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St Abb's Head
On the North Sea coast of southern Scotland, St Abb's Head is an exposed rocky headland with high cliffs and stacks that support nationally important breeding colonies of various seabird species.
Part of the area is covered by a National Nature Reserve and away from the the clifftop the reserve also includes grasslands, woodland and scrub and the artificial freshwater Mire Loch.
As well as breeding seabirds the area is ideally located to receive many migrants which often include rarities.
 Notable Species
Seabirds breeding at St Abb's Head include Northern Fulmar(c.160 pairs), European Shag (c.200 pairs), Common Guillemot (c.40,000 birds), Razorbill (c.2,200 birds) and Atlantic Puffin (c.15 pairs), Kittiwake (c.7,500 pairs) and Herring Gull (c.160 pairs).
In addition to seabirds the cliffs and clifftops have nesting Rock Pipit, Raven, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow and Northern Wheatear. Little Grebe, Mute Swan, Moorhen, Coot, Mallard and Tufted Duck breed on the Mire Loch with c.10-15 pairs of Sedge Warbler, 2-3 pairs of Reed Bunting and occasional breeding Reed Warbler.
Seawatching is difficult during the breeding season due to the huge numbers of breeding birds and is best done after the bulk of birds have left in late June. However there is a continuous traffic of Gannet, often amounting to c.5,000/hour.
All species of skuas are observed annually with several hundreds of Arctic Skua and Great Skua reported each year. Around 10-30 Pomarine Skua are seen each year but just one ot two Long-tailed Skua. Manx Shearwater are regular from mid-June in small numbers. The peak is usually in August-September when several tens, and occasionally several hundreds, pass by. Late afternoon and evening are often the best time to watch for them.
Sooty Shearwater are regular from August and upwards of 50-100 birds can be reported ina year. Balearic Shearwater are now annual in tiny numbers and Great Shearwater have been reported and accepted twice.
All of the gulls have been seen but Little Gull are regular in mid-to-late autumn. There have been three records ofMediterranean Gull, Sabine's Gull are almost annual and there are very occasional Glaucous Gull and Iceland Gull.
Terns are steady between July and October, typically Sandwich Tern with smaller numbers of Arctic Tern & Common Tern. Black Tern are fairly uncommon, but almost annual. There is an old record of Lesser Crested Tern, Elsie from the Farne Islands in the 1980s.
A few Red-necked Grebe and Great Crested Grebe are seen each year. Duck also pass in reasonable numbers in autumn - mainly Wigeon, Common Scoter, Velvet Scoter, Teal and Goldeneye. In suitbable conditions Little Auk pass in November, the record being 18,000 in 4 hours in 2007!
Passerines occasionally occur in impressive numbers. As with other east coast sites, an onshore easterly wind, light mist and drizzle are ideal. Heavy rain, allied to the above winds, can produce the more spectacular events.
Birds involve all the commoner species as well as regular Firecrest, Barred Warbler and Yellow-browed Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher and Red-backed Shrike in autumn. Scarcer migrants seen in spring often include Turtle Dove and Wryneck, Black Redstart and Bluethroat.
Northern Gannet can be seen offshore at most times of year joined in winter by divers, Common Eider and Common Scoter whilst the loch holds Eurasian Wigeon and Common Goldeneye. St Abbs Head holds a regular wintering population of Purple Sandpiper.
Rare warblers have included Great Reed Warbler and Aquatic Warbler, Subalpine Warbler and Dartford Warbler, and Pallas's Warbler, Dusky Warbler and Radde's Warbler, and also the Siberian races of Common Chiffchaff and Lesser Whitethroat.
Birds you can see here include:
Red-throated Diver, Black-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Little Grebe, Northern Fulmar, Sooty Shearwater, Manx Shearwater, Northern Gannet, Great Cormorant, European Shag, Mute Swan, Eurasian Wigeon, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Greater Scaup, Common Eider, Long-tailed Duck, Common Scoter, Common Goldeneye, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Purple Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Eurasian Curlew, Common Greenshank, Great Skua, Arctic Skua, Pomarine Skua, Long-tailed Skua, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Black-legged Kittiwake, Common Guillemot, Razorbill, Atlantic Puffin, Little Auk, European Turtle Dove, Common Cuckoo, Eurasian Wryneck, Rock Pipit, Bluethroat, Whinchat, Northern Wheatear, Black Redstart, Common Redstart, Eurasian Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Icterine Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat, Barred Warbler, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Yellow-browed Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Goldcrest, Firecrest, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Red-backed Shrike, Common Magpie, Eurasian Linnet, Common Rosefinch, Yellowhammer
 Other Wildlife
In summer the clifftops are brightened by yellow Birdsfoot Trefoil Lotus corniculatus and Common Rockrose Helianthemum nummularium, pink Thrift Armeria maritima and purple Thyme Thymus serpyllum.
Butterflies attracted to the grassland flowers include Grayling Hipparchia semele and Common Blue Polyommatus icarus as well as several migrant species. Since 1990 Common Darter have colonised the Mire Loch in considerable numbers, and there are indications that Migrant Hawker has become regular with copulation and egg-laying seen.
 Site Information
 Areas of Interest
The best seawatching site is at the Black Gable - the lowest point of the cliffs east of the lighthouse - between the lighthouse hill and Kirk Hill immediately east. Walk right down to the edge of the bare cliffs. The height, about 10m above the sea is ideal. The lighthouse car park is far too high.
The best area for migrants is in the trees and bushes around the Mire Loch - there are various paths throught the thicker vegetation. The area is regularly mist-netted, so please avoid disturbing the ringer's equipment. They are very friendly however and quite approachable.
The lighthouse garden, near the lighhouse car park is also of potential interest as is the Dean - the long strip of woodland between the road and the Mire Loch dam.
 Access and Facilities
Park at Northfield Farm, where there is a visitor centre, open from April to October, and from here it is possible to take a 5km circular walk along the clifftops to the lighthouse and back to the farm via the loch.
Grid Ref: NT914675
 Contact Details
Tel: 018907 71443.
 External Links
Content and images originally posted by Steve