Scottish Borders

Common Redpoll Carduelis flammea ©Ron McCombe Website

The Scottish Borders SOC recording area is co-terminus with the unified authority, which is often referred to simply as the Borders. It is one of 32 local government council areas of Scotland. It is bordered by Dumfries and Galloway in the southwest, Clyde in the west and Lothian in the northwest. The English counties of Northumberland and Cumbria lie to the south and east. The administrative centre of the area is Newtown St. Boswells.

Birding Scottish Borders

The Scottish Borders are located in the Eastern part of the Southern Uplands. The region is largely rural, lightly populated and hilly, with the River Tweed flowing west to east through the region – it is considered very scenic. In the east of the region the area that borders the River Tweed is flat and is known as ‘The Merse’. The Tweed and its tributaries drain the entire region with the river flowing into the North Sea at Berwick-upon-Tweed, and forming the border with England for the last twenty miles or so of its length.

Its lochs and reservoirs offer decent birding as do the maritime areas with St Abbs Head most notable among them.

As the SOC booklet puts it: Located in the south-east of the country, the 4600 square kilometres of the Scottish Borders have the warmest and driest summer climate in Scotland. Together with a varied topography extending from the coast to over 800m in the Tweedsmuir Hills, these conditions have produced a diversity of habitats for both breeding and wintering birds. Compared with some other regions the Scottish Borders is not noted for high-profile birdwatching reserves or a large number of hides and other facilities; rather its diversity of birds requires that visits be made to many sites, usually involving short walks. Indeed the region offers some of the best walking in the British Isles and the energetic birdwatcher will reap many benefits on our hills, moors and in our woods.

County Recorder
Useful Reading

  • Bird-Life of the Borders

    | (Records of Wild Sport and Natural History on Moorland and Sea) | by Abel Chapman | Spredden Press | 1990 | Paperback | 298 pages, 54 line illustrations | ISBN: 9781871739114 Buy this book from
  • 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
  • The Top 50 Birds of Northumberland and the Borders

    | Edited by Graham Bell | Graham Bell | 1997 | Paperback |51 pages, b/w photos | Out of Print | ISBN: 9780953101108 Buy this book from
  • 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
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.
  • Borders Forest Trust

    Our vision for the south of Scotland is for a place where a rich tapestry of native woodlands and wild places can flourish, cared for by the local communities that live there. Borders Forest Trust was established in 1996 to conserve, restore and manage native woodlands and other natural habitats for the benefit of people and wildlife.
  • Friends of Kailzie Wildlife Group

    Friends of Kailzie Wildlife Group is a community organisation whose objective is to develop and create opportunities for the wider public to discover wildlife in the local environment through recreation, heritage, wildlife interpretation and educational facilities…
  • SOC Borders Branch

    The website of the Scottish Borders branch of the SOC
  • Scottish Ornithologists' Club

    Venue: Kingsknowes Hotel, Selkirk Road, Galashiels, TD1 3HY Contact: Neil Stratton 01573 450695
  • South Scotland Golden Eagle Project

    This is a new project to help boost numbers of Golden Eagles in the South of Scotland. Launched in August 2015, we are very grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for major funding to develop the work.
  • The Berwick Swan and Wildlife Trust

    The historic Borders town of Berwick-upon-Tweed is home to Britain's second largest mute swan moulting colony. The Berwick Swan and Wildlife Trust was formed in 1992, following a major pollution incident in the River Tweed estuary, to provide support for the local swan herd as well as other wildlife in the area
  • Tweed Valley Osprey Project

    Live on camera in the centres: ospreys, jackdaws and swallows at Glentress and Ospreys, herons and nuthatches at Kalizie…

Abbreviations Key

  • BFT Talla & Gameshope

    WebpageSatellite View
    In late 2013, following a successful fundraising campaign, the Trust took ownership of 4,527 acres (1,832ha) at Talla & Gameshope. The site is particularly special because it offers a rare opportunity to restore a large area of hills and upland valleys to their natural state providing habitats extensive enough to be more sustainable, in contrast to isolated areas of conservation found elsewhere. At its southern end the property borders both the Trust’s Carrifran Wildwood and the National Trust for Scotland’s extensive Grey Mare’s Tail Estate.
  • CW Langlee Woodland

    WebpageSatellite View
    This is a community woodland managed by the local authority and representatives from the Galashiels’ community.
  • FCS Caberston Forrest

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Caberston is part of Forests of the Scottish Borders. Innerleithen is the nearest town or village…
  • FCS Glentress Forest

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Glentress forest is in the heart of the Tweed Valley Forest Park and is a one of the most diverse forests in south Scotland…
  • Gala Policies

    WebpageSatellite View
    The park enjoys open access for locals and visitors. Once part of the grounds of the estate of the Laird of Gala the surviving woodlands create a beautiful quiet space next to the bustle of the town.
  • NNR St Abb's Head

