ending: 26th September:
For the first time in a few weeks the weather was predicted to be
better in the East than in the West. I fancied a wee visit to Skateraw,
a favourite location off ours, situated a few miles east of Dunbar. The
early cloud was clearing as we entered Dalkeith Morrisons for breakfast
(9/10: excellent as usual, although -1 for plates being too small). By
the time we left the Cafe the sun had broken through and it continued
to shine for the most of the day.
After a 20 minute drive east we arrived at a warm and sunny Skateraw .
The tide was very low and only a few birds were on the shores around
the bay. We started our search at the old lime kiln. It
didn’t look too promising at first, but within a few minutes
we’d seen a Curlew foraging amongst the seaweed and a Meadow
Pipit and Rock Pipit had made appearances. Of course, flowers and
insects were in short supply since we had just entered Autumn, but I
came across a Flesh
Fly on some Scentless Mayweed.
There were also several Pied Wagtails hopping around the exposed rocks,
leaping up suddenly to pick off flying insects. We made our way around
the shoreline toward Chapel Point. We came across a few Linnets that
were on the sands with Pipits and Wagtails.
|Male Pied Wagtail
|Female Pied Wagtail
We continued round the bay and eventually we had a fine view of the
Barn Ness lighthouse. We could also see the Bass Rock in the
background. It was white with Gannets and their droppings. We hoped to
see some of them as they commuted between their feeding grounds and the
We could hear the sounds of birds that were lot closer, on the
impressive layered slabs of rock exposed by the low tide. A
Wagtail made a brief stop in front of where we were sitting,
posing long enough for a few quick snaps. Even quicker snaps were
required to photograph some flighty Starlings that were feeding on
invertebrates within a seaweed pile.
We paused too at Chapel Point and observed a distant Grey Heron flying
into the bay. A pair of Cormorants were drying their wings watched by a
single Oystercatcher. Next a couple of piping Redshanks sped into the
Bay landing on the opposite shore. We picked our way over the rocks to
return to the Sandy beach. We passed another Rock Pipit that had just
had an argument with another Pipit.
Meanwhile, overhead there was an encounter between a Carrion Crow and
Kestrel. We often see such mobbing
of raptors by Crows and Gulls, but the Crow was unusually persistent
and bullied the Kestrel across the bay towards our next location
Power Station is less than a mile to the east of
Skateraw. We drove to the visitors car park and set off along the
concrete walkway that runs along the northern perimeter of the power
station. Straight away we came across as wee female Pied Wagtail on the
path. Like the others we’d seen at Skateraw, it was busy
catching flies. We were pleased to see a beautiful Curlew on the shore
just below the walkway and near it was a Grey Heron stalking the
occupants of a sea pool. Further along the walkway I photographed a
Herring Gull that was standing on a rock that was being lashed by waves.
|Female Pied Wagtail
I said we wanted to see Gannets and before too long a few individuals
passed close to the walkway, giving me several excellent
As well as adult Gannets we saw a few first-year juveniles venturing
out on their own. We also had close views of passing Shags, both in the
air and in the water. We had close views too of passing Cormorants.
These birds are fairly similar to Shags and even experienced birders
have identification difficulties, which is why John and I refer to them
as “Shag-orants” until we have studied their
photos. I discovered a juvenile Grey Heron posing in a very photogenic
setting on one of the very many large Dolos
units that make up the power station sea defences.
|1st Cycle Gannet
From the end of the walkway we noticed some Guillemots bobbing in the
water. We had seen a dead Guillemot earlier on the beach at Skateraw
and there have been recent
reports of Guillemots, as well as Razorbills,
washed up along the North Sea coast. Sunday’s Guillemots at
Torness were not very active so I hope they were just resting rather
than dying. We returned to the car via the Upper walkway - an
alternative route used in stormy weather. John spotted a Small
Tortoiseshell butterfly taking shelter from the stiff breeze on the
upper walkway. He also suggested I photograph a Brown-lipped Snail he
had found on the walkway wall, and, of course, I obliged. The Snail was
by an attractive patch of Orange
Sea Lichen . Our last picture taken was of Sea
Mayweed, similar to the Scentless Mayweed we’d seen at
Skateraw, but with sturdier stems and foliage.
/ Orange Sea Lichen
The very mild weather, beautiful settings and a pleasing array of birds
had made the visit very enjoyable and, we both agreed, successful.
Highlights for me were the Kestrel v Crow and the close passes of
Gannets. As usual we celebrated with tea and Strawberry Tarts. However,
the weather predictions for the week ahead were gloomy. But
Week ending: 19th September 2021: Stevenston
It was another Sunday where “West was best” in
terms of the weather. It had been about 7 weeks since our last visit to
Stevenston, so we decided to head for the Point, via Stevenston
Morrisons of course for two of their fine breakfasts (9/10: excellent
but -1 for inferior margarine).
