Archive - October 2016

30th October 

Gullane, Port Seton, Musselburgh

It was either east or west this week with the weather being similarly ordinary on both coasts. I opted for the east as there had been various reports of Waxwings at Gullane and of Snow Buntings at Musselburgh. So Dalkeith Morrisons for breakfast. Sad to say we have to report a 6.5 brekkie. Food both undercooked and overcooked depending on which side of the plate you ate from, tables dirty and cluttered with the previous customer’s remnants and a 15 minute wait. Not good, especially from a 9.5+ venue. Off to Gullane first. The Waxwings were showing on one specific tree in a garden next to a park on Goose Green Road. When we arrived they had just decided to leave. We walked the road round the houses, on to the beach and back round again. Still not showing. A Mistle Thrush and a Song Thrush arrived to feed on the berries instead. I spotted a large ' V ' approaching. They were very high up but I took a record shot of what I believed to be Bean Goose on their way somewhere to the east of us.

Mistle Thrush Song Thrush Black Brent Geese Waxwing

We were almost leaving when a couple of Waxwings made an appearance and began feasting on the berries. The light was reasonable, but time was catching up on us and it wouldn’t be long before the light was gone. So, Waxwings in the bag, it was off to Musselburgh via Port Seton. The tide was high when we arrived at Port Seton but there were plenty of birds hanging around on the quickly disappearing rocks.

Port Seton      
Starling Herring Gull Juvenile Cormorant Oystercatcher
Redshank Sandwich Tern Wigeon  

Time to head to Musselburgh, as the light was fading fast. We parked up at the scrapes and headed straight for the sea wall where the Snow Buntings were last seen. As we headed past the boating pond, a family of Blue Tits flew into the trees close by, followed by a family of Long Tailed Tits. At the sea wall, the sea was quiet but I managed to catch a Red Breasted Merganser as it flew past and a Long Tailed Duck feeding quite close to the sea wall. We turned to head back to the car when John spotted a small flock landing on the sea wall ahead of us. His first thought was Snow Bunting but they were in fact Twite as a nearby scoper confirmed. I decided to head back down in their direction as they hopped from the sea wall to the grass and back again. I snapped at one as it posed on the sea wall and immediately recognised it as a Snow Bunting. It seems the small flock was a mixture with both Twite and Snow Buntings flying together.
We headed back to the car for tea and a bun. A very successful day out as we bagged the two birds we had gone looking for.

Blue Tit Long Tailed Tit Red Breasted Merganser Long-tailed Duck
Twite Snow Bunting    

23rd October 2016


The weather in the east was forecast to be wet and windy so I decided 'west was best'. I'd read a recent SOC Ayrshire Branch newsletter, The Stonechat, that sang the praises of Troon so I thought we'd check it out. I was also keen to check out my new Sigma 600 mm zoom lens and 1.4X teleconverter. I was delighted to discover that Troon had a Morrisons with a cafe. Breakfast there was a 9.5+ as service was quick, food was piping hot and the toast was extra thick. Delicious! We started our quest from the south beach car park adjacent to the supermarket. The beach was pretty quiet when we arrived but I spotted a Starling quite a way off nestling in seaweed. A Carrion Crow flew in quite close by probing a shell. Lots of Oystercatchers were flying past as they fled from dogs and their walkers and a Curlew scurried off too as it saw us.

Starling Carrion Crow Oystercatcher Curlew
Mute Swan Grey Seal Cormorant Redshank

I thought I'd try for a very long shot of a Mute Swan minding it's own business in the bay. These shots were all with the new teleconverter attached. I wasn't too impressed though with the image quality so I removed it for the rest of the trip. We drove to the car park at the end of Harbour Road. This gave a magnificent view of the sea and rocky shore. Immediately we spotted several Grey Seals bobbing in the sea just beyond a small colony of Cormorants drying their wings in the stiff breeze. We clambered over the very rocky shore in an attempt to get closer to the Seals. The rocks held Redshank, Herring Gull, Starlings and Pied Wagtails, and of course the ever-present noisy Oystercatchers. An Eider flew by quite close, heading north and I eventually got a nice shot of an elusive Robin which had given me the run-around for a bit. As we supped our well-earned tea and buns, Danish with the toffe Apple sauce, autumn sunshine pouring down on seals paddling
with Ailsa Craig in the background I thought, "What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon?"

