Friday, 29 April 2016

What's up with the weather? Sun and no wind yesterday morning, snow yesterday evening and today its blowing a hoolie. The seabirds are just beginning to settle on the cliffs - shags and herring gulls on eggs, and a few guillemots too. But when the going gets tough, like today, if the seabirds are not committed to staying on the cliffs (like, they have eggs or chicks) they will head out to see. So the cliffs are a tad more sparsely pupulated today than yesterday. And who can blame them, when you see what the wind is doing to the waterfall at Westerside Dean, west of Petticowick. It looks like it stops halfway down the cliff, but actually what is happeing is that the wind is blowing the water round in a circle and back on itself. Notice the white cloud just abouve the burn? Thats the water thats been blown back up! Liza.

Monday, 25 April 2016

A good start to the 2016 pothole repair season

Winter has returned to St Abb's Head today, and it's hard to believe that just last Wednesday our volunteers were out enjoying the glorious sunshine and repairing some of the potholes in the lighthouse road. Thanks to Ernie, Jill and Jean (pictured) and Bill. Lizy.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

On Thursday Lizy, Jill and myself went to the Isle of May be meet with colleagues from the Centre of Ecology and Hydrology and Scottish Natural Heritage and discuss seabird monitoring. To save having to drive all the way round to Anstruther, we took the RIB from North Berwick (which meant we could meet up with other bird conservationsists from the Scottish Seabird Centre too). A beautiful day, calm and clear. Early days for the birds on the May to be on the cliffs in full numbers, but there were a fair few about; and the Bass was absolutely jawdroppingly stunning as always. We are so lucky to live on a stretch of coast that has such a diversity of wonderful seabird experiences to offer - Coquet Island, The Farnes, St Abb's Head, Bass Rock and the Isle of May. I can't think of any other bit of coast in the UK that has such an abundance and a variety of seabird spectacles in such a small area. Liza.
The birds that everyone wants to see!

Spectacular cliffs on May - and one of the two lighthouses

The white is not guano - its gannets, 150,000 pairs of them.

Our largest seabird, with a 6 ft wingspan, they are stunning creatures

Until last year - the St Kilda archipelago (which is owned by the National Trust for Scotland, don't you know) held the accolade of being the largest gannet colony in the world. A count done of the birds at the Bass last year, using aerial photography, put them a nose in front, so now they are the biggest colony.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Do you remember that last year we had a film crew at the Head filming a chase scene for a remake of Whisky Galore? Well, details of the world premier have just been announced - the closing night of the Edinburgh International Film Festival in late June. Here's link to the EIFF webpage which shows a wee trailer, and gives you an opportunity to book tickets should you fancy going. Liza.
Lizy, Jill and I were out on the clifftops on Wednesday afternoon scanning for the fist guillemot egg - Jill got the prize! The shags have been on eggs for a few weeks now, and are looking splendid with fresh plummage and their head tufts of feathers (from whence they get their name). All sorts of fantastic behavious going on up there - courtship, mating, territoriality, nest building, predation. Fabulous! Liza.

Monday, 18 April 2016

A pair of stoats were spotted outside our office this morning, investigating our woodpiles and compost heaps for small rodents. You can also see weasels here at St Abb's Head, they are much smaller than stoats and lack the bushy black tail tip, modeled so fetchingly by the stoat in this photo. In fact the two species are weaselly told apart, as they are stoatally different. Lizy.

Stoat  Mustela erminea

Sunday, 17 April 2016

It wasn't just birds seen on the early morning Common Bird Census this morning, I also spotted a couple of Roe Deer feeding in the brambles around the Mire Loch.  Lizy.

Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus

Thursday, 14 April 2016

We had our staff start of season meeting today, and, as is now the tradition, we went to visit another site relatively close by. To look at the site, see how it is managed, and see if there's any ideas we can bring back to St Abb's Head. This year we went to Low Newton - a reknowned Northumbrian beauty spot and nature reserve, which, like us, is visited by tens of thousands of people a year. Low Newton and the Newton Pool Nature Reserve, are owned and managed by our sister organisation, The National Trust.

We were lucky with the weather, just a bit of drizzle, but it didn't dampen our spirits, and a good day was had by all. Here's a picture of our motley crew, from left to right: Jill Grozier, Lizy Smith, Margaret Renstead, Jack Laws, Liza Cole, Jean Bennet, Ernie Cox and Fran Evans. Behind the camera was Bill Longden, who doesn't like to have his picture taken.


Friday, 8 April 2016

More signs of spring down the Mire Loch - willlow catkins, various trees in bud and some of the buds bursting into life. Also a lot of wheatears passing through - good to see. Liza.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

The seabird breeding season has officially started here at St Abb's Head, with the first Shag eggs spotted yesterday while we were out monitoring their nests. Five eggs were spotted at various sites along the coast, although the birds were keeping things close to their chests, so we weren't able to get a picture. The adults birds are looking very fine at this time of year, and in the picture below you can see the distinctive tuft of feathers on their head which is where the name "Shag" comes from.  Lizy.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

We went to check out a young seal on the beach at Horsecastle Bay today. It had be reported to us by a visitor concerned about its welfare. I'm pleased to say that it was very alert and it looked fit and well, so we left it be. Seals do quite a lot of lying around on beaches - its just if they look injured, unwell, or very underweight that they are of concern. Lovely to see them when they do, but don't go too close as this will stress them out, and or you might get bitten! Liza.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Rambling Brambling

It might technically be spring but it doesn't feel like it today! Although the official butterfly monitoring season started on Friday temperatures are still too low for us to start our surveys (a minimum of 13 degrees Celsius and at least 60% sun is needed!). There are some benefits to this cold weather though, including the charming Brambling spotted on the feeder by the office. Typically a winter visitor to the UK, this bird can easily be confused with a Chaffinch from a distance, so check any birds you see carefully when you walk around the reserve. Lizy

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Walking above Starney Bay today the primroses (Primula vulgaris) were looking lovely on the grassy slopes.

If you take a closer look at the primroses you see you will notice that there are two different types of flower, Pin and Thrum:

Thrum flower on the left, Pin flower on the right
This is a clever adaptation that some plants have to make sure there is more cross pollination and therefore genetic diversity.  The thrum flowers have the male parts of the plant, the anthers, at the top of the flower tube, with the female part, the stigma is half way down.  The pin flowers have the stigma at the top, and the anthers half way down.  Primroses are a good early nectar source for insects, and the idea is that when they stick their feeding apparatus, or proboscis, down into the flower the pollen from the anthers will get stuck at a certain place on the proboscis.  For example after visiting a thrum flower, the pollen would get stuck at the top of the proboscis, since the anthers are at the top of the flower tube.  If the insect then visited a pin flower, with the receptive stigma at the top, the pollen would be in the perfect place to rub off and fertilize the plant! 

Next time you pass a clump of primroses, why not see if you can spot the two different types of flower?  Lizy