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Sticking to what you know (1 Viewer)

Not much birding last weekend due to Scout Leader duties, but there was enough in the garden and round about to keep the dark clouds away. Previously, though, did get the chance of a day away in the exotic North- east of Scotland.

Now, I'm not much of a sea watcher, and fields/ moors/ forests are very much my comfort zone- my 'happy place' I go to when the dark clouds gather, but a seabird city visit is a must, I feel, for any birder at least once a year. My first experience of such a place was Fowlsheugh RSPB a few years ago, which set the tone. Logistics have prevented a return since then, and I was restricted to St Abb's Head in the South East and Seaton Cliffs SWT in Arbroath. Neither site matched my experience of Fowlsheugh- this may be Scottish birding heresy but St Abb's head with its rabid packs of dog walkers was particularly disappointing. This year, I decided, would be different- I WOULD return to Fowlsheugh.

I have been told that there are other, better such sites in Scotland, Troup Head for example. Distance and logistics limit my travels, though, and Fowlsheugh is probably at the limit of 'day trip' distance.

Like most GreenSand trips, it was not without incident and went far from smoothly. My Sat Nav is now self- aware and hell- bent on destruction and took me nowhere near the reserve. Spent a pleasant hour (and a shed- load of petrol) travelling up and down the coast before finally finding it. Once there, the effort was more than worth it. Unless you have visited such a sight, the initial assault on the senses cannot be truly explained. the scream of kittiwakes hits you like a wall of noise, but subtly underneath the singing of skylarks acts as a counterpoint to the harshness of the seabirds calling. There are too many birds perched impossibly, precariously on the cliffs to easily focus on any single one, and the smell is probably best left undescribed.

I had set out with some targets over and above the seabirds I expected to get. First and foremost, Linnet (or lack of this year) was becoming an embarrassment, and I knew that there was plenty of terrain ideal for them. Also, house martin had stuck somewhere in my mind as being a possible tick. But more than that, I wanted to immerse (possibly not the best word for a coastal site) myself in the bird life of the area.

My late start (shock, horror) and sat nav issues meant I arrived just as the reserve became busy. Putting the dog walkers and day trippers out of my mind, I walked steadily along the clifftop, staying as far away from the edge as possible and still being on the reserve. (I can neither fly, nor swim, so the edge was not a good place to be) Fulmar, guillemot and razorbill were quickly ticked, along with common, LBB and herring gull. Eider, shag and cormorant, and finally a pair of linnet carrying nesting material. No puffins, but I wasn't expecting any, but did get a stonechat in the gorse at the start of the reserve.

Despite the throng of people, though, there was something fulfilling about just being there.

Only an hour and a half on site, I still had plenty of time to fit in another site. Last year's trip to Balgavies Loch SWT had stuck in my mind for the life- best views of osprey. Surely it would be worth a detour on the way back?

to be continued....
 

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