Members Login
    Remember Me  
Post Info TOPIC: East Lothian

Status: Offline
Posts: 334
RE: East Lothian

From Musselburgh to Moore, one day, two countries, twitching and patching (Part 1, see Cheshire thread for part 2).


17th Jan - having worked in East Lothian the previous day (first time in three years and only Scottish job I'm rostered on this year) staying too late to travel South I stayed in the area and was up at dawn on the 17th. Parked at the Lagoons and headed for the coastal wall. Eider, Red-breasted Merganser, Rock Pipit, Shag and Lesser Redpoll were all year ticks. Walking west scanning to sea plenty of Common Scoter were rafted on the incoming tide, Redshanks and Oystercatchers, Wigeon and Mallards, Black-headed and Great Black-backed Gulls all gathered on the diminishing rocks and banks of the Musselburgh Flats.

Getting to the river mouth I had to turn and noting I was close for time to drive for the afternoons job in Runcorn I was about to head back to the van along the racecourse disappointed not to have seen the White-winged Scoter but happy with the year ticks, especially Eider as don't get too many in Cheshire. However, that stubborn "one last try" feeling itched me and I double timed back along the seawall.

I got to where the diggers were constructing the new path and was about to turn back to the Lagoon car park (PS anyone going here, don't go to the lagoon car park, park 300 yrds short by the racecourse, the final 300 yrds of track are horrendously potholed) I spotted 200yrds into the distance...............









............three birders with scopes........so I pretty much ran to join them "Excuse me, have any of you seen..."; "Reet here Laddie, in the scope". Bingo WWS, life tick. 10 minutes viewing and I really had to go (damn speed limited vans)  the local guys were really nice and reckoned if I could stay for another ten or 15 mins they'd help me find some of the Velvet Scoter that have been out there the last few days........well that is one year tick I had to let get away.

And as a bonus as I passed Gretna on the A74(M) three Barnacle Geese flew over, another year tick (thanks for speed limited vans, I'd have been at Warp speed in my car and missed them).

Part 2 on Cheshire thread!


Status: Offline
Posts: 1164

Mouth of the River Esk at Musselburgh, walking to about a quarter mile beyond the lagoons. Two and a half hours from 10.35 in sunnyish, cold weather and brisk winds. Later on, a few minutes at a point north west of the harbour at which time the tide was now coming in. Amongst others :-

Wigeon (57)
Eider (38)
Velvet Scoter (6)
Common Scoter (9)
Long-tailed Duck (31)
Goldeneye (92)
Red-breasted Merganser (8)
Slavonian Grebe (1)
Stock Dove (2)
Oystercatcher (110)
Curlew (3)
Bar-tailed Godwit (122)
Dunlin (16)
Shag (7)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (1)
Redwing (4)
Linnet (16)

I was unable to locate the over wintering White-winged Scoter which had been seen earlier in the day. Great numbers of Goldeneye, sixty odd of which were in the bay, half a mile or so south of the lagoons.


Status: Offline
Posts: 1164

Another hour and a half birding this morning whilst Mrs J went off for a walk around Musselburgh Lagoons. I walked the last few hundred yards up the east bank of the River Esk and then took the path off to the right where the sea wall curves round in that direction. I had the good fortune to spend my time with an English guy who lives locally and has spent several winters watching the White-winged Scoter and knows its characteristics very well. He picked it out at around a distance of one mile although we did have good, and closer, flight views. I was glad to be able to id it yesterday at distance because I would certainly have struggled today. The whole area around Musselburgh is superb and I didnt even get as far as the lagoons. A full day here over low and high tides would be very rewarding. I was told there is currently a King Eider off Portobello (3 miles north) but that will have to wait for another day. If anyone is thinking of going for the White-winged Scoter, it tends to leave early, mid February band its gone. Amongst others :-

Mute Swan (8)
Wigeon (20)
Eider (11)
Surf Scoter (Pr)
Velvet Scoter (15
White-winged Scoter (1)
Common Scoter (14)
Long-tailed Duck (6)
Goldeneye (29)
Goosander (2)
Red-breasted Merganser (4)
Oystercatcher (c.75)
Ringed Plover (18)
Curlew (4)
Bar-tailed Godwit (9)
Turnstone (5)
Dunlin (14)
Redshank (19)
Red-throated Diver (1)
Great Northern Diver (1)
Shag (6)
Peregrine (1)
Redwing (6)

After two or three unsuccessful attempts, the Peregrine swooped down on an unfortunate Redshank which called forlornly whilst being held firmly in the falcons talons. A few seconds to assess the situation and off the Peregrine flew with its next meal.


