Places to see birds

Birding North-East Scotland

Birding North-East Scotland part one;
Cairnbulg (Fraserburgh) to Girdleness (Aberdeen)

H. I. Scott et al.

With a recording area of nearly 7,000 km2, North-East Scotland offers a range of excellent birding opportunities. During migration times, most local birders efforts are likely to be concentrated along the north and east coasts of the region which extend for more than 170 kilometres. Every area of cover is worth checking during spring and autumn when there is a wind from the north-east, east or south-east, especially when it's accompanied by rain.

The better known coast from Fraserburgh to Aberdeen receives the most attention from local birders, whilst the southern stretch from Aberdeen to St. Cyrus and the north coast from Fraserburgh to Cullen must offer equal potential but as yet have received very little coverage at optimum times. This, together with the small number of active birders in the region, creates great opportunities for anyone visiting this area to find their own migrants.

In part one of this article I have chosen to cover the most popular stretch of coast which covers most of the regularly watched coastal areas as well as highlighting a few lesser known sites that would repay exploration. A total of 355 species have been recorded in the region to date. This total, together with the absolute megas of the past few years and the glaring omissions from the regional list, suggest that the area has the potential to be one of the best in Scotland.

Cairnbulg to Girdleness - (c. 70km):
The coastline from Fraserburgh to Aberdeen provides a limited variety of habitats, the main feature being sandy beaches backed by sand dunes. These provide very little cover for migrants so any area with some bushes, trees or gardens acts as a magnet for birds in the spring and autumn.

Cairnbulg, Inverallochy (NK040655):
Location & access: Cairnbulg and Inverallochy are two adjoining, coastal villages situated on the east side of Fraserburgh Bay. Coming from Peterhead, just before you reach the village of St. Combs (see next account) turn left at the crossroads to stay on the B9033 to Fraserburgh. After about two kilometres turn right onto the B9107 which takes you into the two villages. The best point to head for is the car park at Cairnbulg Harbour, which you will easily reach if you remain on the road you came in on, negotiating the roundabout and sleeping policemen en route. The shoreline towards Inverallochy can then be explored either by car or on foot.

Habitat & best conditions: The extensive rocky foreshore attracts large numbers of waders from late summer and through the winter. A good diversity of species has been recorded including Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint and Jack Snipe. A considerable number of gulls collect at the mouth of the Water of Philorth just to the west of the harbour and, during the winter, regularly includes Glaucous and Iceland Gulls. Attracted by the feast of waders, Peregrines and Merlins can often be seen darting through the feeding flocks.

Past records: Storm Petrel, Little Egret, Rough-legged Buzzard, Lesser Yellowlegs, Little Gull, Ross's Gull, Ivory Gull (taken into care), Black Redstart and Snow Bunting.

St. Combs (NK055634):
Location & access: St. Combs is a small seaside village situated halfway between the well-watched birding sites of Rattray Head and Kinnaird Head (Fraserburgh). The area around St. Combs is under-watched but potentially could produce good birds at any time of the year. Approaching from Peterhead on the A952, take the right turn along the B9033 (two kilometres past the village of Crimond, sign-posted St. Combs). Follow this road all the way through the village towards the sea. Just after a sharp right-hand bend in the road, turn left onto a rough track that runs along the side of a playing field and park in the car park by the litterbin. The beach can be reached by taking the path down what is an old fossil cliff and across the dunes. A walk north along the beach towards Inverallochy can be very pleasant given a nice day.

Habitat & best conditions: St. Combs is situated on an extensive dune system that extends south to Peterhead and north (albeit mostly in the form of golf courses) to Fraserburgh. The shoreline is made up of sandy beach interspersed with rocky outcrops that are exposed at low tide and attract good numbers of waders. Scanning the sea from the car park can be particularly productive in winter with Red-throated and Great Northern Divers, Scaup, Common Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Red-breasted Merganser and Little Auk all possible. Skuas, shearwaters and petrels can be seen in small numbers in late summer. The surrounding fields attract large numbers of wintering passerines with flocks of 100+ Corn Buntings having been recorded in the past. There are small patches of scrubby vegetation and trees around the village which, given its close proximity to the migrant hotspot of Rattray, must attract migrants although its potential is yet to be realised.

Past records: Black-throated Diver, Little Gull, Glaucous Gull and Black Guillemot.

Loch of Strathbeg RSPB Nature Reserve (NK057582): (see detailed account in Birding Scotland 1(4)).

Past records: Pied-billed Grebe, Bittern (7), Great White Egret, Purple Heron, Glossy Ibis (2), Red-breasted Goose, American Wigeon (3), Green-winged Teal (6), Red-crested Pochard (3), Ring-necked Duck, Ferruginous Duck, Honey Buzzard, Black Kite, White-tailed Eagle, Crane, Avocet, Black-winged Pratincole, Killdeer, White-rumped Sandpiper, Baird's Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper (11), Buff-breasted Sandpiper (2), Lesser Yellowlegs, Terek Sandpiper, Red-necked Phalarope (2), Grey Phalarope, Ring-billed Gull, Caspian Tern, White-winged Black Tern, Little Owl, Bee-eater, Pallas's Warbler, Bearded Tit and Golden Oriole (2).

Rattray Head (NK104577):
Location & access: Rattray Head is one of North-East Scotlands best known sites and is reached by turning off the A952 Peterhead to Fraserburgh road, just north of St. Fergus, sign-posted to Rattray. The road passes the southern end of the Loch of Strathbeg where there is a parking area by the ruined church, this allows good views over the Loch and is also a good place to see Corn Buntings. Beyond this car park the road gets very rough, so proceed with caution. Follow the road until it ends by the houses at the coast.

Habitat & best conditions: Rattray consists of a sandy beach with some rocky outcrops; there are also extensive sand dunes behind and then grass fields. From autumn to spring there are some areas of open water, one of which, the 'floods', is in the field adjacent to the parking area by the houses. The other pool, (the 'flashes') is between Rattray and St. Fergus gas terminal and can be seen from the Gorse covered mound by the houses looking southwards. It is reached by walking along the fence line behind the dunes, a telescope is needed as it is difficult to approach closely without flushing the birds. The 'flashes' are also good for waders, and ducks such as Garganey are regular in spring. The 'floods' adjacent to the parking area are very good for waders; Little Stints, Temminck's Stints, Curlew Sandpipers and Ruff are regular visitors, while Green-winged Teal, Little Gull, White-winged Black Tern and Garganey have also been seen.

In spring there is very little cover and if there are no birds to be seen around the Gorse covered mound or in the gardens then further investigation is unlikely to produce much. The lack of cover means that if migrants are present they are easy to see. The best time for migrants is around the first two weeks of May when Bluethroats, Red-backed Shrikes and Wrynecks are almost annual.

In autumn, nettles, burdock and dock etc. provide more cover especially in the field south of the houses. September and October are the best months with Yellow-browed Warbler, Barred Warbler and Red-breasted Flycatcher being almost annual.

Rattray is also a good seawatching site, although it is a little exposed. In autumn Manx Shearwaters, Arctic Skuas and Bonxies are regular while Long-tailed Skua, Pomarine Skuas and Sooty Shearwaters can be seen most years. During the winter there are sometimes over 5,000 Eiders with good numbers of Long-tailed Ducks and some Common Scoters. Little Auks may also be seen in the winter. Late winter and early spring is a good time to look for Great Northern Diver, another Rattray special which can sometimes be present in good numbers.

Past records: White-billed Diver, Cory's Shearwater (3), Blue-winged Teal, Steller's Eider, Honey Buzzard, White-tailed Eagle, Montagu's Harrier, Kentish Plover, White-rumped Sandpiper, Baird's Sandpiper, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Sabine's Gull, White-winged Black Tern, Brünnich's Guillemot (found dead), Alpine Swift, Short-toed Lark, Richard's Pipit (3), Siberian Stonechat, Marsh Warbler, Icterine Warbler, Subalpine Warbler (2), Greenish Warbler (2), Pallas's Warbler, Dusky Warbler (2), Woodchat Shrike, Arctic Redpoll (2), Common Rosefinch, Rustic Bunting and Little Bunting.

