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
The weather, although not exactly promising, was mild, any breeze was light and it was not raining! The group set off from the village hall car park at the pre–arranged time of 10.00 and proceeded along the track beside the Clachan Burn with swallows, house and sand martins all quickly spotted as they hawked for insects over the fields and above the burn. Also in evidence were members the crow family namely raven, rook, hooded crow and starling all making use of the surrounding fields and trees. Further down stream a grey wagtail provided some excitement (being in short supply this year locally), pied wagtails and meadow pipits were about throughout the walk but alas, no dipper. Before reaching the estuary, blue and great tits were in evidence, together with willow warbler, gold crest, blackcap and, at last, a spotted flycatcher! Walking along the shore line buzzard and more ravens couldn’t be missed as they noisily soared above the cliff, lower down song thrush and blackbirds foraged for food amongst the shrubs and sodden grass. On looking out to sea as we continued along the path, eider ducks and mallard were present; gannets were seen to be fishing in the middle distance while a grey heron was quietly fishing at the edge of some rocky pools.
The previously light rain was becoming a little more pronounced by now and, with dark clouds looming, we stopped and enjoyed our packed lunches in relative comfort. Sitting on convenient rocks, and between mouthfuls of sandwich etc., we pointed out to each other oystercatcher, ringed plover, sanderling, dunlin, and curlew. Gulls, including black-headed, common, lesser black-backed and herring were noted here, as well as European shag. With rain now becoming heavier, we got to our feet (somewhat stiffly) and proceeded along the track where common redstart and stone chat helped to re-charge the batteries! Rock doves, collared doves and skylarks braved the rain and further on as it abated a little, wren, dunnock and robin flitted amongst the stunted trees. Towards Corran Farm, Northern wheatear, and sedge warbler were observed and a large flock of house sparrows as well as many chaffinches were making use of the farm surroundings. As we made our way back to Clachan along the quiet B road, linnet, lesser redpoll, and reed bunting were present in the bordering fields while a single bull finch was spotted in a small copse of trees at the edge of the road.
List of birds spotted in the order they were seen as the walk progressed: Barn Swallow, House Martin, Sand Martin, Raven, Rook, Hooded Crow, Common Starling, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Willow Warbler, Goldcrest, Blackcap, Spotted Flycatcher, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Common Eider, Mallard, Northern Gannet, Grey Heron, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Eurasian Curlew, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Shag, Common Redstart, Common Stonechat, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Sky Lark, Robin, Wren, Dunnock, Northern Wheatear, Sedge Warbler, House Sparrow, Common Chaffinch, Linnet, Lesser Redpoll, Reed Bunting, Bullfinch.
The weather was warm and sunny and no one minded waiting for those catching the Portavadie to Tarbet ferry to arrive at our meeting place in the Skipness Castle car park. The time was put to good use as we took a short walk in the surrounding woods which produced a profusion of robins (both juvenile and adult), good numbers of chaffinches, and great tits as well as coal tit, wren, dunnock, tree creeper and a greater spotted woodpecker. With the expected numbers for the group complete, we set off along the Campbell Glen where blackbirds and song thrushes were quickly added to the list for those who had not already seen them, but we were surprised by the general lack of birds – no wagtails (pied or hoped for grey) were in evidence and our usual kestrel was noticeable by his absence. Moving on, however we were rewarded by sightings of siskin, blue tit, crossbill, lesser redpoll, chiffchaff and willow warbler amongst the trees and in the nearby field mistle thrush were feeding with pied wagtails darting about amongst them catching insects while swallows were hawking overhead. As we progressed down the path beside a tall dry stone dyke, a distant solitary heron was fishing at the edge of the sea, we also noted hooded crows, wood pigeons, starlings, ravens and a buzzard, while a cock pheasant headed for cover. After negotiating a style over the dyke without much difficulty, Skipness Castle (and most importantly the Seafood Cabin) could be seen in the distance. On the way meadow pipits but, unusually for this location no rock pipits, were observed and on looking out to sea there were several gannets fishing as well as a red-throated diver, red-breasted merganser, cormorant , shag, black guillemot, oystercatcher, great black-backed gull, herring gull, common sand piper, ringed plover.
After a delicious and welcome late lunch we headed back to the car park where a female bull finch was added to the list of birds seen, and on the way home we stopped at Claonaig Bay where the following species were added to the list – house sparrow, jackdaw, greenfinch, house martin, sand martin, common gull, sedge warbler, reed bunting, lesser black-backed gull, eider, collared dove, rock dove, rock pipit.
