On the wildside

The one fine spike of the Early Purple Orchid spotted at Barns Ness.
The one fine spike of the Early Purple Orchid spotted at Barns Ness.

Barns Ness on the East Lothian coast was the venue for the Berwickshire Group of the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s first field meeting in its summer programme.

We were fortunate in having a nice warm sunny afternoon, for an easy walk along the shore line starting at the car park, passing the lighthouse, which I must say was looking white and smart and then on south down the coast, the return route was through some grass meadows then scrub and pine trees back to the car park.

Our first stop was to look at the grey limestone rock which outcrops near the high tide line, limestone of this type is not common in south east Scotland and is the rock quarried and used in the nearby cement factory.

Along the shore on the high tide line we found masses of the white flowered Scurvy Grass, as it was relatively warm it was filling the air with a sweet sickly scent. The leaves are rich in vitamin C and in the past would be eaten by seamen on long sea voyages.

A small colony of Wallflower was also sweetly scented, a remanent from a lighthouse garden no doubt, and able to grow in the most inhospitable, poor soil right beside the sea.

The number of Sand Martins flying about far out numbered the Swallows and House Martins, they must have a good large colony nearby, probably in the cement factory.

Stonechats are attractive small birds, the male in particular with its almost black head, white collar and orange breast, at least one pair accompanied us, flitting around on top of the Marram and Lyme grass.

As the tide was well out wading birds were difficult to spot, one keen eyed member noticed a black duck on the sea which was probably a Scoter and Shelducks were seen flying over head. Gannets were passing up and down the coast and a number of Terns were heard and seen. On good vantage points Reed Buntings and Yellow Hammers were in song, the Reed Buntings must have one of the most boring songs of any native bird.

Growing out in the grass meadows we found only one fine spike of the Early Purple orchid, it was in pristine condition but alas stood alone.

A nice small colony of the white flowered Meadow Saxifrage was a bonus and the Whin bushes were making a brilliant display as they were in full bloom, they were also heavily scented in the warm air.

Two butterflies which were my first sightings for this year were a Wall Brown and a Small Heath, both near the car park. A brilliantly coloured Cinnabar moth was disturbed, its bright red underwing was striking as it flew away and a single Silver Y moth was seen, this is a migrant species and has most likely flown a long way to reach Barns Ness.