Archive - June 2019
 

30th June

Musselburgh and Port Seton

Showers and sunny intervals were expected throughout Central Scotland on Sunday, with the brightest spells in the East. Hence we found ourselves driving to Musselburgh, very familiar territory for us, with always with something of interest. So after a pit stop at Dalkeith Morrisons (7/10: poor egg and cool, tough bacon), we started off at the Millhill car park, overlooking an island on the River Esk. It is a popular spot for people to stop and feed the birds. However, there were small notices on lampposts warning them against this, citing a long list of bad consequences for the birds should they be fed bread. As I photographed a Lesser Blackbacked Gull I thought it looked a bit forlorn, or maybe that was just my imagination. A 2nd-year Herring Gull, with obvious patches of adult plumage, stood awaiting any pedestrian brave enough to ignore the notices, while on the water first year Lesser Black-backed Gulls paddled nervously. A mother Mallard guided her ducklings towards the slipway, perhaps hoping there were easy pickings there (also see, “Pictures of the Week”, below).

Lesser Black-backed Gull 2nd Cycle Herring Gull 1st Cycle Lesser Black-backed Gull Female Mallard





We next strolled upstream seeking a sighting of a Dipper. Alas we didn’t see one, but we were pleased to see some Canada Geese in the distance by the Old Bridge. On our way down to check them out we passed some Jackdaws scouring the grass for invertebrates. At the bridge I noticed a White Wagtail with a mouthful of invertebrates. It couId be an immature male Pied Wagtail  though. It flew off over the Canada Geese. John pointed out that there were two broods of goslings, obviously, from their sizes, of different ages.

Jackdaw White / Pied Wagtail Canada Geese Goslings Canada Goose





On the river island was a Giant Hogweed  plant that was over 4 metres high. It has been called the UK’s most dangerous plants as it can cause life-threatening burns if handled.  A Moorhen was scurrying around its base. We decided to travel to the mouth of the Esk, parking at the Cadet Hall. The tide was high so most of the birds we’d expected to see had flown. We did see Goosanders and Eider. I managed a nice shot of a female Eider making short work of a crab (see, “Pictures of the Week”, below). John drew my attention to a hybrid goose travelling down the river, a cross of Canada and Greylag Geese.

Giant Hogweed Moorhen Female Goosander Canada/Greylag Hybrid





Across the mouth of the River were over twenty Mute Swans holding their positions but not seeming to do much else.



We returned to the car and I drove to the Levenhall Links car park. We walked across the mown fields towards the Nature Reserve. In the verges of long grass there were attractive outcrops of Pineapple Mayweed . It is a non-native plant, an escape from Kew Gardens in London. It is a favourite of foragers and it has been used for medicinal purposes. Many tiny yellow “pompoms” of Black Medick, another wildflower used in herbal medicine , was by the pathside. At first I thought it was Hop Trefoil, but the tell-tale details were the tiny notches on the top edges of each leaflet. The larger “pom-poms “ of White Clover were more plentiful though. A striking black moth with bright red markings, the 6-spot Burnet  flew past us and onto a Creeping Thistle.

Pineapple Mayweed Black Medic White Clover 6-Spot Burnet





When we entered the Reserve we immediately noticed a pair of butterflies. One was a Painted Lady, a far-travelled visitor. The other  was a Speckled Wood , a more homeloving species. I also got a picture of another migrant, a Red Admiral  on a Bramble flower (see, “Pictures of the Week”, below). Also around the paths outside the hides I discovered two species of Woundwort, so named due to their effectiveness in treating wounds. The first was Hedge Woundwort  whose spike blooms are red and more spaced out compared to the other, Marsh Woundwort, which has pinkish flowers.

Painted Lady Speckled Wood Hedge Woundwort Marsh Woundwort





John pointed out a Ladybird on the Woundwort and then, a new sighting for us, a Sawfly with a bright orange band on its abdomen, aglaostigma aucupariae. From the east-most hide we could see a large collection of hundreds of birds, mainly oystercatchers, curlew, and various gulls. According to one birder there had been a dog walker on the Reserve, apparently unaware that her or her dog were not welcome there. She had put up the birds who had then settled on the east scrape. A Curlew made a sudden landing amongst some Black-tailed Godwits.

