Archive - November 2019

24th November:

Skateraw and Seafield Pond

Central Scotland was shrouded in cloud with rain in the west. We hadn’t been to Skateraw for some weeks so I decided to give that a try, tempted also by a report of a Siberian Chiffchaff at the DryBurn. In all likelihood it would probably be well gone by the time we’d get there. As we left Dalkeith Morrisons after our customary breakfasts (9/10: excellent) there was actually some sunshine but at the Skateraw car park the sky was grey and the light was poor. It would gradually worsen throughout the visit. We started at the old Limekiln where a huge flock of Herring and Blackheaded Gulls were “surfing” the breaking waves, presumably to gather invertebrates dislodged from a mass of beached seaweed. Nervous Starlings were on the seaweed until one particularly viscous wave put them up (that’s Torness power station in the background).

Black-headed Gull Starling

A big Carrion Crow foraged on the weed but kept an eye on us as it did so. Ten Turnstones stood on an exposed rock, dodging the waves by taking flight, then quickly settling again on the rock. Oystercatchers too were amongst the crowd of birds, making their presence known by their high pitched calls.

Carrion Crow Turnstone Turnstone Oystercatcher

Also present were large numbers of Redshanks (see “Pictures of the Week”, below). As we moved from the Limekiln onto the beach we passed a Rock Pipit on a large rock. Beyond it a pair of Mallards paddled past. We next walked a half mile west to the Dry Burn which was anything but dry. In fact it was filled with brown fast moving water flowing into the stormy Firth. There were very few birds there, no Siberian Chiffchaff certainly. Approaching the rocky shore at the Chapel Point, John spotted a female Red-breasted Merganser 100m offshore. A big Cormorant flew past but little else.

Rock Pipit Mallards Red-breasted Merganser Cormorant

Some Oystercatchers flew past towards Chapel Point (a geologically significant site) and we followed them.

On the rocks we were delighted to see a very large assembly of birds. Amongst these were the odd Bar-tailed Godwit  and a few Purple Sandpipers, the first I can recall seeing there. Of course, there were also many Dunlin  most of which were standing firm, beaks under wings, and heads bowed into the wild wind. It was also very nice to see there a few Grey Plovers .

Bar-tailed Godwit Purple Sandpipers Dunlin Grey Plover

Satisfied with a nice collection of sightings at Chapel Point, we trekked back to the car seeing only a passing Herring Gull and, unusually, a Robin on the wave-pounded rocks. As I drove out past Skateraw bungalows John was able to photograph a lovely Fan-tailed Pigeon, a Chaffinch and a bedraggled Collared Dove, one of 5 doves that can be seen in the UK.

Herring Gull Robin Chaffinch Collared Dove

We drove through Dunbar to the Shore Road car park that overlooks Belhaven Bay. By now the light level was very poor and I wasn’t expecting to be able to take any decent shots. However, my Nikon 500D camera had other ideas. I managed to get fairly near a Grey Heron (see “Pictures of the Week”, below) on the west side of the Bay. The resulting shots were pleasing. I next managed not bad shots of a lone Curlew that was searching for worms on the grass surrounding Seafield Pond. On the water, a wee Coot was making attractive concentric circular waves as it nibbled on some weed.

Grey Heron Curlew Coot

Also on the Pond were a fine pair of Mute Swans. When they saw us they swam over and out of the water hoping we’d feed them. In the middle of the pond a Black-headed Gull stood on an anchored black-painted canister. A single drake Tufted Duck checked us out briefly before calmly paddling off. As I snapped the Tufty, a drake Teal appeared from behind the reeds. Surprised by our presence it took off for the other end of the pond, providing me with a wonderful photoopportunity (see “Pictures of the Week”, below). Next we managed to surprise some Wigeon that were hidden from us by more reeds. They also fled to the back pond, again giving me the chance of some flight shots.

Mute Swan Black-headed Gull Tufted Duck Wigeon

A number of Oystercatchers were grouped around the edges of the pond, but they scattered as we approached. I snapped a drake Mallard drying his wings, partly showing off to the females I think. A few Magpies came and went but the light was getting too dim to carry on. I did though try a shot of a Cormorant that was perched on the pontoon moored at the far side of the dusky pond.

