I arrived in Scotland having been home less than 24 hours from 28 hours of travel from Cambodia. The 50° temperature change from 105° sunny and humid Cambodia to 55° cloudy, rainy and windy was a bit of a shock. I met Chris, Megan and Errol at the airport and we drove to our hotel, the lovely Champany Inn, where we stayed for the next five nights. In between setting up and attending the Scottish Bird Fair we had a bit of time to do some morning and evening birding. This was aided by the 4:30am sunrise and 10:30pm sunset. We visited several locations in the area and some of these multiple times so I’ll just write about the sites we went to and the birding highlights of each place.
Loch Linligthgow – The small loch here supports a variety of birdlife with the water, surrounding woodland, small marshy area and grassy verges plus the old palace ruins which is nice to look around as well. We had good luck with some of the more common woodland birds like Common Blackbird, Song Thrush, Common Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Common Chaffinch, Eurasian Wren and Dunnock. We also found Eurasian Blackcap, Sedge Warbler and European Robin in the briery bushy areas next to the path. The loch itself was home to many Mute Swans, Great Crested Grebe, Eurasian Coot, Greater Scaup, Mallard, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gull, House Martin and Barn Swallow circled over the lake and Common Wood Pigeon were also seen quite commonly. A single Common Reed Bunting was seen in the marshy area in tall reeds at the end of the loch.
Only ten minutes from our inn we drove to the coast at Blackness. The castle here is quite spectacular with its windswept rock walls overlooking the Firth of Forth. We birded here on a few days taking in the rookery on the way into the village. Along the shoreline we had Eurasian Curlew and Whimbrel, Common Shelduck, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Red-breasted Merganser, European Herring Gull, Ruddy Turnstone and Arctic Tern. The woods lining the seaside were home to birds like European Greenfinch, European Goldfinch, Dunnock, Common Whitethroat, Eurasian Collared Dove, Common Wood Pigeon, Carrion Crow, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush and Yellowhammer.
One morning we went to Pentland Hills where we enjoyed the rolling hills and woodland finding Meadow Pipit, Eurasian Curlew, Northern Raven, Common Whitethroat, Eurasian Siskin, Willow Warbler, Mistle Thrush and Common Chiffchaff. It was quite windy the morning we were there.
One day we crossed the Firth of Forth and went to RSPB Vane Farm which was really good. The staff was very helpful with birding ideas and the tables were very active. We had Eurasian Siskin, Common Chaffinch, Common Redpoll, European Greenfinch, Blue Tit and Eurasian Robin. The lake held Mute and Whooper Swan but we only looked from the vantage point inside the center so the Pink-footed Geese that were mixed in with the Greylags were hard to distinguish from a fair distance.
From here we headed to the coast at West Wymess where we found several ocean birds like European Shag, Razorbill, Common Murre, Northern Fulmar, Common Eider, Common Scoter, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Red-throated Loon.
We birded around the woodland of Houpton House where the Scottish Bird Fair is and did well finding European Nuthatch, Song Thrush, Common Wood Pigeon, Eurasian Siskin, European Greenfinch, Eurasian Robin, Goldcrest, Common Pheasant, Common Blackcap, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Western Jackdaw, Common Blackbird, European Goldfinch, Common Chiffchaff and Eurasian Blue Tit.
The day after the show I headed out to the Scottish Sealife Center and St Abb’s Head. The weather the Sealife Center was bitterly cold with driving rain at times but I did manage to see Northern Gannet, Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, European Herring Gull, Sandwich Tern and though I scanned in vain for them I could only see Atlantic Puffin on the cameras provided inside the Sealife Center. At St. Abb’s Head I walked the pathway from the visitor center along the coastal cliffs seeing little in the windswept grasses apart from a few Rock Pipits and a single Northern Wheatear. The cliffs though were packed with Common Murre, many Razorbills and Black-legged Kittiwake as well as several European Shags that were nesting much lower down on the cliffs. As most of the action is near the light house it is easier to just drive up there and scout around there. The 45 minute walk from the visitor center yields little so I would recommend just getting there early as the parking lot looked quite small. Great views of the birds can be had here from the cliffs which are quite cool to take in. When the wind dies down and you can hear the constant cacophony, it’s quite a spectacle.
Photos from this tour can be seen in my Scotland 2013 Flickr album
Sounds from this tour can be heard in my Scotland 2013 Xeno-canto set