The guided walk at St Abbs

Guided Walk at St Abbs Head – June 2023

I was back at St Abbs Head June 7th 2023 leading my regular walk for Berwickshire Marine Reserve.

Eight of us set out from St Abbs to explore the National Nature Reserve on a chilly evening. We started off by seeing two beautiful hares and a kestrel in the field behind the Church, There were plenty of house martins flying overhead, identified by their white rump and a shorter tail than the swallows. There were good numbers around the cliffs all walk.

As ever we spent a lot of time at "seabird city" and we learned how to identify a fulmar from gulls (different wing to body ratio), razorbills from guillemots (colour, bill shape and habit) and shags from cormorants (colour, crest and way of diving.

Ranger Sarah is a big fan of kittiwakes and she told us more about their lifestyle. I am a big fan of gannets and so, with plenty of daylight, we went the longer route up to the lighthouse and were pleased to see several pairs of gannets on the cliffs as well as many out to sea. On the way up to the lighthouse we identified a small flock of linnets and then we managed to spot a peregrine falcon on the cliff  - it was very obliging and everyone got a good view. Depending on your perspective, the view across to Bass Rock, Isle of May and the Fife coast we enjoyed from the lighthouse, was possibly the highlight of the walk - with the cloud clearing to the north, the light was magical.


We had seen plenty of lovely plants too: sea kale, birds foot trefoil, vetches, thrift, rock rose (food for the northern argus butterflies which should be flying soon), pignut, bell heather and beside the road down from the lighthouse a good patch of northern marsh orchids. A brief walk besides the Mire Loch added a few more birds to the list: tufted ducks, mute swan, little grebe, moorhen and a family of mallards. The walk back along the road was very convivial as everyone was getting along  famously and we were pleased to be serenaded by a yellowhammer. It was not a good night for butterflies as it was too cold, but there were a few moths flying, including a potential dew moth, which has been recorded locally.

I really enjoy leading these walks as everyone has different bits of knowledge which we all share - we had quite a chat about different theories around the shape of the guillemots eggs for example and attendees know far more than me about local history and geology.

A massive thanks to Peter Lyth for the photos.

Nesting razorbills
Nesting Razorbills
Shags on a nest
Shags on a nest