Archive - June 2021

Week ending: 27th June: Ardmore Point

My weather app told me that West Central Scotland was to be sunny, after a cloudy start. We hadn’t had a Sunday visit to Ardmore Point, west of Dumbarton, since 20th Oct 2019, so it was time for an overdue return. We usually have our customary breakfasts in Dumbarton Morrisons, but their Cafe had a staffing crisis and was closed to sit-down meals. However, they were able to provide us with a pair of excellent carry-out breakfasts - which we consumed at Ardmore, by the car, as we looked out over the sun bathed South Bay. So 10/10 to Morrisons Cafe.

My first shot was a snap of a House Sparrow sitting atop a Covid advice sign at the beginning of the trail. This was followed by a picture of a well-lit, handsome Goldfinch posing in a bush. Looking out into the Clyde I fired off shots of Cormorants and Eider in quick succession.

House Sparrow Goldfinch
Cormorant Female Eider and Hatchlings

We came across a large flock of Starlings, mainly juveniles, that were feeding on the shoreside rocks.

I also took a couple of macro shots of path-side wildflowers, namely: Lesser Stitchwort nestling in some short grass and near them, Dog Rose. My first insects of the day were of a White-tailed Bumblebee and an Orange-tailed Mining Bee that I found on a Hogweed flower head.

Lesser Stitchwort Dog Rose
White-tailed Bumblebee Orange-tailed Mining Bee

About half way around the trail I was pleased to come across a wee Willow Warbler catching flies for its fledglings that were waiting patiently on an overhanging tree branch. As I snapped a pair of Herring Gulls that were loitering on rocks by the water, John drew my attention to a Chimney Sweeper moth that had come to rest on a thick stem.
Willow Warbler
Herring Gull Chimney Sweeper Moth

 On the same stretch of path we encountered Hedge Woundwort, a plant species native to Britain and Honeysuckle, which you might think is a garden escapee, but is also native to Britain (Shakespeare knew it as “luscious Woodbine”). As are the instantly recognisable Foxglove and Ragged Robin (“Crowflower” to the Bard).

Hedge Woundwort Honeysuckle
Foxglove Ragged Robin

Next I photographed another White-tailed Bumblebee, followed by a patch of Dotted Loosestrife spikes. A Red-tailed Bumblebee was working its way through the many yellow flowers of Wild Radish and below it on by the track was an impressive Lady’s Bedstraw.

White-tailed Bumblebee Dotted  Loosestrife

Red-tailed Bumblebee Lady's Bedstraw

I found Green Alkanet plants that were being outgrown by the surrounding grass. John noticed a white Foxglove growing amongst the normal red plants. I also found some White Stonecrop growing at the edge of the path. There were a few sections of the path that were almost engulfed by the tall Burnet Saxifrage, a member of the Carrot family.

Green Alkanet Foxglove
White Stonecrop Burnet Saxifrage

We saw some beautiful Heath Spotted Orchids growing in a clearing that was dotted with clumps of the yellow flowers of the small and low-growing Tormentil. There were also Common Spotted Orchids further on in the trail, although I suspect that the specimen below may be a hybrid. At last I found a specimen of Tufted Vetch worthy of a photograph, as the previous flowers I’d come across were “past their best”.

Heath-spotted Orchid Common Tormentil
Common-spotted orchid Tufted Vetch

On a brief diversion off the path and onto the rocky shore I noticed several examples of Sea Plantain growing on rocks surrounded by grass.
A small Grass Moth, Crambus lathoniellus, was clinging upside-down on a blade of grass. On a much larger scale, there was a group of large Yellow Flag Irises growing in what is usually a marshy area, but the recent dry spell had removed most of the surface moisture. I also snapped a lovely head of Red Valerian.

Sea Plantain Moth Crambus_lathoniellus
Yellow Flag Iris Common Valerian

After passing down the north side of the peninsula we were surprised that there were no birds to be seen in or around the North Bay. So it was with an air of  disappointment that we returned to the car. However a noisy wee Wren kept our interest going. So did a family of Carrion Crows in the adjacent field. The parent bird was sitting gaping in the warm sunshine, wings spread while the juvenile begged its attention. Near them a pair of Woodpigeons foraged as I peeped over the hedge with my camera. Then some disturbance up the Clyde Estuary caused large groups of Curlew and Oystercatchers to pass overhead as they made for the North Bay. So our bird count had suddenly doubled.

