Week ending: 25th June: Wildflowers of Strathclyde Country Park
I’m on holiday this week, so on Thursday I nipped down with my wee Panasonic TZ70 off to one
of my favourite locations for walking, Strathclyde Country Park in Motherwell. I have a special
fondness for wildflowers, so I’ve decided to dedicate this blog to the wildflowers I observed on
my walk through parts of Strathclyde Park .
I set off over the footbridge across the River Clyde, and continued left along a wooded path just
before the underpass below the M74. I started the ball rolling with quick shot of a Common Nettle,
which most people probably wouldn’t realise it was actually a flowering plant. I followed this with
a picture of Red Campion, a beautiful red flower that can be seen throughout the summer. A
member of the wild Geranium family, Herb Robert, was my next discovery, followed by a whiteflowered Common Comfrey plant. The size of small bushes, they come in other colours
such as pale pink, pale to dark purple.
I continued along the wooded path and came upon Rosebay Willowherb, sometimes called
Fireweed, which can grow to over 2m. The most common willow herb in the UK is probably
Broad-leaved Willowherb. It was certainly growing abundantly along the path edges. As I
approached the road bridge there were flowers of Pink Purslane at the base of a fence,
almost hidden by much taller plants. It is a flower which originates in North America.
Common Valerian was also growing near the bridge. It is used a source of sedatives.
|Broad Leaved Willowherb
I was pleased to see the violet-blue flowers of Meadow Cranesbill,although they can be various
shades of blue and even white. Creeping Thistle is very common, and is an important source of
food for many small birds. Also, quite a few Common Hogweed plants were starting to flower. Close
inspection of the flat-topped flowerhead shows that it is composed of many tiny, beautiful flowers,
often attended by insects, such as hoverflies (the one shown below is probably Epistrophe
The wooded path leads to the main road between Motherwell and Hamilton. I crossed the road
bridge over the River Clyde and re-entered Strathclyde Park. The short grass had recently been
mowed but I managed to find to some Common Daisies, a flower present in most domestic
lawns, and as such, one of the best-known and probably underrated wildflowers in the UK. Also on
the grass I found another member of the Daisy family, Yarrow, another flat-topped flower. I
approached the south end of Strathclyde Loch and discovered Bittersweet, also known as
Woody Nightshade, growing between ornamental bushes. I continued along the lochside footpath
but noticed another very familiar wildflower, Pineapple Mayweed. This is actually native to Asia, having been introduced here from America.
Common Ragwort was growing in the grass verges of the path by the loch, opposite the
watersports pavilion. It is a plant that is poisonous to cattle, but caterpillars of Cinnabar Moth love
it. Nearby a gorgeous Wild Rose (also known as Dog Rose) was in bloom and also a patch of
very tall Great Willowherb plant were starting to flower. There were Bird’s-foot Trefoil
flowers below the hedges around a car park. So-named due to its 3 leaftets which resemble a
bird’s foot (although the leaf actually has another two smaller leaflets which tend to go unnoticed).
|Common Bird's Foot Trefoil
Near the dipping pond Meadowsweet was just coming into bloom. It was
once used to derive the analgesic, Aspirin. Hedge Woundwort was growing
in the same area. As its name suggests, it has been used to dress
wounds. Some also believe it can cure aching joints. When I scanned the
grasses that line the banks of the South Calder, I found the star-like
flowers of Lesser Stitchwort. It’s last name suggests that it is
a herbalist cure for the side pain known as “stitch” (
“wort” simply means “plant”). Also along the
river were more Common Comfrey plants, this time a shade of mauve.
All along the path that leads to the ruin of the Roman Bathhouse, purple clusters of Tufted Vetch
flowers were clinging to the metre-high vegetation. Another climbing plant was very prominent
along the riverbank, Large Bindweed. In the 19th century it was introduced to the UK from the
Mediterranean and in now naturalised to most areas of Great Britain. It’s always nice to see
Forget-me-nots, and especially nice seeing Water Forget-me-nots on a riverbank on a lovely
sunny day. Another very common and underrated wildflower is the Meadow Buttercup. It is
harmful to cattle but they seem to avoid it since they don’t like the taste.
