Trip reports

A birdwatching outing

A birdwatching outing
mike betts

Sunday, 24 June 2012

It was a small group of eleven that took a chance with the weather at St Abbs given the previous week's downpours. But it turned out to be a good day, some brief showers but more sunny spells. Following the track up to the cliffs we heard a Yellowhammer singing its familiar song but it took some time to find it, its yellow colouring being perfect camouflage to a background of gorse bushes. We soon got our first sightings of the auks and a refresher of the finer points of Razorbill and Guillemot beak shape and size led on to a debate on why they had evolved different bills to feed on the same type of fish.

Nesting Kittiwakes, Fulmar and Shag were further along the cliffs, one Shag with three well grown young, and a Herring Gull with two downy chicks which provided a great photo opportunity. Scanning the sea we saw lines of Gannets flying past, and a number of Puffins on the sea with the other auks.
The wild thyme, birds-foot trefoil, thrift and many other plants were in flower along our route adding colour and interest.

Our lunch stop overlooked the main seabird breeding cliffs just past the lighthouse and this proved a good choice. A sudden mass exodus of Kittiwakes flying off their nests alerted us to a bird of prey and as we focussed on the bird to gauge whether it was a juvenile or adult Peregrine Falcon, it gave its distinctive high speed dive. When it came back up from its stoop it was joined by two other birds and all three flew off south along the cliffs. The Kittiwakes settled back on their nests, but were soon having to fend off a Carrion Crow which was after eggs or chicks. Interesting that for the crow the Kittiwakes sat close on their nests recognising their young were the target, whereas for the Peregrine they flew off presumably because they themselves were that predator's target.

Walking down towards the Mire Loch we got an excellent view of a singing Linnet and on the loch below could see a pair of Mute Swans with five small cygnets. The reedbeds at the north end provided Reed Bunting, Reed Warbler and a brief blast of Sedge Warbler song. There were also plenty 'purple' orchids to challenge ID skills as to whether they were Northern Marsh, Purple Spotted or hybrids between the two. Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Goldfinch were calling in the lochside trees, and we finished our walk through the fields arriving at the visitor centre with time for tea and cake outside before the rain started.