Annachie Lagoon (NK106533):
Location & access: Annachie Lagoon is between St. Fergus Gas Terminal and the sea. It is reached by taking the road signposted to Scotstown, off the A952 at the southern edge of St. Fergus village. There is a car park and picnic area at the sand dunes. To reach the lagoon walk north (either along the beach or at the back of the dunes) for about one mile.

Habitat & best conditions: The lagoon is situated within dunes with little to no vegetation around it apart from the well vegetated burn that runs into it. During the summer there are good numbers of terns, mainly Sandwich, Common and Arctic while Roseate, Black and White-winged Black have all been seen here. The burn is always worth a check for Green Sandpiper. In the winter Glaucous and Iceland Gulls are regular visitors.

Past records: White-rumped Sandpiper (2), Baird's Sandpiper (two together), Pectoral Sandpiper and White-winged Black Tern. The surrounding area has produced Snowy Owl and Pechora Pipit.

River Ugie (NK121473):
Location & access: The estuary of the River Ugie is quite small and is easily checked from a car park on the northern edge of Peterhead where the river enters the sea.

Habitat & best conditions: From the car park, a footpath extends upriver for c. 500 m and provides an excellent vantage for viewing gulls and passage waders. The footpath also extends seaward and joins the promenade at NK123473. From here it is possible to check the gulls and terns on the beach. It is only in the last couple of years that the Ugie has received regular attention and its full potential is yet to be realised.

Past records: Mediterranean Gull, Ring-billed Gull and Yellow-legged Gull (2) have been found so far, while Glaucous Gull and Iceland Gull are regularly present in winter.
Peterhead (NK130455):

Location & access: Peterhead is known for its winter gulls, attracted by the towns fishing fleet. The harbour area is quite large and perhaps best explored by car; simply drive around looking for gulls.

Habitat & best conditions: Birds often gather on the large roofs at NK137458 or, at low tide, in the rocks at NK127456. Glaucous and Iceland Gulls are regularly encountered during the winter, with birds occasionally summering.

Past records: White-billed Diver (2), Cory's Shearwater, Great Shearwater, Leach's Petrel, Sabine's Gull (4), Roller, Yellow-browed Warbler and Radde's Warbler.

Sandford Bay (NK135435):
Location & access: An excellent sewage outfall discharges into Sandford Bay. The bay is just south of Peterhead by the power station and is best viewed by turning right at the roundabout on the A952 as you approach Peterhead from the south. There is a parking area on the right opposite the prison. This gives a view across the bay to the sewage outlet, marked by a large yellow buoy in the middle of the bay.

Habitat & best conditions: A telescope is vital to identify the hundreds of gulls attracted to the site. It has proved very attractive to Iceland and Glaucous Gulls which are both regular.

Past records: Ross's Gull. During 2000, up to eight Iceland Gull and two Glaucous Gull were together on the outfall.

Boddam (NK137423):
Location & access: A small coastal village south of Peterhead at the southern end of Sandford Bay. Turn off the A952 two miles south of Peterhead and drive down to the harbour.

Habitat & best conditions: The offshore rocks provide a resting place for hundreds of gulls. The lighthouse garden and surrounding bushes and gardens are well worth checking for migrants during suitable conditions.

Past records: Montagu's Harrier. Iceland Gull and Glaucous Gull are seen here most winters.

Bullers of Buchan (NK108383):
Location & access: Situated between Peterhead and Cruden Bay, 'the Bullers' are reached by taking the A975 signposted to Cruden Bay about five miles south of Peterhead. Just under a mile along this road there is a car park next to the road. To view the birds take the path by the houses and walk north along the clifftop.

Habitat & best conditions: The Bullers of Buchan is one of the best and easiest places to see nesting seabirds (May - July) in North-East Scotland. There are thousands of Guillemots and Kittiwakes with smaller numbers of Razorbills, Puffins, Shags and Fulmars. In the spring and autumn the gardens around the houses often have small numbers of migrants with Pied Flycatchers and Redstarts being seen annually.

Past records: Nightingale, Bluethroat and Hume's (Yellow-browed) Warbler.

Cruden Bay (NK094364):
Location & access: Cruden Bay is on the A975 between Peterhead and Newburgh. The woods are reached by taking the harbour road opposite the Kilmarnock Arms Hotel (excellent bar meals). Past the shops, there is a car park by a church on the left. From the carpark walk down the path through the woods.

Continue past the woodland carpark to Port Errol. Park by the harbour and check the bushes and gardens bordering the road. Migrants including Wryneck and Barred Warbler have been found here.

Habitat & best conditions: Cruden Bay has the most extensive area of cover on this stretch of coast, with a mature Sycamore woodland and Willows running alongside the burn.

This area is easiest in early spring or late autumn because in between there is so much foliage it is very difficult to see the birds! Migrants may be seen anywhere in the woods but they are usually present in good numbers beyond the footbridge over the burn. The patch of Willows just after the bridge can be very productive, especially for Pallas's Warbler and Yellow-browed Warbler, which have been seen many times. Further down the valley there is a brick tower on the left, in this area there is a variety of trees and bushes with the burn running through them. This general area can be productive for migrants (has included Long-eared Owls roosting in the trees). Continuing up the path towards Slains Castle, it is worth checking the stubble fields as this is one of the North-East Scotlands more regular sites for Lapland Buntings.

Past records: Wryneck, Olive-backed Pipit, Nightingale, Bluethroat, Barred Warbler, Pallas's Warbler (7), Yellow-browed Warbler, Radde's Warbler, Firecrest, Red-backed Shrike, Arctic Redpoll (3), Ortolan Bunting and Little Bunting.

Whinnyfold Gully (NK076343):
Location & access: Whinnyfold Gully lies between Cruden Bay and Collieston along the unclassified coastal road signposted off the A975 just south of Cruden Bay. About one and a half kilometres along this road there is a wider area to park just before the Gorse filled gully. Most of the gully is visible from the road where there is also a small patch of Willows.

Habitat & best conditions: In the spring and autumn the site attracts good numbers of migrants including Red-backed Shrike which is almost annual. In autumn, Long-eared Owls can often be seen roosting in the Gorse while the fields in this area can hold large flocks of Golden Plover.

Past records: Buff-breasted Sandpiper (two together), Richard's Pipit, Icterine Warbler and Pallas's Warbler.

Slains Pools (NK040310):
Location & access: The pools lie either side of the A975, approximately one kilometre north-east of Meikle Loch. As you head north, the main pool lies close to the road on the right and allows excellent views of waders and wildfowl. To the left, further from the road, are two smaller pools for which you need a scope. The main pool can easily be viewed from the car without disturbing the birds. Please park very carefully and as far off the road as possible.

Habitat & best conditions: Since they first appeared in the mid 1990s they have become one of the regions best non-estuarine wader sites. There's usually small flocks of wildfowl present with Garganey being a regular spring migrant. The small wintering flock of Wigeon were recently accompanied by one of their American cousins. The pools are excellent for migrant waders in both spring and autumn with Ruff, Little Stint and Curlew Sandpipers being regular.
Past records: Temminck's Stint, White-rumped Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper (4), Hudsonian Godwit (see Birding Scotland 2(2)) and Pied Wheatear (see Birding Scotland 3(1)).

Meikle Loch (NK029308):
Location & access: Seven kilometres north of Newburgh and about 200 metres before reaching Slains Primary School, there is an unmarked track to your left. At the end of the short track lies Miekle Loch, the largest loch in the area. Access to the loch is not restricted but it is on private estate land and the site is extremely sensitive where problems with birders have arisen in the past. Birders should, as always, park sensibly, not disturb the wildfowl and not walk around the loch edge.

Habitat & best conditions: The loch supports a good variety of wildfowl throughout the year and impressive numbers of Pink-footed Geese roost there in the autumn. The loch is always worth a visit as there's always changes in the wildfowl present. Unusual grebes and wildfowl occur and although there are sometimes waders around the edge, the loch is currently not as good for them as it used to be.

