Our group of six arrived at Charleston Harbour at 10am where we met up with our local leaders for the day -Tracy McLachlan from Poolewe and Peter Cunningham from Gairloch who kindly agreed to share their local knowledge. As conditions were excellent for sea-watching – calm blue seas, blue skies and sun behind - our first stop was at the Gairloch Bay overlook. There were good numbers of distant auks, gulls, Gannets, a few divers, Common and Arctic terns, Bonxie and Arctic Skuas. Peter said that he had never such numbers of these seabirds at one time which pointed towards a large amount of small fish. With the feeding birds there were good numbers of porpoise all making the most of this bonanza. We proceeded slowly along the coast road towards Rubha Reidh lighthouse with several stops getting closer views of the seabirds, plus a nuclear submarine and very close-in Black-throated Diver. The small patch of woodland near Sands Campsite gave us good views of a singing Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush with food, Willow Warbler and a passing Cuckoo. A Sedge Warbler sang from the hidden stream. Passing on to a patch of old oaks we had excellent views of Redpoll, a Stonechat pair with food, and two male Whinchatsw and one female. Tracy had arranged for us to drive right to Rubha Reidh lighthouse – we felt very privileged and thanked Susan, the owner, for her invitation. As we parked, Peter said he had seen a distant whale – a minke – which was finally seen by most of the party as it surfaced with its fin glinting in the sunshine. Close-in a fully summer plumaged Great Northern Diver was spotted. In the carpark at least 35 Twites were feeding on nyger seed, flying up to the nearby rocks and perching on the wires where we all had good views. Our late sunny lunch was taken by the old lighthouse slipway with Kittiwake, Rock Doves and Cormorants flying past.
Time was marching on so we hastened to Poolewe river for a short walk and an informative talk from Peter (a biologist with Wester Ross Fisheries Trust) on the different life cycles of salmon and seatrout which use the river to and from Loch Maree. Common Sandpiper, Grey Wagtail, Sand Martin,Red-breasted Merganser and Greenfinch were added to our list. Finally we parked at Inverewe Gardens carpark for a walk to the hide – Ringed Plover, Mallard and Grey Heron – before doing the circular pinewood walk. Blackcap, Coal and Great Tit, Siskin, Wren, Goldfinch rounded up the day with a total of 65 species. It was nearly 6pm by the time we headed homewards and we all agreed it had been a memorable outing made extra special with the local knowledge and information from Tracy and particularly Peter. Our sincere thanks go to them for sparing their time.