Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica ©John Buckingham

Ayrshire covers three of the thirty-two council areas of Scotland – South Ayrshire, East Ayrshire and North Ayrshire (excluding Arran and the Cumbraes). It is also co-terminus with the Watsonian vice-county number 75, which is still the bases of biological records across the British Isles. It shares borders with Clyde to the northeast and Dumfries & Galloway to the southeast. It has a long coastline on the Irish Sea. The climate in Ayrshire, is typical of that in Western Scotland, is milder than that of Eastern Scotland due to the stronger maritime influence, as the prevailing winds blow from the sea into Ayrshire and the warm Gulf Stream also has a strong influence on the weather and climate.

Birding Ayrshire

East Ayrshire

With no shoreline and having a landscape heavily influenced by coal mining and latterly wind farms you might expect East Ayrshire to be less than ideal place to check out. Luckily there are still some places that resist development and the remote nature of some areas leads to a restricted but very important avifauna.

Loudoun Hill (NS613379) – The only reliable place for passage Ring Ouzel in Spring but also Raptors all year and Brambling in winter.

Knockentiber to Springside (NS400396) – A tarmac cycleway on an old railway line acts as a transect across typical Ayrshire farmland. Local rarities such as Grey Partridge and Tree Sparrow occur here along with a good cross section of common residents.

Knockshinnoch Lagoons (NS617138) – Created by the dumping of mine waste this area is now an SWT reserve . Mainly consisting of flooded rough grazing with several pools and extensive regenerated Birch woodland this site unfortunately does not always live up to its potential. Water Rail breed here and a passing rarity is always possible. Past stars include Spotted Crake and Wilson’s Phalarope.

Glen Afton (NS632080) – An impressive upland Glen with a river running through good mixed woodland, spruce forest, open hillside and a rocky mountain plateau. Redstart and Flycatchers are present in the woods with Willow Tit an outside possibility. Dipper are on the river and Crossbills in the conifers. The higher reaches have Raven, occasional Merlin, Peregrine, breeding Golden Plover and in the first two weeks in May the highest point on Blackcraig plays host to trips of Dotterel.

Muirkirk uplands (NS697265) – The speciality for this area is breeding Hen Harrier which are under the protection of the RSPB. The same moors have Golden Plover and Red Grouse and Black Grouse can be found in surrounding forestry. Merlin, Short-eared Owl and the last breeding Dunlin in Ayrshire occur in this area. Access is not easy and its best to stick to roads and lay-bys except at Muirkirk where you can walk to Cairn Table the highest hill in this area.

Ness Glen (NS476013) – This is a spectacular gorge that acts as an outlet for Loch Doon. A rough path can be walked from Loch Doon Dam downstream to a small bridge allowing a walk back on the opposite bank. Dipper, Goosander and Grey Wagtail all may be encountered and summer breeders include Tree Pipit, Redstart, Pied Flycatcher and possibly Wood Warbler. Crossbills occur in the Scots Pines.

Loch Doon and Galloway Hills (NX476942) – Loch Doon is 9km long and can be a forbidding place often grey and wet and a haven for midges in summer. Despite this it is the gateway to the Galloway Forest Park which includes some real wilderness. The usual upland species can be encountered and Black Grouse are plentiful though difficult. Great Grey Shrike and Great White Egret have turned up in the past and there are plenty of remote places for surprises to hide.

Martnaham Loch (NS403173) – This is a large area of freshwater straddling the boundary between South and East Ayrshire with reasonable road access. Wintering flocks of Duck, Geese and Swans with the occasional rarity such American Wigeon, Ring necked Duck and Lesser Scaup. Passage waders can be of interest if the conditions are right and flocks of Whimbrel are regular in May. Black Tern and, on one occasion, Caspian Tern, have been seen here.

South Ayrshire

The varied landscape of South Ayrshire with its predominantly rugged coastline, river valleys, forests and hill country means there is always plenty to see if you know where to look.

