Archive - January 2017

29th January 2017

Haddington, Belhaven Bay

The weather was predicted to be best in the east side of Scotland so we headed for Belhaven Bay where we always seem to find interesting things to photograph. We stopped off at Dalkeith Morrisons for a spot of breakfast (9/10) and while waiting I noticed on Twitter that there were Waxwings seen that morning in Haddington. As it was on the road to Belhaven it seemed an opportunity too good to miss. I’m glad we went as the Waxwings were on view as soon as we arrived. The light wasn't great but I managed some half-decent shots.

Wax wings

The Waxwings fed on the red berries for a few minutes at a time and then retreated to a safer place high in nearby trees. As we waited for their return the sun came out in all its glory and Redwing and Blackbirds got stuck in to the berries, watched throughout by a lazy-looking Wood Pigeon.

Redwing Redwing Blackbird Wood Pigeon

Suddenly we were treated to an exciting fly-past of a Sparrow Hawk moving through a flock of Feral Pigeons. It circled a few time before disappearing far into the distance.

Sparrow Hawk

A brief visit turned into nearly 2 hours! It was with some misgivings that we stuck to our plan and headed for Dunbar. At Belhaven Bay we passed a flock of Wigeon dabbling in the tidal marsh and as we reached Seafield Pond a Curlew flew overhead. On the Pond was a gorgeous Little Egret beautifully silhouetted by the low winter sun. It flew past my viewpoint allowing me to get a shot of the sunlight penetrating its pearl white wings.

Wigeon Curlew Little Egret

As we returned to the car John spotted a Black-headed Gull taking what looked like a Water Vole from the salt marsh. It carried it off pursued by the rest of its flock. At the car a Rock Pipit kept an eye on us as we finally surveyed the scene for one last shot – a female Reed Bunting sitting in the hedges soaking up the setting sun.

Black Headed Gull Black Headed Gull Rock Pipit Female Reed Bunting

A belter of a trip I think – we certainly earned our tea and bun!

22nd January 2017


As we arrived at Doonfoot the weather was very dull, but at least it was fairly mild and calm. We had just eaten an excellent breakfast at Kilmarnock ASDA (9/10) and we were raring to go. We started our observations by the footbridge at the mouth of the River Doon. A beautiful Twente Landrace Goose was regally gliding downstream while a diving Little Grebe surfaced in front of me. After spotting my interest the Grebe hastily dived away from view. Nearby some Teal were circling and making their familiar high pitched calls. We stalked a handsome Redshank further downstream taking us nearer to the shore.

Twente Landrace Goose Littlle Grebe Teal Redshank
As we reached the seashore we spotted a small flock of courting Goldeneye. The black and white males were enthusiastically throwing back their heads with romantic fervour while the grey females were playing hard to get. A Black-headed Gull watched on before a Great Black-backed Gull passed threateningly overhead.
Female Goldeneye Goldeneye Great Black-backed Gull Black-headed Gull

A solitary Curlew sat in the shallows as we realised that the incoming tide might block our return so we returned to the car and drove to the Greenan Shore carpark. As we entered, another Curlew was on the grass verge considerably closer than the one we’d seen on the sea. It had unusual white markings on its head and this, along with its seeming lack of energy lead us to suspect it may be ill. Unfortunately our walk along the beach around Greenan Castle produced nothing more than a Feral Pigeon and a Goldfinch although I nearly got a picture of a Greenfinch at the carpark.

Curlew Curlew Feral Pigeon Goldfinch

It had been a quiet but satisfying day overall, brought to a still more satisfying end with our customary tea and Danish pastry

15th January 2017

Saltcoats and, briefly, Irvine Harbour

We were glad we had filled our stomachs with a hearty breakfast in the ASDA cafe at Kilmarnock (9/10) as Saltcoats was gloomy and dull with a raging gale blowing in from the sea. Luckily for the wading birds the harbour area had some sheltered spots which, for we nature watchers were near the promenade surrounding the harbour, so good photographs were likely even in the poor light.
First picture taken was of a nosey Herring Gull watching us alight from the car. As we walked around the prom John spotted large flocks of waders – Sanderling and Dunlin huddling a few metres beyond the roadside wall. It was so blustery that even the usually busy Turnstone was also taking shelter there.