Herring Gull Pied Wagtail Eider Robin

16th October 2016

Musselburgh, Port Seton

The weather across the central belt wasn't looking great, but the forecast showed little glimmers of hope in the east. According to social media, the Surf Scoter was showing near the sea wall at Musselburgh so, off to Musselburgh with breakfast at Morrisons in Dalkeith. When the Cook/Chef came out to the 'pass' to announce to the queue that she was on her own with no prospect of a break and that our brekkie would be up to 20 minutes in the making we decided to stay and tough it out. The delay was a lot less than 20 minutes and a 9.5+ brekkie arrived piping hot in about 10 minutes which was about the norm. We decided to park at the scrapes and head straight for the sea wall and hopefully, the Surf Scoter. The light was changing from ok to dismal by the minute. As we left the car John spotted a Grey Heron flying low across the pond. We hadn't walked 5 yards when some Canada Geese announced their arrival on their way to the scrapes. Decision time. We stuck to our guns and continued to the sea wall in the hope of spotting the Surf Scoter. The sea wall was empty apart from 6 or 7 Cormorants spread out over a wide area feeding and a lone female Red-breasted Merganser.

Grey Heron Canada Geese Cormorants Female
Red-breasted Merganser

We continued along the sea wall for a while and eventually spotted the Surf Scoter near the mouth of the Esk about 400 yards out. The light was dire, and a 400 yard shot in poor light wasn't worth the effort. We decided to head back to the scrapes. It was high tide and the scrapes would be well populated. We arrived at the scrapes in time to hear and see around 80 Greylag Geese landing at the scrapes, scattering Gulls, Oystercatchers and anything else in their way. It took a little time scanning the ponds before I spotted the Grey Plover and a Greenshank. The Dunlin, Shelduck and Shoveler were a bit closer and easier to spot. I reckoned the rain was on its way in so we decided to take a run up to Port Seton where the light might be a bit better.

Greylag geese Grey Plover Greenshank Dunlin
Shelduck Shoveler    

Good shout. The light was better but not great. The Terns were absent which was a bit disappointing but I managed a few good shots of the usual suspects parading themselves on the rocks. Decision time again. Tea and a bun at Port Seton and home or a quick return visit to Musselburgh for the Surf Scoter. The Scoter won.

Port Seton      
Great Black- backed Gull Herring Gull Redshank Turnstone

We parked up and went straight to the sea wall. Squadrons of Oystercatchers, Curlew, Redshanks and Wigeon flew past quite low on their way to the scrapes, every few minutes. The Cormorants were still there along with some Shags and a Red-throated Diver. A few small flocks of Eider had appeared and I managed a nice shot of an eclipse male enjoying a meal. As we reached the mouth of the Esk it was obvious the Surf Scoter had moved towards the sea wall a good bit and I managed to get a reasonable shot of my first Surf Scoter. Time and the weather were catching up on us and it was time to head back to the car park for tea and a bun. As we turned right for the car park John spotted a Long-tailed Duck in the company of some Velvet Scoter. Not a bad day overall considering the low light. The Morrisons/Asda danish debate will have to wait another week. Morrisons brought back the 3 for 2 pricing policy on the Apple Lattice, so that is what we had with our tea, lush.

Back to Musselburgh      
Oystercatcher Curlew Redshank Female Wigeon
Shag Red-throated Diver Surf Scoter                  Eclipse Eider
Long-tailed Duck Velvet Scoter    

9th October 2016

Pow Burn Prestwick

The weather was to be marginally better in the west so we decided to go to Pow Burn, Prestwick since it had been a while since our last visit. The site is next door to the airport and the landing aeroplanes are always exciting to observe. Breakfast was at the Kilmarnock Asda again and since the food was actually warm this week we both agreed to upgrade our rating to 8.5. At Pow Burn we parked the car at the far edge of Preswick Golf Course and immediately spotted a small flock of Long Tailed Tits flitting around the trees adjacent to the road. The light was perfect and some lovely shots of these little beauties were in the bag. If my memory serves me right, we have never encountered Long Tailed Tits here. It was a pleasant surprise. We crossed the bridge over the burn and spotted a lone Curlew, again, in good light. John looked ahead with the binoculars and spotted what looked like a pair of Little Grebes a bit further round the bend. I managed to catch one as it surfaced with a fish. The other Grebe turned out to be a juvenile female Goosander.

