Archive - October 2023

Week ending: 29th October: Troon and Irvine Harbour

When I looked at my WeatherPro app on Sunday morning, there was a long, narrow band of rain stretching from Denmark, across the North Sea and Central Scotland. It was predicted to stay there for most of the day. I opted for Troon and crossed my fingers that the rain would pass north of Troon. It was raining when we set off from home in the Glasgow area, but, encouragingly, it was dry when we parked at Troon Morrisons for our customary breakfast (8/10:very good, but there were no black puddings and John did not get a tomato).

Courtesy of Weather Pro  and BBC Tides

We crossed the road to the North Beach car park. The tide was high and we could see a small group of Oystercatchers flying west into the Firth of Clyde. Their white feathers contrasted with the dark, rain-bearing clouds to the north - a good sign that it might stay dry.

We walked along the coastal path where I noticed a small flock of Redshanks flying towards the shore.

They landed fairly near to us and I managed a sneaky shot through the foreshore vegetation.

A little further along the path, a pair of Stonechats  took up position on some tall grass and basically posed for us until I’d fired off a few photos. Next I came across beautiful red Bittersweet berries and, nearby, fungi nestling in the short grass, Angel's Bonnet. We paused for a moment at a picnic bench to admire the view and a trio of Mallards swimming about 100m out, before doubling back along the other side of the bushes. A Magpie which had been watching us from high in a large bush, took flight just as I pressed the shutter.

Female Stonechat Stonechat
Bittersweet Angel's Bonnet
Mallard Magpie

John found some nice Waxcap fungi growing through the short grass: Honey Waxcap and Snowy Waxcap. As we got nearer the car, I snapped a female House Sparrow that was lurking in the bushes. A group of Starlings were having a communal water bath in a puddle in the middle of the car park - until they were spooked by a passing dog and its walker.

Honey Waxcap Snowy Waxcap
Female House Sparrow Starling

 We next drove the short distance to the Harbour car park that overlooks the Firth of Clyde. Without even leaving the car, John spotted a Grey Seal bobbing up and down in the water. We walked along the front towards a rocky outcrop with birds resting at high tide. A wee Rock Pipit followed us briefly before it was chased by another Rock Pipit. There were mainly Shags and Herring Gulls on the the rocks but it was a Great Black-backed Gull that seemed the most dominant bird in the group.

Grey Seal Rock Pipit
Herring Gull 1st Cycle Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull Shag

A lone Curlew was picking its way through small rock pools, as were a few Redshanks. A pair of Eider flew past just as John noticed another Seal, this time a Common Seal, swimming close to the rocks.

Curlew Redshank
Drake Eider Common Seal

We drove to the north end of Titchwell Road, at the south end of Ballast Bank, to check the rocky shores there. We were pleased to see a pair of Knots exploring the shoreline below Ballast Bank and we investigated the rocks just beyond there. Again we were delighted to discover a sizeable assembly of small waders, mainly Dunlin and Ringed Plovers, gathered on rocks very near the walkway. Taking care not to put them up, I carefully neared the birds and managed some satisfying photographs.

Dunlin Ringed Plover

We were relieved to have left them as we found them, but they were to be disturbed minutes later by a dog walker.

We sat for a while on a park bench and got further shots of a Starling and a Redshank. A shy Goldfinch visited the seedheads of thistles on the foreshore. Also a Jackdaw watched as we got in the car.

Starling Redshank
Goldfinch Jackdaw

We drove to the Titchwell Road car park but initially we were disappointed at the birdless shore. However when we looked over the seawall to the South Beach we could see a lot of gull activity, signalling that there might be a seaweed pile producing an invertebrate bonanza for insectivorous birds.

My suspicions were correct, there was a very long, broad band of seaweed washed up along a good length of the South Beach. We walked around the promenade and passed very busy Turnstones dining on a feast of invertebrates. Near the seaweed pile we were both aware of an irritating increase in flies in the air. We could also see Dunlins in the bird melee. Some were in winter plumage. On our return journey to the car I snapped a shot of a Pied Wagtail fly-hunting on the seawall. However, John pulled off the find of the day when he spotted a Red-throated Diver  surfacing near the seawall. We tracked it until it was in range for a decent shot by the car park.

