Week ending: 27th March: RSPB Leighton Moss
There was no Sunday visit this week due to unforeseen circumstances. I did though visit, on
Wednesday, one of the RSPB’s finest reserves near Morecambe in the North-West of England,
Leighton Moss . The weather was warm and sunny with blue skies and hardly any wind;
ideal for watching nature.
The reserve is entered by passing through it's Visitor Centre. On stepping out onto the first of it’s
many pathways, the Garden Trail, I heard the rasping call of a Greenfinch and soon spotted it high
in a nearby tree. I moved onto the Lower Trail where I noticed a patch of Dog’s Mercury
flowering by the path. Further along, a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly flew onto a large leaf and then
a gorgeous green-winged Brimstone butterfly, a newby for me, fluttered into view and
landed on a Dandelion flower. The RSPB staff had told me to look out for the Cetti’s Warbler, - “a skulky bird often heard but seldom seen“. As I moved along the boardwalk section of
the trail that led through Common Reeds to the Causeway, I certainly did hear its very distinctive
call, but, as expected, I failed to get a glimpse of the shy bird. Just as I got to the end of the
boardwalk I took a long shot of a Blushing Bracket fungus growing on a moss-covered trunk of a
|Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly
The long Causeway just about bisects the reserve. Sadly, the Causeway Hide offered few
sightings but I did see a distant juvenile Marsh Harrier as it flew over the North end of the
reserve. At the end of the Causeway I passed through a gate into a wooded path where I
photographed some frolicking Dunnocks and a singing Wren. On reaching the Lower Hide I was
delighted to see a large number of birds in front of the hide. Closest were some Greylag Geese.
|Juvenile Marsh Harrier
A few Lapwings were showing off their aerobatic skills to other Lapwings feeding on the ground.
Beautiful Teal were working along the edges of the water along with several Mallards.
Other ducks present were Pochards and Shovelers.
The Greylags made a wonderful sight as they passed low over the reed-beds and waterways.
Another fine sight was that of a passing Grey Heron, no doubt looking for young frogs. I got
excited when I saw a large raptor looping its way towards the hide. I was hoping it was a Marsh
Harrier but it turned out to be a Buzzard. On my way back to the Visitor Centre in order to explore
the southern end of the site, I came across a rather obliging Blue Tit that seemed desperate to get
its picture taken - and I of course obliged. I also heard and snapped a recent arrival, probably
from Africa, a Chiffchaff .
From the Visitor Centre I followed the Family Trail which leads to the Tim Jackson Hide. The birds
were distant there and the light was poor so I didn’t take any pictures. Instead I moved to the
Grisdale Hide where there was a view to the north with the sun behind. I got snaps of a feeding Coot
and there were also Teal and Gadwall. Some people in the hide got a bit excited when a pair of
Garganey flew onto the water. These birds could be classed as infrequent visitors to the site, and
are in fact the UK’s only summer migrant duck, hence the excitement. I also spotted a Common
Snipe hiding, well camouflaged against the reeds. As I left the hide there was a wee Reed
Bunting at the edge of the path. Near the Visitor Centre I passed a very friendly Robin. It allowed
me very close views as it sang to the world.
My final trail of the visit followed a short drive beyond the South of the main reserve to the Coastal
Trail. There are two hides there, the Allen Hide and, famously, the Eric Morecambe Hide.
These overlook a rather large coastal marshland area the size of 2500 football pitches! On
entering the Allen Hide one is overwhelmed by the rather unpleasant sound of hundreds of calling
Black-headed Gulls in the process of breeding.
It was nice to see many Avocets , once a rarity but now their numbers are on the increase. I
also saw some more Shovelers.
Much of the photography from the hides was hampered by viewing into the sunlight. However the
Eric Morecambe Hide had views North over the water, allowing better-lit views of the birds, such
as the Avocet below.
I got close views of Gadwall and Shelduck. A particularly vocal Black-headed Gull took up
residence on a depth gauge from which it seemed to boss the younger birds. A Black-tailed
Godwit came very close to the Hide as it searched for invertebrates in the silt.