Status: Offline
Posts: 1164

A great 4 Scoter morning with Common, Velvet, Surf and White-winged. Viewed from a raised grassy area, approx a quarter mile west of Musselburgh Harbour. Weather conditions good, in a sheltered spot with the sea like a mill pond. Only downside was that the scoters and sea duck were distant as it was a falling tide, with high tide not due until very late afternoon. I later spent half an hour on the harbour breakwater but my earlier viewpoint was much better and gave a better perspective of the area. Lovely spot. Never seen as many Long-tailed Duck, the drake Surf Scoter was a nice bonus and easily picked out with the sun shining on its nape. The White-winged Scoter was the regular over wintering bird that has been present for a number of years now. Amongst others :- Common Scoter (15) Velvet Scoter (23) Surf Scoter (1) White-winged Scoter (1) Long-tailed Duck (c.30) Eider (c.30) Red-breasted Merganser (6) Goldeneye (5) Slavonian Grebe (3) Razorbill (1) Bar-tailed Godwit (151) Dunlin (35) Redshank (35) Oystercatcher (75) Shag (5) Carrion Crow/Hooded Crow hybrids (4) A great couple of hours.


Status: Offline
Posts: 1164

May as well put this here, rather than start a new thread. We are actually staying in East Lothian, near Musselburgh for a couple of nights and en route, we called at the farmland area around Slamannan (south east of Falkirk) to try and see the Taiga Bean Goose flock which winters here. Thankfully, I had the BirdGuides map reference, or it really would have been a needle in a haystack job. Even so, I could quite easily have missed the 36 distant birds that blended in to their background with ease. Without looking back on BirdGuides, I think the numbers tend to peak around the 150 mark, so these were just a part of the main flock. Earlier today, larger numbers were seen, c.250 yards north west of Jawcraig Farm, whereas mine were c. 500 yards south west of it.


Status: Offline
Posts: 4006

When a Mega turned up recently in East Lothian I was frustrated as the 5ml driving limit was still in force in Scotland but that was lifted earlier this ween and plans were made. I am having not a single hol this year so these trips are my hols, as I have posted elsewhere smile

So yestarday morning I woke at 2.50am, was out of bed by 3.15am and started getting stuff ready! After a normal breakfast I headed off at 3.40am to the M6, to the top, then the A74(M), off on the A702 NE to the Edinburgh bypass (A720). It was then a short trip on the A1 E.to the Dunbar exit and into the car park at John Muir CP, surprisingly easy to find without a SatNav (I don't have!) and after 256mls of driving! If you go (biggrin) purchase a £2 all day parking ticket as the fine's not worth it!

Luckily in the car park were 3 birders, one very local and another who knew the park, so I tagged on as the area was huge and local knowledge is like gold dust! We headed to the Tyninghame Bay where the R.Tyne enters the sea and started our scope search. Very soon our quarry was found and we were all watching a superb first-summer Greater Sand Plover, granted at a distance, but in the scope views were fabulous (distant digiscoped pic attached). On the walk I had mentioned the significance of this bird, it became my 500th UK Tick, and kindly all there congratulated me on this, asking if there was a bottle of bubbly in the car to share and celebrate, all I could offer was a bottle of Vimto, showed where I'd driven from biggrin We watched but dog walkers unknowingly flushed it several times and eventually it flew a lot more distant to an area innacessible to them, time to go! On the way to the plover we had also heard a Grasshopper Warbler reeling very close to the path and it was teeming with Meadow Pipits (so close I couldn't resist a pic, attached!) and Skylarks. Other birds on the estuary included a nice Whimbrel, Curlew, Ringed Plover, and Dunlin. A brief seawatch produced 15 Common Scoter on the sea too.