Turnstone Dunlin
Pied Wagtail Red-throated Diver

Delighted with our haul of sightings at Troon, we headed to Irvine Harbour for a quick look there before teas. The light was deteriorating when we parked near the Scientist’s Bridge and strolled along the estuary prom.

 We immediately saw a flypast of a young Shag, and yet another Grey Seal popped up to see us. A pair of Pied Wagtails were busy around the viewpoint at the estuary mouth. As we retraced our steps back to the car I spotted a Little Egret  flying over the bridge. Our final sighting was of a Grey Heron on the opposite side of the river.

Juvenile Shag Grey Seal
Pied Wagtail Female Pied Wagtail
Little Egret Grey Heron

 What had threatened to be a rather dull and difficult day in the field actually turned out to be very productive and rather enjoyable. My favourite moments of the trip were photographing the Stonechats, Knots, Red-throated Diver and Little Egret. And of course, I always enjoy photographing Waxcap fungi. As usual we finished the day with teas and strawberry tarts - ample reward for a fine set of pictures

Week ending: 22nd October: Cockenzie, Port Seton and Ferny Ness

After a long week of wind and rain, due to Storm Babet, fine weather reappeared on Sunday. It was predicted to be slightly better in the east, and there were reports of lots of Skuas around Cockenzie. So that’s where we headed. But not before we had charged up our energy banks  with Dalkeith Morrisons’ breakfasts (9/10: excellent, except for those pesky small plates).

Courtesy of Weather Pro  and BBC Tides

Bright, sunshine and blue skies greeted us as we parked just west of the site that once was Cockenzie power station. We were pleased to see that there were plenty of birds dotted about the slightly choppy seas. I got the ball rolling with some shots of Oystercatchers, Redshanks and Turnstones foraging on the rocky shore. John spotted a solitary winter-plumage Long-tailed Duck that was foraging about 50 m from the shore.

Oystercatcher Redshank
Turnstone Female Long-tailed Duck

We walked along the coastal path, part of the John Muir Way, and soon had added Shag, Red - breasted Mergansers and Razorbill to our list of sightings. John noticed a young Gannet passing eastwards about 200m from the shore.

Shag Red-breasted Merganser
Razorbill 2nd Cycle Gannet

Below is the view looking south-west towards the town of Prestonpans. Note the rocky shore.

There was plenty of gull activity with the usual Common, Herring and Black-headed Gulls continually passing. But when a large group of Black-headed Gulls that were floating at the water’s edge suddenly took flight, we were delighted to see the the cause was an approaching juvenile Long-tailed Skua or Jaegar. It didn’t manage to catch any of the flock and rested a while on the surface of the water before having another go - but once again it was unsuccessful.

Common Gull Black-headed Gull
Herring Gull 1st Cycle Herring Gull
Juvenile Long-tailed Skua...

Things eventually calmed down a bit especially after group of dog walkers decided that it would be a good idea to walk along the shoreline.

We relocated to Port Seton where we had an immediate and surprising sighting (thanks to a couple of fellow nature-watchers). They pointed out that there was a White-billed Diver  (also known as the Yellow-billed Loon) feeding on the Firth albeit over 200m out, so a record short will have to do for now. After that nice surprise, we positioned ourselves at the mouth of Port Seton Harbour and waited for passing birds. Within a few minutes, we had shots of Common Eider, a winter-plumage Slavonian Grebe  and a Common Guillemot  I also spotted a Great Black-backed gull floating just beyond the flock of Eider.

