Archive - July 2023 

Week ending: 28th July 2023: Stevenston, Saltcoats and Irvine Harbour

With heavy and persistent rain predicted for Sunday I decided to “make hay while the sun shone” on Friday instead, since the weather was dry, sunny and very mild. I nipped across to Stevenston to check out the Point and the sand dunes at Stevenston beach. Unfortunately John couldn’t make it so, with only one pair of eyes, I had to take care not to miss potential sightings.

Courtesy of Weather Pro  and BBC Tides

At Stevenston Point the Sun was following the script and shining magnificently. The wind though was a bit stiff, but bearable. As usual, there were Oystercatchers sheltering on the Point’s rocky tip and there were plenty of gulls circulating the area. I walked around the perimeter searching for small waders and I wasn’t disappointed. About twenty Ringed Plovers and a similar number of Sanderlings were standing at the water’s edge between the rocks, fairly camouflaged but ever vigilant. Taking great care not to send them up, I managed a few shots before they were disturbed by the arrival of a noisy family pointing at them. I then noticed some lovely patches of Wild Thyme and Eyebright flowering along the west edge of the promontory.

Oystercatcher Lesser Black-backed Gull
Ringed Plover Sanderling
Eyebright Wild Thyme

Below is the view to the west, looking over Stevenston beach toward Saltcoats. Note the choppy waves whipped up by the turbulent wind.

Along the eastern side, I snapped a passing Black-headed Gull. A young tweeting Pied Wagtail landed near a puddle in front of me, but a good bit further away a Linnet stood on a boulder and then dashed out over the rocks to the south of the Point. I got a pleasing shot of a large Lesser Black-backed Gull that was standing regally on a large concrete block. A beautiful Small Tortoiseshell butterfly began feeding on Common Ragwort and produced some delightful shots. Back at the car I got another decent shot, this time of an Oystercatcher flying over rocks to join its flock.

Black Headed Gull Female Pied Wagtail
Linnet Lesser Black-backed Gull
Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly Oystercatcher

I noticed that some Sanderlings had returned to shelter on the west side.

I sat for a while sea-watching at the end of the Point. There had been recent reports of Manx Shearwaters along the Ayrshire coast but I didn’t see any. I was treated to the passage of a lovely Gannet, a dashing Shag and a Common Gull. Also, as I returned to the car, a clump of Red Poppies caught my eye. On my way off the Point, along the single track road, I noticed a few Jackdaws foraging on the grass verges. I stopped the car to snap a few shots and as a bonus I also got shots of a Small White butterfly as it fed on Sea Radish flowers.

Gannet Shag
Common Gull Red Poppy
Jackdaw Small White Butterfly

I wasn’t finished though. When I was getting into the car, a flock of excited Starlings descended onto a large puddle on the road and proceeded to bathe wildly.

After the Point I drove the very short distance to the Stevenston beach car park and walked along the path that leads to the dunes. I was watched by a pair of Stonechats that probably had a nest nearby. The path is lined with Beach Roses that were attended by lots of Honey Bees that seemed to be quite delirious as they wriggled around the rose flower stamens. I was also impressed by groups of striking blue Harebell flowers along the path edges. I turned onto a path that leads along part of the dunes and I spotted a solitary Creeping Thistle standing proudly.

Female Stonechat Male Stonechat
Honey Bee Beach Rose
Harebell Creeping Thistle

Below is the view from high on the dunes, looking over Stevenston Beach towards Saltcoats Harbour. Note the Isle of Arran in the background.

On my return path I came upon a pair of copulating Small Heath butterflies. I later managed a shot of a single Small Heath sitting on the sandy path. On the same path there was a Grayling  butterfly, a bit of a rarer find (although I would have been disappointed not to find it). On the same stretch of path I also found a Dune Brittlestem mushroom and some  Sheep’s-bit

Small Heath Butterfly...
Small White Butterfly Grayling Butterfly
Dune Brittlestem Sheep's - bit 

I relocated a few miles west to Saltcoats Harbour and parked within a few metres a Black Guillemot  resting on the harbour’s edge. A walk to the tower at end of the harbour began with a shot of the Guillemot flying out of the harbour after being disturbed by a dog walker. At the tower I caught a surfacing Shag and, unexpectedly, a surfacing Grey Seal. Unfortunately men in high-viz jackets were walking on the rocks on the other side of the harbour. I got the impression they could have been looking for bird carcasses. There certainly were no live birds as they probably scared them away.

