Black Guillemots

If you have been with us before on our Solway weekend or on the summer coach trip to Anglesey you may have seen a black guillemot. Usually, the view is of a small back and white dot far out to sea, barely visible with binoculars and not much better through a ‘scope.

However, if you go to the right place at the right time, then you can have much better and really close views of black guillemots. One such place is the west coast of Scotland in the summer. Here the black guillemots can be found in the harbours where they nest in holes in the harbour and sea walls. Last summer I visited Oban in Argyllshire where there is a good population of the birds. Up to at least 20 could be seen at one time sitting on the sea in the bay.

If you stand quietly they will fly in to their holes almost under your feet, and they sit on the top of the wall under the promenade railings and on the rocks at the seashore. They are really handsome birds with jet-black plumage apart from the large white spot on the wing. What I like is the red coloured legs and feet and the same deep red colour on the inside of the mouth. This contrasts with the more yellow colour of common guillemots and razorbills, and the orange of puffins.

This year’s weekend away to Solway next month (February 2015) includes a visit to Portpatrick near Stranraer. Portpatrick is a small fishing town like Oban, and just like in Oban the black guillemots nest here in the harbour walls in the summer. Of course they won’t be breeding in mid-February but some usually hang around the harbour area over the winter months. So, with a bit of luck, we might get better views of black guillemots this time!

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24th January 2015

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