We hold field trips on a roughly monthly basis. These are normally held within Argyll, for birdwatching at one of the many excellent local areas. Field trips are led by a club member with local knowledge, and provide an opportunity for people of all birding abilities to get together to enjoy a day out and see what birds are in the area. Details of forthcoming field trips are normally given in The Eider where possible, and are listed on the News page of this website.
WHAT YOU’VE MISSED – REPORTS ON RECENT TRIPS
Given that the previous year’s Ormsary trip had been cancelled due to storms and generally abysmal weather, it was with a much greater sense of optimism that the 2015 trip began, given the blue skies and sunshine. Even a raw Northerly wind wasn’t enough to deter the ten hardy souls from a day of winter birding.
After the group coalesced around the estate office and picked up House Sparrows, Starlings and an unlikely Reed Bunting from around the cattle sheds, we moved down towards the shoreline, spotting Blue and Great Tits along the way, and catching passing Buzzards and Ravens. Before reaching the shore however, we were treated to a series of close-up views of a confiding Goldcrest among the trees. Robin and Dunnock were also seen at this point.
Once at the shore, the customary search for Divers and began, and soon enough, Great-Northerns were spotted out in Loch Caolisport, along with a more distant pair of Red-Throated. Rooks were present in the adjacent field, but a group of winter Thrushes which had been spotted en route to the office in the morning had mysteriously vanished.
The mystery proved to be short-lived however, with Mistle Thrush, Redwing and Fieldfare all returning, and then promptly disappearing once again as the Sparrowhawk, presumably the cause of the original vanishing act, flashed along the trees at the back of the field. At this location we also picked up Eider Duck, Shag and a lone Cormorant.
We then proceeded to the small bay directly behind the fish-farm site, collecting Rock- and Meadow Pipits, and a Red-Breasted Merganser along the way. The bay itself is in winter home to no small number of Eider and Goldeneye, and rafts of both were present, along with some Mallard closer to the waters edge.
The fish-farm site is also an excellent spot for Gulls of various sorts, with various scarcities and rarities being found here in recent years. The last few weeks had seen the arrival of various ‘white-wingers’, so care was taken to pick through the congregation of several hundred Gulls. Within a short space of time we had located Iceland and Kumlien’s Gulls, with a beautifully bleached 1st winter Glaucous Gull having been spotted shortly before. Various ducks and waders were noted, along with the more regular Gull species. Just a short walk round the corner we found that precious winter commodity, the sun, and basked in it, adding Black Guillemot and Common Scoter to the list before lunch.
After sandwiches and hot drinks had been liberally consumed, we headed back out to take in a short loop through some mixed woodland behind the estate offices, which also provides a vantage point onto the open hillside where raptors were anticipated. After another up-close and personal Goldcrest encounter, we were treated to a Kestrel hovering above the lower slopes of the hillside. It looked as though Buzzards would provide the only larger raptors however, until a large silhouette was spotted on the distant skyline. Size alone seemed to guarantee an Eagle, but whether Golden or White-Tailed we could not be sure and being rather less obliging than the days Goldcrests, the bird drifted ever further away. On the return to the vehicles however, there was still time to make out the calls of Crossbills overhead before we arrived back at the estate office, pleased with both the days birding, and the weather.
Full Species List:
Starling, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Wood Pigeon, Blue Tit, House Sparrow, Common Buzzard, Raven, Reed Bunting, Robin, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Dunnock, Goldcrest, Herring Gull, Great-Northern Diver, Oystercatcher, Wren, Red-Throated Diver, Black-Headed Gull, Shag, Cormorant, Mistle Thrush, Redwing, Fieldfare, Rock Pipit, Sparrowhawk, Eider Duck, Meadow Pipit, Red-Breasted Merganser, Goldeneye, Mallard, Shelduck, Iceland Gull, Great Black-Backed Gull, Common Gull, Pied Wagtail, Redshank, Glaucous Gull, Kumlien’s Gull, Hooded Crow, Pheasant, Common Scoter, Black Guillemot, Greenfinch, Jay, Kestrel, Common Crossbill, Goldfinch, Song Thrush, Eagle sp.
The previous day had been most glorious with bright sunshine and superb visibility: however the opposite was the case throughout our field trip to Loch Gilp and the Add Estuary. We met at the Corran carpark at 10 am with twelve ABC members in total and Malcolm Chattwood kindly offered to be scribe for the day and list the species seen. Things felt very quiet bird-wise to start with and although overcast the rain was to be kept at bay until the early afternoon.
