Kara Brydson, Senior Marine Policy Officer at RSPB Scotland, tells us about a recent visit to one of the wildlife wonders of the world.

Visiting Scotland's seabird cities

Imagine leaving work at the end of an unremarkable day. Within the hour you’re at what Sir David Attenborough calls ‘one of the wildlife wonders of the world’. That’s what I did on Wednesday night, along with 30 others on an RSPB Scotland ’Date with Nature’ boat tour around Bass Rock.

Bass Rock is the iconic giant white lump of volcanic rock in the outer Firth of Forth, just a few kilometres offshore from North Berwick.  It’s white because for much of the year it’s home to 150,000 gannets – and in late autumn when the birds set off on their long migration south, often as far as West Africa, they quite literally leave their mark. 

Bass Rock is so special for northern gannet that it has given the bird its scientific name - Morus bassanus. But it’s not all about them – on our two hour trip we saw guillemots, razorbills, fulmar,  shags, arctic tern and kittiwakes, all hanging out on the lower ledges of the Bass, or shooting (or bobbing) past our catamaran. Common and Grey seals were hauled up on the rocks below and peeking out from sea caves.

With this wildlife spectacle so close to Scotland’s capital city, it’s easy to forget that, shockingly, numbers of Scottish seabirds have plummeted. Over the past 20 years, two thirds of all our kittiwake and three quarters of Arctic tern and Arctic skua have disappeared. There are three main threats to seabirds: climate change, lack of fish such as sandeels, and industrial developments at sea. Marine Protected Areas can give seabirds a fighting chance against these threats. You can help us urge the Scottish Government to protect seabirds at sea. Visit our website to find out how www.rspb.org.uk/choosesealife.

You can fall in love with other islands on the Firth of Forth: RSPB Date with Nature cruises leave from South Queensferry, Edinburgh on 9th June, 19 June, 29 June and 10 July. Call 0131 331 5000 to book.