There were quite a few Common Spotted Orchids sprouting in the damp areas around the loch. It
is probably the UK’s most common wild orchid. Yellow Flag Irises were growing on the loch and
river edges. The one below was hosting a Mirid Bug, which is a horticultural pest. I
photographed another Creeping Thistle (of which there were many on my walk) the main reason
being that a Ringlet butterfly was raiding its nectaries. Compared to Creeping Thistles, Marsh
Thistles are bigger, more rugged and more colourful and it also provides food for small birds like
I concluded my walk with pictures of four very well known and attractive wildflowers starting with
Red Clover and White Clover. These are so common because they are able to grow in a large
variety of soil types. They were, and are grown as animal fodder. Farmers and gardeners look on
this wildflower as the worst pest of all the species of buttercups, for it is an invader of meadows
and lawns and is difficult to remove due to the way it grows and spreads using rhizomes.
My last photo is of Bramble, also known as Blackberry, flowers. Their beautiful petals will
eventually fall away as their ovaries swell to form fruit - one of the most widely foraged fruit in the
I hope you enjoyed this little wildflower treat. John and I will probably resume our travels next
week, wherever the weather is most conducive to nature photography.
Week ending: 18th June: Longniddry Bents, Aberlady and Port Seton
The weather prediction for Sunday in Central Scotland was almost exactly the same as last week:
after a wet start, there could be thunderstorms in the west but in the east it would be sunny with
only a slim chance of rain. I decided therefore that we’d visit the section of Lothian coast between
Aberlady and Port Seton. Our usual breakfasts in Dalkeith Morrisons were exceptional (10/10:
they must have seen my comments re last week’s poor breakfasts) and set us up nicely for the
The tide would rising throughout our visit so we started at Longniddry Bents where we’ve
had good luck in the past at low tide. The Sun was breaking through early cloud as we arrived
there. A wee Dunnock sitting on a low bush got the ball rolling. This was followed by a shot of a
passing Grey Heron spotted by John. But that was it. We saw no more birds there. However we
were pleased to see there were lots of wildflowers in bloom, attracting lots of bees and other
insects. I soon had pictures of a Red-tailed Bumblebee and an Early Bumblebee on Bloody
The photo below shows the view of the distant Edinburgh skyline as seen from the WW2 coastal
defence tank traps at Longniddry Bents.
We continued our insect safari with shots of a pollen-covered Honey Bee , again on Bloody
Cranesbill, a Tree Bumblebee on Green Alkanet and a long shot of a White-tailed
Bumblebee on Thrift. We next noticed a gathering of the tiny gall fly Tephritis bardanae (a
newbie) on Lesser Burdock. Our final insect find was a 7-spot Ladybird that was resting on a
Musk Thistle. We also found Slender Thistles throughout the site.
Whilst seeking out insects I came upon some interesting wildflowers. The petite Common
Centaury, a member of the Gentian family, was growing in a rather sandy area between
clumps of Bloody Cranesbill. At the edges of that section were tall spikes of Weld also
know as Dyers’ Rocket due to its use as a source of yellow dye. Another spikey wildflower there
was Viper’s Bugloss, so named due to its flower looking rather like a snake’s head. Also,
John found Teasel growing near the car park. When Teasel seed, in late summer, the seed
heads are a favourite source of food for birds, such as Goldfinches.
We soon moved on to Aberlady, only to be disappointed again because the Local Nature Reserve
car park was full. We settled instead for Kilspindie at the opposite side of the bay. I snapped a
Red Poppy that was sprouting near the shore. After that we saw more birds than at Longniddry,
albeit at some distance. John noticed a pair of passing Shelducks, then a male Linnet landed on a
line of low rocks and I was actually delighted to see a young Black-headed Gull flying past.
|2nd Cycle Black-headed Gull
Below is the view across the bay, looking towards The Law, a hill just south of North Berwick. The
building with the red roof is the clubhouse of Luffness golf club.
We sat on the rocky shore for a while observing passing birds. These included Sand Martins and
a small group of Oystercatchers. Next, four Sandwich Terns flew in, signalled by their creaking
calls, and landed across the Peffer Burn which had become massively swollen by the incoming
tide. John pointed out a Herring Gull that was imitating the Terns by diving head first into the
water, presumably to catch fish.
We decided to press on to Port Seton where the incoming tide was likely
to be encouraging birds ever nearer to the shore. We did though stop
briefly at the mouth of the Seton Burn where there were likely to be a
few foraging birds. After the relative dearth of birds at the previous
sites we’d visited, our spirits were raised by the sight of a
large flock of assorted birds in close proximity to the shore. I
quickly fired off shots of female Goosanders, Lesser Black-backed Gulls
and eclipse drake Eiders. A single Woodpigeon posing on a
partly-submerged rock interested me. I can’t recall seeing one so
close to the sea before. There was a lone Sandwich Tern standing on a
seaweed covered rock. However, the majority of the birds were drake
Eiders in eclipse plumage.
|Lesser Black-backed Gull
|Mallard in Eclipse plumage
|Eider in Eclipse plumage
We returned to the car and drove the 400m into Port Seton to reach the car park at the Wrecked
Craigs. On our arrival there was the splendid sight of very large numbers of Eiders and
Goosanders gathered on and between the rocks.
On the furthest line of rocks, as well as Eiders, Shags and Cormorants were drying their wings
between dives for fish. We walked towards the Harbour, and on the way we saw a couple of
female Eiders just below the sea wall. A few Swallows were dashing back and forth over the water
catching flies. I stood near the wall railings to view the narrow line of shore as yet uncovered by
the tide. There I found a pair of House Sparrows at the water’s edge and also adult and juvenile
Pied Wagtails. As I snapped these, a Jackdaw popped onto the wall. It had something in its beak,
maybe an invertebrate. Next a number of mainly juvenile Starlings turned up and proceeded to
ravage the seaweed at the base of the tall harbour wall. A couple of adults were working very hard
to accommodate the pleadings of their juveniles for food.
|Juvenile Pied Wagtail
We wondered where the Swallows were nested. Then John noticed that they seemed to descend
onto piles of timber in an enclosure just before the Harbour. John then was able to glimpse a
Swallow fledgling through a gap in the fence and woodpiles and took the camera to record his
observation. When I received back my camera, another fledgling suddenly flew above the
enclosure just as an adult sped away to resume its fly-catching activities.
The day had started rather slowly but picked up as time went on. It is so typical of our watching
nature that, more often than not, the visit doesn’t progress as planned. However experience tells
us that we must persist, re-think when necessary and remain vigilant, ready to observe whatever
comes our way. The wildflowers at Longniddry and the Swallows at Port Seton are examples of
that. We were pleased with our efforts as we supped teas and demolished strawberry tarts, and
we drove home eager to do it all again next week.
Week ending: 12th June: Barns Ness
As the warm spell of weather continued across Central Scotland both, my WeatherPro app and
BBC Weather indicated strongly that, after early rain, there were likely to be thunderstorms in the
west but in the east there was only a 16% chance of rain. I opted therefore to visit Barns Ness, on
the Lothian coast, east of Dunbar. Our pit stop into Dalkeith Morrisons gave that initial rain time to
clear during breakfast (6/10: below their usual standards: 7/10, -3 for slow service, tepid food, 1/2
slice of bacon, small plates).
The tide was low and falling when we arrived at the Barns Ness car park. The light was very dim
and the early cloud had persisted. We began our usual circuit that would take in the shoreline
leading to the lighthouse and sandy beach to the east. From there we’d loop back via the
boundary wall to the south that would lead us through the old Caravan Site and wire dump.
I noticed that there were huge patches Hedge Mustard along the pathways. I also snapped
a hoverfly, Syrphus ribesii , that was dining on a Cat’s-ear flower. John spotted a Stonechat
in a bush we were approaching. I followed it visually as it fled to another bush and posed nicely
for a quick shot. At the rocky shore close to the lighthouse we came upon a Carrion Crow
foraging around a large rock pool. John pointed out a pair of Shelducks that were dabbling at the
far side of the pool.
At the same spot I found a large Tree Mallow plant in flower, as well as patches of Herb
Robert . When I was photographing these, John spotted a pair of Skylarks moving through
short grass fairly close to where we were sitting. My eyes wandered over to the base of the
lighthouse from where I heard Goldfinches twittering. Also in that spot there were masses of
Greater Stitchwort sprouting through the long grass. We passed the lighthouse just as a
Meadow Pipit was “parachuting” to the ground after his brief burst of song high above his nest.
We paused briefly at the remains of a building. Below is a view of the lighthouse as seen from the
I observed Linnets chasing each other through the bushes., but they were soon scared off by a
huge influx of juvenile Starlings. I also noticed several examples around the ruin of Purple Milk
Vetch , a pretty violet flower. Meanwhile John pointed out a Grey Heron that was flying along
the shoreline some 50m away.
|Purple Milk Vetch
We reached the west edge of the Sandy beach to the east of the lighthouse. Immediately we saw
and smelled the piles of washed up seaweed that was host to large numbers of invertebrates that
were attracting large numbers of hungry Herring Gulls.
The sky darkened and raindrops began landing. I captured pictures of passing Black-headed
Gulls and a lone noisy Oystercatcher. A large group of juvenile Starlings descended onto the
seaweed and began to rake through the stinking piles, as did several Rock Pipits.
We watched a family of juvenile female and male Pied Wagtails wagging their way across the
seaweed, occasionally darting up to catch hovering flies. The rain became more persistent so we
decided to leave the beach and head to the south side of the reserve and possible shelter in the
trees there. On the way John spotted a Meadow Pipit sitting on a fence post, seemingly testing
for rain. A Skylark passed low overhead and settled on some Gorse bushes.
The rain got worse just as we paused at some Birdsfoot Trefoil where a Red-tailed Bumblebee and a Yellow Shell moth were feeding on. We nipped smartly towards shelter,
pausing again to snap yet another Skylark on the Gorse. Near the southern wall I recognised the
song of a Yellowhammer and located him easily sitting atop a small tree. We also passed
Goldfinches that we seemed to have made very agitated. Perhaps we had got too close to their
nests or their juveniles. We finally reached the woods where we took shelter as the rain passed. I
noticed some Common Cudweed growing by the bushes.
|Yellow Shell Moth
After a brief pause under the boughs of a large tree, we resumed our circuit by moving through
the old caravan site. The Sun finally made an appearance just as John found that the rain had
livened large Garden Snails that were clinging to large Dock leaves. I was pleased to see
Vipers Bugloss in full bloom and also Lady’s Mantle. There was a singing Reed
Bunting that moved across the road to the edge of the old wire dump.
We returned to the car and had tea and strawberry tarts before setting off home. We stopped
briefly at the entrance to the Barns Ness car park in order to photograph some lovely Opium
Poppies growing with tall spikes of Weld . We stopped also 400m down the road at
the entrance to White Sands where John saw a male Linnet posing on Gorse near the side of the
road. The final shots of the day were of a couple of Swallows that were sitting a few metres from
I think I chose to visit the wrong coast because, when I checked, it turned out that the Ayrshire
coast had experienced lovely conditions with no rain or thunderstorms. However we had seen
and photographed a very pleasing number and variety of sightings, despite the poor light. I
particularly enjoyed seeing the Snails and the Swallows and Linnet. I’m sure we’ll get at least as
much enjoyment next week, hopefully in better light.
Week ending: 4th June : Ardmore Point
The whole of Scotland has been soaking in sunshine since last Sunday and this Sunday was no
different. However, temperatures in the east have been colder, so we headed west to Ardmore
Point on the north side of the Clyde Estuary, west of the historic town of Dumbarton. It was
Morrisons in that town where we had an excellent breakfast (9/10: a mark off for small plates and
The tide for Sunday was approaching its maximum when we arrived and would by the time we’d
leave it would be just as high. That meant we didn’t expect to see many waders since they feed at
low tide levels.Our first sighting was at the gatehouse cottage where a Garden Bumblebee
was feeding on the beautiful scarlet flowers of the privet, Escallonia rubra. This was quickly
followed with some shots of an Orange Tip butterfly and then a Green-veined White
butterfly on yellow Sea Radish flowers which were very abundant along each side of the
rough footpath. Flowers of Dog Rose bushes were buzzing with their eager bumblebee visitors,
such as the Tree Bumblebee shown below.
|Orange Tip Butterfly
|Green Viened White Butterfly
As I was photographing the insects John was scanning the South Bay with his trusty bins. He
spotted a distant Grey Seal semi-submerged below the bright Sun. With the light contra jour
(against the light), birds were silhouetted. But as we left the bay and approached the Point, we got
clearer views. A drake Red-breasted Merganser and Shag flew past in quick succession. These
were followed by Grey Heron flying inland across the peninsula as it headed for the North Bay.
|Drake Red Breasted Marganser
We came upon a large flock of mainly juvenile Starlings foraging frantically on the rocky shore. A
few of them were attended by an adult that was responding to its chick’s fluttering wings and
pleading calls for food.
