St Abbs coast

June 04, 2011  •  Leave a Comment


Yesterday involved a fun trip out up in to the cold and windy climes of Scotland. For my whole life the area around Eyemouth has been a place of character and history. My grandparents had a caravan in eyemouth for many years and all of my childhood holidays were spent in the harbour at ‘the seagull’s beak’ pub (or the ship as its really known) or on the beach at Coldingham.
This back story just confirmed my fathers suggestion of a day out along the iconic coastline was a great idea.
can you smell the coast?

Located just above Berwick-upon-tweed along the scottish coast, the run of harbour towns of Eyemounth and St Abbs surrounding the beach at Coldingham provide a wonderful backdrop to a day out with a camera.
The main focus of the day was to shoot some seabirds. the coastline in this area is a Scottish nature reserve and home to a range of species including kittiwakes, guillimots, razorbills and a couple of gliding gannets.
After walking from the visitor center it was clear that the weather was not going to be my friend. the grey skies and wind was not making the day look as exciting as a recent trip to RSPB Bempton Cliffs. but as ever you never know how things are going to pan out so off we headed with massive camera bag on my back.

tis a little grey that sky!

The first thing that hit you when visiting the site in comparison to Bempton Cliffs is obviously the lack of gannets, but also the significant lack of safety fences! the access to the cliffs reminded me of the Peruvian method of health & safety…’its your fault if you are stupid’. Now obviously this is great for getting access to the coast and its wonders but not so great when you are panning a kittiwake on the edge of the cliff and you take too many steps forward!



This said a bit of care and attention and all will be fine. The imposing cliffs and sweeping grass verges are a sight to behold and make the visit one that can take in both landscape shooting and sea bird shooting too.


After initally being a little frustrated on the first outcrop to how far away i was from the birds relative to other site i have been too, my face lit up another 500yrds further along. i made my way down on to a small rocky bay as a Shag was sitting waiting for me…..as i got closer to the water i was greeted by a wall of nests. the collection included Shag, Razorbill and Guillemot. after some initial wetting of feet and shouting i got my tripod out and set up to help me out with getting some sharp images. the outcrop was a little shaded so i was only getting about 1/50th of a second which made it tough to hand hold at 400mm.
the birds were not bothered by me at all and carried on their day jobs of making the cliffs whiter ;-)

After another 500 yrds or so we crossed the edge of a field to spot what i would have described as a perfect site for falcons. there were some signs of activity but nothing was moving. a number of wagtails and pippets in the local vicinity highlighted the lack of a predator. you can imagine the glee at my father shouting loudly up in front of me at the chaos that was unfolding up in front of us, a peregrine was busy making the fulmers and kittiwakes go loopy! after a good 20mins of tracking it all of a sudden we struck gold and the falcon decided to take a rest and sit on the grassy verge about 800yrds away. Although it was a long way away i managed to utilise all of my skills to get a reasonably sharp one!


This shot involved a canon 400mm 5.6 lens, tripod, manual focus, live view, a cable release and a wind break! Its amazing how windy it can be on top of a cliff!



In some ways i was focusing on testing out the 400mm on flying birds but as ever with any colony site there are interesting things where ever you point the lens! the vast swathes of guillemots on rocky outcrops were a must see. After passing the lighthouse and taking a food break the rest of the afternoon was spent having fun panning and hoping not to get attacked by parental birds. The way that he site is managed and maintained is great for access and is a must visit for a nice day out with or without the camera.


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