Add Estuary and Loch Gilp, 29th November 2014

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).

Jim Dickson.