Tuesday, 31 May 2016

There's quite a lot of talk of the issue of plastic pollution in our oceans at the moment. Much talk of it breaking down in to smaller and smaller pieces but never disappearing, and the effects that has. But even before the plastic breaks down it has the potential to cause harm. In this picture (taken on the cliffs yesterday) you'll see plainly a bit of fishing line picked up and used as nesting material in this shag's nest. It could quite easily entangle or strangle the chicks at the nest even before they get to the sea. Most shag nests have similar plastic items in them. Liza.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Eight ganntes, in four pairs sitting on the west face of Foul Carr today - one sitting on some seaweed...and attempt at a nest perhaps? Guillemots in the vicinity seem to be holding their ground - they may well have chicks, or eggs at the very least. Liza.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Strimming season has officially started here at St Abb’s Head, and we try hard to keep up with the growth of the grass and keep the paths clear throughout the summer.  Unfortunately things have not gone to plan so far!  While cutting the path between the Nature Centre and Starney Bay I was unfortunate enough to strim through some dog poo which was hidden in the vegetation.  The results were not pleasant!  And this was despite me having already checked and picked up several pieces of decomposing poo which were hidden in the vegetation.  And to add insult to injury there was a dog waste bin just seconds away from the scene of the crime!  Please, if you are walking your dog do pick up after them, just because it isn’t lying right in the middle of the path doesn’t mean that it isn’t a health hazard to other people.  Lizy
Freshly strimmed path leading to Starney Bay

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Yesterday afternoon, Jill and me were chatting to Joany from St Abbs Visitor Centre in our reserve car park, and we spotted a stoat rolling an egg across the car park. Didn't get time to take a picture, but here's one off the net that shows exactly what it was doing. Talk about being in the right place at the right time! Liza.

Yesterday morning Jill and myself were out with our volunteers Bill and Ernie. Between the four of us we got lots of little jobs ticked off the list, which is always brilliant. One of the jobs was putting a blocker in where we have diverted the path around some young trees to the south of the Mire Loch. Old habits die hard, so people were continuing to use the old route, ignoring our attempts to redirect their eyes and their direction of travel. So we installed a large turfed mound to break the eyeline and hopefully direct people away from the trees. Time will tell! Liza.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Unusual goings on up at Foul Bay at the moment. Last week Lizy and Jill noticed that some gannets had settled down on Foul Carr (or Muckle Jock, as its known locally) - the biggest stack in Foul Bay. Gannets don't breed at St Abb's Head, and never have (even thought the largest gannet colony in the world is just up the coast at Bass Rock). Gannets have been seen on Foul Carr before, back in 2007 when a number of birds settled on there in early and late June and appeared to be fishing close inshore. Jill noticed yesterday that there appeared to be some nesting material present, so are some birds attempting to build a nest? Lots of gannets around the stack again today, with a number sitting on the stack too. Watch this space - we certainly will be! Liza.

This week saw two students from MSc Napier University start their research work at St Abb's Head and St Abbs. Jenna (picture left) will be looking into what effects (if any) visitors to the area might be having on the breeding seabirds; and Leonie, (pictured right) will be looking at ecotourism in the area - why poeple come etc. You are most likely to see Leonie about as she may approach you asking if you would be willing to fill in a questionannaire, but you may also see Jenna perched on the cliff tops intently watching nesting kittiwakes . Liza.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

The thrift, or sea pinks, were looking very bonny in the afternoon sun today. Liza.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

The Shags are doing well on our monitoring plots here at St Abb’s Head with plenty of chicks hatching out.  In the first photo is a very young chick which the adult is keeping well protected under its wing.  In the second picture are two chicks, a slightly older chick, whose head is peeking out from under the adult’s wing, and a young chick, of which only the rear end is visible.  The young chick looks a little bit like a black, plucked chicken, as it hasn’t yet grown any of the chocolate brown down which its older sibling is sporting.  Lizy.
Small shag chick (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)

Small and larger shag chicks (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)

Friday, 20 May 2016

Loads of kittiwake activity up on the cliffs at the moment - coutrship, territorial disputes, nest building and the first egg was spotted yesterday. Sadly I had to get a photo off the net because we don't seem to have a kittiwake and egg in our photo library (but taking photos for the library is on my to do list this year). Liza.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

There is a great show of our early flowers at the moment - dozens of early purple orchids (purple ones, pink ones and one totally white one) on a slope near Petticowick, as well as loads of primroses. As they are on a a pretty steep slope and they take a bit of finding, here's some photos to give you a sort of virtual tour! Liza.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

