill the bay with water, however, we were disappointed to find that there were very few birds along the water’s edge. We did see a small group of Teal and a couple of Oystercatchers close to our observation point, but that was all we saw in the North Bay. I took one final shot of the scenery, the splendid view across the North Bay, looking towards Helensburgh, before we took the path the leads to the car park.

Female Blackbird Teal

As we walked the last section of path, John alerted me to a pair of Jackdaws incoming across the adjacent field. I snapped one of these and then noticed a lone Mistle Thrush  working the field. I followed this with quick shots of a Starling and a low-flying Carrion Crow. My penultimate shot of the day was of a very pretty Blue Tit posing on a branch of the tall tree at the gatehouse. We ended the day, as usual, with teas accompanied by a tasty treat - cream doughnuts. The final photograph taken was of a Herring Gull circling the car park probably trying to get a piece of the doughnut action - no chance!

Jackdaw Mistle Thrush
Starling Carrion Crow
Blue Tit Herring Gull

We were disappointed at the lack of seabirds (although if we were scopers we would probably be more pleased, as the following day, at least one such birder reported large numbers of Slavonian Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Red-throated Diver and Bar-tailed Godwits), but the passerines and first annual sightings of Daffodils and Bumblebee more than made up for it, as did the lovely weather. Let’s hope next week’s weather will be as bright and cheery

Week ending: 19th February 2023: Pow Burn (Map), Troon, Irvine Harbour.

The weather prediction for the whole of Central Scotland was very disappointing: overcast skies, rain showers and high winds, although temperatures were to be on the mild side for the time of year. I did see a chink of encouragement when I checked the Ayrshire coast, where there was a low chance of rain. I also checked the predicted tides and found it would be mainly high during the first part of our visit. Pow Burn( Website), just north of Prestwick, is known to be a site where birds shelter at high tide, so I chose it as our preferred location. We last visited there last May so it was due a visit. We had breakfasts on the way, at Stewartfield Morrisons, East Kilbride ( 7/10: Good but rather spoiled by overcooked bacon and egg and the unfortunate surly attitude of one of the staff).

Courtesy of Weather Pro  and BBC Tides

At Pow Burn we park by the side of the approach road into the Prestwick Holiday Park. As soon as we got out of the car, John, now reunited with his trusty binoculars, spotted Starling and Curlew flocks in the adjacent field. We followed the beach road to the bridge over the Pow Burn where I snapped a clump of Snowdrops blooming on the grassy banks. A lively Great Tit joined us and obligingly posed on a tree for photos.

Starling Curlew
Common Snowdrop Great Tit

Looking downstream from the bridge we could see birds gathered around the bend. There were Mallards and I was pleased to see a Red-breasted Merganser. We took the path that followed the burn and encountered a Magpie sitting atop a small tree. Near the bend I got a better view of the birds we’d seen. There were Oystercatchers flying around the area and a large flock of Wigeon feeding in the shallow burnside pools.

Red-breasted Merganser / Mallard Magpie
Oystercatcher Wigeon...

John also spotted a few Teal  amongst the Wigeon. He also noticed a lone Curlew feeding by a sleeping Mute Swan. We noticed that there were more Mergansers swimming further downstream so we trekked round the rough path in order to get a closer view. On the way I managed a shot of a drake Teal in flight.

Teal Curlew
Mute Swan Teal

We found a gap in dense bramble bushes that were lining the high-sided channel through which the Pow Burn flows to the sea. I approached the viewpoint slowly lest I disturbed and birds there. Some of the Red-breasted Mergansers were at the opposite side of the burn and I fired off some shots of a group of six as they came into view.

Red-breasted Merganser

As I moved ever so slightly closer to the burn I disturbed an unseen flock of Wigeon that had been just below the viewpoint. They dashed onto the burn and they in turn disturbed both the Mergansers and a large flock of Redshanks that had also been hiding with the Wigeon.

Luckily a large number of those birds returned to the burn, and I had little bother in photographing them, including another Curlew. We eventually returned to the car just in time to see once more the Curlews and Starlings we’d observed at the start, circling the same field. We couldn’t see what put had them up. Perhaps it was passing train.