They didn’t, or couldn’t stay long due to the appearance of beach-combing dog walkers.
We rested for a bit at a clearing favoured by wild campers. We saw several birds in the trees
namely Goldfinch, Willow Warbler and Whitethroat. Also on the grassy edge of the shore I spotted
a Greenfinch foraging in the long grass.
When we resumed our walk, a group of 5 Cormorants flew past from north to south.
We turned our attentions onto the very many flowers by the side of the path. I noticed a few
patches of Green Alkanet, a flower traditionally used in the production of fabric dyes. We were
looking particularly for insects and I started the ball rolling when I found a Common Orange
Legionnaire on Sea Radish flowers. John then found a Figwort Weevil and then a
Honey Bee on very pretty, but deadly poisonous Hemlock Water Dropwort. Further along
the path I tracked and finally snapped a very busy Carder bee . I completed the insect quest
by finding a Small Copper butterfly on Bramble flowers.
|Common Orange Legionnaire Soldier Fly
|Beetle - Figwort Weevil
|Small Copper Butterfly
The picture below shows the path as it rounds the Point. Also shown is the view across the Clyde
Estuary towards the Rosneath Peninsula with the hills of the Cowan Peninsula in the far distance.
As we neared the North Bay there were a few Heath Spotted Orchids in a
grassy area just off the newly-maintained footpath. I spied a Blackbird
descending from bushes onto the edge of the foreshore where it started
to eat what looked like grubs. Thrift plants were in full bloom, their
small pink pom-pom-liked flowers bobbing in the gentle breeze. John
alerted me to a trio a Redbreasted Mergansers flying south, a female
followed by a pair of drakes.
|Heath Spotted Orchid
I photographed one of the many lovely spikes of Foxglove that we saw throughout our walk. John
located a small flock of drake Eider snoozing on the water north-west of the North Bay. Note the
sea wall of Helensburgh shore in the background. Although the tide was high, we were
disappointed to see that there were fewer birds than we expected on the North Bay. On walking
along the shaded north side of the peninsula I did spot a pair of preening Red-breasted
Mergansers. Also a swooping Common Gull appeared on the scene. However John and his bins
found at least 5 Grey Herons scattered on the shallows at the northeast corner of the bay. He also
found a pair of Shelducks and a Mallard in that area (but my camera didn’t like the heat haze).
Fairly satisfied with the birds we had seen, we entered the last bit of path that would take us back
to the car. Immediately John proclaimed “Buzzard alert”, and sure enough a large Buzzard was
riding a thermal high in the sky and soon ascended to an altitude where it was mere dot passing
over a quartet of horses standing in the field below. Just before the end of the path, a Robin was
standing on a metal framed gate as it watched for flies. I managed a shot just before it nipped
down to the ground to catch a fly, which it then darted away with to its nest. Meanwhile. a young
Blackbird stood motionless in the shade, a metre from the Robin. I rattled off a few shots before it
too flew off to a safer fence.
As we reached the end of the path, a Jackdaw flew onto a fence post for a few seconds before
taking off again into it he garden of the gatehouse cottage. We returned to the car and had tea in
the shadow of a large Sycamore tree. Experience told me to keep my camera handy because
more often than not birds turn up just as we are tucking into our end of visit refreshments. And so
it was that we had a couple of flypasts of Grey Herons and then a cheeky Chaffinch started
foraging a couple of metres from where we were sitting on our 3-legged stools.
The refreshments were strawberry tarts and, of course, strong teas. A fitting end to a very
pleasant visit. For me, the stars of the visit were the insects, the butterflies and bees and a special
mention for the newbies: the Common Orange Legionnaire and the Figwort Weevil. The spell of
good weather is predicted to hold out for a bit longer. Let’s hope that includes next Sunday.
We present this month’s gallery of my
favourite pictures I’ve taken during June 2023. They are
not listed in the order they have been taken, but according to a series
of themes. I’ve kept
commentary to a minimum, preferring to let each picture talk for itself.
Back To Top