Friday, 27 February 2009

Aberlady Bay Nature Reserve & Mussleburgh to Prestonpans, East Lothian

We took a walk along the Musselburgh sea wall, past the ash lagoons and with the use of a scope, we were able to spot a male Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis) and a Slavonian Grebe (Podiceps auritus) far out to sea.

A male Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis) landed on the path ahead of us and flitted about briefly.

At Prestonpans we visited the Prestoungrange Gothenburg, a beautiful Swedish-style pub built in 1908 to encourage sensible drinking in the local population (mostly employed as miners and brickworkers) with a policy of putting money being put back into local community causes. Real ales are brewed at the back of the premises.

Just outside the Gothenburg we could see some black ducks far out at sea and on closer inspection (the scope was very handy!) these turned out to be a flock of Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra) and a lone male Velvet Scoter (Melanitta fusca).

We visited the mixed woodland around Gosford House and the boating lake. In the woods were some very kitsch shrines that were built by previous owners of the estate. Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) and Stinking Hellebore (Helleborus foetidus) were the only flowering plants.

Beech Tree (Fagus sylvatica)

At the boating lake there was a flock of Greylag Geese (Anser anser), a Coot (Fulica atra) and a few Mute Swans (Cygnus olor).

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)

We visited a bird hide in Musselburgh near the ash lagoons. Here we saw many birds including flocks of Wigeon (Anas penelope), Teal (Anas crecca), Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica), Knot (Calidris canutus) and a Snipe (Gallinago gallinago).
All along the coast, near Aberlady Bay, Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) formed impenetrable thorny thickets, heavily covered with golden-orange berries.

This shrub is dioecious (individual plants are either male or female) and is able to fix Nitrogen through a symbiosis with bacteria. The soft acidic berries can be eaten raw or made into jam and are high in vitamins A and C. Oil obtained from the pressed fruits and seeds has been shown to aid the healing of burns and wounds (taken both externally and internally). Hippophae means 'shiny horse' in Latin (Hippo = horse, Phaein = to gleam/shine) because in the past this plant was supposedly fed to horses to make their coats shine. Rhamnoides is Latin for 'buckthorn-like' (rhamnos = buckthorn).

Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides)
Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides)
Common Frog (Rana temporaria)