Archive - July 2020

26th July:  TroonIrvine Harbour

After a couple of weekend jaunts to the east of the country I thought it would be great to visit the west this week. Troon and Irvine have been happy hunting grounds for us in the past. Our last visit was in March, so a return was long overdue. On an arriving at Troon and alighting at the Harbour Road car park, a big Great Black-backed Gull soared overhead, followed seconds later by a fly-past of a Shag. “Nice start”, I thought, and proceeded along the sands of the rocky point to look for waders. I didn’t see any, bit I did find that the tall, shadowed harbour walls were home to a Shag colony where I could just see adults with their young. The rocky shore was very quiet though, only a young Herring Gull stood out.

Great Black-backed Gull Shag
Juvenile Shag 1st Cycle Herring Gull

I snapped a few rain-dampened wild flowers during my return to the car: Silverweed  clinging to the sea wall, a patch of Scentless Mayweed, Pencilled Cranesbill and, at the edge of the car park, one of the many large, thriving clumps of Common Ragwort.

Silverweed Scentless Mayweed
Pencilled Cranesbill Common Ragwort

Slightly disappointed by the dearth of birds at the Harbour, I thought it might be better to relocated to the Titchfield Road car park. I planned to walk past the Town Hall and along the South Beach to the golf course, but sadly there was a para surfing event underway on the South Beach. Also, the promenade and sea shore along to the Town Hall were stacked with day trippers.

I decided to go as far as the Town Hall and was delighted to come across a small, people-free area of seaweed-enriched beach where a few birds were able to feed relatively free of disturbance. I managed half-decent shots of a Rock Pipit and a couple of Wagtails, one Pied and the other Grey, as they foraged just below the sea wall. I also spotted a few summer plumage Turnstones on rocks near the shore.

Rock Pipit Pied Wagtail
Grey Wagtail Summer plumage Turnstone

Near the Town Hall I caught sight of a sunlit Jackdaw on the shore near the sea wall. A Rook was hanging around some prom benches tidying up discarded rubbish. On my way back to the car I came across another corvid, a juvenile Carrion Crow searching for food on a grassy patch. The crowds were becoming unacceptably dense so I ended my search and returned to the car. My final shot in Troon was, taken at the sea wall, of an Oystercatcher feeding around the rock pools.

Jackdaw Rook
Juvenile Carrion Crow Oystercatcher

I travelled the few miles north along the A75 to Irvine Harbour. The weather was now very sunny but a little breezy. I stood for a while on the promenade opposite the confluence of the Garnock and Irvine rivers. Below is the view downstream towards the harbour mouth. Notice the Bridge of Scottish Invention.

Straight away I captured a pleasing image of a Cormorant  as it dashed along the River Irvine. This was followed by a nice portrait of a Herring Gull nestling on the grass surrounding the parking area. A flock of Mute Swans were feeding in the Garnock just before it reached the Irvine, and on a sandy shore opposite the swans a few adult and juvenile Sandwich Terns  has just flown in.

Cormorant Herring Gull
Mute Swans Sandwich Terns

As I photographed the Terns, a Great Black-backed Gull flew in and perched on a post by the Swans. It held the same pose for the half hour I was observing there and I’d conclude it was having a snooze. Then, as I photographed a few female and juvenile Eiders paddling upstream from the harbour mouth, a Jackdaw came into view below my feet, by the river, on a bed of seaweed. It was very strongly lit by the sun and was probably after invertebrates breeding in the weed. Soon afterwards a juvenile Herring Gull landed at the other side of the prom railings, flapped a few times and flew off again .

Great Black-backed Gull Eider
Jackdaw 1st Cycle Herring Gull

The photo below shows some of the swans moving in line onto the Irvine from their feeding positions on the Garnock.

As I walked past the Bridge of Scottish invention towards the harbour mouth, I was pleased to catch a Black-headed Gull as it flew down stream. Two birds perching on metal pillars midstream on the river. On one was a preening Cormorant and on the other a Shag was having a nap. My last shot of the day was of a charming Mute Swan dabbling at the side of the river by the old Harbour Pilot building.