Black Guillemot...
Shag Grey Seal

A view from the tower of the harbour mouth. A yellow jacket can be seen on the right.

My final stop of the visit was Irvine Harbour. The sky had clouded over but on leaving the car I noticed a bit of a commotion on the far bank at the confluence of the River Irvine and River Garnock. A Lesser Black-backed Gull was repeatedly swooping down on a large Grey Heron. Possibly the gull was defending a nest or chicks in the area. Also, there were at least half a dozen Grey Seals lying on a barge further upstream on the Garnock. After photographing these I got a nice flight shot of a Shag as it flew up the Irvine. Rain was threatening so I decided to call it a day just as I saw several patches of small Henbit Deadnettles  growing by the side of the promenade.

Grey Heron / Lesser Black-backed Gull...
Grey Seal Mute Swan
Shag Henbit Deadnettle

Back in the car, as I had a wee cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit, I managed my last shot of the trip: a Rook that was hanging about the cars for feeding opportunities.

It turned out that I made the right decision in travelling on Friday rather than Sunday because Sunday’s weather was wild, wet and windy. Hopefully John will be accompanying me next Sunday and maybe we’ll get another good weather day.

Week ending: 23rd July 2023: Dalzell Estate (Map) and RSPB Barons Haugh (Map)

John was unavailable this week and the type of weather predicted for Sunday was wild, wet and windy. The midweek prediction was much better, so I thought that I’d make two brief solo trips to RSPB Baron’s Haugh (Website) and the neighbouring Dalzell Estate (Website) on Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday was a bit on the dull side, but it was mild and dry with only a faint breeze. At the Barons Haugh car park I got off to a fine start. Two Magpies, and adult and juvenile were hanging around the cars. I noticed that the ranger had two large planting tubs of wild flowers near at the rear exit of the car park. Most of the flowers had insects on them. I got photos of a Syrphus ribesii hoverfly stationary above a Field Scabious flower and also of a Buff-tailed Bumblebee busy of a flowerhead of White Clover. There was also a Wild Carrot flowerhead carrying a 7-spot Ladybird, the Greenbottle, Lucilia caesar and a Common Soldier Beetle.

Magpie... Juvenile
Hoverfly - Syrphus Ribesii Buff-tailed Bumblebee
7 Spot Ladybird Red Soldier Beetle

At the Marsh Hide there weren’t many birds about, however I did get shots of a Green-veined White butterfly and bumblebee on Teasel. I also found Lesser Burdock in flower. On my way to the next hide, the Causeway Hide, I spied a drake Mallard in eclipse plumage resting in a flooded and shady ditch not too far from the main path.

Female Green-veined White Butterfly Teasel
Lesser Burdock Mallard in Eclipse plumage

At the Causeway Hide there were many other Mallards scattered around the Haugh. As well as quite a few noisy Lapwings. I also noticed about half a dozen Green Sandpipers foraging around the muddy areas. A few juvenile Moorhens were doing the same. A helpful chap, who was also scanning the Haugh, pointed out a Common Snipe  that was sitting on top of a fence post about 60m in front of the hide.

Mallard in Eclipse plumage Lapwing
Green Sandpiper Juvenile Moorhen
Common Snipe Cormorant

Below is a view from the Causeway Hide.

When I left the hide I briefly visited the site of the now demolished Phoenix hide in order to view the Haugh from its raised position. I was disappointed that I didn’t see much that took my interest. However it wasn’t a wasted effort since I spotted a flowering Broad-leaved Helleborine , a member of the Orchid family. On the walk back to the car park I passed a pair of mating Common Blue Damselflies drifting and eventually coming to rest on a grass stalk. I also came across a large umbilifer, Wild Angelica, at the side of a field. On the path at the top of the slope, before it passes through the gap in the trees, I heard twittering Goldfinches. After a short search I located them on a Hawthorn in the middle of the adjacent field.