Past records: Snow Goose, American Wigeon, Ring-necked Duck (2), Black-winged Stilt, Pratincole sp., Pectoral Sandpiper (3), Long-billed Dowitcher, Red-necked Phalarope (3), Whiskered Tern (see Birding Scotland 4(3)), Black Tern and White-winged Black Tern (4).

Collieston (NK043287) & Sand Loch (NK034284):
Location & access: The small coastal village of Collieston lies approximately four kilometres north of the Ythan estuary. When visiting Collieston, parking can be tricky and it is best to park down at Cransdale car park, on your left as you enter the village. Local birders are on good terms with the villagers but please respect the residents who's gardens you peer into, and of course, the church yard.

Habitat & best conditions: The village is primarily known as an area for coastal migrants during the spring and autumn and has over the years been a favoured site by the local birders who have found many local and some national rarities. Some of the best known areas are; as you enter the village, the willows and sycamores by the church yard, as well as in the church yard itself. However, just about any sheltered garden or patch of rank vegetation is worth checking in the right conditions and nearly all are easily viewable from public paths.
Just south of the village is Sand Loch which is easy to walk around. Throughout the year it holds small numbers of common duck and occasional migrants. However, during most winters it is an excellent site to see Short-eared Owl hunting around the edges most afternoons.

Although Collieston is primarily a migrant site, seawatching from the Cransdale viewpoint can also be productive with Skuas and Shearwaters regularly recorded.

Past records: Cory's Shearwater (2), Rough-legged Buzzard, Crane, Grey Phalarope, a well watched Olivaceous Warbler (see Birding Scotland 4(1)), Booted Warbler, Icterine Warbler, Barred Warbler, Greenish Warbler (3), Pallas's Warbler (2), Yellow-browed Warbler, Firecrest, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Red-backed Shrike and Common Rosefinch.

Cotehill Loch (NK027293):
Location & access: Turn right off the A975 about five kilometres north of Newburgh onto the B9003 road signposted to Collieston. The loch is visible from the road where you can pull into the margins or farm entrance to view from. Please park sensibly.

Habitat & best conditions: This Loch is smaller than Miekle Loch and does not get the same numbers, or variety, of wildfowl. However, it is always worth a quick scan when in the area as it has turned up a few goodies over the years. Like Miekle Loch, it used to be good for waders but these days the water levels are usually too high to attract them.

Past records: American Wigeon, Garganey, Black-winged Stilt, Marsh Sandpiper, Wilson's Phalarope and White-winged Black Tern.

Forvie NNR and the Ythan estuary (NK003270):
Location & access: A visitor centre is located at NK034289 (Tel: 01358 751330) and can be accessed off the B9003 between Cotehill Loch and Collieston. From here, footpaths extend southward into the reserve and to Sand and Cotehill Lochs.

The estuary itself is too large to cover on foot. However, there are a number of access and viewing points between the mouth and Waulkmill hide and probably the best strategy is to drive between these, then explore each on foot.

From the car park at NK002247 it is possible to walk to Foveran Bushes (NK002237) or the fishing huts at NK004247 from where it is possible to view the estuary mouth. Newburgh golf course is accessible from this car park and can be good for migrants as are the gardens and bushes in and around Newburgh village.

A car park (NK004270) by the road-bridge over the Ythan (Waterside Bridge), provides access to the central and southern parts of the reserve. From the car park, signed footpaths extend alongside the estuary and across the dune and heathland areas. The breeding areas are out of bounds during the summer but a footpath system provides access to other parts of the reserve.

Moving up river, the mouth of the Tarty Burn, an area which is particularly good for freshwater waders, can be accessed via the car park at NK001268. This middle section of the estuary is also viewable from lay-bys at NK003281 and NK006283. Inch Geck Island (NK998278) attracts roosting waterbirds at high tide and many of the estuarys rarities have been seen on the island at one time or another.

Waulkmill hide (NK004290) provides good views across the upper estuary. Large numbers of waders and gulls can be present in front of the hide; more than 80 Curlew Sandpipers were present in August 1999. The estuary and surrounding fields hold large numbers of grey geese during passage times, with smaller numbers during winter.

Habitat & best conditions: This National Nature Reserve covers just over 1,000 hectares and is managed by Scottish Natural Heritage. The reserve includes a significant part of the Ythan Estuary as well as dune, heath and moorland areas. The reserve is of significant botanical interest and supports internationally important numbers of breeding terns and a nationally significant Eider colony.

Although most notable for its breeding birds, other species can be found during the year on Forvie. Snow Buntings are present in winter, often commuting between the sands and the dunes around Foveran bushes. Short-eared Owls are regularly seen around the Forvie Centre in winter. The areas of the reserve that are dotted with bushes can hold migrant passerines in spring and autumn, though these are rarely checked.

The Ythan estuary is arguably one of the best birding locations in the region. Good birds can be found throughout the year, but the estuary is particularly exciting in the early autumn (waders) and during the winter (wildfowl) when the number of birds on the Ythan can be daunting. However, the list of rarities found on the estuary illustrates the reward for patient scrutiny.

The fishing huts at NK004247 are a good area to look for terns during the summer and sea-ducks during the winter. A tin hut located on the edge of the golf course (NK005251) is a good vantage point to look for waders and gulls. The base of Inches Road (NK002256) is a convenient place to check the mouth of Foveran Burn while Inches Point (NK005256) provides good views of the mudflats up and downstream. From the spring to late summer, the points star attraction has been the King Eider, which was present for well over 15 years until its absence this year.

Past records: Frigatebird sp., Night Heron, Little Egret, Great White Egret, Black Stork (see Birding Scotland 1(4)), Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill, Snow Goose, Canada Goose (small race), Green-winged Teal, Montagu's Harrier (4), Crane (4), Black-winged Stilt, Avocet (8), Kentish Plover (2), American Golden Plover (2), White-rumped Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Broad-billed Sandpiper (4), Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs (2), Red-necked Phalarope, Grey Phalarope (2), Sabine's Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Caspian Tern (2), Forster's Tern, Bridled Tern, White-winged Black Tern, Nightjar, Bee-eater, Wryneck, Short-toed Lark (see Birding Scotland 2(3)), Richard's Pipit, Tawny Pipit (2), Thrush Nightingale, Red-flanked Bluetail (see Birding Scotland 2(1)), Siberian Stonechat, Eye-browed Thrush, Barred Warbler, Arctic Warbler, Pallas's Warbler (including five together), Yellow-browed Warbler, Firecrest, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Rose-coloured Starling and Common Rosefinch.

Drums (NJ997221):
Location & access: Heading south from Newburgh along the A975, after almost two kilometres Drums is signposted off to the left. Access is very sensitive at this site, and visiting birders are urged to follow these instructions whilst being courteous to the local residents.

Do not park at Drums farm, instead follow the tarmac road, turning right, around the corner of the farm garden, heading back towards the A92. After 50 metres there is a layby which can be used to park in. On foot, walk from the farm buildings, heading south along the dirt track, which after c. 50 metres, goes past a cottage on the left then turns left towards the sea. Follow this track between the fields to its end at a shooting range.

Habitat & best conditions: A few scattered bushes and trees with an understory of Willowherb scrub in the autumn provide cover for migrant birds. Following the burn inland checking the Willow and the Gorse covered banks can often produce good numbers of birds in the right conditions.

Past records: Richard's Pipit, Barred Warbler, Pallas's Warbler (2), Bonelli's Warbler, Firecrest, Red-breasted Flycatcher and Rustic Bunting.
Hatterseat (NJ988207):

Location & access: Located just south of Drums, Hatterseat is signposted off the A92 about three kilometres north of Balmedie. Turn off the main road and follow the track taking the right hand fork after about one kilometre. Continue along this track until it splits (200m) at a farm building, take the left track and park sensibly next to the building before proceeding on foot to the cottages and then down the steep slope to the grassy/scrub dunes area.

Habitat & best conditions: The cottage gardens have great potential but beware the residents of the first one are not totally 'birder friendly'. Down the slope is a large area of scrub and grass covered dunes with the odd small pool/marsh.