So as to make the most of my trip I took the advice of the local birder and made the very short trip up to North Berwick and parked near the Seabird Centre there. Here the views included the magnificent Bass Rock, looking snow white but in reality it was covered with over 150,000 Gannets, the largest colony in the World! Also closer offshore, just off the harbour is the island Craigleith, which is easily scoped from the end of the harbour wall. As my local friend had said there were lots of Puffins in the water, a nice yeartick added! In addition Razorbills and Guillemots were plentiful, as well as Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Shags, Cormorants and of course Gannets everywhere! A scan of the West Bay area produced nice views of Sandwich Terns fishing but try as I might no skuas were around! Quite a few Eider frequented West Bay too.

With a 4.5hr journey ahead of me I set off home after a great day out and pulled up with 538mls on the car tripometer, actually less than I had expected. I'd birded tow great new sites, met some friendly folk and got my 500th UK Bird!! Not a bad little day all in all

-- Edited by Doc Brewster on Tuesday 7th of July 2020 10:09:02 AM


Status: Online
Posts: 600

Was here a few weeks ago and picked out a colour ringed Black- headed Gull JM79.....details as follows ...                     . CR-Code Green ring with white code: JM79 LBGW(JM79);RBM

Ringing Centre Stavanger Museum (Norway) Ring number K00229

Species Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus

Sex Female Age 3 cy+

Date Place Coordinates Observers Days/km/°

27.05 2015 Sandnes Brygge, Sandnes, Rogaland, Norway 58°51'06"N 005°44'35"E Torgersen, David -

01.06 2015 Sandnes Brygge, Sandnes, Rogaland, Norway 58°51'06"N 005°44'35"E Mo, Bjørn

Opedal, Vemund


22.10 2016 Musselburgh, River Esk , Lothian Region, Great Britain 55°56'30"N 003°03'20"W Andrews, Ian J 514/618/242

30.03 2018 Gisketjørn, Sandnes, Rogaland, Norway 58°51'29"N 005°43'37"E Skår, Hogne 1038/1/307

29.12 2018 Musselburgh, Lothian Region, Great Britain 55°56'46"N 003°04'21"W Archer, Robert 1312/619/242 attached 

-- Edited by rob archer on Wednesday 23rd of January 2019 12:08:45 PM

-- Edited by rob archer on Wednesday 23rd of January 2019 07:32:05 PM


Status: Offline
Posts: 585

Saturday 19th Jan

Colin Rushmer, Chris Chandler and myself had a superb day's birding on the Lothian coast yesterday, concentrating on the seabirds that the area is known for. Having arrived the previous evening we were in position at Musselburgh Lagoons and full of anticipation as it got light.

The sea was like glass and stayed that way for the whole day. Extraordinary luck. It was cool but not cold and there was cloud cover so no glare either. Utterly perfect conditions really. Within 5 minutes of getting on the seawall we had spotted Eider, Velvet Scoter and Black-necked Grebe, all within 50m of us showing beautifully. We soon picked up Long-tailed Duck (Colin found these) and Slavonian Grebe too. Colin was racking up lifers at this point! A group of 6 Slavonians together seemed crazy but of course there are normally dozens of them in the bay every winter.

A scan back towards Cockenzie showed a distant Great Northern Diver and probable Red-throated, and then we settled into trying to find the long-staying male Surf Scoter, which would be a new bird for all of us. As we headed for the rivermouth at Musselburgh I picked up a diver and it slowly dawned on me that it must be a Black-throated. This is a real bogey bird of mine so I was thrilled to pick one up and ID it myself. We hadn't expected this species at all. Then 2 more popped up! 1 of them disappeared again but we had long and close views of an adult in winter plumage and an immature.

At the rivermouth a great assembly of birds was present, which was dispersing as the tide came in. The beach there is a big roost site. We saw a few hundred Bar-tailed Godwits and lots of the same species from Cumbria the previous day, and crucially a couple of Little Grebes.

