Site of the Month: Loch Ryan (November 2022)

Loch Ryan is a large sea loch, best known as the departure point for ferries to Northern Ireland, but is also a very important wildlife site. Its marine life has been studied over many years, and includes beds of Eel Grass Zostera marina and scarce species of sponge, sea anemone and sea cucumber.

The loch is particularly notable in supporting beds of Native Oyster Ostrea edulis, which are sustainably harvested, the oldest and only commercial wild oyster fishery in Scotland, dating back to 1701. Oyster shells are easily found on beaches around the loch, and the oysters are now celebrated in an annual festival in Stranraer.

In winter Loch Ryan supports nationally important numbers of several waterbird species. It is one of the best places in Britain to see flocks of wintering Scaup Aythya marila, along with other seaducks, waders, divers, grebes and a small flock of Light-bellied Brent Geese Branta bernicla hrota. Flocks of Twite Carduelis flavirostris may also be encountered around the fringes of the loch.

There are several vantage points around the loch, but two of the most popular with birdwatchers are at Wig Bay, a former WWII flying boat base on the west side, at High Balyett at the head of the loch, where there is a large high tide roost. A birdwatching guide has been published by the Solway Firth Partnership.

Peter Norman

SWSEIC Project Officer

Website by Red Paint

SUP is registered in Scotland as a company limited by guarantee with charitable status. Registered address: The Southern Uplands Partnership, Studio 2, Lindean Mill, Galashiels, TD1 3PE. Company No. SC200827 / Charity No. SCO29475

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