Trip reports

Members Weekend Away to the East Lothian Coast Friday 4 to Sunday 6 November 2017

Members Weekend Away to the East Lothian Coast Friday 4 to Sunday 6 November 2017
surf scoter

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

On Saturday morning after a good breakfast we set off to our first destination, Musselburgh Lagoons via for some the conveniences at Longniddry car park 3 which yielded a small flock of twite. This site is managed by East Lothian District Council and the lagoons were formed by the Scottish Electricity Board dumping fly-ash from the nearby Cockenzie Power Station. The road up to the car park was a little challenging with numerous pot holes to negotiate around the back of Musselburgh racecourse. Everybody made it safely and our first stop was the very robust concrete open top screens in front of the wader scrapes. It didn't take long before we located the long staying juvenile spotted redshank and a ruff. A few teal and common redshank were also feeding and lucky few saw a dunlin from the far right screen.

The tide was coming in so we moved on to walk along by the sea wall. Almost immediately we were rewarded with excellent views of winter plumage slavonian grebe, long- tailed duck, red-breasted merganser, red-throated diver and common guillemot. As we were watching we witnessed flypasts of oystercatchers, bar-tail godwits and other small waders, presumably dunlin. As we walked along by the sea wall we found small groups of velvet scoter, wigeon, goldeneye and a local birdwatcher told us the surf scoter was showing well further down.

The surf scoter has been reported on Birdguides for several weeks but attempts to find the bird a month earlier and on the Friday by the Guides was unsuccessful so we all moved quickly to find it. After a lot of searching amongst small groups of velvet scoter the drake surf scoter was found. It was identified by the white patches on the back of the neck and forehead although the swell of the sea made it difficult to keep in view. This was a very good bird that the Group don't see very often!

We continued along the sea wall towards the mouth of the River Esk, some walking to the end to see more wigeon, various gulls; great black-backed, black-headed and herring together with a flock of greylag geese. Those who didn't walk to the end saw the geese in flight as they moved off the sea.

As lunch time was approaching we made our way back to the lagoon screens to now find the area covered with roosting oystercatcher, curlew, bar-tailed godwits and gulls as noted above. The keen eyed amongst the Group found four knot at the edge of the lagoon and a common snipe was spotted hiding amongst the tall grass.

We moved off re-negotiating the pot holed track to our lunch destination, Longniddry car park number 3. This part of Gosford Bay is usually sheltered but today the onshore wind made the sea quite rough so after eating our lunch and making use of the facilities we took a short walk along the shore edge without really adding anything new to the list. After some discussion amongst the leaders we decided to drive ten miles up the coast to North Berwick where the Scottish Seabird Centre had a good café and the turning tide may reveal some new waders.

After everybody found a parking spot, not easy in North Berwick we went to the sea wall behind the Scottish Seabird Centre to find roosting purple sandpiper, turnstone and common redshank. Looking across the sea you could see Bass Rock with a few gannets flying around and when we trained the telescopes on Craigleith we could see fulmars with their stiff wings in flight over the island together with shags and cormorants sitting on the rocks.

After watching the purple sandpipers for a while the majority thought it time for a cuppa. The Discovery centre did a great trade in drinks and cake before we all set off for Haddington. On the way back to the Maitlandfield House Hotel some stopped at Aberlady Bay as the sun set to see geese coming into roost, a nice end to a good day's birdwatching. At dinner that night we were treated to a superb firework display from the restaurant window as well as excellent food.

Sunday morning brought us more good weather with bright sunshine and no rain. After breakfast we set off for Aberlady Bay and a walk out to Gullane Point. The tide was well out and a scan of the mudflats added common shelduck and golden plover to the list. A lone pink -footed goose was foraging for food amongst the grass and close views of curlew were seen. The wind was cold so we all wrapped up warm and set off for the Point picking up reed bunting calling from the buckthorn and a kestrel was hunting over the saltmarsh. As we progressed along the path we could see telescope views of knot and dunlin feeding before the tide covered the mud.

As we could see the high dunes ahead of us the only barrier to the sea skylarks were taking off and starting but not really getting into song. A wren was seen in the rough grass and a stonechat was flitting about searching for food. At last we reached the sea to watch sanderling running along the tide line like clockwork toys picking up tit bits for lunch. Eider could be seen on the sea but little else, which was a little disappointing so we returned to the car park and set off for Gullane Bents and a late lunch.

