Today’s guest picture comes from Matilda’s mother, Clare and shows Matilda teaching her father how to fly a kite this afternoon.
The (ocean) main business of the day was a boat trip round Craigleith Island and the Bass Rock to see the birds. As you can see from the guest picture, the sun was out in the afternoon but unfortunately, it was rather grey and cold when we set out from North Berwick harbour at lunch time…
…but the plus point was that it was not very windy at all and the boat trip was pleasingly uneventful.
The little catamaran was full with about 40 or 50 passengers as it skimmed across the waters of the Firth of Firth towards Craigleith Island…
…but we got there in no time.
The boat politely slowed down when it got near the island and we were treated to a very leisurely circumnavigation with plenty of time to look around.
Even at a slow pace though, my boat legs were a bit wobbly and the island passed all too quickly so I didn’t get the pictures that the life there deserved.
Here is a sample.
I could have done with another two circuits of the island but time and the boat moved on towards the Bass Rock, the biggest colony of Atlantic gannets in the world.
I avoided feeling the motion of the boat as it bumped across the grain of the waves by keeping my eyes fixed on Berwick law.
It didn’t take us long to get to the rock with its 100ft cliffs and if it was gannets that we were looking for, we were in the right place.
They were everywhere.
We were close enough to be able to see some characteristic behaviour.
The oldest gannets live on top of the rock where it is easiest to take off and the pecking order literally descends with age.
There were many birds in the sky at all time….
…with even some being shot out of a handy cannon.
It’s a disused foghorn really.
Gannets have a wingspan of two metres and are big birds but they must be among the most elegant of all birds, both in flight and on the ground.
Once again, I could easily have stayed put for another couple of circuits, particularly as the sea was very calm round the rock but once again, the skipper had a schedule and we headed back to the harbour.
The rock has been inhabited for centuries and has a lighthouse, a castle, a chapel and prison. The humans made a huge dent in the gannet population but they are there no longer and there are only birds now. As a result, the guide told us, there are currently 150,000 breeding gulls on the rock and it is now so full that the gannets are looking for alternative accommodation on other cliffs near by.
We waved goodbye to the gannets…
…and after a polite pause so that the passengers could take the iconic view of the Bass Rock from a suitable distance…
….the skipper whisked us home at a brisk and exhilarating pace.
We hadn’t been long off the boat before Mrs Tootlepedal ran into our friend Sandy, who is spending a day or two in Haddington, a few miles away. He had come into North Berwick for a quick visit. He came in for a cup of tea and then he and I walked along the beach to where he had parked his car. More or less as soon as we got off the boat, the sun had come out and it was a very pleasant afternoon by this time.
We passed this Scots pine in a garden on the way to the car…
…looking more like a pineapple than a pine, I thought.
After Sandy had set off to Haddington, I walked back along the beach, passing our boat now parked at sea as the tide was too far out for it to get into the harbour.
I found Matilda and her parents having fun on the beach near the cottage and I joined in. I even went as far as rolling up my trouser legs and having a paddle with Matilda. Luckily there were no paparazzi about to record this.
We had a delicious beanfeast for our tea and then we all collapsed quietly, feeling that we had had a very full day.
The flying bird of the day (and this will come a surprise to readers who haven’t been paying attention) is a gannet.