Bird-Watching Opportunities Galore in Scotland

Bird watching in Scotland is a rewarding hobby as there are birds of every possible habitat here. There are excellent opportunities to observe sea birds and wading birds, inland birds and birds of prey. Bird species like ospreys and white-tailed sea eagles peregrines, bee-eaters, choughs, red kites, capercaillie, Montagu’s harrier, hen harrier and seabirds attract over half a million bird watching visitors to various sites. This is a significant contribution to the local economy.

The Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB) is one of Scotland’s biggest land managers and regularly makes recommendations that can help maintain the environment for the birds without hindering development. One of the cases is for less heather and more mixed grazing on hills and moors to encourage wild birds. Greater variety of vegetation at different heights encourages a wide variety of birds. In recent years the population of moor-land birds such as snipe, golden plover, curlew, skylark and wheatear, have declined in upland areas. Creating and maintaining this diversity of habitats depends on active management, with livestock grazing playing an important role. Decrease of heather because of grazing by deer has affected only the red grouse and stonechat.

It is feared that a proposed off-shore wind farm in Aberdeen Bay and the 800-acre links course and luxury hotel complex at the Menie estate north of Aberdeen planned by tycoon Donald Trump could seriously damage the wildlife treasures of the area. The fear is the changes may affect the thousands of seabirds passing along this shoreline at times of migration. Tens of thousands different species of migratory birds fly in from Scandinavia and the Arctic, and Aberdeenshire’s famous geese arrive from Greenland and Iceland – a sight not to be missed.

On the other hand a new housing development in Glenshellach, Oban has purchased wooden nest boxes to present to new house owners so that the birds of the region can continue to nest undisturbed. Sensitivity to the surrounding environment of marshland and woodland like this helps RSPB in their work.

The populations of seven species of birds in Scotland have significantly declined in the past decade. Numbers of kestrel, lapwing, curlew, oyster-catchers and meadow pipit have dropped and all five are on the amber warning list. The elusive ring ouzel, often known as the mountain blackbird, has suffered a decline in population of almost 60% between 1990 and 1999. The drop is believed to be linked to recent increases in UK temperatures in July and August after most chicks have fledged. The food supply reduces due to drying of the ground. One has to keep in mind that the red-backed shrike, also known as “butcher bird”, which was once commonplace became extinct by 1990.