National Grid 0o0´/0o0´ N/A ha m,
summer for breeding seabirds but winter can be good for sea ducks and geese (25-26th July and 14-17th August 2008)


Birding Site Guide

These villages are west of Thurso on the A836 road, Melvich is reached first from Thurso and as you leave Melvich there is a right hand turning to Portscarra at the pub/recycling point. Follow this road down to the coast, parking is scarce but there are grass areas to the headland which can be used when dry and there is a parking bay near the hotel on the bay above the dunes at the other end.

This area is one of the most scenic on the north Caithness coast, and since the cliffs are not grazed to the very edge there are masses of wild flowers, particularly in August when Devil’s-bit Scabious and Grass of Parnassus are out in profusion. There are far more flowers than say Strathy Point or Dunnet Head which means it is probably a good place to look for the now very rare Great Yellow Bumblebee Bombus distinguendus.

The coastal footpath follows the cliffs to the bay to the east and can be picked up at several points. Where the road reaches the cliffs and turns parallel there is a ladder stile into the field and past a pond over another ladder stile and east, but then the path comes back to the road because of an inlet. The next small headland has a spoon shaped one-way path and is a good vantage point especially for seawatching. The area is particularly good for cetacean watching and also for Basking Shark Cetorhinus maximus. Grey Seals are often about. Come back onto the road and walk to the wooden footpath finger sign which points down the road to the left. Follow this back to the cliffs and the coastal path. The path follows the cliff top to the harbour and rocky shore of the bay. To get to the beach it is required that you go past the memorial and the harbour and walk across the rocks as a deep cliff gully prevent further progress along the cliff top. After a few hundred metres across the rocks, the sandy bay is reached and this can be followed to the estuary outflow and along the river to the wooden footbridge to the hotel. Here there are sand dunes and it is possible to follow several paths through them, the one along the fence goes back to the rocky shore to the harbour. Another path goes up the hill to the parking area mentioned earlier.

Breeding species found on the cliffs here include Razorbills, Guillemots, Fulmars, Kittiwakes and Puffins. Look on the sea for Common Scoter, Red-throated and Black-throated Diver any time of year. In the bay Curlew, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Redshank, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, and Arctic and Great Skuas. Passerines include many of the common species and flocks of Linnets are present from late July on. Whinchats can be found in summer in fields near the hotel. 

Species seen


  • Red-throated Loon Gavia stellata
  • Arctic Loon Gavia arctica
  • Northern Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis
  • Northern Gannet Morus bassanus
  • Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
  • European Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis
  • Common Eider Somateria mollissima
  • Eurasian Buzzard Buteo buteo
  • Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
  • Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus
  • Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
  • Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus
  • Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus
  • Eurasian Golden-Plover Pluvialis apricaria
  • Common Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
  • Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata
  • Common Redshank Tringa totanus
  • Dunlin Calidris alpina
  • Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
  • Mew Gull Larus canus
  • Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
  • European Herring Gull Larus argentatus
  • Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus
  • Black-legged Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla
  • Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea
  • Great Skua Stercorarius skua
  • Parasitic Jaeger Stercorarius parasiticus
  • Common Guillemot Uria aalge
  • Razorbill Alca torda
  • Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle
  • Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica
  • Rock Pigeon Columba livia
  • Common Wood-Pigeon Columba palumbus
  • Eurasian Collared-Dove Streptopelia decaocto
  • Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus
  • Common Swift Apus apus
  • Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis
  • Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
  • House Martin Delichon urbicum
  • Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis
  • Rock Pipit Anthus petrosus
  • Pied/White Wagtail Motacilla alba
  • Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
  • Dunnock Prunella modularis
  • Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula
  • Song Thrush Turdus philomelos
  • Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus
  • Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus
  • Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus
  • European Robin Erithacus rubecula
  • European Stonechat Saxicola rubicola
  • Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
  • Great Tit Parus major
  • Eurasian Jackdaw Corvus monedula
  • Rook Corvus frugilegus
  • Hooded Crow Corvus cornix
  • Common Raven Corvus corax
  • European Starling Sturnus vulgaris
  • House Sparrow Passer domesticus
  • Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
  • European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris
  • Lesser/Common Redpoll Carduelis flammea
  • Eurasian Linnet Carduelis cannabina


Other Vertebrates seen

  • Orca Orcinus orca
  • White-beaked Dolphin Lagenorhynchus albirostris
  • Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena
  • Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus
  • Common Frog Rana temporaria


Insects seen 

  • White-tailed Bumblebee (complex 3 species) Bombus magnus
  • Common Carder Bumblebee B. pascuorum
  • Moss Carder Bumblebee B. muscorum
  • Garden Bumblebee B. hortorum


Plants seen

  • Northern Rock-cress Arabis petraea
  • Creeping Willow Salix repens
  • Yarrow Achillea millefolium
  • Heather Calluna vulgaris
  • Wild Angelica Angelica sylvestris
  • Meadow Vetchling Lathyrus pratensis
  • Thrift Armeria maritima
  • Common Bird's-foot-trefoil Lotus corniculatus
  • Lousewort Pedicularis sylvatica
  • Devil's-bit Scabious Succisa pratensis
  • Himalayan Balsam Impatiens glandulifera
  • Eyebright Euphrasia officinalis
  • Marsh Woundwort Stachys palustris
  • Yellow Iris Iris pseudacorus
  • Grass-of-Parnassus Parnassia palustris
  • Heath Spotted-orchid Dactylorhiza maculata
  • Harebell Campanula rotundifolia
  • Red Clover Trifolium pratense
  • White Clover Trifolium repens


Author: BSG