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PORTSCARRA & MELVICH

SCOTLAND

CAITHNESS, HIGHLAND (Thurso), (W)

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. 


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Other Vertebrates seen

 

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Plants seen

 

Author: BSG

 

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