Broad-leaved Helleborine Common Blue Damselfly
Wild Angelica Goldfinch

That was the last shot before driving home. I returned on the following day, eager to get going again since it was a much brighter day. Again I started snapping in the car park after a second look at the tubs of wildflowers. There was a Buff-tailed Bumblebee on Wild Marjoram flowers and I also found a patch of French Cranesbill at the other side of the hedgerow. I decided to start my clockwise circuit of the reserve by passing through Dalzell Estate just east of the car park. As I set off, a pair of Grey Squirrels were searching the park litter bin for food scraps. One of them was rather reluctant to move when I approached, giving me another nice photo-opportunity. Pleased with this I crossed the road into the Dalzell Estate and immediately found a Meadow Brown butterfly on some Bramble flowers

Buff-tailed Bumblebee French Cranesbill
Grey Squirrel Meadow Brown Butterfly

This is the view from the ornamental bridge at the Japanese garden looking down the tree-lined avenue that lead to Dalzell House.

There was yet another Grey Squirrel sitting on top of a tree stump feeding on seeds or nuts left by another walker. I proceeded through the estate down to the path by the River Clyde where I saw a Wren with a mouthful of what looks like a moth. A passing walker told me of an Otter he’d just seen some 200m upstream so I paced up there but to no avail. There was no sign of it, only a few Mallards were on the water. I hung about there on my wee 3-legged stool and was rewarded with a fairly close shot of a low-flying Buzzard.

Grey Squirrel Wren
Mallard Buzzard

Below is a view of the area of the Clyde where the Otter was seen.

Soon after the Buzzard, a Sparrowhawk  circled overhead for a short time, but still no Otter. I headed back downstream towards the Barons Haugh reserve. I nearly stood on a Black Snail Beetle but stopped in time photograph it. I also got a couple of pleasing shots of Rosebay Willowherb and a Common Red Soldier Beetle on Ragwort.

Sparrowhawk Black Snail Beetle
Rosebay Willowherb Red Soldier Beetle

Once in the Barons Haugh reserve I noticed a young Blue Tit feeding on a Willow tree. I also heard and then spied a calling Greenfinch perched high in a tree that overlooked the river. Near there I watched a Common Wasp biting bits off of a bare wooden stump, most probably to use in building a nest. A Wandering Pond Snail was my next sighting, although it was nowhere near a pond so it had wandered quite a bit.

Juvenile Blue Tit Greenfinch
Common Wasp Wandering Pond Snail

Finally I reached the Causeway Hide and was pleased that it was better illuminated than on the previous day

The mix of birds was very similar to that seen on Tuesday but there was one significant addition, a few Black-tailed Godwits  were foraging in the shallows. As I left the hide I disturbed a Song Thrush. It only moved about 10m down the path so I was able to fire off a couple of quick shots. When I’d finished with the thrush I returned to the car park and was surprised to see in the centre of the car park, both Magpies and Grey Squirrels getting stuck into a pile of seeds obviously left by a kindly birdwatcher. One particularly aggressive Squirrel wanted the seeds all to itself since it chased away any other Squirrel that made a grab for them.

Black-tailed Godwit Song Thrush
Grey Squirrel...

They were still at it as I left for home.

Well my plan of moving my usual weekend visit to midweek to avoid bad weather worked inasmuch as I made a stack of sightings, which I’ve documented above. Instead, on Sunday I planned to go to the pictures to watch the new Oppenheimer movie. However, it turned out that the weather was ok and I actually spent the day in the park with my grand-weans. Oh well, as Burns said "the best laid schemes

Week ending: 16th July 23023: Musselburgh

Rain was pelting the west so we headed east to Musselburgh in order to check out the new nature reserve at Levenhall Links. This is a regeneration of an area that was used to store waste from Cockenzie Power Station. My WeatherPro app predicted that it would be cloudy with a chance of the odd shower, but we were willing to risk getting a bit wet in order to see the new reserve. We first though had another great breakfast in Dalkeith Morrisons (10/10: Excellent; no complaints, only praise).

Courtesy of Weather Pro  and BBC Tides

The tide was low and rising when we parked at the mouth of the River Esk. There was a strong wind blowing and some of the gusts were very forceful. As mentioned above. There were many birds assembled on the very choppy waters. Over 100 Mute Swans were there, along with as many Goosanders and Eiders a bit further out.

