ending: 30th May: Doonfoot
On Sunday it was wall-to-wall sunshine throughout the west of Scotland
and the East was prone to mist, so we headed for Doonfoot on the south
of Ayr. We stopped off at Stewartfield Morrisons in East Kilbride for a
quick breakfast (10/10: excellent), before driving with great haste
down the M77 until we reached Burns country, Alloway, and on to the car
park at the mouth of the River Doon.
As we had expected, because it was a Bank Holiday weekend, the car
parks were very busy when we arrived, in fact the Castle Walk car park
was full so we started at the Greenan car park about a half mile to the
south. This actually suited us as the tide was very low on arrival so
we resolved to return to the river mouth in the afternoon.
Greenan Castle made a welcoming sight after the 9 months since our last
visit. A lone Grey Heron flew high overhead raising my expectations
that it was going to be a fruitful visit. The bushes around the car
park were alive with the chatter of many House Sparrows with their
fledglings demanding food. As we set off, a brave male Blackbird was
high on a Hawthorn bush vigorously announcing his presence.
A bit further from the busy car park, Starlings, like the Sparrows,
were babysitting their young, always though keeping a watchful eye on
any potential threat, upon which they would dash unceremoniously from
the scene. A single twittering Goldfinch flew down from the Castle area
onto the Hawthorns.
As we moved around the dunes area I spotted a Brown
Silver-line Moth soaking up the sun atop a Nettle.
And without too much effort I managed photographs of three species of
butterfly, the Green-veined White, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell. The Peacock looked
the worse for wear.
The same dunes area was teeming with wildflowers. The most prominent
were Red Campion, Greater Stitchwort and Bluebells. I also noticed the
small pink flowers of
Doves-foot Cranesbill dotted about patches of short
John pointed out a Chocolate Mining Bee, Andrena scotica, feeding on a
Dandelion flower. I then spotted a Red Campion plant that was hosting
Shieldbugs , and John then discovered a pair of
6-spotted Ladybirds on close to the path. Then at my feet I noticed a
freshly dead Earthworm was being visited by a Flesh
Fly , possibly Brachicoma devia, the Bee-nest
Fleshfly, because its larvae predate developing Bumblebee larvae.
|Mining Bee -
Just as we rounded the base of the cliff at Greenan Castle, I snapped a
White-tailed Bumblebee that was resting on Nettle. A large Herring Gull
kept a careful eye on us as we passed. On the other side of the cliff
we heard the unmistakable irregular tones of a Sedge
Warbler on the dunes. It was against the light but I managed
a nice shot nevertheless. We walked along the edge of the field just
south of the castle, watching for anything of interest on or near the
Our first sighting was of a Dunnock .
It wasn’t long until we reached the part of the hedge
I’d seen the Sedge Warbler. We sat for a bit and we were soon
rewarded as the Sedge Warbler warbled its way up a thorny branch giving
us some excellent, well-lit views. We retraced our steps around the
cliff base but this time we watched a Rock Pipit feeding on seaweed and
I also photographed some Sea
Campion that was blooming low on the cliff. As we
moved through a gap in the shoreside scrub we came across a Willow
Warbler, high on a bush, with a beak-full of green caterpillars.
As per our plan for the day we returned to the Castle Walk car park
with the aim of walking to the mouth of the Doon to hopefully observe
the birds as they move closer as the tide comes in. We planked
ourselves on our wee stools and as we waited we took in the view of the
Bank Holiday crowds on Ayr Beach and Low Green.
There were Swallows and House Martins catching flies low over the river
and I managed a few reasonable shots after quite a few attempts. Rooks
and Jackdaws were very active in the area, coming and going all the
time. A few landed on the pebbley riverside near to where we were
sitting. On the water beyond the river mouth there were tens of Mute
Swans and also a couple of Whooper
Swans (who should have had flown to Iceland with the rest of
An angry cob thundered from under the footbridge out towards the
approaching flock of swans who took the hint and retreated a bit. But
why was it so angry?