While waiting on everyone to arrive at the meeting place a few species were seen: a Cormorant flying overhead and Dunnocks, Robins and Chaffinches moving around. We spoke about how the last trip to meet here at this time of year had tallied up Waxwing, Kingfisher and a Grey Wagtail within the first couple of minutes. For this year at least it was unlikely that Waxwings would be seen as very few if any were in the whole of Scotland at this time. We then set off on foot along to the front green of Lochgilphead in order to look down the loch. We were looking into the light and the tide was pretty well far out meaning that most species were quite distant. Between us we had several telescopes which helped however a few species were nearby. A small group of Mute Swans were out on the mud, Oystercatchers and Redshanks were noted along with the commoner gulls. Wigeons and a single Goldeneye were more distant and further still Ringed Plovers, Dunlins and Bar-tailed Godwits could be seen through the scopes. The first good bird of the day came in the pure white form of a Little Egret on the mud out beyond the swans and was walking about unperturbed. It seemed likely that this was the same individual that had been a long stayer at West Loch Tarbert recently. After having a good albeit distant look at the egret we then headed back to our cars, sorted out some sharing arrangements, then headed off to Ardrishaig to have a look at the sea.
Our first stop was at the Ardrishaig car park and our club Chairman promptly spotted a Kingfisher as it flew past and gave a brief view. On the sea in Loch Gilp there was a male Goldeneye and some Eiders. A Purple Sandpiper was viewed on rocks off Duncuan Island through the scope at high power however was ultimately not counted on our list as it was only fair that more than one person should get views of a species for it to count! We then headed a bit further south in order to get views further out into Loch Fyne. For our vantage point through the gloom we could make out several hundred gulls dip feeding out on the loch and picked out a single Kittiwake with them. Several Great Northern Divers were noted however all quite distant although a single Red-throated Diver was a bit closer. The surprise find here was a female Common Scoter, again quite far out and unusual at this location. Rock Pipits were noted on the beach. We then set off for the Add Estuary.
From the Islanadd bridge we clocked up a few more species including Greylag and Canada Geese, a male Goosander, a Little Grebe, good Teal numbers and a Stonechat. Driving along the Moine Mhor road a small group of Lesser Redpolls was spotted and at our next stop a flurry of activity saw several Mistle Thrush, Redwings and a Song Thrush fly out of some bushes with Golfinches and Reed Bunting nearby. We then drove down to the Crinan Ferry car park and decided to have lunch there during which time the weather closed in even more and it felt like the lights had been turned well down despite it being just after mid-day. Not to be put off we had a good look at the estuary and spotted a lone Black-tailed Godwit there which is very unusual in winter. Good numbers of Redshank were about as well as lots of Common Gulls, a few Red-breasted Mergansers with several Great Tits and a Coal Tit actively moving around in the woods behind us. After lunch we decided that the original plan to walk along the Crinan canal to Crinan and loop back round was probably not the ideal thing to do as it had started to drizzle and the temperature had dropped and the wind was picking up slightly. The decision was made to head back to Loch Gilp and wait for the gulls that would inevitably fly in to roost there and hopefully we would catch sight of a Mediterranean Gull! Once there the drizzle was becoming proper rain, however we soldiered on in pursuit of some interesting gulls. In the process Tom Callan managed a good Loch Gilp count of 41 Dunlins and very quickly Stu Crutchfield shouted out ‘Med Gull’! While trying to get the group focused on this bird…a new species for some, I caught sight of an adult Little Gull….which would also be a new species for some. While watching the Little Gull flying around amazingly it was joined by another one, this time a first-winter bird. I almost sensed that there was a bit of excitement stirred by these gulls in birdwatchers not normally bothered too much with this group of species. Certainly it was nice that a couple of new species were now seen by a few members of the group and on this high note we decided to call it a day. Malcolm totted up the days list and concluded some 61 species had been seen in just over four hours which was not too bad considering the poor light and rain.
Loch Gilp/Add Estuary species list.
Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Greater Canada Goose, Eurasian Wigeon, Eurasian Teal, Mallard, Common Eider, Common Scoter, Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Goosander, Red-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Great Cormorant, Shag, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Little Grebe, Common Buzzard, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Eurasian Curlew, Common Redshank, Turnstone, Kittiwake, Black-headed Gull, Little Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Collared Dove, Common Kingfisher, Western Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Hooded Crow, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Wren, Common Starling, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Robin,
Common Stonechat, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Common Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Lesser Redpoll, Reed Bunting. (61 species).