We decided to follow the sea wall out of the the estuary and then turn up onto the new reserve. As we set off, John spotted pair of Goldfinches on the roof of the corner house and just past the Cadet Hall I found some Common Mallow growing by the path. on the shore at the sea wall there were Carrion Crows searching through the seaweed piles for shellfish. A juvenile Carrion Crow was on a boulder waiting for food from its adult.

Goldfinch Common Mallow
Carrion Crow Juvenile

Below is a wide angle shot of a raft of over 50 Goosanders bobbing up and down in the estuary.

The light was gloomy but I was pleased to see a lone Redshank meandering along the shore. Most of the drake Eiders were in dull brown eclipse plumage rather that their more usual white, black and pale green feathers. Eventually we reached the new tarred path that leads to the hides of the new scrapes. The short walk to the first of five new hides produced sightings of wildflowers such as Meadow Vetchling. I discovered a trio of 7-spotted Ladybirds clinging to a Creeping Thistle.

Redshank Eider in Eclipse Plumage
Meadow Vetchling 7-Spot Ladybird

The area around the scrapes has been landscaped with many trees planted.

Below are some views of the new scrapes from the first hide we encountered. It wasn’t “packed” with birds, but there were pockets of gulls and oystercatchers.

The view west over the scrapes has a lovely backdrop of the skyline of Edinburgh and Arthur’s Seat.

There was a pair of Shelducks and some well-hidden Curlews on the furthest scrape and eventually we noticed birds nearer the hide, such as a a Pied Wagtail, a couple of Ringed Plovers and ascending Skylarks.

Shelduck Female Pied Wagtail
Ringed Plover Skylark

We had a similar view of the scrapes from the next three hides, but at the last hide (the first if we’d entered the reserve from a entrance at the end of the park by the cadet hall) we had a nice view of Leith beautifully illuminated by sunlight.

 From inside the hide we saw a fly-past of a trio of Pigeons (probably Feral) and several Greylags grazing on the grassy banks of a mote that separates the scrapes from all 5 hides. Our initial impressions of the new reserve were very positive. We both agreed that there were already promising signs that the birds love it and with time, as the whole ecosystem beds in, it will provide a very welcome haven for our feathered friends. The new path leads onto the existing path adjacent to the cadet hall. We passed a patch of Cornflowers growing wild at the very end (or start) of the new, tarred path. There I also photographed a little white Field Pansy.

Feral Pigeon Greylag Goose
Cornflower  Field Pansy

After returning to the car we drove to the Levenhall Links car park (off the road to Prestonpans) and walked to the “old” scrapes. We started at the middle hide where we were delighted to find a healthy number of birds gathered there, such as Greylags and Black-tailed Godwits. A Roe Buck galloped past the front of the middle hide, providing a nice photo opportunity.

Greylag Goose Black-tailed Godwit
Roe Deer...

John spotted a Common Tern on a concrete ring on the rear scrape. I then noticed some Sandwich Terns,  including juveniles, on the opposite side of that scrape. There were also a few Common and Sandwich Terns in the air and I found a Mallard with a duckling at the back of the nearest scrape. I could also see a Shelduck dabbling on the scrape to the left of the middle hide.

Common Tern... Sandwich Tern...
Mallard Shelduck

We moved to the rightmost hide where we saw a very still Grey Heron on the grass. A Lapwing appeared briefly before leaving to try its luck elsewhere. On the scrape, very busy Common Sandpipers were foraging on the damp sands, accompanied by Pied Wagtails and some juvenile Black-headed Gulls. We next moved into the leftmost hide just as a flock of Curlews arrived onto the scrapes, displacing some irate Oystercatchers. We were briefly serenaded by a very loud Goldfinch from its perch high in the bushes behind the hide.

Grey Heron Lapwing
Common Sandpiper / Pied Wagtail Common Sanpiper / Juvenile Black Headed Gull
Curlew Goldfinch

I concluded our old scrapes visit with a nice shot of Canada Geese.