Carrion Crow Wood Pigeon
Curlew Oystercatcher

We had biscuits with our tea. With all the confusion with our breakfast arrangements, we forgot to buy pastries. My favourite sightings were the Goldfinch, Willow Warbler and Wren. It had been another sunny Sunday, the fourth in succession. Long may it continue.

Week ending: 20th June 2021: Tyninghame Bay

The weather prediction for Sunday in Central Scotland was that it was to start cloudy but brighten as the day went on. The bright weather was to be better in the East so it was another visit to Dunbar, specifically, Tyninghame Bay. It had been two years since our last visit but also there was a chance that we might catch sight of a White-tailed Eagle that had been seen in recent days. So after a couple of breakfasts in Dalkeith Morrisons (9.5/10) we headed down the A1 for the John Muir Country Park.

It was on the dull side as we began our walk but blue skies were beginning to show as the cloud started to break. As we passed the toilet block, a male Reed Bunting was calling from a small bush. Not far from it, hiding in another bush, was a female. They weren’t the last Reed Buntings we saw as we passed over the dunes into the salt marsh. Also active in the area were many Meadow Pipits. They were very vocal, occasionally flying up into the air then gliding slowly down to the ground singing all the way. John came across a large Garden Snail on the path.

Male Reed bunting Female Reed Bunting
Meadow Pipit Garden Snail

 Also on the path were small patches of tiny, but, lovely pink Sea Milkwort flowers. In the long grass, blue Meadow Cranesbill flowers were bobbing in the breeze. I got some quick snaps of a White-tailed Bumblebee as it visited the Sea Milkwort. John spotted some Rabbits lurking in the undergrowth. I managed a snap of a young Rabbit that wasn’t as scared as it perhaps it should have been.

Sea Milkwort Meadow Cranesbill
White-tailed Bumblebee Juvenile Rabbit

As we observed the bunnies, a pair of Meadow Pipits dropped down from the bushes onto the scrubland. They were obviously courting. As we approached the Inner Bay I photographed an Early Bumblebee as it probed the gorgeous flowers of the wonderfully-named Viper’s Bugloss. We sat for a time on the edges of the Bay surveying it in the hope of seeing a Whitetailed Eagle. We didn’t. Instead we had to make do with some Thrift and a half dozen Sand Martins. The Martins were trickier to photograph but I managed a few decent efforts. The tide was high so the Inner Bay was flooded. However, disappointingly, there were very few birds on or over the water. We decided then to head for the sea shore and moved towards the mouth of the Tyne. We found that the area at the river mouth was sectioned off to protect rare nesting birds. A juvenile Stonechat landed on a warning post before flying into the dunes.

Meadow Pipit Early Bumblebee
Thrift Sand Martin
Juvenile Stonechat

We sat for a while peering over the rope at a large collection of birds that, until then, had been hidden from view. These were about a dozen Cormorants and fifty Goosanders as well as a few Eider.

 As we crossed the dunes we passed through a clearing where some wildflowers were blooming. I used my LUMIX LX5 on macro mode to photograph some of them. Small pink Storksbill flowers with feathery-looking leaves were my first capture, followed by a small, undernourished White Campion plant. John took a nice shot, using my Nikon D500, of a White-tailed Bumblebee on Viper’s Bugloss. I next got some piercing yellow Biting Stonecrop.

Common Storksbill Viper's Bugloss
White Campion Biting Stonecrop

 John also took a few shots of an ascending Skylark just as we caught sight of the breaking waves of the Forth estuary. I retook control of the D500 and stood at the shoreline watching for passing birds. A solitary Sandwich Tern, Shag and Herring Gull were my only captures. I did see a few passing Gannets but they were too far out for a decent shot.

Skylark Sandwich Tern
Shag Herring Gull

We returned to the Inner Bay intending to explore the wooded area at Hedderwick Hill. However, we were delighted to see a few Sandwich Terns had appeared over the river and were diving for fish. I photographed them for over half an hour as they made repeated dives, all the while making their “rusty door”-sounding calls.

Sandwich Tern

John interrupted me to point out a small group of Ringed Plovers that had just landed on the damp sand ahead of us. I got a couple of shots until John made an involuntary cough and put them up. I noticed also that there were more Sandwich Terns across the river.

