Scotland - Sound of Gigha 1st April 2006

Published by RICHARD J WESLEY (snhguk AT

Participants: Richard Wesley, Richard Allan, Paul Daw and Tom Callan.


Field Trip – Sound of Gigha

I was ready for today, my first bird trip out since April 2005. With my hip well on the mend and the cottage nearly complete, these trips should become more frequent.

I collected Richard Allan from Balvicar Stores at 07:45 hours and we headed south for Ronachan Point (NR7455) and the Sound of Gigha in Kintyre. The weather was surprisingly good, despite a poor forecast of heavy showers and we made good time passing through Lochgilphead, Ardrishaig, and Tarbert before arriving at our meeting place. The journey had taken only an hour and a half so we were in good time. Paul Daw and Tom Callan were soon pulling into the car park and we made our way to the point.

The sea was fairly rough so viewing was not perfect, but we were soon picking up winter plumaged Great Northern and Black-throated Divers along with two summer plumaged Slavonian Grebes. There were several waders along the shoreline including Redshank, Dunlin, Oystercatcher and Turnstone. The first Sand Martin of the year was recorded from the car park and a Rock Pipit was seen and heard along the rocks. Other species noted off the point were Red-breasted Merganser, Shag, Shelduck, Gannet and Eider in good numbers. Another bonus was my first Sandwich Terns of the year heading due south, all providing a good start to our days birding.

Our next port of call was a location known locally as the West Coast Salmon Farm but on the Ordnance Survey as Rhunahaorine Point (NR6949). As soon as we stepped out of the car we were welcomed by a Grey Wagtail on the scrub adjacent, which was mainly covered in gorse, seemingly a good area for newly arrived passerines. We walked to the sea and viewing was much improved from here with near calm seas and the birds were a lot closer. A group of three Slavonian Grebes immediately presented themselves, with two superb summer and one winter plumage birds. Again Great Northern and Black-throated Divers were present but the pièce de résistance was a beautiful male Long-tailed Duck which came very close into the shore. Another Sand Martin glided by as weather continued to improve and spring was definitely in the air. Small slicks of Common Scoter drifted by and a couple of Razorbill were noted at distance. This was an excellent site and worthy of many visits at this time of year.

Onto Tayinloan and an appointment with the ferry to Gigha which runs every hour on the hour. We scanned the area and to my delight found approximately five hundred White-fronted Geese grazing in the meadow adjacent to the carpark. I think my last record was at Slimbridge over fifteen years ago.

We were soon boarding the Cal Mac Ferry and sailing to Gigha (NR6747), a small island which lays between Islay and Kintyre a journey of twenty minutes. The island has many fabulous white sandy beaches to the south that visitors can explore by foot or bicycle. A visit to the famous Achamore House Gardens will find you wandering through fifty acres of exotic shrubs and there is a viewpoint close by with views both to Kintyre and to Islay. Gigha is owned by the islanders since they obtained a lottery grant and raised money to secure the island for future generations.
Once off the ferry at Ardminish Bay (NR6548), we walked along the road south towards the local hotel for lunch. The main party got ahead of myself and Richard Allan and at the bend we lost them. We followed a food sign down to a delightful small restaurant by the beach called ‘The Boathouse ’ only to realise that our party were nowhere to be seen. However we liked the feel of the place and decided to stay. This was to be the right decision as the food was great, Richard had mussels in a white wine sauce and I had haddock and chips with salad. We finished with a brownie and a large cup of coffee. The owner and locals were extremely friendly and the island had a wonderful feeling of peace and tranquility.

On our walk back to the jetty a group of small passerines moved about in some trees. close to the road. There were three Greenfinch but sitting on its own at the top of a tree was a Reed Bunting. We continued our walk back to the jetty and did not have to wait long before the ferry was collecting us for the return journey. Two more Great Northern Divers were seen well from the ferry along with a Black Guillemot.

Once back on the mainland we all took a walk north along the sandy bay at Tayinloan (NR6946). This produced several Wigeon and Teal, including two pairs of Red-breasted Merganser and a good find was a winter plumaged Red-throated Diver completing the set of three divers. Further out were slicks of Common Scoter and two groups of eleven and fourteen Long-tailed Duck. Waders included Redshank, Oystercatcher and in the fields a group of fifty Curlew and twenty Lapwing. On our return to the jetty, a Sandwich Tern and four Black-tailed Godwit flew south in front of us to complete an excellent day’s birding

Rain clouds were now approaching from the south so Richard and I decided to make tracks for Balvicar. We thanked Paul Daw for showing us this part of Kintyre and I vowed to return to Gigha with my wife to sample the delights of ‘The Boathouse’ for another meal.

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Species Lists

Sound of Gigha [01/04/06] – 58 Species

Vernacular Individuals

Red-throated Diver 1
Black-throated Diver 3
Great Northern Diver 6
Slavonian Grebe 9
Gannet 2
Shag 4
Grey Heron 1
Mute Swan 2
White-fronted Goose 350
Greylag Goose 6
Shelduck 2
Wigeon 10
Teal 6
Mallard 2
Eider 20
Long-tailed Duck 26
Common Scoter 40
Goldeneye 1
Red-breasted Merganser 10
Buzzard 1
Pheasant 1
Oystercatcher 8
Lapwing 20
Dunlin 4
Snipe 1
Black-tailed Godwit 4
Curlew 50
Redshank 6
Turnstone 2
Black-headed Gull 1
Common Gull 10
Herring Gull 4
Great Black-backed Gull 1
Sandwich Tern 3
Razorbill 2
Black Guillemot 3
Woodpigeon 1
Collared Dove 2
Skylark 1
Sand Martin 2
Meadow Pipit 3
Rock Pipit 1
Grey Wagtail 1
Pied Wagtail 3
Wren 2
Dunnock 1
Robin 1
Blackbird 2
Song Thrush 2
Great Tit 1
Rook 1
Hooded Crow 2
Common Raven 1
Starling 30
House Sparrow 2
Chaffinch 3
Greenfinch 4
Reed Bunting 1