Oystercatchers Mallard Drake Magpie Cormorant

It had been dull but it stayed dry and relatively mild. We had seen a pleasing variety of birds and some of the shots were not bad considering the conditions. So we got out the flask and cups and cream and jam-filled scones and celebrated another successful outing. But next week I’d prefer bright sunshine and clear blue skies, even with cold temperatures.

Pictures of the Week:

Redshank Fan-tailed Pigeon
Grey Heron Teal

17th November  2019:

Stevenston and Troon

The weather was to be nice throughout the Central Belt but it was to be nicer in the west. Also there had been reports of various interesting birds between Prestwick and Stevenston so we made for Stevenston Morrisons for our customary breakfasts (9/10: very good, but service was slow). From there it was first stop Stevenston Point. When we got there we were appalled to find a jet skier doing his noisy stuff and consequently there were very few birds to be seen. Disappointed though we were, we had a quick scan of the area and noticed four Sanderling  on the slipway where the jet ski was being deployed, but when it passed close they flew off. A bonny Robin was loitering on the rocks adjacent to the slipway, and to the left of it I noticed a small flock of Ringed Plover . They also dispersed on one of the many passes of the jet skier.

Sanderling Robin Ringed Plover

On the north side of the Point a Redshank stood in the warm sunshine, while at the end of the long concrete outflow pipe an assorted group of birds stood, including several Shag, Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls. They were disturbed when, wait for it, a pair of cyclists walked their bikes out to where the birds were amassed. “Time to move on”, we thought. So it was one last look at beautiful Arran and then we made the short drive south to Troon.

Redshank Arran Shag / Great Black-backed Gull

The view of Troon from the South Beach:

John commented on how scruffy and dirty the sands were. There was certainly a lot of decaying seaweed. The birds were glad of it though, as it was a rich source of invertebrates. I got nice pictures of a foraging female Pied Wagtail ( see “Pictures of the Week”, below for the male). A Meadow Pipit  was nipping about, and dozens of young nervous Starlings made repeated visits, moving between the golf course and the seaweed, never being allowed to settle due to the steady stream of walkers and their dogs. On the golf course chestnut fencing I snapped a pair of Wrens before they dived back down into the undergrowth.

Female Pied Wagtail Meadow Pipit Juvenile Starling Wren

That fence was certainly worth watching as very soon I had also photographed a Carrion Crow, Rock Pipit , and a probable Water Pipit. I also saw a few flighty Linnets  on a bush by the fence before they fled to the shore. On our way back to the car John directed my attention to a male Stonechat posing on top of some Grass stems (see “Pictures of the Week”, below).

Carrion Crow Meadow Pipit Water Pipit Linnet

We moved on north to our final stop, Troon Harbour. As we arrived, a large timber-carrying vessel, the “Red Princess” was sailing into the Harbour. Its cargo was undoubtedly bound for the timber yards beside the harbour, however it was once ferrying  passengers about the Greek Islands! We sat on the sandy shore just north of the car park. A few birds came and went including a lovely male Linnet chewing on a seed of some sort. As is usual at that site, “Sammy” the Seal made an appearance. It surfaced some 40m out and had a few breaths before diving to continue its day’s work. As the Autumn sun got lower in the sky, light levels were falling as can be seen from the sea view below.

Linnet Common Seal

We were pleased to see a Shag with a relative whopper of a fish. They both struggled a bit but eventually the bird managed to get the fish down its throat. We next decided to explore the shore to the south of the car park. Just maybe there were Purple Sandpipers lurking in what was becoming shadowy lighting conditions. We passed Oystercatchers dodging waves as the incoming tide encroached their position on the rocks.

Shag Oystercatcher

Eventually we did see some Purple Sandpipers  (also see “Pictures of the Week”, below) on the rocks about 20m out. They too were dodging the waves as they moved with the tide. A solitary Redshank though stood determinedly resisting the conditions and made a nice shot.  John alerted me to an incoming flock of Eider speeding past us heading southwards. Our final shot of the visit was of an attractive Grey Wagtail (also see “Pictures of the Week”, below) foraging amongst the seaweed on the rocky shore.

