Archive - November 2016

27th November 


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.

Greenshank Lapwing Female Teal Drake 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 Greenan Castle. 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.

Linnet Linnet Spooky Carrion Crow
Pied Wagtail 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.

Feral  Pigeon Robin Dunnock
Stonechat Reed Bunting Yellowhammer Song Thrush

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.

Female Goosander  
We 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.
Purple Sandpiper Common Seal Red-throated Driver Turnstone

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.

Rock Pipit White Wagtail Cormorant  

There John spotted a Rock Pipit just as I had just finished taking pictures of a pair of Turnstones that were
bravely 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.

Turnstone Rock Pipit Mute Swan  

13th November 2016


The 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 the coast.

Goldeneye Female Goldeneye Juvenile Cormorant Cormorant

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.

Greylag Oystercatcher Dunlin Female Long - tailed Duck
Long - tailed Duck Drake Common Guillemot Slavonian Grebe 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.

Red-throated Diver Mute Swan Velvet Scoter

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.

Curlew Rock Pipit Sanderling Magpie
Caddisfly Harvestman leiobunum_rotundum Long Tailed Tit

Blue Tit

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.

Fungus T.B.C. Female Mallard Mallard Duclair Ducks
1st Cycle Black- headed Gull
Mute Swans Moorhen  

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