Archive - October 2021

Week ending: 31st October: Figgate Park and Joppa

My WeatherPro app was telling me on Saturday evening that Sunday’s weather in Central Scotland would start wet  and that the rain would clear by the afternoon. Disappointingly, the Sun was not expected to make an appearance. I opted for a visit east as there had been a sighting of a Glossy Ibis  at Middleton Moor, near Gorebridge.

We had breakfast in Dalkeith Morrisons (7/10: just OK but not up to their usual high standard) and then drove down the A7 for 10 mins to reach the site where the bird was seen (according to a Tweet sent as we were in the Cafe). We were unlucky though as we found out later that the Ibis was disturbed by traffic noise just before we arrived. It had flown into undergrowth (I include below a photo of a Glossy Ibis I saw at Kilwinning in 2015). We spent more time at the Ibis site than we had expected so we decided to visit Figgate Park in Portobello as it was only a 20 minute drive away and we hadn’t been there since February 2020. At the Park the light was very poor with little prospect of any improvement. Near the Park gates John spotted a Grey Squirrel moving in overhead tree branches. I managed a quick snap as we headed for the boardwalk viewing area. There we saw gatherings of Black-headed Gulls and also a single Herring Gull.

Glossy Ibis Grey Squirrel
Black-headed Gull Herring gull

The pond surface was covered by a huge mat of Common Duckweed but the birds didn’t seem to mind. Below is a view of Mute Swans as seen from the boardwalk.

There were about a dozen Moorhens on the pond nibbling the Duckweed. I photographed a Common Gull as it chased the smaller gulls. Soon some Mallards appeared hoping for some bread but we started walking around the pond. We heard a singing Wren  which soon came into view to get its photo taken.

Moorhen Common Gull
Drake Mallard Wren

At a feeding station we saw a female Tufted Duck and Mallards. There were children feeding the Mute Swans and a large Woodpigeon was picking up the breadcrumbs after they left.

Female Tufted Duck Mute Swan
Female Mallard Wood Pigeon

We walked further into the park, along the Figgate Burn. I took a picture of a Magpie as it sat on a TV aerial and John told me he had seen a raptor on a nearby rooftop - excited at the prospect of a photographing a raptor I turned, camera at the ready, only to find that it was a model, there to discourage birds from landing on the roof. Naughty John. I next came across a patch of mushrooms, as yet unidentified, but I got some nice captures with my iPhone. We followed a flock of Long-tailed Tits as they flitted through the still leafy path-side bushes, but I only managed a shot when I found one on a bush back at the edges of the pond.

T.B.C. Long-tailed Tit

We had noticed earlier that there was a Grey Heron asleep on the island but it had its head under its wing, but when we returned it had wakened, so I snapped the picture shown below. John then spotted an eclipse Wigeon near the Heron. My attention was also taken by a Black-headed Gull standing on a rock. The reflection of the bird in the pond water was lovely. There were House Sparrows busy and noisy on the pond-side bushes. I think they were catching invertebrates.

Grey Heron Wigeon in Eclipse plumage
Black-headed Gull Female House Sparrow

As we headed back to the car we passed a hanging bird feeder that was attracting Sparrows and Coal, Blue and Great Tits  - a fine photo-opportunity spoiled somewhat by the very dull conditions.

House Sparrow Coal Tit
Blue Tit Great Tit

John liked a rather lonely-looking Anemone flower standing tall in an otherwise empty flowerbed. Our final photo at Figgate Park was of some very pretty lilac Fuchsia flowers. I just missed a Carder Bee that was feeding on them.

Pink Anemone Fuchsia

We relocated to the seafront at Joppa to have our tea. Below is the view west showing Portobello Beach. Note the skies were clearing - just a bit.

We were surprised to find that the rocky shore was fairly busy with birds. I soon had pictures of a Cormorant and noisy Oystercatchers. I watched a Hooded Crow X Carrion Crow hybrid  as it went through the usual dropping procedure to prise open a Mussel. Also there were a few Redshanks coming and going. When I cast my eyes further out there were Red-breasted Mergansers some 100m offshore.

Cormorant Oystercatcher
Carrion x Hooded Crow
Redshank Red-breasted Merganser

John noticed a Guillemot diving just below our stance. It gave a wee wing flap just as I fired of a few shots. I also got some nice shots of a Curlew that flew in from Musselburgh and landed on the near rocks. As I watched its progress I could just make out a solitary Turnstone negotiating the rocks. We finished our trip with a nice sighting of a Red-throated Diver  as it made its way East through a series of short dives.

Common Guillemot ( Winter Plumage ) Curlew
Turnstone Red-throated Diver ( Winter Plumage )

We had our teas and strawberry tarts as we looked out over the Firth of Forth. The early rain had fizzled out as we left Middleton Moor and never reappeared. However it remained very dull and gloomy, making photography problematic. We were pleased, though, that we managed to rack up so many pictures in such a relatively short period of time. We’ve been rather unlucky with our Sunday weathers recently because they have been the worst weather of each week. Surely our luck will change soon - say, next week?

Week ending: 24th October 2021: Doonfoot

A day of sunshine and showers was predicted for Sunday in Central Scotland, with more sun in the South-West. I thought Ayr might be a suitable destination so we headed for Doonfoot, one of our favourite sites. Before we got to the M77 we of course had our customary breakfasts at Stewartfield Morrisons (9.5/10: Excellent, only the small plates prevented a full score).

When we arrived at the Castle Walk car park near the mouth of the Doon, we were disappointed to find the tide was almost fully in and the pond adjacent to the car park was empty. However we did find some birds on the East side of the river. A couple of Mute Swans were gliding across the water and we had an exciting pass of a large Cormorant that flew up the river over the footbridge. There were a couple of Pied Wagtails nipping about on the rocky East bank near a sizeable gathering of snoozing Redshanks.

Mute Swan Cormorant
Pied Wagtail Redshank

We relocated to the Greenan Shore car park where we found that large masses of seaweed had washed onto the full length of that shore. That is usually good news for the likes of us since the rotting weed harbours huge amounts of invertebrates that attract a wide range of birds. However, the shoreline attracts Sunday dog-walkers so the bird count was virtually nil. We did see flocks of Turnstones and the odd Redshank leapfrogging the people and dogs but they weren’t able to settle for long. Black-headed Gulls were passing overhead as they too eyed up the seaweed.

Redshank Black-headed Gull

Below is a view of the beach to the West of Greenan Castle. Note there are no people (other than ourselves!)

The quieter bit of shoreline held some feeding birds including Pied Wagtails, Common and Black-headed Gulls and Carrion Crows.

Pied Wagtail Common Gull
Carrion Crow Black-headed Gull

We had a look in the field to the south of the beach. It is an area sheltered from the wind and I managed photographs of some insects that were feeding on the last of the flowers. The Greenbottle, Lucilia Caesar , a Common Wasp and the hoverfly, Eristalis Arbustorum, were on the withering flowers of Sea Radish. I also snapped a Garden Snail that was in the underside of a leaf.

Lucilia Caesar Common Wasp
Eristalis Arbustorum Garden Snail

We were delighted when a group of four Goldfinches descended onto an old brown Lesser Burdock and began nibbling the seed heads. Nearby I found some Red Campion still in flower and on the edge of the field I also found Black Nightshade.

Red Campion Black Nightshade

We made our way back around the bottom of the cliff below the Castle and came upon a gathering of birds feeding where the water met the seaweed pile. I noticed a pair of Teal, the male still in partial eclipse plumage. Treading the seaweed were a Greenshank and a few Redshanks. Four Mute Swans were also moving in when the whole assembly was ended by (you’ve guessed it) dog walkers, but not before I’d fired off some nice shots. As we arrived back at the car we saw a Ruby Tiger Moth  caterpillar on the road, slowly moving towards the parked cars. We took its picture then helped it onto the grassy verge.