Purple Sandpiper Redshank Eider Grey Wagtail

We reverted this week to our old favourites, custard-filled lattice Danish pastries, which were excellent accompaniments for our mugs of strong tea. Although the day had started rather misty and frosty, after the sun had shone for a few hours we were casting off hats, scarves and gloves. It had been a very pleasant day watching birds. We are very pleased with our haul of pictures. We hope you enjoy them too.
Pictures of the Week:

Pied Wagtail Stonechat
Purple Sandpiper Grey Wagtail

10th November 2019:

 Newshot Island and Erskine Harbour

Ever since the release of the SOC app that contains an impressive list of birding sites, I have been waiting on the right conditions to visit the River Clyde at Erskine in Renfrewshire. Sunday’s conditions were just right, bright sunny weather, and I noticed that there is a Morrisons Cafe a literal stone’s throw from the starting point. So after breakfast (9.5/10: excellent) we were soon on our way walking along the riverside path towards Newshot Island LNR. We passed a charismatic quay light (probably disused) that stands beside a field of around a dozen impressive Clydesdale horses grazing (see also “Pictures of the Week“,below). Our first bird sightings were of Mallards beautifully lit by the low Autumn sun. We passed through a wooded lane where a feeding Blue Tit caught our attention. We also noticed a flock of berryseeking Redwings, but they flew off before we got a clear view.

Mallard Blue Tit

We came upon the “Newshot Island Viewpoint” but unfortunately it was so overgrown with weeds and bushes that it was impossible to view very much. We pressed on but eventually reached the end of the path. I know the main part of the LNR was further upstream but with our unfamiliarity with the site we decided to retrace our steps back towards the car park and then continuing downstream to explore the area nearer the Erskine Bridge. Before we even started that plan we were visited by a large Buzzard that swooped in and settled for a few moments at the edge of the woods. Also I finally managed to snap a shot of a Redwing and also one of a Blackbird eating red Hawthorn berries. The St Mungo2 Fireboat sped past at quite a nippy rate. I think this is the replacement for the original St Mungo Fireboat  that operated on the Clyde over the period 1959-75.

Buzzard Redwing Blackbird St Mungo Fireboat

John pointed out a pair of Pied Wagtails in the horses’ field (see also “Pictures of the Week“, below), and as we passed our starting point we came across a Robin and a Dunnock on the hedges by the path. Every few minutes we got treated to birds flying along the river (such as the Cormorant shown below).

Female Wagtail Dunnock Robin Cormorant

The view west from the site of what used to be Erskine Harbour. The panorama is dominated by the towering Erskine Bridge.

We arrived at the eastern edge of the derelict harbour which, over time, has become a reed-filled marsh. We unwittingly disturbed a pair of Mallards that flew across our view quacking nervously onto the river. I noticed a fungus growing out of the wood fencing that lines the footpath. It was a Conifer Mazegill, Gloeophyllum sepiarium. In the wooded area just before Erskine Harbour a Great Tit  chirped around us seeming to get fairly stroppy until we passed (see also “Pictures of the Week“,below).

Drake Mallard Female Mallard Conifer Mazegill Great Tit

We were surprised at how many bird species we saw in the waters that were once part of a working harbour, but were now silted up and overgrown with weeds. A Greenshank  was prominent amongst a group of roosting Redshanks and the odd Teal. A pair of handsome drake Wigeons  paddled towards us and out into the Clyde.

Greenshank Redshank Wigeon

A solitary Little Grebe calmly followed the Wigeon but a pair of Teal , that had been on the bank, caught sight of us and winged it further into the waterway. I snapped some pictures of young female Blackbird on a Hawthorn bush. It didn’t seem to mind our presence and I was able to get a few pictures from quite close range. Soon after, a Magpie glided down from the trees onto the riverbank, albeit it poor light.

