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The Lothians recording area covers the unitary authorities of West Lothian, the City of Edinburgh, Midlothian and East Lothian. This includes the islands of Bass Rock, Craigleith, Fidra, The Lamb, Inchmickery and Cramond Island. It comprises three ‘vice-counties’ in the Watsonian system, numbers 82, 83 & 84.

Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland located on the Firth of Forth’s southern shore, it is Scotland’s second most populous city and the seventh most populous in the United Kingdom. The 2014 official population estimates are 464,990 for the city of Edinburgh, 492,680 for the local authority area. Recognised as the capital of Scotland since at least the 15th century, Edinburgh is home to the Scottish Parliament and the seat of the monarchy in Scotland.

Birding Edinburgh & the Lothians

West Lothian, which was also known as Linlithgowshire, was bounded by the Avon to the west and the Almond to the east; the modern council area occupies a smaller area.  Geologically, most of the area is underlaid by Carboniferous sedimentary rocks running in strips from north to south. The eastern and southern rocks are the oldest and least useful. Further west is a large field of shale oil, then sedimentary and basalt rocks supplying silica sand, and then coal. The area rises from lowlands in the north to the Pentland Hills in the southeast, while the southwest is moorland. Two thirds of the land is agricultural, while a tenth is urban. Significant watercourses include the Almond and the Union Canal, while the main bodies of water are Linlithgow Loch and the various reservoirs in the Pentlands.

Visitors constantly say that its scenery and landscape are among the main reasons for visiting Midlothian. To many it is considered to have one the most beautiful countrysides in the whole world, especially in the area surrounding the limits with the Scottish Borders. Located in close proximity to Scotland’s capital city, it offers a beautiful rural landscape of countryside, parklands and rolling hills to enjoy. The rolling uplands of the Pentland Hills are Edinburgh’s southern backdrop and are easily accessible, especially Pentland Hills Regional Park and Dalkeith Country Park where you will find not one river here, but two. If you are lucky you will spot the otters larking about in the shallows. There are enough woodland paths to keep you wandering happily for hours. There are also Vogrie Country Park and Roslin Glen Park to enjoy.

Edinburgh is drained by the river named the Water of Leith, which rises at the Colzium Springs in the Pentland Hills and runs for 29 kilometres (18 mi) through the south and west of the city, emptying into the Firth of Forth at Leith. The nearest the river gets to the city centre is at Dean Village on the north-western edge of the New Town, where a deep gorge is spanned by Thomas Telford’s Dean Bridge. The Water of Leith Walkway is a mixed use trail Excepting the shoreline of the Firth of Forth, that follows the course of the river for 19.6 kilometres (12.2 miles) from Balerno to Leith.Edinburgh is encircled by a green belt, designated in 1957, which stretches from Dalmeny in the west to Prestongrange in the east.With an average width of 3.2 kilometres (2 miles) the principal objectives of the green belt were to contain the outward expansion of the city and to prevent the agglomeration of urban areas.

There are many well-known sites in Lothian, but many of the lesser sites are known particularly to visiting birders. Indeed many of these sites have seen impressive rarities over the years.

The area as a whole has just about everything on offer from sea-watching to lochs, hills and meadows, woodland and moor. The mix of habitats leads to a rich and varied birdlife.

Top Sites
  • Hound Point

    InformationSatellite View
    Hound Point Follow the track from South Queensferry under the Forth Bridge and continue eastwards. This is a great place for watching Skuas and all four species are recorded annually. Migrating raptors are occasionally reported too, as is the odd Sabine's Gull. The woods have Woodcock, Green Woodpecker and Jay.
  • 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.
  • Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

    WebsiteSatellite View
    The Botanics captures the imagination of everyone who visits and is world renowned for its horticultural excellence. Over 70 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds provide a tranquil haven just one mile from the city centre.
  • SOC Lothians Sites

