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On your next birdwatching getaway, why not head to Scotland? Scottish skyline, coastal cliffs and woodlands offer a wealth of magnificent bird species. Whether you are in search of birds of prey or specialty species, there is definitely a place in Scotland which would meet your requirements. Listed below are some of the best birdwatching sites in Scotland.
Where to Go Birdwatching in Scotland
There are 13 nature reserves across Orkney which are protected by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). During spring and autumn, several breeds of birds including rare ones pass through this area in very large groups. Orkney is an ideal area for birds and other animals because it offers several types of habitats like the farmlands, moorland and wetlands.
Among the types of birds seen in Orkney, the puffin is the most common one. Waders are known to breed in Orkney’s wetlands. Meanwhile, short-eared owls and hen harriers can be found in the moors.
During winter, wildfowl may be seen on the freshwater lochs. In late April and early May, you can have the opportunity to see migratory birds like the skylarks, curlews, and lapwings. There have been recent additions to the migratory birds visiting the area. Green winged teals, ring necked ducks, blue winged teals, Iceland gulls, glaucous gulls and red breasted geese have been sighted the past years.
As the largest national park in the UK, the Cairngorms National Park is home to several different animals. This includes birds like snow buntings and dotterels. In the Caledonian pine forests located inside the park, you may be fortunate to see crested tits, the Scottish crossbill and the highly elusive capercaillies.
Inside the Cairngorms National Park, you will also find the Loch Garten. The Loch Garten Osprey Centre helps visitors catch a glimpse of the diverse wildlife in the area especially the ospreys. Ospreys are a sight to behold when they catch fish which is why bird watchers find them entertaining. What’s special about them? These huge raptors can high dive from a height of 10 to 30 metres. They often do this when catching their preys.
The Flow Country
The Flow Country is a large area of blanket bog in the far north of Scotland. The peatlands are an ideal place for wildlife. They appear stable and flat at the top, but these blanket bogs are actually around two metres deep on the average. Looking closely at the bogs, you would find several animals that live here such as several insects, spiders, frogs, snakes, shrews and even nesting birds.
The Flow Country is a breeding ground for several birds like the golden plover, greenshank, red-throated diver and black-throated diver. With the abundance of nesting birds, predatory birds like golden eagles, merlin and short-eared owls are known to hunt over these areas.
Bogs are not easy to traverse and it’s very important that you have an expert companion when you walk along the paths. The fact that this area is not easy to visit makes it quite undisturbed which is why this place is ideal for all types of animals including birds.
Isle of Mull
The Isle of Mull, located off the coast of Scotland, is one of the biggest islands of the Inner Hebrides. Its main town, Tobermory, is best known for its bright-coloured buildings along the waterfront. As it is easily accessible, it is one of the most visited places in Scotland.
For wildlife enthusiasts, particularly bird watchers, the Mull is a paradise. Because of the different habitats available to them on the island, eagles are abundant on the Mull. Dubbed as the ‘Eagle Island’, it is one of the best places in Britain to spot white-tailed sea eagles and golden eagles. Oftentimes, these two are seen flying together. To tell them apart, the golden eagles tend to have smaller heads but longer tails. When you visit outside of the breeding season, keep in mind that young golden eagles sport white tails with black bands while young sea eagles have dark tails.
Bird watchers do not just come here for eagles, though. They also visit to see different seabirds. Just like South Staff Cliffs in Anglesey, Mull, specifically Staffa, has a good population of puffins. Meanwhile, the main island features fulmars, guillemots, shags, gulls, and kittiwakes. At the inland lochs, you may see different members of the Diver family, particularly the red-throated divers which are on the island during summer. Mull also features different colourful woodland and moorland birds. Many of them stay on the island for breeding purposes like the whinchat. There are also resident birds like stonechat and chaffinch.
Glen Affric, a National Nature Reserve, is described as one of the most picturesque places in Scotland. It is bedecked with lochs and mountains filled with oak and pine trees. According to history, this type of forest covered majority of Scotland centuries ago.
Because of the Caledonian pine forest found in Glen Affric, capercaillies are known to be present in the area as well as crested tits and Scottish crossbills. However, finding them may prove to be challenging as these bird species are good at hiding. Black grouse and golden eagles are known to nest in Glen Affric but spotting these rare species require patience. Ospreys can be found around Loch Beinn a’Mheadhain because this is where they look for prey.
When birding at Glen Affric, paying attention to bird calls can be the key to spotting wonderful species. So, listen intently and always check nearby branches.
Golden Eagle Photo by Flickpicpete (Thanks for 2.5 million+ views)
Osprey photo by Flickpicpete (Thanks for 2.5 million+ views)
Puffins photo by Kristel Jeuring
White-tailed Sea Eagle photo by Artur Rydzewski