White-billed Diver Drake Eider
Slavonian Grebe...
Common Guillemot Great Black-backed Gull

Once again, we were surprised by what happened next. A juvenile Long-tailed Skua, perhaps even the one we had seen earlier, appeared on the scene chasing another bird, which at first I assumed was a gull. It was, in fact, a juvenile Arctic Skua (also known as the Arctic Jaeger), which conveniently landed on the water some 40 metres from where we were standing. Soon after this, John directed me to a Shag that had just surfaced in the harbour mouth. After I had got several quite nice shots of the Shag, I spotted a quartet of Wigeon flying high above us. Eventually we decided to move on, and on our way back to the car I snapped a pleasing shot of a Starling that was perching on the gutter off a harbour building. I also caught sight of a wee Grey Wagtail moving on the rocks below the promenade.

Juvenile Long-tailed Skua Juvenile Arctic Skua

Shag Wigeon
Starling Grey Wagtail

 Our final location of the trip was Ferny Ness which is a few mile east of Port Seton and is the headland that separates Longniddry Bents (to the east) from Gosford Bay (to the west). There were crowds of people on the south-west section of Ferny Ness, so we walked in the opposite side where a few Shags and a single Eider were diving. Along the path we came upon a calling Dunnock perched on a Bramble bush. There was also a single Redshank standing on a large waterside rock.

Eider in Eclipse plumage Shag
Dunnock Redshank

Eventually the path reached Gosford Bay. Below is the view looking across the bay towards the stone gateway of Gosford House.

I noticed Fairy Ring Champignon mushrooms along the edges of the rough grassy path. Only a few wildflowers were still in bloom including Storksbill (not shown) and Thrift. I also photographed orange berries on a Sea Buckthorn bush, but I’m sure they’ll be polished off by the usual influx of thrushes  during the Autumn months. We turned back and walked towards the car park, pausing for a final look across the water to the familiar skyline of Arthur’s Seat and Edinburgh.

Fairy Ring Champignon...
Thrift Sea Buckthorn

A final wee surprise occurred when a sizeable raft of Shags drifted slowly eastwards towards Gosford Bay. We’re unsure what they were up to. They weren’t diving, but there was much flapping and posing so maybe it was courtship behaviour.

It was a very enjoyable trip with hardly a dull moment. The highlights for me were the Skuas, the White-billed Diver and the fascinating paddle-past of the Shag flock. As usual, we ended our day with tea and strawberry tarts, wondering if Morrisons sold these during winter months and if not, should we return to Danish pastries, our erstwhile favourites. Time will tell.

Week ending: 15th October: RSPB Loch Leven

After the drab conditions last Sunday, this Sunday’s weather was predicted to have been bright, dry and mild for the time of year. With a threat of early mist on the coasts, I decided to visit an inland site we hadn’t visited for over 4 years, RSPB Loch Leven (formerly known as “Vane Farm”). It is a well-developed wetland site known for the visitations of large numbers of Pink-footed Geese and Whooper Swans and I’d read reports that these had just arrived so we were anxious to see them. On the way, we popped into Bathgate Morrisons’ cafe for our usual breakfast (9/10: very good indeed, although I still would prefer a bigger plate) before heading over the Queensferry Crossing into the Kingdom of Fife to start this week’s quest.

Courtesy of Weather Pro

We passed through the visitor centre into the reserve and immediately saw a huge flock of geese, undoubtedly Pink-footed Geese, circling just to the north of the reserve. Eventually they settled there. John estimated that there were over a thousand geese in the flock.

On our way down to the first hide, the Gillman Hide, I snapped a pretty Robin that was singing in a pathside bush. Inside the hide I spent some minutes watched the comings and goings of the birds as they attended the feeder to the right of the hide. Goldfinches were most common but Tree Sparrows and Chaffinches appeared fairly often. A Coal Tit and a Blue Tit appeared only infrequently.

Robin Goldfinch
Tree Sparrow Chaffinch
Coal Tit Blue Tit

A family of two adult and two juvenile Mute Swans were on the loch at the north edge of the reserve but we could see little else. We therefore decided to walk to the next hide, the Waterston Hide. En route, John spotted a silhouetted Dunlin in a bush while I photographed two wildflowers that were still in bloom on the grassy mounds: Wild Clary and Yarrow. As a wee bonus, on the Yarrow there was the Greenbottle, Lucilia Caesar.

