30 Days Wild – Day 28

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_28Day 28 of 30 Days Wild and we had a fantastic day at an RSPB nature reserve – Fowlsheugh. Fowlsheugh is an amazing cliff top reserve and one giant seabird colony. So we went knowing that we’d see a few birds – but I have never seen anything like it. The cliffs were absolutely covered – just a moving mass of wings and beaks. It is a completely breath-taking spectacle (although to be honest the smell was pretty breath-taking too for different reasons!)

The sound hits you first – a complete cacophony of bird calls. Impossible for beginners like us to pick out individual species, but no doubt others could do better. The sound clip gives a brief idea of what it was like, although you really needed to be there to experience it all around you.


The cliffs were choc-a-bloc with seabirds of all shapes and sizes – here’s just one small portion of one colony.

Guillemots lots

Our first sight of birds were these gulls flying pretty much at eye level with us (or eye level with normal heighted people like Chris) along the edge of the cliffs.  I think the first one is a Herring Gull and the second possibly a Kittiwake.

Gull 3

Gull 2

The next one sitting on its nest I’m fairly sure is a Herring Gull, with a red mark on its beak.

Herring Gull

This next one I think is a Fulmar with its tube like nose.


This next one we think is a Guillemot launching itself off the cliffs. There were hundreds if not thousands of these beautiful birds.

Guillemot taking off

I think the next image shows two Guillemot adults with a chick (with a Razorbill in the background).


The next one is a Razorbill adult on the cliff edge.


We were really pleased to spot some Razorbill chicks like this one below.

Razorbill baby

Kittiwakes were all around us. Being novices when it comes to seabird identification, we weren’t always sure what we were looking at, but we think this was a Kittiwake with a chick.


But lovely as all these seabirds were, I must admit we went to Fowlsheugh hoping to see one particular species – the Puffin. And we were in luck! There weren’t many, but they were there. Irresistible cheeky little puffin faces and feet – it was actually the feet we spotted first.



The final treat Fowlsheugh had for us was a Yellow Hammer, on the way back to the car – singing its socks off on this rock.

Yellow hammer

As if our day hadn’t been full enough seabird spotting, we decided to indulge my inner marine biologist and stop at a rocky shore to do a bit of rock-pooling as well. We didn’t have very much time, but fortunately we weren’t far from some of my old stomping grounds, so I knew where to find some decent pools. So here is a whistle stop tour of some of the common species from a rocky shore in Scotland. First up, just a common or garden Winkle (Littorina littoralis).


Next up a Dog Whelk (Nucella lapillus) – I spent a lot of time in previous working incarnations studying dog whelks. These unfortunate molluscs are affected by tributyltin in anti-fouling paints – it makes female dog whelks develop male characteristics – a condition known as imposex. One of my jobs used to be to monitor this, as the state of the dog whelk population was indicative of wider issues due to these paints. So it was a real trip down memory lane today to see healthy populations of these little snails.


The rockpools were of course full of anemones and after a bit of hunting we found this one extended rather than looking like a jelly blob!

Sea anemone

Hermit crabs have always been a rockpool favourite and we spent a lot of time trying to get this one to show himself out of his shell.

Hermit crab

And finally one of his crustacean relatives – a fairly puny sized shore crab.


I must admit it was a bit self indulgent dragging Chris round the rockpools and getting him to photograph things that I used to do for a living. But  he did get  a pint at the end of it, so I’m guessing all is forgiven!


Cleavers 30 WEEDS

And lastly the latest weed in 30 Lazy Garden Weeds – Cleavers or stickybuds, or goosegrass or sticky willy. This weed must have more common names than any other. Whatever you call it, it is instantly recognisable, with its Velcro like sticky stems and little round burrs that stick to anything that moves past them – animals or clothing! Again I have a fondness for this one, purely because it reminds me of childhood and my Mum complaining when we came in covered in the sticky balls. I know it’s a nuisance to many gardeners, but as are all weeds, it is safe in our garden!

30 Days Wild – Day 27

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_27Day 27 of 30 Days Wild and we’re by the sea. It’s been ages since we’ve seen the sea – we used to live on the coast and I used to be a marine biologist, so it’s really good to be back listening to the waves and smelling the sea air! I’d forgotten about the wind though – bracing!

When you haven’t seen the sea for a while, even watching the waves holds a lazy attraction. I could sit and watch them coming in for ages. I must admit part of me would have liked a great big storm, with waves crashing dramatically, but gentle lapping was all they were doing today.


I definitely knew I’d been away from the sea for too long, when I got all excited at my first sight of limpets, barnacles and seaweed. I used to spend a large part of my working life identifying things like this. Now I’m happy to just admire them without stressing over exactly which Fucus species it is!



I love the way the sandstone walls have become pitted and carved by the sea breeze and salt air. There’s something really tactile about the texture of the stone.


We were really at the edge of a harbour today, so not ideal for diversity of plantlife, but we did spot this pretty little yellow succulent growing out of the rocks – I suspect it is some kind of Sedum, but can’t be sure.

Succulent plant

The birds were of course the highlight of this morning’s walk (for Chris at least who didn’t get quite so excited by the limpets as I did!) As always there were ducks – they seem to be everywhere we go at the moment. I love the way they sail across the water, completely unfazed by the waves.


Gulls were inevitably flying around – there are quite a lot of food outlets here, so easy picking for greedy gulls. It was a bit early for the tourists to be dropping food though, so the gulls weren’t really landing. But Chris managed to get this nice shot of one flying over us – presumably checking us out as potential food sources.


Our favourite though was this Tern – we think a Common Tern. It was stunningly graceful flying round the little harbour, diving into the water for fish. Its aerial acrobatics were truly amazing – it turned in the air so fast and with such precision – breathtaking to watch.


Tern 2

We only had time for a short walk today on a busy schedule, but hopefully I’ll be able to indulge my inner marine biologist a bit more tomorrow!

Creeping Jenny 30 WEEDS

And finally today’s weed for 30 Lazy Garden Weeds is Creeping Jenny. This little weed has, as its name suggests, a creeping habit and spreads horizontally around the garden. If you’re not bothered about a tidy garden (we certainly are not) then it’s actually very good at just providing ground cover. The flowers are a lovely bright yellow and it seems much better to let this fill an empty patch than use imported and expensive plants to do the same job.