7 Spot Ladybird Sawfly-aglaostigma_aucupariae Curlew Black-tailed Godwit





A solitary Sandwich Tern croaked its disapproval as Black-headed Gulls pestered it as it fed. We searched unsuccessfully for the reported Little Gull. With so many gulls in a such a small area, it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. As we left the hides a small flock of Long-tailed Tits passed across the bushes above us, tweet-tweeting as the went. At the entrance of the Reserve I noticed some Hairy Tare at the edges of patches of long grass.

Sandwich Tern 1st Cycle Black-headed Gull Long-tailed Tit Hairy Tare





We made our final relocation the day to Port Seton knowing that the incoming tide would have been covering the rocks, encouraging birds to move inshore. When we got there, the whole expanse of rocks was hosting over a hundred moulting Eider drakes. There were also Cormorants on the more distant rocks. A Rock Pipit landed on the sandy shore below the Promenade. Occasionally a few Common Terns passed beyond the Eider flock, sometimes diving for fish. One pair of Common Terns (see, “Pictures of the Week”, below) landed on rocks about 30m in front of us, allowing some welcome photo-opportunities.

Eclipse Eider Duck Cormorant Rock Pipit Common Tern




We ended the trip in our usual fashion, with tea and pastries - delicious strawberry cream tarts. The weather had been kind to us with plenty of sunshine and only one three-minute light shower at the Scrapes. We’ve captured photos of a pleasing variety of sightings, my favourites being the Butterflies and Moths, and of course, the Common Terns.

Pictures of the Week:

Eider Duckling Female Eider


Red Admiral Common Tern




June 23rd:

Inner Tyninghame Bay

From the moment I read on Twitter, “5 Spoonbills  in Inner Tyninghame Bay” there wasn’t much doubt where we were going on Sunday. Even with brighter weather predicted for the southwest, we couldn’t let the opportunity slip of seeing birds that were rarely seen north of the border. So after a stop for breakfast at Dalkeith Morrisons (9.5/10: excellent) we hastily drove out to the Dunbar area, high in expectation of bagging some nice Spoonbill shots. It was fairly dull weather to start with, but by early afternoon it was wall-to-wall sunshine. We parked at the start of Ware Road, a farm track that leads to the west end of the Inner Bay. Our first picture taken was of a male Chaffinch lurking in the hedgerows. We ambled along the road enjoying the rare warm air and sunshine, surrounded by fields of barley on one side and potatoes on the other. I recognised the call of a Reed Bunting and, after a short search, I located it atop of a hedge. In the grassy verges bees were busy amongst the many wildflowers. I photographed a Buff-tailed Bumblebee feeding on an umbel of Hogweed.

Chaffinch Potato Flower Reed Bunting Buff-tailed Bumblebee





I photographed the hoverfly, Syrphus ribesii, on a lovely Wild Rose flower. The hoverfly is also known as the “Humming Syrphus” or “Common Banded Hoverfly”  (see “Pictures of the Week”, below). On the same flower I also snapped a fine Honey Bee . It seemed too absorbed in its work to mind a camera lens bearing down above it. Ahead of us a Yellowhammer was taking a dirt-bath. We did hear the 'a-little-bit-of-bread-with-no-cheeeeeese' calls of Yellowhammers as we moved along the road but unfortunately didn’t get a better shot as they were hiding under blankets of leaves. I continued to scan the wildflowers as we went. I was impressed with the patches of violet-coloured Tufted Vetch  and long stretches of Green Alkanet  with their small blue flowers nestling  between broad lanceolate green leaves.

Honey Bee Yellowhammer Tufted Vetch Green Alkanet





Another flower of the countryside present on the field edges was Meadow Vetchling . It is a climbing plant with tendrils and has a yellow flower head at the end of a long stem. A Whitethroat dashed across the road and onto a nearby fence post. I took several shots of it as I moved ever closer before it ultimately flew away. Next a Speckled Wood butterfly glided above the path before settling on a Gorse Bush. Eventually we reach the Bay and moved through bushes of Gorse and Broom  where I snapped shot of a very attractive Broom flower (see “Pictures of the Week”, below), and also captured a back-lit seed pods on the same bush. Gorse and Broom look similar as they are close relatives, but Gorse has thorns and Broom does not.

Meadow Vetchling Whitethroat Speckled Wood Broom





The view of the Bay, though spectacular, was down-heartening. Several hundreds of metres away, in the middle of the sands exposed by the receding tide waters, there were many birds gathered on the meandering River Tyne, and within this group were the Spoonbills. We were, of course, pleased to see them, but they were too far away for decent pictures.



