North Ayrshire

Rock Pipit Anthus petrosus ©David Mason Website
Birding North Ayrshire

North Ayrshire is one of 32 council areas in Scotland. It is located in the southwest of Scotland, and borders the areas of Inverclyde to the north, Renfrewshire to the northeast and East Ayrshire and South Ayrshire to the east and south respectively. North Ayrshire Council is a hung Council. North Ayrshire also 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 CoastBetween 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 townsSaltcoats (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-taileds . 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 unusuals 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Michael Howes


County Recorder
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
  • RSPB North Ayrshire Local Group

    Inside you will find information about our meetings and outdoor trips, along with copies of our Newsletter (dating back to 2004!) and information about our highly successful "Showing People Seabirds" project on the Firth of Clyde.
  • 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

  • LNR Ardeer Quarry

    Facebook PageSatellite 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 Stevenston Beach

    WebsiteSatellite 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 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 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 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.
Forums & Mailing Lists
  • Ayrshire Bird News

    Sightings & News
  • Ayrshire-Birding

    Forum & Mailing Group
    Created in 2001, Ayrshirebirding is a Yahoo Group for the sharing of bird news within the Ayrshire area*. News of both common and rare birds is welcomed.
  • Bird Sightings in Ayrshire

    Sightings & News
    Email reports to for publication in the Ayrshire Bird Report. Tweet to @ayrshirebirds and use the #AyrshireBirds hashtag
Trip Reports

Click on WAND to see Fatbirder’s Trip Report Repository…

  • 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
  • Arran Birding

    Arran is a special place with special birds. Birding on Arran is interesting at any time of the year. Arran lies in the Firth of Clyde, 28km west of the Ayrshire coast, 5km east of the Kintyre peninsula
  • 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)
  • Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue Trust

    Andy and Gay Christie began helping injured wild animals many years ago. Their isolated home was an ideal base for the quiet rehabilitation of injured creatures. Today the project has completely taken over their home… and their lives…

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