    Many of us all know the well-known sites in Lothian, but how many of the lesser sites are known particularly to visiting birders. Indeed many of these sites have seen impressive rarities over the years. As a result of this I have included many of these as well as the better known and loved sites; so why not give some of them a try the next time you are birding in Lothian. Who knows you may well score big time.
  • 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
Useful Reading

  • Birds in South-East Scotland 2007-13

    | A Tetrad Atlas of the Birds of Lothian and Borders | By Ray D Murray, Ian J Andrews, Mark Holling & many contributors | BTO | 2019 | Hardback | 542 pages, colour photos, colour illustrations, colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9780951213971 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 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.
  • Edinburgh University Ornithological Society

    BirdSoc is the society for anyone interested in bird watching and wildlife, of all levels of interest and knowledge. We run regular birding walks, workshops to develop your skills, day trips, bird ringing demos, research talks and socials - creating a growing community of young bird enthusiasts here at the university!
  • RSPB Edinburgh Local Group

    This is the website of the Edinburgh Local Group. RSPB local groups are a great way to meet friendly, like-minded people in your area while learning more about birds and wildlife.
  • 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 Almondell & Calderwood

    WebpageSatellite View
    Left undeveloped and unspoilt, Calderwood is a complete contrast to Almondell. This natural woodland, located on a plateau bounded by the Linhouse and Murieston Waters, is home to a wealth of wildlife. Roe deer, fox, heron and woodpecker all make their homes here, while the many oak and hazel trees provide food for the squirrels and wood mice. For this reason Calderwood has been designated a SSSI.
  • CP Beecraigs

    WebpageSatellite View
    Beecraigs Country Park is a great place to visit. It caters for a wide range of leisure and recreational activities within its 370 hectares (913 acres) and can be discovered nestled high in the Bathgate Hills near the historic town of Linlithgow.
  • CP Dalkeith

    WebsiteSatellite View
    The Country Park is a working estate owned by the Duke of Buccleuch. There are many activities for visitors including woodland walks. Roe deer, otters, buzzards, foxes, badgers, hares and rabbits – they all call Dalkeith Country Park their home.
  • CP Gore Glen Woodland Park

    WebpageSatellite View
    Enjoy panoramic views of the Pentland Hills; take a 2 mile walk woodland walk or enjoy the peace and tranquility of former 'Gunpowder Glen'. Lots of wildlife (orchids, siskins & damselflies) too.
  • CP Hillend

    WebpageSatellite View
    Hillend Country Park has challenging walks and excellent views from the Pentland Hills.
  • CP John Muir

    WebpageSatellite 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.
  • CP Polkemmet

    WebpageSatellite View
    Polkemmet Country Park is a popular 68 hectare (168 acre) visitor attraction near Whitburn. The Park offers beautiful woodland and riverside walks.
  • CP Vogrie

    WebpageSatellite View
    There are 11.5 miles of signed countryside paths through woodlands and the Tyne Valley.
  • 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 Easter Inch Moss and Seafield Law

    Information PDFSatellite View
    Easter Inch Moss and Seafield Law Local Nature Reserve is an area of locally important natural heritage, managed by West Lothian Council in partnership with a Local Management Group. It was designated a Local Nature Reserve (LNR) in 2007. The reserve gives people the chance to learn about and enjoy nature close to where they live as well as being a valuable green space to be enjoyed between two built up areas (Blackburn and Seafield).
  • LNR Harperrig Reservoir

    InformationSatellite View
    Harperrig Reservoir lies to the north of the Pentland Hills within the boundary of the Pentland Hills Regional Park. It is owned by City of Edinburgh Council and managed as part of the Water of Leith flood prevention scheme. Around the reservoir is intensively grazed neutral grassland, along with large areas of marshy grassland.
  • 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.
  • LNR Straiton Pond

    WebpageSatellite View
    Straiton Pond Local Nature Reserve is a small wildlife haven, set amid rolling farmland, and close to Loanhead and the Straiton Retail Park.
  • RP The Pentlands