The Spoonbills were moving southwards down the Tyne searching for invertebrates and small fish. It made sense then, for us to move to the south shore of the Inner Bay, where we might get a closer view. Four Curlews flew past as we set off. I noticed some Lesser Stitchwort peeking through the long grass by the footpath. We moved past huge concrete cubes, part of the WW2 coastal defences  and now overgrown with wild plants. I spotted some Biting Stonecrop on one block. As we moved, we kept track of the Spoonbills. They were indeed coming closer. A pair of Mute Swans flew along the river channel. I snapped them as they past over the Spoonbills.

Curlew Lesser Stitchwort Biting Stonecrop Mute Swan





We positioned ourselves by the River Tyne at its closest point to the shore, hoping the Spoonbills would pass us. Eventually they did. Soon we were watching then from about 40m away. We wondered if they were all mature birds. Juveniles’ bills are black and don’t have the yellow colouring of the adult birds. Using that indicator, we could see there were no juveniles. We did catch a shot of a pair of the birds with a small flat fish (see “Pictures of the Week”, below).

Spoon bills




We watched the birds pass as they continued their journey down the river as it wound its way towards the Firth. It was a delightful experience, helped no end by the very nice summer weather. John directed my attention to a Little Egret  in the distance flying across the Bay. Fairly chuffed that we’d, for once, achieved our objective of seeing Spoonbills, we started our return journey to the car. The Stinging Nettles were in flower, as were patches of Yarrow. We noticed that now the Sun was shining in a clear blue sky, far more insects were evident on the wildflowers we had passed earlier. A Small Copper  butterfly landed just a footstep in front of me on a Meadow Buttercup. It looked a bit worse for wear. I also caught a Buff-tailed Bee on White Clover (see “Pictures of the Week”, below).

Little Egret Stinging Nettle Yarrow Small Copper





A large Mute Swan swam down the River, away from the Spoonbills. They did not seem to mind each other as they passed. A pair of twittering Goldfinches flew onto branches of Broom and stayed there long enough for a quick shot. On the water’s edge a wee male Pied Wagtail also gave a few tweets before foraging the damp sand and rocks for tasty morsels. We were pleased to come across some Common Blue Damselflies  hovering over the footpath before they rested on blades of grass.

Mute Swan Goldfinch Pied Wagtail Common Blue Damselfly





We returned down Ware Road, past a Spear Thistle just ready to bloom. And in the edges of the fields of barley a few Large White  butterflies were fluttering from flower to flower sampling the nectar. There were many Scentless Mayweed, members of the Daisy family, in the relatively bare field edges. The final shot of the trip was of an evasive Great Tit, possibly, from its dull colouring,  a juvenile, peeking out from the hedgerow.

Spear Thistle Large White Butterfly Scentless Mayweed Great Tit





We certainly enjoyed our tea this week. The iced cinnamon Danish pastries went down with a great deal of satisfaction as the visit had been fairly triumphant. Not only had we got many pictures of the Spoonbills but we’d seen a rich variety of flowers, insects and birds. And, by law of averages, it had to happen, the weather was great!

Pictures of the Week:

Syrphus Ribesii Broom


Spoonbill Buff-tailed Bumblebee



16th June 

Seafield Pond and Dunbar Harbour

The brightest and shower-less weather in Central Scotland was predicted for the east, so I opted for the Dunbar area. Seafield Pond is a pretty location set beside a quiet Holiday Park and overlooking Belhaven Bay, it is home to many birds which made it a suitable choice of venue on Sunday. It is the site of a vast clay pit used by the 19th century Seafield Brick and Tileworks . Our breakfasts in Dalkeith Morrisons were excellent (9.5/10) which set us up for day of exploration and discovery. On the short walk from the car park to the Pond we passed some very active House Sparrows, busy feeding their fledglings. One particular wee cock Sparrow was caught obviously taking his Fathers’ Day duties very seriously (see “Pictures of the Week”, below). At the Pond I snapped a Sedge Warbler similarly occupied in the tall reeds, beak stuffed with Damselfly (see below also). A busy, disheveled Blue Tit made repeated trips between the reeds and nearby bushes as it fed its brood. Less frantic parenting was going on at the pondside where a pair of Mute Swans guarded their large family of cygnets.

