Archive - September 2020

Week ending 27th September: Doonfoot, Troon

Picturesque Doonfoot is one of our favourite locations and rarely disappoints. As I started my walk around  the mouth of the River Doon the weather was well nigh perfect for my photography as can be seen from the photo below. The tide was also perfect as it was nearing it's height and many birds had ammassed in the area, awaiting the slow reveal of damp sands that would provide their next meals.

I passed along the wee pond adjacent to the car park where I found several birders watching expectedly for a glimpse of an elusive Water Rail. I timed my appearance well as it made an immediate prolonged appearance. So it was click click click and on to the Doon mouth to catch the tide. There were Carrion Crows squabbling over food scraps, and on the water, many tens of Mute Swans, including large cygnets, had gathered.

Water Rail Carrion Crow
Mute Swan Juvenile Mute Swan

A lesser Black-backed Gull was sounding off after repelling some Carrion Crows that had gone too close to it's chick. I snapped a portrait of a Mallard as it paddled into the light. Also enjoying the light were a sizeable group of Redshanks resting on the opposite bank waiting on the waters clearing. A Black-headed gull too was waiting in the bright morning sunshine.

Lesser Black-backed Gull Mallard Drake
Redshank Black-headed Gull

I passed a few Rooks that were foraging on the short grasses near the shore, while just offshore a lone Shelduck in eclipse plumage dabbled in the shallows. I was pleased to see a Greenshank resting on the water's edge. Eventually it was scared off by a group of quarrelling Crows. A well-lit Redshank flew past speedily but I did manage a few shots.

Rook Eclipse Shelduck
Greenshank Redshank

A bit further from the shore I spotted a winter plumage Teal and Wigeon.  Some Dunlin  flew in and started searching the damp sands for invertebrates. Before long they had taken flight again to the opposite bank.


As I headed for the footbridge across the Doon I passed a bold Robin in the pathside bushes. There were also House Sparrows and Starlings. A fairly distant female Stonechat appeared on grass heads in the grassy dunes along the the promenade.

Robin House Sparrow
Starling Stonechat

I moved onto the sandy beach where I got a few nice shots of a Starling that was probing the sands. Also searching the beach for tasty morsals
were a few nippy Pied Wagtails. They are always on the move to keep a safe distance from walker (of which there were many). There were about 20 Curlews gathered on a secluded part of the shore, about 50 m away. A turnstone darted across the rocky shore, probably threatened by my close proximity.

Starling Pied Wagtail
Curlew Turnstone

I unwittingly startled a Woodpigeon that had been close to the Turnstone, but I ended up getting a decent flight shot.  Looking out to the sea as I walked along the beach I saw a half dozen Palebellied Brent Geese working their way north along the waters near the shore.

I was very satisfied with my collection of observations but I decided to relocate to Troon Harbour for a spot of lunch as I like the view from the car park there. When I arrived I was met with the view, below, of a colony of Shags, not a bad view right enough.

As I sipped my tea I was checked out by an inquisitive Robin that settled near me on boulders. Another pretty visitor was a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly that landed on a Pencilled Cranesbill. Atfer tea I scanned the shore for Golden Plover and Knot I'd seen passing while eating, Eventually, I found them on rocks some way out from the beach.

Robin Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly
Golden Plover Knot

The Shag colony had moved into the water due to the increasing numbers of people, who, on finishing their fish suppers, began clambering on the rocks.

I made a couple more shots before I left. The first was of a low-flying pair of Eider as they sped past a surprised canoeist. My final sighting was vey welcome - it was Sammy the Grey Seal - a frequently-seen- "friend" ( I know it may not be the same creature seen each time, but we like Seals.

Eider Grey Seal

Week ending 20th September 2020: Stevenston Point, Saltcoats and Irvine Harbour

The weather prediction was very promising: dry, sunny and warm. I headed for North Ayrshire to start my the day at Stevenston Point. The panorama towards Saltcoats, with Arran in the distance, was magnificent.

My first sighting was a nimble wee Meadow Pipit that dodged into the bushes, but I still managed to capture an image. As I walked toward the Point I caught a glimpse of a white-rumped bird in flight over the rocky shore. It was a Wheatear . Its name derives from “white erse” (bum). A Redshank was resting on a rock on the water’s edge as an Oystercatcher dashed across my view to join others at the Point.