There was a further problem for those Swans as they were also attacked
by a large dog that was let off the lead by its irresponsible owner. I
informed that person that he was breaking the law only to be, surprise
surprise, met with angry denials. After snapping a Black-headed Gull
flypast we decided to return to the car. At the bridge we realised why
the big Swan was so aggressive. His pen was on the calm waters under
the bridge with half a dozen light grey cygnets. The cob just
didn’t want the other Swans anywhere near his cygnets. A bit
further upstream there was a female Mallard with her ducklings.
|Out of control dog
|Mute Swan and
|Mallard and babies
No complaints about the weather this week. It was fabulous. No
complaints either about our sightings. They were many and varied. We
celebrated, as usual, with tea and cake (chocolate cream eclairs). I
suppose it would be unreasonable to expect another warm and sunny
Sunday next week - but it could happen
Week ending: 23rd May 2021: Barns
The weather forecast for Central Scotland was a bit depressing - wild,
wet and windy. The glimmer of hope was that East Lothian might see the
rain later in the day. With that possibility in mind we headed for
Barns Ness for the first time since November. Our breakfasts in
Dalkeith Morrisons were very nice (9/10: -1 for runny eggs).
Before we left, I noticed on Twitter a report that a Bluethroat had
been seen at Barns Ness on Saturday evening. So that gave us a skip in
our steps once we arrived. It had been seen near the
“wreck” that is just south of the lighthouse. On
the short walk there I snapped a Jackdaw that was hanging about the car
park. It looked a bit like a mad scientist. Near the wreck we could see
a few birders were already searching for the Bluethroat. Despite a
careful watch it seems it had moved on during the night. We did come
across a distant Stonechat on a fence. Later, a Skylark and
Meadow Pipit landed in posts of the same fence.
We walked along the seaweed-strewn beach scanning for birds in gloomy
We had flypasts of Carrion Crow, Herring Gull and a Shelduck
pair. The latter settled for a short time near the wreck, before taking
off as the Randy drake courted his female.
|Herring Gull 1st
There were several pairs active near the wreck, some passing very close.
The sea was choppy as shown by a lone drake Eider that was bobbing with
the waves, often disappearing from view as is dipped in a trough. A
tall Grey Heron dropped in from the east onto the sea-lashed rocks. But
that was it around the wreck. We paused for a while at what I think was
once a garden plot, now overgrown. The few bushes there are always
worth a look. We saw a pair of Reed
Buntings and …
|Male Reed Bunting
|Female Reed Bunting
…. A Stonechat
pair and a juvenile moving through the branches of the bushes. My
attention then turned to flora as I had noticed already that there were
many wildflowers in bloom. My first capture was a clump of
pink-coloured Bluebells, and nearby some Common Vetch was just coming
There were lots of patches of yellow Bird’s-foot Trefoil
flowers all along the shore edges. Likewise, dark blue-flowered
Germander Speedwell peeked through much of the low grasses along the
paths. Near the Lighthouse John noticed a few clumps of dark and light
amber Wallflowers. Next I saw Greater Stitchwort growing between rocky
mounds of grass, the star-shaped white flowers looking rather ghostly
in the dim light of the overcast sky.
Tiny yellow globular flowers of Hop Trefoil were just coming into bloom
on the foreshore and, through the area, Common Scurvygrass was starting
to seed. I spotted a small hoverfly (as yet unidentified) on a Bulbous
Buttercup while, on permanently exposed rocks on the shore, the
beautiful pink flowers of Thrift were bobbing merrily in the breeze.
John commented on the number of Gannets
that were moving south near the shore. That shore was about 150m out
from the lighthouse so I carefully picked my way across the rocks to
get a much closer view of the passage of the Gannets. Within minutes I
had taken a pile of shots, some shown below
Sadly there were no dives but I noticed that among the adult birds
there were third-year birds recognisable by the irregular
brown-patterned upper wings.
Near the lighthouse, John spotted a Small
Heath butterfly clinging to a grass stem. Despite
the gusty breeze I managed a nice macro shot using my LUMIX LX5 camera.
Soon afterwards, as I tried (unsuccessfully) to snap one of the
Swallows that were circulating above the grounds of the lighthouse, a
Skylark landed some 5m from where I was standing. It obliged me with a
fine pose that showed off its raised crest. We decided to check out the
“wire dump” area in the vain hope of spotting the
Bluethroat. What we got though was a dazzling display of mating Wall
butterflies as they danced around and on the bright yellow
blooms of Oxford Ragwort - in bright sunshine!
We then moved over to the derelict caravan site, and area usually rich
in wildflowers, and Sunday was no exception. I photographed White
Deadnettle hosting Carder and White-tailed Bumblebees. Purple,
trumpet-shaped flowers of Ground Ivy had pushed through the grass and
there were large violet flowers of Greater Periwinkle scattered around
the site. I followed a Greenveined White butterfly until it settled on
on White Deadnettle.
I also noticed flowering Garden Strawberry plants near Pink Sorrel
(which is new to us). In the same area there was a fine Perennial
Cornflower plant that carried several very attractive blue flowers.
Further into the old caravan site I was pleased to see a large Yellow
Figwort plant. This plant is specially adapted to
get pollinated by wasps rather than bees.
We found a well-worn path through the wood that borders the west of the
site. There were several bird feeders hanging at various points along
the path and I managed a picture of a female Chaffinch that visited one
of these. When we emerged from the wood we came across a Millipede,
Glomeris marginata, scrambling along part of a fallen wall. We also
came across another couple of insects, a Sawfly, Dolerus gonager, and
St Mark’s Fly.
|Sawfly - Dolerus
|St Mark's Fly
|When we returned to the car we were
greeted by a male Pied Wagtail feeding on the grass. That completed a
pleasing and varied set of photographs. We celebrated with mugs of
strong tea and Danish Pastries. The weather had been kind to us with
only one light and brief shower followed by a lovely spell of sunshine.
Hopefully next week’s weather will be better though.
Week ending: 16th May 2021: Troon,
The weather was to start off bright and become cloudy later with a
chance of showers. There was a chance North Ayrshire would escape the
rain so I headed for sunny Troon - the last visit was 6 months ago.
After a hearty breakfast in Troon Morrison’s (7/10:
overcooked egg and greasy mushrooms) we started at the edge of the
North beach with some shots of a few bunny
Rabbits nibbling grass. A Wood Pigeon looked on and a Green-veined
White butterfly landed not far from the Rabbits
before disappearing with the breeze. I noticed a couple of Collared
Doves canoodling in the branches of a tree.
|Green Veined White
I spied a Large
White butterfly feeding on a Bluebell and in a large
patch of White Deadnettle several brown Carder Bumblebees were busy. We
walked around a long line of trees where I managed some shots of a Wren
in the branches and on the grass an inquisitive female House Sparrow
seemed to be uncertain of its next move.
We next drove to the Titchfield Road Car Park for a stroll along the
prom to scan the rocks for anything of interest. My first picture was
of a bathing Starling sending circular ripples across a large puddle.
We were pleased to see a pair of Linnets feeding
on Dandelion seeds on the grassy verges of the prom. They were
unusually tolerant of passing walkers which probably explained why I
was able to get such close pictures.
Looking out over the Firth of Clyde, towards Ailsa Craig, we had a
nicely-lit view of Lady
Isle which is about 4km from Troon.
There was a variety of wildflowers sprouting from the cracks in the
perimeter wall along the pathside. The yellow-flowered Sea Radish were
the tallest of these. The prettiest were probably the pink Thrift
flowers or maybe the strikingly yellow flowers of Silverweed. A Jackdaw
appeared on the grass while I was snapping the flowers. There were many
Thrushes hunting worms and other invertebrates to feed their nestlings.
John spotted a Barn
Swallow gathering nesting materials from a mud
The only birds we saw on the rocks were a pair of White
Wagtails . On the grass near the car I managed a
short range picture of a male Pied Wagtail.
We had a look across the rocks below the car park. The view of the
Troon seafront was pleasantly sunlit.
We returned to the car, circled by one of the many Herring Gulls
checking us out for chips. Having soaked up an hour of sunshine at the
coast beside Titchfield road, we relocated slightly north to the car
park at the end of Harbour Road. The incoming tide had brought birds
nearer the shore. Ringed Plovers and Turnstones were nipping about on
large rough sandstone rocks. A large Cormorant landed on a large
exposed rock that was occupied by a dozen or so Oystercatchers and a
A trio of Red-breasted Mergansers flew past just as John spotted
“Sammy” the Grey Seal. It was looking a bit glum,
because his lounging rocks were swarming with day-trippers. John drew
my attention to a Rock Pipit close by on the rocks. I was excited to
see a close and low flypast of a large Gannet skimming the sea only
about 50m out.