We returned to the car via the seawall adjacent to the scrapes. We were on the lookout for a single immature King Eider that had been seen there on the previous day. There were over a hundred eiders roosting close to the sea wall and despite our best efforts we couldn’t find the King Eider. To be fair, the vast majority of birds had the heads untended pn their wing as they snoozed. Most were drakes in eclipse plumage but I did snap one drake still bedecked in breeding plumage. I also got pictures of a low-flying Oystercatcher, a fishing Shag and a couple of Cormorants. By the path to the car, John found a Buff-tailed Bumblebee on Common Ragwort and I noticed a flowering Wild Carrot, easily identified by the purple spot in the middle of the flowerhead. As we sat by the car preparing for tea and strawberry tarts, John noticed two Pill Woodlouse scuffling out from beneath the car. A nice way to complete the visit.

Eider Oystercatcher
Shag Cormorant
Buff-tailed Bumblebee
Wild Carrot Pill Woodlouse

Although the Sun had remained hidden behind clouds and the wind had been gusty throughout, we had not been rained upon and we had had plenty to see. The “new” scrapes were a highlight and we look forward to many return visits there. My favourite shots were of the Roe Deer, the Ladybirds and the serenading Goldfinch. Hopefully the weather will calm down for next week.

Week ending: 9th July 2023: Maidens
( Map)

Usually my choice of destination for our weekly nature-watching jaunt is decided mainly on where the best weather will be. This week however, with the whole of Central Scotland predicted to be treated to generous helpings of sunshine, I had a hankering to visit Maidens (Website), a very lovely former fishing village on the South Ayrshire Coast. We were last there in September 2022 so it was due a return visit. We dropped into Ayr Morrisons from the A77 for our customary breakfasts (8/10: very nice but -2 for a 20 min delay and overcooked black pudding).

Courtesy of Weather Pro  and BBC Tides

The tide was low and the sun was behind clouds when we parked at the Maidens harbour car park. We always like to start by observing the area around the spit of land between the harbour and the beach. On our way there, my wee LUMIX TZ70 camera got macro pictures of several small subjects. The first was some pretty Dovesfoot Cranesbill flowers at the car park. We followed this with a shot of a Soldier Beetle on Creeping Thistle. John then found a White-tailed Bumblebee also on Creeping Thistle. I completed the quartet with a pollen-covered Carder Bee  on Spear Thistle.

Dovesfoot Cranesbill  Red Soldier Beetle
White-tailed Bumblebee Common Carder Bee

We sat for a time scanning the harbour shallows for waders. The first birds to show there, however, were a couple of Goldfinches, an adult and juvenile, searching the seaweed piles for invertebrates. I could hear the calls of other birds which I suspected were waders. Sure enough, a Dunlin emerged from a sandy channel on the harbour, followed by a couple of Ringed Plovers.

Goldfinch Juvenile Goldfinch
Dunlin Ringed Plover

The bird count continued to rise with the arrival of some Oystercatchers and a solitary Curlew. As I was photographing these, John noticed that we were being watched by a juvenile Rock Pipit perched on a rock only a few metres from us. Eventually it was joined by an adult.

Oystercatcher Curlew
Juvenile Rock Pipit Rock Pipit

The majority of birds in and around the harbour were gulls: Black-headed, Common and Herring Gulls. I also saw a Great Black-backed Gull on rocks beyond the mouth of the harbour.

Black-headed Gull Common Gull
Herring Gull Great Black-backed Gull

 A call of, “Incoming!” from John alerted me to a pair of Redshanks that flew past us as we stood at the water’s edge on the beach.

Also on the rocks with the Great Black-back were a few Shags drying their wings between fishing dives. At the opposite side of the harbour mouth I saw a young Carrion Crow, searching the rocks for shellfish. Meanwhile, John was looking in the opposite direction to a Red-breasted Merganser that was standing on an exposed rock just out from the beach. By its plumage I could see it was an eclipse male. We retraced our steps back towards the car and en route we were pleased to see a male Linnet standing on a low rock. A pair of Mallards flying towards us from the beach area caught John’s attention and once again he issued the same alert. I managed a decent enough picture of the drake, which was in eclipse plumage. A female House Sparrow was our last shot before leaving the spit of land on our way to explore surrounds of the harbour quay.