Meadow Pipit Female Wheatear
Redshank Oystercatcher

At the Northwest end of the promontory I was pleased to see a gathering of waders, comprising Ringed Plovers, Sanderling and Dunlin. While I was photographing those, a few Turnstones appeared on the scene.

Ringed Plover Sanderling
Dunlin Turnstone

A Small Tortoiseshell butterfly landed on a precariously positioned light blue Pansy below my stance at the tip of the Point. From the south I heard the familiar call of a Sandwich tern. I managed a shot of it rising out of the water carrying a freshly-caught fish. I also snapped a couple of fly-pasts: a Herring Gull and a Shag. 

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly Sandwich
Herring Gull Shag

Satisfied with my bright start, I moved north to Saltcoats Harbour where I found a similar gathering of waders sheltering in the shadows of the rocks there. I got some nice pictures though of a Herring Gull juvenile in fight and also a Small Tortoiseshell on a Clover flower. On rocks by the sea wall I found a young Pied Wagtail hunting flies. Near my car I photographed a handsome Starling as it sat on the prom barrier.

1st Cycle Herring Gull Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly
Juvenile Pied Wagtail Starling

Just before I returned to the car I witnessed a squabble between adult Herring Gulls over perching rights on the Harbour rocks. I decided to move south to check out Irvine Harbour.

Herring Gull

En route to Irvine Harbour, my final stop of the day, I stopped briefly at Auchenharvie Loch. Sadly it was largely devoid of birds with only a solitary Grey Heron on the island, and a foraging Coot and a 2nd year Herring Gull on the water. A swooping Great Black-backed Gull added interest as it flew in from the Holiday Park, but that was about it.

Grey Heron Coot
2nd Cycle Herring Gull Great Black-backed Gull

Irvine Harbour was very busy with day trippers, although the birds there seemed to be less affected than at other sites. I got a nice picture of a juvenile Grey Heron standing on rock at the confluence of the River Garnock with the River Irvine. As I took that photo I was watched by a 1st-year Herring Gull sitting below me on a riverside post. A family of Mute Swans were also keeping an eye on me, probably hoping I’d toss them some bread.

Shag 1st Cycle Herring Gull
Mute Swan

I was surprised to see a small flock of Razorbills diving for fish near the Scientists Bridge. There had been reports of quite a few dead Razorbills having been washed up on Ayrshire beaches. Maybe their usual feeding waters have been disrupted in some way, forcing them into unfamiliar areas. Also fishing in the same part of the river was a young Shag. It had attracted a small band of observers as it emerged with a fish from nearly every dive.


Another, larger fisher, a Common or Harbour Seal, appeared on the same stretch but, after a quick look, moved out towards the sea. To crown a rather entertaining 20 minutes, I spotted a couple a birds over the now closed Big Idea building: a passing Curlew and a hovering Kestrel. The light was worsening as dense cloud was now moving in from the east, so I decided to end on a high and headed back to the car.

Common Seal
Curlew Kestrel

I’d accumulated a wide range of sightings in the three locations and I rewarded myself with a wee cup of tea and biscuit. Next week’s weather is to be cooler and more changeable. I’ll need to watch out for the brighter days and keep an eye on where the interesting birds are.

Week ending 13th September 2020:  Hogganfield Loch LNR

My destination this week was another of my favourites, Hogganfield Loch LNR. Set in the North East of Glasgow, it is one of the seven than make up the “Seven Loch Wetlands Park”. Handily placed for easy access from the M8 (Steppes turnoff), it is well patronised by a very large number of visitors, witnessed by the regularly-packed car park. Despite the large footfall circulating the Loch the birdlife is surprisingly plentiful and accessible. My main objective was to capture interesting images of that birdflife but also to give some indication of the rich variety of wildflowers in the park, even this late on in the year. The car park is very close to the lochside and there is usually a mass of birds gathered adjacent to the car park awaiting the many feeders that lovingly (and I say that without sarcasm) pour their gifts of bread and seed onto them. I started with shots of a Moorhen hoovering some of those seeds. A neat Coot and a well-lit Mallard also caught my eye., and somewhat more disheveled, a Feral Pigeon bathing in a puddle was worth a shot.

Moorhen Tufted Duck
Female Mallard Feral Pigeon

The Loch is popular with larger birds such as Mute Swans (and Whoopers from late Autumn) and Greylag Geese. I noticed what I assume was a  Leucistic Greylag with the usual flock.

