Trip reports

St Abbs

St Abbs
Spotted flycatcher - Rosie Filipiak

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The weather forecast was dismal and as we arrived at St Abb's thunder and lightning started, along with heavy rain. After sheltering for a little while things improved, and we set off for the cliff path.

Our first bird had been a robin in the car park, soon followed by a blackbird but, on reaching the sea, the sight of hundreds of guillemots on the ledges was the spectacle we had come for. On scanning the cliff some bridled guillemots were picked out but only a couple of chicks. Carrion crows, rooks and herring gulls were about, and we wondered if they were hoping for easy meals. Great black backed gulls were on rocks near the harbour, and a female eider was in the bay. Razorbills were present but in much smaller numbers than the guillemots. A chiffchaff was heard calling, and a bird was spotted at the top of a tree "lip synching" to the chiffchaff's call. However, when scopes got onto it, it turned out to be a spotted flycatcher.

Moving up the cliff path we stopped to look down on nesting fulmar and kittiwake, the latter giving their onomatopoeic call. Linnets flew overhead, a wren was silhouetted on a gorse bush, and jackdaws were in an adjacent field as we braved another rain shower en route to the next bay. A mallard was on the pool in the field next to the Mire Loch, and an oystercatcher was on the rocks, but the main attraction throughout the coastal part of the walk was the thousands of nesting guillemots. What concerned us most, however, was the lack of chicks. At this time of year we could have expected to see nestlings with many of the adults - very worrying, and what's the reason. Raptors were absent, despite the rabbit carcasses on the hillsides.

While making our way up to the lighthouse we watched gannets flying low over the water and a large flock of common scoter heading north, while some shags were looking beautifully iridescent. House martins swooped around the buildings, and meadow pipits, goldfinches and pied wagtails were noted. Finally, before leaving the cliffs, a few puffin were spotted feeding in the water below us.

Stopping to look down onto the Mire Loch we added grey heron, mute swan, tufted duck, moorhen, coot and little grebe to our sightings. A change of habitat to reeds and woodland brought us new birds for the day. Reed buntings were showing, the males looking particularly smart and enjoying the sunshine as much as we were. We had excellent views of whitethroat, chiffchaff and yellowhammer. We could hear sedge warbler, willow warbler and blackcap, but they were elusive. Woodpigeon were an easy spot, along with goldcrest, blue and coal tit, and chaffinch, but a song thrush proved difficult. Returning by the farm road, pheasant, swallow, house sparrow and dunnock were seen, and we ended the outing by enjoying a cup of tea at the Smiddy café in warm sunshine.

Val Donaldson