At Stevenston Point the tide was high and there were familiar birds
gathered on the rocks. These included Ringed Plovers, Oystercatchers
and Turnstones. I managed a snap of a young Cormorant splashing down
just off the rocks.
I noticed a few Yellow
Fieldcap mushrooms near where I was standing and tried out
the camera of my new iPhone 12 mini. I’m fairly satisfied
with the results. We walked to the East side of the peninsula but it
was quiet apart from the appearance of an inquisitive Rock Pipit.
However, we got a big surprise on the West side since about 30 Golden
Plovers were on shoreside rocks. We were careful not to get
too close as they are very flighty. Our caution was a waste of effort
because a very noisy high tech drone started flying at great speed
above the Point, putting up most of the
small waders as well as the Golden Plovers. The overzealous
drone handler had obviously no concern for the well-being of birds.
After the drone was packed away, a few birds returned to the rocks and
I was pleased to discover of a few Sanderlings and a single Knot. Some
Ringed Plovers also flew in from the West and settled beside the
Sanderlings. One Common Gull, displaced by the influx, flew off rather
After an hour we relocated to Auchenharvie Golf Course where there is a
that often attracts birds of interest. On our walk from the car park we
passed a Sea Buckthorn tree that was loaded with orange berries. As we
approached the pond we could see a Grey Heron standing at the edge of a
small island. John spotted a female Stonechat
on vegetation at the edge of the Loch. I carefully approached the bird
and managed a couple of shots as it moved between the clumps of reeds.
Looking to the far side of the pond we couldn’t miss the
large (50+) flock of Canada Geese on the waters to the front of the
ruin of Auchenharvie
Castle. A family of Mute Swans, two adults with five cygnets,
was sitting by the shore. Other birds I photographed at the west side
of the pond were Coot, Tufted Duck and Great Black-backed Gull.
As we walked back to the car and glanced again at the little island,
John noticed a black and white duck that had been disturbed by the
Heron. It is most probably a Mulard,
a Moscovy X Mallard hybrid. We watched a Black-headed Gull and Common
Gull pursue a young Herring Gull that was clutching a slice of bread in
its beak. After a long chase the youngster outflew the chasers and made
off with its prize.
|Muscovy X Mallard
|1st Cycle Herring
As we drove out of the golf club car park I noticed that there was a
juvenile Grey Heron standing in the middle of a small pond. John
thought it was dispatching a fish it had caught. Just beyond it there
was a lovely Black-tailed Godwit probing the waters for invertebrates.
Of course I stopped the car, got out and took a few pictures.
|Juvenile Grey Heron
Next we drove the short distance to Salcoats harbour and walked along
the harbour pier. I could see a large flock of Sanderling just below
the sea wall on the opposite shore. They were, however spooked by a
pair of children exploring the rocks. I photographed passing Gannets
and I got a picture of a Turnstone that was standing at the pier-side.
We eventually walked around the harbour and were delighted to find a
small flock of Redshanks, Sanderling and Dunlin gathered on the rocks
just below the sea wall. I managed to photograph them without putting
We also saw a Curlew that was hiding behind the large rocky outcrop on
the west side of the harbour water. A well-lit Turnstone was picking
its way across piles of seaweed, as were lots of Starlings, their
iridescent plumage sparkling in the strong sunlight. Our final shot of
the visit was of a scraggly Pied Wagtail, probably a female, one of
many Pied Wagtails that were darting between the large boulders that
line the harbour as they hunted flies.
|Female Pied Wagtail
We were very fortunate to have had almost ideal lighting
throughout our visit. It was Strawberry tarts once again that
accompanied our strong tea (well, we do like them). The Golden Plovers
were a delight to see, as were the close views of the waders right at
the end. I’m hoping for sunny weather again next week. No
surprise there then.
Week ending: 12th September 2021: Pow Burn
A dull, grey day was predicted for
the whole of Central Scotland with only the merest chance of sunny
spells to the West. We decided therefore to head for the Ayrshire
coast, to a place we last visited over two years ago, Pow Burn,
We had nice breakfasts in Stewartfield Morrisons (8/10: good, but -2
for overcooked bacon and miniature slices of toast) before whizzing
down the M77 to the site just before Prestwick Airport. After parking
carefully on the St Andrews Caravan Park access road, it was a 50m walk
to the bridge that took us to the southern side of the burn. On the
walk we encountered the lateflowering plants, Common Toadflax and
Soapwort. Bramble bushes were heavily laden with fruit but a few
Bramble flowers were still in bloom. Yarrow ,
the very common white umbilifer was poking through the grassy path-side
At the bridge over the Pow Burn we could see a scraggly Woodpigeon at
the water’s edge. Nearby, a Carrion Crow was preening on
wooden posts that were marked with St Andrew’s flags
(probably related to the neighbouring St Andrews Caravan Park). An
angry Curlew appeared on the scene, scaring away a younger Curlew that
had been out of sight to us. A few Redshank were treading about in the
shallows, occasionally making their shrill, piping calls.