Mute Swan Canada Goose
Greylag Goose

There was a floating platform some 40m from the side of the loch which is used by a variety of birds to rest their weary legs and wings. On my visit it was mainly populated by Cormorants but also by Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Goosanders.

The fringes of the loch were lined with Water Mint , but I also saw some Corn Mint. There were plenty of Oxeye Daisies in patches and, in the long grassy areas lovely lilac Devil’s Bit Scabious. The one shown below was hosting a Eristalis horticola hoverfly.

Water Mint Corn Mint
Oxeye Daisy Devil's Bit Scabious /  Eristalis horticola

Goosanders can be difficult to photograph in wilder settings as they can be skittish. Not so at Hogganfield where they mix with the Swans and don’t seem to mind the people, in fact they are looking for bread like most of the other birds. Coots too are easier to approach, and it is entertaining to watch their aggressive antics. There is a huge presence of Lesser Black-backed Gulls (easily identified by their yellow legs). The adults are white with charcoal-black backs, but the first-year birds are specked grey with pink legs.

Female Goosander Coot
Lesser Black-backed Gull 1st Cycle Lesser Black-backed Gull

Probably my favourite of all the regulars at Hogganfield are the Great Crested Grebes. Many pairs have nested and produced offspring there, certainly in the decade or so that I’ve visited. I don’t quite know what was going on in the pictures below, but an adult and a juvenile were facing each other in the poses shown, accompanied by aggressive-sounding calls. My best guess is that the adult was telling the youngster that the feeding service has been withdrawn and that it should get its own food from now on (or more succinctly, “Beat it. I’m fed up with you!”). While observing the Grebes I snapped a couple of shots of a couple of birds passing on the water, a Mallard and a Moorhen.

Great Crested Grebe Juvenile Great Crested Grebe
Mallard Drake Moorhen

As I walked around the Loch a common sight was that of cautious Magpies flying down from the branches of tall trees. I was lucky to get a snap of one Magpie fleeing the scene when a wee dog appeared. Near the car park I captured an image of a flying Mallard as it descended onto the water. Very close to the cars a Grey Heron sat boldly a few metres from the lochside railings.

Mallard Grey Heron

A few years ago Biohaven islands  were installed in the park. They have certainly proved popular with birds, as shown below by the pictures of the Pochards  perched on one such island. As well as providing a safe perching areas for birds they also seem to attract fish around them. Why I say this is that I’ve observed piscivore (fish-eating) birds around near the islands such as, Cormorants and Little Grebes, as well as Great Crested Grebes and Goosanders.

Pochard Female Pochard
Cormorant Little Grebe

I often walk in the area east of the loch where there is a pond that often contains birds. On this visit however it was devoid of birds. I did though take some pictures of some Meadow Vetchling  flowers and seedpods. I found also a similar-looking wildflower, Bird’s Foot Trefoil , distinguished by its leaves which, as its name suggests, are each composed of three leaflets. My final shot of the trip was of some Sneezewort, a pretty flower whose roots were once used to induce sneezing (not cure it).

Meadow Vetchling
Bird's Foot Trefoil Sneezewort

I enjoyed photographing the natural delights of a very popular city park that has also become a popular nature reserve. I was disappointed not to have seen the Red-necked Grebe on this trip, although I have seen it on previous visits 

Week ending 6th September 2020: RSPB Baron's Haugh

RSPB Barons Haugh  to the south of Motherwell, in the heart of Lanarkshire, is a favourite haunt of mine. It contains a varied habitat of deciduous woodland, extensive marsh and wetland, and is bordered by the Clyde, a major Scottish river. The weather prediction was for was mild but showery conditions with sunny intervals. The RSPB cabin in the car park was sporting its new livery, a beautiful wetland scene depicting Otter, Kingfisher and Nuthatch, three of the reserve’s most prized residents.

Soon after walking from the car park I noticed a solitary but striking bloom, Fox and Cubs, amid the long grass. Nearby a Magpie watched me as it carefully guarded its tasty morsel. By the path to the Marsh Hide (which was closed due to vandalism) tall heads of Reed Mace  were growing with lovely Purple Loosestrife.

Fox and Cubs Magpie
Reed Mace Purple Loosestrife

I peeked around the side of the hide and snapped a couple of shots of an eclipse Mallard cruising around the pond and a Woodpigeon foraging in the grass. A Buzzard made a close overhead pass followed a few minutes later by a Cormorant. In the distance there were Lapwing on the muddy flats but I didn’t see a Black-tailed Godwit that had been reported there.