House Sparrow Sedge Warbler Blue Tit Mute Swan





A strangely attractive female Mallard caught our attention as it dabbled in the shallow water. A fine-looking drake Mallard posed on the grass before high-tailing it into the water, evading the threat posed by a passing dog. I noticed a solitary Wigeon asleep on the island, surrounded by Mallards. It seemed that all the reed beds around the Pond had Sedge Warblers  darting through them, each clutching invertebrates in their beaks, some, I would presume, anxiously searching for their fledglings.

Female Mallard Mallard Drake Wigeon Sedge Warbler





A bold Reed Bunting assumed his stance on a tall twig, only to be chased by a Sedge Warbler soon after. I noticed a sculpture  at the back of the pond. It depicted a naked man with a fish on his head. As I scanned the sky following how the sun might break through the clouds, I noticed a halo around the sun. This was caused by ice crystals  high in the atmosphere  The familiar call of the Chiffchaff emanated from the top of high trees on the east boundary of the park. I managed a recognisable shot despite the light being poor on the silhouetted bird.

Reed Bunting Scultpure Ice Crystals Chiffchaff





A Rabbit  bolted out from under a bush and legged it over to the wood on the other side of the park. The Normans brought over Rabbits from France in the 12th century. These were kept for their meat but escaped animals have thrived in the wild until present day. A bird then appeared on the reeds. As we left the Pond area I got a photographs of a ragged-looking Sedge Warbler and a Jackdaw foraging in the short grass.

Rabbit Sedge Warbler Jackdaw




We made the short drive along Back Road into Dunbar and down to the historic Victoria Harbour. As we parked we could hear the loud and persistent calls of the very many Kittiwakes (named after their calls). Most of the birds were nesting on or around the the ruin of Dunbar Castle. As we watched birds were continually arriving (see “Pictures of the Week”, below), delivering their food to young birds and then flying off again to repeat the exercise. The passing of food between birds was a bit of a performance as the young bird loudly demanded the payload be delivered as it rubbed its bill over its parent’s. On the Harbour-master’s roof, a Rock Pipit landed  and looked over to me as if I was impeding it’s progress. I took it picture and moved away. The next bird I thought worthy of  a photo was a young Great Black-backed Gull perched on one of the fishing boats that were moored on the harbour.

Kitti wakes Rock Pipit 1st Cycle Great Black-backed Gull





Outside the Battery  I snapped a strikingly beautiful Poppy plant (see also “Pictures of the Week”, below). A male Pied Wagtail tweeted its presence onto the scene, although it didn’t hang about, being scared off by some noisy humans. Inside the Battery area there is a Coastal Garden  - well kinda. It is a rectangle of clean pebbles into which some wild species of flowers have been neatly inserted. I was pleased to see a Painted Lady,  the far-travelled butterfly, finding some of the plants worthy of inspection. Most of the plants on show weren’t native to the UK but I was particularly attracted to the Sea Holly, but on researching it, it seems to be  an Alpine species, whose natural habitat is in a mountain environment, i.e. it isn’t a coastal plant.

Opium Poppy Pied Wagtail Painted Lady Alpine Sea Holly





Looking over the tall breakwater wall at the north side of the Harbour we could view the Gripes and Castle Rock, more nesting areas of Shag, Herring Gulls and Kittiwakes. We were impressed with the fluffy grey Herring Gull chicks. John spotted the head of a Grey Seal bobbing in water. It was only visible for a minute before diving off out of sight.

Shag Herring Gull Chick Herring Gulls Grey Seal





John directed my attention to a nesting Shag where the chick had appeared beside its parent. It certainly won’t win any bonny baby competitions, but I’m sure its mummy loves it. I caught some shots of an incoming Shag that didn’t feed any other bird when it landed. We returned to the car, retracing our path around the Harbour. I saw another immature Great Black-backed Gull, this time a third year bird, with adult plumage just beginning to form. At the car, a pair of juvenile House Sparrows explored the dusty terrain while the adults had dust baths  which helps them keep their plumages healthy.

Shag Shag 3rd Cycle Great Black-backed Gull Juvenile House Sparrow 





After the dearth of birds last week at JMCP, our bird count at Dunbar and Seafield Pond was certainly greater, and we had much better light, although we often had to wait on gaps in the  clouds letting the sunlight through. Very fine Iced Cinnamon Danish pastries were consumed with our teas, rounding off a very satisfactory afternoon in East Lothian.

