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Running rivers and coastal fringes - Watery Habitats

The Tweed, one of Scotlands finest salmon rivers
The Tweed, one of
Scotlands finest
salmon rivers

"Tweed's fair river, broad and deep"
Sir Walter Scott, 'Marmion'

Running water shapes the landscape, provides power and is an essential habitat for freshwater plants, insects, fish, birds and otters. From lochs that fill troughs gouged by glaciers and peaty pools on the mountaintop bogs, the uplands are drained in all directions by an extensive network of river systems.

Of the numerous rivers, the Tweed is the most famous for salmon and trout fishing. Pike, perch and grayling are widespread and lampreys and eels also migrate from the sea to breed in the Tweed, all providing good hunting for otters. The river weaves its way past the wonderful walled garden of Kailzie, the Pirn Iron Age hillfort, majestic abbeys, ancient towns and Floors Castle, inspiring fishermen and poets alike. Aquatic plants flourish in the clean, clear waters, including the largest area of water crowfoots in Scotland. Dippers and grey wagtails are common while sand martins colonise sandbanks in summer. Goosanders feed and roost and Ospreys have recently recolonised the area and are breeding. Its estuary at Berwick-Upon-Tweed supports large flocks of mute swans and overwintering goldeneye ducks.

In the west, the River Cree and its estuary support two rare very fish - the Sparling and the Twaite Shad. High in the Galloway hills and western moors, the lonely call of the black-throated diver carries over remote lochs, like Loch Doon. This has the only southern Scottish population of Arctic char, a fish that used to migrate to the sea before becoming isolated as temperatures rose after the last Ice Age.

In summer the coastal cliffs of the outer Rhinns Peninsula are splashed with pink thrift, white sea campion and golden yellow gorse. Cormorants, kittiwakes, guillemots and razorbills form raucous colonies. On stormy days, gannets dive dramatically, close to the shore. Puffins and black guillemots may be seen around the Mull of Galloway while in winter, red-throated divers, grebes and scaup gather in Loch Ryan.

Kirkcudbright Harbour
Kirkcudbright Harbour

The Solway Firth's mudflats and adjacent grasslands support 120,000 wintering wildfowl and waders, including the entire Svalbard population of barnacle geese from Spitzbergen, Norway. The sand and mud flats, saltmarsh and dunes provide rich feeding grounds and roosting sites and are a vital resting and wintering area for birds that migrate along the eastern Atlantic seaboard every year.

On the east coast, the volcanic island of Bass Rock supports 14% of the British population and 8% of the world's population of gannets. Marine life thrives in the comparatively clear waters of St Abbs and Eyemouth Marine Reserve.

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