Outing to Aberlady. 11 October 2014

This was the most rewarding outing to Aberlady that I can remember. The tide was out but starting to creep back in on a very fine autumnal afternoon. Our group consisted of 23 adults and a babe of 8 months in a backpack carrier. The warden John Harrison was ready and waiting for us.

From the car park we could see Widgeon, Curlew, Barnacle Geese, Oystercatchers and a single Ruff. A telescope was set up by John in order to give us a better look. As we crossed the bridge a Kingfisher was spotted and from the other side we had a good view of a couple of Greenshank. We proceeded onwards and the sightings just got better. As flocks of Lapwing and Golden Plover swept around us we spied a solitary Scaup and a group of smartly turned out Shelduck. A large flock of Pink Footed Geese were spotted way out on the sandbars. Mallards, Starlings, Swans, Herons and even 3 Little Egret all made appearances. As a beautiful sunset began to build the Geese skeins started to come in overhead and many of us lingered to see more arrive. The weather remained clear on a lovely evening.

Altogether it was an excellent outing in the right place at the right time, Aberlady at its best. Thanks to John for helping us to see so much.

Jill Neufeld

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Storm damage and its management at Beecraigs Country Park. 25 October 2014

Eleven of us gathered at Beecraigs Country Park on 25 October for a walk and talk by the Ranger, Tracey Smith. It was a cool and breezy autumn day and we walked from the deer farm, round by the loch for trout fishing and through magnificent cathedral-like glades to reach the areas of major storm damage. We returned by the field where butterfly orchids grow, past the BBQ site, children’s play area and trim centre to end up back at the visitors centre and car park.

The great storm of 3rd January 2012 cut swathes through the trees, with winds of 100 mph funnelling round Cockleroy. The forest had originally been planted with non-native species. For a period before West Lothian Council took it over, the trees were poorly managed and hence had become vulnerable to extra strong winds. Once a swathe is down, those then exposed all too soon become vulnerable. Shallow up-ended root plates, like rows of dominoes, tell of the devastation in very specific areas.

But damage brings opportunities. Holes where there were root plates form pools, new trees are self-seeded where light has been let in, broad-leaves are being planted. A thirty year plan is being developed.

Beecraigs Country Park nestles high in the Bathgate Hills, just south of Linlithgow. It covers over 900 acres offering much to the visitor. Our thanks to the commitment and enthusiasm shown by our guide, Tracey. Perhaps this will be followed up with a lecture one day. For more info see westlothian.gov.uk/beecraigs

Averil Stewart