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
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.
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.
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).
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.
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
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”.
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.
|Yellow Flag Iris
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.
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
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
Also on the path were small patches of tiny, but, lovely pink
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
|Bird's Foot Trefoil
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. )
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,
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
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
|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.
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.
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.
|Juvenile Grey Heron
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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,
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.
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,
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
|Star of Bethlehem
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.
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.
|Female Pied Wagtail
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.
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.
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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