ending: 28th November: Skateraw, Dunbar
The weather predictions for Sunday were very uncertain, with some
predicting East better than West, some the opposite and one not sure
either way. In the end we plumped for East, simply because more
sightings had been reported there on Saturday, around Dunbar. Our
Dalkeith Morrisons breakfasts were very nice (9/10: -1 as the bacon
wasn’t to my taste). I decided to have a wee look for the
Isabelline Wheatear that was in fields near East Linton. We
just missed it but I did photograph a nice wee Robin. From there we
headed for Skateraw where we were greeted by a large flock of Linnets
and Goldfinches assembled on bushes by the car park. We were delighted
to see a large gathering of waders
feeding at the beach shoreline. As we moved slowly towards them, we
were able to get decent shots of some Pied Wagtails that were busy
catching flies on the grassy foreshore.
Soon, I could make out that the waders were Redshank, Sanderlings,
Ringed Plover and Dunlin.
As we got as close as we could without scaring the birds, I managed to
capture images of the busy Sanderlings
I was also able to get snaps of Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Redshanks and
Oystercatchers as they scurried along the line in front of the breaking
waves. To our right there were a few Rock Pipits tweeting amongst large
We next moved further right, past the old Limekilns, to the small bay
before Torness Nuclear Power Station. We could see a couple of Grey
Herons interacting on large exposed rocks in the middle of the bay. I
also came across a few Mallards sheltering in a rock pool at the edge
of the boulders near the Limekilns. John spotted a Curlew pacing the
John’s eye was in as he next spotted a Goldeneye diving in
the middle of the bay. I then notice a single lost-looking Grey Plover
close to the Curlew. As I moved towards it one of the Grey Herons flew
past and settled on the rocks to my left, followed by the Curlew.
Satisfied with a productive 45 minutes at Skateraw we decided to move
on. However, as we left, we had a look at the fields either side of the
old A1 for geese, particularly for a Tundra
Bean Goose that was seen there recently. Sadly,
there was no sign of any geese. We popped into Whitesands for a quick
check there for the Little
Auks that had been seen on Saturday. There were too
many dog-walkers on the beach, but before I made for the exit, John
took command of the camera to fire off a few shots at a pair of
Stonechats that were sitting on tall vegetation just a few metres from
the passenger window. Not a wasted detour then.
We had a wee look at the flooded Quarry pit where I found a large
gathering of Coots on its edges. Among these were a few grazing Wigeon.
As we drove out of the Whitesands road, we witnessed the descent of a
large flock of geese onto a nearby field.
arrived at the field minutes later , where there was a couple of
birdwatchers already there and the birds were drifting towards the far
side of the field. Hence I proceeded to use the
to photography, otherwise known as “shoot first, ask
The majority of geese were Pink-footed Geese,
… with a fair number of Greylag Geese.
Later I noticed from my pictures that the were at least two Barnacle
Geese. I also scoured my photos for a Bean Goose - to no avail. Many of
the birds were over the rise at the back of the field, so it may have
We visited Dunbar East Beach next where we saw lots of Black-headed
Gulls but I couldn’t see the Grey
Phalarope that had been seen the day before. So we
moved on to our final location, Dunbar Harbour. Light had deteriorated
as a band of rain moved in. I photographed the Eiders that were there -
still gorgeous, despite poor lighting.
We watched as young Great Black-backed Gulls robbed the diving Eiders
of their shellfish as they surfaced.
We had a look out from the old Battery onto the Firth of Forth. The
water was very rough but the light seemed to be improving since the
Bass Rock was now illuminated by the orange light of the late Autumn
afternoon. At the harbour edges we came across an adult Great
Black-backed Gull feasting on the carcass of a large bird - probably a
lesser Black-backed Gull. We finished the day with a couple of shady
pictures of a Cormorant and a Shag that were diving in the harbour
it turned out, the weather was not great and we didn’t see
any of the
reported birds, but hey ho, we had an interesting time nevertheless.
consoled our underachievement in the usual fashion - tea and strawberry
tarts. I particularly enjoyed the waders at Skateraw and the Goose
episode. But nice weather would have made a good day great.