List of birds seen in the order of sightings throughout the walk: Great Tit, Common Chaffinch, Robin, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Wren, Dunnock, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Treecreeper, Wood Warbler, Siskin, Pied Wagtail, Mistle Thrush, Barn Swallow, Blue Tit, Coat Tit, Grey Heron, Hooded Crow, Wood Pigeon, Common Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Common Buzzard, Common Raven, Twite, Common Pheasant, Rook, Common Starling, Lesser Redpoll, Goldcrest, Common Crossbill, Northern Gannet, Oystercatcher, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Red-throated Diver, Black Guillemot, Shag, Spotted Flycatcher, Bullfinch, Meadow Pipit, Common Sandpiper, Goldfinch, Great Cormorant, Linnet, Red-breasted Merganser, Ringed Plover, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Greenfinch, House Martin, Common Gull, Sedge Warbler, Reed Bunting, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Common Eider, Collared Dove, Rock Dove, Sand Martin.
A glorious sunny and warm morning on the last day of May was a bonus for the ten bird club members who met near the Islandadd Bridge at Bellanoch. This trip was planned to combine estuary birding at the Add with some woodland birding at Taynish National Nature Reserve near Tayvallich.
New bird club member Ewan Halley was welcomed to his first Argyll Bird Club trip and then Stuart Crutchfield kindly volunteered to keep tally of the species seen on the day. Telescopes were then set up at the ready with some of the group looking out over the merse and mud while others were looking out over the Moine Mhor moss.
As usual the number of species being called out by the group mounted up very quickly, initially with Redshank, Oystercatcher, Red-breasted Merganser, Canada Goose, Mallard and then various gulls being seen on the estuary, while Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Whinchat, Hoodies and Raven were seen over the moss. It was clear that a few species were with young and several broods of Canada Geese were noted with chicks of varying size. This species appears to be increasing significantly here year on year. At least three broods of Shelduck were also noted numbering seven, nine and five. However, No young Redshanks or Oystercatchers were seen, however with some birds alarming chicks could have been hidden in grass on the islets.
We then walked up to the Islandadd Bridge which is often a good vantage point, and from there Common Sandpipers were seen flying down river and a Cormorant flew overhead. Next stop was along the canal footpath towards the new bird hide. Several Willow Warblers were heard singing along with a couple of Blackcaps and an Osprey was spotted flying nearby which made a brief hover over the river before flying off east. Near the hide a warbler that alighted just in front of us turned out to be a Garden Warbler that gave terrific views and was a bonus for some of the group not very familiar with this species. We noted that the most notable features were its lack of notable features! The new hide looks like it has been quite well constructed and more likely to survive a storm than the last one that blew away in May 2011.
Looking out over the mud, which was exposed by the low tide, Stuart managed to pick out some very distant waders through the telescope and they were identified as a group of Ringed Plover with a single Dunlin. It looked like the unusually large flocks of both these species which were at this spot numbering several hundreds the week before had eventually moved north. Also there was no sign of the Little Egret that had spent a week here and was last seen a few days earlier.
Some car sharing was sorted out and we then headed down to Taynish in the hope of adding a few more warblers to our list. On the track down to the car park we heard Wood Warbler singing and got a glimpse of a Redstart. At the car park, bird song was still going strong despite the time approaching mid-day and Blackcaps were in particularly good voice.
We then set off along the track and headed for the old watermill and around the path adjoining Loch Sween. Numerous damselflies were seen but no dragonflies as perhaps a bit early in the season and butterflies were also in short supply. Once we had adjusted to woodland birding mode we started to get to grips with seeing what was about, with a Wood Warbler eventually being pinned down by Malcolm Chattwood, and it gave good views although never came as close as we would have liked. Several other singing males were heard later. Treecreeper, Spotted Flycatcher and a pair of Redstarts were seen, and through the trees high above, an Osprey was seen heading up Loch Sween. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard alarm calling and an untimely Tawny Owl gave out a brief quivering hoot! As the wood opened out to the south a few Tree Pipits were heard singing then seen well. The path carried on down past the old piggery and we had a look at the sea around the Ulva Islands. Three Shags were noted on an Islet and a brief distant cooing Eider duck call was heard but we decided not to count this. Several Lesser Redpolls were calling overhead and Common Whitethroats appeared to be in good numbers. A very brief snatch of a Sedge Warbler was heard but again we did not count this as a two second burst of song not heard by most of the group was stretching things too much!
