Wednesday 19 June 2024

UK - Scotland : June 2024 - Part 3

8th June - Oban

Weather was fairly good as we walked down to the seafront at Oban, having failed to find a single Black Guillemot the day before, I almost started thinking whether we would see any during our time here. To my relieved, I immediately saw a few perched on the edge of the seawall the moment I got there. 

Black Guillemots at Oban esplanade

It was incredible to see them in such a location, mere few feet away from morning dog walkers and joggers! For the next hour or so, we had the most wonderful time observing them at close proximity.

Black Guillemot - star bird of Oban!

It was interesting to see a few of them seemingly paired up, engaging in courting behaviour, and visiting their supposed nest holes in the crevices of the seawall. They were literally nesting two feet below people!

Nest holes of Black Guillemots on the seawall

Black Guillemot - courting

The sun came up higher and provided good enough light for some flight shots, they were quick on the wing, but was also quite forgiving as they constantly flew in and out of the bay. They do look very smart with the white patches on their wings.

Black Guillemot - inflight

After a wonderful morning session with the Black Guillemots, we headed to the north pier to board the boat for the Oban Sea Tour. The boat was not very big, but had a good viewing platform on the roof, as well as towards the back. Being a weekday, there weren't that many participants. We started off quite well as we sailed along the Sound of Kerrera, with a White-tailed Eagle drifting past above us.

White-tailed Eagle

Shags were a fairly common sight throughout the boat trip, as well as a couple of Great Cormorants as well. A few Herring Gulls followed our boat.

European Shag

Great Cormorant

Herring Gull

Once we reached the east side of Mull, we started seeing a few Alcids, mostly Common Guillemots and Razorbills. We saw the odd Black Guillemots as well, although I refrained myself from taking any more photos of those lovely birds. Surprisingly, a single Puffin was seen along the way! I guess this was at least a slight consolation for not being able to visit Isle of May this time.

Looking towards the Isle of Mull

Razorbill & Common Guillemots

Atlantic Puffin - our only bird of the trip!

A few distant Arctic Terns came through. Our boat stopped briefly to look at a pod of Harbour Porpoises, which came fairly close to the boat. We looked out for Dolphins or even Whales but did not see any.

Arctic Tern

Harbour Porpoise

As we approached the east coast of Isle of Mull, we got a few Kittiwakes following our boat, and quite a few Northern Gannets were feeding in the area, constantly diving in the water for fish, a behaviour that is ever so entertaining!

Black-legged Kittiwake

Northern Gannet

Northern Gannet - diving sequence

We looked out for otters but didn't see any, only Harbour Seals were spotted basking in the sun along the coastline.

Harbour Seal

The boat tour also went past several monuments on the Isle of Kerrera, Mull as well as Lismore, such as the Gylen Castle, the Duart Castle and the Lismore Lighthouse. All in all, I would say it was two hours well spent and a very enjoyable trip.

Gylen Castle

Duart Castle

Lismore Lighthouse

When we returned to Oban, I noticed a male Eider perched along the beach on the seafront. We hurried over and managed to get a few photos of this handsome sea duck before it swam off into the Bay. I've wanted to see a male Eider ever since I knew they existed, but have only seen females on my last visit to Shetland, as for some reason by the time I got there they have all moved on! Nearby, a few Rock Pipits were feeding along the beach during low tide.

Common Eider - male

Rock Pipit

After lunch, we began our long drive back towards Edinburgh. We didn't stop too many times along the way, but a brief stop by Loch Lubhair was somewhat successful, as we encountered a White-tailed Eagle being harassed by an Osprey! The Osprey was obviously unhappy about the eagle's presence, and attacked the big bird continuously for nearly ten minutes! It wasn't until the White-tailed Eagle flew into a tree to take cover that the Osprey finally gave up, not before flying in close right above our heads and disappeared out of sight.