    WebpageSatellite View
    Across the Pentlands, drystane dykes not only frame the views but are apartment blocks to a whole community of wildlife inhabitants such as stoats, voles, mosses and lichens.
  • 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 Addiewell Bing

    WebpageSatellite View
    To the north of West Calder lies this former oil-shale bing, which now supports valuable wildlife habitat, including woodland, scrub and flower-rich grassland. It is a good example of how a post-industrial site can be transformed into a haven for wildlife.
  • SWT Bogburn Flood Lagoons

    WebpageSatellite View
    Located in Bathgate, Bogburn Flood Lagoons consists of three open freshwater pools surrounded by marshy grassland and swamp. This environment is highly attractive to wildfowl, including shelducks. The area of semi-natural broadleaved woodland and grassland provides a refuge for breeding birds.
  • 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 Erraid Wood

    WebpageSatellite View
    Erraid Wood is situated on the north east edge of the Pentland Hills, and offers stunning views across East Lothian and the Firth of Forth. Mature broadleaved woodland covering the steep slopes attracts woodland birds, such as spotted flycatcher and treecreeper.
  • 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 Hermand Birchwood

    WebpageSatellite View
    Hermand Birchwood is an important area if birch woodland growing on the remnants of a raised bog. Blaeberry, heather and broad buckler fern grow in abundance on the woodland floor and the damp conditions favour mosses and lichens.
  • SWT Linhouse Glen

    WebpageSatellite View
    Situated south of Livingston, Linhouse Glen has a mixture of habitats, including heathland, native woodland on steep narrow slopes and species-rich grassland. The grassland provides cover and food for brown hares and birds such as skylark and reed bunting.
  • SWT Linn Dean

    WebpageSatellite View
    Linn Dean is a steep-sided glen with an area of flower-rich grassland. During the summer, the yellow common rock-rose brightens the bank and attracts a colony of northern brown argus butterfly. Juniper and unusual mosses and liverworts can also be found.
  • SWT Longridge Moss

    WebpageSatellite View
    Satellite View
  • SWT Milkhall Pond

    WebpageSatellite View
    Milkhall Pond consists of an old reservoir and a network of smaller ponds. This open water provides important habitat for aquatic plants, waterfowl and breeding amphibians and insects, including dragonflies. There is also an area of rough grassland, marsh and a shelterbelt of trees.
  • SWT Petershill

    WebpageSatellite View
    Petershill is located to the north east of Bathgate. It was a limestone quarry during the 18th Century and converted into a reservoir in the 19th Century, before being drained in 1986. It now includes areas of species-rich grassland, scrub and wetland, and is also an important geological site.
  • SWT Roslin Glen

    WebpageSatellite View
    Situated a short distance from Roslin, this reserve is a semi-natural ancient woodland of oak, ash, hazel, cherry and hawthorn growing along the steep-sided banks of the River North Esk. It is good for woodland flowers, fungi and birds. The woodland floor is carpeted with bluebells and other wildflowers in the spring and the trees offer food and shelter for breeding birds, such as chiffchaff, blackcap and bullfinch.
  • SWT Tailend Moss

    WebpageSatellite View
    Tailend Moss is a lowland raised bog composed of deep peat that has accumulated over thousands of years. It is an important site for damselflies, dragonflies and peatland plants, such as bog asphodel, cranberry and sundews.
  • SWT Thornton Glen

    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 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
Sightings, News & Forums
  • 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
Places to Stay
  • Eastside Cottages

    Our webcam updates every minute and gives a good idea about the current weather on the Pentland Hills south of Edinburgh. The image refreshes itself every minute. If the image hasn’t loaded properly just try reloading your browser...
  • 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 - Dean Bricknell Photography

    Dean Bricknell Photography, Workshops - Tours - Tuition, A lifelong passion for inspirational wildlife & nature photography. Photographer of birds, wildlife and nature.
  • Photographer - Ray Wilson

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

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