Little Grebe Teal Female Blackbird Magpie

A short walk west from the old harbour took us to the site of the old Erskine Ferry, now redundant due to the giant bridge that looms over it. John directed my attention to a Jackdaw sunning itself on telegraph wires, and a golden-toned Goldfinch perched high above us in tree branches. We decided to leave the exploration of the area west of the bridge to another day, so we started back to the car. In the trees where I’d photographed the Great Tit I managed an image of a Treecreeper  as it crept up a tree in relatively good light. In the same place, a flock of Long-tailed Tits passed through. They were difficult to track with the camera due to their nippy, random paths and the density of the twigs and branches. Nevertheless, I managed a record shot.

Jackdaw Goldfinch Treecreeper Long-tailed Tit

The impressive view of the Erskine Bridge from the slipway of the Erskine ferry:

As we neared our journey’s end a Grey Heron ghosted downstream and settled on the bank opposite to where we were standing. Its light grey plumage contrasted with the black rocks that lined the bank. In the Hawthorn bushes behind us a Blackbird was gorging on a feast of red berries, not at all bothered by the clicking of my camera. A Great Black-backed Gull circled a few times and then landed midstream on the Clyde. We thought that was that, but I managed a final few shots at the car  of a fearless Robin (see “Pictures of the Week“,below) that was easy tempted in by some free nibbles.

Grey Heron Blackbird Great Black-backed Gull

It would be fair to say that we each enjoyed our first visit to Erskine and we will certainly return to further explore the area. We had walked a fair distance so our tea was very refreshing, as were our cream scones (which were now becoming a habit). We completely devoured them, leaving not even a crumb for our very forward redbreast pal.

Pictures of the Week:
Clydesdale Horse Pied Wagtail
Great Tit Robin

3rd November 2019:


With the whole of Central Scotland under a deep depression, Sunday’s weather was predicted to be very wet - except for the Clyde coast, which was going to have a spell of brighter, dry weather in the afternoon. There had been reports of some less common birds at Troon - Snow Bunting, Water Pipit and Pink-footed Geese. So Troon it was. We took breakfast at Stewartfield Morrisons, East Kilbride (9.5/10: excellent), then it was down the M77 and up the A78 for the turnoff for Troon. Just before the village of Loans we came upon a field of around 1000 Pink-footed Geese .

We also saw a few Curlews there, as well as a flock of Lapwings.

Pink-footed geese Curlew Lapwing

Next we drove through Troon to the North Shore Road Car park. Below is the view that greeted us as the sun came out.

The sands of the North Beach were exposed at low tide so we walked out to the sea’s edge, where saw only a collection of Herring Gulls and some passing Crows. We might have seen more birds had there not been quite a few walkers, some with dogs, that would have unsettled the birds. In the bushes beside the car park I managed a sneaky shot of a Dunnock (see “Pictures of the Week”, below) as it hid behind some twigs.

Herring Gulls Carrion Crow Curlew

Just as we got back to the car one last look over the panorama was rewarded with a well-lit view of Redshanks on the sands.

We moved on to the Titchfield Rd car park situated at the north end of the South Beach. A pair of House Sparrows were on the sea wall making repeated visits to seeding plants on the shore’s edge. We clambered over the wall to briefly view some Ringed Plovers, Oystercatchers and Redshanks that were foraging on the rocks just out of view. Back on the right side of the wall I caught a splendid view of a young Starling (see “Pictures of the Week”, below) still showing some of its juvenile plumage.

House Sparrow Ringed Plover Oystercatcher Redshank

We strolled along the Prom towards a huge deposit of seaweed, a very good place to find feeding birds. On the way we met a “wee cock sparra” bathing in a puddle (see the House Sparrow, “Pictures of the Week”, below). On the shore below us well-camouflaged Turnstoneswere searching for insect, crustaceans and shellfish. Also a few Dunlin were busy looking for insects, snails and worms. We were pleased to see a brief visit of a brightly coloured Grey Wagtail (surely the most inappropriately named bird as it’s plumage is strikingly yellow). A bird with much more subdued colouring was also to be found, the Rock Pipit. Its diet consists on insects, beetles, small fish, small shellfish and seeds.