Past records: Nothing particularly notable to date. This reflects the lack of coverage this site has received over the years. Like many others, it has untapped potential.

Balmedie Country Park (NJ977181):
Location & access: Turn off the A92 about ten kilometres north of Aberdeen into Balmedie. Follow the signs through the village to the beach and country park where parking and toilets are available.

Habitat & best conditions: A pleasant area to visit at any time of year with its vast dunes and beach. During spring and autumn though, this area has plenty to offer the visiting birder. The whole car park complex is well vegetated (too dense in places) and the southern car park provides areas of long grass with a long line of Willow to work your way through. One and a half kilometres north of the main car park between the dunes and fields is a great area of wet Willow scrub which, although extensive, is not too dense to work properly. Large areas of gorse scrub also back the dunes, giving birders plenty of ground to cover in the right conditions.

Past records: Red-footed Falcon, Corncrake, Bee-eater, Shorelark, Richard's Pipit, Nightingale, Siberian Stonechat, Pallas's Warbler, Radde's Warbler, Firecrest, Red-breasted Flycatcher and Little Bunting.
Blackdog Rock (NJ965141):

Location & access: Best accessed by turning off the A92, signposted to Blackdog (not the industrial estate) and park at the end of the road where it bends north (beyond this, access is for fishing only). Walk straight ahead for a good view over the sea where scoter are usually found offshore from June until September.

Habitat & best conditions: This is a good area to check for Surf Scoter (July- September) and can sometimes also produce a rare sighting of Red-necked Grebe. The rubbish tip beside the road down to Blackdog is worth checking for white-winged gulls - March and April is best time. The bushes around the houses on the way down to Blackdog are always worth checking during fall conditions.

Past records: Surf Scoter (maximum of six together) Glaucous Gull and Hobby.

Murcar Golf Course (NJ957123):
Location & access: At the last round-about, heading north from Aberdeen (one after the Exhibition Centre round-about), take the small road to the right (signposted Golf Course). This takes you down to the golf course club house and car park. Although many do, you shouldn't use the golf course car park. Walk southwards from the clubhouse, down the track past the salmon fishermans bothy and turn right towards the dunes. There is a bench here which gives a good view over the sea.

Habitat & best conditions: These dunes are reminiscent of those at Aberlady Bay (Lothian). Don't wander far from the bench along the dunes if you're easily shocked! Plenty of Eider and seaduck can be seen off here, as well as seabirds, including occasional sub-rarities.

Past records: Red-necked Grebe, King Eider and Surf Scoter (six together).

Aberdeen Exhibition Centre overspill car parks (NJ952105):
Location & access: On the north side of the Exhibition Centre, behind the Balgownie Links are some overspill car parks which have a number of bushes separating parking bays and industrial units.

Habitat & best conditions: The bushes are now becoming quite mature and hold migrants during fall conditions. The problem here is too much cover; the area is likely to be most productive if two people cover this area together.

Past records: Nothing rare has been seen in this recently discovered area, but it's just a matter of time.

Balgownie Links (NJ950096):
Location & access: As you cross the River Don road bridge heading north, take the second road to your right. When the road splits, take the left fork towards the club-house car park.

Habitat & best conditions: Gorse bushes here tend not to be too productive, although a few small trees will attract and hold migrants in the right conditions. It's always worth checking the gardens which flank the course and rough ground nearby in fall conditions. Offshore can be good for Eider in late summer including the odd King Eider. In spring, there are large numbers of Red-throated Divers offshore. Toward the north end of the links there is a bench where it is possible to look out over the beach and sea. This is one of the better spots to look for seaduck. A number of duck species use the area offshore, but this is one of the better spots for scoter, which start to form large moulting flocks from June onwards and usually include at least one Surf Scoter.

Past records: Sooty Shearwater, King Eider, Surf Scoter, Little Auk, Hoopoe (2), Richard's Pipit, Pied Wheatear and Yellow-browed Warbler.

Don Estuary (NJ953095):
Location & access: The estuary mouth is located at the northern end of Aberdeen Beach Esplanade where parking on the roadside allows easy access to the southern side of the estuary, its hide and beach. Just over the road bridge, take the first right along Donmouth Road (junction with Donview pub on corner), to find the car park and footpath to the beach on the northern side. Note that Donmouth Road can only be accessed from the southbound carrageway i.e. can't turn right off the northbound carrageway after the bridge.

Habitat & best conditions: The estuary tends to get disturbed during the day, especially at weekends, so an early visit is usually best. During the day at low tide, waders can usually be found at the mouth of the river on the beach or on the Kings Links, although some use the mud flats by the hide (usually locked these days). At high water, if undisturbed, waders roost on a small peninsula on the south side of the estuary, which is best looked at from the north side car park. Check upstream of the bridge too, where Kingfisher is seen occasionally. The bushes flanking the south side of the estuary are worth checking (by walking on the river-side) in a fall. At the mouth on the south side there is a small hump with rough ground and a few bushes. These are among the best migrant bushes, but do not hold birds for long. It is always worth seawatching for seabirds in easterly winds, and ducks in spring.

Past records: Green-winged Teal, Ring-necked Duck, Ferruginous Duck, Greater Sand Plover, Temminck's Stint, Pectoral Sandpiper, Red-necked Phalarope (2), Mediterranean Gull, Ring-billed Gull (3), Yellow-legged Gull, Richard's Pipit, Pied Wheatear, Icterine Warbler, Pallas's Warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler, Firecrest, Red-backed Shrike and Lapland Bunting.

Seaton Park (NJ940092):
Location & access: Accessible from behind the Lidl supermarket or by walking up river from the River Don road bridge.

Habitat & best conditions: Mostly open parkland, with mature vegetation and trees, which has the river Don running through it. Check above the weir for grebes, Dipper and riparian bird species. Walk along the river around the north side of Hillhead Halls of Residence to see woodland birds, including singing warblers in spring. The area around the Brig o' Balgownie is good for Blackcap in spring, Kingfisher and Stock Dove.

Past records: Orphean Warbler (trapped) (see Birding Scotland 3(1)) and Golden Oriole.
Kings Links and Aberdeen Beach (NJ953075):

Location & access: Accessed from Aberdeen Beach Esplanade which runs from the harbours side of the River Dee to the road bridge over the River Don to the north.

Habitat & best conditions: Looking for migrants in poor weather around the gorse bushes behind the beach front can be productive. The line of bushes along the north side of dog kennels in the middle of the links by the Seaton flats may also be productive. Look offshore in winter and spring for seaduck and other seabirds - this area is particularly good for Long-tailed Duck.

Past records: Icterine Warbler and Wood Warbler have been the best birds to date due mostly to low coverage.

Inchgarth (Cults) Reservoir (NJ902027):
Location & access: From the A90 Bridge of Dee roundabout, take the minor (Garthdee) road westwards past Asda and B&Q. Continue along this road as it climbs, levels out and then as it starts to descend, look for the entrance to the reservoir on the left, just past the turn-off signposted to Cults. Park carefully at the entrance of the reservoir, do not block the access gates.

Enter through the small gate to the right of the main, locked gates, and scope the reservoir from the boundary fence. Along the paved track on the eastern edge of the reservoir, the duck and gulls can often be observed at closer quarters. A muddy path then heads southwards (before reaching the pumping station) towards the river Dee. Follow the river downstream for a hundred metres or so, then head north, through the scrub to a large ash tree. From here, a good view of the small pool and wet pasture of Inchgarth Local Nature Reserve (managed as grazed fields by the SOC) can be had. Continue along the river bank downstream watching for Kingfisher, then turn left through mixed woodland, and follow an old flood protection dyke northwards with the Inchgarth reserve on your left. This track leads towards a Beech wood. Turn left and follow the track westwards back to the reservoir and the start of the walk. This walk will take upwards of an hour, depending on the amount of time spent birding. Some of the walk is a bit of a scramble, but most, depending on the river level, is straight forward.

Habitat & best conditions: A concrete and granite block lined reservoir on the bank of the river Dee. It has mixed woodland and wet pasture bounding the northern and eastern sides respectively.