The weather forecast for the day was not the best, with showers and high winds predicted, so intimations of cowardice were received prior to meeting up for the Colintraive ferry. 3 of us boarded the 10 am boat, using the opportunity to catch up with Club Member Graham Clarke on the bridge deck. Ian Hopkins welcomed us ashore on Bute, and the four of us redistributed ourselves between the 2 vehicles. The list started during the ferry crossing, which was very sheltered from the SW wind. Heading down a calm East Kyle, the tally soon reached double figures. The assemblage of Red-breasted Merganser was an impressive 42. We stopped where the road first leaves the shore to scour the fields for small passerines feeding around the silage bales and fodder racks. We had 12 Lapwing, and Pied Wagtail added to the tally gave us a score. A Hen Harrier was ‘scoped over Cowal, but not seen by all. As the tide was still on the way up, and still had a bit to go, we headed for Ettrick Bay. It was windier here as expected, so not too good for spotting birds further out. A couple of Goosander at the burn mouth at the north end of the bay was a useful sighting. We forwent a visit to the café as 2 coaches arrived and disgorged just ahead of us, and instead went round to the hide at the south end of the bay. This was already occupied by 2 cyclists, with bikes (in the hide), sheltering from the keen wind and showers. 6 Barwits were the only birds of note here. Driving along the west coast we stopped several times to scan the fields for geese, finding both Greylags and Canadas. It was pretty cold and very breezy, so we hurried on to get soup and warmth in the Kingarth Hotel. After lunch we perused Kilchattan Bay, but the tide was well in by then, so nothing new was picked up there, despite being on the sheltered side of the island. From there it was up the east side and through Rothesay to the Kirk Dam hide. Ian was saying that the growth of vegetation on the shore in front of the hide had reduced the visibility of open water from the hide. Not much new to see there apart from 2 Little Grebe. That was until a Hen Harrier flew over the hill from the east, down over the fields and right in front of the hide, making it worthwhile after all. From there we went to the new hide on Greenan Loch, only open for a few months, and from which we added Little Grebe and Sparrowhawk. The puzzle was no winter thrushes. The final stop at Skeoch Wood in Rothesay failed to add a Brambling, so we finished at 49. Not too bad a day considering the weather, and the company was good.
There were 4 hardy souls convening at the Sandbank bird hide on 29th September for the monthly meeting, all from Cowal. September is a time change with the early leaves turning and the winter wildfowl arriving. However one is never able to predict precisely what is going to be on view. Will it be the usual stuff, or something beyond the ordinary. This could be a count of birds rather than a species, but it can still make the day a bit special. The count of birdwatchers was not high, and the species were local, so not too remarkable there, although we all appreciated our company! What about the birds then? My notebook records a mere 19 species, so not a great day in that respect. So how about numbers? 193 Curlew was pretty good for here, but with only 55 Oystercatchers visible I think the rest must have been hiding. 32 Eider was reassuring, as numbers in the greater Firth of Clyde area have been declining alarmingly. Of Teal we could see only 10, although they were good views right in front of the hide. It’s remarkable how on different days the birds can do different things. I know there were Wigeon there, (seen on previous days) but could we see any? Sadly no. There was still a Lesser Black-back around, rather than migrating to Portugal. Many of its Clyde con-specifics have done, as shown by the individual colour rings fitted by Clyde Ringing Group, and spotted and photographed by birders in Spain and Portugal. For me the highlight was the 13 Red-breasted Merganser, which seem to have been less evident in recent years.
Perhaps the forecast of force five or six north-westerly winds deterred some people from attending but six hardy members met at the Kennacraig ferry terminal at noon on 30 August. The low tide had exposed the mudflats and a group of six Redshank were feeding in the sunshine near the shore. Two Curlews were eventually spotted amongst the piles of seaweed and a couple of Oystercatchers flew along the shore. The squeaking of Bullfinches from the birch woodland around the car park was eventually traced to some juvenile birds feeding on the young shoots. Robin, Wren and Siskin completed the woodland list as we set off towards the ferry where a couple of Swallows were flying around the terminal building. Gannets were fishing the sheltered water near the further shore of West Loch Tarbert.