I was out and about yesterday morning and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to see a small pod of harbour popoise swimming off the western end of the reserve. Didn't get a picture, but here's one got off the net that shows you nicely what to look out for. A brief glimpse of a grey back with a triangular fin - some describe them as looking like a little spiked wheel brekaing the water surface. The height of the cliffs at St Abb's Head and the panoramic views make it a great place to look out for these and other cetaceans, so keep your eyes peeled, you never know your luck! Liza.
We had another beautiful weekend at St Abb's, this Scarlet Pimpernel looked stunning in the sun. Our first Shag chicks were spotted on Sunday, with around 12 of our regularly monitored nests containing tiny, naked, wrinkled chicks.  They're not very cute by conventional standards, but they definitely have a certain reptilian charm. The adults are keeping them well protected but hopefully we will be able to get some photos soon. Lizy

Scarlet Pimpernel Anagallis arvensis

Friday, 13 May 2016

Look at this totally amazing footage of one comb jelly eating another - I've known for years that it happens, and told hundreds of people about the phenomenon, but never seen it in action so to speak. Comb jellies are some of the larger forms of animal plankton (some can grow up to 15cm long) - we get them in the seas around Britain, so keep your eyes peeled, you never know! Liza.

The Sea Campion (Silene maritima) looks lovely dotted around the cliffs at this time of year. According to folklore, sea campion should never be picked for fear of tempting death. Given the flowers inclination to grow by cliff-tops, this omen appears to be quite apt! Jill

Thursday, 12 May 2016

I was out on the cliffs with researchers from St Andrews and Napier Universities this afternoon helping to install some sound recording devices. The idea is to record changes in seabird vocalisations in response to a number of factors. They have been placed in pretty inaccessible sites, so you shouldn't have to worry out being overheard when you're out and about on the reserve! Liza.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Well - today I am pleased to see that Ecosia, the search engine I have been using recently, has planted 100 trees on my behalf - and all I have done is searched using them instead of one of the better known search engines. Instead of using their advertising income to swell their profits, Ecosia uses it to plant trees. I haven't noticed my search capability being affected either! Why not give it a try and add to the world re-forestation effort? Liza. https://www.ecosia.org/

Monday, 9 May 2016

A day to celebrate at St Abb's Head as finally the first butterfly transect of the year has been carried out! Although the survey period officially starts at the beginning of April, it requires very specific weather conditions for the results to be reliable, and so far the right combination of temperature, wind speed, cloud cover and lack of rain have not been forthcoming! This is important as we are part of the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme which collects data from all over the country, and evaluates how butterflies are doing nationally. As the season is just beginning here, things were a bit slow but I did see 3 Small Coppers and 2 Peacock Butterflies (pictured), all of them on the North/East side of the Mire Loch. Lizy.

Peacock Aglais io

Sunday, 8 May 2016

The Shag breeding season is going well, with some nests holding an impressive 4 eggs (3 seems to be the most common clutch size here). It has been a lot easier to see into the nests today, as instead of sitting tight and incubating the eggs to keep them warm, the adult birds have been standing over the nests, shading them and keeping the eggs cool in this warm weather. The bird in the picture also has its beak open and is panting to try and keep itself cool. Lizy

Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) shading eggs from afternoon sun

Thursday, 5 May 2016

The end of a beautiful sunny day at St. Abb's Head, as seen from Petticowick. Lizy

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

We discovered the start of a tiny wasp's nest in the doorway of our shed this afternoon. As it was very small and there were no wasps around, we removed it. We haven't had wasps in our shed for a couple of years, ever since we installed our "Waspinator", which you can see hanging in the background. It's supposed to look like a wasp's nest and deter other wasps from setting up home. Unfortunately we forgot to put it back up this year which is why the wasps had returned! If you have a problem with recurring wasp nests you might want to give it a try, it seems weird, but it works for us and prevents unfortunate wasp extermination! Lizy

Wasp nest and Waspinator

Why not join us on a seabird cruise?

We run these trips at a different time of year each year to give us a snapshot at different times in the breeding season - this year we have chosen a time when we hope to see guillemot jumplings.

Great to see that we come "highly recommended" in the recently published 12th edition of "Scotland the Best" by Pete Irvine. A nice couple of mentions, not only talking about the wildlife that has led to the multiple nature conservation designations that cover St Abb's Head, but also about the scenery. My favourite bit is "amongst the most dramatic coastal scenery in southern scotland, scary in a wind, rhapsodic on a summer's day". Pretty acurate I'd say! ‪#‎ScotlandtheBest‬

Monday, 2 May 2016

Once again things have started to warm up here at St. Abb’s Head, but will it last this time? Summer migrants are continuing to arrive, with around 10 Blackcaps feeding amongst the Blackthorn blossoms by the Mire Dam yesterday. A summer visitor, freshly arrived from wintering grounds in Southern Europe and Northern Africa, only the male (pictured) has a black cap. The female looks very similar but with a red/orange cap. Lizy.
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla