The weather was reported to be best in the west so I decided to head for Maidens. First stop was Asda in Kilmarnock for what turned out to be a 9.5 + breakfast. Great service, fresh, hot food - excellent! As we drove through the outskirts of Ayr
I could see it was very cloudy to the south while it was already sunny
where we were. We decided then that Doonfoot was a safer choice of
venue for this week's walk. We parked at the north end of Castle Walk
and stuck our heads over the dunes to see what was showing in the pond.
It was very busy with birds, probably due to the high level of tide
water. There were Greenshanks, Lapwings, and at least 40 Teal.
Also a small flock of Linnets were having water baths. I
must have taken over a hundred photographs here before we decided to
move on. As we walked south we witnessed what was like an opening scene
from a Hammer movie as tens of Carrion Crows and Jackdaws flocked above
For around 20 minutes they circled, hovered and briefly landed on the
ruin, all the time cawing and screeching. Strange behaviour! The light
and shadow at the base of the castle was superb and I managed some good
shots of a feeding Carrion Crow, Pied Wagtail and Jackdaw.
At the field to the south of the castle we spooked a massive
flock of grazing Feral Pigeons.This part of the walk was usually quiet
with only the chance of an occasional shot, but today the trees and
bushes were very busy indeed. Robin, Dunnock, Stonechat, Reed Bunting
and Yellowhammer all made an appearance.
Back at the car we rewarded ourselves with our usual cuppa. Due to a poor selection of Danish at Kilmarnock
ASDA, our tea this week was accompanied by chocolate éclairs!
Delicious. Shamefully we had two each but they were very light. As we
necked the éclairs a beautiful Song Thrush landed a few feet away from
the car and posed as if we weren’t there. I can assure you that no
choux pastry was lost as I grabbed my camera for the final shots of
what turned out to be a very satisfactory day.
20th November 2016
Kilbirnie Loch, Saltcoats, Stevenston, Irvine
There were lots of Social Media reports of a Hooded Merganser on
Kilbirnie Loch, so we decided to head west. The weather wasn't great on
either coast but the forecast showed a slight chance of improvement in
the west. Breakfast at Morrisons in Johnstone was a very creditable 9
with cold bacon the cause of the markdown. Kilbirnie Loch was very busy
with model plane enthusiasts and lads on motor bikes. Not surprisingly,
except for an inbound Goosander, the loch was devoid of birds and
devoid of the Hooded Merganser in particular.
set off for the headland at Stevenston, but detoured to Saltcoats
first, hoping to see some Gannet activity from the tower on the harbour
wall. It was getting brighter as we arrived but it didn't last long. It
was very quiet but we hung around in the hope of something turning up.
Sadly, the Gannets didn't appear but a pair of Purple Sandpipers
sneaked onto the rocks below us. John spotted a Common Seal quite far
out but worth a record shot. A pair of Red Throated Divers and a small
flock of Turnstones kept our attention for a while.
As we u-turned out of the harbour area we caught a nice Rock Pipit
and a White Wagtail foraging on the road in front of us. Not a bad haul
in poor light. From Saltcoats we drove south to Stevenston Point. Like Kilbirnie Loch it was very noisy with
lads on bikes roaring up and down the beach. Subsequently I only
managed to photograph a Cormorant before we decided to move onto Irvine Harbour.
There John spotted a Rock Pipit just as I had just
finished taking pictures of a pair of Turnstones that were
venturing close to the car park. Final bird of the day was a lovely
Mute Swan before we returned to
the warm shelter of the car for a hot
cup tea and a toffee sauce Danish.