Teal Redshank
Mute Swan Ruby Tiger Moth Caterpillar

We decided to revisit the Castle Walk car park to see if the pond had any birds sheltering at high tide. We saw a pair of Carrion Crows probing the mud at the pond edge. John then spotted a group of about half a dozen Teal that had been hidden by the tall reeds. I got some nice shots when they settled at the other side of the pond. Looking towards Ayr we could see kites (those with strings) being flown above the the Low Green - I forgot to mention that it had been a bit breezy.

Carrion Crow

A line of Great Reedmace  (also known, incorrectly, as Bulrush at the near edge of the pond were tall and impressive.

On the River Doon there were a few Mallards, the drakes now in their more normal plumage. They were showing such interest in the females that occasionally a female took flight to escape their attentions - only to be followed by an eager male. As we neared the car park we could see another small flock of Turnstones trying to find the best place to settle, desperate to eat, but continually being disturbed by people and dogs on their feeding areas. There were also Rooks in the air, although I don’t know if they were engaged in courtship antics or simply looking for food. Above the areas of tall grass beyond the pond we noticed a flock of what we thought were Linnets, but, on close inspection of the photos, turned out to be Greenfinches.

Mallard Turnstone
Rook Greenfinch

Despite the quiet start, we finished the visit fairly satisfied with our sightings. For me, the stars of the show were the Greenshank and the Goldfinches, and the drake Teal at the end were good to see in their fine plumage. Tea and strawberry tarts were consumed with our usual satisfaction. We had been treated to bright and not too breezy weather. Hopefully the weather next weekend will be similar

Week ending: 17th October 2021: Irvine Harbour and Troon

We had the choice of anywhere within our normal range this week. Sounds great but my WeatherPro app predicted dull, damp, in fact - driech (a fine Scottish word) conditions throughout the region. However, since we’d been East for the past few weeks I opted for Irvine and Troon. There had been reports that various Geese flocks had been seen there. John was back and of course we started in a Morrisons Cafe, Stewartfield in East Kilbride (nice food, fast service, although I had an issue with a dodgy sausage, so 9/10).

We drove to Irvine Harbour first because Barnacle Geese had been seen on the Bogside Mudflats which are on the opposite side of the River Irvine. Just as we got out of the car John spotted a mass of geese rising over the Mudflats and flying southwards. The shot below shows the leading part of the flock but due to the rainy conditions it is very difficult to identify the species. As I photographed the geese I noticed five Common Seals swimming from the River Garnock into the Irvine estuary. A Shag  flew upstream over them followed by a Herring Gull.

Common Seal
Shag Herring Gull

We followed the Seals downstream hoping to get a better picture but they soon disappeared from view. As we made our way on to the tip of the estuary we passed a family of Mute Swans that were swimming in the water near the old Pilot House. There were Shags on a few of the tall poles in the estuary mouth and and I also managed a shot of a passing Cormorant.

Mute Swan Juvenile Mute Swan
Shag Cormorant

Around the viewing point at the Estuary tip Herring Gulls and a large Great Black-Backed Gull were competing for scraps of bread. I followed their aerobatics as they swooped and dived over the choppy waters.

Herring Gull / Great Black-backed Gull

We walked back up upstream to observe the Mudflats since the the rain has eased a bit and viewing was somewhat clearer. We could now make out a large flock of Oystercatchers on the far bank of the Garnock.

I also could make out Canada Geese that were grazing on the near edge of the Mudflats and I could also see Wigeon around them. We paused for a short time on a wooden jetty where John directed my attention to a Curlew creeping along the opposite bank of the Irvine. There was also a preening Grey Heron. Also from the jetty we got close views of a Black Headed Gull that was watching us from a post, probably hoping we were going to throw it some bread. Just to the side of the jetty a juvenile Cormorant was diving for fish as another pair of Mute Swans paddled in. They too were to be disappointed that we had no bread.

Canada Goose Curlew
Grey Heron Black-headed Gull
Juvenile Cormorant Mute Swan

Satisfied with our sightings gathered in such inclement conditions we next drove to Troon, stopping first at the outskirts, at the fields at Loan where we hoped to see Pink-footed Geese. We were not disappointed as there were around 80 of them in the middle of the field to the south of the road.

