A Week on the Mid-Lothian Coast of East Scotland.

It has been a while I know since I posted anything on the blog: a period of angst regarding the point of it will be a familiar feeling to many who fail to earn their millions from such a pastime. And who could possibly care about the latest picture of yet another woodpecker at Calke Abbey or the Pintails at Slimbridge...

Actually, I am and so are just a few others according to the stats of this thing; surprising really if they are to be believed.

So, on to the week we spent around North Berwick (down and right a bit from Edinburgh) last month looking for some new (to us) sea-ducks and hoping to get some good images of the more familiar denizens of the Winter coastline. O yes - and the Purple Sandpipers promised on the rocks outside the North Berwick Harbour in the late afternoon....

We had never visited this part of Scotland before so were unsure what to expect although our son (of mylifeoutside.com) had visited a couple of years earlier and reported that it was a birding hotspot. We were not to be disappointed with the sound of hundreds of pink-footed geese roosting in fields near our rented cottage on the evening we arrived and many more flying overhead every subsequent evening thereafter! There were even the occasional family of Whooper Swans to be seen in the fields as we drove to and from the courage in the mornings as well. Not a bad start at all...

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Pink-footed Geese in the evening sun.

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Whooper Swans.
Our first outing was to Aberlady Bay to check-out the coastline in the area and were instantly impressed by the sheer numbers of coastline birds as the high tide brought them near to the clearly-marked paths. Wigeon, curlew, oystercatchers, eider, redshanks, and turnstones were at relatively close quarters and could be photographed without disturbance. The sun even shone on most days in this area of relative dryness.

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Eider waiting for the tide. 139a_412

It is also worth noting that the impressive new Forth Road Bridge is visible from the coast here through binoculars as the new structure catches the sunlight.

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The Forth Rail and new Road Bridges from Aberlady Bay.
Roe Deer are often seen here as well - worth remembering in the evening when driving! These are a species that are almost impossible to see clearly in the South where we live so were a welcome addition to our wild-life sightings.
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Roe Deer.

In the end, we revisited this part of the coast several times, finally discovering Purple Sandpipers among the Turnstones at Black Rocks just East of The Aberlady Bay NR.
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Further West is the town of Musselborough and the coastline     walk (known as 'The John Muir Way' who was born here) to the pools remaining after the decommissioning and demolition of the local power station. One of the pools has been re-profiled to provide scrapes that are frequented by hundreds of oystercatchers and black-tailed godwits at high tide. We were repeatedly brought to a standstill by flock after flock of oystercatchers and godwits flying in to roost above our heads. The miss of the holiday was a beautiful male Red-breasted Merganser who flew past - I took so long to realise what he was that it was too late to press the shutter button...

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The River Esk runs through the middle of Musselborough and provides a great opportunity to see birds close-up either on the river itself or at the interface between river and sea. Goldeneyes were plentiful here - and swam TOWARDS the camera for a change. I like gulls - and welcomed the plentiful numbers of Herring Gulls loafing around in the shallow waters of the river. (We had hoped to see Scoters on this walk but were not to be lucky as the wind was in the wrong direction). Wigeon were plentiful here also feeding at the mouth of the river.

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As mentioned in the introduction to this piece of random jottings, Purple Sandpipers were a key target for the metaphorical 'tick' of the birder and an early evening drive to North Berwick Harbour yielded great views of the birds hunkered down against the strong (and cold) on-shore wind just beyond the concrete break-water. The monopod came in handy as did the 1.4x multiplier here!

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Purple Sandpipers at North Berwick Harbour.
Bass Rock is famous for the huge Gannet Colony and we felt an afternoon walk East from North Berwick along the sandy beach towards The Briggs of Fidra to view the rock and feeding sea-birds. A Weasel running alongside us as we returned to the car along the edge of the golf course was a great end to the day as well.

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Purple Sandpiper.
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Saint Abb's Head is under the protection of the National Trust of Scotland and is worth a visit on a windy day just for the views of the cliffs and crashing waves below. This was the one place where we spied both Common and Surf Scoters in the distance completely  unfazed by the 20 foot waves. During the Summer there is a sea-bird colony that can be viewed easily and safely (for both human and bird) from the path although no-one was home during our visit at this time of year of course: the highlight was the Grey Seals with pups on the bays below the lighthouse is clear view of the path - no need to get too close for a great view of these loveable creatures. A warden is on-hand to guard against idiots...

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St. Abb's Head.
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Grey Seal and pup feeding.
And finally, my favourite picture of the week; a male Common Eider defying the waves that insisted on washing him from his chosen rock...

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Male Eider.

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