Pictures of the Week:

House Sparrow Sedge Warbler


Kittiwake Opium Poppy




9th June 

John Muir Country Park

Fair weather was predicted for Scotland’s central belt and social media reports of bird activity were very sparse, so our decision of where to head on Sunday was based on finding a location we hadn’t visited in some time. John Muir Country Park (JMCP)  fitted the bill as we last visited there 6 months ago. (We have always referred to the site as Tyninghame Bay, but because everybody else seems to call it JMCP, then to avoid confusion, we will too, although the Park covers a much wider area than Tyninghame Bay). We called in at Dalkeith Morrisons for wee breakfasts (9/10: excellent food but we had to wait for it), and then drove up the A1 towards Dunbar, and arrived at a cloudy JMCP. Undeterred we set off across the salt marsh towards the beach. Our first snap was of a disgruntled Wood Pigeon we put up when I moved towards a huge patch of Crosswort in the long grass on the edge of the salt marsh. We picked our way across the 100m of damp ground of the marsh. In some short grass we passed some Scotch Bonnet , the Fairy Ring mushroom. Also in the damp grasses there were single Thrift flowers dotted around, with only a few of the more usual dense patches.

Wood Pigeon Crosswort Scotch Bonnet Thrift





On the edge of the dunes there were the familiar dainty blue flowers of Field Forget-me-nots, poking through the wiry grass. Also seen were the small white flowers of Common Mouse-ear . Also plentiful were the very attractive pink-purple, pea-like blooms of Common Vetch  Just before the dunes John saw a Cinnabar Moth. It settled low in the grass but I managed to persuade it onto my warm finger where I took a quick shot or two (see”Pictures of the Week”, below). I then noticed a yellow and black-banded caterpillar crawling along a grass stem. It was the larva of another moth, the 6-spot Burnet Moth larva.

Field Forget-me-not Common Mouse-ear Common Vetch 6-spot Burnet Caterpillar





While I was taking pictures with my LUMIX LX5, John took my Nikon D500 and had at go capturing some images. He caught a Red-tailed Bumblebee on Bird’s-foot Trefoil, the first of four bees  we’d see, and a Meadow Pipit studying us from the footpath. Eventually we reached the end of the path and moved out onto the Beach and seashore. We proceeded west towards the mouth of the River Tyne. We had been hoping to see some wading birds, but were to be disappointed. All we saw were a few Herring Gulls and a single Cormorant feeding 30m off shore.

Red-tailed Bumblebee Meadow Pipit Herring Gull Cormorant




 
The view west across Tyninghame Bay showing the Bass Rock  on the right, and important nesting ground of 150,000 of breeding Gannets.



As we walked the shore there was a steady stream of Gannets, quite far out, mainly passing eastwards. Occasionally a few were close enough for some record shots. The one below is of a 3rd year Gannet, with dark brown and white-marked wings. They will have full adult plumage next year. We were disappointed, but with understanding, to find the west extreme of the shoreline sectioned off to protect breeding Terns, particularly the Little Tern. We therefore cut across the dunes into Inner Tyninghame Bay, the tidal Estuary of the River Tyne. As we crossed the dunes we saw a lot of Skylark activity, so much so the John expressed his annoyance at the constant twitterings of the hovering Skylarks. I did managed a shot of one of them as it rose into the air above us. John again took my camera as I once again searched for flowers and insects with my “wee” LUMIX. He got a nice shot of a Meadow Pipit on some tall vegetation. I, in the meantime, snapped some shots of one of the many Common Storksbill plants  that were indeed common on and around the rough path.

3rd Cycle Gannet Skylark Meadow Pipit Common Storksbill





Also on the path I noticed a couple of Snails, the White-lipped  and Dark-lipped Snails. Near the snails was a fairly tall, robust-looking plant with wine coloured conical flowers. This was Houndstongue. Somewhat more attractive, was the exotically-named Viper’s Bugloss. I got a few nice shots of a White-tailed Bumblebee sampling the nectar of its many flowers (see”Pictures of the Week”, below).

White-lipped Snail Dark-lipped Snail Houndstongue Viper's Bugloss





The tide was low, so the vast expanse of Inner Tyninghame Bay, which is totally flooded at high tide, had its sands exposed with only the narrow waters of the River Tyne flowing to the Firth of Forth. On the river were a few Mute Swans and a pair of Shelducks, but again, no waders. We picked our way across the soft damp sands of the Bay towards the mouth of the Hedderwick Burn. From there we walked the north perimeter of the East Links Family Park on our way back to the car park. I photographed some Hedge Mustard by the path and also some pretty Red Clover.