Black-headed Gull Cormorant
Shag Mute Swan

It had been an enjoyable, if unremarkable, outing. I am pleased with the haul of pictures. I did notice a few places were much quieter than in the past, eg Troon Harbour. I wonder if the birds have disappeared due to the lockdown keeping chip-eating and, chip-casting, humans from the areas. The cars have now returned, but the birds have not.

19th July 2020:  Musselburgh Port Seton

On Sunday I made a long-awaited return to an old favourite site of ours, Musselburgh. I would have visited last week, but the tide would have been too low. This week it was just right. When I arrived at the Levenhall Links  car park I was greeted by some Carrion Crows and my short walk to the sea wall produced a sun-bathing Small Tortoiseshell butterfly. On the shore were a few Goosanders and, about 50m offshore, a very large flock of Eider were floating, moulting. I started my long track towards the mouth of the River Esk. Soon I was pleased to see some nervous, twittering Goldfinches on Creeping Thistle.

Carrion Crow Small Tortoiseshell
Female Goosander Goldfinch

A couple of hundred metres from the sea wall, Gannets  were diving, but a lot closer were Sandwich Terns  passing every few minutes. Their creeking calls forewarned of their approach but I was a bit dismayed that they didn’t dive for fish. Large numbers of Curlew and Oystercatchers were arriving at the Scrapes, a sure sign that the tide was coming in.

Gannet Sandwich Tern
Curlew Oystercatcher

I mis-timed my visit by an hour though, because when I arrived at the Esk mouth the waters were almost fully covering the inshore areas. Normally there would still be a few waders to photograph but there were families visiting the seaside, clambering about where the birds would have been. However I did get a couple of nice shots: a passing Cormorant and a Red-tailed Bumblebee on Coltsfoot. On my way back along the sea wall I noticed a family of Eider diving close in. There was an eclipse drake nearby but I’m not sure if he was with them.

Cormorant Red-tailed Bumblebee
Juvenile Eider Male Eider, Eclipse Plumage 

At the Scrapes the scene was unexpected. The grass across the reserve was wild and uncut - a much better-looking nature reserve and made me wonder why it had been cut pre-lockdown, as surely a meadow would be ecologically more sound - and would discourage the wayward dog walkers that often find their way onto the reserve.

A Carrion Crow was picking its way through the long grass in front of the hide. On the shallow water an eclipse female Shelduck was dabbling. A small number of summer plumage Black-tailed Godwits flew in and settled on the west-most scrape, followed by a Dunlin flock.

Carrion crow Shelduck in Eclipse Plumage
Black-tailed Godwit Dunlin

On my way back to the car I came across an Earwig beside a crack in the sea wall. Nearby I noticed a 7-spot Ladybird clinging to a Creeping Thistle. As I rounded the east perimeter of the reserve White Campion flowers caught my eye, as did a Speckled Wood  butterfly that was resting on a leaf on path-side grass.

Common Earwig 7-Spot Ladybird
White Campion Speckled Wood

I decided to move to Port Seton to watch the rising tide at the rocks of Wrecked Craigs. Quite often there the rising waters encourage birds closer to the shore. When I arrived this process was already starting. On the far rocks Cormorants were resisting a lashing from the choppy waters. Sandwich Terns started to arrive from the east to settle on rocks not far from the Cormorants. The smaller birds such as Dunlin had had enough though. I watched a fairly large flock relocating to quieter rocks nearer the shore. As I watched the departing Dunlin, a Pied Wagtail flew in below my radar to see what he could find on the rocks.

Cormorant Departing Dunlin
Sandwich Tern Pied Wagtail

The various gulls were also very active: Black-headed, Common, Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gulls roamed the scene without much effort and seemed to be thriving in the changeable conditions.

Black-headed Gull 2nd Cycle Common Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull Herring Gull

But most interesting were the Sandwich Terns with their juveniles. I watched for an hour as they gradually and cautiously moved to rocks closer to the promenade. I noticed a few incoming Terns had fish in their beaks. However I didn’t see any of these passed to waiting juveniles.

Sandwich Terns

It had been a successful return to our old haunts, albeit without my trusty companion. However the way things seem to be going, surely it shouldn’t be too long before the status quote is re-established.