From September onwards increasing numbers of duck, over 100 Wigeon, 50-100 Goldeneye, and up to 150 Goosander have been noted. Smaller numbers of Tufted Duck, Mallard, Teal and Red-breasted Merganser are seen regularly. Red and Black-throated Divers, Little, Slavonian, Great Crested and Red-necked Grebe have also been recorded. There are often large numbers of gulls seen here with occasional white-winged gulls among them.

During spring and autumn, Ospreys are seen through here, but they rarely stop and waders such as Green Sandpiper and Greenshank are seen in small numbers.

In summer, the mixed Beech wood holds breeding Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Garden and Willow Warblers. On the river Dipper, Common Sandpiper and Grey Wagtail can be seen, whilst the whin bushes hold Whitethroat and Sedge Warblers in good numbers.

Past records: Little Egret, Scaup, Smew, Avocet, Jack Snipe, Lesser Yellowlegs, Iceland Gull and Glaucous Gull.

Girdleness (NJ965055):
Location & access: Girdleness is the headland immediately to the south of Aberdeen harbour. The road runs round the perimeter offering various areas to park and explore from.

Habitat & best conditions: Most of the area is a golf course with a lighthouse on the headland, the rocky Greyhope Bay to the north, and the stony beach of Nigg Bay to the south. The best times to check the area are spring and autumn when the wind is in the south-east, preferably after light drizzle. Given such classic conditions, anything is possible.

The best areas for migrants at Girdleness are the gorse and shrubs around Torry Battery (ruined fort on hilltop), and the Sycamore tree below the allotments near the harbour mouth. To the south, there is another area of gorse and scrub, known as the 'South Bank' situated on the golf course by the northern edge of Nigg Bay. In the right conditions almost any patch of cover can hold birds, for example, the fall in September 2000 demonstrated, even the weeds close to the shoreline held birds.

There are however a few sites around the 'Ness which seem to be particularly attractive to certain species. If the wind turns to the south-east during the second half of May, then the chance of a Bluethroat appearing on the Battery are pretty good, and if there are Yellow-browed Warblers around in Autumn, then check the Sycamore. The long grass around the Battery has now produced three Ortolan Buntings in the last two Septembers.

Passerines are not the whole story at Girdleness, as the horn by the lighthouse is also an established sea-watching point. The commoner skuas and shearwaters are regular during late summer - early autumn, and there is always the chance of something rarer; Cory's Shearwater has proved to be almost annual in recent years. Among the moult flock of Eider at this time of year a King Eider can sometimes be found.

The winter months at Girdleness usually produce a few records of Glaucous and Iceland Gulls which frequent the rubbish dump just south of Nigg Bay. Girdleness is also a local stronghold for Purple Sandpiper, with peak numbers usually exceeding the 100 mark in winter.

Past records: Cory's Shearwater (9), Great Shearwater (7), King Eider, Honey Buzzard, Red-footed Falcon, Quail, Avocet (three together), Grey Phalarope, Sabine's Gull (4), Ross's Gull, Alpine Swift, Hoopoe, Woodlark, Red-rumped Swallow (2), Richard's Pipit (5), Citrine Wagtail, Nightingale (3), Isabelline Wheatear, Desert Wheatear, Great Reed Warbler, Icterine Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Greenish Warbler, Pallas's Warbler (3), Radde's Warbler, Firecrest, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Woodchat Shrike, Rose-coloured Starling, Arctic Redpoll and Little Bunting.

However, perhaps more striking is the consistency with which sub-rarities are found. For instance in the classic fall conditions that prevailed during mid-September 2000, the site recorded Richard's Pipit, Icterine Warbler, Barred Warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler, Common Rosefinch, Lapland Bunting and Ortolan Bunting. Although not all these species were present at the same time, this tally is still surely without rival on the Scottish mainland.

Many thanks are due to the core of active North-East Scotlands birders, all of who supplied written accounts of their 'patches' for inclusion in the first part of this article. Thanks especially are due to: Philip Bloor, Robert Coleman, Margaret Cowie, Ian Francis, Chris Gibbins, John Harrison, Tim Marshall, Stuart Reeves, Mark Sullivan and Andy Webb.

When visiting North-East Scotland, please send all bird records to; Andy Thorpe, 30 Monearn Gardens, Aberdeen AB13 0EA.

Buckland et al. (1990). The Birds of North-East Scotland, North East Scotland Bird Club
Ian Phillips (1997). Rare and Scarce Birds in North East Scotland (privately published)
North-East Scotland Bird Reports. Contact Dave Gill on
The Wildlife Web. (

Harry I. Scott, 51 Charlton Cresent, Aboyne, Aberdeenshire AB34 5GN.

Birding . . .
North-East Scotland part two;
Cullen to Fraserburgh & Aberdeen to St. Cyrus
H. I. Scott et al.

Part one of this article (Birding Scotland 4(4)) dealt with the well known stretch of coastline between Fraserburgh and Aberdeen; regularly watched by local and visiting birders alike. In this second part of the article, the northern coastline from Cullen to Fraserburgh, and the southern coastline from Aberdeen to St. Cyrus are discussed. Some of these areas have been very poorly watched over the years while others have never really been visited by birders, nonetheless these two stretches of coastline have produced some extraordinary records. Various locations are mentioned in the text but it is strongly recomended that birders cover the areas in between as well. The potential for these areas is equal to, if not far greater than, that of the area covered in part one - now is the time for birders to explore these forgotten sites!

Cullen to Fraserburgh - (c 50km):
Most of Aberdeenshire's northern coast is dominated by hard rock cliffs, looking out across the outer Moray Firth. Described by the tourist board as a 'hidden gem', this coastline stubbornly remains off the beaten tourist track, and this applies equally well to birders. What does this little-known shore of cliffs, hidden fishing villages, kelp-covered shingle and small bays have to offer the birdwatcher?

Logie Head - Cullen (NJ528682):
Location & access: Logie Head is located just east of Cullen and can be accessed by a coastal trail from Cullen.

Habitat & best conditions: Home to a large colony of Oysterplants on the shingle, passing seabirds can be quite close here, and there is always a chance of Black Guillemot, not far from its nearest regular breeding site, near Portknockie.

Sandend Bay (NJ558665):
Location & access: Five kilometres east of Cullen is Sandend Bay which can be accessed off the A98.

Habitat & best conditions: Sandend Bay is the only sandy beach between Cullen and Banff and typically holds small numbers of waders such as Sanderlings, Oystercatchers and Turnstones.

Portsoy (NJ590662):
Location & access: Located on the A98, mid-way between Cullen and Banff.

Habitat & best conditions: Any journey along this north coast should include a brief stop in Portsoy, an ancient and attractive fishing village with a very interesting harbour. The coast between Portsoy and Whitehills is seldom visited, and this also holds true of the farmland areas immediately inland. This coastal strip from Portsoy to Banff is still a stronghold for Corn Buntings, and some large winter flocks have been seen here, as well as scattered breeders singing on many telephone wires. The area around Whitehills (NJ655655) is well worth exploring. Farmland here often holds big numbers of Lapwings and Golden Plovers, and these, together with the frequently large flocks of finches and buntings, draw in Peregrines and Merlins, often seen in the autumn and winter. A scan offshore from Knock Head at Whitehills, usually reveals a good passage of seabirds, especially Gannets, but also Sandwich Terns in summer, and the raised beaches behind the caravan site (NJ660658) are covered in scrub, and often hold migrants in conditions of north-easterly winds in autumn. It is worth making the point that all along this coast there are many small hollows, burnsides, and scrub patches which in the right conditions are undoubtedly used by migrants every year.

Past records: White-billed Diver (found dead).

Banff (NJ685645):
Location & access: Situated on the A98, roughly halfway between Cullen and Fraserburgh.

Habitat & best conditions: Banff Bay can hold large numbers of ducks in winter, though fewer now that improvements have been made to the sewage treatment plant and the associated outfalls. The gulls are always worth checking along with the hundreds of Eiders. Goldeneye, sawbills and gulls can often be found close in. The River Deveron flows into the sea at Banff, and holds significant numbers of Goosanders and Goldeneye - it's also worth exploring upstream for Mandarin.

