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The Kingdom of Fife

Fieldfare Turdus pilaris ©Nigel Blake Website

Birding Fife

Fife is a council area and historic county of Scotland. It is situated between the Firth of Tay and the Firth of Forth, with inland boundaries to Perth and Kinross and Clackmannanshire. By custom it is widely held to have been one of the major Pictish kingdoms, known as Fib, and is still commonly known as the Kingdom of Fife within Scotland.

Fife is predominantly rural, with a small industrial belt (mostly mining) lying in central and west Fife around Lochgelly and Dunfermline. The Kingdom is bounded to the north by the Tay Estuary (stretching from Newburgh out past Tentsmuir Point) and to the south by the huge Firth of Forth. At the eastern tip of Fife lies Fife Ness and the North Sea.

North-east Fife is rich cultivated arable land, with few trees and hedgerows. The River Eden runs through Cupar and opens into a two-mile long estuary at Guardbridge, by the historic university and golf city of St Andrews. The East Neuk is the collective term for the south-east fishing villages of Crail, Anstruther, Cellardyke, Elie, Pittenween and St Monans.

Fife contains almost no natural woodland of any size, with the two biggest areas of trees being the forestry plantations at Tentsmuir and Devilla Forests. The long Fife coastline is composed of both rocky shore and sandy beaches. The Isle of May lies about 5 miles south of Crail at the entrance to the Firth of Forth.

The Breeding and Wintering Birds of Fife - an atlas for 2007-2013 - was published int 2016, mapping the distribution and abundance of birds in the region in summer and winter, it is an important reference work and conservation tool.

Top Sites

AA Fife

has few upland areas but in the west of the Kingdom are the Cleish Hills, and more central the Lomond Hills near Falkland and Leslie. There is often a good autumn passage of skuas and terns in the Firth of Forth, best viewed in Fife from Kinghorn Harbour, North Queensferry and Inverkeithing Harbour. To the west of Dunfermline (near Culross) Torry Bay and Valleyfield Lagoons host waders and wildfowl. Map References in the list below.

AA Lochs & Reservoirs

Those worth a visit for winter wildfowl, waders and gulls include Loch Gelly; Lochore Meadows CP; Cameron Reservoir behind St Andrews; Ballo Reservoir and Holl Reservoir; Birnie and Gaddon Lochs near Collessie; Lindores Loch; Craigluscar Reservoir near Dunfermline; and the delightful Kilconquhar Loch in the East Neuk. Map references in the list below:

AA Near Tayport

are Tentsmuir Point, Morton Lochs and Kinshaldy Beach, offering extensive forest and shoreline walks. Map references below.

Ballo Reservoir

Satellite View

Birnie and Gaddon Lochs

Satellite View

The two lochs are joined by a network of paths with plenty of rest areas and a picnic site at the main car park which offers excellent views across Birnie Loch. We also maintain two bird hides at the site, keys are available on request. The site is ideal for family recreational use including walking, bird watching and picnics. While the site is predominately open water surrounded by sparse woodland it also includes smaller areas of wetland and grassland habitats that help attract a variety of wildlife. As well as the excellent bird watching opportunities there’s a chance to spot some of Fife’s rare mammals including red squirrel, otter and bats.

Cameron Reservoir

Satellite View

Cleish Hills

See above

Craigluscar Reservoir

Satellite View

Fife Ness

Satellite View

Best known birding site in Fife. Rocky shore, farmland, scrub, tidal pond, and the famous Patch on Fife Ness Muir with Heligoland traps and a ringing hut. There is a Seawatching hide built by Fife Bird Club adjacent to the pillbox at the Ness. It is a great migrant spot in spring and autumn. Also visit Balcomie Farm walled garden (NO625099); Kilminning coast (NO632086) and Denburn Wood in Crail (NO614081).

Inverkeithing Harbour

Satellite View

Isle of May

Satellite View

Bird Observatory established in 1934. Regular boat trips to island from Anstruther on pleasure cruisers in spring and summer. Birders (six) can stay on the island for a small charge. Celebrated migrant hot spot; wonderful seabird colonies.

Kilconquhar Loch

Satellite View

Kinghorn Harbour

Satellite View

See above

Kinshaldy Beach

Satellite View

Largo Bay

Satellite View

has a large sandy beach from the River Leven stretching past the town of Leven, through Lower Largo to the Cocklemill Burn (NO468013) and Ruddons Point (NO454005) and Shell Bay (NO459002). Thousands of winter seaduck present in the area, especially around the outfall of the Leven by Methil Power Station (NO382003). The best place in Britain to see Surf Scoter Melanitta perspicillata, with up to 5 birds off Ruddons Point (access via Kincraig Caravan Park) in the winter.

