Bass Rock is home to 150,00 gannets

Gannets at the Bass Rock, off the East Lothian coast
Gannets at the Bass Rock, off the East Lothian coast

Readers of this column may recall that photographer, Charles Everitt, was describing his survey of the East Lothian coastline at the February SWT meeting in Duns.

Halfway through he introduced a series of colourful ‘natural abstracts’ accompanied by haunting music by Enya. The route was then resumed towards North Berwick, the harbour and its sailing boats and the beach paddling pool. A great black backed gull was pictured in the pool with a view of Craigleith Island in the distance.

The Scottish Sea Bird Centre at North Berwick is perfectly positioned for its views of Bass Rock. This volcanic landmark is a breeding ground for around 150,000 gannets which migrate from the North African coast. The centre has solar powered cameras located on the island which beam back live close up images to large screens in the centre allowing visitors to even read the ID rings on the gannets’ legs.

The centre has exclusive landing rights from owner, Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple and operates boat trips around and landing on the rock. Charles showed us close-ups of juveniles with their fluffy feathers and captured shots of adults diving for fish on the journey across the straits.

During his four years of filming Charles was fortunate to visit the Isle of May, an SNH bird reserve about five miles from the mainland where the lighthouse is now a bird observatory. The island once housed a 12th century priory and as many as 13 monks were residents. The first lighthouse or beacon was built in 1636 to protect the busy shipping route but it was later replaced by a Stevenson lighthouse.

The Isle of May attracts thousands of nesting birds including gulls, guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes, eiders, puffins and Arctic terns. The terns are liable to attack people who approach their territory.

A grey seal colony breeds on the northern end of the island and visitors are prohibited from October until Easter to avoid disturbance to mothers and seal pups which are usually born in November.

Most of the route towards Tantallon involves cliff top walking with some secluded coves below, including Canty Bay with tiny cottages at beach level. The red sandstone castle was the seat of Douglas, Earl of Angus and survived three sieges in medieval times - a fine example of a curtain wall castle. At the end the audience sat quietly enjoying a short resume of the route accompanied by more Enya music.

More information about future programmes can be obtained from chairman, Ron McBeath on Tel: 01289 308515. There will be an illustrated talk by distinguished naturalist Tom Cadwallender on bird migration on Thursday, March 3, at 7.30 pm in Duns Parish Church Hall. Entry £1.50, includes light refreshments. All welcome.