Archive - November 2022

Week ending: 27th November: Aberlady, Longniddry and Port Seton

On Sunday we headed east once more, to Aberlady. My WeatherPro app indicated that it was sunnier for longer on the Lothian coast and, besides, we hadn’t visited Aberlady since August. Dalkeith Morrisons had a special breakfast deal on, which John and I took full advantage of, but we ate a little more than we should have - it was great though (9.5/10: it was too much!). 

Source: Weather Pro  and BBC Tides

We were disappointed that we couldn’t get parked in the Aberlady LNR car park, however we parked nearer the town and were delighted to see that the shore there was packed with birds. My first shot was of a Woodpigeon we inadvertently disturbed as it fed on the shoreside green. John spotted a passing Curlew and I followed that with a shot of a Herring Gull in flight. From the edge of the green we could see Wigeon foraging some 40m away in the edges of the damp, rocky shore.

Wood Pigeon Curlew
Herring Gull Wigeon...

We could see a large number of Lapwings spread out on the shore to our right.

John spied a couple of Shelducks a bit further out and I noticed some snoozing Teal floating in a large rock pool.

The light was good. We could make out a lone walker walking about a mile away along the deserted Gullane Sands. John suggested a suitable title for the shot below could be, “I want to be alone.”

We moved to the Kilspindie Golf Course overflow car park. I’ve parked there on numerous occasions over the years but on Sunday we noticed they’ve put up a “golfers only” sign. Fair enough KGC, it’s your property. We’ll park elsewhere from now on. We were delighted to see a Little Egret, now a fairly common sight on the Peffer Burn. As I photographed it there was an Oystercatcher on the rocks beside me and a Wigeon flew past, and then a calling Carrion Crow.

Little Egret Oystercatcher
Wigeon Carrion Crow

A few Redshanks were spread along the shallow edges of the Burn. As I photographed them, the Egret must have flown off, as there was no sign of it. John, though, had seen it flying toward the town, settling where we had seen the Shelducks.

A Black-headed Gull flew past just as I noticed that the Little Egret was back foraging in the Burn. A Curlew flew in and started walking along the Saltmarsh.

Black-headed Gull Little Egret

A pair of Wigeon darted overhead but I managed a fairly decent snapshot.

I noticed what I thought at first was a Shelduck paddling upstream near the Egret. On further inspection it turned out to be a Pale-bellied Brent Goose. John alerted me to a Curlew and some Bar-tailed Godwits far to our right on the shallows near the Redshanks. Just as we were leaving the shore I noticed at duck paddling near the Egret. It was a female Long-tailed Duck .

Pale-bellied Brent Goose...
Curlew / Bar-tailed Godwit Female Long-tailed Duck

After our successful hour at Aberlady we relocated to a few miles west, to Longniddry Bents. We parked near Ferny Ness and we immediately thought that there was something of interest happening since a couple of people had their optics pointed down towards the shore. We soon discovered that about a half dozen drake Long-tailed Ducks were chasing each other, and maybe an unseen female.

We sat for a while watching the antics of the ducks and, when they got close to the shore, I was able to get some excellent shots of the very lovely duck. I also snapped an Oystercatcher that flew past swooping low over the water. I was a bit surprised though when a Grey Seal surfaced partially, only about 10m away, before vanishing again beneath the waves.

Long-tailed Duck...
Oystercatcher Grey Seal

Eventually we moved around the shore towards Gosford Bay. A flock of Turnstones sped past us into the Bay. 

We passed a gathering of birds, mainly Oystercatchers, Redshanks and a Curlew, that were sitting on the rocks just as we reached Gosford Bay. A couple of very animated Magpies were squabbling in the bushes by the roadside. Back at the car John spotted a Pied Wagtail hunting flies on the grassy fringes.

Oystercatcher / Curlew / Redshank...
Magpie Pied Wagtail

Before we left Longniddry Bents we took in the view of Ferny Ness looking over the Firth of Forth towards a misty Edinburgh skyline.

Our last port of call was Port Seton at the Wrecked Craigs car park. Greeting us as we alighted from the car were a pair of serenading Starlings atop tall poles. We scanned the Craigs for birds of which, happily, there were many. To the right of the promenade a Curlew and several Bar-tailed Godwits were wading where the waves were breaking as the tide came in. A young Cormorant flew in over them.