About a couple of hundred metres to the South of the hide there were hundreds of Black-tailed
Godwits amassed. It was a pity there were not closer.
Back at the car I was having a cup of tea with a chocolate biscuit but was interrupted by the need
to photograph a Robin. Then a Goldfinch appeared in the adjacent bushes. A nice end to a lovely,
Week ending: 20th March 2022: Ardmore Point
This week we headed for Ardmore Point , a small peninsula that juts out into the Clyde
Estuary, West of Dumbarton. My WeatherPro app predicted fine weather for the whole day, so
after a very nice breakfast in Dumbarton Morrisons (9.5/10: excellent, -0.5 for small plates) it was
only a short drive West to reach the Ardmore peninsula . The tide was incoming, as predicted by
the BBC website, and there was a chilly morning breeze still.
We started at the North Bay hoping to catch sight of birds following the tide to the shore. We did
see several distant Shelduck, but it was otherwise very quite.
Blooming Daffodils were scattered along the edges of the path. I spotted a lone Mallard in a patch
of seaweed and as we reached the Point a pair of Great Northern Divers were busy about 150m off the shore. Again we were a little disappointed by the lack of birds. Only
a Herring Gull passed in the time we sat there.
|Great Northern Diver
We trekked East towards the South Bay. John directed my attention to a flock of Oystercatchers
moving northwards, a few hundred metres out, low over the water.
We paused for a time to observe some Red-breasted Mergansers that were approaching
from the East. As we sat waiting for them to pass by, a Cormorant flew past in the opposite
direction. Eventually the Mergansers got as close as 70m and although they were partially
silhouetted by the Sun, we got reasonable views of them as the males literally fought for the
attention of the females.
A second Cormorant passed just as we reached a pleasant area around a small Sandy beach
where Crocuses were blooming in small patches of grass. We were pleased to see that the
flowers were attracting a variety of Bumblebees: Tree , Buff-tailed and Early
Bumblebees. I photographed them at close quarters for several minutes. They totally ignored me
as they clambered in and out of the flowers gathering pollen and sipping nectar.
As we neared the South Bay a few Teal were attempting to get onto the shore as they tried to
shelter from a stiff, chilly wind, but they were disturbed by dogs and walkers crunching along the
pebble-strewn shore. A pair of Common Gulls too had a similar problem. I caught a glimpse
through bushes of a pair of Redshanks on the shore before they too fled from an approaching
The South Bay was completely devoid of birds. However, we turned our
attentions to the fields and their surrounds. I caught sight of a
Jackdaw foraging in dung and in a nearby tree, a Blackbird was
observing me. A crying Mistle Thrush sped past overhead, possibly
disturbed by the increase number of visitors, or maybe the very noisy
farmer’s Tractor that was ferrying trailerloads of silage from
farm to field. I photographed one of the many Carrion Crows that were
searching for invertebrates in the dung.
I nipped across to the North Bay again to see if any birds had gathered there at high tide. On my
way I encountered a few wildflowers: Lesser Celandine , Coltsfoot , Dandelion and
The view across the North Bay looking towards Helensburgh was picturesque but, sadly, birdless.
We finished with a flurry of sightings near the bungalow. A wee Dunnock was searching for
nibbles on the public footpath, watched by a female Sparrow perched on a fence. I eventually
managed a shot of an elusive Chaffinch that had been incessantly singing high on a pathside
|Female House Sparrow
As we settled once more by the car, drinking tea and downing strawberry tarts, we were
interrupted by birds flying overhead between the Bays. First was a Buzzard descending swiftly
over the field and then a sizeable flock of Curlews appeared. I made a hash of capturing the
Curlew flock but luckily I got myself together and managed shots of a few stragglers.
We’ve had more productive days at Ardmore, but by the end of the trip we were satisfied with our
sightings. For me the Bumblebees were the highlight, followed by the squabbling Mergansers and
the distant views of the Divers. The good weather was predicted to continue throughout week.
Let’s hope that extends to next weekend.
