26th March 2017
Well, it’s been a while but yesterday we ventured out in the beautiful spring sunshine and did a 7 mile circular walk from Coldingham via St Abbs Head. You can read more about walks we did in the area here: Coldingham Walk ; and more about St Abbs Head and Mire Loch here: St Abbs Head.
So today we did the whole circuit combining the Coldingham and St Abbs Head walks, in the glorious sunshine and accompanied most of the way by the incessant guttural cacophony from thousands and thousands of Guillemot which were perched precariously all along the rocky coast.
Thousands and thousands of them!! These cliffs are home to the largest colony of cliff nesting seabirds on the southeast coast of Scotland and is a National Nature Reserve being important, not only for seabirds but also coastal flora and marine life.. The birds include Kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills, shags, herring gull, fulmers and puffins, but the ones we saw today seemed to be all guillemots (a word of French origin apparently derived from the name William – French, Guillaume). I was wondering why they are all facing the cliff, rather than looking out to sea – Mr RR made the obvious point that they fly in and land facing the cliff and so that’s how they stay – not being remotely interested in the stunning views!
The birds nest on rocky outcrops and cliff faces like these because it protects their eggs and chicks from animal predators. They are still at risk from humans though – research has shown that human disturbance reduces breeding success by causing stress and raised heart rate in the birds.
The walk follows part of the Berwickshire coast path which has the second highest cliffs on the east coast of Britain. St Abbs Head itself was formed by active volcanos 410 million years ago and is now managed by The National Trust for Scotland and is a designated site of Special Scientific Interest.
It’s a lovely clear day and as we walk along the coastline we can see Torness Nuclear Power Station near Dunbar in the distance and at the mouth of the Firth of Forth, Bass Rock.
We’re rarely out of sight of the North Sea on this ramble and when we turn inland at the delightfully named Pettico Wick to reach Mire Loch and sit down for a cup of tea, we can glimpse the bright blue sea on both sides.
The Loch is around 400 yards long and provides food and shelter for a host of migrant birds in spring and autumn. Today we can just see swans, moorhen, coots and a few Little Grebe but on occasion hundreds of gulls, kittiwakes and fulmers can be seen on the water.
We see our first butterfly of the year on the high moorland beside the loch – a red admiral I think, though we couldn’t get near enough to check:
St Abb’s Head is home to the nationally rare Northern Brown Argos butterfly and some of the land here is fenced off to protect the Wild Thyme which provides the nectar they need and the Rock Roses on which their caterpillars feed from grazing sheep. Nothing keeps out the rabbits though! There are plenty of those around and they are enormous! We hazard a guess that there are very few rabbit predators around here due to the lack of trees for birds of prey to perch or roost in.
Leaving the Loch we make our way uphill onto moorland where sheep and lambs are enjoying the sunshine.
Number 53 was especially curious about us:
The gorse is in flower here….as always it reminds me of Cornwall, where no doubt the gorse has been flowering since about December!
We also see other spring flowers beginning to show themselves – lots of daisies, dandelion and celandine and a few Common Field-speedwell:
As we pass along the track heading back towards St Abb’s village we pass Northfield Farm run by the National Trust, where lambing is in progress. These tiny, very new ones were taking in the big wild world:
We stop for another cup of tea at the cafe by the National Trust visitor centre and have a wander around Number Four Gallery which sells some lovely local artwork. And then its back along the Creel Path to Coldingham, catching site of a hare on the way: