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Autumn 2013 East Lothian Countryside News

Mud in your eye! Out & About 1-5

Wildlife & Biodiversity 6-9

How you can help – Volunteers 10-12


Top 5

Natural Features By way of celebrating the Year of Natural Scotland 2013, we asked people for their top 5 natural features in East Lothian. The results are now in. Due to their breadth, the responses were grouped into 3 categories;

• Natural Places • Natural sensations • Wildlife Unsurprisingly most responses related to our fantastic coastline. It is encouraging to see how many value this natural asset and continue to enjoy our beaches, shores and adjacent lands.

Out & About

Natural Across the three categories, the most votes overall went to natural places in East Lothian. This is evidence of a strong affection people have for certain locations.

aces Natural Pl Top 5 results for the natural places were;

1. John Muir Country Park 2. The Bass Rock 3. Traprain Law 4. The Lammermuirs 5. North Berwick Law

Of these, John Muir Country Park received the biggest vote. The next 4 top spots were all secured by lumps of rock that stick up – does this say something about the way we appreciate landscapes or does it reflect the relative wildlife value of these areas? Probably a bit of both.



In the ‘Sensations’ category, there were fewer entries, but a top three emerged, which were;

1. Waves crashing onto the beach at Dunbar 2. Light and light percolating through beech leaves 3. The aroma of wild garlic in spring

If you have never experienced these sensations why not make a point of going outdoors and finding out for yourself? Or, contemplate what it is about a place that really makes it special for you.

WILDLIFE Birds, in general, made up for the greatest number of votes, reflecting our ongoing admiration for all things avian:

1 = Pink-footed Geese (picture page 8) in the autumn 1 = Gannets in and around the Bass 3 = Swallows 3 = Bats 3 = Wildflower meadows

So, what does all this mean? Well as a great statistical analyst once said, ‘66 2/3% of results are all made up’ (V. Reeves, 1992). Alternatively – and more likely – it means that there is a wealth of wildlife, attractive places and senses out in East Lothian to capture the imagination, to inspire and fill you with awe. 2

Out & About


We want to go into the countryside

relax enjoy

to and

ourselves ...

A non compliant sign or dog?

It is over 8 years since people were granted the right of responsible access to the countryside under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. I wonder how many of us have checked the Scottish Outdoor Access Code to see if we are really taking our access rights responsibly?

One of the three key principles of the Code is to respect the interests of other people. The Code states that it is important to act with courtesy, consideration and awareness.

We thought we would look at shared use of paths. Access rights apply for various means of non-motorised transport – walking, cycling and horse-riding to name a few, but are we all sure what we should do when we come across other users of the paths?

For instance the Code advises cyclists to dismount on narrow paths if they come across walkers or horse-riders. Spokes, the Lothian cycle campaign group, advises that cyclists should use their bell when approaching walkers on a path.

continued on page 4


Out & About Responsible?

And how many people have been greeted by an over-friendly dog on a path, resulting in a matching pair of muddy paw-prints on your clean trousers? The Code advises dog walkers to keep their dog under close control or on a short lead and to avoid causing concern to others. Horse riders are advised to give way to walkers on a narrow path, as some people are a bit timid about horses. What the Code doesn’t mention is what to do on beaches? These quickly become crowded on sunny weekends, and so it would be worth thinking about trying to avoid riding in such areas when the beaches are likely to be busy, particularly if the tide is in, restricting the space available. A horse rider once told me that she often found that when walkers saw her coming

towards them on a path, they would kindly step aside for her. The problem was that sometimes they would then disappear behind a tree or bush, making the horse nervous that it was about to be ambushed! It is worth thinking about how you maybe impacting on other people. Put yourself in the shoes (or walking boots, or saddle) of others and consider how you would expect people to behave towards you. For further information on your access rights and responsibilities, see the Scottish Outdoor Access Code website: Information from Spokes on considerate cycling documents/advice/considerate-cycling/

East Lothian Council’s Outdoor Access Officers: Nick Morgan, tel. 01620 827671 Jennifer Lothian, tel. 01620 827419 Email: 4

Out & About

4 1 / 3 1 0 2 s e Hik Sunday 29 September

Sun, Sea and Seabirds While this hike doesn’t come with a 100% guarantee of sunshine there will definitely be sea and seabirds to see as we walk this picturesque 12km (7.5 mile) section of the East Lothian coastline. Return transport will be provided.

Sunday 27 October

Saltoun Circuit This pleasant, circular, 14.5km (9 mile) walk takes in the Pencaitland Railway Walk, Saltoun Forest and the Birns and Tyne waters.

Sunday 24 November

Jewels from the Dunes This 11km (7 mile) walk is on mixed terrain. This varied coastal walk will take in the scenic area’s wildlife and hidden history along one of our quieter sections of coastline.

To book a place telephone 01620 827421

Information and booking Cost: £4 per person, per hike. Walking boots are recommended for all walks, as well as waterproofs, hats and gloves. Routes may be varied depending on the weather conditions. Remember we can only proceed at the pace of the slowest person. Please note: These hikes and events are not suitable for children or for people with restricted mobility. On the hikes, please bring along a packed lunch. Sorry, but no dogs are permitted on any of these hikes or events. Emergency contact details and relevant medical information will be required from all participants before undertaking the hikes. As places are limited (maximum 12 on a hike and 20 on an event), bookings must be made prior to each and every hike/event. 5

Small skipper

photo © A Marland

Wildlife & Biodiversity

Wildlife Round-up


ood photo © J W

Wall brown

photo © A M


Alongside some decent weather, this summer has seen a decent flurry of wildlife.

Little tern 6

First, some county firsts! Butterflies are seen as keen indicators of climate change, with some species doing well and moving in, whilst others diminish. In East Lothian not one but 3 species were recorded here for the first time in 2013. Small Skippers appeared in good numbers, their distinctive ‘harrier’ profile being an aid to identification. Secondly, Wall (brown) butterflies were seen at Barns Ness and at North Berwick Law, with evidence of egg laying recorded at the latter site. Third, a small colony of the small pearl-bordered fritillary was also found. This species is a UK threatened species having declined by over 70% according to longterm indicators, so it is encouraging to find any evidence of them here. Birds of interest included nuthatches, whose continued expansion into suitable woody habitats continues, reflecting a northerly expansion for this species. Similalrly, little egrets, unknown of a few years ago, are now a regular but occasional avian shoreline visitor at John Muir Country Park. A ring-necked duck (an American species)

Wildlife & Biodiversity


Common lizar d

by Whitesands caused twitchers to become very excited. Shame it looked just like a tufted duck really. There was also hope that after an absence of some 15 years, little terns would again breed as 4 pairs were seen nesting by Dunbar. Sadly none of the pairs succeeding in raising young. Moving up the scale in size, it is hard to beat the 14 sperm whales recorded off the north Berwick coast late in April and I am confident this will be the wildlife highlight for 2013. It is worth keeping a lookout to sea, however as bottle-nosed dolphins were also seen off the coast on the 14th of August. Lastly, warm weather has encouraged our small reptile population to wriggle and scurry a bit further than previously thought. Common Lizards were seen on the coast near Gullane and Adders, normally confined to the Lammermuirs, were seen twice north of the A1 this summer. Good news, but perhaps one to remind us all that we share the countryside with other things and need to always consider this when out and about. Thanks to all who supplied records and images. Adder 7

Wildlife & Biodiversity

Take a


at the


It has been an excellent summer this year. Hot, dry days replaced the long cold winter that we endured throughout spring. Iceland, however, has had a wet summer. I mention Iceland because it is where pink-footed geese breed every spring, before flying back here for the autumn. Yes, I’m afraid the summer is over and we are gearing up for the goose season. Geese usually come to East Lothian in late September and can be present in huge numbers. Over 32,000 were recorded one year. East Lothian is ideal for geese because it has wide open spaces which make it difficult for predators to sneak up close. We also have a lot of cereal fields where geese can feed on the stubbles of last year’s crop or the fresh shoots sown for next year. Farmers don’t seem to mind too much, so long as the grazing is not excessive. We still have much to learn about the behaviour of geese but they do seem to favour certain fields and are regularly seen in the same locations each year. The fields south of Dirleton can host several thousand geese by themselves. Every year we record the exact location of geese to build our 8

knowledge of their ecology. If you would like to help with this survey please get in touch with for more information. Having guzzled in our finest fields the geese fly back to the coast in the evening. As well as having favoured feeding stations, geese have favoured fly routes also. As autumn dusk settles over the county, low-flying geese will often be seen over the fields south of Gullane. In a good year, skein after skein of these impressive birds will descend from the sky honking and calling as they go. It is surely one of the best wildlife sites around. So if want to take a gander at the geese, don’t go to Iceland. Gaze at them from Gullane instead.

Wildlife & Biodiversity

Top Trees! Highlighting some of the county’s more dramatic and grand tree specimens.

No2 Scots Pine This is the Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) growing in the open space at Riverside Drive, Haddington. It’s a fine old specimen that is sadly at the tail end of its life. It undoubtedly pre-dates the houses that now surround it. There are many scars on the stem resulting from the generations of kids that have played around & in and on it. The Scots pine is one of only 3 coniferous species native to Scotland – do you know the other two (answers below). Timber of the Scots pine is one of the strongest softwoods and is widely used in the construction industry and joinery. It is used for telegraph poles, pit props, gate posts, fencing etc. The tree can also be tapped for its resin, from which turpentine is made.

Do you have your own top tree? Email the woodland officer at 9

Answers: yew and juniper

How you can help - Volunteers

We help to maintain the river and its environs. Are you interested in helping out?

photo by David Elder

Friends of the River Tyne

If so please contact the secretary, Effie Renton at 01620 806530 or

Path warden volunteers Animal checking North Berwick Law and Barns Ness

• Fancy looking after a local path near you? • Want to join in group tasks to help maintain core routes in the area? • Don’t mind a bit of muck and exercise?!

• Would you be interested in helping to check over grazing animals? • Can you commit to once a week / fortnight or so?

Tuesday 15th Oct Tuesday 12th Nov Thursday 12th Dec Times: 10am - 3.30pm

If yes to all of these, please contact me for further info, Duncan Priddle Countryside Officer, 01620 827459 10

How you can help - Volunteers

Friends of Yellowcraig Yellowcraig achieved its Seaside Award for 2012, which is judged in part by cleanliness of the site, so a big thank you to all of our volunteers for helping to achieve this. DATE



Thursday 3rd October

Batbox checks

Yellowcraig car park. 9.30-3

Thursday 7th November

Footpath repair

Yellowcraig car park. 9.30-3

Wednesday 4th December

Away day to Aberlady – Buckthorn bashing and cookout

Aberlady car park. 9.30-3

To join the Friends of Yellowcraig please contact

Friends of Aberlady

9.30am-3pm unless otherwise stated To join the Friends of Aberlady please contact



Sunday 22nd Sep

Electric Fencing

Wednesday 2nd Oct

Sea Buckthorn

Sunday 13th Oct

Sea Buckthorn

Wednesday 6th Nov

Sea Buckthorn

Sunday 17th Nov

Beach Clean

Wednesday 4th Dec

Sea Buckthorn

Friends of John Muir Country Park DATE



Saturday 28th September

Working on the grouse moor


Saturday 26th October

Sea buckthorn removal


Saturday 30th November

Horse hoof stomping!


For more information please contact or visit the Friends of John Muir Country Park web-site: 11

How you can help - Volunteers

Junior Rangers Are you (or do you know someone) between 11-18?

Would you like to get outdoors?

Great! Then contact us and we’ll do the rest.

And learn a bit of‌Bushcraft? Wildlife ID? Jen Edwards, countryside ranger, Practical conservation stuff?

Junior ranger forthcoming events DATE



20th September


Hill Guided Hike

4th October


Checking bat boxes and cleaning bird boxes

25th October


Geese and chips curry

8th November

North Berwick Law

Gorse and ragwort removal

22nd November


Survival Skills

6th December


Bird ID

Mud In Your Eye is produced by East Lothian Countryside Ranger Service. For more information please contact: Duncan Priddle, Countryside Officer, 01620 827459 East Lothian Countryside Ranger Service

Mud In Your Eye  

For the latest news about what's happening to the wildlife and countryside of East Lothian, you need some 'Mud in Your Eye'. This is our q...

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