On the last section of our walk back to the car park we had another Great Spotted Woodpecker, two Treecreepers, Redstart, several Wood Warblers and Blackcap, Tree Pipits, Linnet and more good views of Garden Warblers. Overall I believe we had a very successful trip with the group seeing most of the target species for the day and a good total of 52 species recorded. Many thanks to all those who came along.
Species recorded: Chiffchaff, Wood Warbler, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Blackcap, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Meadow Pipit, Tree Pipit, Rock Pipit, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robin, Wren, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Pied Wagtail, Linnet, Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher, Lesser Redpoll, Skylark, Whinchat, Treecreeper, House Martin, Swallow, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Tawny Owl, Wood Pigeon, Cuckoo, Cormorant, Shag, Raven, Hooded Crow, Osprey, Buzzard, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Common Gull, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Common Sandpiper, Mallard, Red-breasted Merganser, Shelduck, Canada Goose, Grey Heron.
Five members converged at the observatory around 10.00hrs – Nigel Scriven, Rab Morton, Malcolm Chattwood, Chris Todd and Richard Green. It was a bight day, but the brisk north easterly wind kept it cool outside the building, with the wind turbines turning in the distance. As usual, warden Eddie Maguire made us very welcome, and the mugs of coffee were much appreciated. Birds trickled past at a slow but steady rate, the early excitement provided by Great Northern Divers a moderate distance out, and disappearing in the troughs between the waves. Jackdaws were collecting wool for their nests from the grazing nearby, and a Pied Wagtail was also carrying nest material to a site under a boulder in the rubble bank below the car park. Other thrills were the groups of Whimbrel on their passage north stopping for rests on the shore. It was hard to be sure of their numbers, but it was approaching 30. There were a few Twite and Goldfinch coming to the nyjer seed bait on the ground outside the hide window, but not in the numbers that will be found in the late summer.
Unusually there seemed to be no raptors around, and by lunch our species tally was only in the high 30’s, so we bad farewell to Eddie and headed for Aros Moss. Hear we did pick up Buzzard, warblers and other passerines, despite the noise from the nearby field being mown for silage by a huge and very noisy new tractor and mowing rig. Taking our tally over 50, we then made for Campbeltown and the chance of something new at Stinky Hole. We picked up Blue Tit on the way through Kilkerran by the cemetery, and just Raven and Merganser were new at the Dorlin, finally adding Common Sandpiper at Kildalloig, before calling it a day, with a tally of 58.
Species list Machrihanish: Shelduck, Mallard, Eider, Great Northern Diver, Gannet, Great Cormorant, Shag, Grey Heron, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Whimbrel, Turnstone, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Sandwich Tern, Common Guillemot, Razorbill, Black Guillemot, Wood Pigeon, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Rock Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Common Whitethroat, Blackbird, Willow Warbler, Great Tit, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Common Starling, House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Twite.
Species added Aros Moss: Common Buzzard, Sky Lark, Meadow Pipit, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Stonechat, Song Thrush, Sedge Warbler, Blackcap, Common Whitethroat, Rook, Chaffinch, Linnet, Lesser Redpoll.
Species added Kilkerran Cemetery: Blue Tit.
Species added Stinky Hole (Dorlin pool): Red-breasted Merganser, Raven.
Species added Kildalloig: Common Sandpiper.
Including those who joined us later in the day, at least 15 people turned up for this year’s Argyll Bird Club field trip to the Sound of Gigha. The weather was rather uncertain at first but at least it wasn’t raining at 10.00am and as the brisk breeze was from the east it didn’t cause too much trouble with conditions at sea.
We immediately caught sight of a winter plumage Great Northern Diver (the first of many seen during the day) close inshore, providing excellent views. When seen close too it’s always striking what bulky birds they are. However we were soon distracted from the birds by an Otter messing about on one of the small islets there. It soon caught a fish and landed on an islet to eat it. Not long afterwards a second otter appeared to entertain us.
Otherwise Rock Pipits were on the shore and Common, Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a few Shags, Common Eiders and Red-breasted Mergansers were around the offshore rocks. A pair of Greater Canada Geese flew over as well as a Common Raven and Pied Wagtail but the only waders noted were Oystercatchers. The most unexpected sighting was a Muscovy Duck just to the north.
