Week ending: 25th September: Musselburgh and Port Seton
My WeatherPro app predicted that Sunday was to be overcast with rain spreading in from the
west. For that reason and because we hadn’t visited there for 7 weeks, I decided Musselburgh
would be worth a visit. The tide would be low but rising according to the BBC Tidal Prediction
website, so birds would be flying into the Scrapes as the advancing waters flooded their feeding
grounds. So after a wee breakfast in Dalkeith Morrisons (9/10: excellent, -1 for smaller toasts and
small plates) we drove to the Levenhall Links car park and made or way to the Nature Reserve,
known to birdwatchers as the Scrapes.
On our walk to the Scrapes I noticed that Inchkeith Island in the Firth of Forth was
illuminated by sunlight. Since the south coast of Fife was in shade, the island stood out
As we approached the Scrapes, Curlew and Oystercatchers were already flying in from their
feeding grounds, mainly around the mouth of the Esk. On entering the middle hide I immediately
started to photograph a young Grey Heron that was feeding by the overflow pipe. It became very
agitated by the Teal and Dunlins that were getting too close. At the back of the scrape there was a
pair of Pink-footed Geese probably newly arrived from Iceland. As well as Curlew and
Oystercatchers there was a large flock of restless Lapwings circulating the site.
Not long after we arrived, Bar-tailed Godwits descended onto the back centre scrape.
We briefly visited the right-most hide where we observed Shelducks dabbling in the shallow water
while Dunlin picked their way around them.
We moved to the left-most hide where we got good views of the very active Curlews as they fed,
washed and flew about the reserve.
An adult Grey Heron was preening by reeds to the left of the hide. I noticed also a few Common
Snipe foraging on the near edge of the middle scrape. They were half hidden at first but
one broke its cover after it caught an invertebrate and scurried away from the rest to eat it in
peace. Some of the beautiful Lapwings were also very close to the hide, providing excellent photo
opportunities. On our way back to the car I noticed a few Fairy Ring Champignons growing
in the grass verge outside the Scrapes.
|Fairy Ring Champignon
Pleased with our sightings at the Scrapes, we drove next to the Esk mouth where we found that
the tide was almost high. There were Greylags on the river bank opposite the Cadet Hall and also
a few Wigeon, but little else. We walked east by the sea wall and got nice shots of a Carrion Crow
and a Guillemot close the wall.
John spotted a few Goosanders bobbing further out from the shore. A few female Eiders were
also in the choppy water. A couple of Gannets appeared, an adult and a 3rd winter, and
proceeded to dive about 100m out. John then spotted a pair of Goosanders with some Redbreasted Mergansers . As we walked back to the car a large Great Black-backed Gull flew
past just below the sea wall.
|Juvenile Female Goosander
|3rd Cycle gannet
|Red Breasted Merganser
|Great Black-backed Gull
As we neared the car, a youth on the far bank thought it would be entertaining to put up the
aforementioned Greylags. It made for a great photo - but really?
We next moved upstream to the Millhill car park, where birds gather principally to get fed by kind
humans (much to the chagrin of the occupants of neighbouring houses). However, the birds love it
and there I photographed, from close quarters, Canada Geese, Mute Swans, Goosanders,
Moorhen, Mallard, Jackdaws and Herring Gulls. It’s one of those places where you get close to
birds that, elsewhere, you could only get shots from distance.
|Female Goosander in Eclipse Plumage
|1st Cycle Herring Gull
To finish the trip we relocated to Port Seton Wrecked Crags car park. The tide was nearing its
peak and we could see plenty of birds clinging, in the ever increasing wind, to the ever-reducing
areas of exposed rocks.