Ringed Plover Sandwich Tern

 By the time we reached the woods it was time to return to the car. Our walk along the path that lead back to the toilet block produced a few interesting wildflower shots. The first was Restharrow, a pink pea-shaped flower so named as in the days of horse-drawn carriages the thick dense roots of the plant were able to stop (arrest) a small carriage (harrow). Bird’s foot Trefoil was my next shot. Wild Thyme is a low, pretty, purple-pink flowered plant that grows in pastures, cliff tops. It has an attractive fragrance. My final flower was an Opium Poppy, probably a garden escapee. Humans have been extracting painkillers from Poppies for thousands of years.

Restharrow Bird's Foot Trefoil
Wild Thyme Opium Poppy

But we weren’t finished there. We had a late flurry of invertebrate sightings, starting with a fairly large brown and white moth, as yet unidentified, that we found on a tree trunk. I nearly trod on a Small Heath butterfly that was on the short grass of the path. And on a sandy section of path, close to a burn, there was a Common Blue damselfly. Just before we reached the car there was a Speckled Wood butterfly on a Wild Rose bud.

Moth ( T.B.C. ) Small Heath Butterfly
Common Blue Damselfly Speckled Wood Butterfly

It was one of those days where the dearth of birds was more than compensated by the high number of flower and invertebrates sightings. We finished the day in warm sunshine with clear blue sky, supping tea as we ate chocolate cream eclairs - hats off to my weather app. So now we’ve had four sunny Sundays in a row. I’m now holding out for five.

Week ending: 13th June 2021: Musselburgh, Port Seton

Our hopes were high for another sunny Sunday, and my weather app indicated that Musselburgh would be a good choice as it was to be mainly sunny for the duration of our trip.

The breakfasts in Dalkeith Morrisons were very tasty (9.5/10: only let down by slightly overcooked fried eggs) and set us up for a fine start at the mouth of the River Esk where we came across the “usual suspects” - Herring Gulls, Mallards, Oystercatchers and Carrion Crows. I watched a young Oystercatcher jabbing the sand without too much luck, unlike a Crow  that flew over carrying an unlucky Crab.

Herring Gull Mallard
Juvenile Oystercatcher Carrion Crow

The tide was as low as I’ve seen it, with the majority of birds, mainly Mute Swans and Eiders, congregated about 400m from the sea wall. I came across a lonely Turnstone on rocks just below the wall, but there was little else on or over the sea as we made our way to the Scrapes. At the boating pond just before the Scrapes there were a few Common Blue Damselflies  flitting about the grassy verges. Three quarters of the pond surface was covered by weed and the few boats that were on the water were confined to a narrow strip. I snapped a few shots of some Yellow Irises on the pond edges.

Kirkaldy to the North Turnstone
Common Blue Damselfy Yellow Flag Iris

 I had fun trying to catch a decent shot of Sand Martins  that were busy skimming the pond surface catching flies. Next we entered the reserve and walked the long path that connects the hides as there are often interesting flowers and insects there. But it was a bird we found first, a Blackbird sunbathing on the pathway. A few Speckled Wood butterflies were on and around the Hawthorns and I even managed a snap of the chunky hoverfly, the Pellucid Fly, as it hovered above us.

Sand Martin Blackbird
Speckled Wood Butterfly Pellucid Fly

I also managed to photograph a Silver Ground Carpet Moth that was hiding in the shade below some lovely White Deadnettles. When we entered the middle hide we were disappointed to find that all but one of the scrapes, the left-most, were completely dry. We read a sign that explained that this was due to maintenance work (of which there was little evidence). However, there were a few birds to be seen. A couple of quarrelling Shelducks  kept us entertained for a while.

Silver Ground Carpet Moth White Deadnettle

There were also a few Greylag Geese by the wet Scrape, and a few Oystercatchers. I was pleased to see a Pheasant briefly emerging into view from the long grass. And we then noticed a juvenile Grey Heron was standing at the far end of the scrape, occasionally preening but mainly standing motionless. A Black-headed Gull appeared and provided our last shot there before we retraced our steps back to the Esk.

