Week ending: 29th January: Fisherrow, Joppa, Figgate Park, Musselburgh
The weather forecast for Central Scotland was fairly gloomy: mild with overcast skies with a few
sunny spells and rain in the afternoon. With the rain moving west to east I decided to explore a
few places west of Musselburgh, starting at Fisherrow. We, of course, had breakfasts in Dalkeith
Morrisons (9.5/10: excellent; again, only the small plates let them down).
It is a relatively short drive from Dalkeith to Fisherrow, an old fishing port at the west end of
Musselburgh. We were delight to find that the harbour was bathed in sunshine.
The tide was low and there were quite a few waders feeding on the muddy harbour floor.
Oystercatchers, Redshanks and Dunlin were busy poking and sifting the sandy silt. John
noticed there was one rather grey-looking bird among the Dunlin. At first we thought it was a
Sanderling, but on inspection we now think it could be a leucistic Dunlin. The wind was very gusty
and the Herring Gulls seemed to be loving it as they swooped and dived around the harbour.
I spotted a juvenile Herring Gull flying above the sandy beach with a golf ball in its beak. Maybe it
was brushing up on its bunker shots.
We next drove a half mile west to Joppa where we found more birds feeding on rocky shore as
the tide receded. A pair of Curlews, Oytercatchers and a Bar-tailed Godwit were exploring
the rock pools. John scanned the waters further out and spotted a few Long-tailed Ducks .
They seemed to be engaging in courtship behaviour. The drakes were pursuing the females, flying
after them as they try to escape their attentions.
I could see a flock of Eiders diving a bit further out. John scanned the rocks just below our
viewpoint and noticed a Turnstone and Redshank that were nipping in and out of view as
they searched between the boulders for food. Just before we moved on, I snapped a shot of one
of the Curlew that had decided to move along the shore in its quest for food.
We drove through Portobello to reach Figgate Park , a delightful little piece of nature set in
the suburbs of Edinburgh. Its central feature is a large pond which is home to many birds such as
Moorhens, Mute Swans and various ducks. I photographed a Goldeneye diving near an
impressive boardwalk. We watched a while for any sign of Otters as we have occasionally seen
them there. Sadly they didn’t show. The sunshine persisted throughout our visit to Figgate Park,
as can be seen from the photos below of a Canada Goose and a pair of Mallards.
The picture below shows the view across the pond from the boardwalk looking towards Arthur’s
I encountered a wee flock of Long-tailed Tits in a bush near the pond. One particular bird
was very obliging, posing patiently until I’d captured its image. Back at the pond I got a
threatening look from a preening female Goosander. No such aggressive glances from a drake
Tufted Duck paddling close to the viewing platform. Near it was a Coot fully engaged in its search
There was a good presence of Wigeon on the pond. I photographed a pair feeding in the warm
winter sunshine. Another drake further back was getting in a flap over some unseen event. Maybe
he was showing off to the females. I was pleased to see newly-flowered Common Snowdrops , our
first flowers of the year. We also noted Daffodil plants sprouting in various parts of the park. We
look forward to seeing them in bloom.
The Mallards on the pond were very active as there was a lot of courting going on, as witnessed
by the pictures below. They show the Mallards during and after coitus. The female needed a right
good flap to dry her feathers since she spent almost all of the time under the water. We next set
off on a circuit of the Figgate Burn that runs through the park. The circuit produced snaps of
fleeting views of a Great Tit and a Blue Tit, the latter shown holding on for dear life in a very gusty
wind. We had a seat half way around. I was able to get a pleasing shot of a foraging Magpie and I
also got a quick snap of a healthy-looking Woodpigeon.
Very satisfied with our sightings at Figgate Park, we decided to relocate to Musselburgh for our
final exploration of the day. Unfortunately the clouds were rolling in just as we arrived and the light
had dimmed quite a bit. However we pressed on regardless. We concentrated our efforts around
the viewing area at the Millhill Car Park by the River Esk. Pleasingly, there were plenty of birds on
show. By far the most obvious was a large flock of at least 50 Canada Geese grazing on the
wasn’t too long before a dog walker and her dogs scared some of the
Canada Geese, causing them to seek the sanctuary of the river. On the
other end of the size scale, a tiny Pied Wagtail appeared in the
cobbled slipway as it searched for food. We also saw a pair of
romantically involved Feral Pigeons. Across the river from the
pigeons, a Jackdaw was having an enthusiastic bath which lasted around
20 minutes. A small number of Goldeneyes were present. They are always
worth a watch as they dive, court, fight and take flight.