I was puzzled by the behaviour of a large flock of Starlings that seemed very intent on settling on
the rocks. They usually prefer the rooftops and, with little chance of food, why were they prepared
to brave the near-gale conditions? Aquatic birds like the Shags are very much at home in foaming
surf, as, to some extent, are Redshanks. The Gulls, like the Great and Lesser Black backs and the
Black-headed Gulls, also seem to cope effortlessly with most conditions. But passerine Starlings?
|Starling / Oystercatcher
|Great Black-backed Gull
|Lesser Black-backed Gull
A very large flock of Eiders drifted in close to the shore as most other birds were fleeing to
better roosting places. The last time we had seen the Eider flock along that stretch of coast, the
males were in eclipse plumage. On Sunday they were resplendent in their fine white and black
plumage. They were already courting the females by trailing them and calling “a-woo” while
throwing back their heads, the equivalent of the Glesga, “Hallo-‘rere, How’s-it-gaun” (English
translation: Hello there, how is it going”. Soon though, even the Eider had fled the scene
(frustratingly as we were having tea and strawberry tarts so I only captured the last of the flock as
it left). The final shot of the trip was of a wee Rock Pipit sitting on a rock just below the sea wall.
John and I have always maintained that Musselburgh never lets us down, and Sunday upheld that
belief. We had seen thirty bird species and one fungus. We were especially pleased to have seen
the Guillemot, Pinkfoots and Snipe. However, as we celebrated in our usual way, I missed perhaps
the best shot of the visit, high double-figures of Eider taking off in near perfect light. Oh well,
some you win…
Week ending: 18th September 2022: Ardmore Point
The weather forecast for Sunday, according to my WeatherPro app, was for fairly gloomy
conditions. There was to be a chance of light rain in the east, but in the west the sun might break
through in the afternoon. I chose therefore to visit Ardmore Point, a favourite site last visited on
the 5th of June. The BBC Tidal Tide Tables website indicated that the tide would be low and rising
throughout our visit - so we looked forward to seeing a few waders.
We drove across the Erskine Bridge and on to Dumbarton Morrisons for a fine breakfast (8.5/10: a
little cool , slow service). We chose the half-price full breakfasts, but we couldn’t finish them, so
we wrapped the remains in napkins for possible bird bait for later.
It was indeed overcast and gloomy when we arrived. We got off to a nice start with some shots
around the estate’s gatehouse. I photographed some House Sparrows on a feeders and also
some very pretty, but unwelcome foreign flowers, Himalayan Balsam . John spotted a
Carder Bee on a flowering Trumpet Vine species that was growing on a hedgerow. Next I
snapped a shot of a flower we would see a lot of on our circuit of the peninsula, Large Bindweed.
|Common Carder Bee
The path along the side of the South Bay was narrowed by the overgrown verges . A large flock of
Starlings were in the tree in the centre of the field to our right, although both tree and birds were
mere silhouettes due to the dim conditions and white sky. We could hear that the much closer
bushes to our left also held birds. In quick succession I captured pleasing images of a juvenile
Greenfinch and Goldfinch followed by snaps of male and female House Sparrows. John directed
my camera to a shore-side bolder on which a Meadow Pipit was standing.
|Female House Sparrow
The path rounded the corner and passed out of the bay and along the north side of the Clyde
Estuary. There we noticed the silhouette of a Shag perched on rocks, drying its wings after a
session of diving for fish. There were Oystercatchers and Redshanks near the water’s edge and
also a couple of Grey Herons. A third Grey Heron flew past intending to land but it got an
unfriendly welcome from the other two, so it kept flying. John’s bins picked out a Curlew that had
been standing motionless near the other birds. As we sat on our stools making these
observations, we were disturbed by a pair of rather large Bernese Mountain Dogs. They sniffed
around us almost forcing us onto the shore - a 2m drop. It wasn’t until their embarrassed owner
led them away that we realised they could smell the breakfast leftovers we had in our pockets.
We continued our way north along the path and came across a Carrion Crow with a large Crab.
On seeing us it flew further along the shore but I managed a reasonable shot it as it passed by.
Further along the path we could hear the familiar tones of a Robin. We sat on our 3-legged stool
and waited for it to blow its cover. Thankfully it obliged us. As we progressed, we eventually came
on to a renovated section of the footpath. It was a big improvement from the original path which
was often sodden and flooded making it difficult to pass. I photographed another Carder Bee, this
time on Knapweed. We were delighted to see a Common Seal basking about 60m out in
|Common Carder Bee
As we passed along a section of path where it was difficult to see the shore I concentrated on
plants and insects near the path. I found a Syrphus ribesii hoverfly on Sow Thistle and John found
a Nettle Tap Moth and a small cranefly, possibly Ormosia lineata. The path passed close to
a boggy area in which we found Bog Asphodel. Next we found a Buff-tailed Bumblebee
which seemed to be in a state of ecstasy in the nectaries of a Beach Rose. Just us we established
visual contact with the shore I encountered another Carder Bee, this time on Marsh Woundwort.