Mute Swan Juvenile Mute Swam
Dunnock Wild Clary
Yarrow Fly - Lucilia Caesar

On entering the Waterston hide we could see a flock of Curlews feeding on grassland about 100m from the hide. A lady entered the hide to ask us to keep a lookout for a Hen Harrier that was spotted that morning.

A pair of Whooper Swans flew across in front of the hide, passing over a few Canada Geese that were about 200m from us. Not long after that, John’s bins picked up a Grey Heron flying into the reserve from the loch. Further away still, large groups of Pink-footed Geese were flying in to join the main flock. A pair of Mallards then flew past the hide. Just before we headed to the last hide, the Carden Hide, I noticed that there were Pochards with Coots and Tufted Ducks of the Loch just to the east (as can just be seen from the record shot below).

Whooper Swan Canada Goose
Grey Heron Pink-footed Goose
Mallard Pochard / Coot / Tufted Duck

The first two hides were a bit disappointing in that there were few birds around the hides. Not so for the Carden Hide. A large presence of ducks, mainly Teal, were very close to the left. A few Wigeon were among the Teal but there were more further out near a gathering of Gadwalls. Even further back, at least 200m away, near the Pinkfoot flock, I could make out that there were more than a few Pintail ducks were on the Loch. I caught a moment when a pair of Pintails were experiencing the wrath of an irate Mute Swan.

Drake Teal Female Teal
Wigeon Gadwall
Pintail Mute Swan

Throughout our time in the Carden Hide the Pinkfeet moved closer to the north edge of the pool and as we left we could see many of them gathered near the water

A young Moorhen, spotted by John, moved onto the water just right of the hide. A lone drake Teal too was similarly disturbed and flew off. Soon the entire flock of ducks, Teal with a few Wigeon, were in the air.

Moorhen Teal...

They circled above the hide a few times before resuming their original positions. We were clueless as to what had spooked them - perhaps there had been a passing raptor - maybe even the Hen Harrier!

Pleased with what we’d seen in the Carden Hide, we moved outside intending to walk along the Loch Leven Heritage Trail for a bit, when John noticed a Caddisfly, Limnephilus lunatus, perched on to of the wooden screen that lines the approach path. Also on the screen were a Yellow Dungfly and a Bluebottle, Calliphora vicina. Along the grass verges of the main path I photographed a lovely Field Scabious and a not so lovely Bedeguar Gall. I also snapped a housefly, Mydaea setifemur that was resting on a large hedge leaf.

Caddisfly - Limnephilus Lunatus Yellow Dungfly
Fly - Calliphora Vicina Field Scabious
Bedeguar Gall Fly - Mydaea Setifemur

Below is the view from the Heritage Trail looking back over the reserve and the loch towards Scotlandwell and Bishop Hill.

We were walking part of the Heritage Trail because on previous visits I have seen Pink-footed Geese flying very near the path. This time, however, the only flypast we saw was of a single Curlew. The detour wasn’t a waste of time though, because I witnessed a young Rook  being fed by its attentive parent. Eventually we doubled back and headed for the underpass that leads back to the visitor centre. On the way, John saw a family of Pheasants crossing the path about 50 m ahead. They quickly vanished into the undergrowth. We could see no sign of them in the adjacent field. On reaching the underpass we walked under the B9097 and made the short ascent to the visitor centre. Our final pair of shots were of a Vipers Bugloss plant and an attractive sculpture of a pair of geese.

Curlew Juvenile Rook...
Vipers Bugloss

Well I would call that a successful visit. Of the 32 species seen, the standouts for me were the pink-footed geese, the Pintails and I loved the Caddisfly. Back at the car we finished the trip with cups of strong tea and the customary strawberry tarts.

