Wednesday, 31 August 2016

This evening we started some essential repair work on the coast path above Starney Bay (the first bay along from St Abbs village). Over the last couple of years were have had a series of small landslips that have been nibbling away at our land and threatening the coast path. This has been of great concern to us and we have been having many discussions behind the scenes with engineers, rope access contractors, footpath experts, drainage experts and our neighbours at Northfield Farm. Today, at last, we have been able to start work to try and solve this issue and safeguard the coast path.

What we are doing is installing new, deep, drains in Northfield Farm's field to pick up the old land drains that don't seem to be able to be up to the job any more, and take the water underneath the coast path and off the cliff. We didn't want to have to close the path as its so popular, so we decided to do the work in the evening when less people use it. Our plan worked, we only had to down tools once to escort people through, and by 8pm we had the stretch under the coast path laid and backfilled. Work will carry on in the field for the next day or so, which means there will be a bit of noise, but the path is free for you to use again.

We have cordoned off the area nearest the cliff edge, just to give the ground time to settle and with the hope that we might have time for it to grass up a little before the autumn. Which leads to a question I bet is on many people's lips - why do the work in August, one of the busiest times of year? The answer is simple - we had to wait until the field was harvested - not a time we would have chosen I assure you.

I really hope that this has solved the issue. We will keep a close eye on things over the winter, and if we have no further landslips, we will be able to open up the path down to Starney Beach again (we have had to close it as it passes directly beneath the area of landslips). Fingers crossed! Liza.


Managed to get a few photos of one of the three Minke Whales just off the lighthouse this morning. I watched them for about an hour as they swam around feeding. They were surrounded by Gannets, Shags, and several Grey Seals, all busy feeding. Minke Whales and Bottlenose Dolphins have now been reported here nearly every day for the last 4 days, so if you've always wanted to see one now is possibly the time! Lizy

Minke Whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Yesterday I was down at St Mary's Lighthouse at Whitley Bay with some friends - to see the lighthouse, and the tall ships and the seals. We had a lovely time, but unfortunatley there were no seals hauled out on the rocks and just a few to be seen in the sea off the rocks. Sadly this is due to human disturbance; much of it being folk who go especially to see the seals - such a shame.
However, we did bump into some of the brilliant local people people who volunteer as St Mary's Seal Watch. When the tide is out they man the area and chat to folk making them aware of the potential consequences of their actions. When we were chatting, I found out that what they could really do with (apart from more enthuisastic volunteers, obviously) is more binoculars and telescopes. Luckily, we happen to have some that we were using up until this season, when we got a donation to buy some new ones. I have been hanging on to the old ones, wondering what I could do with them, and I am pleased to say that we can now pass them on to an(other) good cause!

Brilliant to make that connection too, seals don't just stick in one area, they wander over quite large distances, and it could well be that some of our breeding seals go down there for thier summer holidays! Liza.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Remember mini me? Well, s/he is definitley not mini any more and, s/he's adult size now but still has a few downy feathers left. It won't be long before s/he fledges and disappears out to sea where s/he will travel long distances and not return to land to breed until s/he is at least 6 years old, maybe as old as 12. Fulmars play the long game, they are the oldest living of British seabirds, most live to be about 30 years old, but the oldest bird recorded in Britain was 50! Mini me's parents are still around and feeding him/her. Once s/he has fledged they will head out to sea themselves for a month or so, before coming back onto the cliffs around November. Liza.

Friday, 26 August 2016

The garden of the Ranger's Cottage/Office is buzzing with life at the moment. We let what once were lawns in the gamekeeper's garden, grow free and they have blossomed into fabulous meadows, which we cut once a year and remove the cuttings. They're rich with all sorts of flowers throughout the season, but at this time of year its purple with black knapweed. This is a really important late nectar source for insects like butterflies, bees and hoverflies. Pictured is a peacock having a refuel. Liza.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

I was out on the cliffs this afternoon to check to see how many fulmar chicks we have ready to fledge (not many...but that's another story) and I saw a pod of bottle-nosed dolphins about 100m offshore at Nunnery Point. The lucky people on a trip with Eyemouth RIB Trips saw them even closer. A minimum of 8 of them, including a calf. It was so still up there I could even hear them breathe, fabulous! Not easy to get a shot of though! Liza.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

This young Roe Deer was spotted just outside our office the other morning. You can just make out a few pale, white spots above the back leg, the last remains of its baby markings. When young Roe Deer are first born they rely on camouflage and lying very still to protect themselves, but this older fawn had definitely found its legs, judging by the speed it ran off at when it noticed it was being watched! Lizy Smith

Roe Deer fawn Capreolus capreolus

Monday, 15 August 2016

Latest butterfly sightings: I spotted this Northern Brown Argus on the butterfly transect this morning, right next to the Mire Dam, a week later than the species was recorded last year. If you were planning to come and see them this year then this is your last chance! Other species seen today include Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Green-veined White, Small White, Small Copper, Ringlet, Meadow Brown and Grayling. A Common Blue was also spotted yesterday. Lizy

Northern Brown Argus Aricia artaxerxes

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

As the seabird breeding season draws to an end, its starting to get quite quiet up on the cliffs. There are still a few juvenile kittiwakes about, looking very smart with their black neck rings and wing stripes. Also, if you look carefully you may see balls of grey fluff hunkered down on out of the way ledges - these will be fulmar chicks, which still have some way to go before leaving. Then down on the rocks by the water's edge you will see groups of junvenile shags sitting around. The very apt collective noun for a group of shags is a hangout, I understand! Liza.

Very smart juvenile kittiwakes, although they are large enough to fly and be independent, you might still see them trying their luck and begging for food from a parent.

You remember mini-me from a few weeks ago? Well, its not so mini compared to its parent now, but will still be about on the cliffs for a couple of weeks yet before its ready to leave.

Shags, hanging out!

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Necessity is indeed the mother of invention - here's Jill doing some tracing for some activity sheets for next week's St Abbs Science Day at the Ebba Centre (Wed 10th, 10.30am - 4pm). We don't have anything as snazzy as a light box, so we've constructed one using a desk lamp, a secondary glazing panel and two piles of books. Works a treat! Liza.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Bob Brown, the NTS's Upland Path Manager, and Duncan Stevenson, our Countryside Advisor came for a site visit today.  We were undertaking a footpath audit for the property as well as disucssing all sorts of other access, education and enjoyment issues. Bob ordered sun (he works in the Highlands mostly) and I'm pleased to say that Mother Nature was obliging. Liza.

The hot sunny weather sometimes gets a bit too much for the seabirds on the cliffs, especially the down-covered chicks. Not being able to sweat they have to pant to keep cool, like this fulmar chick I took a photo of out on the cliffs yesterday. Liza.