12th July 2020
:  Barns Ness, Belhaven Bay

With good weather forecast for Sunday, I ventured out on my first non-local Sunday outing. I decided on Barns Ness on the Lothian coast. In the early hours of Sunday I took advantage of a cloudless sky by taking a picture of Comet Neowise, the first naked-eye comet for many years. So with that success in the bag I was looking forward to an equally successful afternoon at Barns Ness. I started at the old caravan park which is now overgrown with some lovely wildflowers such as Vipers Bugloss and some flowers I suspected were part of an old garden, English Stonecrop and Lady’s Mantle.

Comet Neowise White-tailed Bumblebee
English Stonecrop Lady's Mantle

As I made my way through the back of the old caravan park I got some nice views of the lighthouse, now a holiday home. In the long grass there were many Small Heath butterflies flitting nervously and also many 6-spot Burnet Moths  feeding on Creeping Thistles. I also came across a Small Skipper  butterfly feeding on Common Ragwort.

Barns Ness lighthouse Small Heath
6-spot Burnet Moth Small Skipper

I photographed Common Mallow and Red Poppies growing on the perimeter of the farmed fields to the south of the Ness. I also snapped some shots of a pair of Carrion Crows that were resting on the field wall, and also a calling Yellowhammer .

Common Mallow Red poppy
Carrion Crow Yellowhammer

As I crossed the sheep’s field on my way to the seashore, I noticed many Meadow Brown and Ringlet butterflies. The two species don’t quite seem to get on, as I saw several pairs engaged in frantic “dog-fights”. The many Ragwort plants in the field were occupied by orange and blackstriped Cinnabar Moth  caterpillars. I also photographed a Red-tailed Bumblebee on one Ragwort plant.

Meadow Brown Ringlet
Cinnabar Moth Caterpillars Red-tailed Bumblebee

The seashore was a major disappointment. The tide was low, so the water, and birds were a few hundred rocky metres away. I took consolation in photographing more wildflowers. Lovely violet Harebells nodding in the breeze, and a flower of the hybrid of Red and White Campion. At the lighthouse, a worse-for-wear Painted Lady fluttered onto a rock looking like it had just arrived from the Sahara. I did though find a bird on the sea shore, a Rock Pipit. It was foraging for insects. I wondered if it had a taste for Painted Ladys.

Harebell Red and White Campion Hybrid
Painted Lady Rock Pipit

To add to my haul of pictures I decided to drive through Dunbar to Belhaven Bay. From the single track road, on my way out of Barns Ness I was delighted to see some Barn Swallows  resting on the wire fence. At Belhaven it was nice to see a couple of sea birds, Black-headed and Herring Gulls. Yes, I know they’re very common, but I hadn’t seen many during the lockdown, and I felt it was a bit of a minor reunion. I heard a Reed Bunting calling from within a bank of  reeds at the edge of Seafield Pond. Eventually, with a combination of careful manoeuvring and a helpful breeze, I managed to capture an image of the bird.

Barn Swallow Black-headed Gull
Herring Gull Reed Bunting

On the south edge of the pond, a Moorhen chick caught my attention as it paddled alone across the water to its parent on raised ground. As I made my way back to the car I was pleased to see a Goldfinch on the sea wall. Another long lost friend.

 Moorhen Hatchling

I had a pleasing cup of tea and a Bounty at the car. It had been a brief but pleasing trip with several high points such as the many butterflies and burnet moths, the calling Yellowhammer and of course seeing my much-maligned friends, the gulls.

Week ending: 5th July 2020:  
Hogganfield Loch LNR Strathclyde Park

Due to inclement weather It was Thursday before I managed a nature-watching outing, with a circuit of Hogganfield Park LNR. There had been reports of a Red-necked Grebe  there, but try as I might, I couldn’t see it. I did though get nice shots of its cousin, the Little Grebe, diving on the east side of the loch. It got scared off by a rather aggressive Coot charging from the reeds. In a puddle under a tree I saw a very wet Bullfinch taking a bath and near there I came across a Willow Warbler catching flies along a long line of bushes.

Little Grebe Coot
Bullfinch Willow Warbler

The artificial islands to the east of the island are now bare of their vegetation due to perching and nesting birds. A pair of Coots with three chicks were almost ready to leave their nest, while “next door” a pair of Great Crested Grebes were taking turns sitting on their eggs.