Week ending: 8th January: Stevenston , Saltcoats and Irvine Harbour

My WeatherPro app confirmed the Met Office prediction for Central Scotland that Sunday would be dull and rainy. There seemed to be a chance that the Ayrshire coast might see less rain and maybe even the odd ray of sunshine. John and I went for one of our old trusty set of destinations on the North Ayrshire coast, Stevenston , Saltcoats and Irvine Harbour, which we last visited late in July. We had another excellent breakfast experience in Stevenston Morrisons cafe (9/10: -1 for not having Black Pudding) before driving onto a gloomy but dry Stevenston Point.

Courtesy of Weather Pro  and BBC Tides

Although the light was poor, we were encouraged by the narrow band of brightness on the southern horizon and expected it to spread to Stevenston by early afternoon.

The tide on Stevenston Beach was receding and we could just about make out through the poor visibility some small waders, namely Sanderlings, Ringed Plovers and Dunlin, foraging on the wet sands. A juvenile Cormorant was drying its outspread wings on the end of the breakwater as a Gannet passed by in the distance. Also, I spotted a Red-edged Brittlestem mushroom in the damp grass.

Sanderling Ringed Plover
Sanderling / Ringed Plover / Dunlin Juvenile Cormorant
Gannet Red-edged Brittlestem

John spotted a large flock of small waders, later identified from the pictures as Sanderling, flying sound of the Point and landing on seaweed behind a large flock of gulls.

While we tracked the Sanderling, a single Sandwich Tern flew close to the Point. We then noticed that there were flutterings around the rocks and boulders in the southeast corner. We took a closer look and realised that there was a bit of a quarrel going on between a Wheatear and a Meadow Pipit. Each time the Wheatear landed and posed on a boulder the Meadow Pipit swooped to displace it. Also, a small mushroom caught my attention, a Snowy Waxcap  that was surrounded by clover leaves and blades of grass.

Sandwich Tern Wheatear
Meadow Pipit Snowy Waxcap

We crossed to the north side of the Point where there was an oystercatcher standing at the waters’ edge. John spotted an elusive Turnstone that was dodging between the rocks. After a bit of a wait, I managed a couple of shots of the Turnstone when a Redshank appeared from between rocks. On our way back to the car we had a bit of a fungi-fest, finding three nice mushrooms in the grass at the tip of the point: Blackening Waxcap , Golden Waxcap  and Pleated Inkcap.

Oystercatcher Redshank
Turnstone Blackening Waxcap
Golden Waxcap Pleated Inkcap

Chuffed that we’d photographed so many decent sightings in such dismal light, we headed for Saltcoats, popping in first at the pond at the end of Moorpark Road West, which at times can be quite rewarding. We were pleased to see a few birds there which John snapped from the passenger seat: a Grey Heron, a family of Mute Swans, a Carrion Crow, and a Lesser Blackbacked Gull.

Grey Heron Juvenile Mute Swan
Carrion Crow Lesser Black-backed Gull

We parked on Saltcoats Harbour and walked through the observation tower at its tip. Below is the view looking back into the harbour basin.

We didn’t see much for a while until some Sandwich Terns appeared on the scene and surprisingly started to dive for fish. I also managed a shot of a juvenile Common Tern that turned up with the Sandwiches. There were anglers at the base of the tower so I didn’t expect any birds to show up on the surrounding rocks. However, to my great delight a wee Purple Sandpiper  dodged into a crevice hidden from the anglers, but very visible to us on top of the tower.

Sandwich Tern...
Juvenile Common Tern Purple Sandpiper

Across the harbour-mouth a large wedge of rock was rather crowded with Shags and a few gulls, including a Great Black-backed Gull.

We moved to the opposite side of the harbour, along The Braes road and behind the cinema where one can’t move any distance without coming across a Herring Gull, or to that matter, a Redshank. Another reasonably common coastal bird is the Curlew. We watched one determinedly probing under a rock to catch its prey - which, from the photos, looks to me like an Eel.