Past records: White-billed Diver, Iceland, Glaucous and Kumlein's Gulls.

Macduff (NJ705645):
Location & access: Situated on the A98, roughly halfway between Cullen and Fraserburgh.

Habitat & best conditions: At Macduff, adjacent to Banff, the Marine Life Aquarium (open all year) is a very successful attraction, as its entire stock of fish and marine organisms come entirely from the Moray Firth. Improve your knowledge of the food web in the sea, and how it might affect birds! The coast east of Macduff along to Gardenstown is very little explored. In the 1970s and 1980s, Black Guillemots regularly frequented Stocked Head (NJ757657) and breeding probably took place. Otherwise, scattered Fulmars and other seabirds are found on these steep cliffs, with widespread breeding Rock Pipits.

Gardenstown (NJ802647):
Location & access: Located about 20 kilometres west of Fraserburgh, off the B9031.

Habitat & best conditions: The small coves at Gardenstown (Gamrie) and Crovie (NJ807655) are both very attractive and can hold good numbers of Rock Pipits, feeding on enormous piles of washed-up kelp and other seaweeds. There are often photo-opportunities here for close encounters with waders such as Ringed Plovers, Redshanks, Sanderlings, Oystercatchers and Curlews. Any area along this stretch of coast has possibilities for migrant hunters in the heavily vegetated gullies or the sporadic cliff-top Gorse bushes.

Troup Head (NJ825674):
Location & access: Troup, Pennan and Lion Head Special Protection Area lies immediately east of Crovie and extends to the 'Local Hero' village of Pennan. Troup Head itself, can be accessed from NJ823665. Drive through Northfield Farm on a minor road from the B9031. The farmer at Northfield is happy for this 'informal' access to take place, and many people visit. There is a car park at the end of the track and from there, proceed up the track and through the field marked "Beware of the Bull" (no joke - they are sometimes in there) and cross over to the cliff top. Remember to close all gates and please don't take your dog. The site is not a reserve and the path is rough and ready - not for those with no head for heights!

Habitat & best conditions: This large seabird colony of European importance is spread over three main headlands, but the best place to visit is Troup Head. Not only are the views of tens of thousands of Guillemots, hundreds of Razorbills and many Puffins spectacular, but this headland also holds the only other colony of Gannets on the British mainland away from Flamborough Head. This remarkable colony only began in 1988, since then it has increased massively to over 1,000 pairs in 2000. Keep an eye out for passing seabirds and cetaceans too.

Rosehearty (NJ931678):
Location & access: Rosehearty is situated about six kilometres west of Fraserburgh on the B9031. Parking is available next to the harbour or on small pull-offs along the B9031 towards Fraserburgh.

Habitat & best conditions: East of Rosehearty lies a fascinating stretch of coast with broad shelves of cobbles, rockpools and sand. This unusual coastline is more like western Scotland, with a width of several hundred metres of kelp-dominated pools and shingle. The only other similar place in Aberdeenshire is the coast around Gourdon, well south of Aberdeen. The area is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, both geologically and for its wintering birds.

It used to hold nationally important numbers of wintering Purple Sandpipers and Turnstones (perhaps 4-500 or more of each), but in common with many sites in Britain, numbers have dropped markedly. However, there are still many thousands of birds on this stretch of coast. Big numbers of Redshank and Curlew are regular, together with a good mix of most other common winter and passage waders. Hundreds of ducks (mainly Eider, Wigeon, Mallard and Red-breasted Mergansers) are offshore, along with many Red-throated Divers, Long-tailed Ducks and passing Gannets and auks. The many gulls always contain Glaucous and usually Iceland Gulls, though gull numbers may drop here following completion of improvements to the sewage system. Over 100 Rock Pipits have been counted along this stretch, and there is usually a good range of passerines to be seen.

Past records: Short-billed Dowitcher (see Birding Scotland 2(4)) and Pectoral Sandpiper.

Sandhaven (NJ964675):
Location & access: Sandhaven Harbour lies three kilometres west of Fraserburgh. Please park sensibly.

Habitat & best conditions: The harbour always repays a look, mainly because of the Common Seals which haul out here, often 20 or more only a short distance away. The harbour also holds small numbers of a good range of waders, and in recent years a wintering Greenshank has been present.

Past records: Blue-winged Teal and Crane.

Phingask Bay (NJ975670):
Location & access: On the western outskirts of Fraserburgh is Phingask Bay. Various pull-offs provide opportunities to park and view the coast.

Habitat & best conditions: Similar to some of the previous stretches of coast in nature, this stretch benefits by being closer to Fraserburgh. Large numbers of gulls wash, feed and roost along the shore, off the sewage outflow and on the roofs of the industrial units. The western end is more favourable to some of the commoner waders. Just inland, the fields are worth checking in winter for scattered flocks of buntings.

Past records: Mediterranean, Little, Iceland and Glaucous Gulls, Waxwing, Lapland and Snow Buntings.

Kinnaird Head (NJ999678) and Fraserburgh (NJ995670):
Location & access: (see Birding Scotland 1(1)).

Habitat & best conditions: One of Scotland's premier seawatching points. In summary, it is an excellent place to expect a very good range of passage birds at all times of year, often very close in. Gulls are abundant around the headland and the harbour, where numerous white-winged gulls are almost always present in winter, and often in summer too. Late summer is proving to be a good time to see reasonable numbers of Storm Petrels just off the rocks. Passerine migrants are also frequent here. Black Redstarts have been seen sheltering in the buildings and small hollows around the headland. The Purple Sandpipers of the Rosehearty-Fraserburgh shore roost at Kinnaird Head, and over 100 can still be seen. Recent building works connected with improving the sewage system have probably removed the food source for birds, so opportunities for seeing birds are perhaps not as good as they were, at least for the moment.

Past records: Great Shearwaters (two mid-winter records), Common Crane (flew in off the sea), Grey Phalarope (6), Sabine's Gull (7), Ring-billed Gull, Ross's Gull (4; three together), Ivory Gull, Rose-coloured Starling and Arctic Redpoll.

Loirston Loch to St. Cyrus - (c 50km):
This third and final stretch of coastline appears to offer huge migrant potential but alas remains largely underwatched. The many vegetated gullies, clumps of mature coastal woodland and small villages beg for more attention from birders in spring and autumn.

Loirston Loch (NJ938011):
Location & access: Situated to the south of Aberdeen, Loirston Loch can be easily viewed from a lay-by on the northbound A956.

Habitat & best conditions: A small, fairly shallow freshwater loch, surrounded by willow scrub and farmland. Only a few pairs of Coot and Mallard nest here, with Mute Swan attempting to breed most years. The loch is very popular with anglers, which doubtless has an effect on the breeding birds. The adjacent scrub holds good numbers of breeding Sedge Warbler and Reed Bunting. Winter is usually the best time of the year here with the scarcer grebes and divers occasionally putting in an appearance and the small gull roost sometimes hosts Glaucous Gull.

Past records: Great White Egret, Scaup and Smew.

Rigifa Pool (N0941998):
Location & access: The flooded field opposite Rigifa Farm, on the Cove to Findon road, is known locally as Rigifa Pool. The pool can be easily viewed from the road.

Habitat & best conditions: Being the only attractive area to waders in the vicinity, it regularly attracts small numbers of freshwater waders. Jack Snipe can be found during the winter months, but only with the aid of a pair of wellies! A regular wintering flock of Wigeon (100+ birds) is worth searching through for other ducks, which have included Garganey and Gadwall in the past. Unfortunately, the pool often dries out during the summer months.
Past records: Little Ringed Plover, Least Sandpiper and several Wood Sandpipers.

Cove Bay (NJ955005):
Location & access: The village of Cove Bay is situated on the southern outskirts of Aberdeen and its Community Woodland can be accessed by parking on Langdykes Road. The harbour can be reached by driving into 'old' Cove village, taking the bridge over the railway line opposite the Post Office on Loirston Road (Cove Rangers football stadium is at the far end of this road). After crossing the railway bridge, turn right, then left and follow the road down the steep hill to the sea, past the row of houses at the bottom, to the harbour.

