Archive - July 2017

30th July 2017


Musselburgh was our target destination this week as the weather was to have been slightly brighter in the east. After a decent, though frustratingly delayed, hence cool Morrisons’ breakfast (so only a 7.5/10), we found ourselves parked by the mouth of the River Esk. The tide was well out and we could see large flocks of Mute Swans and Eider on the shoreline a couple of hundred metres away. Nearer the seawall very familiar birds going about their business including Curlew and Redshank …..

Mute Swan

…. Great Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls and ‘squadrons’ of Oyster catchers flying past. I think we pay scant regard to these beautiful creatures, probably because they as so common, but they are well worth keeping an eye on. For us, watching nature is not about racking up sightings of uncommon birds but is more about observation of all creatures and plants in their natural environments.

Great Black Backed Gull
Black Headed Gull
Black Headed Gull

As we made our way along the seawall, observing, a striking Piebald Feral Pigeon posed for us. It wasn't at all flighty so it was probably hungry. Offshore 3 Common Scoters were diving, one female and 2 males. Close in, a small flock of young eider foraged for crabs. We followed them for 10 minutes until we we joined by 4 Gannets. They made many passes repeatedly diving dramatically into the choppy sea. Occasionally they would rest longer on the surface after a dive, presumably a sign they'd caught a fish.

Piebald Feral Pigeon
Common Scoter
Female Eider

Eventually we arrived at the Levenhall Scrapes. We didn't expect to see much there as it was usually quiet at low tide, but we did catch sight of a Common Sandpiper. The busiest part of the Scrapes was probably the wooded path joining the hides. We spotted tits, finches, wren, blackbirds and even butterflies – although I didn't get any decent pictures (too many leaves!) We headed on the return journey back the way we came. A small flock of young Goosanders was feeding close to the wall. The Gannets were now joined by several Sandwich Terns, who were equally as exciting to watch as they dived for smaller fish. As we neared the car another familiar bird flew past, a Cormorant, making a beeline for the shore.

Common Sandpiper
Female Goosander
Sandwich Tern

It was all birds this week with a few very nice shots as our “shots of the week” (shown below). So after tea and a bun we returned home satisfied down the M8 to music provided courtesy of Radio 2’s Johnny Walker -groovy!   (  No Way...Ed)

Feral Pigeon
Female Eider

Common Sandpiper

23rd July 2017


While the rest of Central Scotland lay under a depressing layer of grey cloud, the west coast was a lot brighter with frequent sunny spells. So we were glad then to have chosen Ayr as our Sunday destination- specifically Doonfoot.

Stomachs filled with excellent Kilmarnock ASDA breakfasts we emerged from the car and sat by the River Doon to see what we could see. First up was a small flock of Redshanks sitting warily by the salt pool in the dunes. A striking Piebald Pigeon joined us for a brief spell before it was spooked by passing dog walkers. The tide was high and the river mouth was peppered with many of the usual species of bird such as Black-headed Gull and Lesser Blacked-backed Gull. There was a very noisy juvenile Black Headed Gull persistently pestering its parent for food.

Piebald Pigeon
Black Headed Gull
Lesser Black Backed Gull

A pair of untidy-looking Mallards paddled close, probably sniffing for bread. Overhead Swallows and House Martins were rapidly swooping in irregular patterns as they hunted flies. I managed to capture a couple of shots after many failed attempts. John pointed out the unusual sight of three horses being ridden in the shallow sea off Ayr beach. He thought they were police horses out for exercise.

House Martin
Juvenile Barn Swallow

Just as we decided to get off our stools and move on to the Greenan car park a small flock of Oystercatchers flew overhead. As I stood up I noticed a pair of juvenile Goosanders on the shore lurking behind a bank of sand. At the car there was a lovely patch of Dotted Loosestrife looking kind of lost in the long grass. After a short drive we were welcomed at the second car park by the busy chirping of House Sparrows in the bushes. Many of them were juveniles a handsome male sat above them (see “shots of the day” below).

Female Goosander
Dotted Loosestrife
Juvenile House Sparrow

Amongst the Sparrows a beautifully-marked Starling was perched on a high branch. We made our way along the narrow path through the dunes. It was overgrown with vegetation but we kept our eyes open for any small creatures lurking there. A Garden Spider munching on an unfortunate victim was first to be noticed, then a pair of very pretty 6-spot Burnet Moths, followed by a rather uncommon Large White butterfly. That gave us the run-around before I managed a decent shot (see “shots of the day” below for the latter two). A juvenile Carrion Crow kept an eye on us as we passed. I spotted a red gall on a Rose leaf. It was produced by the Gallfly.

European Garden Spider
Carrion Crow
Gall of Gallfly

The more common Green-veined White was the next butterfly seen followed by a Ringlet. At this point we noticed a shower of rain over Ayr. Concerned it was heading our way we made our way back to the car. On the way there I found a Red-tailed Bumblebee on some Ragwort. John pointed out a host of small insects on a flowerhead of Wild Carrot. We later identified these as sciara hemerobioides, a type of fungus gnat.