Lindores Loch

Satellite View

Loch Gelly

Satellite View

Lochore Meadows CP

Satellite View

Lomond Hills

See above

Morton Lochs

Satellite View

Mountcastle Quarry & Letham Pools

Satellite View

Grid ref NO3113 - This is a disused quarry with several lagoons and extensive woodland and scrub. The quarry next to flooded fields to east (not marked on maps). Both attract many wildfowl year round and the occasional rarity, with pools often a focus for a range of migrant waders. Water Rails breed and are not difficult to see in summer. Greylag and Pinkfeet feed in fields in winter. Pools easily visible from minor road. Parking for quarry at entrance on A92.

North Queensferry

Satellite View

St Andrews & NE Fife

is a good area for winter wildfowl and passage waders. There is a public hide on the Eden Estuary LNR (NO478195) at the Guardbridge Nature Centre (NO452192); which offers panoramic views over the mudflats and Leuchars army base. Other hides are at Edenside (NO457192) and Balgove Bay (NO485185); but keys are needed for these. Also visit Outhead (NO494197) at the end of the West Sands in St Andrews, to view the estuary mouth.

Tentsmuir Point

Webpage

Satellite View

You can find pine-scented forest, windswept sands and a wonderful range of wildlife at Tentsmuir.

Torry Bay

Satellite View

Valleyfield Lagoons

Satellite View

Contributor

Dr Rob Lambert

St Andrews, Fife

ral2@st-andrews.ac.uk

County Recorder

Isle of May - Iain English

19 Nethan Gate, Hamilton, S Lanarks ML3 8NH

01698 891788

i.english.t21@btinternet.com

Graham Spa

19 Inverewe Place, Dunfermline KY11 8FH

07770 225440

grahamspa@aol.com

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 307

Useful Reading

Fieldguides & Other Birding Books
For a full list of fieldguides and other books see the general UK page

The Breeding and Wintering Birds of Fife

(An Atlas for 2007-2013( by Norman Elkins & Allan W Brown | Scottish Ornithologists' Club | 2016 | Hardback | 384 Pages |

ISBN: 9780951213964

Buy this book from NHBS.com

The Fife Bird Atlas

Edited by Norman Elkins, Jim Reid, Allan Brown, Derek Robertson & Anne-Marie Smout | Norman Elkins | 2003 | Hardback | 364 Pages |

ISBN: 0953932427

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Where to Watch Birds in Scotland

by Mike Madders & Julia Welstead | Christopher Helm | 2002 | Paperback | 297 pages, b/w illus, maps |

ISBN: 071365693X

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Useful Information

Isle of May Records

Ian Darling, 579 Lanark Road West, Edinburgh, EH14 7BL

Organisations

Fife Bird Club

Website

Formed in July of 1985 by a group of keen birdwatchers wanting to provide more information and better facilities for those interested in the birds of mainland Fife. The Club has grown to include several hundred members, with over a third of these actually living outwith Fife…

Fife Coast & Countryside Trust

Website

We are an independent environmental charity committed to ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to experience Fife's great outdoors. We do this through careful management in a manner which respects the balance between people and nature. We manage many sites and paths throughout the Kingdom including the Fife Coastal Path and the Lomond Hills Regional Park. We also manage several Local Nature Reserves and many other sites used by local communities.

Scottish Wildlife Trust - Fife & Kinross Branch

Website

Welcome to this web site which is about the wildlife and the activities of Scottish Wildlife Trust members in the East Coast counties of Fife and Kinross…

SOC Fife Local Group

Webpage

Venue: Supper Room of St Andrews Town Hall (at the corner of South Street & Queen’s Gardens), KY16 9TA Contact: Caroline Gordon, 01592 750230

Reserves

Abbreviations Key: See the appropriate Continent Page (or Country Page of those used on country sub-divisions)

LNR Birnie Loch

Webpage

Satellite View

The two lochs are joined by a network of paths with plenty of rest areas and a picnic site at the main car park which offers excellent views across Birnie Loch. We also maintain two bird hides at the site, keys are available on request. The site is ideal for family recreational use including walking, bird watching and picnics. While the site is predominately open water surrounded by sparse woodland it also includes smaller areas of wetland and grassland habitats that help attract a variety of wildlife. As well as the excellent bird watching opportunities there’s a chance to spot some of Fife’s rare mammals including red squirrel, otter and bats.

LNR Coul Den

Webpage

Satellite View

Built in 1890 as a reservoir suppling water to the Haig Bottling plant in Markinch, Coul Den is now a shallow loch with landscaped ponds, and an impressive path network. The site contains large areas of developing natural habitats that attract many birds, insects, and mammals. It is one of the largest areas of natural occurring ‘Willow Carr’ in Fife. Amphibians thrive in the ponds with Dragonflies and Damselflies also abundant in summer. Common breeding birds you may see include Mute Swan, Coot, Moorhen and Little Grebe

LNR Dalbeath Marsh

Webpage

Satellite View

Dalbeath Marsh is a former quarry site immediately west of Cowdenbeath. There is a pleasant circular path running around the entire site that will take you both to the waters edge and to the top of the little hill (approx. 0.75 miles circular route).