Herring Gull Sanderling Dunlin Turnstone

In the poor light we saw that what we thought were Redshanks but on more careful inspection we realised that there were significant numbers of Purple Sandpipers sheltering on the rocks behind the harbour wall. A Great Black-backed Gull struck an imperious pose as it overlooked the sheltering flocks. I leaned over the wall a bit too far for the Sanderling and set them up. They took up residence beside the Redshanks, but we had our pictures by then.

Redshank Purple Sandpiper Great Black-backed Gull Sanderling

We ambled further north beyond the harbour and came across another handsome Herring Gull as a Rock Pipit took shelter from the gale on the sea wall. On our way back to the car we noticed the Sanderling were still unsettled and were circling around the area every few minutes. We left them though and headed for the relative calm of Irvine Harbour, however a lonely but busy Cormorant was all that was on show. Never mind there was always our customary tea and danish pastry to help us reflect on what had been a better day than we’d expected given the poor weather.

Herring Gull Rock Pipit Sanderling Cormorant

8th January 2017


It was a disappointing cold, grey day in Musselburgh. In the hides at the Scrapes there was quite a bit of activity as the tide was high. The Oystercatchers were feeding on the grass close to the hide, with mud sticking to their their beaks as they probed the ground for juicy morsels. On the water’s edge the Redshanks, Bar-tailed Godwits and Dunlin were also probing around.

Oystercatcher Redshank Bar-tailed Godwit Dunlin

After a short time in the chilly hides it was necessary to head for the sea wall in order to get the circulation moving. Quite close in there were Long-tailed Ducks of both sexes. A fly-past of Mallards caught the eye and as I followed their path with the camera I spotted a Bullfinch on the trees by the path.

Male Long-tailed Duck Female Long-tailed Duck Mallard Bullfinch

Further along the wall a busy Cormorant was working parallel to the shoreline diving and re-appearing every couple of minutes. On rocks below the wall a Carrion Crow was probing at a mollusc shell while close by a Curlew was doing much the same. Some distance off shore a pair of Great Crested Grebes paddled past.

Cormorant Carrion Crow Curlew Great Crested Grebe

On the return leg of the walk many Oystercatchers were leaving the Scrapes heading for the receding tideline and richer pickings. A lonely Goldeneye sat offshore. The plaintive call of a solitary Reed Bunting drew my attention to its location as an energetic Pied Wagtail kept it's distance on the wall before me as I tried to photograph it and the Bunting.

Oystercatcher Goldeneye Reed Bunting Pied Wagtail

As is usual at Musselburgh, hail, rain or shine, there are always birds!

New Years Day 2017

Hogganfield Loch

John, like most sensible people, was having a day at home with his family celebrating the first day of the New Year. I had had a late night watching Hogmanay TV sipping Bacardi and Coke and was in need of a wee walk to clear my head – where better than the lovely Hogganfield Loch. The weather was bright and breezy and as soon as I left the car I was literally surrounded by birds. Black-headed Gulls were circling around the bread-laden parents and children as they fed the Mute Swans and Greylag Geese.
The Goosanders were trying to get their share.

Black-headed Gull
Greylag Goose
Mute Swan
Female Goosander

Seemingly disinterested in all this activity were the Tufted Ducks and Goldeneye probably because their diets don't include bread!

Tufted  Duck Goldeneye Goldeneye

Strathclyde Park

After a spot of lunch - my wife’s tasty home-made soup – I resumed my birding activities with a short walk at Strathclyde Park. I’d heard the Ring-billed Gull was still around and luckily I came across it almost immediately at Car Park 4. One of the many Cormorants passed me as I took pictures of the Gull.

Ring-Billed Gull

Not quite my usual Sunday outing but enjoyable nevertheless.

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