As the light worsened we decided it was time for tea and strawberry tarts. We sat by the river and
reflected on our observations and we agreed that, far from being a wild, wet and windy, and
consequently fruitless outing, we experienced a pleasant dry sunshiny day which bore much fruit,
as can be seen from the number and variety of photographs above. My favourites are Dunlin,
Wigeon and Canada Geese. Let’s hope the weather is just a kind next week, but it is winter, so
we’ll just have to deal with whatever challenges the weather brings
Week ending: 22nd January 2023: Musselburgh and Port Seton
A dull and damp weekend was predicted for Central Scotland by my WeatherPro app, with the
least chance of rain being in the Edinburgh area. I decided that Musselburgh would be the ideal
place to visit. We popped into Dalkeith Morrisons for our usual breakfast (9/10: excellent, only let
down a bit by the slow service). When we arrived the tide was low and rising, so I decided to start
at the Scrapes and its surrounding area.
After parking at Levenhall Links, we moved down to the seawall, passing a Carrion Crow that was
clutching what looked like a large chunk of excrement in its beak. We were pleased to see that
there were birds not far away from the seawall, Teal and Red-breasted Mergansers and also
Cormorants were diving fairly close to the sandy shore, upon which a few Oystercatchers were
foraging. John also spotted a pretty Shag that surfaced just below the seawall.
There was a large flock of wigeon gathered on the waters adjacent to the Scrapes. We estimated
that there were around 50 birds in the flock.
Eventually we moved away from the seawall towards the entrance to the Scrapes. We
encountered a large flock of Stock Doves feeding in the long grass just before the Boating
Pond. And just before the entrance we unwittingly disturbed a feeding Magpie, which flew into the
trees, emerging again after we had passed. On arriving at the Scrapes’ middle hide, we were
disappointed to find that all of the scrapes were iced-over, and at first, all we could see was small
group of Oystercatchers. However, when we moved to the left-most hide, I spotted a Mistlethrush
working its way along the grassy banking to the right of the hide.
There was a Curlew probing the grass at the far side of the reserve and there were more Curlews
roosting far to the right, as can be seen from the picture below of a small flock of Starlings
passing over that area. But that was about it for the Scrapes. We set off back to the car,
encountering another Mistle Thrush that was creeping about the playing fields adjacent to
the Scrapes before it was flushed by an exuberant dog.
We relocated to the mouth of the River Esk. The tide was almost fully in. However, there was a fair
number of birds on the river, such as the usual Mallards. We walked part of the way along the
seawall, where we spotted Goldeneyes diving repeatedly. I got some nice shorts of a little
Redshank that was making its way along the rocky shore just below the sea wall. John noticed a
Linnet landing near the Redshank. As we carefully watched it, we realised that it was only
one of a flock of perhaps a dozen Linnets, all eager to explore what looked like storm debris by
While I was photographing the Linnets, John alerted me to an approaching drake Eider flying up
the River Esk. I managed a couple of nice shots, and while I was at it, I snapped a Black-headed
Gull that was passing at the same time. And, after that a big Herring Gull passed overhead with a
small crab in its beak. The last of a quartet of flight shots was of a big Carrion Crow that
descended on rocks near the seawall while carrying part of a large shellfish in its beak.
As we made our way back to the car, the light was fading fast. In the water to the east of the
dusky Esk mouth we could just see a large flock of Wigeon, possibly the same flock we had seen
earlier near the Scrapes.
The final port of call (pardon the pun) was Port Seton. I realised how dull it had become when I
photographed an oil tanker that was anchored in the middle of the Firth of Forth. Its floodlights
were glowing brightly on the gloomy panorama. The area of rocks east of the harbour, called the
Wrecked Craigs, was nearly completely under water. A pair of Cormorants clung to one of the few
rocks that was still poking above the water. Two Mute Swans were paddling across the scene
past some Black-headed Gulls that were bobbing up and down on the passing waves.
A few small groups of Eider ducks were diving for mussels. In between dives, the males
were pursuing females, who were keen to avoid their attention. I’m not sure if this was courtship
behaviour or simply the aggressive protection of their feeding grounds. One Eider female was
standing on a flood-threatened rocky perch, defiantly shaking its feathers dry. Nearby a young
Herring Gull didn’t look quite so self-assured.
We walked the short distance to the harbour where the view to the west of the familiar, though
silhouetted, Lothian hills and Edinburgh skyline, was rather impressive.