Week ending: 13th February 2022 - Aberlady LNR and Port Seton
The WeatherPro prediction for Sunday was best for the East coast, so we opted for Aberlady
LNR. The BBC Tidal Chart showed that we would just miss the high tide and would see the tide
receding as the day went on.
After our Dalkeith Morrisons breakfasts (Excellent: 9.5/10, -1 for small plate still), we started our
quest at Port Seton, where conditions were rather grey. However, there were birds, the “usual
suspects”: Redshanks, Turnstones, Mallards and Herring Gulls.
Below is a shot of a small gathering of Redshanks on the exposed rocks.
It was also nice to see a few Eider quite close in. And a good bit further out we noticed
some sort of manoeuvre was going on between two ships. Interestingly, if you look very carefully
you will see a Gannet in the scene.
|Eider in Eclipse Plumage
We walked to the harbour-mouth where we saw a Great Black-backed Gull and lots of Herring
Gulls including a second calendar-year juvenile. John was quick to spot one of several Razorbills that were diving just off the harbour.
|Great Black-backed Gull
|2nd Cycle Herring Gull
On our walk back to the Wrecked Craigs we saw a mixed flock of Oystercatchers and Turnstones
fly in from the an area of shore that was being explored by some people.
In front of us on the walkway a Pied Wagtail was searching for food, carefully keeping its distance
from pedestrians. I spotted some distant Wigeon busy in a small weedy rock pool. John noticed a
Bar-tailed Godwit foraging in the same region.
We next drove the few miles East to Aberlady LNR and we were off to a flier with our first invertebrate
sighting of the year, an 11-spot Ladybird (Coccinella undecimpunctata) - found by John on
the wooden footbridge over the Peffer Burn. We crossed the bridge and followed the path that
would lead to Marl Loch. We were lucky to come across a male Reed Bunting sitting atop a
pathside bush. As we passed along the path through Sea Buckthorns we heard, but were unable
to get clear shot of, Bullfinches, however we did manage to get a reasonably good capture of
another, less shy bird, a male Chaffinch. Also, at the Marl Loch we saw a Grey Heron that
was lurking in the tall Reed-bed.
Past Marl Loch we came across a handful of Greylag Geese feeding in the marshy ground by the
path. Carrion Crows flew overhead and we were pleased to hear the ever-repeating songs of
Skylarks hovering high above our heads - another first for 2022. After a few tries I managed
a record shot of one of them as it belted out its song on high. I also snapped a pair of Herring
Gulls were that sitting on a large concrete block. We next tracked back to the Peefer Burn,
passing once again through the Sea Buckthorns where we once again failed to get a clear view to
photograph the Bullfinches.
From the footbridge we were delighted to see a Little Egret in the adjacent salt marsh. It flew
to the side of the Burn where it proceeded to catch little fishes. In the recent past it would have
been faced with hoardes of birders desperate to see it. However it is quite a common sight these
An added bonus at the Burn were some beautifully-lit Teal dabbling in it’s shallows. As we were
photographing them we witnessed several overhead passes of Mallards. Their dashing to and fro
was probably courtship-related.
Further upstream from where we were sitting, a large flock of Wigeon were grazing on the grassy
It had been another pleasing visit with the highlights being the Razorbill and Little Egret. We had
our usual teas by the car, accompanied by Morrisons strawberry tarts. A fine ending to a fine trip
ending 6th March 2022: Troon,
The weather prediction for Sunday was promising. The whole of Central
Scotland was to be sunny but on the cold side. Since we had spent most
recent weeks in the East, we opted for Troon on the Ayrshire Coast. The
BBC Tidal Prediction was for a rising tide throughout our visit. So
after a breakfast in Troon Morrisons (7/10: slow service, cold food and
small plates, -3) we drove across the road to the North Shore Road Car
Park to begin our quest.
The tide was, as expected, very far out and birds were scarce. We
walked around the large hedgerow to the left of the car park, looking
for any birds there. Straight away I snapped a Magpie that was looking
down at us from its perch high in bare tree. Soon after this a bold,
warbling Robin appeared followed by few less bold Goldfinches, that hid
deep in the shrubbery. A pair of pretty Collared
Doves were perched near the Magpie.