Green Veined White
Red tailed Bumblebee
Sciara Hemerobioides

We arrived back at the car earlier than usual. Although disappointed at the lack of birds in the dunes, we were pleased by the insect pictures. After tucking into tea and buns we headed home listening to the Open Golf. Pictures of the day were the juvenile Black-headed Gull yearning for its mum, the proud father House Sparrow, the gorgeous 6-spot Burnet Moth and the rather restless Large White butterfly.

1st Cycle Black-headed Gull
House Sparrow

6 Spot Burnet Moth
Large White Butterfly

16th July 2017

Stevenson, Saltcoats and Irvine Harbour

The Weatherman was predicting it to be “best in the west” so we set out for Stevenston Point, via Stevenston Morrisons of course. It wouldn't be right to start watching nature with empty stomachs!

As we parked the car on the Point I noticed to the south a pair of Sandwich Terns diving for fish. My very first shot caught a Tern actually carrying a fish. A bit further offshore an immature Gannet was following what I'd presume was its parent. They dived several times before vanishing to the south.

2 - 3 year old  Gannet
Adult Gannet

John spotted a small flock of Sanderling scurrying along the shore always just ahead of the advancing waves. Unfortunately they were spooked before we could get closer but were pleased to come across a Grayling butterfly sunning itself on the concrete seawall. Then a Curlew, followed by a Shag crossed our view as we followed the example of the butterfly by taking a short seat in the sunshine.


After realising we were not going to get many pictures sitting on the seawall we drove the short distance north to Saltcoats. At the end of the Harbour I snapped a Shag as it flew past. Further round the promenade John pointed out a Harbour Seal lounging on a rock relatively close to shore. I thought a patch of Sea Mayweed was worth a photograph as I was watched by a Herring Gull hovering above me, no doubt checking if I had any titbits worth pinching.

Harbour Seal
Sea Mayweed
Herring Gull

It had been a very pleasant and varied trip, celebrated as usual with tea and pastry (chocolate eclairs).

Pictures Of the week.

Sandwich Tern

Sandwich Tern
Harbour Seal

2nd July 2017

Aberlady LNR

We headed East where the good weather was predicted. Aberlady seemed a good choice as we'd not been there for some time. After our brekky we made our way there from Dalkeith avoiding the various road closures due to the Iron Man event. After parking we crossed the rickety bridge and were optimistic as the weather was sunny with a wee bit of a breeze. Along the path we came across White Bryony – a climbing vine languishing in the long grass. Then John noticed a few 7-spot Ladybirds. We managed to guide one onto a 1p coin to emphasise its scale. We entered an area of heath we’ve named “Butterfly Alley” as in the past it has produced some nice butterflies. Immediately I came across some nice Hop Trefoil, then as we moved further into the heath we were serenaded by a very obliging Reed Bunting perched atop a bush.

White Bryony
7 Spot Ladybird
Hop Trefoil
Reed Bunting

As we sat and waited for the butterflies to arrive I noted 4 species of Orchid – Common Spotted Orchid, Northern Marsh Orchid, Twayblade and Pyramidal, only to later realise the Pyramidal was in fact a Common Spotted!

Common Spotted Orchid
Northern Marsh Orchid
Common Twayblade
Common Spotted Orchid

Again, still waiting, I caught sight of a tiny Common Froghopper sitting on leaf. Then, at last, a Narrow Bordered 5-spot Burnet fluttered past before resting on small plant. OK it was a moth but it was along the right lines. As I took a few photographs I was distracted by some unfamiliar heads of grass that turned out to be (after a quick Google) a variety of Quaking Grass. Finally, we were joined by a solitary Common Blue butterfly resting from the stiff breeze on Common Bird’s Foot Trefoil bloom.

Common Froghopper
Narrow Bordered 5 Spot Burnet
Quaking Grass
Common Blue Butterfly

We left Butterfly Alley fairly pleased with our sightings, although the wind undoubtedly kept the butterfly count low. Passing Marl Loch I took some shots of some tiny but very pretty yellow Common Tormentil before noticing a Ladybird hunting aphids – yes, the bonny wee bug is a vicious killer! I then captured a few pictures of Ragged Robin and also got my boots damp snapping some Marsh Lousewort.

Common Tormentil
7 Spot Ladybird Ragged Robin
Marsh Lousewort

Next we searched unsuccessfully for Stonechat but it seemed every bird was a Reed Bunting. We settled by a patch of Viper’s Bugloss where a Red-tailed Bumblebee was feeding frantically, before heading back to the car. We stopped for a time at the Marl Loch, attracted by a lonely Prickly Sow Thistle. John spotted a young Pied Wagtail skipping on the extensive pondweed.

Viper's Bugloss
Red-tailed Bumblebee
Prickly Sow Thistle
Pied Wagtail

At the pond’s edge a Mute Swan stood preening as a Black-headed Gull floated past. I captured a picture of a single Weld plant hiding in the long grass. Back at the car as we had our tea and pastry I noticed that the shrubbery at the edge of the car park were mainly Crab Apple trees, which was quite appropriate as our Lattice pastries were filled with stewed apples.

Mute Swan
Black Headed Gull
Crab Apple

It had been an interesting day with a varied haul of pictures.

Pictures Of the Week

Reed Bunting
Narrow Bordered 5 Spot Burnet Moth

7 Spot Ladybird
Common Hop-Trefoil

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