Shag Juvenile Carrion Crow
Male Red Breasted Marganser in Eclipse Plumage Linnet
Drake Mallard In Eclipse Plumage Female House Sparrow

The first birds we noticed when we began walking along the harbour quay was a pair of Mute Swans that were paddling between moored boats. These were very easy to photograph. The same can’t be said of the dozen or so Sand Martins that were darting randomly over the water and boats catching flies. I attempted lots of pictures and luckily a few were OK. As we watched a solitary paddle-boarder enter, then leave the harbour, we were thinking that he was not good for wildlife in the vicinity of the harbour and beach. However he didn’t seem to bother the Cormorant that appeared below us with a fish (swallowed before I could get a shot, sadly) and then waddled ashore to dry its wings.

Mute Swan Sand Martin

We moved onto a narrow breakwater, shown below, to do a bit of sea watching.

In the time we were on the breakwater we saw a few very distant Gannets (too far off for pictures) and the “usual” fly-pasts - Curlew, Black-headed and Herring Gulls and another Cormorant. But that was all.

Curlew Black-headed Gull
Herring Gull Cormorant

The picture below is a hazy view of the famous Ailsa Craig - a sign of rain moving up from the south.

On our walk back to the car John spotted a family of House Sparrows having sand baths on the edge of a grass-covered sand dune. I was attracted to apples growing on a tree in a garden beside the dune. We parked ourselves at the edge of the harbour basin, watching for Sandwich Terns and Wagtails we’d heard earlier. They didn’t show but we were delighted when a pair of Collared Doves  settled about 10m away from where we were sitting. I then photographed an attractive group of yellow Catsear flowers.

House Sparrow
Collard Dove Catsear

We heard a Greenfinch calling from a large patch of Beach Rose bushes by the shore, so we walked over to investigate. While we tried to locate the finch I came across some interesting insects: Marmalade and Migrant hoverfies on Sea Mayweed, a few 7-spot Ladybirds on Creeping Thistles and a busy Red-tailed Bumblebee on yellow Sea Radish flowers. And as we were homing in on the Greenfinch I snapped yet another female House Sparrow that was watching us carefully. I at last found the Greenfinch when I went to the other side of the large group of Rose bushes.

Marmalade Hoverfly Migrant Hoverfly
7 Spot Ladybird Red-tailed Bumblebee
Female House Sparrow Greenfinch

We had read a report on Twitter of sightings of Black Guillemots, Manx Shearwaters and Whimbrels along the coast at Turnberry Lighthouse but after such a productive afternoon at Maidens we decided to give Turnberry a miss. We settled for two cups of tea accompanied by two strawberry tarts. My favourite pictures of the visit were of the waders, Sand Martins and Collared Doves. The weather was kind to us, only raining as we had our tea in the car before driving home. It had been another very enjoyable trip. Hopefully next week’s trip will be just as satisfying.

Week ending: 2nd July 2023: Torness and Belhaven

John and I were on the road again this Sunday after my short holiday. With sharp showers pounding the west half of Central Scotland, I opted to visit Torness, far in the east. We popped into Dalkeith Morrisons, as usual, and enjoyed another 10/10 breakfast.

Courtesy of Weather Pro  and BBC Tides

It was sunny when we set off for the concrete walkway that runs along the coast at Torness nuclear power station, but it was obvious that the very blustery wind was going to have an influence on our nature-watching activities. We were largely sheltered from the wind by the high walls of the walkway, as were the very many low-flying Sand Martins that were feeding off flies that were also gathered there. A couple of Pied Wagtails were also hunting flies. John spotted a 6-spotted Burnet moth that was having great difficulty flying over the walk due to the incessant wind. John also found a Meadow Brown butterfly with the same problem.

Sand Martin Pied Wagtail
6 Spotted Burnet Moth Meadow Brown Butterfly

The sea was very choppy due to the gusty wind so there were fewer flypasts that normal. After a patient wait we did see a Gannet, a Cormorant, a female Goosander and, of course, a ubiquitous Herring Gull.

Gannet Cormorant
Female Goosander Herring Gull

Below is the view of Barns Ness Lighthouse and the Bass Rock as seen from the concrete walkway.