Week ending: 24th November 2021: Stevenston,
After a week of largely dull, damp weather, Sunday was to be
wall-to-wall sunny across the Scottish central belt. Since
we’d been to the Lothian coast in recent weeks, I chose a
visit to the North Ayrshire coast - Stevenston, Saltcoats an Irvine
Harbour. The Stevenston Morrisons cafeteria served up top-rate
breakfasts (Full marks: 10/10 - on big plates!) before we started our
quest at Stevenston Point.
When we arrived at Stevenston
Point we were greeted by a beautifully blue
panorama. Below is the view to the west.
The tide was high, but there were plenty birds around the small
peninsula. A cautious Carrion Crow kept an eye on us, perhaps watching
for any discarded food, and a juvenile Pied Wagtail was nipping around
parked cars and seemed to pause to look at its reflection in a puddle.
I also snapped a passing Redshank - all bright pictures, but my shot of
a juvenile Cormorant is less satisfactory as it was shot
“contre-jour” (light behind the subject ).
We saw a gathering of Ringed Plovers and Sanderlings on the rocky edges
of the East side of the Point.
Most of the Ringed
Plovers and Sanderlings were
slumbering with their beaks and faces tucked under their wings, but
occasionally some were disturbed by incoming birds which made them put
their heads up. A large flock of Sanderlings that were on the beach to
the East suddenly took flight and flew around the Point and away to the
West. We followed their flight until they vanished out of sight and we
ended up standing on the West edge of the peninsula. I spotted a
Black-headed Gull swimming below our feet and then I noticed two
Redshanks and a few Turnstones scurrying about on the rocks.
We returned to the East side when the Sanderling returned to the West
beach and started feeding along the shoreline. As I drove off of the
Point, John watched for birds and I stopped safely when we
thought we could capture an interesting shot. John snapped a few shots
of a hungry Herring Gull raiding an overflowing litter bin. He also
photographed a Magpie and Starlings that were on roadside bushes.
Our next location was Ardeer
Quarry Local Nature Reserve which is less than a
mile from Stevenston Point. Half of the site is grass parkland around a
pond. There we found only a family of Mute Swans and a fleeing Moorhen.
To the North of the pond I discovered a female Reed Bunting
high on a large bush. Beyond the park there is a wilder,
“less manicured” area, part of which is an old
orchard - complete with old apple trees.
|Female Reed Bunting
We sat awhile in the overgrown orchard and waited to see if Redwings
would land on the Hawthorn bushes. Our patience was rewarded when a few
Redwings flew in from the high trees that surround the orchard, and
headed for the red Hawthorn berries. We were next treated to
Tit antics and also a Robin checked us out before
disappearing into the distance. Just before we reached Dubbs Road I
spied a male Chaffinch sitting on top of a tall tree.
As we walked along the road that took us to the path that would allow
us to continue our circuit of the reserve, John noticed a few Curlews
in the fields at the other side of the road. When I investigated I
found that there were around 50 Curlew in the field (some of which are
We re-entered the Reserve to walk its southern pathways. We were
pleased to find and get fine captures of Wren, Robin and Goldfinch. We
were disappointed though that there were no Roe Deer on show but we
were reassured by a local that they were not exterminated as he had
seen them, usually in the evening. Back at the Pond I got a nice shot
of a juvenile Mute Swan exercising its wings.
|Juvenile Mute Swam
Four Mallards drifted across the water in front of us, beautifully
illuminated by the warm tones of the low Autumn sunshine.
We drove the short distance to
Saltcoats Harbour but our stay there was brief. The
only birds we could see were an obliging Pied Wagtail on the sea wall
and a lot of chip-seeking Herring Gulls.
We also had a distant view of over 100 Redshanks (with a few Ringed
Plovers) hugging the sunny side of the harbour rocks.
We cut our losses and drove to Irvine
Harbour to see if we could do better there. As
expected, the sunny day had attracted many people to the area, but we
still managed to see a few “regulars” such as
diving and flying Cormorants and Shags, Grey Herons and a family of
We walked to the head of the Estuary but the rocks were covered due to
the high tide. Below is a shot of the view looking back from the
We walked back along the River Irvine to check opposite bank adjacent
to Bogside. I snapped a passing Cormorant as it flew downstream. We
also saw another Grey Heron just past the Scientists Bridge and then
John spied a Curlew and a few Wigeon that were feeding on the far side
of the river. Light was fading so we decided it was time for tea before
the drive home.
Although the wind was chilly at times, we had had uninterrupted
sunshine throughout our visit, and with a great camera, it is almost
impossible not to take pleasing pictures. We were delighted therefore
with many of our photos. My favourites were the Robin and Goldfinch,
and of course the superb view across to the Isle of Arran. So after tea
and strawberry tarts we returned home well pleased.
Week ending: 14th November 2021: Musselburgh
With the whole of Central Scotland shrouded in a blanket of cloud, the
choice of destination for our Sunday trip hinged upon the likelihood of
rain. The East was least likely to see rain so I opted for Musselburgh.
We of course started the day with a visit to Dalkeith Morrisons where I
had a Wee Scottish Breakfast and John opted for a brace
of bacon rolls. (very enjoyable, 9.5/10: -0.5 again for small
We began our exploration at the mouth of the Esk. The tide was high but
there were quite a few birds about and it took me just a few minutes to
photograph a pair of Cormorants and a group of Wigeon that were at the
opposite side of the river. As I took those shots I was aware of Goldfinches foraging
in Alders behind where I was standing. I managed a few shots of them
before turning my attention to a pair of Mallards at the near edge of
the river just below the seawall.
As we started the trek towards the Scrapes we were delighted to see a Red-throated
Diver surfacing only a few metres from the seawall.
Birds were constantly passing as they flew in an out of the Esk-mouth.
I managed flight shots of an Oystercatcher and then a female Goldeneye
and soon after, a female Eider drifted into view.
Next, an excited Long-tailed
Duck flew in and landed about 40m from the wall.
I was surprised when a female Long-tailed Duck also flew in and settled
beside the drake. We were then treated to a thrilling spell of action
as the pair dived and dashed about in the area of water right in front
of us. A second drake joined the chase before eventually they all moved
a lot further away from where we were standing.
John then drew my attention to a Guillemot
that had just surfaced near the rocky shore just before we reached the
newly fenced-off portion of the “promenade”. This
was the start of the further re-development
of the remains ash lagoons into “a wildlife haven”.
As we followed the path beside the tall fence we watched Carrion Crows
and Magpies foraging about the fence and road.
We were delighted when a flock of around thirty Twite
flew in and settled on the fence. I noticed that they weren’t
quite as flighty as normal. Maybe they realised the fence was keeping
back the nasty humans.
It’s a pity the light was so poor since I was able to fire
off a lot of shots before continuing towards the Scrapes. As we neared
the Boating Pond we startled a Kestrel
that had been in the long grass, probably with a kill. In the Reserve
we first tried the “middle” hide, only to find that
it was full. Instead, we tried the “right-hand
hide” which was actually empty and we immediately realised
that’s where most of the birds were. There were Wigeon,
Redshanks and Oystercatchers poking around the grassy areas close to
On the closest scrape there were quite large gatherings of snoozing
Redshanks and Bar-tailed
Not all of the Godwits were napping. There always seemed to be one with
its head up, maybe to warn the rest of any impending danger. There were
also small numbers of Lapwings and at the edges of each scrape were Dunlins
probing the mud for invertebrates. Both John and I were late to notice
that there was large juvenile Grey Heron standing near the front of the
scrape to our right (well, as I said, the light was poor).
|Juvenile Grey Heron
A female Blackbird
flew into a Hawthorn bush at the entrance to the hide and started to
eat some of its red berries. Meanwhile, at the front of the hide, a
very bold Redshank was hunting flies. I managed some flight shots of
Wigeon as they moved around the site. We next moved to the
“left-hand” hide where John spotted a lone Curlew
in the back scrape. There were a few Teal dabbling at the front of the
nearest scrape. Just before we left the reserve we had another
encounter with the female Kestrel as it hovered nearly overhead in a
very gloomy sky.
We retraced our steps back to the car. On our way we again saw the
Red-throated Diver at close quarters and a Razorbill
made an appearance about 50m out. A pair of Mute Swans powered
westwards accompanied by the powerful sound of their beating wings. I
also spotted a few Turnstones that were scrambling over large rocks
just below the seawall.
We drove the few hundred metres along the riverside road and parked
near the bridge at Millhill. Just before we had tea and
strawberry tarts by the river, we saw a Herring Gull, Mute Swan and
Canada Goose stretching their wings and a Canada X Greylag Goose
stretching a leg. We got close views of very active Goldeneyes as the
females were playing hard to get.
