A couple of birdy trips and a gentle potter about

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andreadawn
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A couple of birdy trips and a gentle potter about

Post by andreadawn » Thu Aug 01, 2013 4:33 pm

The little town of North Berwick was almost deserted when I set off from Milsey Bay to paddle out to Bass Rock, in complete contrast to my return later. First, I headed out to Craigleith with its noisy colonies of kittiwakes and auks.
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Rounding the north east corner of the island there was a fine view back to North Berwick Law behind the town.
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Since wind and tide were both going my way, I didn’t need to paddle much as I headed east towards Bass Rock. I mostly just drifted along watching the gannets diving. Image

I had intended spending a lot of time just drifting around the rock watching the birds, but the wind was funnelling around it in such a way that I had to paddle continuously. It was only a force four westerly but there seemed to be nowhere that was sheltered from it. There were some particularly fierce downdraughts close in to the cliffs and I didn’t feel comfortable putting my paddle down for much of the time. I was still able to enjoy the sight, sound and smell of so many seabirds though.
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The sandy beach at Seacliff was very busy but few people ventured along the rocky shore to the west to see the tiny harbour cut into the rocks at The Gegan. A short distance away I squeezed through some narrow natural gaps in the rocks to find a perfect secluded picnic spot.
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After lunch it was time for a lengthy spell of rockpooling with a view of Tantallon Castle. Pottering about on the shore is something I never grow tired of. I grew up beside the sea and have lived on the coast all my life. I wonder how much of it has been spent doing this sort of thing? I could easily live without sea kayaking if I had too, but I’d really struggle without a regular dose of just staring into rockpools or sifting through the debris of the strandline.
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On my return, North Berwick was crowded, and I was glad to escape from the town after having some fun trying to extricate my van from the parking space. I headed south to the wonderful coast of Northumberland; the Farne Islands my destination.

A forecast of light winds was good; occasional fog not so good. As it was set to clear as the day went on I set off anyway from the beach at St Aidan’s Dunes just to the north of Seahouses. None of the islands were visible but the fog slowly cleared and Inner Farne emerged ahead.
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It was only a very brief clearance though and I crossed Staple Sound and meandered around Brownsman and Big and Little Harcar in very poor visibility. The sound of boat engines was alarmingly close at times but I reasoned that any sensible person piloting a boat around the Farnes in such poor visibility would at least be going very slowly. Eventually the Longstone lighthouse came into view where expected.
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I had intended to land on the beach adjacent to the lighthouse but there were several seals in residence so my intended early lunch was cancelled.
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Instead I headed round the outside of Longstone and back into dense fog. Just as I was about to enter a tide race at the south end of the island a huge grey seal bull took an interest in my stern toggle and grabbed it in its mouth several times. I could have done without this distraction as I entered an area of very chaotic water in dense fog. I was hoping to cross back to Staple Island to visit The Pinnacles but as the ebb was now running very hard, I gave up after half an hour of paddling on the spot and allowed the tide to carry me back through the gap between Little Harcar and Clove Car and around the north side of the Wamses. As the fog finally cleared for good I was then able to eddy hop south through Staple Sound before a final sprint round the south end of Staple to reach The Pinnacles. I love the way the calls of the Kittiwakes echo around this little amphitheatre. Even the approach of a posse of tour boats couldn’t spoil it.
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I finally got my lunch on Inner Farne where I had to join the crowds for a wander round. This does at least provide some excellent entertainment laid on by people who come without hats. One couple were bent over so far that they were presenting their backsides to the sky and the hovering arctic terns, resulting in a slapstick comedy moment of pure genius.

Young shag on nest.
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Arctic tern in front of the lighthouse buildings.
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Tern chicks waiting to be fed.
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Inner Farne lighthouse. Off the south end of Inner Farne I dabbled in a spot of fishing with my tiny rod. Three casts produced five mackerel and a respectable size cod which took a liking to my mackerel feathers.
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For a change from the birds, the next day I headed down the coast from Beadnell to Craster and back; a stretch of coast comprising beautiful sandy bays interspersed with bits of rock hopping heaven and a couple of delightful little harbours. This is Beadnell with its interesting lime kilns.
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The impressive ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle sit on one the headlands.
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A little way beyond are the substantial walls of Craster Harbour. The structure on the end was once part of a larger structure used for loading stone from the local quarries. Now just a few local fishing boats use the harbour.
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The beach inside the harbour was a bit on the busy side so I retired a short distance offshore to Little Carr for lunch. This is the sort of lunchspot I really enjoy; my own personal little island with good views and lots of interesting things to look at.
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Then I had a very leisurely potter back to Beadnell exploring the many rocky outcrops exposed at low tide. The best of these were the extensive drying reefs in St Mary’s Haven; between the reefs less than a metre of crystal water covered golden sands and waving forests of kelp. I had to share this little paradise with a couple of other women with young children who had paddled out from Low Newton in inflatable kayaks and I suddenly felt somewhat over equipped wearing a buoyancy aid and with all my usual safety kit on board. The children seemed to be enjoying themselves. Lucky them. I hope they grow up to love and respect the coast and the sea.
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Andrea Collins

Big Ade
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Re: A couple of birdy trips and a gentle potter about

Post by Big Ade » Thu Aug 01, 2013 4:57 pm

Fantastic pictures.
Thanks for sharing.