Greylag Goose Pheasant
Juvenile Grey Heron Black-headed Gull

The walk back to the Esk-mouth produced a few photo-opportunities: a sleeping female Eider, a passing Lesser Blackbacked Gull and hordes of Oystercatchers flying back from the sands to the west, to the safety of the Scrapes. That was good news for us as it meant that birds that were left at the Esk would be a lot closer as they followed in the advancing tide. We passed an old Carrion Crow sitting fearlessly on the sea wall. I then spotted a Sandwich Tern  pass 100m offshore. At the river mouth a Cormorant was perching on the dumped supermarket trolley, a familiar feature to regular visitors, until the choppy waves eventually proved to troublesome and it flew off.

Female Eider Lesser Black-backed Gull
Oystercatcher Carrion Crow
Sandwich Tern Cormorant

 There was only a sliver of exposed sand for the Eider to cling to, but in 20 minutes it would be flooded.

The last of a group of Curlews that had been feeding at the shoreline flew off, possibly for the Scrapes. As we neared the Cadet Hall there were Goosanders  gathered at the river’s edge. They were mainly eclipse drakes, distinguished from the females by their larger white wing patches. The females were on the water. I managed a pleasing flight shot of what I think is one of the females as it flew upstream.

Curlew Female Goosander

Midstream, a large group of female Eider looked as if they were giving diving lessons to their ducklings. We watched them making frequent dives and John observed that when they resurfaced there was no sight of any sort of catch, such as shellfish or crabs. Eventually we rounded the Cadet Hall towards the car. I noticed some Hedgerow Cranesbill in the short park grass and in the long grass on the edge of the park some Red Poppies were still in bloom.

Eider Drake Juvenile Eider
Hedgerow Cranesbill Red Poppy

I decided it would be an idea to relocate to Port Seton to see if there were any birds, such as Terns, on the rocks of Wrecked Craigs, but when we arrived we were disappointed to find the tide was still too far out and the rocks were occupied by people beach-combing and sunbathing. However we were treated to a flypast of a large Grey Heron and a near-murmuration of the local Starlings as they made frequent trips between the rocks and the shoreside roofs. My final shots of the trip were of a pretty Oxford Ragwort and a nice example of Hedge Mustard, both found at the edges of the Port Seton Harbour.

Grey Heron Starling
Oxford Ragwort Hedge Mustard

Well it was three-in-a-row in terms of sunny Sundays and the Sunday in Musselburgh was definitely the warmest (23o C). It had been a very pleasant outing and although there had been no outstanding sighting our interests were held throughout the trip. My favourite sightings were of the Shelducks, Crow with Crab and Heron flypast. We of course celebrated as is normal with tea and Danish pastry (apple lattice) consumed sitting on a wee wall overlooking Wrecked Craigs - delightful. But, will it be four-in-a-row next week - you never know!

Week ending: 6th June 2021: Skateraw and Torness

Well, who would have thunk it, another sunny Sunday across Central Scotland. I fancied a trip to Skateraw and Torness, for no better reason than we like that part of the world and, in the case of the former, we hadn’t been there for over a year

Cloud Outlook                                                                                                               Rain Outlook

After a couple of deliciously pleasant Morrisons’ breakfasts (9.5/10: -0.5 because John thinks nothing is perfect) we wasted little time in driving down the A1 past Dunbar to the lovely Skateraw Harbour car park. We walked up a short slope to the top of the Limekiln ruin and were treated to the breathtaking panorama, pictured below.

We continued up the path towards the Torness Nuclear Power Station, carefully watching for anything of interest and were immediately rewarded with a flypast of a pair of Barnacle Geese that circled the bay a couple of times before flying south. Just over the pathside stone wall I came across of Dunnock that had a beak-full of flies. John pointed out a pair of Shelducks that had just paddled in and onto the rocky shore, joining a wee Oystercatcher, about 40m below us. And to complete a satisfying few minutes, a lovely Wall butterfly flew onto the wall beside us and allowed me to snap a few shots.

Barnacle Geese Dunnock
Shelduck Wall Butterfly

On the way back down the brae I captured images of a few wildflowers and the insects they were hosting. There were Cocksfoot Moths on Field Speedwell, and also on Oxford Ragword. One of the Common Vetch plants that were pushing up through the thick grassy verges hosted what looked like spittle, and was in fact, Cuckoo Spit, a telltale sign that an insect known as the Spittlebug or Froghopper  is feeding on a plant. Near the public toilets there was a large group of Beach Roses that, disappointingly, had no little visitors, but was very lovely nevertheless,

Common Field Speedwell Oxford Ragwort
Common Vetch Beach Rose

We next headed out to the west of the Bay to the rocky Chapel Point where there are usually birds to be found. On the way we came across a large bush where Goldfinches, Tree Sparrows  and a Reed Bunting popped in and out of view. At the shore of the Firth of Forth I photographed a passing Carrion Crow, one of about a dozen that were on the rocks.