Loch Lubhair

White-tailed Eagle


9th June - Edinburgh

I knew the main birding part of our trip was over, but there were a couple of good birding sites near Edinburgh I wanted to try. So, in the morning, we headed towards the Musselburgh Lagoons for a quick look. This is probably the best known birding site in close proximity of Edinburgh, although I think June is probably not the best season for this area. We got a good list of common species such as Goldfinch, Common Whitethroat, Blackcap and Great Spotted Woodpecker. On the lagoon there were Common Gulls, Eurasian Curlews and several Common Shelducks.

Entrance road towards the bird hides

European Goldfinch

Common Shelduck

Common Gull (front)

On the lake we had a Grey Heron, which surprisingly was the only one we saw there. A stroll around the meadows produced a few perched Sand Martins, numerous Common Swifts, as well as Eurasian Skylarks and several Common Reed Buntings.

Grey Heron

Sand Martin

Common Swift

Eurasian Skylark

Common Reed Bunting - male

After breakfast, we decided to go for a walk on Cramond Causeway, the causeway during the low tide allow walkers to walk all the way to Cramond Island. The exposed mudflat created lots of habitats for birds, there were a lot of roosting Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Cramond Causeway

Roosting gulls

Herring Gull

Lesser Black-backed Gull

On the mudflat, Eurasian Oystercatchers and Bar-tailed Godwits were seen feeding. A few Common Shelducks came quite close.

Bar-tailed Godwit

Common Shelduck

Closer towards the island we added a few Linnets. The forts on the island was in itself an interesting structure to visit. Looking out from the island to the sandbar, we saw hundreds upon hundreds of Eiders all resting on the sand, although we couldn't get close to them it was quite a sight!

Common Linnet - male

Old bunker on Cramond Island

Common Eider

After lunch, we did a little bit of city touring, before heading to Holyrood Park for a walk, the park is the biggest in Edinburgh and is topped with Arthur's Seat, the highest point in the city. We parked the car and walked the middle of the park, here we were greeted by several common species such as Common Whitethroats, Chaffinches and a few Eurasian Wrens.

Common Whitethroat

Chaffinch - male

Eurasian Wren

We decided not to walk up Arthur's Seat as that looked quite steep, so we opted to take a gentle stroll along Queen's Drive that goes around the park, which gave us good views overlooking all the way around the city. There were plenty of Jackdaws that nested in this area, a few Ravens were also present. A Common Buzzard flew past but was quickly chased off by the resident Jackdaws.

Crow central around Arthur's Seat

Eurasian Jackdaw

Common Raven

Common Buzzard harassed by a Jackdaw

Being slightly higher up had its advantages, for instance birds were very photogenic when they were perched on the top of trees towards the downward slope, as they then become eye-level for me and gave me a nice background to work with. Several  Chiffchaffs singing on top of the trees gave excellent views. There were also a few Greenfinches around.

European Greenfinch

Common Chiffchaff

The best bird though were two male Eurasian Bullfinches, which were very photogenic. I've seen this species several times in the UK before, but never had the chance to photograph them, at least not this subspecies, I have photographed Eurasian Bullfinch in Japan but they look hugely different!

Eurasian Bullfinch - male

A very friendly male Ring-necked Pheasant was the last photographable bird we encountered for the day, they really are very underrated birds, as their plumage are absolutely gorgeous when you see them up close.

Ring-necked Pheasant

10th June - Edinburgh

This was a non-birding day. We toured the city, including a lovely visit to the National Museum of Scotland, their natural history section was especially impressive and done with incredible curation. The 'bird of the day' was probably a Pink-headed Duck, a species now that is of course presumed very close to if not already extinct.

Legendary Pink-headed Duck

National Museum of Scotland

A visit to Edinburgh Castle was most interesting, to be in a building with such cultural heritage. Both the exterior and interiors were equally impressive.

Edinburgh Castle

We also visited Victoria Street, a beautiful cobbled street in the old town, said to be the most photographed street of Edinburgh. The street was made famous by its supposed resemblance to the fictional street Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter books, although JK Rowling herself denied such connections.

