Birdwatching by the motorway and the scenic route home

I woke on Friday morning to find some rather wet snow outside. It had melted by sunrise. We drove up to Edinburgh to spend the weekend with a friend and stopped for a break at Johnstonebridge Services. On the way in we had to stop to allow some geese to cross the road. I was photographing them as they hunted around for melted puddle to get a drink when a guy sitting in his van told me that they are always around and in the summer have their goslings with them. They are not wild geese but are clearly resident in the vicinity.goose-at-johnstonbridge-13-jan-2017-1-of-1
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I do a lot of bird-spotting rather than watching as I am driving or sitting on a train. Today we had seen a large starling murmuration just south of Carlisle. There are usually ducks at the pond at Tebay Services and I have photographed them on previous occasions. They are mostly Mallard with a few interlopers.
Ducks at Tebay 26 Mar 2016-1
In summer bird food is sold at Tebay to discourage people from feeding them bread which is not nutritious for birds. The guy in the van at Johnstonebridge also told me that Black-headed Gulls nest on the island in the middle of Killington Lake so later in this year I will make a stop there to see them. Fortunately we heard in time that an accident had closed the A702, so left the motorway at Moffat and drove up the A701 as the sun was setting.
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We spent Saturday showing our friend around some of the parts of Edinburgh she had not seen on a previous visit. Sunday morning saw us in North Berwick> The Scottish Seabird Centre is here, down at the harbour but we did not have time to go there today. These Herring Gulls came over to see if we had anything to eat, better than the piece of plastic one was waving around.
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The Bass Rock is home to the largest colony of Northern Gannets who are named after them: initially Sula bassanus now Morus bassanus. In summer you can do a boat trip around the rock in an open boat. Choose a calm day to do this as it can get a but rough on the side away from the shore. We did it many years ago and it is something I would like to revisit in the summer.
From North Berwick we drove to Haddington, over to the A68 and then the A7. The snow had disappeared from the lowland areas.
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There was still some on the Eildon Hills where the hill sheep were scraping it away to find grass. Descending into Langholm we encountered mist.
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Mist, cloudy greyness and rain were our companions for the remainder of the journey.

Jazz by night – the beach by day

Yesterday we had expected the electricians to arrive to rewire the flat but this had to postponed as someone was off sick. We had a number of things to do in town (dodging the rain) and then met up with some friends for a meal. Without planning it, our time here for the rewiring coincided with the Edinburgh Jazz Festival so it was off to the Old Tron Kirk for some music. We all had to confess that we had no idea what the word ‘tron’ meant despite this church and another in Glasgow with a similar name. Subsequent research has established that it means ‘public weighing beam’ and one used to stand there. It ceased to be a church in the 1950s and excavations at the time revealed some of the Old Town beneath it. We enjoyed a very lively set from Mr Sipp and the resident band although there was a little too much bass at times.

Mr Sipp (1 of 1)

This morning we headed for North Berwick as the weather promised to be a little better. In addition to the beaches it has a secondhand bookshop so I found three volumes for my collections of natural history books and old travel guides. The bookseller was entertaining his grandson with a jigsaw puzzle and we spent a little time chatting about Jurassic Park lego. Walking along the West Strand and up over the cliffs at the end there were lots of wildflowers in bloom and I also made a note to complete the rest of the John Muir Way. A few years ago we had done the Musselburgh to Aberlady part but have not got round to doing the rest which goes all the way to Berwick on Tweed. It is now part of a longer trail which runs across from Dunbar to Helensburgh on the west coast.

Coastal flowers (1 of 1)

West Strand North Berwick (1 of 1)

Beachcombing in North Berwick

Having to escape from the flat all day as the hall floor is being restored today was a good excuse to head out of town. I followed the exodus of students from Marchmont, across the meadows and towards the university but left them as I was heading towards the station. It was a lovely sunny, still morning without the cold wind of the last few days. On the station platform I was sitting next to a lady with a West Highland White Terrier. The dog looked hopefully at me but I had to explain that as my dog was not with me today, I didn’t have any dog treats in my pockets. On the train I was back with the students as far as Musselburgh where they all got off for Queen Margaret University. It was then quiet until we reached North Berwick. The tide was out so beachcombing on the East and West Strand was essential and I added a few pieces to my sea glass collection plus a fragment of shell which has provided inspiration for an abstract painting. On the West Strand a group of children were litter picking. I had not been to the Scottish Seabird Centre for several years so I enjoyed wandering around there, looking at the submissions for a photography competition they were running and really getting to grips with my new telephoto lens. It is a little too early for the gannets and puffins to have returned to the Bass Rock but the staff said that there were some gannets on the north side, not visible from the centre. However, this pair of gulls was very obliging and posed for a shot.

Gulls N Berwick Harbour 25 Feb 25 2015 (1 of 1)

The harbour was quiet as expected in winter but had some very brightly coloured doors.

Coloured doors N Berwick Harbour 25 Feb 25 2015 (1 of 1)

The second-hand bookshop was finally open and I found a volume to add to my New Naturalist collection and in another shop, a birthday present for a friend. Knowing that I could not get back into the flat until 7 or 8pm meant that a bag of chips from the North Berwick Fry was needed to keep me going. I would have walked up the Law if the weather had stayed as it was in the morning as the view would be tremendous and it would be good training for hiking up Mount Etna and Stromboli in September. However, the weather was deteriorating so I headed back to town. A slow and circuitous route back to the flat finding some more National Geographics in a charity shop to plug the gaps in my collection plus some time in a library researching our Lincoln Highway route for next year meant the floor was dry when I returned. Even without the Law, the pedometer on my phone says I have waked 23,112 steps and 18.4km today.

Bass Rock 1 Feb 25 2015 (1 of 1)