|Hoverfly Syrphus ribesii
|Common Nettle Tap Moth
|Cranefly Ormosia lineata
|Common Carder Bee
As we neared the North Bay the sun made a welcome appearance and we were pleased to see a
pair of Guillemots paddling along the shoreline. I also spotted a Razorbill flying past, some
50m out. We sat for a while at the entrance to the bay and were rewarded by sightings of flypasts
of a Shag and a Curlew.
Below is the view north from Ardmore Point. Note Helensburgh to the right.
We watched the tide line barely advancing into the bay during the time we were watching. There
were only Oystercatchers, Herring Gulls and a few Curlew. One of the Herring Gulls flew quite
close to us and descended onto the sand. We thought another Curlew flew south from the bay,
but it was actually a Whimbrel . I also managed a shot of a Guillemot flying south. We alked
along the edge of the North Bay heading back to towards the car. We were slightly disappointed
that there was only a single Curlew feeding on the sands.
At the end of the last section of path John’s bins picked out a large flock of Canada Geese
sharing a field with a few horses.
We passed a fairly tall umbilifer that had a purple tinge. On further investigation I decided it was a
Wild Angelica plant. I also noticed some small white flowers in the grass verge. They were a
double flowered variety of Feverfew, probably an escapee from the garden. Just as we left
the path, near the car, a hoverfly, Eristalis nemorum, was on a Yarrow flower head. Our final
picture of the visit was of a Curlew, the last of a group of Curlew that were flushed from the
seashore by a man and his dog.
|Hoverfly Eristalis nemorum ( a.k.a. Eristalis interruptus)
Well, despite the gloomy start we were agreed that it had been a productive visit. I share John’s
opinion that we’ve ended up with an eclectic mix of sightings. My personal favourites were the
Robin, Guillemots and Whimbrel. The weather had improved as the hours passed and we sipped
tea and downed Strawberry Tarts in lovely warm sunshine. Hopefully we get similar conditions
ending: 11th September 2022: Torness
This week we headed for Torness, east of Dunbar. There were reports of
various migrants such as the Icterine
Warbler and Wryneck
and, according to my WeatherPro App, the weather was to be mainly
sunny. In addition, as the BBC Tidal webpage was indicating that the
tide would be low throughout our visit, the walkway at Torness would
provide an ideal viewing point for passing birds and, who knows, maybe
So after breakfast in Dalkeith Morrisons (8/10: OK, but let down a bit
by small plates, over-cooked and small portions of bacon and a wobbly
table) we made the 15 min journey down the A1 to the car park of
Torness Nuclear Power Station. I had gathered from Birding Lothian
reports on Twitter that the Wryneck was hanging around an area between
the car park and the coastal walkway. Unfortunately all we saw were
distant views of a Whinchat
and a juvenile Goldfinch. We therefore made our way onto the upper
walkway so that we could look back over the area around the car park.
John was looking the other way, out into the Firth of Forth where he
immediately spotted a pair of Grey Seals bobbing up and down a fair bit
I spied an Oystercatcher probing the exposed rocks just below the
walkway and I also noticed a young Pied Wagtail moving along the
defences. A juvenile Herring Gull checked us out for chips
before a beautiful Meadow Pipit landed just below us on the concrete
|1st Cycle Herring
Also moving about the coastal defences were a pair of Wheatear that
gave us the runaround on first seeing them, but eventually they plucked
up the courage to sit atop the Dolos to pose for pictures. Sandwich
Terns were passing fairly often as was the odd defecating Gannet.
I noticed some flowering Chicory at the side of the walkway. I snapped
some shots of a passing Cormorant as it sped west. We reached the end
of the upper walkway and descended stairs which lead to a harbour area.
We were met by a very accommodating male Pied Wagtail.
Below is the view west from the harbour looking towards
Skateraw and Barns Ness. Notice the Lifeboat in the foreground and
also, on the right, the interlocking dolos which form the sea defences.