Victoria Street

11th June - Edinburgh

As our last day in Scotland, we visited the Royal Botanical Garden Edinburgh. The gardens were immaculately kept with lots of interesting plants. There were a few birds found here, mainly common species, such as Blue Tits, Eurasian Magpies and Eurasian Robins.

Eurasian Blue Tit

Common Magpie

Eurasian Robin

Royal Botanical Garden Edinburgh

We also saw a few Goldcrests, as well as a very friendly male Eurasian Bullfinch, which was feeding on what looks to be some kind of Hawk's-beard seeds.


Eurasian Bullfinch - male

Finally, we took a quiet stroll along the Water of Leith Walkway, or one section of it. This streamed walkway runs right through the centre of Edinburgh, and is known to hold a good number of wildlife, including Dippers, Kingfishers and Eurasian Otters! We knew it was very unlikely we would see any otters, but we did see a few Goosanders, including a mother with seven chicks!

Water of Leith Walkway

Goosander family

And that marks the end of our trip up to Scotland, we took the late afternoon plane back to London City Airport. I would say our trip went fairly well, we saw most of the birds we set out to see, with the exception of Dotterels and Snow Buntings, but weather simply didn't permit us to hike around suitable habitats, as unusually low temperature made hiking up the Cairngorms almost impossible for us, as we were expecting temperature to be around 10 -13°C up near the summit, not -2°C! So, considering all that, I thought we did quite well in finding a Ptarmigan in this kind of weather conditions!

It was also a shame that we couldn't make it to the Isle of May in the end, although that didn't really make much difference to our total trip list, and there weren't really any lifers there for me, I really wanted to get a good photo session in there of the Puffins, Razorbills and Guillemots.

I gained a total of 8 lifers on the trip. So, all in all I would say the trip went fairly decently, hopefully we can revisit some of these areas at different times of the year, which will definitely get us some different species.

