Trip reports

St Abbs Head

St Abbs Head
Kestrel nest - Dave Stewart

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

When 7 of us met in the NTS car park at St Abbs Head the weather didn't look at all promising - windy, cold and with rain threatening.

Several species were heard and/or seen from the car park, including house and tree sparrows, and some fledged young. We needed to refer to our various guidebooks to confirm these were in fact young tree sparrows. Similarly, to ID a young rook in an ash tree - easy to mistake for an adult carrion crow, until we saw an adult rook feeding it!

A flock of linnets flew up out of a rape field, and a charm of goldfinches greeted us as we reached the cliffs, followed by jackdaw and yellowhammer. We saw 3 adult-size young shags with a parent in a nest hole.

We sheltered inside the walled lighthouse keeper's garden to eat lunch, hoping to see the whitethroat much in evidence on my recce some 12 days earlier. However it did not put in an appearance, just a brief snatch of song.

On arrival at the main seabird cliffs we were struck by the apparent smaller number of kittiwakes nesting close by. Was this just a trick of memory? Then one of our number spotted the kestrel nest we'd heard about, near the kittiwakes. Neither parent was present but the large grey fluffy chicks were well-camouflaged on the ledge. Were there 3 or 4? It was difficult to be sure.

We sat and watched the large numbers of guillemot, razorbills, kittiwakes and fulmars flying back and forth, getting occasional glimpses of eggs or young on the cliffs.

Then down to Mire Loch and a walk along the north side with a mute swan on a nest, and moorhen, coot, mallard and little grebe on the loch. But no tufted ducks nor the sedge warbler I'd seen previously. At the end of the loch, blue tit parents were busily feeding young in a nest box.

As we retraced our steps we noticed something different - on a small pebbly beach there was now a young white common seal pup and not far away from it, a camera tripod (without camera). We thought at first the pup was dead - it seemed very still and flies were buzzing around. However it very definitely wasn't - just sleeping peacefully in the warm sunshine that had now made an appearance. We didn't disturb it but still couldn't understand what the tripod was doing there. Finally we saw our first butterflies - green-veined white and common blue.

We stopped for teas and coffees at the cafe by the Centre, and while doing so the mystery of the tripod was solved when another visitor arrived carrying it. He'd just decided he didn't want to carry it any further on his walk and had left it out in the open to pick up again on his return!

44 species in all were seen on our outing with a further 3 heard only.

Jacky Robinson

Bird list for St Abbs 17 June 2015

Mute swan
Little grebe
Oystercatcher (h)
Lesser black-backed gull
Great black-backed gull
Herring gull
Rock dove/Feral pigeon
Wood pigeon
Carrion crow
Blue tit
House martin
Willow warbler
Whitethroat (h)
Song thrush
House sparrow
Tree sparrow
Dunnock (h)
Pied wagtail
Meadow pipit
Reed bunting