Well, despite the greyness of the day we managed to gather over 400
shots of 27 species of birds. So as we drove home we were very pleased.
My favourites were the Long-tailed Ducks and the Red-throated Diver.
Sunshine is predicted for next Sunday. Here’s hoping!
Week ending: 7th November 2021 : Barns
Ness and Belhaven Bay
The BBC Scotland Weather lady’s Sunday evening report was
promising. It was to be dry, sunny but breezy in the East. I opted
then, for Barns Ness as there had been a few recent sightings there, of
birds that were passing through. Our usual Dalkeith Morrisons
breakfasts were very enjoyable (9.5/10: -1/2 for the small plates
still), after which we sped down the A1 to Barns Ness.
The weather was as predicted - sunny, dry and breezy. The tide was low
but rising and we started at the bay adjacent to the car park (now
£2.75 using Ringo!) and we immediately saw a Rabbit at the
“wire dump”. There were Curlew, Oystercatchers and
Carrion Crows foraging on the rocky foreshore but we could see a lot
more activity at the shoreline some 150m out.
Near the lighthouse at the start of the beach to the East we came upon
a group of busy small birds. An inquisitive Robin was first to get its
photo taken. I followed this with pictures of a Rock
Pipit and then a Stonechat
turned up. I had to track down the Pied Wagtails as they were very
We sat for a short time on the east beach, sheltered nicely from the
chilly west wind, and watched for passing birds. A Redshank walked over
the sands and then another Stonechat showed up. I spotted a small group
Plovers (with their tell-tale dark
“oxters”) moving along the distant shoreline. I
snapped a passing Herring Gull before we decided to check out the old
As we crossed the field to reach the Old Campsite, I spotted a Reed
Bunting that was on top of a small tree. At the campsite
there were no birds we could see but we did pass some wildflowers that
were still in bloom: Red
Periwinkle and even Vipers
Bugloss . This is a consequence of the very mild
weather for the time of year, but the first hard frost will surely
finish them off.
We returned to the place we started and saw that the small bay had
become filled with water. A pair of Mallards sat at its edge preening,
while Common Gulls and Black-headed Gulls were feasting on
invertebrates emerging from the shallows. The picture below of the
Barns Ness Lighthouse was taken from the field we crossed to get to the
We next moved location to Belhaven Bay Shore Road car park. We were
pleased to see that the inner bay was well populated with birds. Most
attractive of these were the Wigeon
that were dabbling at the edges of the salt marsh closest to the car
park. The Sun was sinking in the sky and it’s light was
tinged with amber. The water was still rising, making it not so shallow
causing some birds, such as Oystercatchers, to move away to seek
shallow water at the other side of the bay. John spotted a Curlew near
the Wigeon, but it too moved away.
We had a brief look around Seafield Pond. There were more Wigeon there
but these were put up by a pair of out-of-control, off-lead Cairn
Terriers which, having scared the ducks, turned their aggression on a
pair of Mute Swans. At the far end of the pond we stood, disappointed
that it was empty, when John pointed out that there was a juvenile Grey
Heron lurking in the undergrowth a mere 3m away at the pond’s
edge. We photographed one of the Swans a few minutes later at the other
side of the pond. They were joined by a flock of Mallards that saw us
from afar and decided that we might have food. Sadly we
|Juvenile Grey Heron
The juvenile Heron we’d seen earlier flew from the pond into
the bay and landed just below the sea wall. It proceeded to catch a few
tiddlers before being spooked by passing barking dogs. On our way back
to the car we came upon a well-lit Rock Pipit posing on a large, dead
tree branch that had ended up in the salt marsh. My final shot of the
day was of another still-blooming wildflower - White
It was a very enjoyable visit, the most pleasing sightings for me being
the Grey Plover and the Stonechats. The Wigeon at Belhaven were
beautiful in the golden sunshine. Our tea and strawberry tarts were
delicious as always. I wonder where we’ll end up next week?
Highlights - November
We present last month’s gallery
favourite pictures I’ve taken during November 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.
WHAT'S FOR DINNER?
BIRD ON BRANCHES
BIRDS AND WATER
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