LNR Eden Estuary, Guardbridge

Webpage

Satellite View

The Eden Estuary reserve is vast and is used for many different purposes, including recreational activities such as wildfowling (permit required), walking, bird watching, and horse-riding. The Fife Coast & Countryside Trust maintain a small visitor centre that is the perfect spot for bird watching and there are also numerous other access points including large parking area and interpretation at West Sands in St Andrews.

NNR Tentsmuir

Information PDF

Satellite View

Tentsmuir NNR is on the east coast of Scotland, 10km north of St Andrews. Within Tentsmuir NNR is Tentsmuir Point, the tip of a large sand dune system, most of which is now covered by forest and farmland. Sand is still being deposited at the Point and the dunes continue to grow seaward. Indeed, this is one of the fastest growing parts of Scotland. As well as the dunes, there is a large seal colony, and important numbers of wildfowl and waders use the coast especially in the winter months. Morton Lochs, also within the NNR, has open water and a fringing fen which attracts wintering and breeding ducks and a variety dragonflies and damselflies.

RSPB Loch Leven (Vane Farm)

Webpage

Satellite View

Although now in Perth and Kinross, Vane Farm RSPB Reserve on the shores of Loch Leven, sits on the border with Fife and is popular with local birders. It has an excellent tearoom, RSPB shop and bookstore, and a board with recent bird sightings from the entire East of Scotland.

Scottish Wildlife Trust Reserves

Website

Annotated list…

SWT Bankhead Moss

Webpage

Satellite View

Bankhead Moss is a small raised bog, an uncommon habitat in this part of Scotland. There is an area of woodland and wetland with pools and scrapes where curlew, snipe and lapwing may be spotted. The bog provides ideal conditions for specialised plants including cottongrass and sundews.

SWT Barnyards Marsh

Webpage

Satellite View

This small and fascinating wetland reserve has a range of vegetation types, including reed canary grass, sedges and mosses. Reed buntings and sedge warblers breed here, and snipe may be seen in winter.

SWT Cullaloe

Webpage

Satellite View

Cullaloe originally had two reservoirs, one of which has been drained. Willow scrub now thrives here, and there are areas of open water, wildflower meadow and marsh. Lapwings and sedge warblers breed here, and great crested grebes and teals visit during winter.

SWT Dumbarnie Links

Webpage

Satellite View

Lime-rich dune grassland is an increasingly rare habitat on the east of Scotland. Such conditions make Dumbarnie Links an important habitat for rare plants and invertebrates. Nearly 2,000 species, including 1,200 insects and a wide variety of shore and sea birds, have been recorded here.

SWT Fife Ness Muir

Webpage

Satellite View

Approaching 150 species of birds have been seen from the reserve including 17 species of warbler. During spring and autumn recording is carried out on a daily basis and the reserve is now a ringing station with permanent traps similar to those on the Isle of May…

SWT Fleecefaulds Meadow

Webpage

Satellite View

Fleecefaulds Meadow is a mosaic of species-rich grassland, fen meadow and scrub woodland. In summer, the colourful display of wildflowers, including globeflower, twayblade, and cowslip, attracts a number of butterfly species. Brown hares graze in the meadow and warblers nest in the scrub.

SWT Kilminning Coast

Webpage

Satellite View

This stretch of coastline has species-rich grassland, salt marsh and coastal scrub where rare grassland and wetland plants grow, including purple milk vetch and northern marsh orchid. The scrub provides nesting sites for whitethroats, stonechats and linnets.

SWT West Quarry Braes

Webpage

Satellite View

West Quarry Braes is an important woodland and scrub habitat in an otherwise arable landscape. Willow and elder scrub, along with ash and hawthorn, make this a haven for breeding birds.

Forums & Mailing Lists

RSPB Tayside & Fife

Twitter Website

Nature news, sightings & events from our Loch Leven reserve and across Tayside and Fife.

Wild Crail

Sightings & News

A look at what's happening around us

Trip Reports

CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

Places to Stay

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Braemore B&B

Accommodation

Newport is well placed for the tourist routes to the Highlands or the North East after you enjoy the delights of St.Andrews and the East Neuk of Fife.

Observatories

Isle of May Bird Observatory

Observatory Website

Satellite View

The Isle of May Bird Observatory is Scotland’s oldest bird observatory, founded in 1934. The observatory is administered by a charitable trust (The Isle of May Bird Observatory and Field Station Trust) and manned by volunteer observers between March and November. The Observatory was founded by a group of young Scottish ornithologists and has continued to depend on the enthusiasm of amateurs who come to the island, usually for a week at a time, to maintain observations. The living accomodation is housed within the low light, a former navigational lighthouse… Jonathan Osborne, The Shieling, Halcombe Crescent, Earlston, Berwickshire TD4 6DA 01896 848126 jonathan@osborne108.fsnet.co.uk

Blogs

Barry Farquharson - Stonefaction Birding

BLOG

Graham Sparshott - Birding; a way of life

BLOG

Other Links

Birding by Bike

Article

In the company of Ranger Bob Weston take to the lesser known country roads and tracks to look at the wild birds and waterfowl in some of the hidden lochs near Collessie.