Great Crested Grebe

The artificial islands  on the west side of the island have fared better. They have strong netting protecting the plants and also have an area on each island for birds to perch on. There are usually many birds around the artificial islands, a source of photo-opportunities. On Thursday I got decent shots of a Mute Swan, a Black-headed Gull in flight and a juvenile Moorhen trying to dodge the swans. I snapped a Magpie foraging on the bank before it made off into a tree.

Mute Swan Black-headed Gull
Juvenile Coot Magpie

I was pleased to see a mating pair of Common Blue Damselflies on lochside reeds. I was following the progress of a pair of Great Crested Grebes as they trailed their single and pleading chick behind them. I was after a shot of an adult feeding a fish to the chick, but it didn’t happen. Perhaps they couldn’t find a fish big enough to satisfy the big chick.

Common Blue Damselfly Juvenile Great Crested Grebe

Below is a view of the raft moored off the north west side of the loch. It was occupied mainly by Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a few Greylag Geese.

Just as I was making my way to the car I came across a large Brown Rat lurking in the lochside reeds near some Canada Geese  that had been attracted out of the water by people with bread.

Brown Rat Canada Geese

I returned home for a spot of lunch and afterwards set off on my second visit of the day, to Strathclyde Country Park where I walked around the Loch. On my circuit I photographed the various species of Geese I passed. The most predominant of these were Greylag Geese , of which there must have be several hundred. Amongst them noticed a Pink-footed Goose  that should have been back in Iceland with the rest of its flock. However, even further from its flock was a beautiful Bar-headed Goose. It was most likely to have been an escapee from a private collection since it is native to Central Asia.

Pink-footed Goose Greylag Goose
Bar-headed Goose

As I rounded the north end of the Loch I noted that the Spear Thistles were in bloom. I also spotted a Song Thrush gobbling berries in the tall bushes. There was a very pale brown Greylag that may have been a leucistic Greylag. Next to the Foreshore car park I noticed a white goose that I have previously identified as a domestic Embden Goose. However, on closer inspection of its plumage, I can see faint ochre markings on its sides that indicate that it may be a white morph Greylag , a hybrid of a wild and domestic goose. I’ll do some further research and report back if I have any luck.

Spear Thistle Song Thrush
Leucistic Greylag Goose Greylag White Morph. T.B.C.

Other notable sightings on my circuit of the loch were, a nice flight shot of a female Mallard, a tiny Toad in great danger of getting trampled on the very busy footpath, a beauty Buddleja  flower (but sadly no butterflies) and a diving Cormorant.

Female Mallard Common Toad
Buddleja  Cormorant

Disappointed to have missed the Red-necked Grebe I revisited Hogganfield on Friday. The weather was dreich though, but I did see the bird, distant, and in rather dim lighting, off the north side of the island. I also got a couple of nice shots of a Grey Heron and I watched a couple of Coots feeding their single young chick. I also managed a visit to Port Seton on the Lothian coast where I got a picture of a Rose-coloured Starling .

Red-necked Grebe Grey Heron
Coot Hatchling Rosy Starling

So despite the dodgy weather I managed to get a pleasing set of pictures, three of which are of new sightings for us, the Red-necked Grebe, the Bar-headed Goose and the Rose-coloured Starling. A good omen for the next period of relaxation of lockdown when we can travel further than 5 miles.

Highlights - July 2020

Below are some of my favourite pictures taken during July 2020 listed in loose themes. There’s no commentary. We hope you enjoy the photos.


Black-headed Gull Coot
Mallard Great Crested Grebe


Betony Meadow Cranesbill
Field Scabious Red Clover
Spear Thistle Perforate St John's Wort


Coot Female Mallard
Mute Swan Pink-footed Goose


6 Spot Burnet Moth Blue-tailed Damselfly
Common Blue Damselfly Common Soldier Beetle
Emerald Damselfly Green Leafhopper
Red-legged Shieldbug Sunfly


Green-veined White Meadow Brown
Red Admiral Ringlet


Black-headed Gull Coot
Gannet Mallard


Bar-headed Goose Leucistic Greylag Goose
White Morph Greylag Goose Pink-footed Goose


Black-tailed Godwit Cormorant
Dunlin Great Crested Grebe
Greylag Goose Red-necked Grebe

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