THE LARGEST NUMBER of visitors to North Berwick fly in every year to set up home on the four offshore islands of Bass Rock, Craigleith, Lamb and Fidra. Around 100,000 sea birds nest on these islands with the largest colony on the Bass Rock, which has 80,000 occupied nest sites.
The Bass Rock is the closest sea bird sanctuary to the mainland and was the first to be studied by ornithologists during the 19th century, when they gave the Gannet the scientific name Sula Bassana, incorporating the name of this rocky stack. This colony is the largest on the east coast of Britain and holds approximately 10% of the world population of North Atlantic Gannets.
THE BASS ROCK is situated in the Firth of Forth,two miles east of North Berwick and one mile off the mainland. (Position on a Nautical Chart - 56` 4.6' N. 2` 38.3' W.) A huge trachyte plug rising 313 feet, with three sides of sheer cliff, and a tunnel piercing the rock to a depth of 105 metres. The gentler slope to the south forms a lower promontory where the ruins of a castle stand dating back to at least 1405. Where James the second son of Robert III, later to become James I was sent by his father until a vessel was found to transport him to France as the king's brother the Duke of Albany had designs on the throne. Albany tipped off the English who intercepted James's ship and imprisoned the prince in the Round Tower at Windsor for nineteen years.
Bill Gardner a local businessman and amateur ornithologist said, the best way to see the birds is to take a boat trip from the harbour. These trips start round about April and run until September. Most trips cruise round the islands of Bass Rock and Craigleith. On special days landings on Fidra and Bass Rock are permitted, but are very dependent on the weather and wave conditions. Good footwear and waterproofs are recommended for island goers. The Gannets are on the Bass Rock from February to October but many of the other birds, apart from Gulls, Shags and Cormorants start to leave around July/August, returning each Spring mostly in March.
Bill Gardner said that bird watching in North Berwick, even in winter can be rewarding, as large numbers of migrants from the north come here to feed on the rocky and sandy foreshore in the sheltered bays of the Firth.