The wind was fresh but not too cold and the clouds large but not particularly threatening as MV Finlaggan left the pier. There were few other birds in the loch; two Cormorants flew past, a Shag perched on a navigation beacon, a few Grey Herons were spotted on the shore and a Herring Gull was added to the Common and Black-headed Gulls seen at Kennacraig. Most of the local Shag population seemed to have assembled on one of the skerries at the mouth of the loch; about 50 were there, along with about 20 Eiders, with the rest of the skerry occupied by seals and a solitary Lesser Black-backed Gull.
Once clear of the loch the strength of the wind was a bit of a nuisance; although we were sheltered on the boat the wind had whipped up whitecaps everywhere making it very difficult to spot birds on the sea surface. However, six pairs of eyes eventually started to see pairs and small groups of Auks on the water, mainly Guillemots we thought. There were few birds in the air for most of the open water crossing towards Jura; only three Manx Shearwaters were seen, maybe a dozen Kittiwakes and a lone Fulmar. The first contender for ‘Bird of the Day’ was spotted as we approached Jura; a Great Skua approached from the north east, turned into the wind parallel to the track of the ferry and then rose up effortlessly and crossed over Finlaggan’s bridge before disappearing from our view. Four more Manx Shearwaters and another Fulmar were added to the list before we reached the more sheltered water south of Jura where a dozen Gannets were fishing. A flock of Kittiwakes maybe a hundred strong was well in towards the island and seven Mute Swans were feeding close to the shore. The usual rock at the entrance to the Sound of Islay had its usual complement of Shags but a nearby rock had about 50 Kittiwakes alongside its 20 Shags. Close scrutiny of the Jura coastline was rewarded by sight of a Buzzard hanging in the wind over the cliff edge. As we approached Port Askaig all eyes turned to the Islay side of the sound and the woodland between the lighthouse and the harbour. Not only was there, as anticipated, a White-tailed Eagle perched in a pine tree, there were two, perched side-by-side, facing the boat, their white tails conspicuous against the dark foliage behind. Who was entertaining whom, I wondered.
Mackerel were pursuing small fish just beyond the ferry pier at Port Askaig and were, in turn, being pursued by a youth with a fishing rod who seemed to be successful with almost every cast. Some adult gulls, including a Great Black-back, lazed on the rocks in the next bay while the juveniles flew about, apparently practising in the strong eddies below the cliffs. Two Swallows were zipping about over the harbour as the ferry was unloaded and reloaded and several groups of Gannets, probably four or five groups of six or seven birds, flew south over the sound while we were in port.
Departure from Port Askaig takes the ferry much further out from the Islay shore than when approaching the pier. However, the eagle tree can still be seen, as could the eagle perched on it. But only one this time. Was that to demonstrate that they were not plastic models? A diver flew past as we sailed south but too distant to be identified. Some excitement was generated by a dark bird with a light collar flying towards us from Jura. “Possible Arctic Skua” was the call; Hooded Crow was the identification, but at least that was a new species for the day.
Not only did we have a following wind on the return passage, which allowed us a great view ahead of the vessel from the observation deck below the bridge, but the wind had eased a little and the whitecap problem was much reduced. Even so, after passing a distant group of about 20 Auks while still close to Jura, we were into the second half of the crossing before seeing many birds; perhaps 20 Manx Shearwaters flying in groups of two to four, maybe 40 Razorbills on the water in groups of four to six, probably four or five times that number of Guillemots in similar sized groups, and three Tysties as we approached the skerries at the entrance to West Loch Tarbert.
About 80 Common Gulls were dip-feeding in the loch, strung out along the southern shore in a loose flock. A sudden explosion of gulls and waders from one of the islands prompted a search for the trigger and an Osprey was soon spotted gliding innocuously away. A group of about a dozen red-headed Goosanders were feeding in the bay to the south of the pier as Finlaggan slowly approached her berth at the end of an interesting and enjoyable afternoon.
Species List: Mute Swan, Common Eider, Goosander, Diver sp., Fulmar, Manx Shearwater, Northern Gannet, Great Cormorant, European Shag, Grey Heron, White-tailed Eagle, Common Buzzard, Osprey, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Eurasian Curlew, Common Redshank, Great Skua, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Black-legged Kittiwake, Common Guillemot, Razorbill, Black Guillemot, Barn Swallow, Wren, Robin, Hooded Crow, Siskin and Bullfinch.