SpeciesScientific NameLocation
1Greylag GooseAnser anser
2Canada GooseBranta canadensis
3Mute SwanCygnus olor
4Egyptian GooseAlopochen aegyptiacaLondon
5Common ShelduckTadorna tadorna
6Northern ShovelerSpatula clypeataLondon
7GadwallMareca streperaLondon
8MallardAnas platyrhynchos
9Eurasian TealAnas crecca
10Common PochardAythya ferinaLondon
11Tufted DuckAythya fuligula
12Common EiderSomateria mollissimaOban, Musselburgh
13Common GoldeneyeBecephala clangulaLochindorb
14GoosanderMergus merganserEdinburgh
15Red-breasted MerganserMergus serratorOban
16Red Grouse +Lagopus lagopusLochindorb
17Rock Ptarmigan +Lagopus mutaGlenshee
18Black Grouse +Lyrurus tetrixDava Moors
19Common PheasantPhasianus colchicus
20Red-legged PartridgeAlectoris rufa
21Little GrebeTachybaptus ruficollis
22Slavonian Grebe +Podiceps auritusAvielochan
23Great Crested GrebePodiceps cristatus
24Rock DoveColumba livia
25Common WoodpigeonColumba palumbus
26Eurasian Collared DoveStreptopelia decaocto
27Common CuckooCuculus canorusLochindorb
28Common SwiftApus apus
29Common MoorhenGallinula chloropus
30Eurasian CootFulica atra
31Pied AvocetRecurvirostra avosettaLondon
32Eurasian OystercatcherHaematopus ostralegus
33European Golden PloverPluvialis apricariaGlenshee
34Common Ringed PloverCharadrius hiaticulaMusselburgh
35Northern LapwingVanellus vanellus
36Eurasian CurlewNumenius arquata
37Bar-tailed GodwitLimosa lapponicaCramond
38Common SandpiperActitis hypoleucos
39Common RedshankTringa totanus
40Atlantic PuffinFratercula arcticaOban
41Black GuillemotCepphus grylleOban
42RazorbillAlca tordaTroup Head, Oban
43Common GuillemotUria aalgeTroup Head, Oban
44Black-legged KittiwakeRissa tridactylaTroup Head, Oban
45Black-headed GullChroicocephalus ridibundus
46Common GullLarus canus
47Herring GullLarus argentatus
48Great Black-backed GullLarus marinus
49Lesser Black-backed GullLarus fuscus
50Arctic TernSterna paradisaeaOban
51Common TernSterna hirundoLondon
52Black-throated DiverGavia arcticaLochindorb
53Northern FulmarFulmarus glacialisTroup Head
54Northern GannetMorus bassanusTroup Head, Oban
55Great CormorantPhalacrocorax carboOban
56European ShagGulosus aristotelisTroup Head, Oban
57Little EgretEgretta garzettaLondon
58Grey HeronArdea cinerea
59Eurasian SpoonbillPlatalea leucorodiaLondon
60OspreyPandion haliaetusLochindorb, Loch Lubhair
61Golden Eagle +Aquila chrysaetosLochindorb
62Western Marsh HarrierCircus aeruginosusLondon
63Eurasian SparrowhawkAccipiter nisus
64Red KiteMilvus milvus
65White-tailed EagleHaliaeetus albicillaLochindorb, Oban, Loch Lubhair
66Common BuzzardButeo buteo
67Common KingfisherAlcedo atthis
68Great Spotted WoodpeckerMicropternus brachyurus
69Common KestrelFalco tinnunculus
70Peregrine FalconFalco peregrinusFindhorn Valley
71Ring-necked ParakeetPsittacula krameriLondon
72Eurasian JayDendrocopos major
73Common MagpiePica pica
74Eurasian JackdawCorvus monedula
75RookCorvus frugilegus
76Carrion CrowCorvus corone
77Hooded CrowCorvus cornixLoch Ness, Oban
78Common RavenCorvus corax
79Coal TitPeriparus ater
80Crested Tit +Lophophanes cristatusLoch Garten
81Eurasian Blue TitCyanistes caeruleus
82Great TitParus major
83Eurasian SkylarkAlauda arvensis
84Sedge WarblerAcrocephalus schoenobaenusLondon
85Common Reed WarblerAcrocephalus scirpaceusLondon
86Sand MartinRiparia riparia
87Barn SwallowHirundo rustica
88Western House MartinDelichon urbicum
89Willow WarblerPhylloscopus trochilus
90Common ChiffchaffPhylloscopus collybita
91Cetti's WarblerCettia cettiLondon
92Long-tailed TitAegithalos caudatus
93Eurasian BlackcapSylvia atricapilla
94Common WhitethroatCurruca communis
95GoldcrestRegulus regulus
96Eurasian TreecreeperCerthia familiarisLoch Garten
97Eurasian WrenTroglodytes troglodytes
98White-throated DipperCinclus cinclusDulsie Bridge
99Common StarlingSturnus vulgaris
100Mistle ThrushTurdus viscivorus
101Song ThrushTurdus philomelos
102Eurasian BlackbirdTurdus merula
103FieldfareTurdus pilarisLochindorb
104Ring Ouzel +Turdus torquatusCairngorm, Well of Lecht
105Spotted FlycatcherMuscicapa striata
106European RobinErithacus rubecula
107Common RedstartPhoenicurus phoenicurusLoch Garten, Lochindorb, Corrimony
108European StonechatSaxicola rubicola
109Northern WheatearOenanthe oenanthe
110DunnockPrunella modularis
111House SparrowPasser domesticus
112Grey WagtailMotacilla cinerea
113Pied WagtailMotacilla alba
114Meadow PipitAnthus pratensis
115Rock PipitAnthus petrosus
116Common ChaffinchFringilla coelebs
117Eurasian BullfinchPyrrhula pyrrhula
118European GreenfinchChloris chloris
119Common LinnetLinaria cannabina
120Common Redpoll +Acanthis flammeaGlencoe
121European GoldfinchCarduelis carduelis
122Eurasian SiskinSpinus spinus
123YellowhammerEmberiza citrinellaTroup Head
124Common Reed BuntingEmberiza schoeniclus