Habitat & best conditions: The area consists of a variety of habitats, mainly suburban housing, with agricultural land to the south and north and a rocky coastline complete with a small harbour for the use of the local fishing community. Loirston Loch on the southern outskirts is the sole area of permanent freshwater in the area, which is complemented by nearby Rigifa Pool.

The migration periods of spring and autumn are without doubt the more productive times of the year for the birder, with Cove ideally placed for receiving migrants. A number of sites have come to the fore such as Cove Community Woodland (NJ950007), a small isolated wood consisting of Sycamore and Willow, it has been the most productive site to date. As well as the rarities, common migrants can also be present here in good numbers, particularly during fall conditions. Breeding birds in the area include Stonechat and Grasshopper Warbler. Recent intensive tree planting of the area, carried out by Aberdeen City Council, will undoubtedly improve the area for coming years.

The area known locally as 'Old Cove' consisting of the original houses and cottages of the village can be a good spot for migrants. Try the area near the Cove Bay Hotel (the food comes highly recommended!) and surrounding gardens. More than one Yellow-browed Warbler has been found here in the past.

Cove harbour can be a good seawatching point, especially during adverse weather when sitting in the car is a real advantage. Strong onshore winds can give good views of shearwaters and skuas with recent highlights being Long-tailed and Pomarine Skuas, Balearic Shearwater and Black Tern. The rocky coastline below the carpark holds good numbers of Purple Sandpiper and Rock Pipits in winter. Just north of here is Burnbanks Plantantion (NJ958022), located just behind Burnbanks village on the Cove to Girdleness road. This area hosted Red-backed Shrike and Hobby in May 2000. The plantation, although difficult to work due to its size and density, can be teeming with thrushes during the autumn, and would doubtless repay more thorough watching. Two singing Lesser Whitethroats held territory here in 1999.

Past records: Swinhoe's Storm-petrel (see Birding Scotland 3(4)), Sabine's Gull, Nightjar, Black-bellied Dipper, 'White-spotted' Bluethroat, Icterine, Barred and Yellow-browed Warblers, Firecrest, Collared Flycatcher (see Birding Scotland 2(3)), Red-backed Shrike, Great Grey Shrike and Common Rosefinch.

Findon (NO938975) and Downies (NO925951):
Location & access: Findon Village lies four kilometres south of Cove while Downies is situated just south of Portlethen. Both are signposted off the A90.

Habitat & best conditions: These small coastal villages, between Aberdeen and Stonehaven are all ideally placed to receive migrants. They consist of a number of large, well-vegetated gardens and can produce good numbers of migrants in spring and autumn. The surrounding barley fields can be a good bet for Quail in summer. Downies is even smaller than Findon, but is fairly difficult to work, with the best looking gardens being inaccessible.

Past records: Hoopoe, Pallas's Warbler and Firecrest.

Newtonhill (NO910935):
Location & access: Situated between Portlethen and Stonehaven, Newtonhill can be accessed off the A90.

Habitat & best conditions: Newtonhill is as likely to get migrants as anywhere else on this stretch of coast. The 'Old village' is very well positioned and with several mature gardens, is an area always worth checking, particularly in late autumn. On both sides of the village small burns run to the sea creating good migrant corridors. Sedge Warblers breed and Reed Warblers were almost annual at one time.

With its vantage over a wide area of sea, Newtonhill has always proven to be a good seawatching site. Up to 100 White-beaked Dolphins have been seen on some August evenings. Seabirds are regular too with some large passages of Manx and Sooty Shearwaters with the commoner Skuas. Long-tailed, Pomarine Skuas and Storm Petrels have been seen during strong passage and it is worth noting that three of the first ten records of Cory's Shearwater in North-East Scotland came from Newtonhill. Late July, August and early September being the best time for that species.

Past records: Bluethroat, Booted, Icterine, Barred and Pallas's Warblers and Red-backed Shrike.

Muchalls (NO902918):
Location & access: Muchalls is a larger coastal village midway between Aberdeen and Stonehaven. Access Muchalls off the A90 and park near the large, derelict hotel in the southern end of the village. As with all private gardens, please respect the privacy of the owners.

Habitat & best conditions: The large mature trees and many gardens make this a difficult area to work. Concentrating on a number of easily accessible sites is the key here. Check the trees around the hotel and the overgrown burn behind. The track continues towards the sea, under a railway bridge. The trees and bushes along this track can be full of birds given the right conditions.

A look on the sea, during the summer, may reward with views of Black Guillemot amongst the large number of auks. This is the southernmost breeding area on the British east coast. A coastal path, accessed by going through the gate at the railway bridge, leads south along the cliff top to Easter Muchalls - a distance of approximately 500 metres.

Easter Muchalls is one of the most picturesque birding places on this area of coast. It contains a number of large gardens, dominated by high Sycamores, a stream and large areas of gorse and scrub. You could be forgiven to think the place had been specifically designed to attract rare birds! Unfortunately, the area flatters to deceive, although it is not exactly watched intensively.
Another good spot worth a look is the Phelphie Road Burn. When driving into Muchalls, turn left into Phelphie Road and park at the end of the track by the gate. This small, but well vegetated burn produced the regions first Marsh Warbler in 1993.

Without doubt, more intensive watching at any of the above mentioned sites would prove very productive.

Past records: Marsh, Pallas's, Yellow-browed Warbler and Red-breasted Flycatcher.

Stonehaven (NO876865):
Location & access: Stonehaven is signposted off the A90. To view the bay, there are three recommended points to watch from. Firstly, a pull-in off the northern approach road from Aberdeen (NO881869) provides height for seawatching from your car, while parking at NO876865 on the sea front gives you closer views at sea level. The harbour car park also provides a good vantage point to view from.

Habitat & best conditions: Very little coverage in the past has resulted in no real detailed information of suitable birding spots in and around Stonehaven. It must, without doubt, have exciting hidden corners, just waiting to be discovered. One possibility for migrants is the area of mature parkland set back from the seafront at NO872867. Stonehaven Bay is a pleasant open bay which often contains good numbers of auks, divers and sea duck.

Past records: Slavonian Grebe and Grey Phalarope.

Fowlesheugh & Crawton (NO879798):
Location & access: Fowlsheugh is an RSPB reserve situated along the coast approximately six kilometres south of Stonehaven. Access to the reserve is possible from Crawton (four kilometres south of Stonehaven), sign posted off the A92 'Coastal Route'. There is a small car park at Crawton, owned by Aberdeenshire Council, which gives access to the start of the reserve path at Trollochy Cove (NO879801). Dogs are not allowed on the reserve.

The best way of viewing the nesting seabirds is by joining one of the RSPB boat trips running from Stonehaven Harbour during the breeding season. Telephone the RSPB on 01224 624824.

Habitat & best conditions: Fowlsheugh is 2.5 km of continuous cliffs with a narrow width of cliff-top grassland. It is bordered by farmland to the west and the North Sea to the east. The rock face has innumerable holes and ledges providing ideal nesting sites for cliff nesting seabirds. The site is one of the largest mainland seabird colonies in Britain and the main species are Guillemot (52,600 individuals), Kittiwake (25,500 pairs) and Razorbill (6,000 individuals), with smaller numbers of Herring Gull, Fulmar, Puffin, Shag and Eider. The breeding season is from May-August and by the end of this period the cliffs can be very quiet. Aside from the seabirds, Fowlsheugh and Crawton have the potential to hold grounded migrants. At present, cover is scarce but landscaping of several areas near the reserve entrance may give a better chance of scarce migrants. Since 1982, 100 species have been recorded, of which 16 have bred. With Black Redstart and Whinchat being first recorded for the reserve in 2000, this gives some indication of how under-watched the site is.

Past records: Honey Buzzard, White-tailed Eagle, and Black Redstart.
Catterline (NO869782):

Location & access: Situated halfway between Stonehaven and Inverbervie, Catterline is signposted off the A92. Park considerately outside the 'Creel Inn' or further along the road at the harbour.