We spent some time on our stools observing the Gannets circling over
the harbour. They obviously noticed fish but never plunged to catch
them. A young Herring Gull had a failed attempt but a large Great
Black-backed Gull showed them how it was done.
|1st Cycle Herring
I also photographed passing Oystercatchers and Cormorants from our
excellent viewpoint. We got a visit from a very tired Large White
butterfly that took a rest beside us on the quay. It was a similar
story when a Speckled Wood butterfly rested in one of the Dolos.
Below is a view of the lighthouse at Barns Ness. To the right is the Bass Rock,
the site of the World’s largest Gannet colony.
We headed back along the lower walkway where John came across several
Craneflies, probably Tipula
oleracea , scrambling up the concrete wall. I
snapped a copulating pair while John investigated another group of
insects, Rove Beetles, probably Othius
punctulatus , that were also on the wall. I also
noticed a few Red Spider Mites. A bit further along the walkway, John
drew my attention to another resting Speckled Wood butterfly. We next
ascended the stairs to the upper level to complete our passage along
the coast. We met yet more Wheatears and a nice wee female Pied Wagtail.
|Cranefly - Tipula
|Beetle - Othius
|Red Spider Mite
|Female Pied Wagtail
As I took yet another Gannet photo, probably my best shot, John drew my
attention to a Brownlipped Snail that was clinging to the sea wall. We
left the walkway had another look in the area we had first searched for
the Wryneck and Warblers, but sadly it was a fruitless effort. I did
though get a fairly nice shot of another Large White butterfly. Our
final sighting was of a pair of Grey Herons flying over the field next
to the car park.
Although frustrated that we dipped on the Wryneck and Warblers (and we
later found out that the action was at Barns Ness!), we were
nevertheless very satisfied with a very entertaining afternoon in
beautiful weather observing birds and insects at close range. I
particularly enjoyed the Gannets and Wheatears. We finished the day
supping tea and downing strawberry tarts before returning home.
Week ending: 5th September 2022: Turnberry
People of Central Scotland awoke on Sunday to find a vast blanket of
cloud and rain spoiling the recent spell of lovely weather. However, my
WeatherPro app predicted that sunshine would spread from the south-west
to replace the rain by about 10am and that the bright and warm
conditions would last throughout the day. It was a no brainier then, we
would venture forth to sunny Turnberry and Maidens to search the coast
for interesting flora and fauna. The BBC Tide Tables predicted that the
tide would be low on our arrival and would be incoming throughout the
visit. Of course we nipped into Stewartfield Morrisons in East Kilbride
for our customary breakfasts (9.5/10: excellent, but -0.5 for
insufficient butter for the toast), then we made good progress down the
M77 and A77, and arrived at Turnberry by mid-morning and it was indeed
bathed in sunshine.
We started at Turnberry beach which offers an excellent view of Ailsa
Craig, the world-famous island that is the source of the
granite used in high quality curling stones. It is now unoccupied and
is managed by the RSPB due to its internationally important
site for nesting Gannets (yes, that’s one above Ailsa Craig).
We were delighted to find that some of those Gannets were diving just
off Turnberry beach. We sat for a short time on our 3-legged stools and
watched them as they passed. Although they were very close to us and
often looked as if they were about to dive, they unfortunately
didn’t while we were there. We were also looking to see a
reported Curlew Sandpiper.
Eventually we cast our eyes along the shoreline and were delighted to
see a half-dozen bar-tailed Godwits foraging along the
Just beyond the Godwits there were a similar number of Goosanders
bobbing up and down just behind the breaking waves. We also could just
see a pair of Black-tailed
Godwits standing by the shore, probably watching
the few people, us included, that were moving along the edge of the
One of those people, an over-eager birder, unfortunately put the birds
up and they seemed to land near rocks about 150m to the south. We
carefully moved to behind those rocks and sat on our stools waiting on
the birds to return. Fortunately some of them did and I snapped them in
flight as they arrived. First to be seen was a small family of Red-breasted
Mergansers (distinguished from Goosanders by the
thin black line through the white patch on each wing). A Common Gull
was next to pass and then a Bar-tailed Godwit arrived (note the barred
tail) along with some Oystercatchers. A line of Goosanders sped past
and settled at the north end of the beach. Finally we heard the
familiar call of a Curlew and we watched it land about 40m from where
we were sitting.