A large mass of cloud was spreading from the south. We could see Ayr
was already overcast. We decided then to head for Irvine Harbour for a
quick look there before our customary teas. The walking to the mouth of
the estuary produced only a photo of perching Herring Gull, however,
the rocks nearest the end of the walkway came up trumps. There we got
close views of breeding plumage Turnstones as they coped with the
We were both delighted to see perfect views of a half-dozen very
as they too coped with the tricky problem of where to stand when the
water level rises to cover your stance. Some were in their brown-toned
breeding plumage, while others were in the non-breeding plumage which
We arrived back at the car fairly satisfied with our day’s
haul of sightings. I don’t know what John thinks but our
Sunday outings seem to pass more quickly. I feel we’re just
getting going only to realise it is time to go home. Of course it was
good to get to the bit when we got stuck into chocolate eclairs and
John’s home-baked lemon drizzle. My favourite shots of the
day were the Sanderlings followed by the Linnets
Week ending: 9th May 2021: Dunbar Harbour,
The weather across the Scottish Central Belt was predicted to be mild
and showery with sunny intervals. The prospects were slightly better in
the east so we headed for Dunbar for our second Sunday jaunt since the
relaxation of travel restrictions.
We started at Dunbar Harbour, where it was mainly sunny. The view below
I think captures the charm of the location with the Castle ruin and
fishermen’s baskets frame the calm harbour waters.
As we walked around the harbour I spotted a wee Pied Wagtail on the
wall of the Battery, and further round a White Wagtail was hopping
along the cobblestones. We took up position at the north wall that
overlooks tall rugged rocks called the Gripes
with a panoramic view beyond of the Firth of Forth and the Kingdom of
Fife. Just below the wall a small flock of drake Eiders were vying for
the attention of a pair of females. There were plenty of Kittiwakes
calling from the rocks and flying in and out with with nesting material
There was a large colony of very active Shags nesting
on the rocks. They too were coming and going with small branches of
The third species of bird nesting on the Gripes were Herring Gulls.
They offered many photo opportunities and I managed some shots of them
flying, swimming, mating and sitting on the nest.
The annual sight
and sound of
the Kittiwakes nesting on the walls of the ruins of Dunbar Castle is
something I look forward to with great relish. Virtually every nook and
cranny of the walls are occupied by the delightfully noisy birds, each
regularly screeching its name, “Kitty-i-WAKE,
Kittyi-WAKE”. I find a scan of the small bay west of the
is often rewarding. On Sunday I discovered a Fulmar,
the “master of the wind currents”, circulating the
bay. After waiting a short time it eventually passed fairly close and
low, allowing me to snap a few pleasing shots.
We sheltered a while from a short shower of rain and then moved on to
the Shore Road car park overlooking Belhaven Bay. We walked the short
distance to Seafield Pond and managed to find and photograph a few
wildflowers: Prickly Sow Thistle, Hoary Cress, Red Campion and White
Deadnettle (complete with Carder Bee).
John directed my attention to some Mallards paddling in ditchwater by
the path. He also noticed a black insect (yet to be identified), had
landed on his phone. Also, he spotted a pair of Swallows swooping over
the waters of the incoming tide. I took a couple panning shots of one
of them as it passed in pretty poor light.
At Seafield Pond I heard the unmistakable song of a Sedge Warbler
coming from a reed bed. We sat quietly beside those reeds waiting on
the bird to show. John pointed out a Grey Heron further along bank.
Eventually it was spooked by passing walkers.
Warbler made a lengthy appearance moving warbling
its way up a stalk of reed. A female Reed
Bunting appeared briefly, not far from the Sedge Warbler,
before disappearing into the greenery. Near it a Moorhen with three
chicks were picking their way through the reeds. However, there were
only a few birds on the pond. A Tufted Duck was one of them.
|Female Reed Bunting
At the south end of the pond a Mute Swan posed in front of a line of
reeds. A Coot made a brief appearance, but that was about it. We
finished our observations by the car park end of Shore Road where I
snapped an inquisitive Carrion Crow and some St
Mark’s Flies that were in the air and on
a patch of Hoary Cress.
|St Mark's Fly
My final shot was of the day was of Belhaven Bridge, also known as the
“Bridge to Nowhere”. At most times of the day and
night it spans the Beil Burn, but at high tide the whole bay is
submerged, isolating the bridge from dry land. The picture below also
shows the Bass Rock on the right and the hill on the left is North
Our tea was accompanied by cream and jam filled scones, an appropriate
reward for quite a impressive collection of observations. My favourites
were the Sedge Warbler and Fulmar and it was a pleasure to visit one of
my favourite locations. Hopefully we’ll make many more visits
Week ending: 2nd May 2021: Stevenson,
This week I was accompanied by John - the first he’s been on
the road since March 20. The North Ayrshire coast was our destination
and, of course, our first stop was a visit to Morrisons Cafe for a
long-awaited breakfast fry-up (10/10). The weather at Stevenson Point
started sunny with a cold breeze, but it soon clouded over for the rest
of the day. We were greeted by a flock of Starljngs feeding frantically
on the grassy edges of the “car park”, some were
gathering nesting material. A pair of Great Black-backed Gulls were
loitering on the rocky slab and a pair of Eider were paddling near
them. The main bird activity on the Point was due to the Corvids -
Jackdaws and Carrion Crows.
We were very pleased to see a few Gannets passing
and even diving. We were also pleased to see a few wildflowers. A
Hyacinthoides x massartian, was growing near the edge alongside a
Daffodil . Some Dandelions were wedged between the
large rocks on the west side of the point.
On our way to Saltcoats we looked in on the pond at Auchenharvie Golf
Course. There were tens of swooping Sand
Martins moving over the water. At the pond edge
House Sparrows were feeding on reeds. A pair of Mute Swans were sitting
in the middle of a small island at the centre of the pond, perhaps
nesting. The island was littered with rubbish such as old car wheels,
slabs, crates. A Cormorant sat perched on a large tyre.
From Saltcoats Harbour the view across to Arran was dim but impressive
nonetheless. As usual there were plenty of Herring Gulls watching
carefully for discarded chips.
We walked to the end of the harbour passing a Black
Guillemot resting on the quayside.
More Black Guillimots were paddling in the harbour waters, some flying
in from, and out to, the Firth of Clyde.
We sat on the rocks beyond the sea wall, watching for passing birds. A
few Gannets passed fairly close without diving. We could see a
gathering of Shags
on a small rocky island a few hundred metres offshore.
It wasn’t long before we had a much closer view of Shags as
they made several close passes, albeit in poor light. There were also a
few fly-passes of young Eider.
|Juvenile Male Eider
We walked around to the other side of the harbour where we found a Rock
Pipit foraging in seaweed for invertebrates. The
photograph below shows it with what looks like a large Sand
Hopper in its beak. A White
Wagtail was searching in the same area, watched
intently by a cat waiting for the birds to come within pouncing range.
However we were generally disappointed by the absence of birds. They
were probably in their breeding areas. I did come across a couple of
blooming wildflowers - a Hairy Bittercress and Common Scurvygrass.
Our final stop of the day was at Irvine Harbour. We caught a few brief
sightings of a Common Seal at the confluence of the River Irvine and
River Garnock. The main attraction though were the Gannets repeatedly
diving in the mouth of the estuary. We saw many thrilling dives but
they were all unsuccessful as far as we could see.
A Border Force vessel powered down the channel on some unknown mission.
Our final picture was of one of a pair of Sandwich
Terns searching for fish along side the Gannets.
They too seemed to be unsuccessful.
It will come as no surprise to regular readers that our final activity
was to sit in the car park supping tea while nibbling on Danish
pastries. We reflected on how it was good to get on the road again and
compared our favourite sightings. Mines were the Gannets, Shag and
Black Guillimots. Let’s hope we are able to keep our visits
going uninterrupted by restrictions.
Highlights - May 2021
We present last month’s
gallery of my favourite pictures I’ve taken during May 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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