Bird's Eye View of Bute


Guillemot 2
Guillemot 2



Birds Eye View of Bute


This is about a diving bird that is often mistaken for a Penguin, and as you look at it you will see why.

Last year as I was walking in from the Montford area I spotted a Guillemot standing upright facing a small rockface, and at that moment I thought that it had come ashore to die like others that I had seen in the in the last couple of years, but this time things were different.

I approached this bird slowly as I had not seen a live one so close, only dead ones that had, it seemed to have died of starvation due to their main diet of Sandeels being in short supply, and indeed this was happening all over the West coast of Scotland and possibly in other areas too. Between Guillemot's and Razorbills, which also feed on Sandeels, I found a total of 175 dead around our shores on Bute between Killchattan and Ettrick Bay's.
It was a sad sight seeing so many dead birds in a space of just over a few days as I went shore walking. Too many to bury, but they provided food for others, so I left them.
Back to this one with its back to the sea. I got to within ten feet of it taking images all the time, until it got restless and ready to do a runner, or in this case a swimmer.
I left it to do what it wanted to do, and in peace, and I thought that this was the last time that I would see it alive, but I am pleased to say that I was mistaken.

The next time was behind the Discovery Centre swimming towards me with total disregard, with me leaning over the sea wall railing. It headed for a flat rock that the falling tide had exposed and started to preen itself, so so much for me thinking that it was coming ashore to die. Was I sure it was the same one? I was positive. Well it stayed for another photo-shoot, and again I left it to do what Guillemots do.

Weeks later as I was walking along near The Pier at Craigmore, I heard whistling noises, almost musical from out at sea, and I spotted this little bird far out but having no binoculars with me I was a bit flummoxed. The whistling noises I had never heard before, or anything like it, then out of the depths came a Guillemot with food for its chick. Wow! that was something else, seeing a bird that I thought was here to die but it must have been pregnant when I first saw it but I never saw its partner.
Well they went on for days on end mum diving and the chick whistling for food after its mum dived for it, then the chick must have felt that it wanted more, so it started diving as well.
Well I was quiet happy with the turn of events so I went on my way leaving them to it,
but many days later I heard the chick calling for food, but no mum in sight, so it had to fend for itself, which it was now capable of doing so, but the next day I spotted a dead Guillemot in the waters at the Skeoch Woods area, but too far out to be retrieved, but it appeared to be headless, but as it was belly up showing white belly, the dark head may have been hanging down out of sight, but I do not think so.
So now we have a motherless chick but it was now old enough to cope with out parents, but within days it had disappeared, perhaps to join others of its own breed.

The Guillemot is not to be mistaken with the Black Guillemot that are to be seen around the Main and Albert piers. They are here all the year round and breed here.
They are black in the summer with white wing patches, and in the winter grey in colour but still retain their white wing patches.

The Guillemot is as you can see is white below black on top, and in the winter, chin.throat and sides of neck are white and have a dark line running from the eye.

There is another very similar bird to the Guillemot, the Razorbill, the colours are the same but it has a much broader bill with a white vertical line near the tip and not as pointed as the others, but like the Guillemot ,are not seen that often

Norrie Mulholland

First Published in the Buteman 20-03-2009.


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