Slightly  disappointed with our with our meagre sightings, we decided to set off back to the car. At the high wall, John spotted some red Mites scurrying along the concrete, probably Trombidium holosericeum. Also on the walls were a White-lipped Snail and a wandering Ant, probably Formica lemani,. We climbed the steps that lead to the upper walkway, which is designed for use in stormy conditions that would render the lower walkway impassable. As we progressed along the upper walkway we were delighted to see a Skylark standing in front of us, holding an invertebrate in its beak.

Trombidium  Holosericeum White-lipped Snail
Formica Lemani Skylark

Such was the dearth of birds over the water we were very pleased and perhaps relieved to hear the very familiar sound of approaching Oystercatchers. One or two of them settled on the coastal defence blocks, which gave me the opportunity to photograph them. I noticed that the Sand Martins were still dashing along the length of the walkway and even more were doing their stuff over the grassland at the fringes of the Power station surrounds. As we reached the end of the upper walkway we could see a gathering of Black-headed Gulls feeding on the rocky shallows at the northern end of Thorntonloch Beach.

Sand Martin Black-headed Gull

We saw some pretty wildflowers growing on the south side of the upper walkway, such as the Common Mallow, which is pretty common. Not nearly as common is Chicory, a rather woody member of the Daisy family. In the past, eg WWII, its roots were roasted and used as a coffee substitute. I was quite surprised to find Teasel in such an exposed site, as they are tall (up to 2m). They are often dried and used as indoor decoration. As we left the concrete walkway I came across a grassy patch of mature flowers of Bladder Campion.

Common Mallow Chicory
Teasel Bladder Campion

There was a nice surprise just as we reached the car. A beautiful Goldfinch was twittering away from the top of a Hawthorn tree. I left the car park and took a slight detour along a side road towards Skateraw in order to check for anything of interest. A juvenile Pied Wagtail was wandering across the road and, on seeing the car, nipped up a field entrance. I stopped the car and grabbed my camera and rattled off a couple of shots of it as it disappeared into the field. On examining the pictures John and I were flabbergasted to see that there was a photobombing Yellow Wagtail  just behind the Pied Wagtail. We hung about for a few minutes but sadly the Yellow Wagtail didn’t reappear.

Juvenile Pied Wagtail Yellow Wagtail

We relocated to the Shore Road car park in Belhaven. We were disappointed to find that the tide was high and there were very few birds on the Inner Bay. The gusty wind had done us again. However, all was not lost. We walked to the Seafield Pond to try our luck there. Below is the view from the Inner Bay sea wall of the “bridge to nowhere“ (It’s not really, since it enables people to get over the burn that remains when tidal waters have receded at low tide).

The pond was quiet also. There were plenty of Mallards with most drakes showing eclipse plumage. One pair decided to check us out for food. The female was fairly vocal but we had nothing for them.

Female Mallard... Mallard Eclipse Plumage...

Passing dog walkers caused most of the Mallards to take flight.

There were at least three Grey Herons in trees but they were partly hidden or tucked up sleeping or preening. The only other birds we saw were fleeting views of very distant Moorhens, a fairly close pair of Coots and a Carrion Crow. I did notice though, as did John, that the short grass was covered in White Clover flowers which were attracting lots of bees, mainly White-tailed Bumblebees with a few Red-tailed Bumblebees.

Coot Carrion Crow
White-tailed Bumblebee Red-tailed Bumblebee

 On our way back to the car I found a large patch of Field Bindweed. I also noticed some aptly named Large Bindweed, each flower being about three times the size of the Field Bindweed. There was also Common Mallow by the sea wall. John pointed out a few 7-spotted Ladybirds amongst the bindweed and as I photographed some of them I noticed a Buff-tailed Bumblebee on a Spear Thistle.

Field Bindweed...
Large Bindweed Common Mallow
7 Spot Ladybird Buff-tailed Bumblebee

 We started the visit disappointed by the lack of birds to photograph. Having said that I must observe that we photographed 15 bird species, 9 invertebrate species and 7 flower species - an eclectic set (as John might say) acquired in tricky conditions. My personal highlights were the surprise Yellow Wagtail, the trio of bumblebees and all the lovely flowers. Tea and strawberry tarts were consumed with a sense of satisfaction. Here’s hoping we are as satisfied next week.


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









Back To Top