North Coast – The coastal section from Barassie shore (NS325285) to Troon (NS323333) and then on to Powburn, Prestwick Bay (NS3428), Newton upon Ayr (NS342250) and Ayr Harbour (NS332236) provides a superb opportunity to observe the full range of Ayrshire coastal birds with very easy access and convenience facilities. Sea ducks, Auks and Gulls can be seen in abundance plus Red throated Divers, Manx Shearwaters and Purple Sandpipers at the right times. Troon Harbour and its headland are excellent for unusual Gulls plus, at the right time, Storm and Leach’s Petrel. The nearby sands at Barassie attract many waders and these have included Buff-breasted Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper and American Golden Plover in the past.  Powburn is easily reached from Prestwick Airport or Station and is a good spot for Kingfisher and waders. Rarities here include Spoonbill and Surf Scoter and it often attracts Short-eared Owl and Hen Harrier in the winter. Newton upon Ayr is a good place to look for Red-necked Grebe and Ayr harbour has breeding Black Guillemot and regular Iceland Gull.

Doonfoot and Greenan (NS324195) – This stretch of coast has, arguably, the longest list of species recorded in Ayrshire. Consisting of the mouth of the River Doon with riparian woodland, a sandy beach with a small dune system and nearby farmland with scrub and woodland its only failing is it can suffer from disturbance. It is a prime site for waders (32 species), Ducks and has a regular Gull roost (with occasional Ring-billed Gull). Large finch flocks occur in winter and it can be a good place to catch up with those awkward species like Kingfisher and in summer Lesser Whitethroat. Recent rarities include Firecrest, Buff breasted Sandpiper and Ivory Gull. Access is easy with free car parking and a cycle way.

Culzean to Dipple – This is another excellent coastal strip with a mix of rocky seashore, sand flats, cliff top woodland, shingle beaches and a prominent headland.

Culzean Country Park (NS2310) – This is owned by the National Trust for Scotland and provides easy birding in woodland and includes a section of cliff and a small lake. A good selection of common birds can be seen here plus Water Rail, if you are lucky, and breeding Fulmar and Raven. There is an entry fee unless you walk in from Maidens.

Maidens beach and harbour (NS215080) – This attracts a wide range of passage waders and Brent Geese in winter. Curlew Sandpiper, Water Pipit, Jack Snipe and even Dotterel have occurred here.

Turnberry Point (NS196073) – This is excellent for sea watching. To access this area requires a walk in from the road on level tarmac of about a kilometre. Sometimes the road gate is locked and you have to climb over. Your reward can be Skuas, Auks, a variety of passing waders, Manx Shearwater, Leach’s and Storm Petrels and numerous small birds on the adjacent Golf Course and dunes including Twite and Pipits. Ayrshire’s first Richards Pipit was found here recently and White-rumped Sandpiper has occurred in the past.

Dipple shore (NS201024) – This is good for offshore birds and all three commoner species of Diver can be seen here as well as common waders and flocks of Twite.

Ailsa Craig – The ‘Craig’ is a 338metre high volcanic plug rising from the sea 19km west of Girvan (NX020998). This is a major Gannet colony with breeding Gulls and Auks including Puffin. It can attract rarities (Alpine Swift, Bluethroat, Woodchat) but access requires an arranged boat trip and it’s a steep climb with impressive cliffs. Organised trips on the paddle steamer Waverley, often with a bird guide on board, is a good way to view without landing.

South to Glen App – The coast here is mainly rocky but is easily viewed from the main road. This is a good stretch for Diver watching with good numbers of Great Northern and in particular Black–throated. Anything could turn up along here (witness the two Harlequin Duck that made a shock appearance near Kennedys Pass in 1996).

Balantrae spit (NX082825) – This once had an important Tern colony but is still worth a look. A frequently overlooked part of the deep south is Glen App (NX052724) just before the Dumfries and Galloway boundary. This Glen often catches migrants in the spring and its high ground has Twite, Hen Harrier and Merlin. The nearby cliffs have Peregrine and Raven and offshore Divers are regular.


Blairbowie farm pool (NS326113) – This is definitely worth a look if flooded with rare Waders, Geese and Ducks possible.

Failford Nature Reserve (NS460262) This is a good place to experience the birds of Ayrshire woodlands plus a beautiful stretch of the River Ayr. Pied and Spotted Flycatcher are possible along with Redstart as well as Dipper and Kingfisher. At Knockdolian Hill (NX113848) you may be able to go one better with Wood Warbler and in the Girvan Valley (NS270014) the variety of habitat could produce Hobby and possibly Red Kite and Honey Buzzard.

North Ayrshire

North Ayrshire forms part of the east coast of the Firth of Clyde. Some of the most important remaining undeveloped coastal wetland on the Firth of Clyde is in North Ayrshire coupled with an extensive upland area.