After leaving the bridge our strategy was to walk along the South-west
side of the Burn. While that side is raised as much as 10m above the
Burn, the problem was that much of the area was filled with
impenetrable vegetation such as chest high grasses and Bramble bushes.
However there were a few gaps that enabled us to gain access to clear
viewing points. Before the first of these I photographed a tiny Nettle
Tap Moth on Common Ragwort. John also found one of our
favourite hoverflies, The
Footballer, Helophilus pendulus. The Curlew we’d
seen earlier was making its way downstream past a Black-headed Gull
that was paddling in the water.
|Common Nettle-tap Moth
At the next gap in the undergrowth we looked down on the Burn, which
was wide like a pool. Oystercatchers were flying past and a few Teal
were dabbling in the water. A large Grey Heron was on the opposite
bank, but it flew off, possibly disturbed by one of the many aeroplanes
approaching Prestwick Airport.
John alerted me to a Large White butterfly that eventually came to rest
on a wide leaf. I determined it was a female due to the way it
presented itself for any passing male. I accidentally disturbed it as I
photographed it but it flew only a short distance away, allowing me the
chance of a nice profile shot. John, who was spotting particularly
well, found a Carder Bee on Ragwort flowers and then a newbie fly, Cynomya
mortuorum nearby on the path.
We passed a large patch of Canadian Goldenrod. Its vivid yellow flowers
were attracting an assortment of insects. I snapped shots of a Honey
Bee and the Greenbottle, Lucilia Caesar. I noticed a Brown-lipped Snail
hiding on foliage beneath the flowers. Further along the path, as we
neared the mouth of the Pow Burn where it flows into the sea, I noticed
a fungus, which I think was a Fairy
|Fly - Lucilia
|Fairy Ring Mushroom
We scanned the seashore for birds but there were too many dog walkers
to expect any success on that front. The birds that were there, mainly
the usual gulls, were constantly on the move as they searched for a
safe resting place.
We both agreed that the Pow Burn was, well, a bit on the quiet side
from a bird-seeking point of view. But we moved away from the Burn on
our return path parallel to the beach. We came upon a 100+ flock of the
Thistle Finch, as it was once known, but is now commonly known as the Goldfinch .
They were feeding on masses of seeding thistles. The flock contained a
significant number of juveniles, so the birds were very flighty, flying
away at the slightest perceived danger. However I did manage a few
We kept an eye on the seafront as we walked parallel to the dunes. My
trusty spotter cried, “Incoming!” giving me time to
photograph a sizeable flock of about forty passing Goosanders.
I snapped a gloomy shot of a Jackdaw as it flew over us, just as John
found a pair of Stonechats that were high on grass stems, probably
checking us out. On later inspection of my pictures I think there were
three Stonechats ,
2 adults and a juvenile.
Just before we reached the road that would return us to the
bridge, we had a last look over the vast beach towards Prestwick. As
can be seen from the photo, the sky was overcast (but, typically, it
cleared just as we were leaving).
I noticed a large Buff-tailed Bumblebee, probably a queen,
crawling laboriously up the sand dune. I offered it some drops of water
on a small leaf and left it in peace. At the foot of the dune there
were some late-flowering Field Bindweed, and I photographed a Common
Drone Fly on a Catsear bloom. Just before we
reached the road there was a Prestwick Golf Club information board
celebrating the club’s “Flora
and Fauna ”. It drew attention to a nice
variety of fauna but didn’t make any mention of its rich
flora, which is a pity since within the area where the board was sited
we saw beautiful Evening
Primroses and some Sheepsbit.
Back at the car we made our final sighting, a big Rabbit snoozing in a
We didn’t see the sun (until we were on our way home!) but we
certainly enjoyed the trip. We ended up with a fair variety of flora
and fauna. We sipped our teas and tucked into large strawberry tarts
(which needed spoons!) as we reflected on our favourite moments. Mine
were the excitable Goldfinches and the watchful Stonechats. We should
return to Pow Burn more often, preferably on sunnier days
Week ending: 5th September
With a rainy weather front sneaking in from the West, we decided East
was best this week. There were encouraging reports of bird activity at
Musselburgh, so it was a no-brainer, Dalkeith Morrisons for brekkies
(9.5/10: excellent; half off for slight overdone bacon), then
we’d park at the Cadet Hall at the mouth of the Esk and then
walk to the Scrapes.