The Oystercatchers began spreading out along the shore as they foraged
for mussels and cockles.
I noticed a Common Gull and Black-headed Gull amid the Oystercatcher
“invasion”. They were probably ready to nick their
catches. I managed some shots of the Curlew and the Bar-tailed Godwit
feeding side-by-side. Just beyond them were the pair of Black-tailed
Godwits we’d seen earlier. We were a bit surprised, but
pleased, when a young Wheatear
flew onto a rock 10m from us. It posed for a few minutes before
disappearing into the dunes.
Although disappointed not to have seen the Curlew Sandpiper (I read on
the Ayrshire Birding Facebook group that a birder had seen it at the
time we were there - perhaps it was the
mentioned earlier), we were satisfied with our sightings and decided to
move a mile up the coast to Turnberry Point. Our viewing position was
at the Turnberry
Lighthouse . The view from the approach road is
shown below. Note, on the right of the shot, the site of the ruin of
Turnberry Castle and Isle of Arran in the distance.
After taking the previous shot, John spotted a Wheatear on the golf tee
just left of us. Unfortunately it dashed down the fairway before I
could get a more satisfactory picture. The lighthouse is built where
the moat of the old castle used to be. On its banks we found an expanse
of blooming Montbretia plants. On the grassy mounds around the
lighthouse entrance there were beautiful Hedge Bindweed flowers
blooming. We could hear the chattering calls of Starling coming from
the roof of the lighthouse. We were on the lookout for another reported
visitor, a juvenile Rose-coloured Starling. It wasn’t on the
I heard the familiar warbling tones of a Robin coming from the right
edge of the lighthouse. It was singing boldly from a high branch of a
bush. We very carefully edged our way around the periphery of the
lighthouse to reach the fairly safe low cliff top that overlooks the
outer reaches of the Firth of Clyde. Our attentions were immediately
drawn to the large number of juvenile Starlings foraging on the crags.
Search as we might, their Rose-coloured cousin was not with them. We
were briefly entertained by a juvenile Shag splashing about the the
water before it flew southwards. Also, a pair of Oystercatchers were
poking about the rock pools that were just below our stance.
A single, lonely-looking eclipse Eider paddled past and in the air, a
Gannet and Great Black-backed Gull flew by. Thereafter we headed back
along the approach road towards the car. Just before the small car
park, as I watched some golfer in action, my eye was caught by a large
brown mushroom, standing proud in the short rough. It was the
|Eider in Eclipse
Our final location was Maidens, the coastal village a couple of miles
north of Turnberry Point. It was a brief but enjoyable stop, starting
with a series of pictures of a pair of mating Small White butterflies.
From these I am fairly sure the energetic male was unsuccessful in its
repeated attempts to complete copulation.
Below is a photo of a group of Redshanks lined up in the middle of the
We walked along the north side of the harbour basin and sat on our
stools scanning the scene. I snapped a passing 2nd-winter Common Gull.
Soon after a Curlew flew in and landed at the waters edge. I could see
it had a damaged wing perhaps inflicted by the second Curlew that
landed soon after it. I noticed also a hoverfly, perhaps a Common Drone
Fly, that was sitting on the Orange Sea Lichen growing on a large
fragment of the damaged concrete walkway.
|2nd Cycle Common
|Hoverfly - Common Dronefly
John directed me to a couple of beautiful Small Tortoiseshell
butterflies he had seen feeding on some Common Ragwort. After
photographing those we noticed a couple of Wheatears lurking about the
large broken slabs of concrete ahead of us. Pleased that we had seen a
Wheatear at each of our stops we headed back to the car. I spotted an
Early Bumblebee on Mayweed just before the car. As we were about to
have tea I noticed an unfamiliar plant growing on the kerbside. These
turned out to be Black
It had been a very enjoyable trip and although we didn’t see
the reported birds we were completely satisfied with or collection of
sightings, particularly, the Wheatears, Gannets and The Prince. And
into the bargain, the weather was sunny throughout the visit. We
celebrated with tea and cream caramel tarts (apparently strawberry
tarts were out of season).
- September 2022
We present this month’s gallery of my
favourite pictures I’ve taken during September 2022. 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.
BY THE WATER
IN THE TREES
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