Mute Swan Shelduck Hedge Mustard Red Clover





Midway along the path adjacent to the Family Park we found some interesting flowers and insects. A Dog Rose bush seemed irresistible to bees. Many of the cup-like roses contained a buzzing bee or two that seemed intoxicated by the experience of being immersing in pollen while sipping nectar. The pictures below show two such nectar junkies, a Honey Bee  and a White-tailed Bumblebee. I also photographed a Common Carder Bumblebee (see”Pictures of the Week”, below) on Red Clover. We also saw Red and White Campion, although they didn’t seem to attract any insects.

Wild Rose (Dog Rose) Honey Bee Red Campion White Campion





John spotted a dinky wee Marmalade Hoverfly feeding on Vipers Bugloss. While I photographed it, a black fly, nemorilla floralis, landed on my finger. So I recorded the moment. Our final flowers of the visit were just before the toilet block, where we saw Bittersweet and Common Restharrow. Our final capture was quite pleasing. It was the beetle, amara commonus (see”Pictures of the Week”, below).

Marmalade Hoverfly Nemorilla Floralis Bittersweet Common Restharrow





It would be fair to say that the birds took a back seat for this visit. However, the flowers and invertebrates that drew our interest left us satisfied with efforts. Our tea was accompanied by Danish apple lattice pastries. A very satisfactory end to a satisfying day.

Pictures of the Week:

Cinnabar White-tailed Bumblebee


Common Carder Bumblebee Beetle - amara commonus



2nd June 

Musselburgh and Port Seton

We went to Musselburgh and Port Seton on Sunday. The weather forecast wasn’t encouraging but we approached the visit as something of a challenge, hoping that we’d see enough to report in this blog. Of course we stopped off at Dalkeith Morrisons for our customary breakfasts (9.5/10: excellent fare) before driving to the the mouth of the River Esk. John spotted a female Goosander moving down the river with her chicks. As we walked briefly upstream to photograph them, I noticed a nice Common Mallow plant overhanging the river bank and also some Dove’s Foot Cranesbill. Conditions were dim and the Goosanders were near the opposite bank but I managed a few nice shots of the cute chicks.

Common Mallow Dove's Foot Cranesbill Goosander and Chicks





I came across some Henbit Deadnettle . It was poking out from under the fence wire. We next set off on our usual journey along the sea wall to the Scrapes. The tide was nearly at its high point so we hoped that some of the birds that had been feeding on the sea shore would have sheltered in the Scrapes. A bold wee House Sparrow appeared to wish us well from its perch on the riverside fence. On a telephone wire high above the Cadet Hall boundary fence I spotted a pair of Barn Swallows taking a wee rest between spells of hunting flies (Also see “Pictures of the Week”, below). Just past the Hall there were quite a few female Eiders with their ducklings gathered near the shore. Annoyingly though, a pair of beachcombers thought it would be a great place to skim stones across the water. They did a great job in scattering the Eiders.

Henbit Deadnettle House Sparrow Barn Swallow Female Eider  and Chicks





After I captured a fairly decent image of a handsome Herring Gull that circled overhead, a little clump of fungi caught my eye. These were Scotch Bonnets, Marasmius Oreades. A bit further on, a tiny 7-spot Ladybird was scaling the relative heights of Sea Plantain flower stems. Below the sea wall a female Eider was taking a nap.

Herring Gull Scotch Bonnets 7 Spot Ladybird Eider





I caught a pleasing shot of Reed Bunting landing on a Wild Rose bush (see “Pictures of the Week”, below). A Carrion Crow winked as I took its photo, its “nictitating membrane”  is obvious in the picture below. I surprised a pair of female Goosanders that were just below the sea wall. However, apart these and large numbers of Eider scattered along the coastal waters, there wasn’t much else of note as we looked seawards. But as we left the wall and walked towards the entrance to the Scrapes we did find the path-side vegetation more productive because we found a few interesting insects there. First of these was a Soldier Beetle, cantharis nigricans, which is fairly widespread throughout the UK. It is a carnivore that scours hedgerows and flower meadows for smaller insects . Also in the same grassy area we were joined by the Cranefly, tipula vernalis, another common insect of flowery meadows as they dine on nectar.

