Archive - March 2022

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 Silver Birch.

Greenfinch Dog's Mercury
Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly Brimstone Butterfly
Common Reed Blushing Bracket

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 Dunnock
Wren Greylag Goose

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.

Teal Mallard

Other ducks present were Pochards and Shovelers.

Male Pochard Female Pochard
Shoveler Oystercatcher

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 .

Grey Heron Buzzard
Blue Tit 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.

Female Teal Teal
Coot Gadwall
Garganey Snipe
Reed Bunting Robin

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.

Gadwall Shelduck
Black-headed Gull Black-tailed Godwit

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, productive day. 

Robin Goldfinch

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.

Courtesy of Weather Pro  and BBC Tides

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.

Daffodil Mallard
Great Northern Diver Herring Gull

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.

Cormorant Red-breasted Merganser....

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.

Cormorant Tree Bumblebee
Buff-tailed Bumblebee Early Bumblebee

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 dog.

Female Teal Male Teal
Common Gull Redshank

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.

Jackdaw Female Blackbird
Mistle Thrush Carrion Crow

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 Wood Spurge.

Lesser Celandine Coltsfoot
Dandelion Wood Spurge

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 bush.

Dunnock Female House Sparrow
Chaffinch Wren

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.

Buzzard Curlew

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.

Courtesy of Weather Pro  and BBC Tides

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. 

Redshank Turnstone
Mallard Herring Gull

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 Female Eider
Eider in Eclipse Plumage Gannet

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
Herring Gull Razorbill

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.

Wigeon Bar-tailed Godwit

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.

11-spot Ladybird Reed Bunting
Chaffinch Grey Heron

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.

Greylag Goose Carrion Crow
Skylark Herring Gull

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 days.

Little Egret

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 banks.

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

Week ending 6th March 2022: Troon, Irvine Harbour

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.

Courtesy Of Weather Pro and BBC Tides

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.

Magpie Robin
Goldfinch Collared Dove

Below the Doves a group of twittering House Sparrows were feeding on leafing branches - Spring at last! We saw further proof of Spring with a Flowering Currant  shrub starting to bloom.

House Sparrow Female House Sparrow
Flowering Currant...

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.

Herring Gull 1st Cycle Herring Gull

Black Guillemot...
Oystercatcher 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.

Drake Eider Female Eider
Grey Seal Rock Pipit

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 Sandpiper.

Herring Gull....
Redshank Turnstone                                        Purple Sandpiper

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 .

Rock Pipit Juvenile Cormorant
Turnstone                                        Purple Sandpiper Starling

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.

Linnet Turnstone

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.

Herring Gull 1st Cycle Great Black_backed Gull

Lesser Black-backed Gull Black-headed Gull

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.

Shag Common Seal
Mute Swan Ringed Plover

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








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







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