East Lothian

Eider Somateria Mollissima ©Ray Wilson Website
Birding East Lothian

East Lothian is one of the 32 council areas of Scotland, and a lieutenancy area. For a time, it was also known as Haddingtonshire. It borders the City of Edinburgh, Midlothian and the Scottish Borders. Its administrative centre is Haddington, although its largest town is Musselburgh. t has a varied coast, rich plains and high moorland, and its especial geographical feature is its series of volcanic necks, including Berwick Law. The Lammermuir Hills to the south give way to an expanse of gently rolling rich arable farmland, bounded to the north by 40 miles of coastline. The coast is perhaps East Lothian’s greatest attraction, with mile upon mile of glorious sandy beaches, dunes and nature reserves.Perhaps the best known nature reserve is the developing Levenhall Links where the annual RSPB Scotland’s Big Nature Festival is held. There are a number of nature reserves and wild areas in the county with sea-watching on the Firth of Forth.

Top Sites
  • Musselburgh Lagoons (Levenhall Links)

    Satellite View
    To the north of Musselburgh at the mouth of the Esk. Old fly ash lagoons now a mixture of young woodland, grassland and a wader scrape overlooked by three hides. Roosting waders, gulls and terns. Seaduck, grebes and divers offshore and you can get really good views of these. Specialities include Slavonian Grebe, Long-tailed Duck and Velvet Scoter in winter, Little Gulls in summer and passage waders. Claims to fame include Britains first live mainland Brunnich's Guillemot, the Western Sandpiper and the tern hat-trick - Forster's, Lesser Crested and Royal Terns have all been recorded.
  • The Lammermuir Hills

    Satellite View
    The Lammermuir Hills From the roads you can scan the moors in these rolling, heather clad hills south of the village of Gifford. There are good numbers of Red Grouse, Black Grouse are almost extinct in these hills. Raptors can be seen too with Buzzard and Peregrine quite common but this is the most likely area to see a Rough-legged Buzzard or Hen Harrier in Lothian and there are sightings of Red Kites, Marsh Harrier, Osprey and Gyrfalcon too. Whiteadder Reservoir has a few ducks and Greylag Geese. Small birds to be expected include Stonechat, Whinchat, Ring Ouzel, Dipper and Grey Wagtail.
  • The coast south of Dunbar

    Satellite View
    The coast south of Dunbar. This is a collection of sites along the A1 south of Dunbar and includes Barns Ness, Skateraw, Torness, Thorntonloch and Dunglass. These are all good areas for migrants in the right conditions and Barns Ness can be a good seawatching point. All have scrubby cover with access and in past falls have produced many Siberian vagrants.
  • Tyninghame

    Satellite View
    Tyninghame North of Dunbar, this is the estuary of the River Tyne. Excellent site for Greenshank which are present all year, a large Wigeon flock and the best Lothian site to see Spotted Redshank. Corsican Pine plantations, saltmarsh, grassland, farmland and deciduous woodland. The farmland is good for Whooper Swans in winter, with the odd Bewick's among them. Past major rarities have included Green Heron, Greater Sand Plover and American Black Duck.
County Recorder
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: -

    There is no county bird, however, East Lothian Council uses a Peregrine Falco peregrinus as its logo.
Useful Reading

  • Where to Watch Birds in Scotland

    | By Mike Madders & Julia Welstead | Christopher Helm | 2002 | Paperback | 297 pages, b/w illustrations, maps | ISBN: 9780713656930 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Scottish Ornithologists Club - Lothian Branch

    Venue: The Guide Hall, 33 Melville Street, Edinburgh, EH3 7JF (click here for a map of the venue and surrounding area). Two meetings a year are held at Waterston House, Aberlady (these will be marked with an asterisk). Contact: Morag King, 7 Durham Terrace, Edinburgh, EH15 1QJ, tel 0131 258 4638, mobile 078104 15941

Abbreviations Key

  • CP John Muir

    InformationSatellite View
    This large country park stretches from the ruins of Dunbar Castle to the Peffer Burn some 4 miles to the north west. The park includes the wide sandy Belhaven Bay, the estuary of the river Tyne, large areas of saltmarsh and scrub, and the rocky headland known as St. Baldred's Castle. Breeding birds include eider, shellduck and ringed plover. Good system of trails. Both Shorefield Road and Linkfield car parks have toilets.
  • LNR Aberlady Bay