When we first arrived at ‘West Coast Salmon’ there seemed to be little around but as always there patience paid off. We soon had good numbers of Common Scoters (in small groups) out in the Sound and several Great Northern Divers were recorded as well as a couple of Common Guillemots. Eventually we picked up at least 5 Slavonian Grebes bobbing about in the waves: most in almost complete breeding plumage. Two Razorbills were on the water, two Greylag Geese flew past and a Northern Gannet was spotted in the distance. At least two members present also picked up an unusual looking grebe with a longer neck and flattish head: could have been Great Crested Grebe but just too far away to be certain. Then the rain started and in view of the weather we decided to move on early to our next stop.
Many Greenland White-fronted Geese could be seen feeding in the fields to the west of the main road as we drove down to Tayinloan.
Although we arrived in good time for the 12:00 ferry to Gigha the wind and light rain made picking up birds tricky but a pair of Common Shelducks could be seen on the shore and few Greenland White-fronted Geese in the field. Sadly no sign of the two Snow Geese that have frequented the area since last autumn. A pair of Collared Doves were on the bird table at the farm.
The rain stooped once we were on the ferry and despite the slightly choppy conditions we picked up many more Great Northern Divers, some swimming close to the vessel. Also one or two Black Guillemots, a few Common Eiders and flocks of up to 30 Common Scoter.
With an easterly blowing the island was quite exposed to the wind and it was very difficult to hear any bird song on Gigha as we walked up to the hotel: just a few noisy House Sparrows. We all enjoyed the good conversation and food at the Gigha Hotel: not to mention the warmth and shelter from the wind!
Given the weather most of us decided to catch the 14:30 ferry back to the mainland, where it would be more sheltered. Three Common Snipe were picked up in the reeds opposite the Gigha Hotel. We just had time for a quick walk through the woods towards Achamore House in the hopes of finding some sheltering passerines and possibly an early migrant. More noisy House Sparrows were seen along the road and Chaffinches and Blue Tits near the fire station. In the shelter in the woods we picked up all the common tit species (Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed) as well as singing Dunnock, Song Thrush and Blackbird: but no migrants… As we walked back to the ferry two Common Buzzards were seen hanging in the wind. A cock and three hen Common Pheasants were seen on the island by those who stayed behind for the following ferry.
Walking, swiftly, back to the ferry we just had time to pick up a mixed gathering of thrushes in a field near the fire station including Blackbird, Song Thrushes and Mistle Thrushes. We just made it to the ferry in time and the crew kindly held it long enough for us to get on board. On the return ferry crossing we had close views of more Great Northern Divers, more Common Scoters and one or two Common Guillemots, Razorbills and Black Guillemots. Also a distant unidentified Shearwater (presumably Manx), a drake Goosander and two drake Long-tailed Duck which flew over the ferry and landed nearby.
The weather had brightened a good deal by then and we decided to walk north along the shore from the ferry landing instead of south as we usually do. This turned out to be a good decision as we added several extra species to the day’s list. An adult Mute Swan with three juvenile birds were near the landing and a little further north we came across a couple of Ringed Plovers on the shore with some Oystercatchers. On the flooded fields inshore we noted Wigeon, Teal, Common Shelduck, Curlew, Northern Lapwing and Grey Heron. On the fields above them were smallish flocks of Greenland White-fronted Goose and Greylag Goose as well as the odd Greater Canada Goose. Further along towards Rhunahaorine Point we came across our first Northern Wheatear and between us we’d soon picked up four or five. A single Common Redshank on the shore added to our list of waders, a Mallard flew over and a Sky Lark singing high overhead lifted our spirits and completed our species list. Sadly several sea bird corpses were found along the shore, including Common Gull and at least five Razorbills, presumably victims of the winter storms.
Despite the cold wind it was mostly dry and we enjoyed a varied list of birds (as well as the otters) and the good company. At least 59 species were seen in all – see list below.
Species List: Mute Swan, Greenland White-fronted Goose, Greylag Goose, Greater Canada Goose, Common Shelduck, Eurasian Wigeon, Eurasian Teal, Mallard, Common Eider, Long-tailed Duck, Common Scoter, Red-breasted Merganser, Goosander, Common Pheasant, Black-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Manx Shearwater, Shag, Slavonian Grebe, Northern Gannet, Grey Heron, Common Buzzard, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Northern Lapwing, Common Snipe, Eurasian Curlew, Common Redshank, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Common Guillemot, Razorbill, Black Guillemot, Feral Pigeon/Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Rook, Hooded Crow, Common Raven, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coat Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Wren, Sky Lark, Common Starling, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Northern Wheatear, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Pied Wagtail, Rock Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Common Chaffinch.
Paul Daw (with thanks for comments and additions from Mike Harrison and Steve Redwood.)