After lunch we gathered by the viewing platform to do some sea watching. Rafts of eider were seen together with a new one for the trip, common scoter. Black-headed gulls circled the cliff together with carrion crows searching for an easy meal but little else, the sea was quite rough and the expected divers and grebes may have been put off by the kite surfers in the bay.

It was that time in the afternoon again, the light wasn't at its best and a tea shop was identified in Aberlady, although the sign said closed which put a few off. The scones were good and the room was warm, what else do you need to finish the day. Those who didn't come for tea, took the river walk at Haddington and add dipper to the list.

No firework display at dinner on Sunday night but the roast beef was terrific!

On Monday morning after breakfast and paying our bills we set off for the river walk. A walk through the churchyard opposite the hotel produced chaffinch and blue tit before we reached the river. The usual mallard, mute swans and black-headed gulls patrolled the river before a keen eyed member spotted a kingfisher on a bush in front of us - wow a great view. Moving on towards the weir we searched for the dipper but couldn't find it but while looking we heard the familiar call and soon found a grey wagtail feeding on the weir. At this point we returned to the hotel, said our goodbyes and set off for home.

The Group saw eighty six species during the weekend, a commendable total for a winter coastal visit. Thanks are due to Ray Evans for sorting the co-ordinates so we could all find the sites, Alan Brereton for reconnoitring Musselburgh Lagoons with us on Friday and Graham Palmer, who unfortunately wasn't able to join us, for finding and organising an excellent hotel.
Ian and Lydia Taylor 12 November 2017

The bird list for the weekend (86 species):
Red-throated diver (Gavia stellata)
Little grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Great crested grebe (Podiceps cristatus)
Slavonian grebe (Podiceps auritus)
Northern fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis)
Gannet (Morus bassanus)
Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)
Grey heron (Ardea cinerea)
Little egret (Egretta garzetta)
Mute swan (Cygnus olor)
Pink-footed goose (Anser brachyrhynchus)
Greylag goose (Anser anser)
Brent goose (Branta bernica)
Common shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Wigeon (Anas penelope)
Teal (Anas crecca)
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
Tufted duck (Aythya fuligula)
Eider (Somateria mollissima)
Long-tailed duck (Clangula hyemalis)
Common scoter ( Melanitta nigra)
Surf scoter (Melanitta perspicillata)
Velvet scoter ( Melanitta fusca)
Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)
Red-breasted merganser (Mergus serrator)
Goosander (Mergus merganser)
Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)
Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus)
Common pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)
Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
Coot (Fulica atra)
Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)
Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Golden plover (Pluvialis apricaria)
Common snipe (Gallinago gallinago)
Bar-tailed godwit (Limosa lapponica)
Curlew (Numenius arquata)
Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus)
Common redshank ( Tringa totanus)
Turnstone (Arenaria interpres)
Knot (Calidris canutus)
Sanderling (Calidris alba)
Purple Sandpiper (Calidris maritima)
Dunlin (Calidris alpina)
Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Herring gull (Larus argentatus)
Great black-backed gull (Larus marinus)
Common gull (Larus canus)
Common guillemot (Uria aalge)
Feral pigeon (Columba livia (domest.))
Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus)
Collared dove (Streptopelia decaoto)
Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
Rock pipit (Anthus petrosus)
Meadow pipit ( Anthus pratensis)
Skylark (Alauda arvensis)
Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)
Pied wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii)
Dipper (Cinclus cinclus)
Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Dunnock (Prunella modularis)
Robin (Erithacus rubecula)
Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola)
Blackbird (Turdus merula)
Redwing (Turdus iliacus)
Mistle thrush (Turdus viscivorus)
Coal tit (Parus ater)
Blue tit (Parus caeruleus)
Great tit (Parus major)
Magpie (Pica pica)
Jackdaw (Corvus monedula)
Carrion crow (Corvus corone)
Raven (Heard) (Corvus corax)
Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
House sparrow (Passer domestica)
Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)
Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris)
Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)
Twite (Carduelis flavirostris)
Linnet (Carduelis cannabina)
Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)
Reed bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)