These birds usually return to those fields each Autumn and more of them will probably add to the numbers as we get further into Autumn. We returned to the car and drove to Troon Harbour where we were lucky enough to see half a dozen Grey Seals that had followed a fishing boat into the harbour.

Pink-footed Goose Grey Seal

We then drove the short distance to the car park that overlooks the Firth of Clyde. We could see Shags and Herring Gulls assembled on the rocks just off the shore.

 In the area around the car park we saw a Robin posing on an attractive rock and, peeping down at us from the tall harbour wall, there was a male Pied Wagtail. There were quite a few Starlings foraging on the rocky shore and as we moved onto the Ballast Bank we were met with a small, but mobile flock of Rock and Meadow Pipits. I also managed to snap a few shots of a Redshank as it flew between boulders.

Robin Pied Wagtail
Starling Rock Pipit
Meadow Pipit Redshank

From the bottom path of the Ballast Bank we observed the passage of several Gannets, all heading North. As we reached the end of the Bank there was a Redshank loitering on its own on the damp rocks. John noticed a solitary Turnstone chilling out atop an exposed rock. A Carrion Crow descended onto the rocks and scanned the area for opportunities. We walked back to the car via the top path of the Ballast Bank. The only bird we saw was a drake Eider speeding northwards. Before moving to the Titchfield Road car park for a quick look there before tea, I came across a fungus in the grassy mound at the Harbour car park. It was possibly a Pink Domecap.

Gannet Redshank
Turnstone Carrion Crow
Eider Pink Domecap

Below is the view of the seafront as seen from the south end of The Ballast Bank.

My quick look around the shore at Titchwell Road car park produced a rather nice Cormorant drying its wings, and an even lovelier close view of a Curlew. I also got a shot of a Feral Pigeon winking at me, or so I like to think. Final shot of the visit was of another Turnstone, doing what it’s name implies, in search of invertebrates.

Cormorant Curlew
Feral Pigeon Turnstone

You may have noticed that sunshine was in evidence in the final few shots. Better late than never I suppose. It meant we could have our teas outside the car, which was nice. John had brought Strawberry Tarts, continuing our recent tradition. We were satisfied that we had a pleasing number of sightings given the poor light and (I’ll use that Scottish word again) driech weather. My favourite shots were of the Grey Seals. I hope that was not the start of a trend of poor Sunday weather, but if it is, we’ll take encouragement from this week’s set.

Week ending: 10th October 2021: Musselburgh

I was on my own this week as John had to call off due to a minor mishap. I forgot to copy the usual screenshots from my WeatherPro app, suffice it to say that the weather was to be brighter and drier in the east. I opted for our old faithful location, Musselburgh. As a slight compensation for the lack of weather pics, I include below a picture of my lonely Morrisons Small Breakfast (excellent 9/10: -1 for slow service). After parking in the first Levenhall Links car park I strolled to the sea wall and along to “The Scrapes”. On my route I was disappointed how dull the light was and surprised how low the tide was. However, I did get my first shots of the trip since there were Oystercatchers, Bar-tailed Godwits and Common Gulls on the beach.

Bar-tailed Godwit Common Gull

At the Scrapes, from the central hide, I got dim shots of the Teal  and Wigeon  that were hard at work dipping and dabbling for invertebrates in the damp edges of the ponds.


In the back scrape there was a mass of Lapwings. I remember wondering how long it would take them to take flight, as is their usual behaviour.

I didn’t have to wait too long for the Lapwings to become spooked. They circled a few times before returning to their previous positions. I think they made most of the other birds edgy, such as Woodpigeons.


Wood Pigeon

I moved to the left-most hide, not expecting to see anything that I hadn’t seen already. However as I sat down, a pair of Black-tailed Godwits flew in and settled on the grass in front of the hide. With the birds no more than 10m away, it was a great photo-opportunity.

As if that wasn’t good enough, a Ruff joined the Godwits, and then a Curlew . The latter was about 5m away.

Ruff Curlew

Meanwhile, beyond all the action in front of the hide, a large number of Greylag Geese were squabbling loudly. I don’t know what set them off but it was quite a few minutes before they settled down. In the pond to the right, a group of Starlings were having a bathing session regardless of the commotion.

