Trip reports


Scanning the sea - Ian Andrews

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Twenty four of us gathered at Thorntonloch on what was a breezy but sunny morning. The odd swallow flew overhead and a robin here and a dunnock there kept the interest going before the battalion of birders made their way over the sand dunes and on to the beach. A song thrush was ticked off en route.

The strand line consisted of seaweed interspersed with small white 'clockwork toys' that morphed into sanderlings on our approach. A simple, attractive species: reluctant to take flight.

Sandwich terns announced their presence as we ticked off the gull species present; herring, common and out to sea, kittiwake. Waders were also to be found - but not too easily as they blended into the background of boulders and seaweed. A curlew in the mid distance and a golden plover farther away could hardly be described as small birds but were difficult to see at first. Camouflage is everything when there are peregrines about. Turnstones bulldozed their way threw the pebbles and ringed plover, well, roosted for the most part.

As we left the beach, a woodcock flew over us taking us by surprise and a wheatear gave a little cameo performance to some of the group.

Gannets and cormorants braved the elements, sharing the sea with white horses. A walk along the Torness walkway produced little with the return leg faring little better. Shags and rock pipits, greater black backed gulls and a few guillemot were seen but most passerines were probably lying low.

We returned to the car park for lunch, then drove the short distance to Skateraw for a walk out to the point followed by a further walk, west, passed the Dry Burn and on towards Barn Ness. The bay held the usual suspects but it was out at the point that most of the waders were to be found; huddled together, yet in discreet groups. Dunlin were still feeding but redshank, oyster catchers and curlew were 'busy' roosting; stationary except for those caught out by the rising tide. Having our fill of avian pleasure we quietly retreated.

The tinkle of goldfinch calls could be heard everywhere, no doubt due to the plethora of thistle seed heads among the grasses. On entering a sheep field, it wasn't long before the expected stonechats appeared, perched up on fence posts; both adults and juvenile birds. A grey wagtail paddled in the Dry Burn.

Just offshore was a group of gulls feeding in the surf, mostly black-headed and common gull but one that flew off was an immature Mediterranean gull. Sadly, by the time it was recognised, it was flying away from us. Also seen, by a few members, were two skuas, one a great and the other an arctic.

So some good birds were seen and enjoyed but the best sightings, both at Thorntonloch and at Skateraw, were pods of bottle-nosed dolphins, cutting through the waves! There was also a nice supporting cast of mammals seen namely, grey seal, roe deer and a stoat.

Brian Robertson