Saturday, 16 June 2012

Black Red Starts St Abbs Adventure

St Abbs in the gloom.

The open sea, cliffs and seabird colonies suggest to me a great day in the outdoors.  I’d been looking forward to a trip over the border to St Abbs for sometime and pleased to say my companions on the day included Sam and Malcolm.  Heavy rain throughout the outward journey, plus tiredness from the previous day’s adventures in Yorkshire ensured that little of interest was seen until we reached our destination.  I needed something to shake off the tiredness before we made our way along the cliff tops to the lighthouse and a very nice male Black Redstart in the car-park did the trick wonderfully.  After this sighting I set off with a spring in my step which was further enhanced when we were soon watching a pair of Peregrine Falcons, both on the   cliff side and in flight over the sea.  Bird and wildlife watching to me has as often as much to do with interesting and appealing habitat as the individual species and today the habitat was stunning.  Even long lasting heavy showers which began to soak through outer layers of clothing and join the perspiration gathered after each steep climb couldn’t marr such an experience.

Dramatic cliff-scape

I’d forgotten that the walk is quite a long one and at times the rain made it seem even longer.   Some good birding was had with the likes of Shag, Fulmar, lines of  Gannets flying north and south (from nearby Bass Rock), Guillemots, Razorbill, Kittiwake and, oh yes, that one Puffin!  I say one Puffin, as I only saw one.  I was told that there was a few more, but to be honest at the point I found them the rain had soaked me and lets face it, one Puffin is quite as good as ten!  Puffins don’t make my top ten of birds I’m afraid.:-)  Many more exciting seabirds I’d place before it, although I can understand the appeal.  I found that Kittiwake and auk numbers seemed to be down from a couple of previous visits I have made, but there was still numbers to make for a good experience.  One of the ‘stacks’ was covered in Guillemots.  The cliff landscape was as good as ever and the rain perhaps in some ways enhanced the atmosphere and colour, although it did prevent much of the hoped for bird photography.  Someone reminded me that this rock had been laid down following the major volcanic explosions from the Cheviot area.  There is indeed much interesting geology to be found and folds in the rock a little further north bring home the to you forces of nature over the millenia.  A number of what looked to be predated eggs shells where found on the cliff top.  On reflection I believe these were Guillemot eggs.  The shape perfected to prevent them rolling off cliff ledges.

Northern Brown Argus Butterfly

Rock Rose

As we left the cliffs for the return via the loch and reed-bed, an area I really enjoy wandering through, the rain slowly petered out and there were signs of blue sky.  The path was in places extremely muddy and slippery.  The reed-bed held Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Reed Bunting.  Willow Warblers were also heard.  A lone Northern Brown Argus Butterfly was found (I suspect more would have been seen if time had been taken to search).  Sadly the sun would at this point just not show so we only had sight of the underwing.   This was fine as I don’t think I’ve ever had the opportunity to examine the underwing of this species and on this occasion it just sat tight.  Rock Rose so much associated with this butterfly and it’s only larval food was nearby, but easily over looked, as it was completely dominated by the Birds Foot Trefoil.  There is a good comparison to be made between Northern Brown Argus Butterfly and the sub species Castle Eden Argus Butterfly which I have seen on occasions at the old quarry at Bishop Middleham.  A small percentage of the Durham sub species also has the white forewing spot and is indistinguishable visually from the Scottish Northern Brown Argus in such cases.

I found the odd Northern Marsh Orchid near to the loch and also found that the landward side of the cliff were carpeted with Thrift and Birds Foot Trefoil to a higher degree than I have seen before.  Perhaps these particular plants have benefitted from the almost constant rains of late.  We took a break here for a late lunch.  I felt I needed some calories to add energy for the steep climb back towards St Abbs village.  It was about here that I suddenly noticed that it was absolutely silent.  No wind, no rain (not even bird song) and best of all no human chattering.   Total peace, in a world where such moments are becoming more and more difficult to find.    The silence didn’t last long and I admit I was the one who broke it by verbally pointing it out.  The sheer drop down to the sea was more noticeable on the return than it had been on the outward walk when rain was in the eyes.  The long drop into the North Sea was later brought home to me as I viewed from the village.  It was at this time I began to hear the Tawny Owl calling from the wooded area.  Not so unusual to hear during the day, but unusual to hear the calling going on for so long at this time of day.  By now the sun was shining and it actually felt like a summer’s day in June!  Grey Partridges had been seen early on in the day and the only wader of the day, Oystercatchers, had been heard during the walk.  Smaller birds included Rock Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Common Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, tits, finches, Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers.  Swifts, Swallows and House Martins also put in regular appearances.

Harbour Nest site

I’d never ever been down to the village or harbour so I enjoyed a visit there today.  Two boats were taking divers out.  I’m very happy on the sea, but less so in it, but I do understand the fascination of diving into a world I’ll probably never ever venture into apart from watching it on the screen or looking at images.   I doubt if I’ll ever personally visit areas under water such as Cathedral Rock and the Amphitheatre.   This was one of the UK s first protected off shore areas.  I was happy enough today with my ice-cream in the sun and watching Herring Gulls on nests in the harbour, a lone Eider Duck and the rather sad sight of a lone Guillemot low in the water in a quiet corner of the harbour.  It looked exhausted and not long for this world.

So there is a sun!

It wasn’t long before we were on the way home.  A Grey Partridge remained in the same area as we had found it on arrival and I understand the Black Redstart, had in typical fashion, hung around the walls and building all day.  We had a Common Buzzard flying across the road in front of us and one or two Kestrels over fields adjoining the road.  I refuse to let a bit of rain spoil my days and the morning downpours, whilst soaking us and putting a stop to some planned photography, did not spoil what was a grand day, a grand walk and a fun day too.  My species list came to fifty-eight.  I had added nine species to the year list over a couple of days.  In fact ten if you include the Cormorant which for some reason I had forgotten to add in early January.  So an armchair Cormorant was added, so to speak.

1 comment:

  1. Nice getting nine (or was it ten, lol) new birds for the year list in just a couple of days! Especially with us being nearly half way through the year.

    The Northern Brown Argus is something I'd like to have seen (even though the view wasn't great). I cannot remember having personally come across it before in the wild.