    WebpageSatellite View
    Formed by an extinct volcano, St Abb's Head is the best known landmark along the Berwickshire coast. Home to thousands of nesting seabirds in summer, it is also home to a wide range of other wildlife. A new remote camera facility allows visitors to the Nature Reserve Centre to eavesdrop on the nesting birds…
  • NTS Grey Mare's Tail Nature Reserve

    WebpageSatellite View
    It is easy to see how Grey Mare’s Tail got its name as you gaze at the tall, thin line of white frothing water. The waterfall plunges 60m down into the Moffat Water Valley, a landscape created by glacial erosion over millions of years. Grey Mare’s Tail is a superb example of a hanging valley and is important for its rare upland plants and wildlife. The area boasts a rich human history as well, dating back to at least the Iron Age. It has strong links to the 17th-century Covenanters, who used Watch Knowe as a lookout point in the valley to keep an eye out for government troops.
  • SNH Cragbank Wood

    WebpageSatellite View
    A rich variety of plants and butterflies thrive in Cragbank Wood, the largest area of ancient ash–elm–hazel woodland left in the Scottish Borders. It forms a narrow band that runs across the steep slopes of Wolfehopelee Hill. The reserve is protected as Cragbank and Wolfehopelee Site of Special Scientific Interest and as part of Borders Woods Special Area of Conservation.
  • SPA Westwater

    InformationSatellite View
    Westwater Reservoir is an artificial reservoir in the Pentland Hills, Scottish Borders, 3 km west of West Linton, and 26 km south west of Edinburgh. Due to its popularity with pink-footed geese (Anser brachyrhynchus) it has been designated as a Special Protection Area and a Ramsar site.
  • SWT Bemersyde Moss

    WebpageSatellite View
    This reserve near the River Tweed is a long, narrow strip of marsh, willow scrub and open water that is home to large numbers of wintering wildfowl, including teal, shoveler, goldeneye and wigeon.
  • SWT Duns Castle

    InformationSatellite View
    Situated to the north of Duns, this reserve has two man-made lochs – Hen Poo and Mill Dam – surrounded by mixed woodland. Water lilies and reedmace growing along the banks provide cover for wildfowl.
  • SWT Gordon Moss

    WebpageSatellite View
    Gordon Moss is a birch woodland growing on an area of peatland. Orchids and other wild flowers flourish in these conditions. The Trust only looks after the eastern side of this site.
  • SWT Hare & Dunhog Mosses

    WebpageSatellite View
    Located 2 miles south of Selkirk, Hare Moss has an area of open water that attracts wildfowl throughout the year. The birds can be viewed from a hide on the reserve.
  • SWT Hoselaw Loch and Din Moss

    WebpageSatellite View
    Hoselaw Loch is a shallow, naturally nutrient-rich loch. Towards the south west end of the loch is Din Moss, one of the largest and most intact areas of raised bog in the Scottish Borders. The loch is used by overwintering wildfowl, particularly pink-footed geese.
  • SWT Whitlaw Wood

    WebpageSatellite View
    Situated on steep slopes next to the Slitrig Water, Whitlaw Wood comprises native ash, elm and hazel woodland with a rich ground flora. There is also a small meadow that supports a variety of colourful wildflowers. A maintained path leads through the meadow.
  • SWT Yetholm Loch

    InformationSatellite View
    Yetholm Loch, on the edge of the Cheviots, is an important area for breeding and wintering wildfowl. At the southern end of the loch is a wetland habitat of willow carr, fen and swamp that attracts birds such as reed bunting, snipe and curlew. Nationally and locally rare plants grow in this area.
Sightings, News & Forums
  • Scottish Borders Birdwatching

    Facebook Group
    Whether you are new to birdwatching, an experienced birdwatcher, or somewhere in between, the purpose of this Facebook group is to allow you to become more involved and share the enjoyment of Scotland's wild birdlife in the Scottish Borders.
Places to Stay
  • Gunsgreen House

    Self catering Accommodation located on the coast at Eyemouth, within 15 mins of St Abbs Head Nature Reserve and the Farne Islands
  • Holiday Cottages at Castletoun

    The Holiday Cottages at Castletoun are nestled at the foot of Greenlaw Moor, and close to Watchwater Reservoir, making it the perfect base for bird watching holidays. It is also within 30mins of the sea bird colonies at St Abbs Head
Photographers & Artists
  • Photographer - Ron McCombe

    Ron welcomes you to his wildlife photography website. Based in Scotland in the Scottish Borders and travelling around the UK, Europe and the USA photographing what has become a passion for him, wild birds and animals. He can be regularly seen in the Farne Islands, the Bass Rock, The Cairngorms and The Shetland Islands as well as The Isle of Mull, The Trishnish Isles, Ardnamurchan and the Hebrides in search of the wild birds he loves to photograph…

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