Greylag Goose

As I photographed the Starlings, some Dunlin  flew in and started foraging around the pond edges.

I was pleased when the Dunlin gradually moved nearer the hide, although it was a pity the light was poor. A nippy wee Pied Wagtail appeared on the pipes at the side of the scrape, posing conveniently until I’d fired off a few shots. The birds were briefly disturbed when a Grey Heron swept past the hide and began exploring the area to the left of the hide. Satisfied with my haul of shots at the Scrapes, I decided to check out the the mouth of the Esk. On the way out of the reserve I noticed some Large Bindweed still in bloom at the path side and a group of Common Inkcap fungi between the trees at the reserve entrance.

Pied Wagtail Grey Heron
Large Bindweed Common Inkcap

The cloudscape over the Boating Pond was stunning.

Near the sea wall (which was fenced off), I photographed a Carrion Crow holding what looks like a crab pincer limb. My next captures indicate where it might have come from. At the Esk mouth I watched a Curlew catch a Crab and bite off its limbs before swallowing its body, shell included.

Carrion Crow

I didn’t see anything else of particular interest at the Esk so I retraced my steps back towards the Scrapes. I encountered a large Brown Slug on the footpath that was in danger of getting squashed by the frequently passing cycles. I noticed that Oystercatchers and Mallards were starting to return to the Scrapes from their time at the shore. I also saw a Guillemot less than 50m from the seawall. There was a final bit of excitement when a group of about half a dozen Grey Partridges  passed rapidly overhead and on to Morrison’s Haven. They were most likely put up by one of the many dogs being walked in the area.

Brown Slug Oystercatcher
Mallard Common Guillemot
Grey Partridge

Well, despite the often gloomy conditions I enjoyed my Musselburgh outing. Highlights were the close views of Black-tailed Godwits, Ruff and Curlew at the Scrapes. I finished the day off with tea and chocolate biscuits (two strawberry tarts would have been over indulgent). Hopefully John will make the next trip, and maybe bring the sun with him

Week ending: 3rd October 2021: Port Seton and Aberlady LNR

The weather forecast for Sunday left us no option but to head for the Lothians since east or west of there was to be showery. So we decided to start at Port Seton and then move to Aberlady. High tide was mid-afternoon so I reckoned we might like to finish back at Wrecked Craigs, Port Seton to catch the birds as the incoming tide moved them closer to the shore.

We had breakfast at Dalkeith Morrisons (8/10: fine food as usual but service was slow) before popping in to Wrecked Craigs at Port Seton. On arrival we could see the three Forth bridges beyond Leith to the West.

We expected that it would be quiet but we were pleased to see the rocks were well-populated with a variety of birds which I immediately set about photographing. A well-lit Common Gull standing on a small rock and a sleeping Curlew standing among snoozing Bar-tailed Godwits were our first captures. A small flock of Ringed Plovers flew in onto the rocks and soon afterwards a large Golden Plover  flock moved in.

Common Gull Curlew
Ringed Plover Golden Plover

The Golden Plovers, which I found out this week are called Kapustarinta in Finland, settled on rocks about 50m out.

John directed my attention to a pair of Bar-tailed Godwits working the on the shoreline just East of the Craigs. One of them was leucistic, glowing white in the strong sunshine. Eventually the “normal” Godwit flew onto the rocks to join the rest of the flock.

Bar-tailed Godwit

The Ringed Plovers didn’t get long to rest since a dog walker decided that her dog would like a wee scramble on the jagged rocks. It wasn’t long before the other birds were also put up so we took that as our signal to move to Aberlady.

At the Aberlady LNR  there were many birds on the Peffer Burn. Most prominent of these were Greylag Geese. Quite a few Wigeon were scattered around, on and off of the water. We could see that there were more geese further out in the Aberlady Bay so we decided to cross the wooden bridge to investigate. On our way over I snapped a passing Redshank that sped over the bridge. John then spotted a Buzzard that was gliding slowly toward us from the conifers on the other side of the Burn.

