Archive - June 2023

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.

Common Nettle Red Campion
Herb Robert Common Comfrey

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.

Rosebay Willowherb Broad Leaved Willowherb
Pink Purslane Common Valerian

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 grossulariae.)

Meadow Cranesbill Creeping Thistle
Common Hogweed...

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 Daisy Yarrow
Bittersweet Pineapple Mayweed

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 Ragwort Wild Rose
Great Willowherb 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.

Meadowsweet Hedge Woundwort
Lesser Stitchwort Common Comfrey

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.

Tufted Vetch Large Bindweed
Water Forget-me-not Meadow Buttercup

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 Goldfinches.

Common Spotted Orchid Yellow Flag Iris / Calocoris Stysi
Creeping Thistle / Ringlet Butterfly Marsh Thistle

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 UK.

Red Clover White Clover
Creeping Buttercup Bramble

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 visit.

Courtesy of Weather Pro  and BBC Tides

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 Cranesbill flowers.

Dunnock Grey Heron
Red-tailed Bumblebee Early Bumblebee

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.

Honey Bee Tree Bumblebee
White-tailed Bumblebee Gall Fly - Tephritis Bardanae
7 Spot Ladybird / Musk Thistle Slender Thistle

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.

Common Centaury Weld
Viper's Bugloss Teasel

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.

Red Poppy Shelduck
Linnet 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.

Sand Martin Oystercatcher
Sandwich Tern Herring Gull

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 Female Goosander
Mallard in Eclipse plumage Wood Pigeon
Eider in Eclipse plumage Sandwich Tern

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.

Shag Female Eider
Barn Swallow House Sparrow
Pied Wagtail Juvenile Pied Wagtail
Jackdaw Juvenile Starling

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.

Barn Swallow

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).

Courtesy of Weather Pro  and BBC Tides

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.

Hedge Mustard Syrphus ribesii
Stonechat Carrion Crow

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.

Tree Mallow Herb Robert
Skylark Goldfinch
Greater Stitchwort Meadow Pipit

We paused briefly at the remains of a building. Below is a view of the lighthouse as seen from the ruin.

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.

Linnet Juvenile Starling
Purple Milk Vetch Grey Heron

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. 

Black-headed Gull Oystercatcher
Juvenile Starling "Rock Pipit

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.

Juvenile Pied Wagtail...
Pied Wagtail Meadow Pipit...

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.

Red-tailed Bumblebee Yellow Shell Moth
Skylark Yellowhammer
Goldfinch Common Cudweed

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.

Garden Snail Viper's Bugloss
Lady's Mantle Reed Bunting

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 the car.

Opium Poppy / Weld...
Linnet Barn Swallow

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 slow service)

Courtesy of Weather Pro  and BBC Tides

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.

Garden Bumblebee Orange Tip Butterfly
Green Viened White Butterfly Tree Bumblebee

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.

Grey Seal Drake Red Breasted Marganser
Shag Grey Heron

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.

Juvenile Starling

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.

Goldfinch Willow Warbler
Whitethroat Greenfinch

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. 

Green Alkanet Common Orange Legionnaire Soldier Fly
Beetle - Figwort Weevil Honey Bee
Carder Bee 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 Blackbird
Thrift Red-breasted Merganser

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).

Foxglove Eider Duck
Red-breasted Merganser Common Gull
Grey Heron Shelduck

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.

Robin Juvenile Blackbird

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.

 Grey Heron Chaffinch

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.







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