Redshank Curlew / Starling...

The birds circled for 5 mins before descending back onto the field.

We relocated to Troon seafront, parking at the South Beach Road car park.

A few hardy kiteboarders were happily taking advantage of the very strong, gusty wind that made it difficult for me to keep the camera steady.
However I persevered and managed shots of Pied Wagtails that were on the promenade and on the beach. There were also Turnstones on the rocks just below the sea wall busily searching for food around the seaweed piles.

Female Pied Wagtail Male Pied Wagtail

We had a brief visit to the Troon Harbour car park and got a pleasing shot of an immature Common Gull carrying a small shellfish as we walked the small beach to the north of the car park. I next photographed noisy Oystercatchers and some restless Rock Pipits. John spotted a Ring Plover that that had been hiding in plain sight on the beach, so well camouflaged we only saw it when it made a dash for the rocks.

2nd Cycle Herring Gull Oystercatcher
Rock Pipit Ringed Plover

Our final stop of the day was Irvine Harbour. The wild wind showed no sign of abating but we set off along the promenade. John scanned the River Irvine near the Scientists’ Bridge and discovered a Common Seal had surfaced about 30m away as a pair of Oystercatchers flew down the estuary. We walked to the viewpoint at end of the prom where I got a nice shot of a Carrion Crow.

Common Seal...
Oystercatcher Carrion Crow

As I scanned the rocky shore beyond the viewpoint I noticed that there were Turnstones foraging in the gale.

To our right we could see a Cormorant on one of the tall posts in the estuary mouth. It flew off the post and dashed upstream and was almost immediately replaced by a Great Black-backed Gull. My last shots of the day were of a drake Red-breasted Merganser that I watched fly out from the River Irvine and dive into a wall of water, that was a wind-generated breaking wave, just before it smashed onto the rocky shore. The Merganser simply bobbed up and then down as the giant wave passed. I bet it enjoyed it!

Great Black-backed Gull Red-breasted Merganser

Well, from believing it was a day that promised very little due to the dull conditions, I think we ended up rather satisfied with our haul of sightings. Our strategy of visiting a place where birds hang out during high tide certainly paid off. I especially enjoyed seeing the beautiful and entertaining Red-breasted Mergansers. Also, at Troon, the Turnstones were nice to watch and, at Irvine, the sad-eyed Common (“Sammy”) Seal at Irvine was charming. To properly finish the trip, we dived into cream scones along with our usual cuppas. (Well, Strawberries are out of season)

Week ending: 12th February 2023: Torness Power Station(Map) walkway and Dunbar Harbour

The weather prediction for the whole of Central Scotland on Sunday was that it would be mild and dry with overcast skies. However, there was to be a glimmer of a chance of sunshine around and beyond Dunbar. I thought that Torness (Website) would be an appropriate place to visit, so after another very fine breakfast in Dalkeith Morrisons, (9/10) we drove down the A1 to the Torness nuclear power station carpark. We were immediately disappointed to find that the skies were overcast but we hoped that the Sun would soon break through.

Courtesy of Weather Pro  and BBC Tides

We set off along the concrete-clad coastal walkway and although we had mislaid John’s binoculars and had set off without them, we had immediate success when John spotted a wee Stonechat. Very soon afterwards we met a small flock of Pied Wagtails that were hunting flies on the walkway. Once again, it was John, who spotted the next bird, an elusive little Robin. However, I tracked its movements and managed a fairly decent shot of it as it sat on one of the tetrapods (sea defence concrete blocks). John, obviously compensating for the fact that he had no binoculars, spotted yet another bird, a Rock Pipit  feasting on the flies that were gathered on the walkway. I followed this with a shot of an Oystercatcher that was foraging on the exposed rocks below the walkway.

Female Stonechat Pied Wagtail
Rock Pipit Oystercatcher

Below is the view of the Barns Ness lighthouse and the Bass Rock, as seen from the breakwater section of the walkway.

We waited a while on the breakwater in order to observe passing birds. We were pleased to see an adult Cormorant bedecked in early breeding plumage. We were visited also by a couple of wee Pied Wagtails.

Cormorant in Breeding Plumage...
Pied Wagtail...