North Coast – Between Largs and Ardrossan there are several hot spots including in Largs itself at Noddsdale Mouth (NS198605). Here look out for Gulls with Mediterranean Gull being regular plus Purple Sandpiper. A few miles further south is Fairlie Sands (NS206546) which is good for waders such as Godwits whilst inland behind this area are several Glens worth exploring which have a variety of common woodland birds plus Stonechat, Whinchat and Red Grouse on the highest ground. The very highest ground is found in Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park (NS319360) where there are breeding Hen Harrier plus good chances for Merlin, Cuckoo, Red Grouse plus a wide variety of the commoner upland birds. Further south again you will find Portencross (NS176486) and Hunterston (NS211520). Here there is good sea watching with Skuas, Manx Shearwater and Black Guillemot, areas of scrub with Stonechat and summer warblers, cliffs with breeding Fulmar and pockets of woodland which can catch migrants such as Pied Flycatcher. There is a nearby breeding colony of Sandwich Terns and rarities such as Rosy Starling, Killdeer and Little Bunting have been recorded. A short drive further south brings you to Seamill shore (NS202471) with a wooded glen behind. The shore is best in winter with Water Pipit, Shore Lark, Snow Bunting and Black Redstart all recorded in the past plus at the right time Skuas and even Little Auk offshore. Jack Snipe are regular in winter but elusive.

The three towns – Saltcoats (NS245410) and Stevenston along with Ardrossan are known locally as ‘the three towns ’. Saltcoats sea wall north of the harbour is now the top spot in Ayrshire for spotting Skuas with a regular and sometimes spectacular passage of Long-tailed. Pomarine, Arctic and Great Skua are annual visitors and sea duck and Purple Sandpiper are also regular. Gulls include Glaucous and Iceland but rarities such as Franklins and Laughing have also been recorded. Stevenston Point (NS271476) also catches some of the above, has occasional Slavonian Grebe, plus it has habitat for waders which have included Phalarope. Nearby Auchenharvie west loch has a large winter Scaup flock. Ardrossan along with Stevenston hosted Britain’s first Snowy Egret in 2001.

To the North of Irvine harbour stretches the last remaining undeveloped area of mudflat and saltmarsh known as Bogside (NS312383) part of which is an SSSI. This is a prime site best visited at one hour before high tide. Good all year round for waders including Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint, flocks of wintering duck, breeding Water Rail with the bonus of raptors such as Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Merlin, Short eared Owl and even occasional Marsh Harrier. This is an extensive area parts of which have awkward access but it’s worth the effort. Ayrshire’s first Pallid Harrier was a recent tick. A quick look off the breakwater at the river mouth could be worth it for sea duck and Gulls. Included in this complex is Garnock Floods nature reserve (NS305418) which is worth a look for Garganey and occasional Black Tern.

A short drive inland will take you to Capringstone Flash (NS356385) a seasonal pool that can attract anything passing and has had a variety of unusual species including Garganey, Green winged Teal and even Bean Geese. Just south of Irvine is Dundonald Camp (NS340330) where flooded grazing land has produced American Golden Plover, Pectoral Sandpiper and Glossy Ibis in recent years.

Top Sites
  • Ailsa Craig

    Satellite View
    This is a volcanic plug rising 338 m from the sea 19km W of Girvan. View cliffs from sea or land and explore shingle/rocky beach by arrangement with boat from Girvan. It has a major Gannet colony. Also Lesser & Greater Black-backed & Herring Gull and Kittiwake. There are Fulmar, Guillemot, Black Guillemot, Razorbill, Shag and a few Puffins.
  • Bogside Flats & Harbourside

    Satellite View
    An area of mudflat & salt marsh of special scientific interest at the confluence of River Irvine & River Garnock on W, seaward, edge of Irvine, best scanned from the harbour wall at NS 315 383 Best at high tide minus 1 hour. Good most of year, but especially for wintering/passage wildfowl & waders: Redshank, Greenshank, Turnstone, Lapwing, Curlew, Whimbrel, Golden Plover, Black-tailed Godwit; occasional Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Large wintering flocks of Wigeon & Red-breasted Merganser. Raptors: Peregrine, Sparrowhawk, occasional Marsh Harrier. Harbour mouth seabirds:Eider, Shag, Gannet, Manx Shearwater, terns, gulls, divers. Rarities: American Wigeon, Barrow's Goldeneye, Pomarine Skua, Avocet, Black-headed Bunting, Ross's Goose, White Stork. Pond behind Leisure Centre: Scaup, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe, gulls. Good beach & grassy hinterland habitat. Former racecourse on Flats for Short-eared Owl & Water Rail: scan from grid ref above.
  • Martnaham Loch