Long Tailed Tit Curlew Little Grebe Female Goosander
Redshank Peacock Butterfly Michaelmas Daisy Painted Lady

John spotted three Grey Herons on the bank but I could only get a distant shot although I did manage to get a nice shot of some Redshanks on the opposite bank.
We moved off around the path bordering the burn and as I trudged through the bracken to see if I could get closer to the Herons, I spotted a lovely example of a Peacock butterfly feeding on Michaelmas Daisies. A few minutes later an even nicer Painted Lady showed itself. We planked ourselves down and waited for some more nice insects to arrive.

Common Dronefly Common Nettle Tap Moth Moth - Golden Plusia Shaggy Inkcap

A Common Drone fly was first to arrive, followed by a Common Nettle Tap moth. Nearby, I spotted a newbie for the site, a moth - Golden Plusia We started the return journey back along the golf course driving range back to the car for a cup of tea and a bun. We didn't get too far when we came upon a patch of Shaggy Inkcap mushrooms- another new species for us.

Shaggy Inkcap Stonechat Robin Badger? Poo

Nearby a pair of Stonechats seemed to chirp in celebration of our find. Further on though a lovely Robin bathed in the October sunshine sang its heart out at the top of a tree. We came across a curious animal dropping packed with berries, probably Badger poo. At this point on our return journey I managed to capture a decent shot of the three herons we saw earlier.


The great Danish pastry debate will have to be put on hold for a while as this week's Danish from Asda was a delicious custard and strawberry, not our usual toffee apple sauce, and we really should only compare like with like. A great walk this week with great light, some great shots, some newbies and a very busy airport nearby with some heart stopping moments in-between. A trainee pilot adjusting his flight path in a Cessna on his final approach would probably go unnoticed but a Canadian Air force Hercules doing it twice in the space of a minute, 100 feet above your head, goes a long way to proving adrenalin is brown coloured!

2nd October  2016


The weather was to be fine across the central belt, so it was off to the west coast for a change. We decided on Doonfoot as we hadn't been there since  October 2015 so a visit was well overdue. We dined at the Kilmarnock Asda. A disappointing 7.5. It's a buffet style breakfast with everything ready on the hotplates. No waiting of course but some items where slightly overcooked or not as hot as we would like. We parked at the northern end of Castle Walk and headed over the dunes to the beach. I noticed that the little pond which, in the past, has given us a good few shots was completely empty. On the beach were the usual Redshanks and Gulls but I spent too long waiting on a Curlew which posed with its beak tucked under it's wing while keeping a solitary eye on us. Eventually it flew off, banked right and flew low over a Mute Swan which I managed to catch. A loud thrashing noise from behind us drew our attention to another Mute Swan having a hell of a bath. The light was behind it but I think I managed to capture the scene quite well. The same swan swam by us a few minutes later with its wings raised in an aggressive pose and headed towards the two Whooper Swans nearby. Nothing came of it so we headed down the beach towards Greenan Castle.

Redshanks Curlew Mute Swan Whooper Swan

Nothing was showing on the shoreline and after a while we moved back towards the dunes and the path to avoid the incoming tide. I spotted a cracking Robin in great light and managed to shoot it before it flew off. I decided to head back to the car and bring it up to the car park near the castle and left John deep in conversation with a local walker. I thought it would be a good idea to check out the little pond before getting in the car and was rewarded with some very well lit Teal in eclipse plumage. Well done me! As we walked towards the castle we both felt it was rather quiet until a flock of Linnets suddenly flew up in front of us. We both saw the Sparrowhawk and an unfortunate Linnet barely in front of it flying by at speed. Within seconds both were down. We backtracked a few metres but all we could see was the Sparrowhawk nipping in and out of the trees and making off. No time to process what was happening never mind getting the camera into position. Directly below the castle I managed to spot a White Wagtail foraging on the beach. As usual, it looked like a Pied until closer examination.

Robin Teal Teal White Wagtail

There are always Rock Pipits here below the castle and they duly obliged. A lovely specimen of a Carrion Crow almost posed for a photograph so I duly obliged. As we turned to head for the car park I caught a low flying Goosander flying south at some speed. The journey back to the car for tea and a bun was disappointing as I only managed to spot a solitary Nettle Tap moth. The only thing left was to discuss the merits of the Asda Danish and the Morrisons Danish over a cup of tea.
The jury is still out and we reckon it will take another 2 or 3 examples of each before a considered opinion can be made. It’s only fair!

Rock Pipit Carrion Crow Goosander Common Nettle Tap Moth

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