Looking west from the breakwater we could see the beach at Skateraw. Note, at the bottom right of the picture, some of the tetrapods packed around the breakwater.

We watched a few Eiders, brightly-coloured drakes and the neat, but dull females, diving for shellfish. A few others flew in from the east to join them. Eventually we headed back to the car via the upper walkway, the recommended route when the sea waves are lashing the lower walkway. That wasn’t the case on Sunday. We simply wanted to scan the area between the walkway and the power station. A Meadow Pipit  made a timely appearance when it hopped onto a fence post and then descended onto a tetrapod, where it posed nicely for me.

Meadow Pipit...

The light was becoming very dull as clouds thickened and the wind stiffened and it became rather chilly. We relocated to the shelter of Dunbar Harbour , a few miles to the west. We walked around the harbour to the Battery  and got some nice views of the rock called “Round Steeple”, a convenient resting spot for damp Shags and Cormorants (not to mention gulls ).

A closeup of Round Steeple shows an adult and a juvenile Shag and also a couple of Great Black-backed Gulls. In the channel between the Rock and the Battery there were passing Herring Gulls and Eider diving for shellfish. We could see more Herring Gulls and Shags gathered on rocks called “The Gripes”, which are about 150m to the west of the Battery. We walked around the north side of the harbour to stairs that lead to a viewpoint that allows super views of the Gripes, which each year becomes a nesting colony for those birds.

Cormorant / Great Black-backed Gull Herring Gull...
Female Eider...

I spent a bit of time photographing the very active Shags  as they flew on and off the rocks. Each Shag seemed to be guarding its own wee patch of rock, probably with the intention of building a nest.


We paused at the harbour entrance to take pictures of a Herring Gull and its juvenile sitting below the walls of the ruin of Dunbar Castle. John watched the harbour waters for any sign of Sammy the Seal while I wandered round to the south side of the Castle ruin. I photographed some charming House Sparrows that were in and around the stacks of fishermen’s lobster creels. At the Castle ruin I also snapped some amorous Feral Pigeons  courting on the fractured walls.

Herring Gull 1st Cycle Herring Gull
House Sparrow...
Feral Pigeon...

We finished the trip reasonably satisfied with our sightings. I particularly enjoyed seeing the Stonechat and the flypast of the mature Cormorant at Torness. Also, it was exciting to see the beginnings of the latest Shag colony at Dunbar Harbour. Before we set off for home, we once again imbibed tea whilst sampling Morrisons’ finest strawberry tarts, hoping that we might get a sunny day next week

Week ending: 5th February 2023: Stevenston and Irvine Harbour

I was pleased to find that my WeatherPro app was predicting good weather for Sunday on the Ayrshire coast, since John and I hadn’t been west for a couple of months. I decided that our good old faithfuls, Stevenston and Irvine Harbour would be our next destinations. We set off in bright weather but we were delayed by a road work diversion on the A71 and our breakfast in Stevenston Morrisons was also delayed by 30 minutes (6/10: poor due to the wait for our food which was badly made, greasy and on too small a plate). To make matters slightly more frustrating, when we reached Stevenston Point, the lovely blue skies were clouded over.

Courtesy of Weather Pro  and BBC Tides

On the Point there was a cold, stiff , southern breeze blowing up the Clyde Estuary, leading to very choppy waters. John spotted the only bird we saw on the sea, a wee black Shag.

We were parked near a big puddle around which were Herring Gulls and Carrion Crows. On the rocky tip of the Point we saw a small flock of Oystercatchers huddled down, sheltering between the rocks.

Herring Gull 3rd Cycle Herring Gull
Carrion Crow Oystercatcher

We walked around the perimeter of the Point. John noticed a flock of small, grey-coloured waders flying in and settling at the northwest corner of the promontory. We couldn’t make them out at first but as we moved closer we could see there were Ringed Plovers, Dunlin and a Redshank standing bravely facing the wind.

I moved slowly towards the edge of the rocky area the birds were occupying and managed a few closer photographs of the Ringed Plovers, some of which showed the less numerous Dunlins . I was careful not to disturb the birds because they had enough of a problem with the inclement conditions.

