Bass Rock The Worlds Biggest Gannet Colony And St Abbs Head

Gannet in flight ML

Next morning we headed north, taking a lovely lane with Yellowhammers and a Lesser Whitethroat, then the AI to North Berwick. Here we visited the Seabird Centre on the seafront and met a giant Puffin, discovered that you can buy “Puffin Poo” and all sorts of other stuff! But the toilets were welcome before we walked down to the quay to be kitted out for our next adventure. We were taking a RIB ride out to the world famous Bass Rock, home to the world’s largest colony of Northern Gannets.

Now before we could board the powerful, and very fast, Rib we needed the right clothing, so we were issued with “survival suits” to keep us, mostly, dry and warm on this rocket boat. It was very funny watching everyone trying to pull on their massive orange and blue suits, people falling over and disappearing inside the large suits and having to be rescued! Eventually we were all dressed and had our life jackets on and were ready to put to sea.

We boarded the Rib and very slowly moved out of the tiny, sheltered, harbour at North Berwick and everyone looked very happy and relaxed. We chugged out past the harbour wall and our skipper opened up the massive engines! The Rib took off across the water like a rocket! Looking around faces were now a mixture of terror and elation! Bang! The Rib hit a wave hard and then another, bang, bang, this was power-boat racing rather than birding. Very quickly we reached a small island and the skipper killed the engine and all was suddenly peace, Ian our guide for the trip pointed out Puffins, Common Guillemot, Razorbills, Shags and told us a little about the history of this rock. Some folks may remember a TV “celebrity” Uri Geller, the man who could bend spoons and stop watches with the power of his mind? Well, Uri owns this lump of rock off North Berwick, and even spent a night on it, once only! Now it was time for the main event, Bass Rock, and again the skipper set the Rib loose and we were pushed back into our seats with the surge of power. As we hurtled across the water three gulls flew alongside us, two Black-headed Gulls and a first-summer Mediterranean Gull, great record even if seen only briefly! As we neared the rock we could see a “swarm” of “insects” over the huge rock, but these were Gannets! Thousands and thousands of Gannets, what a fantastic sight and we were all stunned by the sheer numbers of birds. As we closed in on the Bass Rock the air above us was filled Gannets and many birds were on the water alongside us, a true wildlife spectacle.

Our skipper killed the massive engines and glided the Rib close to the massive cliffs and close to the nesting Gannets. We had the most amazing views of these huge seabirds living out their lives here on this rock. We slowly circled the rock gazing up at a sky full of six foot winged birds and a mass of birds on every available ledge, some 70,000 pairs of Gannets! What a fantastic experience to see this huge seabird colony up close like this.

Ian also told us about the history of the rock, it had been used as a fort, a prison and had been held by a Jacobite group for several years, they were supplied by the French Navy! An amazing place and a real highlight of our trip, but we weren’t quite done yet, we sped across the bay and cruised back along the coast with Ian pointing out more places of interest including a castle and a world war two radar station – which was for sale, amazing views of Bass Rock!

Back at North Berwick we struggled out of our survival suits and enjoyed a lovely lunch with views of Bass Rock and all those Gannets!

As we headed back south we made a stop at St. Abb’s Head, a beautiful part of the coast with a lovely village and dramatic sea-cliffs. We parked above the village and walked north along the cliffs in beautiful warm sunshine. Lots of Common Guillemots were nesting on the cliffs along with a few Fulmars and Razorbills. Plenty of Linnets were here along with Goldfinches and Rock Pipits. A huge Great Skua flew slowly past giving us a real thrill to see this bird here in June, it should be much further north on its breeding grounds. Next a pod of bottle-nosed dolphins were seen just off shore, wow!

These wonderful marine mammals put on a real show for us, just fantastic!

We headed back to our lovely Inn very happy indeed, a wonderful day with so many birds!

Please email us here to arrange your very own Birdwatching Trip…..

We look forward to enjoying wonderful birds with you soon!

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