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17 Mar 2020

The wild side

Written by Liza Cole, Property Manager & Senior Ranger Naturalist
A woman wrapped up in warm outdoor clothing sits on a hillside overlooking a rugged coastline
Although St Abb’s Head is truly a place for all seasons, I think spring is my favourite time of year here. March, with the days lengthening at last and the sun starting to get some warmth in it, is when the new season really begins on the Berwickshire coast.

First you start to see splashes of colour as lesser celandine, dog violets and primroses begin to flower. The primroses are soon a sight to behold – there are so many of them that they form a delicate yellow carpet all down the grassy sea braes.

Lots of pockets of primroses grow on a wild grassy area.
Primroses bursting into life on the grasslands

After these floral pioneers come the first of the long-distance travellers. Because ‘the Head’, as it’s affectionately called, sticks out into the sea, it’s an ideal stopping-off place for migrant birds. Some pause to rest and feed before continuing their journey, but others stay to breed. It’s lovely to spot the first wheatear or sand martin of the new season, but to me nothing signals the start of spring more than the song of the chiffchaff – such an uplifting sound!

This is also when the number of human visitors starts to increase. Folk come to the Head for all sorts of different reasons, and as spring progresses the reserve becomes more of a sensory experience. As the primroses fade, cowslips and then sea pinks take over on the braes and gorse adds a blaze of colour around the Mire Loch. This is complemented by an amazing soundscape – tooting coots on the loch, the melodious song of warblers in the woods around the water, the tinkling of linnets flying over the grasslands – and, of course, the raucous wall of sound made by tens of thousands of seabirds on the cliffs.

Close-up of a woman wrapped up in warm outdoor clothing looking over a rugged coastline

St Abb’s Head in spring is a feast for the nose too, with the fragrant coconut scent of gorse flowers in stark contrast to the unforgettable, sinus-clearing smell of seabird guano!

2020 marks the 40th anniversary of the Trust acquiring St Abb’s Head to conserve it for the nation. It’s also Scotland’s Year of Coasts & Waters. Share your coasts and waters experiences on Twitter by tagging @N_T_S #YOCW2020.

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