Column: A paradise for birds in the Firth of Forth

On one of the recent warm sunny days when it was nice and calm I decided it was time I visited Inchcolm Island in the Firth of Forth.

By Ron McBeath
Thursday, 12th September 2019, 12:23 pm

For years I had thought about visiting the island and now with such settled weather it seemed as good a time as it would ever be.

The boat to Inchcolm sails from the jetty just beside the railway bridge in South Queensferry, from the ramp where the car ferries once sailed to North Queensferry, in the days before the road bridges.

It is possible to land on the island for almost an hour and a half and catch the next boat on its return journey, the entire outing lasts about three and a half hours if you choose to land.

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As well as sailing out to the island the route on the return leg takes you under both road bridges and it is amazing to see from below how the bridges were constructed and the contrast between all three bridges.

By chance we were fortunate to see a steam train cross the railway bridge pulling a line of old period passenger carriages.

On the way to the island a good number of very noisy terns were diving into the water to catch the small fish near the surface, they were obviously used to the boat as they flew and dived quite close to us. Several groups of Kittiwakes were also quite noisy with their kittiwake, kittiwake calls, they must be amongst the prettiest of all the gulls.

The larger gulls were mostly Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Greater Black-backed Gulls with only a few Herring Gulls which was a contrast to our Berwickshire coast where the Herring Gulls predominate.

A few Fulmars flew past and were easy to identify with their rigid looking wings and long periods of gliding flight.

Several rafts of Eiders were on the sea, all looking very dark brown, almost black and fully grown in size, as far as I know they would be young birds from this year’s hatching on the islands in the Forth and nearby were a few Cormorants and Shags roosting on protruding rocks. Wood Pigeons and Swallows flew past and it was strange to see Painted Lady butterflies flying over the water.

On marker buoys Grey Seals looked asleep enjoying the sunshine but I think they had one eye open watching the boat sail by.

scottish wildlife trust is a registered charity.

to find out more phone ron mcbeath: 01289 308515 or visit