Herring Gull Redshank

As we continued around the seawall, I noticed a Barn Swallow, perhaps a juvenile, waiting on top of the cinema roof. Then John alerted me to a passing Curlew which landed near the other we’d just seen. Since we’d photographe the juvenile Common Tern I was expecting to come across an adult Common Tern, and indeed I did. We followed this with another of our favourite birds, the very pretty, Grey Wagtail. It was darting from rock to rock, occasionally jumping up to catch flies, so I was pleased to get a fairly decent shot. There was no such difficulty photographing the lazy-looking Oystercatcher pictured below having a wee stretch. Our final picture at Saltcoats was of a cheeky wee Robin lording it up on top of a huge boulder.

Barn Swallow Curlew
Common Tern Grey Wagtail
Oystercatcher Robin

Delighted with our Saltcoats sightings, we drove to Irvine Harbour to have a quick look along the Estuary for anything of interest. We got off to a nice start when John discovered a Fairy Ring  of mushrooms in the grass between the car park and promenade. The species of mushroom however is yet to be identified. John continued with a suggestion for a shot of a Starling standing on a stone ball. I had no sooner taken that shot. When he pointed out a Grey Heron sneaking along the far bank of the river. We then heard the unmistakable whooshing noise of the beating of a Mute Swan’s wings as it flew in into the estuary. I managed to achieve the final bird sighting on my own, a young Shag flying downstream and out into the Firth of Clyde.

Fungus  ( T.B.C.) Starling
Grey Heron...
Mute Swan Shag

Sharp-eyed John spotted a Common Seal that surfaced close to us on the estuary of the River Irvine.

The picture below shows the view of the mouth of the estuary as seen from the end of prom viewpoint. The light was becoming very dim so we headed back to the car for a wee cup of tea and strawberry tarts.

As we consumed our well-earned teas and tarts we agreed that the Wheatear, the various fungi, the Purple Sandpiper and the Grey wagtail were the stars of the outing. The dodgy weather had not held us back this week. Hopefully next week will be just as good

Week ending: 1st October: Musselburgh

After continual encouraging reports of birds at Musselburgh, coupled with optimistic weather predictions, we headed to Musselburgh. It was well due a return visit since it had been nearly two months since we had last been there. We had a perfect breakfast at Dalkeith Morrisons (10/10: service, food and ambience, all excellent).

Courtesy of Weather Pro  and BBC Tides

The sun was shining when we parked near the cadet hall at the mouth of the River Esk. John pointed out a nice photo-opportunity of a Starling peeking around a security camera. At the sea wall we were disappointed to see several dog walkers were walking along the shoreline, sending the birds up in the process. However, we turned our eyes to the grassy banks to our right and immediately John spotted a Wheatear  darting along the fence - until a male Reed Bunting chased it off. Eventually, once the dog walkers had moved on, we resumed scanning the Esk mouth and I snapped a Curlew standing midstream in shallow water.

Starling Wheatear
Reed Bunting Curlew

Below is the view of the mouth of the Esk mouth looking over the Firth of Forth, towards Inchkeith island, with the Fife coast in the background. Note the healthy gull flock in the foreground.

John alerted me to the arrival of a flying Goosander that sped up the river. At the east side of the sands exposed at low tide we got close views of flying Turnstones and foraging Bar-tailed Godwits and, standing proud, 50m from the sea wall, a Grey Heron decided its feet were getting a bit wet as the tide came in and so took off for drier places.

Female Goosander Turnstone
Bar-tailed Godwit Grey Heron

A large flock of Bar-tailed Godwits at centre stream had similar thoughts to the Heron as they rose and flew west, driven by the rising tide.

Eventually we reached the entrance to the recently-completed nature reserve, which, commonly has become known as the “New Scrapes”. On taking that path we were passed by a butterfly I’d been keen to see throughout the summer, a Painted Lady. That species migrates from and to North Africa in a series of generations. Next John spotted another Wheatear a little further up the path, along with a Stonechat perched on the fence.i

Painted Lady Butterfly...
Wheatear Stonechat

From the first hide we watched the arrival of hundreds of Oystercatchers and wondered if they now chose the New Scrapes instead of the “Old Scrapes”. We would find out later.

