Inter-tidal Incidents – a North Berwick break Part One

For Team Sausage August usually means a visit to Scotland for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This year we were staying the week just outside the hustle and bustle of festival Edinburgh in North Berwick. We had a fine few days there last Easter as this post shows. In an effort to break up the intensity of the Fringe Festival, we decided to dedicate a few days to exploring the North Berwick beaches.

Our first day (Wednesday 16th) was blessed with some very un-Scottish sunshine and warm temperatures. We began at West Bay and despite the fact that low tide was still some way off the beach was already pockmarked with some nautical detritus.

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These are Lion’s Mane jellyfish, and the more the sea receded, the more victims it would strand.

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The shoreline on Milsey Bay was a joy to stroll along, warm sunshine and a light breeze making for perfect conditions. Mrs Sausage paused for some brief rock-pooling and took these pictures of seaweed gently swaying under the crystal clear sea.

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Our beach-combing also brought us this skull which I think is a former Gannet.

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We also had this solo Sand Hopper or Sand Flea pay a visit to Mrs Sausage boot.

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The far end of the beach at Milsey Bay saw a flurry of bird activity. Brilliant white arrow-shaped Gannets were making their way in small flocks from Bass Rock towards the Isle Of May while Shags skimmed the waves in their typical low-level flights. Landward, we had a flock of House Sparrow and a good number of Pied Wagtails. The juveniles in particular were quite accommodating to the camera.

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We had bold intentions of walking from North Berwick along the John Muir Way to Tantallon Castle. Ultimately we didn’t make the full journey as we were constantly stopping to enjoy a whole range of engaging and interesting sights. We skirted the Glen Golf Course and we were joined by a variety of day moths and butterflies, all eluding the camera. This Meadow Pipit was spotted hiding in the rough though and some patient pausing allowed a few shots.

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The beaches below the John Muir Way were largely people free and we made our way down to one quiet spot for our picnic and to investigate. The birds here seemed most uninterested in our presence. This Black-headed Gull was un-moved by my approach.

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A rocky strip immediately in front of our sandy spot was home to a congregation (collective noun alert) of Ringed Plover and a single eclipse plumage Eider.

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Closer scanning revealed not only the dull-coloured adult – taking to the water was this circumspect juvenile as well.

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The adult watched as the young bird earned its sea legs / wings and leisurely swam around the secluded bay.

We had just finished our picnic when something caught my eye. Flashing past us next to the cliff face was a small creamy-brown blur of a bird. I managed to grab my bins just in time to follow it and watch it land on some rocks. Wheatear! With some careful stalking I managed to get close enough to take a few record shots.

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It was something of a surprise to catch this summer visitor on the beach at North Berwick. This particular bird seemed to have already changed into its autumn plumage so perhaps was at the beginning of its long journey south. A cracking find on what was already a pretty rewarding day.

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As the sun continued to shine warm and bright into the afternoon the Bass Rock was glistening brightly. Whitewashed by the sheer number of one of the UK’s largest Gannet colonies at peak breeding time.

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With the tide now way out, fresh pieces of virgin beach were being revealed and access to some previously inaccessible rocks was now possible. We made our way onto the largest of these as we had seen the Ringed Plover making frequent sorties here.

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Some were very obliging subjects, albeit at a distance.

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This outcrop was also home to a good sized flock of Linnets too. A little more skittish than the Plovers though, they proved a little trickier to pin down for a portrait. We beachhopped our way slowly back towards North Berwick proper. Along the way this bold Meadow Pipit posed briefly. I had hopes it may have been a Rock Pipit but there’s no doubt this is a Meadow. We have seen these birds very frequently this year, both at Staines Moor and Cranford Park and it would seem that it has been a good year for this species.

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By far the most frequent piece of wildlife we found though were the stranded jellyfish. The main beach at North Berwick was strewn with stranded flat umbrella like creatures.

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Again it was the Lion’s Mane that were most prolific although they were of varying sizes. We dropped a 10p piece next to some in order to give some sort of scale. As you can see, some of these were of considerable size, larger than dinner plates. We counted a good dozen on the main beach as we neared the end of our long walk.

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It was a day that brought some unexpectedly pleasant sightings in some fantastic weather. With our next day full of Fringe shows to see, we decided that there was more to be seen along the coasts and set Friday aside to explore a little more of this corner of Scotland.

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