    Satellite View
    This is a large inland lake, southeast of Ayr. Scan from lay-bys at E end (see grid ref above) or on S hillside (NS 403 173). Good for wintering wildfowl & birds on passage. There are wintering flocks of Goldeneye, Wigeon, Pochard, Teal; possible Shoveler, Scaup, Long-tailed Duck, Gadwall; Greylag Goose & Whooper Swan. There are also many gulls, possibly Glaucous, Iceland, Mediterranean shelter from storms. Passage flocks of waders can include Whimbrel, Ruff, Green Sandpiper, and Black-tailed Godwit. Breeding Great Crested & Little Grebe. Notable for rarities: Smew, Ring-necked Duck, Black Tern, Lesser Scaup, Hobby, American sub species of Teal.
  • River Ayr Gorge, Failford

    WebpageSatellite View
    Scottish Wildlife Trust managed woodland on W bank of River Ayr, down stream from Failford (grid ref above). Located on B743 Ayr-Mauchline road, 10km inland. Reserve open at all times. It consists of a Sandstone river gorge flanked by rich, well-established deciduous & coniferous woodland with network of paths for circuitous walks of 1-3 hours duration. Breeding Great Spotted Woodpecker, Kingfisher, Redstart, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Dipper, Jay, Wood Warbler, Pied Flycatcher and many others. It is rich in bird song in spring. Buzzard, Sparrowhawk are all present.
  • Seamill Shore

    Satellite View
    A stretch of rocky coast north of Ardrossan from Waterside Inn to Seamill. This site is best in winter. Tidal zone: Rock Pipit, passage White Wagtail, wintering Greenshank. Offshore islets: Shag, Cormorant, Eider, and Purple Sandpiper. Seaward: Manx Shearwater, Gannet, Red-breasted Merganser, Black Guillemot, record of Little Auk. Fields/shoreline: Common & Jack Snipe, Curlew, Lapwing; Sedge Warbler, Stonechat, Black Redstart.
  • Troon and Barassie Shore

    Satellite View
    Stretch of coast including Troon headland & harbour and N & S Sands, from Stinking Rocks (grid ref above)off Barassie (N Sands) to Meikle Craigs (NS325285) (S Sands). Ferry signs lead from A76/77. N Sands: major Ayrshire wader & gull site. Huge gull roosts here & on Meikle Crags (S Sands); Iceland, Glaucous & Mediterranean regular in winter. Large autumn build up of waders: Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Ringed & Golden Plover (Stinking Rocks); some wintering Sanderling; records of Buff-breasted & White-rumped Sandpiper. Harbour: active fishing fleet attracts gulls, Black Guillemot, Eider, Red-breasted Merganser. Headland: good sea-watching: Gannet, Manx Shearwater, Storm & Leach's Petrel, all 3 divers.
  • Turnberry Point

    Satellite View
    The lighthouse is 1 km along a track over Turnberry golf course from the A719 starting at NS 206 068 about 1km south of Maidens village. Park at golfers' car park on old runway & proceed on foot. Excellent sea-watching: shearwaters, petrels, scoters, divers, grebes, skuas on passage; Gannet, auks, gulls, terns in season. Foreshore good for wide variety of migrant waders: records of White-rumped & Pectoral Sandpiper and Grey Phalarope. Track side grass & scrub for small birds: Wheatear, Stonechat, Twite, warblers, pipits.
  • Whitelees Windfarm & Eaglesham Moor

    Satellite View
    The high upland of Eaglesham Moor straddles the border between the South Lanarkshire, East Renfrewshire and East Ayrshire council administrative districts. Covering a massive area, it encompasses moorland, wetland and woodland, with a diverse range of bird and animal species co- existing with Whitelees Windfarm- the largest facility in Europe. While not a nature reserve as such, the operators of the windfarm have taken steps to mitigate the impact of their facility, at least to date. The impact of their latest expansion remains to be seen, and windfarms in general remain contentious issues for birders. The on- site Ranger service is a major plus- point for the site, however, and have been happy to answer queries regarding birding visits. As of July 2011 their site list was 95 different bird species. The car park at the windfarm offers a good starting point for a day’s birding and walking, heed the car park closing times though. Skylark are in abundance in all areas, becoming more bold farther away from the visitor centre. Meadow Pipit are also present in good numbers. Wheatear have been recorded on the vicinity of the turbines themselves.The major water bodies are recommended for waders and wildfowl, with snipe and curlew recorded. Raptors, as expected, are present, with kestrel and buzzard being the obvious ones. Less common, but still recorded, are hen harrier and peregrine. Finches have been recorded near the visitor centre and at the wooded areas on site. The forests are worth a look for visiting great grey shrike. The path system covers over 70km in total, although by no means all offers birding opportunities. If you are intrepid enough, there are, though, areas to go ‘off trail’, - care should be taken in areas of marshy ground (I was once mobbed by a pair of curlew while stranded knee deep in a marsh) The site is used extensively by walkers and cyclists, although it could not be described as crowded. In short, a more than decent site, which provides good birding in perhaps an unexpected setting.
  • Michael Howes

    | michael_howes@lineone.net

County Recorder
  • eBird South Ayrshire Checklist

    eBird Field Checklist South Ayrshire County, Scotland, GB
Useful Reading

  • Where to Watch Birds in Scotland

    | By Mike Madders & Julia Welstead | Christopher Helm | 2002 | Paperback | 297 pages, b/w illustrations, maps | Out of Print | ISBN: 9780713656930 Buy this book from NHBS.com
Birding Aps
  • Where to Watch Birds in Scotland

    Apple iOS | Android
    This app will help beginners and experts alike to discover hundreds of the best places to see and enjoy birds around the country.

    Where to Watch Birds in Scotland, the Scottish Ornithologists' Club's free mobile app for Apple and Android devices, now has over 580 sites. New sites will continue to be added and existing ones updated as far as possible. The app launched in April 2019 and since then has been downloaded by more than 15,000 users and amassed over 750,000 site views. It won 'Product of the Year' in Birdwatch and BirdGuides' 2019 Birders' Choice Awards, and the BTO/Marsh Award for Local Ornithology 2020.
Useful Information
  • County Reports

    Latest Report
    The report is available for free as a PDF download
  • RSPB Central Ayrshire Local Group

    All RSPB Central Ayrshire activities appear on the Ayrshire Birders website. This covers Central and North Ayrshire local groups indoor meetings, field trips and any other special events held individually or jointly with the two groups and with the SOC Ayrshire.
  • RSPB North Ayrshire

    We would love for you to join us at a meeting, or on a trip, or helping nature with hands on habitat work. Whether you are a novice wildlife enthusiast or an experienced birder, we welcome new perspectives and hope to provide a safe space to learn and share our passion of the environment. Feel free to get in touch any time!
  • SOC Ayshire Branch

    SOC Ayrshire branch sponsors a local website, www.ayrshire-birding.org.uk, which is a one-stop shop for anything to do with birds and birding in the area – news, sightings, site guides, latest photos and branch activities.
  • SWT Ayrshire Local Group

    Ayrshire extends for over 60 miles along the shore of the Firth of Clyde, rising from coast to a crescent of hills and moorland. The Scottish Wildlife Trust Group works to support all types of wildlife in its 15 reserves and throughout the wider countryside.

Abbreviations Key

  • CP Dean Castle

    InformationSatellite View
    The country park, covering over 200 acres, is nestled in the heart of Kilmarnock. It boasts beautiful woodland walks.
  • FC Galloway Forest Park

    WebpageSatellite View
    Galloway Forest Park is a paradise for wildlife watchers. It’s a colourful place – look out for red squirrels amongst the trees, red deer silhouetted on the skyline and golden eagles soaring overhead. There’s even a viewing platform for black grouse beside the Carrick Forest Drive.
  • LNR Ardeer Quarry

    WebpageSatellite View
    The eastern half of Ardeer Quarry was designated a Local Nature Reserve in 2011 for its wildlife and community value. It contains a diverse mix of habitats in a relatively small area: semi-mature broadleaved woodland, small stands of conifers, wet woodland, a sizeable pond, marshland, grassland and overgrown Brownfield land are all crammed into this urban green space. The eastern half of this green space features a large pond created on the site of the original Quarry.
  • LNR Catrine Voes

    InformationSatellite View
    In 2006, the so-called Catrine Voes (the reservoirs to the former cotton works), the Radical Brae and the Chapel Brae were designated as a Local Nature Reserve. The river provides an ideal habitat for Atlantic Salmon as well as being home to water voles, otters, kingfishers, heron and dipper.
  • LNR Stevenston Beach