    WebpageSatellite View
    Aberlady Bay Local Nature Reserve was the first site to be designated a Nature Reserve, in 1952. It comprises a complete set of habitats from low water right through to salt marsh and sand dune, unchanged by the influence of people. The area within the Reserve is extensive, and, in consequence, the paths across it take time to cover. Dogs are not welcome on the Reserve due to the potential for disturbing nesting or roosting birds.
  • LNR Levenhall Links

    InformationSatellite View
    The many habitats within and adjacent to this 134 hectare site attract a wide diversity of birds and other wildlife. This provides a year round spectacle and the area is fast becoming Scotland's premier birdwatching site. It is also the home to RSPB Scotland's equivalent of the Bird Fair.
  • SPA Longniddry Bents

    InformationSatellite View
    The area is part of the Firth of Forth Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Protection Area and Ramsar Site. Despite the large number of visitors, a variety of bird species are able to breed here. Grey partridge can nest in the grassland often a few feet away from an unsuspecting walker, and chiffchaff, willow warbler and reed bunting can be heard calling from the scrub…
  • SWT Brock Wood

    WebpageSatellite View
    Brock Wood, located 3 miles south of Dunbar, is a mixed woodland. Non-native trees, which were originally planted for timber, are gradually being removed to encourage the regrowth of the native alder, ash and oak.
  • SWT East Lammermuir Deans

    WebpageSatellite View
    Situated on the northern edge of the Lammermuir Hills, the East Lammermuir Deans are steep-sided, eroded gullies that provide a haven for lime-loving plants and support important areas of woodland and species-rich grassland.
  • SWT Hadfast Valley

    WebpageSatellite View
    Hadfast Valley has areas of scrub, grassland and broadleaved woodland, providing a home to many bird species. During the summer, the reserve comes alive with the sound of migrating songbirds that breed here, attracted by the insects feeding on the rosebay willowherb.
  • SWT Thornton Glen

    WebpageSatellite View
    This steep, narrow gorge is lined with a broadleaved woodland of ash, elm and oak, and a ground flora of ramson and ferns. A path along the edge of the reserve leads to the ruins of Innerwick Castle.
  • SWT Woodhall Dean

    WebpageSatellite View
    Woodhall Dean, on the edge of the Lammermuir Hills, is an ancient semi-natural woodland dominated by sessile oak. Five thousand years ago, sessile oak covered much of southern Scotland but now there are only a few woodlands where they grow in large numbers.
  • Scottish Seabird Centre

    WebsiteSatellite View
    An amazing new tourist attraction is opening in Scotland in Spring 2000. The Scottish Seabird Centre will provide a fascinating insight into Scotland's wildlife. Using remote cameras and the latest technology, you will see puffins, gannets and many other seabirds close up, in their natural habitat - without disturbing them! The £3 million Centre at North Berwick Harbour boasts a gift shop and café with magnificent panoramic views across the Firth of Forth to the Bass Rock and Fife.
Forums & Mailing Lists
  • Birding Lothian

    Sightings & News
    All the Recent Bird News & Images from Lothian. Regular updates. Locals please add @birdinglothian to your tweets.
  • Lothian Bird News

    Sightings & News
    Bird news from Lothians and adjacent areas of south-east Scotland
  • Lothian Young Birder

    ...formerly 'Aberdeenshire Young Birder'. The exploits of a Scottish young birder in Lothian, Clyde, Norfolk and wherever else he finds himself - I'm Joseph Nichols, an avid 19 year old Scottish birder and patcher that formerly lived in Aberdeen but now has bases in Edinburgh and Glasgow. I also bird in Norfolk as I have family stationed down there, where my local patch is Costessey House Private Estate. This is an area of private land around the cottage I stay in between Costessey and Drayton on the outskirts of Norwich.
Photographers & Artists
  • Photographer - Ray Wilson

    Photos from the UK and several overseas trips from this very good photographer

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