What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Leisure By WH Davies

Our Expeditions


10th December 

Stevenston, Saltcoats and Irvine Harbour

I was on my own this week as John had family business. The weather, always the primary consideration, was cold, but, with cloudless sunny skies, I headed west to Stevenston Point to see what it could offer me by way of natural spectacles. I had a lovely, lonely brekky (9/10) in Stevenston Morrisons to set me up with the calories I’d need to combat the frosty coastal air. After parking on the Point I couldn’t fail to be immediately impressed by the panorama before me. Arran, cloaked white in snow, surrounded by the richest shades of blue from the sky above it and the sea before it. Amid this awesome scene the Ardrossan Ferry seemed tiny as it crept towards Brodick. Much nearer I noticed flocks of birds foraging in the shallows. Redshank, Black-headed Gulls and Sanderling frantically scoured the sands and rocks for a precious food. In the background my peace was continuously disturbed by the annoying droning of motorcycles that were speeding up and down Ardeer sands. It was time to move on.

Black-headed Gull 1st Winter

I next tried my luck at Saltcoats Harbour. Beautifully marked Starlings were scurrying around the grass verges of the car park. The rock pools in the Harbour held a few Redshanks and a solitary Dunlin that was probing small rocks and weed just below the sea wall. I walked out to the south end of the Harbour and was delighted to discover a group of busy Purple Sandpipers exploring the rocks. I disturbed some Oystercatchers as I crept carefully around the end of the wall to get a better angle for shots of the Purple Sands.

Purple Sandpiper

As I returned to the car, the sun light illuminated a pair of Great Black-backed Gulls, probably parent and juvenile, sunbathing on the sea wall. On another part of the wall, a cock Feral Pigeon tried his luck, stopping and prancing as he attempted to catch the eye of a seemingly disinterested female. My final capture was of a well-lit Carrion Crow eyeing me up lest I dropped something edible.

Great Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull Juvenile
Feral Pigeon
Carrion Crow

My final stop of the day was Irvine Harbour. The confluence of the Rivers Garnock and Irvine were surprisingly active with various divers – Mergansers, Grey Seals and Cormorants. By this time the sun was starting to set and was reddening by the second, adding a pleasing, rich, ruddy hue to my photos.

Female Red Breasted Merganser
Male Red Breasted Merganser
Common Seal

A pair of Mute Swans cruised past just as a large flock of Wigeon swept past overhead. I think the flock were spooked by a passing boat carrying four technical-looking guys dressed in high-vis waterproofs and headgear. A Curlew and a Grey Heron on the bank were unconcerned by all the commotion and simply got on with their business.

Mute Swan
Grey Heron

After a quick cuppa, it was back up the M77, fairly satisfied with my haul of photos.

Pictures of the week:


Purple Sandpiper

3rd December

Doonfoot and  Loans near Troon

We headed west this week, primarily to check out reports of Pink-footed Geese south of Loans near Troon in Ayrshire. After a rather disappointing breakfast in Kilmarnock ASDA (5/10 – served on cold plates), we made our way down the A77 then up the A78 to the turnoff for Loans. We found the Geese right where they were supposed to be, sitting in a big field south of Loans. I took several rather boring pictures of them nibbling grass and just as we were about to move on they were disturbed by something and took to the air enabling me to get some more spectacular photos. John estimated there were around 800 birds, mainly Pink-footed and Greylag Geese, but I did spot a Barnacle flying with the Pinkies.

Pink-Footed Geese
Greylag Goose
Barnacle Goose
Pink-Footed Geese

The vast multitudes of geese circulating the air above Loan made an awesome sight. Right in the middle of the field stood a Grey Heron, probably wondering what all the fuss was about. Eventually the geese settled in the far side of the field. This was our signal to move on to Doonfoot on the south side of Ayr, the “toon that all surpasses for honest men and bonny lassies”. Burns might have added that there are quite a few birds there too. Moments after parking near the mouth of the Doon we found a small flock of very pretty Teal. They were obviously used to people walking past their wee pond as I was able to get to fairly close (~10m) for my shots.

Grey Heron
Pink-Footed Geese Te

A large number of birds were assembled in the river shallows. Carrion Crows and Jackdaws were having a water bath. Herring Gulls and Black-headed Gulls were merely standing, probably waiting on the tide receding.

Carrion Crows
Herring Gull
Black-headed Gull

Overhead, Lapwings were performing aerial acrobatics as they moved from one unsatisfactory site to another. A Common Gull joined the merry throng, and, as I snapped it mid-flight, I happened to notice a tight group of Redshanks with Lapwings and Turnstones on the opposite bank.

We moved on to Greenan Shore at this point, a site dominated by the ruin of Greenan Castle.

Common Gull
Greenan Castle

As we left the car, we were met by a jolly little Pied Wagtail. It was unconcerned with my pictures-taking antics and I managed to capture some nice shots. On the sea, a lonely Mute Swan bobbed about carelessly as several Redshanks scoured the shoreline for titbits. Apart from these birds, the Shore was very quiet so we moved back along an adjacent field. We immediately came across a Wren darting about the undergrowth.

Pied Wagtail
Mute Swan

In the midst of the now leaf-free bushes I also caught sight of a lovely Robin (see “Pictures of the week”). The wildflowers should all be gone by now, but due to the mild weather a few hardy specimens were still in bloom, such as Red Campion and Black Nightshade. All that remained, though, of the umbilifers that were so plentiful at the height of summer, were brown and brittle skeletons that were, nevertheless, quite attractive. I nearly got a good shot of a restless Goldcrest. I had to settle for the south view as it headed north.

Red Campion
Black Nightshade

I had a bit more luck with a shy Greenfinch sitting amid the bush branches. At least it was there, as proof that the species is recovering from its recent disastrous disease. As we trekked back along the beach, I took a few photos of an Oystercatcher and one of the town of Ayr, well lit across Ayr Bay. Our final capture of the day was one of the best, a female Stonechat in the field behind the car park. As I sidled ever-nearer to it, it actually took to the air and landed a few feet from me, allowing me to get some really good pictures.

Female Stonechat

As the northbound A77 was closed for re-surfacing, we had to travel home via the A78. We stopped off at Irvine Harbour for tea and chocolate eclairs. No photos were taken there – we had enough already. As we supped tea, Herring Gulls circled above our heads hoping to get some eclair action – note a hope!

Pictures of the week:

Pied Wagtail


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