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MikeB
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Re: A couple of birdy trips and a gentle potter about

Post by MikeB » Thu Aug 01, 2013 6:23 pm

Lovely - really captures the essence of two special places. Mike

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Re: A couple of birdy trips and a gentle potter about

Post by soundoftheseagull » Thu Aug 01, 2013 6:36 pm

"Like"
Dave

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Re: A couple of birdy trips and a gentle potter about

Post by StewartR » Thu Aug 01, 2013 10:04 pm

Wonderful. One of nature's spectacles captured beautifully. I have paddled along the cliffs at Stonehaven when the birds are not there and much of the meaning is missing. The Bass Rock without the gannets would be a similar experience. The scent however lingers.

Stewart

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Re: A couple of birdy trips and a gentle potter about

Post by Yakdiver » Fri Aug 02, 2013 8:37 am

Some nice photos therewell done
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Andy Harpur
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Re: A couple of birdy trips and a gentle potter about

Post by Andy Harpur » Fri Aug 02, 2013 3:50 pm

Impressive as ever Andrea.
Good to see one of your trip reports again :)
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Re: A couple of birdy trips and a gentle potter about

Post by lg18 » Fri Aug 02, 2013 4:37 pm

Lovely lovely lovely lovely.
Thank you so much, that is the nicest thing that's happened in my computer for at least a month.
just... LOVELY!

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Re: A couple of birdy trips and a gentle potter about

Post by janet brown » Fri Aug 02, 2013 8:16 pm

I always enjoy your trip reports, mainly I suspect because they are so un-macho!
I would like to try something similar one day.

Janet

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JP9
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Re: A couple of birdy trips and a gentle potter about

Post by JP9 » Fri Aug 02, 2013 10:06 pm

Great photos !

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Re: A couple of birdy trips and a gentle potter about

Post by Lindisfarne » Fri Aug 02, 2013 10:58 pm

Lovely photos and a great report.

I've just realised we met you at the on the Sunday lunch time as we were heading out past the Wide opens. We waved as we passed to the South of you as we headed out to Longstone.

Neil

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Re: A couple of birdy trips and a gentle potter about

Post by jmmoxon » Fri Aug 09, 2013 7:18 am

The breeding season is still in full swing on the Farnes, with small chicks being brought plenty of Sand Eels - the cold spring has really delayed things, they would normally all be gone by the start of August. So still worth a trip out there (Inner Farne has a great deal if you want to join the National Trust, as they refund the price of the boat trip on top of the usual discount!)

Mike
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Re: A couple of birdy trips and a gentle potter about

Post by ian johnston » Fri Aug 09, 2013 9:53 am

Superb, just superb....

Great to see another trip report from you Andrea, such a great antidote to skegs, velcro and politics and a reminder of what it's really all about. As someone else commented, the birds do seem to be breeding later this year perhaps due to a late start in the cold Spring; there are still Kittiwakes and Shgs on the nest along the Moray firth coast too.

More please! :o)


Kind regards


Ian

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Robert Craig
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Re: A couple of birdy trips and a gentle potter about

Post by Robert Craig » Sat Aug 10, 2013 4:56 pm

me too more please ... thanks

andreadawn
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Re: A couple of birdy trips and a gentle potter about

Post by andreadawn » Mon Aug 12, 2013 2:10 pm

Thank you for the kind words about the photos. I haven't paddled that much recently due to an elbow injury last year and then a really lousy "summer" holiday, weather wise, on Skye back in April; so not many photos to share really. Now we're into the school hols and everywhere is too busy for my liking. Roll on September!

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Re: A couple of birdy trips and a gentle potter about

Post by pathbrae » Thu Aug 22, 2013 2:59 pm

Thanks Andrea.

It's making my September week-off plans change all the time.

David
So much sea - so little time to see it.

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Re: A couple of birdy trips and a gentle potter about

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Mon Aug 26, 2013 1:38 pm

Wonderful photos Andrea thank you. They are a great morale booster while I am not paddling.

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Re: A couple of birdy trips and a gentle potter about

Post by submersiblesid » Mon Aug 26, 2013 6:06 pm

Great blog

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Re: A couple of birdy trips and a gentle potter about

Post by Mark R » Mon Aug 26, 2013 8:01 pm

Your trip reports always fill me with an ungentlemanly degree of jealousy.
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