Mallard in eclipse plumage Wood Pigeon
Buzzard Cormorant

At the Causeway hide I was pleased to see that the Haugh was packed with birds. There were many Herring Gulls and Black-headed Gulls moving frequently on and above the water. The picture below also shows Cormorants and Teal in flight.

As I surveyed the Haugh from the hide, a bold young Grey Heron flew onto the shallows, scaring off the smaller birds.

Juvenile Grey Heron

On exposed branches 50m in front of the hide there were perching Cormorants drying their feathers between fishing trips.

Closer to the hide, on the right side, there was a large flock (a“deceit”) of very active Lapwings. They are very skittish, taking to the air at the slightest threat, usually returning to their original positions after tracing a couple of circles around the Haugh.

They are very agile flyers (annoyingly so if you’re trying to photograph them), effortlessly swooping and zigzagging as they look for their next preferred position to feed.


On my way to the Phoenix hide I passed a large Brown Slug slithering along the pathway. A Common Darter dragonfly landed on a path-side fern for a quick blast of sunshine to keep up its energy levels. There were many tall, beautiful, but invasive Himalayan Balsam plants around the reserve. I caught an image of a Honey Bee  as it entered one of it’s beautiful flowers. And, beside the hide, a sawfly, Tenthredo arcuata, was working its way through the many densely-packed strands of a Creeping Thistle flower.

Spanish Slug Dragonfly: Common Darter
Honey Bee Sawfly: Tenthredo arcuata

Immediately below the Phoenix hide a few Little Grebes (also known as Dabchicks) were diving for fish. They are very efficient fishers as they nearly always emerge with a small fish in their beaks. I was thrilled to see a Kingfisher  darting onto the scene and take up residence on an exposed tree trunk to the right of the hide. Unfortunately, with the light behind, it was silhouetted, but when It soon started to dive for fish it was no less exciting.

Little Grebe

A scoper drew my attention to the area in front of the Causeway hide, where he said he had seen Common Snipe . I was unable to see that muddy bank from that hide due to the many reeds there, so I trained my lens on that patch and, although the birds were now over 100m away, the picture below shows four Snipe at work in the mud.

He said he had also seen more Snipe in the water’s edge to the left of the Causeway Hide, so I decided to return to the Causeway hide to investigate. On my way there I came across a few attractive hoverflies: Chequered Hoverfly, Eristalis arbustorum, Dasysyrphus albostriatus and the Sunfly.

Chequered Hoverfly Hoverfly: Eristalis arbustorum,
Hoverfly: Dasysyrphus albostriatus Hoverfly: Sunfly

As soon as I arrived back at the Causeway hide there were a half dozen Snipe feeding to the left of the hide. They retreated back into the reeds a few times when danger loomed but they reemerged within a few minutes allowing me to get some shots (hampered by a gusty wind and tall vegetation.

Common Snipe

On my visit I also snapped a few Autumn fruits: Rose hips, Hawthorn berries, ripening Brambles and some elegant berries of Bittersweet.

Wild (Dog) Rose Hawthorn
Bramble Bittersweet

I am very satisfied with my collection of Baron’s Haugh sightings, my favourites being the Kingfisher and Snipe, closely followed by the very charming fishing Dabchicks. It was frustrating though that I could hear Nuthatch, Long-tailed Tits, Robin, and Goldcrest, to name but a few, but they were hidden from view by dense foliage. However, it won’t be too long before the Autumn leaves start to fall and I’ll get a much clearer view

Highlights - September 2020

Below we present September  2020's gallery of my favourite pictures. They are not listed in the order thay have been taken, but according to a series of themes.


Lapwing Grey Heron

Redshank Female Teal

Magpie Mute Swan

Bittersweet Bramble
Dog Rose Tutsan


Coot Grey Squirrel
Little Grebe Red-necked Grebe

Caddisfly Carder Bee

Comma Butterfly Hoverfly Dasysyrphus albostriatus

Hoverfly Eristalis horticola Honey Bee



Canada Goose Pochard

Female Mallard Mallard

Juvenile Starling Carrion Crow

Devil's Bit Scabious Fox and Cubs

Fuschia Michaelmas Daisy

Monbretia Perforate St John's Wort


Water Rail Pale-bellied Brent Goose

Slavonian Grebe Moorhen

Female Goosander Greenshank

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