Week ending: 4th February: Barns Ness, Dunbar Harbour and Belhaven Bay
Yet another wet and wind Sunday was predicted for Central Scotland and the best chance of
dodging the rain was in the east - hence I chose to visit Barns Ness, which is just east of Dunbar.
We stopped off at Dalkeith Morrisons before we reached the M1, and enjoyed a couple of small
breakfasts (9.5/10: very good meals but the service was a bit on the slow side).
When we arrived at Barns Ness, the tide was low and falling and there was no rain, but it was
fairly breezy. When I was paying my car park fees through RingGo, I heard a skein of geese, most
probably Pink-footed Geese, flying past in the distance.
We made our way to the shore, which is adjacent to the car park, and John spotted that there
were quite a few small waders foraging the damp sands and rocks.
A large Carrion Crow stood a few metres from us as it raked through a small seaweed pile that
was on the grassy foreshore. A Common Gull was standing on the sands among the hard-working
Dunlins. About 40m out a pair of Shelducks were paddling and dabbling in shallow water
just beyond them, a tiny Little Grebe was diving. A pair of Mallards also came paddling into
view from behind some rocks.
John noticed a sizeable flock of birds taking flight from the shore adjacent to the lighthouse. They
circled the bay for a short time before disappearing to the east.
I managed a few shots when the GoldenPlovers came closest from which I could see that they
were indeed Golden Plovers. The Dunlins too were flighty, as were the few Oystercatchers we
could see. Also, John spotted a Curlew poking about the shallow pools.
John, whose eye was most definitely in, also noticed a Skylark, crest raised, standing on
the sandy beach a few metres away from us. The Shelducks we’d seen earlier paddled much
closer allowing a better photo to be taken. We moved east from the very productive first shore
and expected to see the Golden Plover flock on the rocky shore by the lighthouse, how we were
disappointed. I did though manage a pleasing shot of a passing Shag, thanks to an early
warning of its approach from John.
Looking far out into the North Sea we could just make out the wind turbines of the Neart na
Gaoithe offshore wind farm.
I snapped a Herring Gull in flight over the exposed rocks of the shore to the east of the lighthouse.
Meanwhile John caught sight of a Male Stonechat that was hunting for invertebrates in the piles
of rotting seaweed that littered the sandy beach. Next I got photographs of a Carrion Crow and a
Great Black-backed Gull as they flew over the rocks.
|Great Black-backed Gull
It had not rained up until this point, but we noticed that Torness Power Station, about a mile and a
half to the east was becoming less visible as it became enveloped in drizzle.
We persevered with our exploration of the shore and thank goodness we did because John and
his binoculars found a small flock of Bar-tailed Godwits. Like the Dunlins we’d seen, they were
busily working the shallows. The poor light and annoying drizzle worsened so we headed back to
the car, photographing some Gorse flowers and Scots Pine cones on the way.
We drove to the relatively sheltered Dunbar Harbour to see if any other creatures had the same
idea. We parked at the harbour’s edge and I managed a shot of a Herring Gull with a quizzical
look and also an immature Herring Gull in the water below. We ventured over to the opposite side
of the harbour to the Battery but we only saw a couple birds there: a distant drake Eider and a
passing Cormorant. Back at the car we noticed Eiders paddling into the harbour, enabling some
pleasing close shots. John’s day was made when “Sammy” the Grey Seal surfaced metres from
where we were standing. It was showing an interest in the small fishing boats from which
fishermen were throwing scraps of food.
We ended the afternoon at Belhaven Bay. We parked at the Shore Road car park where we
intended only to have our usual tea and Strawberry Tarts. However, while I was preparing the tea,
John noticed that there was a Little Egret standing in the grassy saltmarsh adjacent to
where our car was parked. The Egret was commuting between the marsh and a drainage ditch/
burn where it was able to fish when undisturbed by passers-by and their dogs. While watching
the Egret I snapped some record shots of other birds on the exposed sands of the inner bay: a
pair of Oystercatchers, a Redshank and some dabbling Teal. A Grey Heron flew over the sands
from the Seafield Pond (not visited due to poor light). I captured an image of a Redshank passing
the Little Egret as it stood on the marsh, shortly before it took off and flew towards the nearby
Winterfield golf course.
When the Little Egret flew off, we proceeded with the teas and strawberry tarts. We reflected on
the visit and agreed that we had seen a good variety of species (24 seen) despite the rain and
poor light. For me, the Little Egret, Golden Plovers, Grey Seal and Godwits were the highlights.
Surely we’re due a Sunday with sunny weather (not according to the weather apps, sadly - but
wellbeing I hope.