13th November 2016
weather drove us east this week. The light was to be bad but the
forecast showed that the rain should arrive hopefully just as we would
be heading home, giving us a few hours after breakfast. Social media
entries spoke of a Long Tailed Duck and a Red Throated Diver at the sea
wall in Musselburgh so off we went to Musselburgh via the Tesco Cafe at
Hermiston Gate for breakfast. It was our first visit
there after a long absence and we were hoping for an improvement in the
service. We were greeted by a hard "Whit dae ye waant?" - and so began
the decline that included cold beans, discoloured bacon, over cooked
hash brown and half done toast. The OK black pudding and tea were
slight positives; however we scored this dining experience a poor 6.5- . At
Musselburgh we parked at the Eskmouth due to the very poor state of the
road into the Scrapes. As the light was very bad and I was hoping the
birds would be close in to the sea wall. The mouth of the Esk was quite
busy with Gulls, Swans, Redshanks and Goldeneye. On closer inspection
the Goldeneye stretched out in small groups for at least a mile round
Further along adult then juvenile Cormorants flew past close enough for decent shots. We
arrived at the Scrapes at high tide to find it teaming with activity.
Busy is an understatement. There must have been at least 1000
Oystercatchers roosting on the four ponds. Greylags were on the ponds
in force as well, as were the usual suspects - Dunlin, Redshanks,
Shelduck, Bar-tailed Godwits and Lapwings. A pair of Greylags flew in
just as the Oystercatchers and Dunlin went up, all of which provided a
nice fly-past photo-opportunity.
|Female Long - tailed Duck
|Long - tailed Duck Drake
|Red - breasted Merganser
As the light was fading fast we decided to head back along
the sea wall. Long-tailed Ducks were feeding quite close to the wall,
along with a Common Guillemot a little further out. This section of the
water was beginning to get quite busy. A Slavonian Grebe appeared and
took my attention from the Long-tailed Ducks. As I took a quick shot of
a pair of passing Red-breasted Mergansers I caught a flash of another
bird as it disappeared below the water. It turned out to be a nice
example of a Red-throated Diver. A Mute Swan flew in, then an elegant
Velvet Scoter - both close enough for decent shots.As we arrived back
to the car for tea and, for a change, a very nice fresh cream doughnut,
we reflected on what had been a very fruitful trip despite the bad
light. Musselburgh never disappoints.
6th November 2016
Stevenston Headland, Ardeer Quarry
The weather drove us west this week. I was hoping to go to Maidens but
my weather app showed cloud moving in from the south, so Stevenston it
was. Maybe Maidens was still in my mind as I drove to Kilmarnock Asda
for breakfast instead of Morrisons at Stevenston which would have been
the logical move! Breakfast at Asda was a reasonable 8.5. Asymmetrical
toast and cold beans the cause of the mark down. We started at the
headland and the light was excellent but it was very cold and very
quiet indeed. A lone Curlew was the best that I could get. No passing
Terns, no passing Gannets, even the usual Cormorants and Eiders were
missing. We headed down to the beach where we could see some waders at
the water's edge. Clambering over the rocks was dicey at our age but
worth it. A Rock Pipit posed about twenty yards away and ignored us
long enough for some good shots. We began sneaking our way across the
beach in order to get to the waders which turned out to be Sanderlings.
The beach bikers arrived shortly afterwards so it was time to move on
to the quarry. A nice Magpie greeted us as we arrived.
The pond was quite busy but the light was in the wrong place. As we
moved on towards the woods John spotted a 'bug' of some sort. It turned
out to be a friendly Caddisfly. As we walked the circular path we
needed to take a wee rest and sat down for while. A very long legged
spider? appeared and I struggled to capture it with the Lumix camera as
it scurried around our feet. We were interrupted by bird song coming
from behind us so I retraced our steps. A small flock of Blue Tits and
Long Tailed Tits had flown into the trees. We continued round the path
towards the pond, keeping our eyes peeled for any sign of Deer but it
looks certain now that they have been removed from the area completely.
Pity! As we moved down towards the pond I spotted a strange looking
fungus which I didn't recognise. We were now on the other side of the
pond with the sun behind us and a good opportunity to get some nice
shots of the birds on the pond. Back to the car for tea and a bun. The
Danish' were from a well known cash and carry store but we both agreed
they were not as good as the Morrisons effort. The birds still didn’t
get a crumb though. A very cold day out, some great shots, a nice
circular walk but somewhat downhearted at the lack of deer.
|1st Cycle Black- headed Gull
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