Carrion Crow Female Goosander Soldier Beetle Cranefly, Tipula Vernalis





The next insect we discovered was the dangerous-looking Dance Fly, empis opaca, on some Spring Vetch. It has a dagger-like snout that it uses on its prey. It has an sinister courtship ritual that necessitates presenting a potential mate with a dead insect. Just as I captured pictures of the Dance Fly we found that a lot of Dandelions had small wasp-like insects feeding on them. They were in fact Sawflies, tenthredo arcuata  feeding on nectar. They also eat smaller insects. As we continued towards the Scrapes we were overtaken by a Large White butterfly (see “Pictures of the Week”, below) that landed, conveniently for us, a few metres away on a flower. I snapped a few shots before it continued on its way. Our final insect was a Whited-tailed Bumblebee on the Spring Vetch.

Empis Opaca Tenthredo Arcuata Large White Butterfly White-tailed Bumblebee





As we stood at the entrance to the Scrapes and looked up the path we could see an adult Starling feeding its fledgling. It fairly rammed a bundle of worms down its throat.

Starling and Fledging



From the first hide (left-most) we could see the usual Oystercatchers, though not in the usual very large numbers. A pair of Shelducks were in the middle of the flock nipping any birds that got in their way. A pair of Gadwall landed fairly close, to the right of the hide. The female Shelduck, probably having had quite enough of the Oystercatchers’ antics, plodded along the poolside away from the flock.

Oystercatcher Shelduck Gadwall Female Shelduck





In the middle of the second scrape a few Bar-tailed Godwits  were feeding. They included one that was in its rust-coloured breeding plumage. Eventually we left that hide for the centre hide. On the way, we came across a twittering Goldfinch high in a tree. And, in low branches directly above the path as we walked, a Willow Warbler nipped between branches, not too concerned we were trying to photograph it.

Bar-tailed Godwit Goldfinch Willow Warbler





From the middle hide we saw Curlew positioned at the back of the Scrapes. While scanning the area using binoculars John caught sight of a female Pheasant watching a the back of one of the Scrapes. We hear the male but could not spot it. Despite being quite far off I managed quite a good record shot. I then noticed, in the middle of the closest Scrape, a female Mallard with her brood of ten ducklings . They seemed quite a handful, and quite big, a testament to their mother’s watchful eye.

Curlew Female Pheasant Female Mallard




As we returned back the way we’d come, we met a Reed Bunting on a fence, probably the same one we had seen earlier. I also photographed a trio of nice wildflowers. First of these was White Campion with a Sawfly on one of its petals, the same species we’d snapped earlier. The next was  Oxford Ragwort, a flower with an interesting history . I noticed later it hosted some Flea Beetles , possibly chrysolina oricalcia. They were very tiny (1-2 mm) so identification was difficult from the picture alone.  The third flower we came upon was a nice specimen of Sea Plantain.

Reed Bunting White Campion Flea Beetle Sea Plantain





We returned to the car to find a large flock of Mute Swans gathered at the river mouth:



As the tide neared its peak, I reckoned the rocks at Port Seton could hold birds “forced in” by the advancing waters. We found this to be the case and soon after arrival I had got some decent pictures of Turnstones. They had to share the diminishing rockscape with Herring Gulls and Eiders (see “Pictures of the Week”, below). A pair of Gannets appeared and dived for fish a few hundred metres offshore. Eventually one passed close enough for a record shot. Our final capture was of a pair of Sandwich Terns that passed by. I was expecting more Tern activity but perhaps it was a bit early in the season.

Turnstone Turnstone Gannet Sandwich Tern




 
The gloomy view of the three Forth Bridges some 20 miles away:

    


Well, despite the rather poor light, the rain had stayed off and we had gathered a lot of photos- over 400. So with so many pictures of birds, flowers, insects and views we agreed it had been a successful visit. Our titbits this week were delicious strawberry tarts. As we were sitting on the promenade wall at Port Seton, 3 birders appeared with scopes. They were tracking 5 Spoonbills that were expected to pass by imminently. It needed more than that to tear us away from our tea and strawberry tarts. The Spoonbills didn’t turn up and the birders left as quickly as they’d arrived. We left satisfied with another successful visit, but still craving better light.

Pictures of the Week:

Large White Butterfly Barn Swallow


Reed Bunting Female Eider



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