Greylag Geese Wigeon
Redshank Buzzard

Also from the bridge we could see Teal dabbling in the shallows. At the other side of the bridge we made our way across what John and I call “butterfly alley”, a rough path through the tall grass sometimes rich in butterflies. We stood at the edge of the Pow Burn estuary and observed the panorama. It was rich in bird activity. A very large flock of Starlings passed across the scene. These were followed by eight Little Egrets settle about 80 m away beside masses of geese - a mixture of Greylags and Pink-feet.

Teal Starling
Little Egret

Next there was a movement of the largest number of Oystercatchers I think I’ve seen. They were on the far edge of the Bay, probably put up by the advancing tide.

As well as geese, there were large numbers of Curlew. I managed a shot of the Curlews (and a Little Egret) flying over Greylags.

The Pink-footed Geese  were located in rather distant and poorly-lit positions making photography difficult. However occasionally groups of Pinkfeet flew in, so providing better photo opportunities. Ever so often Lapwings would take to the wing and circle the site a few times before taking up their positions once again. I spotted a Kestrel overhead. It attempted a hover over the east margins of the bay, but an aggressive Carrion Crow chased it off.

Pink-footed Geese
Lapwing Kestrel

 Just as we decided to head back to the car, a Little Egret flew overhead on its way to join the others already on the ground. As we crossed the wooden bridge I photographed a Curlew that was picking its way through long grass on the edge of the Burn. At the car park we found a white (probably leucistic) Greylag among normal Greylags gathered on the banks of the Peffer Burn. I snapped a shot of a passing adult Herring Gull.

Little Egret Curlew
Greylag Geese Herring Gull

Just before we left, John remarked that he had seen over 50 Shelducks swimming in the Bay. 

We drove to Seton Burn at the Eastern edge of Port Seton. Often there are birds gathered where the Burn flows into the Firth of Forth. On arrival we saw a juvenile Gannet patrolling the area, and nearer the shore there were groups of Red-breasted Mergansers and Wigeons. Also a pair of Mute Swans were foraging very close in.

1st Cycle Gannet Red-breasted Merganser
Wigeon Mute Swan

We returned to the car park adjacent to Wrecked Craigs. Having watched earlier the clearing of birds from the rocks by inconsiderate dog walkers, I was surprised to find masses of birds assembled on the same rocks. Most of them were sleeping. A juvenile Herring Gull was soaking up the sun as it stood on a small rock. A snoozing Curlew was standing in the middle of a flock of Bar-tailed Godwits, as was a single Golden Plover. More Golden Plovers flew in for a time before a family appeared on the beach. They were armed with pond-dipping nets and were moving onto the rocks.

1st Cycle Herring Gull Curlew
Golden Plover

The birds became more alert. The Oystercatchers and Godwits stretched their necks. The Redshanks didn’t seem to be as alarmed. I now was able to make out a single Knot now that heads were removed from under wings. As the family moved in, the birds migrated further back onto the far rocks. John and I walked a 100m to the harbour. On the way there I photographed a wee Turnstone that was on a large boulder and a singing Starling that was perched on top of a lamppost.

Oystercatcher Redshanks
Knot .......
Turnstone Starling

At the Harbour entrance there were a few Eider, the drakes now resplendent in their familiar black and white plumage. A juvenile drake flew in to join the others and gave us a nice fly-past. A Razorbill surfaced just below the harbour wall, but swam further away when it saw us. The final picture taken was of a isolated shower raining down on an oil tanker as it made its way down the Firth of Forth.

Drake Eider Female Eider
Juvenile Eider Razorbill......

The day had gone much as I had envisaged. We saw a large number of birds in bright light. My favourite sightings were the Golden Plovers and Little Egrets, and it was nice to see the Pinkfeet back again for their winter visit. John and I had tea and strawberry tarts and wondered if Morrisons will be able to sustain their supplies of Strawberry tarts throughout the winter. Hope so as they’re delicious.

Highlights - October 2021

We present last month’s gallery of my favourite pictures I’ve taken during October 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.









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