As we entered the harbour, a bold adult Herring Gull stood proudly on a tall pole by the harbour
pier. A Starling chattered incessantly as it perched on an overhead security camera. A Great
Black-backed Gull sat on top of the 10ft sea wall and appeared to watch us with some disdain as
we walked towards the harbour mouth. A few Turnstones and Herring Gulls sped across
the mouth of the harbour, having been disturbed by a family exploring the opposite side of the
harbour. The sea was very quiet so we walked back towards the car. Back near the Wrecked
Craigs I noticed a single Wigeon on the water and I moved towards the railings to photograph it.
|Great Black-backed Gull
As I moved back from the railings I noticed that there were birds feeding on a pile of seaweed at a
sandy corner below the sea wall. There, I was delighted to see a pretty little Grey Wagtail ,
bobbing delightfully across rock, sand and seaweed. I was also rewarded with satisfying pictures
of a female House Sparrow and also a male Pied Wagtail - a fitting end to our very pleasant visit.
We were a bit concerned that the poor light and very cold conditions would impact on our
observations. However, we needn’t have worried since by the end we had seen 23 bird species.
Not a bad total. My favourites were the Grey Wagtail, Mistle Thrushes and Stock Doves. It was tea
and strawberry tarts again before our drive home. The weather was dull but at least it didn’t rain.
Hopefully we’ll get some light next week. The camera kinda needs it.
Week ending: 15th January 2023: Barns Ness and Belhaven Bay
The weather across Central Scotland was to be cold and dry with sunny intervals, the best of the
sunshine was to be in the east. I decided that we’d head for Barns Ness since it had been 3
months since we’d last visited there. We had breakfast in Dalkeith Morrisons before tanking it
down the A1 to just beyond Dunbar where we turned into the winding, single-track road that leads
to the Barns Ness car park.
The tide was low but rising and the sky was blue, as can be seen from the view to the west
towards the famous gannet colony on the Bass Rock. Surfers’ vehicles were parked all
along the approach road. A look at the rolling waves in the picture explains why they were there.
We began our usual circuit of the site on the rocky beach adjacent to the car park where we
immediately came across Oystercatchers, Curlew and Redshanks feeding in the damp sands
between the many rocks and boulders that are scattered on the shore. A flock of what looked like
young Skylarks flew in and began foraging not far from where we were standing.
The heaving tide is shown again in the picture, below, of a group of Cormorants enjoying the
sunshine as they dried their feathers before diving for more fish
As we rounded the Barns Ness lighthouse I caught a Curlew as it flew low over the rocks. We
paused a while on the beach to watch for birds raking around a large pile of seaweed. John
pointed out a couple of Rock Pipits and while I photographed these a male Stonechat popped onto the scene. I also managed some shots of a very nippy Pied Wagtail that had
been very wary of our presence. However, it plucked up the courage to come a little closer,
allowing me to fire off a few shots.
John spotted a large flock of birds approaching from the west. On examining the pictures later,
their profile and wing markings were similar to that of Golden or Grey Plovers . They circled
around for about 20 minutes but, sadly, they never came very close.
When we turned our attention to the pile of seaweed, a female Stonechat appeared and posed
for a little while. This was followed by a busy Rock Pipit. Meantime as I photographed these birds
John had been scanning the seashore and had noticed a Red-breasted Merganser, as well
as other wading birds. We set off to investigate.
By this time, the beautiful blue skies of the morning had been replaced by a blanket of cloud
which reduced the light drastically. However, I did manage a record shot of four preening Black-tailed Godwits. Notice also the Dunlin and Ringed Plovers in the picture.
We scanned the seashore further and found a single Turnstone and, nearby, a pair of Dunlins wandering among the rocks. An Oystercatcher and a pair of Mallards flew across the scene,
disturbed by an approaching crowd of walkers.
The walkers also put up a flock of Dunlin that had previously been out of sight. The birds landed
not far from us enabling me to snap away merrily as they moved randomly around the rock pools.
Satisfied with our collection of seashore shots, we continued on the route round to the old
caravan site. Sadly we did not see any more birds, but I did get a picture of flowering gorse, the
only flower we saw on our whole trip, and one shot of the lighthouse.
We relocated to the Shore Road car park at Belhaven, and we were soon scanning the inner bay,
and its surrounds. As the Sun got lower in the sky the light became very poor. We found a Teal
preening in the path-side drainage ditch. In the Inner Bay there were a few familiar waders, such
as Curlew and Redshanks. We also met a young Carrion Crow perched on the sea wall, most
probably the same bird we’d photographed on our last visit.
Next we moved down to the Seafield Pond where there was a large flock of Wigeon on the water.
Eventually they moved onto the short grass. Unusually there was a young Cormorant amongst
The flock was put up by an over-zealous birder who got too close for comfort. However, I was
glad of the photo-opportunity.
After attempting photographs of a Coot and a Moorhen, we decided to head back to the car since
the light had become unacceptably dim. However, the birds were not quite finished with us. As we
walked back, a Little Egret flew across the bay. Also, we saw far to the west, a large flock of
honking Geese, but, obviously they too far away to identify.
My final shot had the same subject as the first, the Bass Rock. Very keen surfers continued to ride
the waves as I swapped my camera for a flask of boiling water.