When we arrived, the light was quite bright and improving, although ,
as can be seen from the view over Edinburgh, visibility was poor.
The tide was coming in and there was a fine variety of birds
getting pushed ever-closer to the shore by the advancing waters.
Probably the most prominent of these were the Mute Swans, of which
there were at least one hundred (a fraction of them can be seen above).
There were also large numbers of Goosanders and Greylag Geese. There
was a pretty light brown Greylag variant and I also noticed a
Pink-footed Goose preening in the middle of the flock of Greylags.
Maybe it was carrying an injury that prevented it from heading back
north with its own flock.
As we walked East along the “promenade” towards the
Scrapes, birds were already flying from the shore and beating us to it.
Impressive “squadrons” of Oystercatchers and
Greylags sped past us. There were also a few Turnstones (heading West)
and Curlew in the mix.
A Shag also passed Westwards. The background sounds were provided
mainly by Sandwich Terns as they searched and dived for fish. Gannets too
were busy doing the same, sadly though they were about 500m from the
shore. I think the main fish being hunted by the Gannets was Mackerel whose
numbers peak around August. John emitted a joyous sound when he spotted
Seal breaking the surface fairly near the sea wall.
Another fish-eater we witnessed were Razorbills, members of the Auk family.
A parent bird was diving a few metres from the sea wall and emerging
seconds later with what looked like Capelin fish, which the waiting
hungry chick waiting quickly swallowed. We also saw a large flock of
drake Eiders displaying plumages in various stages of development into
their familiar white and black. Well away from the flock there was a
solitary female Eider draped in the usual, some would say boring brown
On our way into the Scrapes we encountered a Carder Bee on some Crooked
Thistles. We next positioned ourselves in the middle hide and proceeded
to capture images of the variety of bird species on show, many of
which, such as Curlew and Greylags, we saw flying East from the mouth
of the Esk. E.g. I picked out the light brown Greylag. I managed a
pleasing record shot of a Little
Stint that was active at the near edge of one of
the furthest pools.
The pictures below show the masses of Oystercatchers and Bar-tailed
Godwits that were present on the back pools.
There were a few Black-tailed
Godwits feeding in the pool in front of the hide.
But most of the excitement was over the pool as we observed incoming
flocks, such as Teal and Greylags. We even saw a passing Buzzard that
was swiftly seen off by a few angry Crows. We moved to the left-hand
hide and on the way I noticed a Ermine Moth caterpillar on the bark of
a Silver Birch tree.
A pair of Magpies amused us for a bit until John spotted a Roe Deer
lurking in the reeds. I next photographed a Female Pied Wagtail and
then I noticed a pair of Common Snipe (linkH) sitting on grassy bank
right in front of the hide on the near edge of the centre scrape. Their
camouflage is so good I forgave myself for not seeing them sooner. On
our way to the the right-hand hide John noticed a few Speckled Wood
butterflies fluttering above the Bramble bushes.
We were pleased to see a pair of Ruff
probing the mud of the left hand
scrape, and we were even more pleased when a hovering Kestrel appeared
not far from the Ruff. It was escorted off the premises by some Crows
but not before I had bagged a decent picture. I snapped a Lapwing and
then one of three Grey Herons that were standing a the back of that
On our trek back along the “prom” we found that the
Razorbills were no longer to be seen but they had been replaced by
Common Guillemots, their Auk “cousins”. A
fine-looking Black-headed Gull
caught my eye as I followed the Guillemots. It was lit perfectly by the
sun as it bobbed in the deep blue water. This was followed by a flypast
of a juvenile Shelduck flying East. Further along the path there was a
Silver Y Moth feeding on Red Clover and this was followed by a sighting
of a Honey Bee on Tall Melilot. Our final pictures of the day were of a
flock of Gadwall that flew rapidly overhead. At first I thought they
were more Teal that we had seen earlier, but on inspection of the
pictures I’m now sure they are Gadwall.
|Silver Y Moth
Well we both thought that it had been a brilliant day - lots of
sightings in lovely warm sunny weather. It fairly helped our teas and
Strawberry Tarts go down a treat. Highlights for me were the Auks,
particularly the Razorbills feeding fish to their chicks, and it was
great to see Ruff, Little Stint and Kestrel. More of the same next week
wherever we end up.
Highlights - September 2021
ON THE WATER
EATING A CRAB
BIRDS ON WATER