Goldfinch Tree Sparrow
Reed Bunting Carrion Crow

At the Point I captured a picture of another passing bird, this time a Cormorant. It had been disturbed by a guy who had paddled his paddleboard from the beach right up to the rocky tip of Chapel Point where there were Cormorants and a large number of Shelducks. That sort of disturbance of wildlife is becoming a major problem all along the Lothian coast.

A Cormorant and an Oystercatcher winged it and pair of Shelducks scurried for safety into the water with their 9 ducklings. Eventually they returned to the shore allowing us some nice views. However it wasn’t long before the paddleboarder approached the Point once more, causing more birds to flee.

Cormorant Oystercatcher

I took pictures of a passing Herring Gull and of the striking view of Barns Ness lighthouse with the Bass Rock in the background. On our way back to the car I managed a shot of a Small Heath butterfly hiding in the grass. We were pleased to see a Roe Deer grazing in the middle of the field adjacent to the beach.

Herring Gull Barns Ness Lighthouse
Small Heath Butterfly Roe Deer

I noticed some interesting flowers growing around the edges of the field. First of these was the tall, violet-flowered Lacy Phacelia (which is originally from North America ). I then encountered the hairy, blue-flowered Bugloss. There were also patches of the beautiful Star of Bethlehem , aptly named since each white flower is star-shaped. The last of the flowers I found was Red Valerian, a tall plant with imposing ruby-red flower heads.

Lacy Phacelia Bugloss
Star of Bethlehem Red Valerian

We next drove to Torness Power station via the approach road that passes between crop fields. John spotted a Brown Hare  foraging in one of those fields. He also noticed an Oystercatcher sitting at the edge of the field. We moved on quickly as it may have been on eggs. Those fields also held Lacy Phacelia  and I was surprised to see a few Crimson Clover  flowers amongst the other wildflowers. There were Oxeye Daisies on the grass verges. Many of their flowers contained more Cocksfoot Moths. Quite prominent along the edges of the field were large yellow-flowered Brassicae, possibly Oilseed Rape.

Brown Hare Oystercatcher
Lacy Phacelia Crimson Clover
We eventually reached the Power Station car park and, on setting off, we immediately spotted a Yellowhammer singing on top of hedgerows. We walked along the concrete pathway that runs along the sea-facing perimeter of the power station. This forms part of the Torness coastal walkway and is an excellent place to watch the sea. A female Pied Wagtail was fly-hunting in front of us as we walked. We also encountered an Oystercatcher consume the contents of what looked like a Barnacle. And of course there were frequent passes of various sea birds, e.g. Cormorants.

Yellowhammer Oystercatcher
Female Pied Wagtail Cormorant

The walkway has an upper route from which we got magnificent views of passing Fulmars, Gannets and a Great Black-backed Gull. There were also many Skylarks very evident by their very loud and continuous singing. I managed a decent snap of a Skylark as it descended to the grassy plain behind the walkway.

Gannet Fulmar
Great Blacked- backed Gull Skylark

We were very fortunate to be visited by a Skylark that happened to land on a fence a few meters from where we were observing. We were also treated to a nice view of a Cinnabar moth not far from the Skylark. On our return to the car John pointed out a male Pied Wagtail at the edge of the car park. It may have been interesting to meet our final sighting, a “Greenbottle”, probably Lucilia Caesar.

Skylark Cinnabar Moth
Pied Wagtail Fly - Lucilia_caesar

It was then tea and Danish pastry time as we sat by the car in a sun-blessed car park chatting about the great time we’d had. My favourite moments were when we saw the Barnacle Geese, Skylark and Roe Deer and of course I always love the wildflowers I see. And the weather was great. Surely we couldn’t have three sunny Sundays in a row - could we?

Highlights - June 2021

We present last month’s gallery of my favourite pictures I’ve taken during June 2021. 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.









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