Looking out to sea on the guided walk at St Abbs

St Abb’s Head in June – Guided Walk

I was back at St Abbs Head in June to lead a second walk on behalf of the Berwickshire Marine Reserve.

This time we met with 8 people for the walk including the two new summer Rangers from BMR. We took pretty much the same route as we did in May, just returning by a different path.

Whilst the sea birds were the headline act of the May walk, this time we were turning our attention to butterflies - specifically the Northern Brown Argus, a rare butterfly that can be found at the St Abbs Head National Nature Reserve.

We identified male common blues and female common blues (which are brown!) but kept on searching for the Northern Brown Argus. There was plenty of rock rose in bloom, their larval food, so we searched that area to no avail. Then the ranger from the NNR tipped us off that they were flying well on the east side of The Mire, so we all spread out to search. We had still not identified one when we reached Pettico Wick at the farthest edge of the reserve, so instead of returning by road as we had in May, we took an alternative route along the opposite side of the Mire.

A quick look in my butterfly guide reminded me the the NBA is a tiny butterfly, smaller than the common blue. With this information we were finally able to see some brown butterflies with a white wing spot - the Northern Brown Argus. We had perhaps seen some earlier, but I had mis-identified them as female blues, illustrating well the difference of seeing and identifying a species.

Bird Life

In terms of sea birds, as to be expected at St Abbs Head in June, we had some excellent views of gannets out to sea in fishing parties and fulmars, razorbills, guillemots, kittiwakes and vociferous immature shags all on the cliffs. Watching them was tinged with sadness as avian flu seems to be moving down the coast with a number of birds being washed up on the shore.

Other ornithological highlights were a male kestrel and the best view any of us had ever had of a yellowhammer. On the Mire mute swans had cygnets and there were plenty of mallard, tufted ducks and little grebes.

Flora and fauna

Although the thrift and campions were over, there were plenty of vetches, trefoils, pignut and eyebright on display. We also spotted a single spotted orchid and several patches of northern marsh orchids.

As we were all tuned into butterflies and moths we were pleased to identify chimney sweeper, brimstone and five spot burnet moths plus wall and small heath butterflies.

Everyone was very happy with what we had seen on the walk, so look out for future dates.

Featured Image photo credit: Lauren Nieuwenhuys

Guillemots on the Cliffs at St Abbs
Guillemots on the cliffs. Photo by Lauren Nieuwenhuys
rock rose and thrift
Perfect habitat for the the northern brown argus butterfly. Photo By Lauren Nieuwenhuys
northern marsh orchids
Northern marsh orchids
Walkers at St Abbs
Enjoying the walk. Photo by Lauren Nieuwenhuys
mute swan family feeding
Mute swan family. Photo by Lauren Nieuwenhuys

I'll Be Back

More Guided walks planned in 2023.

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