Starling Curlew
Bar-tailed Godwit Cormorant

Looking to the most northerly extent of the Craigs we could see various ages of Shags were assembled on an ever-shrinking bare rock. Surely they would have to leave the rock before it became completely submerged.

A flock of oystercatchers flew past us no doubt looking for dry land on which to roost. A Great Black-backed Gull and a young Cormorant looked secure in their choice of stance. A fellow nature-watcher pointed out a wee Golden Plover  that was partially visible amongs the rocks about 80m from our stance. I managed a quick snap of it on one of the times it peeked over the top of the rocks. As we continued to watch it, it moved onto a patch of seaweed, followed by a single Turnstone.

Oystercatcher Great Black-backed Gull / Cormorant
Golden Plover...

The Redshanks that were on the most distant rocks had had enough of that sinking feeling and moved closer to the prom.

Encouraged by the Redshanks, the Golden Plover moved in to join them. It settled for about 10 minutes before heading east. We headed south, back to the car where a cup of tea and a cream and custard tart awaited. However as we tucked into the tarts I could see a young drake Eider paddling across our view. Also a pair of Cormorants landed on a rock and began vigorously drying their wet wings. I dutifully put down the tea and tart and left the car to capture some images of the inconsiderate birds.

Golden Plover...
Juvenile Eider Cormorant

I returned to the car and we finished the teas and tarts ,and as we did so, I thought it was ample reward for a fine outing in which we saw some fine sights and captured some decent images. My favourite was undoubtedly the Long-tailed Duck shots. Let’s hope the run of pleasant Sundays continues.

Week ending: 20th November 2022: Torness and Belhaven Bay

On Sunday, frequent showers were moving west to east across Central Scotland, but my WeatherPro app indicated that they wouldn’t get as far east as Dunbar. On Twitter, some birders were reporting that there was plenty of bird action at Torness, so that’s where we headed. Our breakfasts in Dalkeith Morrisons were excellent (10/10) with service much quicker than in recent visits.

Source: Weather Pro  and BBC Tides

As we approached our destination the sunshine was very encouraging and we were further encouraged when a pair of Cormorants flew overhead as we got out of the car.

On our way down to the walkway , I noticed a pair of ageing Snowy Waxcaps on the grass verge.

At the start of the walkway, the view east shows a lively sea entertaining several surfers at the Thorntonloch beach.

We were sheltered from the cool breeze as we moved westwards along the concrete walkway. John drew my attention to a wee Robin on the seawall watching for midges of which, annoyingly, there were many. Pied Wagtails too were enjoying the feast as they twittered excitedly some yards in front of us. John warned that he’d seen a few Redshanks resting on the Tetrapods (concrete sea defence concrete blocks). We moved warily towards the birds, allowing me to get some decent pictures. I then noticed that there were also Purple Sandpipers  on the blocks - a rare find. They were having to watch out for the occasional large waves which were threatening to soak them.

Robin Pied Wagtail
Purple Sandpipers...

The Redshanks were disturbed when a couple of walkers approached from the west. However, I was pleased with resulting flight shot.

We studied each passing bird, watching for passage birds such as Skuas and Little Auks that had been recently reported. However, we saw the “usual suspects”, mainly Herring Gulls, Blackheaded Gulls and Shags.

Herring Gull Black-headed Gull
Juvenile Shag Shag

 We reached the harbour area by the power station. In the view to the west shown below, the Barons Ness lighthouse and the Bass Rock can be seen clearly.

We positioned ourselves on the promontory and continued to watch the passing birds. We saw the expected Cormorants and Oystercatchers but we were pleased to also see a drake Eider and were very pleased to see a winter plumage Red-throated Diver  surface just below where we were standing.

Cormorant Oystercatcher
Drake Eider Red-throated Diver ( Winter Plumage )

A passing angler informed us that there was a young seal in a corner of the harbour. After a short search John spotted the Common Seal pup  hiding in the seawater at the foot of the Tetrapod pile.