Ringed Plover / Dunlin

Next we headed for Ardeer Quarry LNR (WebSite), where we expected much calmer weather conditions and quickly set off on our usual circuit around the reserve. As we left the car we disturbed a few Jackdaws that were feeding in the short grass. We started at the large pond where a few Mute Swans were socialising (to begin with). Just a few moments later a large cob chased a younger bird off the pond and into the air and out of sight to the west. Moments later another large cob chased another young bird. We reckoned there was competition for females just before breeding season.

Jackdaw Mute Swan...

Things settled down and I was able to snap a few distant Tufted Ducks that were diving mid - pond. We then moved from the pond onto the path that circles the area of the old quarry. There I came across Snowdrops and Gorse flowers, which brightened what was becoming a dull day as more clouds rolled in.

 Tufted Duck Drake Female Tufted Duck
Common Snowdrop Gorse

At the eastern side of the path we encountered a pair of Roe Deer  that emerged 10m in front of us, from the trees. You can see that they were as startled as we were. We left the reserve briefly and moved along Dubbs Road before re-entering the reserve by another footpath. There we heard, then photographed, a serenading Robin. A little further along the path Goldfinches were feeding in the high branches of Silver Birch trees. A female Blackbird was sitting near the base of one tree. As we completed the circuit around the old quarry John spied a Treecreeper  working its way up a path-side tree trunk.

Roe Deer Robin
Goldfinch Female Blackbird

John then got very excited when he discovered a Buzzard sitting atop a small tree on land that was once a pitch and putt course, but was now planted with saplings. The Buzzard obviously saw us but didn’t fly away immediately, allowing me time to get a decent shot. It suddenly descended to the ground and then flew to another, taller tree. However, it was then pestered by a pair of Carrion Crows that drove it off.


As we moved onto the path that leads us back to the car park, a pair of Grey Herons flew past. I think one was an adult and the other a younger bird. The juvenile landed behind trees at the edge of the park. I then noticed a bird that passed overhead, silhouetted in the poor light, had the jizz of a raptor. The plumage markings seen in the record shot below indicates it was probably a Sparrowhawk. A pair of Mute Swans were acting all luvvy-dovey at the edge of the island in the pond, a contrast to the aggression we’d seen at the start of our walk.

Grey Heron Juvenile Grey Heron
Sparrowhawk Mute swan

We relocated a few miles south to Irvine Harbour. By the time we arrived there, the cold wind had strengthened and the light had dimmed. However we persevered, aiming to photograph as many sightings in a short period of time, for we were salivating at the thought of a pair of strawberry tarts in the boot. Things went well. A wee Shag surfaced in the River Irvine as we walked near the Scientists Bridge. This was followed by a distant shot of a pair of Grey Seals  that were lounging on what looks like a large oil barrel floating about 300m away on the River Garnock. John then drew my attention to a female Red-breasted Merganser  that had surfaced just below us at the confluence of the two rivers. I then got a nice portrait shot of a preening Mute Swan, followed by a quick shot of a Carrion Crow that had nicked a dod of bread intended for some other birds. Near the Coastwatch/toilet block I snapped a shot of a young Herring Gull raking through some seaweed for juicy invertebrates.

Shag Grey Seal
Red-breasted Merganser Mute Swan
Carrion Crow 1stCycle Herring Gull

I finished the day at the viewpoint at the mouth of the River Irvine. Below is the view of the estuary as seen looking back from the viewpoint.

I had an exciting time photographing drake Red-breasted Mergansers diving in the waters about 30m to the south of the viewpoint. As the foaming waves broke around them they made repeated dives while bobbing up and down with the passing of each angry wave. Goodness knows how they survived the violent buffeting from the waves in such shallow waters over a rocky seabed. But they did seem to relish it.

Red-breasted Merganser

Once again we were very satisfied with our collection of sightings. My favourites were the close encounter with the Roe Deer, the Buzzard, Treecreeper and the drake Mergansers. Needless to say, the Tea and Strawberry tarts were a delight and a fair reward for a successful trip.


We present this month’s gallery of my favourite pictures I’ve taken during Febuary 2023. 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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