I have walked Aberlady Bay, the UKs first Local Nature Reserve, designated in 1952, a number of times with Pauline, but always from the same start point, on the outskirts of the coastal village of Aberlady.
On this particular day we opted to complete a circular route, and as such we headed out along the John Muir Way to the neighbouring town of Gullane, famous for its golf connections.
This meant a tedious first mile along a very busy road, but soon after we were on the John Muir Way footpath, cutting across fields and skirting the golf course, with views to Berwick Law to the east, to eventually pop out on the outskirts of Gullane.
But the real treat on this short section was the start of the main reason we had ventured out; skeins of geese in formation flying overhead, some as many as 100 in number, gliding in to the Bay for the night, calling out their presence as they approached.
It always pleasantly surprises me how often I can walk an area and yet repeatedly find new routes, and today was no exception. The path rose steeply beside expensive detached mansions, then followed a boundary wall, curving round to the north to rise to a vantage point with views in all directions. To the west was the skyline of Edinburgh, whilst to the east was Bass Rock, home during breeding season to millions of Gannets, and still bright white with the icing of guano deposited by the nesting birds, now all departed.
We dropped down to the shoreline and wandered the beach as it curved slowly back round to Aberlady. The sun was starting to dip, and in the far distance the three bridges spanning the Firth of Forth were silhouetted against the glow of an early evening setting sun.
Another first this day was a field test for my new compact camera, and I was not disappointed by the first images, capturing the distant bridges perfectly with its powerful zoom.
We hopped across the sea-beaten rocks, with Eider Ducks resting on their edges and Red Shanks wading in the shallows, as the sun dipped lower and lower, casting its golden-hour light across the sands.
Beneath our feet were trillions of shell remains, all at different stages of being ground down for a future beach by the unstoppable tides.
Soon we were skirting below the high dunes on the longest stretch of beach, and in the last of the light Pauline scanned the horizon with binoculars toward the distant calls of Curlews.
There was one more treat in store as we followed the path away from the beach back toward our start point. Just to our right, perched on a large piece of drift wood, sat a Short-Eared Owl, something I had never seen before. It sat patiently looking out toward the last of the setting sun, soon to start the hunt for food.
Further on a young Roe Deer stood motionless and watched our progress along the path. The last of the geese approached overhead, collapsing their wings and tumbling down to rapidly lose altitude as they found their preferred landing site, then splayed their wings like an aircraft's aerofoils, to brake and land gently on the mud flats left by the receded tide. In the distance, lost in the failing light, hundreds of geese were greeting each other noisily as we wandered back to the village of Aberlady, reflecting on what had been a spectacular day.