ending: 31st October: Figgate Park
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
|Wigeon in Eclipse
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.
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.
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
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.
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
|Common Guillemot (
Winter Plumage )
( 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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
|Ruby Tiger Moth
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.
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.
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
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.
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
|Juvenile Mute Swan
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Below is the view of the seafront as seen from the south end of The
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.
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.
At the Scrapes, from the central hide, I got dim shots of the Teal
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
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
As if that wasn’t good enough, a Ruff
joined the Godwits, and then a Curlew .
The latter was about 5m away.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Highlights - October 2021
We present last month’s gallery
of my favourite pictures I’ve taken during October 2021. They
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.
ON THE WATER
IN THE PARK