Trip reports

RSPB Outing

RSPB Outing
Mike Betts

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Fourteen members were delighted to be joined at St Abb's Head by two members visiting from Somerset, offering us lots of opportunities to compare the habitats and species of our respective areas. The weather was cool but dry as we proceeded towards the cliffs, finding Pied Wagtails carrying food around the farm building and hearing the first singing Whitethroat of the day. Swallows hawked low over the cornfields - thankfully the tradition that this signifies rain was proved wrong this time - and we noted a couple of House Martins with them - a species seriously reduced in numbers over recent years. We stopped to watch a singing Yellowhammer and a couple of Linnets in the gorse.
Guillemots were particularly evident at our first cliff top stop: there were many on the sea, and also many still on 'nests', but we were surprised to see how relaxed the latter were when Eppie spotted a male Peregrine sitting on the cliff only a few metres away from them! Perhaps they knew he was well fed!
Around a corner, we found our first nesting Shags and Kittiwakes, and we spotted Herring Gulls with newly hatched young in their nests. A Fulmar sat about 3 feet above a lone egg - was it hers, had it just fallen or been deserted? - we shall never know. Walking on, constantly stopping to see so many birds, we found a couple of Rock Pipits and a Pied Wagtail family on a beach, and two formations of what we thought to be Common Scoters flew north some long way out to sea: if our ID was correct at that range, what were they doing this far south at this time of year? A magnificent number of Kittiwakes were feeding along tide lines out at sea, and we watched several Gannets, some diving locally, others seemingly intent on travelling further
We stopped for lunch on top of a cliff with Kittiwakes, Fulmars and Razorbills nesting within a few metres of us, and a massive cliff-top colony of Guillemots on the opposite side of the small bay. The sun had come out and the constant calls of the birds provided orchestral backing as we ate our sandwiches: we were reluctant to leave that lovely spot and move on afterwards!
Walking back along the Mire Loch, we found some superb orchids in the ungrazed field, probably Common Spotted, and we watched a pair of Mute Swans changing over brooding duties at the nest.; we found singing Reed Buntings, and a probable Sedge Warbler gave brief snatches of song, and we had good views of a foraging Whitethroat. At the dam at the far end we saw a Little Grebe, whilst a female Mallard emerged with a tiny duckling - then another - then another.... eventually we counted 9 young, a good brood. We had brief views of a Small Copper butterfly, having earlier seen a few Common Blues, but, whereas we had had good views of so many seabirds, these few butterflies showed how precarious their numbers are in this second cold and late spring.

Mike Betts