We were still looking for the Surf Scoter, but luckily some local birders had found it and we had reasonable views, but it was a long way out and without good scopes it would have been a doomed mission. Personally I was happier with my divers and the stunning views of the regular birds of the area, but Chris was very pleased indeed. Obviously the locals are pretty blasé about Velvet Scoters and Slav Grebes but we certainly weren't. We picked up a few Red-throated Divers for good measure as we walked back to the car park. All 3 native divers from one place. On the lagoons themselves was a large roost of Oystercatchers and the Bar-tailed Godwits had relocated from the beach. There were some nice Grey Plover too.

The next destination was Aberlady and Kilspindie Golf Club, to look for Shore Lark. This was an amazing place; you can walk the perimeter of the golf course with stunning views along a delightful shoreline. No sign of the birds or Twite that they apparently get there, but we did see a guy sink a magnificent putt that started in a different postcode to the pin. At the car park we were watching small birds on some feeders, and were quite surprised when a flock of around 40 Tree Sparrows came in.

With the afternoon drawing to a close we decided on a search for the last gap in the portfolio, a Red-necked Grebe. The fabled place to see these is the so-called No.3 Car Park, which is actually called Longniddry Bents No.3. It looks across Gosford Bay back to Edinburgh. Within 5 minutes Chris had spotted a very nice winter-plumage bird. This was getting silly! A huge raft of Common Scoters were about as well as more smart Long-tailed Ducks and a couple more Slavonian Grebes. Whilst we enjoyed watching the Red-necked Grebe struggling with a fish, it dawned on us that we'd done a 'full set' of Grebes as well as Divers and Scoters. Obviously this doesn't include the rarities and vagrants but we were delighted with it.

All in all one of my best days birding ever. I don't suppose you would get conditions like we had more than once or twice a year so we felt truly privileged. It was particularly nice that although we hoped/expected to see most of these species there were still some surprises and always plenty of ID work to do. Absolutely superb fun. Thanks to the guys for the company and of course Colin for driving.


Status: Offline
Posts: 2664

A full-on twitch to Musselburgh for the recently split American White-winged Scoter with Paul Greenall (our impeccable driver), Ian Lyth and Roger Baker.

Alarm set for a brain-shattering 01.30 and our journey north began inauspiciously with delays due to i-phone updates and motorway closures. Nevertheless we arrived at the picturesque Esk estuary at 07.15. The sun broke through a brightening, grey sky as we started sifting though the Velvet Scoters. It was nearly low tide and many of the scoters were too distant to make out the crucial detail, plus a light mist hung over the sea. We stuck at it and eventually had great, close views of Velvet Scoters, Common Scoters, Red-throated Divers, summer plumaged Slavonian Grebes, Long-tailed Ducks (some stunning males in breeding plumage) and a very distinctive and easy to find male Surf Scoter. This was a far cry from the usual North Wales experience where the 1000s of scoters are at a far greater distance.

We had been advised that 2 hours either side of high tide was the optimum time but the high tide at 14.15 came and went without success. The more distant scoter flock didn't move with the incoming tide and remained tantalisingly distant until a small motor boat dispersed the lot and they flew to an even greater distance. Sizeable flocks of Bar-tailed Godwits, Curlew, Knot, Turnstones gathered and entertained, one Barwit carried a red ring on the left leg and a yellow flag (NAA) on the right, I will try to discover its history. A mile or so round the sea front there were up to 50 Velvet Scoters in small scattered groups and these were much nearer, but repeated scanning of these failed to produce our quarry.

We called it a day at 17.15 consoling ourselves that we had had a great day's birding but secretly disappointed that we had dipped the main prize. We were heading south on the A1 when we received a phone call, the White-winged Scoter had been re-found (by the original finder as it happened). Much cursing and muttering as we high-tailed it back to the Esk and fast-walked the mile to find a small group of birders on the bird. It was showing incredibly well at approx 150m range with a low sun behind us lighting up the whole scene. (The attached photographs of the scoter courtesy of Stephen Duffield).

More delays on the return journey due to the lost glove incident and a car park lock-in meant I didn't get home till 01.40. A very memorable 24 hours twitch.

Cheers John

-- Edited by John Rayner on Monday 16th of April 2018 12:14:30 AM

Page 1 of 1  sorted by
Quick Reply

Please log in to post quick replies.



This forum is dedicated to the memory of Eva Janice McKerchar.