    WebpageSatellite View
    The neighbouring beach supports large flocks of waders. Sanderling, Dunlin and Ringed Plover in particular are present in good numbers. Hundreds of Oystercatchers can be present on the neighbouring beach park. Unusual birds that regulary occur on the beach during autumn migration include Brent Goose, Little Stint and Golden Plover. Curlew Sandpiper and Ruff also occur on migration, but less frequently. The beach's strandline supports a rich invertebrate fauna, which is taken advantage of in winter by small flocks of passerines such as Twite, Linnet, Pied Wagtail and, occasionally, Snow Bunting. Overhead, Ravens can often be seen flying between the Ardeer Peninsula and the slaughterhouse in Saltcoats, where they feed on discarded animal parts.
  • RP Clyde Muirshiel

    InformationSatellite View
    The Park covers an area of 108 square miles (280 km2) of Inverclyde, North Ayrshire and Renfrewshire, stretching from Greenock in the north, down the coast to Largs and West Kilbride and inland to Dalry and Lochwinnoch.
  • RSPB Bogside Flats

    WebpageSatellite View
    The reserve is mainly grazed floodplain within a flood defence bund although there is also a small area of saltmarsh. The rough grassland is used as a foraging area by hen harrier and short-eared owl and the site provides a roost site for wintering wildfowl and waders. This reserve is located within the Irvine Bay Urban Regeneration Area.
  • SWT Auchalton Meadow

    WebpageSatellite View
    This orchid-rich grassland is on the site of 19th Century lime workings. Kilns, spoil mounds, tracks and a small quarry can still be seen. Orchids, including fragrant orchid and greater butterfly orchid, thrive in these impoverished soils.
  • SWT Ayr Gorge Woodlands

    WebpageSatellite View
    The Ayr Gorge Woodlands reserve is a steep ravine of sandstone cliffs covered mainly with oak, ash and some very old majestic beeches. It is one of the most important ancient woodlands in Ayrshire for invertebrates, plants, fungi and bats including Daubenton’s and brown long-eared bats.
  • SWT Corsehillmuir Wood

    WebpageSatellite View
    Corsehillmuir Wood is a natural woodland in the pastoral countryside beside Kilwinning. The canopy of mature birch, ash, and willow shelters a mossy and ferny ground flora and woodland birds thrive here.
  • SWT Dalmellington Moss

    WebpageSatellite View
    Dalmellington Moss is a raised bog on the floodplain of the River Doon. Hummocks of heather and deergrass are interspersed with waterlogged hollows full of Sphagnum mosses and cottongrass, allowing beetles, moths and dragonflies to thrive in these conditions.
  • SWT Feoch Meadows

    WebpageSatellite View
    Feoch Meadows is a mosaic of dry and wet grassland, fen meadow and mire. There is an orchid-rich area in the west near Feoch Burn. Traditional livestock farming ensures an abundance of wildflowers, which attract important butterfly and moth species, making this a key site in south west Scotland.
  • SWT Gailes Marsh

    WebpageSatellite View
    Gailes Marsh features dry coastal grassland, marshland and a pond, all sheltered by mixed woodland. The species-rich grassland attracts many butterflies, bees, hoverflies and other pollinating insects. Mining bees in particular find the conditions favourable for nesting.
  • SWT Garnock Floods

    WebpageSatellite View
    Garnock Floods is a low-lying floodplain pasture with shallow pools and marshy areas. The reserve is grazed by cattle to keep the ground suitable for wildfowl and waders that flock here during winter. Kingfishers have been seen along the river and many songbirds can be heard in the woodland.
  • SWT Knockshinnoch Lagoons

    WebpageSatellite View
    The open water, islands, marshland, reedbeds and willow carr make this reserve important for birdlife in the Nith Valley. Migrant birds favour the valley in the autumn. Plant and insect enthusiasts can enjoy the partially vegetated coal spoil heap in the main public area of the reserve.
  • SWT Lawthorn Wood

    WebpageSatellite View
    Lawthorn Wood is a small, mature deciduous woodland on the edge of Irvine. The tall canopy is mainly made up of ash trees, with some beech and sycamore. Elm trees were once prominent and their dead trunks provide nesting sites for bats and birds, including great spotted woodpecker.
  • SWT Oldhall Ponds

    WebpageSatellite View
    The Oldhall Ponds reserve is a mosaic of willow carr, semi-mature planted woodland and tussocky grassland. The ponds have open water and emergent vegetation that is attractive to breeding and wintering ducks. Paths around the ponds provide opportunities for viewing waterfowl and other pond life.
  • SWT Perceton Wood

    WebpageSatellite View
    This long-established plantation originated as part of the nearby Perceton House estate. The old trees provide crevices for birds and bats, and the plentiful deadwood supports the insects and fungi. The carpet of ivy gives way to a natural ground flora interspersed with attractive garden plants.
  • SWT Shewalton Sandpits

    WebpageSatellite View
    Fashioned out of disused sand and gravel pits in the 1980s, the sand banks, ponds, woodland and riverbank are now a haven for invertebrates, plants and birds. The sheltered conditions mean that butterflies and dragonflies can be numerous on a sunny day.
  • SWT Shewalton Wood

    WebpageSatellite View
    With its woodland, grassland and wetland areas, this reserve hosts small mammals, amphibians and songbirds, which attract birds of prey and other predators. A network of water-filled channels and two large ponds provide an ideal habitat for amphibians, dragonflies and damselflies.
  • SWT Sourlie Wood

    WebpageSatellite View
    Sourlie Wood is an attractive native woodland that has developed on a derelict coal yard. There is a small area of grassland, a large pond and a good supply of deadwood that benefits invertebrates, which attract songbirds and bats.
Sightings, News & Forums
  • Ayrshire Bird News

    Sightings & News
    Email reports to recorder@ayrshire-birding.org.uk for publication in the Ayrshire Bird Report. Tweet to @ayrshirebirds and use the #AyrshireBirds hashtag
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    A forum for news on bird sightings (rare, unusual or just interesting) and birding events in Ayrshire, UK. To subscribe send a blank email…
  • Bird Sightings in Ayrshire

    Sightings & News
Trip Reports
  • 2018 [07 July] - Fraser Simpson

    For our staycation this year we headed home to Ayrshire for two weeks. With the Mediterranean weather, it felt just like Spain or Greece, without the more exotic birds though. The main birding activity involved surveying two farmland Red List species: Yellowhammer and Tree Sparrow. Focusing on an area of 106 square kilometres from Kilmarnock west to Irvine and south to Troon and Symington, 112 singing male Yellowhammers were located. A slightly larger area, taking in areas on the east side of Kilmarnock, located 40 pairs of Tree Sparrows. All of this was completed by bike (185 miles), utilising all roads, unclassified country back roads and cyclepaths. This network allowed me to cover a large area however the true numbers for both species will hopefully be higher as many farms are only accessible via private roads, so for Tree Sparrow in particular, many nests would be unlocated. Below is a list of all species recorded in the farmland, as well as those from other habitats visited for more general birding.
  • 2020 [01 January] - Fraser Simpson

    After missing a winter and Christmas visit home last year, I was looking forward to getting back to my old haunts in Ayrshire. The intention was to concentrate on surveying farmland birds (particularly Tree Sparrows and Yellowhammers) but after a few scouts around it soon became clear that the stubble fields were pretty dead. Small numbers of Tree Sparrows were located along the Knockentiber-Springside disused railway line but no Yellowhammer flocks were found. Still, I headed out on my (borrowed) bike for six days between Christmas and New Year's Day and below is list of species located at various sites in central Ayrshire between Kilmarnock and the coast, many of which I've written up as site guides for the SOC's Where to Watch Birds in Scotland App. Every day, bar the glorious Hogmanay, was covered with thick cloud and frequent showers but as I cycle to work whatever the conditions anyway, this did not put me off.
Other Links
  • Birding in Ayrshire

    This website exists to provide information of value to all with an interest in the wild birds of Ayrshire and in birding in this area, whether resident or visitor. The site is sponsored by SOC Ayrshire (the Ayrshire residents of the Scottish Ornithologists' Club)
  • Fraser's Birding Website

    Personal site with trip reports, info on local patches, recent sightings, photographs and butterflies/dragonflies in Ayrshire
  • Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue Centre

    Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue Centre, Beith, cares for Scotland’s injured and orphaned wildlife. It has been running for over 35 years and became a registered charity in 1986.

Fatbirder - linking birders worldwide... Wildlife Travellers see our sister site: WAND

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