Next we set off back to the car, preferring to take the upper walkway (designed for use in stormy conditions when the lower walkway would be lashed by the waves). We had a fine view of the shore below, as well as panoramic views of the sea to our left and the power station grounds to our right. I discovered, in the grass to our right, a fairly large mushroom, possibly a Macro Mushroom, Agaricus urinascens, a newbie for us. And to our right we were delighted to see a Little Auk, another newbie for us, preening itself in the water close to the sea defences.

Macro Mushroom...
Little Auk...

As we approached the end of the walkway there was an adult Shag diving about 5m out. Also, a mixture of Rock Pipits and Pied Wagtails were hopping about the sea wall and rocks in pursuit of the midge swarm. I was in the ideal position to photograph them, high on the upper walkway with the sun behind me.

Shag Rock Pipit
Male Pied Wagtail Female Pied Wagtail

Meanwhile John was scanning the sea and rock pools that lies between the walkway and the beach at Thorntonloch. He spotted a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers battling the waves as they attempted to exit the shoreline. He then pointed out a pair of Turnstones that were foraging around the closest rock pools. I photographed these and then spotted a few small waders preening just beyond the Turnstones. I think they were Dunlin but they have some features common in Curlew Sandpipers . Finally John alerted me to a drake Eider that had been hiding in plain sight, not far from the Turnstones (I blame the low sunlight).

Red-breasted Merganser Turnstone
Dunlin Drake Eider

Next we relocated to the Shore Road car park at Belhaven Bay. We were greeted by a wee cheeky House Sparrow which was busy sunbathing on a low bush. We walked along the path that leads to the Seafield Pond. A few Mallards passed overhead - a pair of females followed by a lusty drake. The sun was about to set and it’s light was low and becoming amber, as can be seen from the shots below of Redshanks and Carrion Crow.

Female House Sparrow Mallard
Redshank Juvenile Carrion Crow

At the pond there was a large flock of Wigeon attempting to feed on the grassy bank between the pond and footpath. They were interrupted several times by passing dogs and children. However I did get a few pleasing shots. Even in the water, the Wigeon were disturbed, nay, bullied, by aggressive Mute Swans.

Female Wigeon Mute Swan

We also noticed a few Tufted Ducks on the pond and also an eclipse plumage drake Garganey, mixing it with the Mallards. We also saw a couple of Moorhens pecking about the short grass before scurrying for the safety of the reeds. On our way back to the car I photographed a Curlew that was probing the damp sand of the inner bay. As can be seen, the light was becoming very dusky. We could say that it was “Roamin’ in the Gloamin’”.

Tufted Duck Male Garganey in Eclipse plumage
Moorhen Curlew

My final shot was of the view of Shore Road as seen from the path. It wasn’t just the Curlew that was “Roamin’ in the Gloamin’”.

We were both very pleased with what we’d seen and photographed during the visit. My favourites were the Red-throated Diver, Little Auk and Garganey. The accompaniment for our teas was a pack of 4 chocolate eclairs. Needless to say, these disappeared rather too quickly, but pleasingly.

Week ending: 13th November 2022: Musselburgh

John was back in the passenger seat this Sunday and eager to watch nature after his enforced week off. We visited Musselburgh, one of our favourite locations that seldom lets us down. Our last visit there was on September 25th and good weather was predicted so, after our Dalkeith Morrisons breakfasts (7/10: Disappointing- Once again, the food was good, but the delay in serving it was too long), we were soon striding merrily towards the Musselburgh Scrapes.

Source: Weather Pro  and BBC Tides

On our way to the Scrapes we encountered a gathering of around a dozen Carrion Crows gathered on the grass. We couldn’t figure out why they were there. Perhaps a passer-by had fed them. At the sea wall we watched Cormorants  flying to and from a tall yellow structure, possibly a ventilation outlet for waste pipes. A Curlew  flew past while John noticed a drake Red-breasted Merganser diving more than 100m out.

Carrion Crow Cormorant
Curlew Red-breasted Merganser

As we neared the Scrapes there were dozens of Oystercatchers  flying in from the Esk mouth.

From the rightmost hide we were pleased to see that the reserve wasn’t empty (as is sometimes the case). We watched dabbling Teal and also wading Redshanks as they searched for sustenance. A pair of Grey Herons seemed to appear from nowhere. Probably they flew in as both of us were scanning in the opposite direction. I got a nice shot of a flock of Starlings as they flew over the hide. As the light was so good I managed decent record shots of Dunlin and Wigeon active at the front edge of the rear scrape.

Female Teal Redshank
Grey Heron Starling
Dunlin Wigeon

I also noticed that there was a flock of Lapwings standing in the rear scrape.

As I photographed the Lapwings, a large group of Oystercatchers flew in to add to those already on the grass in front of the rear scrape.

We moved to the leftmost hide where we got nice close views of Teal, Oystercatchers and Redshanks. I noticed a wee Dunlin foraging around a snoozing Greenshank at the near edge of the scrape. The Greenshank was awakened suddenly by a Lapwing that arrived with attitude.

Teal Oystercatcher
Redshank / Teal Greenshank / Dunlin
Greenshank Lapwing

John meanwhile was scanning the scrapes with his trusty binoculars. He came across a wee flock of Linnets gathered around a patch of scrub. I snapped a shot of a passing Carrion Crow. John noticed Shelducks far to the left of the reserve. I waited until they paddled nearer to the hide before photographing them. I also realised that a group of what I thought were Redshanks were actually Bar-tailed Godwits.

Linnet Carrion Crow
Shelduck Bar-tailed Godwit

One of the Herons we’d seen earlier flew across the reserve and landed to the left of the hide and proceeded to stalk the marshy area at the edge of the scrape.

Grey Heron

We decided to relocate to the mouth of the Esk to see if the reported King Eider was there. As we returned to the car I photographed the view across the Firth of of Forth. The early mist was clearing leaving the sun-soaked island of Inchkeith contrasting with grey of the fog-bound Kingdom of Fife.

We arrived at the mouth of the River Esk just in time to see the take-off of a massive flock of Bar-tailed Godwits that had been feeding on the sands at low tide and were then heading for a safe resting place, such as the Scrapes.

Below is closer crop of one of the pictures I took of the Godwits, on which it is easier to see the features of the bird, such as its straight, long bill. Also flying east were a flock of Redshanks and a lone Cormorant. Rather closer were a pair of Mute Swans paddling across the river.

Bar-tailed Godwit Redshank
Cormorant Mute Swan

The fly-pasts continued when a group of 8 Eiders  flew by heading east. The elusive 2nd cycle King Eider didn’t seem to be in the group. It was as close as we were to get to finding it.

Soon after the group of Eiders passed, a beautiful drake Eider paddled past us on a calm, blue sea. As I was photographing it, a little brown bird caught my eye when it descended onto the rocks just beneath the sea wall. It was a Rock Pipit. We could see that clouds were moving in from the west and would soon obscure the golden sunshine. I still had time though to snap some well-lit Herring Gulls and Black-headed Gulls while the sky and seawater were still blue and the light was still golden. A female Goosander  was diving midstream as we neared the Cadet Hall. Just by the play park I found White Deadnettles that were still in flower. They often last through until December.

Eider Rock Pipit
Herring Gull Black-headed Gull
Female Goosander White Deadnettle

My final shot of the day was of a large flock of Wigeon that was feeding in the shallow rock pools just west of the river mouth. However, soon afterwards the direct sunlight was gone and we returned to the car.

As is usually the case at Musselburgh, we had an enjoyable few hours observing and photographing its wonderful wildlife. My favourites were the Teal and Greenshank. We had fresh cream toffee tarts with our teas, a delicious reward for a job well done.

Week ending: 6th November 2022: Troon and Irvine Harbour

Weather on Sunday was predicted to start wet but to improve from the west. I decided then to visit Troon for the first time since the middle of August. I was on my own since John had domestic duties to perform, but I started the day with a solo breakfast (9/10: excellent, only let down by the small plate) at Stewartfield Morrisons.

Source: Weather Pro  and BBC Tides

The Sun was just breaking through when I arrived in Troon. I noticed a collection of birds on the beach beside North Shore Road Car Park. In the tightly packed group there were over eighty Redshanks. A few Herring Gulls, Bar-tailed Godwits  and Oystercatchers were also in the mix. They were joined by a small number of Turnstones.

Redshank Bar-tailed Godwit
Oystercatcher Turnstone

The Turnstones infiltrated the ranks of the Black-headed Gulls that were preening on the sands. Eventually though, the whole assembly was spooked by a very noisy motor bike passing along North Shore Road. I next had a look in the bushes to the left of the car park as I had heard a lot of birdy sounds emanating from there. Predictably, most of the noise was coming from twittering House Sparrows but amongst were a few Greenfinches and a couple of Robins. On the cut grass I found Golden Waxcap mushrooms. Also worthy of note was the large number of orange Sea Buckthorn  berries on show.

Black-headed Gull House Sparrow
Greenfinch Robin
Golden Waxcap Sea Buckthorn

I drove the few hundred yards along the road to Troon Harbour Car Park which is on a promontory with a panoramic view of the Firth of Clyde and the Isle of Arran. I walked along the sandy shore to the north of the car park and tracked a Rock Pipit  that was working its way along some beached seaweed. I sat for a while watching for passing birds and saw a couple of Cormorants, one in flight and one diving for fish. I next checked the rocks to the front of the car park. They were unusually devoid of birds although I did manage a Starling action shot and shot of a stationary Oystercatcher. Just before setting off on a walk to Troon South Beach, a Pied Wagtail appeared on the scene and allowed me to get close enough for a decent shot.

Rock Pipit Cormorant...
Oystercatcher Pied Wagtail

After a short and hazardous walk along the narrow path at the foot of Ballast Bank, I continued along the promenade to view the seashore along the Troon South Beach. There is usually a fair amount of seaweed washed up onto the beach and the invertebrates within it attracts birds.

I wasn’t disappointed since I did get photographs of a Pied Wagtail, Curlew, Turnstones and Knot , although these were flushed by day trippers and their dogs, so I was lucky to get those shots.

Pied Wagtail Curlew
Turnstone Knot

On my return walk I discovered a Curlew, probably the one I photographed earlier, feeding in a grassy foreshore. I was also joined by yet another Pied Wagtail.

Curlew Pied Wagtail

Back at the Troon Harbour Car Park I snapped another Oystercatcher before I disturbed a Starling feeding near my car. It flew onto a bollard and waited for me to go away and I, of course, took its picture.

Oystercatcher Starling

I relocated 6 miles up the coast to Irvine Harbour. Clouds were rolling in from the south so the light was getting worse. I walked along the Promenade towards the mouth of the estuary. I found a few very mature Fairy Ring Champignons  on the short grass near the Pilot’s House. There were a few Mute Swans near the Scientist Bridge and I watched a Curlew take off from the opposite side of the river. That was followed by a sighting of a Kestrel hunting near the unused Big Idea building.

Fairy Ring Champignons Mute Swan
Curlew Kestrel

At the viewpoint at the end of the promenade I photographed a family of feeding Mute Swans. As usual there were birds perched on the large posts in the estuary mouth. I got shots of a Great Black-backed Gull and a Shag holding out its dripping wings.

Mute Swan...
Great Black-backed Gull Shag

I returned to the car via the car park rather than the prom. This produced nice pictures of a first year and an adult Herring Gull and a Rook, each sitting on high vantage points. At ground level I surprised a well-lit Carrion Crow as it foraged on the short grass.

1st Cycle Herring Gull Herring Gull
Rook Carrion Crow

Just as I neared the car I noticed that a Grey Seal  had surfaced near the Scientists Bridge. I missed that shot but did manage to catch it when it resurfaced further downstream. A Shag flew downstream soon after and then a group of 8 Wigeon  passed overhead. My final shot was of a rainbow reflected in the River Garnock as I looked towards Bogside - a sign that rain wasn’t far away (just as well I was about to leave).

Grey Seal Shag

As I sipped tea and nibbled chocolate biscuits it was with mild satisfaction. I had managed some nice shots of quite a variety of sightings. My favourites were the Starling, Knot, Kestrel and rainbow. For any children who might be reading this, please know that Santa’s Reindeers have been seen at McKinnon Mills in Coatbridge. They were preparing to help Santa on the big night on the 24th of December.

Highlights - November  2022

We present this month’s gallery of my favourite pictures I’ve taken during November 2022. 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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