Habitat & best conditions: No significant records have come from Catterline yet, but anyone visiting this small coastal village will wonder, why there's no records? One look at the vegetation around the harbour, along the burn that runs the length of the village, or in any of the gardens, will excite any visiting birder. It won't be long before this area becomes some birders closely guarded 'Patch'!

Kinneff (NO856748):
Location & access: 'Kinneff Old Church' is located about 3.5 kilometres north-east of Inverbervie and is signposted off the A92. Follow the signs and park sensibly in the pull-off next to the church yard. Please respect the residents privacy by staying to the road or track. Follow the road down the hill towards the sea, when it turns left round a building you continue along the unmade path towards the open fields. This path then bends right and follows a well vegetated gully eastwards to the sea.

Habitat & best conditions: This site, like many others, appears to offer huge potential to migrant hunters with its mature canopy of Sycamores, well maintained gardens and scrubby bushes fringing the open fields. All areas here merit close scrutiny and it is only a matter of time, before some unsuspecting birder lands a 'biggy' here.

Past records: Barred and Pallas's Warblers.

Inverbervie (NO834725):
Location & access: This small coastal village is approximately 15 kilometres south of Stonehaven on the A92. To reach the beach car park, take the turning opposite the village shop signposted 'beach'.

Habitat & best conditions: This whole area of coastline is incredibly under-watched and would doubtless replay close attention. The best area to view the bay is from the public carpark on the sea front. Many gulls bathe in the stream here and sea duck and auks (which has included Black Guillemot) occur offshore in the bay. The gardens and trees in and around the village look favourable for migrants and of course the famous 'Bervie Chipper' comes heartily recommended!

Past records: American Robin.

Gourdon (NO824706):
Location & access: Two kilometres south of Inverbervie is the fishing village of Gourdon. The village is signposted from the A92.

Habitat & best conditions: As of yet, Gourdon doesn't have a 'claim to fame' which is doubtless only through lack of coverage. The rocky coastline, which stretches south to Johnshaven, holds large numbers of Purple Sandpipers during the winter. An area of pigfarms just south of Gourdon can hold large numbers of gulls which are easily viewed from the coastal footpath.

Past records: A claim of Citrine Wagtail in autumn 2000 was unfortunately never proven whilst a Glaucous Gull provided some consolation to the despondant searchers.

Johnshaven (NO795671):
Location & access: Six kilometres south of Inverbervie lies the village of Johnshaven, accessed off the A92. To walk the coastal path north of the village, drive into the village centre, continue past the village shop and follow the road north past the harbour. After about 500 metres, a small parking area allows good views of the sea and the shoreline. The footpath continues northwards to Gourdon. Turning right just before the village shop can access the coastline to the south of the village. Follow the road until reaching the last line of houses. This footpath continues southwards to Miltonhaven.

Habitat & best conditions: Visiting birders will be struck by the substantial amount of cover in the area, with Lathallan School set in the grounds of mature woodland. The problem is, it is far too big! (Please note, the school grounds are strictly private, but there are many other suitable looking areas nearby). The many gardens in the village attract migrants during spring and autumn.

The sea is also worth a look, with Red-necked Grebe (check the Eider flocks) and Black-throated Diver being found in the past. Seabird passage can be surprisingly productive here - the regions largest number of Black Terns (26) and Little Gull (36) passed here in September 1997 and November 1998 respectively. The rocky shore provides suitable feeding areas for a variety of waders (including good numbers of Purple Sandpipers) and gulls. Any large gull flock is worth a look; a first-winter Mediterranean Gull was seen here in September 1997.

One of the features of this part of the coastline is the impressive movement of passerines on visible migration during the autumn, particularly September. The first couple of hours after dawn can see hundreds of birds moving south, noticeably finches, pipits and hirundines, but often including wagtails (especially Grey), thrushes and buntings. Counts of 300+ Siskin an hour are not unusual. Slightly more unusual species caught up in the movement of commoner migrants include Snow and Lapland Bunting and Crossbill.

Past records: Brünnich's Guillemot (found dead), Hoopoe (2), Icterine Warbler and Red-backed Shrike.

Miltonhaven (NO774656):
Location & access: Miltonhaven Caravan Park can be accessed either by foot from Johnshaven (a brisk ten minute walk) or by car, by following the signpost off the A92, two kilometres south of Johnshaven. When visiting this site by car, please park only at the carpark of the caravan site. The propertiers of the Caravan Park are only too pleased to have birders visiting the area and will often ask what's been seen.

Habitat & best conditions: This Sycamore-lined valley can be full of migrants given the right conditions. The line of Willows at the entrance to the Caravan Park can be particularly favoured by warblers. Walking north from the Caravan Park gives good views of the bay and Milton Ness, which holds a large concentration of gulls and terns in late summer. A beach here is one of the few such wader areas in this part of the region and as such, can produce good numbers of Dunlin and Ringed Plover. A small pool in the field opposite the beach has produced freshwater species such as Curlew and Green Sandpiper.

Past records: A day in September 1997 produced two Icterine Warblers, Greenish Warbler and Wryneck.

St. Cyrus NNR (NO742634):
Location & access: St. Cyrus NNR occupies 227 acres (over two kilometres long and about 400 metres at its widest point) to the north of the River North Esk which forms the boundary between North-East Scotland and Angus regions.

The reserve can be accessed off the A92 at two points. Heading south from St. Cyrus village on the A92 take the second road to the left, just after, and running down the side of, a mature strip of deciduous woodland. The road takes you down the hill to the reserves visitor centre, car park and toilets. If you are heading north from Montrose on the A92, just after crossing the River North Esk roadbridge, take the first small road to the right signposted 'Beach'. This road takes you under the viaduct and along to the visitor centre and car park.

Habitat & best conditions: For such a small area, the variety of habitats is great. From the low mudflats and saltings of the estuary to the long open beach with dunes backing onto large areas of open gorse scrub, willow herb and bushes. All of this is backed by the huge cliffs with bracken covered lower slopes.

The northern end of the reserve has a rocky shore, off which in winter, good numbers of Great Crested and occassional Slavonian Grebe can be seen. The reserve was famed in the mid 70s when 158 pairs of Little Terns bred, unfortunately due to the changing course of the river mouth, the habitat is not currently suitable. Small numbers of Fulmars breed on the cliffs along with a large House Martin colony right at the northern limit of the reserve. North of the visitor centre is a large area of Gorse scrub in which good numbers of breeding Stonchat, Whitethroat and Yellowhammer can be found along with a handful of Grasshopper Warblers.

The spit at the rivermouth provides an excellent roost for gulls and terns as they gather in their hundreds. Offshore in late summer has the spectacle of large rafts of sea duck with up to 500 Common and Velvet Scoter and 550 Red-breasted Merganser. Kingfishers are often seen flying up and down the river accompanying Dipper, Little Grebe in the winter and Grey Wagtail and Common Sandpiper in the summer. Coverage over the years has been low but the reserve is now deservedly gaining more attention from local birders.
Past records: In 2000 alone, species such as; Black-throated Diver, Honey Buzzard, Yellow-browed Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher and Red-backed Shrike were recorded. Other records have included; Little Egret, American Wigeon (2), Red Kite, Corncrake, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, Grey Phalarope (2), Black Tern (6), Brünnich's Guillemot (found dead), Turtle Dove, Roller, Wryneck, Shore Lark, Nightingale, Barred Warbler and Rose-coloured Starling (2).

Many thanks are due to the core of active North-East Scotland birders, all of who supplied written accounts of their 'patches' for inclusion in this article. Thanks especially are due to: Paul Baxter, Robert Coleman, Ian Francis, John Harrison, Ian Hastie and Ken Shaw.

Buckland et al. (1990). The Birds of North-East Scotland, North East Scotland Bird Club
Ian Phillips (1997). Rare and Scarce Birds in North East Scotland (privately published)
North-East Scotland Bird Reports. Contact Dave Gill on
North-East Scotland Biodiversity Website. (

Harry I. Scott, 51 Charlton Cresent, Aboyne, Aberdeenshire AB34 5GN.