As well as seeing lots of Oystercatchers, there was a large presence of loud and very active Canada Geese. Also active were birds at the other end of the size scale. There were flocks of Linnets moving on an off of the gravel mounds. We also came across an attractive green caterpillar, larva of the Bright-line Brown-eye moth, Lacanobia oleracea. It was climbing the hide wall, probably looking for a gap to crawl into to pupate. We moved to the next hide where we had excellent views of the many ducks and geese that were on the water. There were a couple of Barnacle Geese, a few Gadwalls and Greylag Geese were sounding off.

Canada Goose Linnet
Bright Line brown Eye Moth Caterpillar Barnacle Goose
Gadwall Greylag  Goose

The most numerous ducks were Wigeons. Most of the drakes were still in eclipse plumage

We next returned to the car and drove to the Levenhall Links car park. From there we walked via the seawall to the Levenhall Links reserve, the “Old Scrapes”. At the seawall John noticed about a dozen Pink-footed Geese  flying south over and past the reserve. Looking over the wall onto the Firth of Forth John’s trusty binoculars picked up a distant Red-breasted Merganser bobbing in the choppy water. We were then approached by a novice birdwatcher who wanted to know the identity of a bird he’d just photographed. It was a super shot of a Wheatear. Soon after we passed the same bird which was very accommodating, allowing us to pass it at a distance of less than 5 m. A fairly large insect with orange legs and a rather threatening tail paid us a visit at the sea wall. Turns out, it was a female Black Slip Wasp , Pimple rufipes. It’s tail is actually an ovipositor, used during egg laying.

Pink-footed Goose Red-breasted Merganser
Wheatear Female Black Slip Wasp

As we walked by the section of wall adjacent to the Scrapes we witnessed flypasts of a few Turnstones and Cormorants. Just before we turned towards the Scrapes, we passed a Razorbill that was diving along the stretch of water just below the seawall.

Turnstone Cormorant

After I photographed the Razorbill, our attention was drawn to a Garden Snail that was halfway up the wall. A troubled queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee then landed on top of the wall and seemed to be on its last legs. It flew off though after a few minutes. John noticed a tiny black and white spider. It was a Zebra Spider, Salticus scenicus, a jumping spider that doesn’t catch prey with a web, but stalks its prey before leaping and grabbing it, much like a cat. I then found an insect had landed on my hand. I struggled to set up my macro camera one-handed to capture a fairly decent image of the Pea-leaf Weavil Sitona lineatus.

Garden Snail Queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee
Spider - Salticus Scenicus Weevil Sitona Lineatus

We finally reached the hides in the Levenhall Links nature reserve. We were pleased to see a healthy number of birds before us. There were no Oystercatchers though - so they much prefer the New Scrapes. I quickly snapped wading Redshanks and Dunlin as well as a grazing Curlew and a cocky Carrion Crow.

Redshank Dunlin
Curlew Carrion Crow

We moved from the central hide to the leftmost hide and found that it was teeming with birds as the picture of the mass of Bar-tailed Godwits shows.

I managed to get record shots of a Common Snipe and a Ruff that were foraging at the back of the scrape. And there were some Teal dabbling in the shallows nearest the hide. As a group of Canada Geese flew from the reserve we decided to follow their example and headed back to the car. On the way out of the reserve we disturbed a Speckled Wood butterfly. Luckily it settled near the path which allowed me to make a sneaky capture.

Snipe Ruff
Teal in Eclipse Plumage Female Teal
Canada Goose Speckled Wood Butterfly

It had been a very pleasant visit. We recorded 34 species in about 3 hours; a very productive and satisfactory result. My favourite sightings were the Wheatears, geese and invertebrates. As we munched our strawberry tarts and swallowed our strong teas, we reflected on how Musselburgh always delivers sightings. Sunday was no exception

Highlights - October 2023

We present this month’s gallery of my favourite pictures I’ve taken during October 2023. 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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