Once again John produced a pair of delicious Strawberry Tarts to accompany our teas. The day
had been, as it usually is, very enjoyable. My favourite sightings were the Stonechats and the
Skylarks. Hopefully next week will be as enjoyable, wherever we end up
Week ending: 8th January 2023:
Victoria Park, Bingham's Pond. ( Maps)
John and I were reunited for a trip to Victoria Park (Website), Glasgow, to try to photograph the
reported Ring-necked Duck. My WeatherPro app predicted cool, dry weather with some
sunshine with a low chance of rain. We stopped in at Glasgow Fort Morrisons for breakfasts (9/10:
very good, -1 for small plates).
We drove through Glasgow’s West End to reach Victoria Park, which nestles between Whiteinch,
Scotstoun, Jordanhill and Broomhill districts. We parked on Westland Drive and set off through
the beautiful and sunlit park. I set the ball rolling with a shot of a large Woodpigeon that was
perched high in a tall tree. This was followed by a snap of male Blackbird crouched below a
hedge. Just before we reached the pond, John spotted a Magpie moving furtively between the
leafless branches of pathside tree. At the pond we were pleased to see a large presence of Tufted
Ducks . Our plan was to check each and every drake since the Ring-necked Duck has a
very similar plumage. It, though, has no tuft, its crown is less round and it has a white band on its
The plumages of the drake Mallards were beautiful in the low winter sunlight; less so for the drab
females. We also noticed there were lots of Coots present and a few juvenile Mute Swans.
|Juvenile Mute Swan
One particular young Swan was involved in an altercation with a pair of Coots that looked as if
they were preparing a nest. The feisty Coots resisted the attentions of the much larger bird and,
after a brief flurry, carried on with their task.
I watched the Coots as they tended their nest until I was distracted by a noisy juvenile Moorhen that was upset by something or other. John pointed out a lovely scene at a small footbridge
where some Mallards were enjoying the warm sunlight as they sat at the edge of an island of
Rhododendrons. As we pressed on around the pond I snapped a Carrion Crow that had flown
overhead onto high tree branches.
There were frequent feeding frenzies, mainly involving Black-headed Gulls and Common Gulls,
when people threw bread towards the ducks and swans. Feral pigeons too, left their favourite tree
and took to the air in search of easy food. In between these missions, there was time for a bit of
love. I spotted Redwings in a tree not too near the pond. Redwings are very flighty and
usually fly off at the slightest threat.
We still hadn’t seen the Ring-necked Duck as we completed our circuit of the pond. We did
though see some nice birds such as a Feral Pigeon resplendent in its iridescent plumage. A Mute
Swan sitting below the pigeon’s tree almost jumped to its feet when a wee girl appeared with
bread. We decided to check out the Fossil Grove, which is at the west side of the park. However
before we left the pond, I managed shots of a Great Tit and a Moorhen. A walk through the Fossil
Grove produced a photograph of a warbling Robin and one of a Grey Squirrel foraging high in the
It was at this point I checked social media to find if there was any information of the whereabouts
of the Ring-necked Duck. It told me that it was currently a couple of miles away at Bingham’s
Pond near Gartnavel Hospital. So that’s where we headed next. We employed the same
strategy for locating the bird by moving around the pond checking each and every black and
white duck we saw. As with the pond in Victoria Park, there were plenty of Tufted Duck to check.
Again we got nice views of Moorhens, but we also saw birds that weren’t present at the Vicky,
namely Goosanders and a Greylag Goose.
As we neared the completion of a circuit of the pond we were beginning to suspect that our target
bird had returned to the Victoria Pond, when we heard a fellow birdwatcher mention that it was
hiding by the north side of the island. When we investigated we did indeed see it. Luckily for us it
was paddling towards us, allowing some nice initial pictures. However, when the Tufties around it
took flight, it tagged along. I managed a few pleasing shots of it as it flew to the south end of the
pond. As we headed back to the car, John spotted a Grey Squirrel crossing the road before
dashing through a hole in the hedges that line the Leonardo Inn Hotel. That’s why I only got an
east end view of the Grey Squirrel moving west. Nice tail though!
It had been a short but very enjoyable trip. It was John’s first time at Victoria Park and Bingham’s
Pond was new to both of us. The fact that we managed to track down the Ring-necked Duck was
satisfying. The weather had remained sunny throughout the time we were there, which allowed me
to take some beautiful photographs, particularly of the flying Ring-necked Duck. We celebrated by
having tea and strawberry tarts (our first for a few months), which, I’m glad to report, were
- January 2023
We present this month’s gallery of my
favourite pictures I’ve taken during January 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.
ON THE WATER
IN THE TREES
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