Below the Doves a group of twittering House Sparrows were feeding on
leafing branches - Spring at last! We saw further proof of Spring with
Currant shrub starting to bloom.
Next we parked in the Troon Harbour Car Park. The blue panorama before
us was genuinely stunning.
The small beach to the north of the car park was, annoyingly, devoid of
birds. However, we walked to the shore and sat waiting and watching. At
first, only Herring Gulls flew past, but after about 10 minutes a few Black
Guillemots flew in from around the sea wall, but
settled fairly far out. They seemed to be indulging in courtship
behaviour. An Oystercatcher flew past as the Guillemots sped off North
into the Firth of Clyde. We waited for their return. It
didn’t happen but we did get a nice view of a passing Shag.
We were then very pleased to see a pair of Eider edging towards us and
I managed a few acceptable shots at their closest approach. We were
even more pleased to see a Grey
Seal emerge from the beneath the blue water. As we
walked back towards the car park John spotted a Rock Pipit sitting on
top of the sea wall.
We watched a much-harassed adult Herring Gull unsuccessfully trying to
move away from its girning pair of juveniles. I spotted a single
Redshank foraging in a small pool on the rocks to the front of the car
park. John drew my attention to Turnstones
scurrying about at the far edge of the rocks. I thought one of them
looked like a Purple
A Rock Pipit appeared on the rocks below where we were standing. It
checked us out briefly before nipping off further along the shore. I
captured a young Cormorant flying past before I turned my attention
back to the Turnstones since they were creeping a bit closer into
better lit areas of rock. It wasn’t long before I could
clearly make out that there were Purple Sandpipers among them. Pleased
with this, we decided to move on but not before John encouraged me to
take a photograph of a wonderfully-lit Starling that was perched on a
small lamppost .
We moved briefly to the Titchfield Road car park for a look at the
rocks there. As we started we were surprised when a male Linnet flew
onto the path 3m in front of us and began serenading. I got a few
pictures, somewhat against the light, before it moved on. The only
other sighting of note was of a flock of Turnstones amassed on a large
boulder. They had been displaced by the ever increasing numbers of
day-trippers scrambling over the rocks.
We relocated to Irvine Harbour where once again we were disappointed to
find it was largely devoid of birds. There were of course Herring
Gulls The one shown below was ousted from its perch by a
juvenile Great Black-backed Gull. We saw a pair of Lesser Black-backed
Gulls on posts at the mouths of the estuary. And to complete the set of
the most common birds see at Irvine, I photographed a hovering
Black-headed Gull near the confluence of the Irvine and Garnock rivers.
|1st Cycle Great
Another common sight on the River Irvine is the diving Shag. We watched
in for some time but unfortunately it didn’t bring its catch
to the surface. Sammy the Seal made a late appearance albeit distantly.
I think it was a Common
Seal given its “dog-like” head.
There were around 10 Mute Swans gathered at the quayside where passing
folk occasionally threw them bread. In between these feeding sessions
the dominant males bullied the younger Swans, who shifted swiftly for
fear of their lives. Our final sighting was of a large flock of Ringed
Plovers that returned to the shore on the opposite
side of the estuary mouth. They had been disturbed by a pair of
engine-powered parachutes. Or was it the paddleboarders, canoeists,
swimmers or motor cyclists? The list of disrupting influences on
coastal wildlife gets bigger every week. We’ve witnessed all
of these recently on the North Ayrshire coast. Surely the authorities
must act to better protect our wildlife.
It was a very enjoyable trip during which we saw a fair variety of
wildlife. We would have liked to have taken some closer shots,
especially of the Purple Sandpipers and Black Guillemots, but hey,
that’s nature-watching for you. We did though get very close
to strawberry tarts, which we consumed with strong tea - the perfect
end to a very lovely day.
Highlights March 2022
FLOWERS & FUNGI
ON OR BY THE WATER
SMALL BIRDS IN TREES
Highlights - March 2022
We present last month’s gallery of my favourite pictures I’ve taken during March 2022. 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
FLOWERS & FUNGI
ON OR BY THE WATER
SMALL BIRDS IN TREES
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