Turnstone Dunlin Grey Wagtail Rock Pipit

By luck, I captured a pleasing image of a Rock Pipit as it flew off a rock. An impressive, back-lit Curlew flew onto the scene, having been disturbed by one of the very many dog walkers. 

Rock Pipit Curlew

As we reached the seaweed pile, a pair of excited Pied Wagtails were chasing each other. I snapped a shot of the female as it took a brief rest on the weed. Then, to our delight, a huge flock of Knot  swept into view, creating stunning patterns as they weaved their way north towards the harbour. Then immediately afterwards another flock of birds flew overhead in a V-formation. My immediate impression was that they were Plovers, probably of the golden variety. Closer inspection of the photos confirmed that they were Golden Plovers . We returned to the car fairly pleased with our sightings.

Female Pied Wagtail Knot Golden Plover

We drove the short distance to the Ballast Bank car park. We very quickly noticed where the flock of Knot had gone, as they were on the rocks below the car park. Conveniently for us some photo opportunities were provided by a pair of passing beachcombers who spooked them. After taking in some delightful views of the nervous Knots, we explored the seashore to the north of the car park. I got a nice shot of a passing Black-headed Gull (see “Pictures of the Week”, below). On the very end of the tall sea wall that surrounds the harbour I snapped a couple of Shags just before they disappeared into the water.

Knot... Shag

We always seem to see Grey Seals at Troon, and Sunday was no exception. A pair popped their heads out of the water close to the shore. On our way back to the car four Eider sped past, beautifully lit by the low Autumn sun. Also well-lit was a pretty little Robin sitting on the sea wall.

Grey Seal Eider Robin

John spotted a flock of around 70 closely huddled Eider gathered about 300m offshore.

Our last stop of the afternoon was at the South Beach Esplanade car park. The Water Pipit and Snow Bunting had been seen opposite the Marine Hotel, so we walked down the beach hoping the walker density had subsided. No chance - it was like Sauchiehall Street , except with more dogs. We concentrated our search on the beach close to the golf course by the Hotel. We were both taken with the “mullet” on a Carrion Crow feeding on a seaweed pile, and close by, with a small congregation  of Starlings. Not far away from the Crows, also on the seaweed, we could see a pair of Jackdaws. But we couldn’t see the birds we were looking for. We looked over the low golf course perimeter wall to see if they were there but only caught a Curlew standing on a putting green.

Carrion Crow Starlings Jackdaw Curlew

Just about giving up the chase, we turned back along the edge of the beach to the car park. Then, on the chestnut fencing, I snapped a Goldfinch, and later what I thought could be a Water pipit - or was it a Meadow pipit ? The plumage had several features that lead me to believe it was a Water Pipit, such as its greyer back, a hint of white on its tail outer edges and a clean white belly. Then I did get a shot of a Meadow Pipit on the sea defence reinforcement wall. It was more ochre-coloured than is a Water Pipit. Finally I photographed a female Stonechat, again on the fence.

Goldfinch Water Pipit Meadow Pipit Female Stonechat

All things considered (the weather, poor light and dog walkers) we were very satisfied with our collection of sightings, although it would have been nicer had wee seen the Buntings. The variety and quality of my shots were fine too. So, guess what, we celebrated with our new favourites, cream scones with jam. Washed down of course with strong tea.

Pictures of the Week:

Dunnock Juvenile Starling
House Sparrow Black-headed Gull

Highlights - November 2019

Here is a gallery of a selection of pictures I’ve taken during November. Once again they’re not listed in the order they have
been taken, but are grouped in loose themes. We hope you like them.


Fieldfare Goldcrest
Redwing Waxwing


Black-headed Gull Buzzard
Juvenile Cormorant Drake Goosander


Canada Goose Carrion Crow
Coot Dunnock
Female Goosander Moorhen
Mute Swan Whooper Swan


Grey Squirrel Red Fox
Roe Deer

Little Birds

Blue Tit Goldcrest
Linnet Stonechat
Treecreeper Wren



Canada Goose Barnacle Goose
Greylag Goose


Bar-tailed Godwit Curlew Turnstone

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