The Kingdom of Fife

Fieldfare Turdus pilaris ©Nigel Blake Website
Birding Fife

Fife is a council area and historic county of Scotland. It is situated between the Firth of Tay and the Firth of Forth, with inland boundaries to Perth and Kinross and Clackmannanshire. By custom it is widely held to have been one of the major Pictish kingdoms, known as Fib, and is still commonly known as the Kingdom of Fife within Scotland. Fife is predominantly rural, with a small industrial belt (mostly mining) lying in central and west Fife around Lochgelly and Dunfermline. The Kingdom is bounded to the north by the Tay Estuary (stretching from Newburgh out past Tentsmuir Point) and to the south by the huge Firth of Forth. At the eastern tip of Fife lies Fife Ness and the North Sea.

North-east Fife is rich cultivated arable land, with few trees and hedgerows. The River Eden runs through Cupar and opens into a two-mile long estuary at Guardbridge, by the historic university and golf city of St Andrews. The East Neuk is the collective term for the south-east fishing villages of Crail, Anstruther, Cellardyke, Elie, Pittenween and St Monans.

Fife contains almost no natural woodland of any size, with the two biggest areas of trees being the forestry plantations at Tentsmuir and Devilla Forests. The long Fife coastline is composed of both rocky shore and sandy beaches. The Isle of May lies about 5 miles south of Crail at the entrance to the Firth of Forth.The Breeding and Wintering Birds of Fife – an atlas for 2007-2013 – was published int 2016, mapping the distribution and abundance of birds in the region in summer and winter, it is an important reference work and conservation tool.

Top Sites
  • AA Fife

    has few upland areas but in the west of the Kingdom are the Cleish Hills, and more central the Lomond Hills near Falkland and Leslie. There is often a good autumn passage of skuas and terns in the Firth of Forth, best viewed in Fife from Kinghorn Harbour, North Queensferry and Inverkeithing Harbour. To the west of Dunfermline (near Culross) Torry Bay and Valleyfield Lagoons host waders and wildfowl. Map References in the list below.
  • AA Lochs & Reservoirs

    Those worth a visit for winter wildfowl, waders and gulls include Loch Gelly; Lochore Meadows CP; Cameron Reservoir behind St Andrews; Ballo Reservoir and Holl Reservoir; Birnie and Gaddon Lochs near Collessie; Lindores Loch; Craigluscar Reservoir near Dunfermline; and the delightful Kilconquhar Loch in the East Neuk. Map references in the list below:
  • AA Near Tayport

    are Tentsmuir Point, Morton Lochs and Kinshaldy Beach, offering extensive forest and shoreline walks. Map references below.
  • Ballo Reservoir

    Satellite View
  • Birnie and Gaddon Lochs

    Satellite View
    The two lochs are joined by a network of paths with plenty of rest areas and a picnic site at the main car park which offers excellent views across Birnie Loch. We also maintain two bird hides at the site, keys are available on request. The site is ideal for family recreational use including walking, bird watching and picnics. While the site is predominately open water surrounded by sparse woodland it also includes smaller areas of wetland and grassland habitats that help attract a variety of wildlife. As well as the excellent bird watching opportunities there’s a chance to spot some of Fife’s rare mammals including red squirrel, otter and bats.
  • Cameron Reservoir

    Satellite View
  • Cleish Hills

    See above
  • Craigluscar Reservoir

    Satellite View
  • Fife Ness

    Satellite View
    Best known birding site in Fife. Rocky shore, farmland, scrub, tidal pond, and the famous Patch on Fife Ness Muir with Heligoland traps and a ringing hut. There is a Seawatching hide built by Fife Bird Club adjacent to the pillbox at the Ness. It is a great migrant spot in spring and autumn. Also visit Balcomie Farm walled garden (NO625099); Kilminning coast (NO632086) and Denburn Wood in Crail (NO614081).
  • Inverkeithing Harbour

    Satellite View
  • Isle of May

    Satellite View
    Bird Observatory established in 1934. Regular boat trips to island from Anstruther on pleasure cruisers in spring and summer. Birders (six) can stay on the island for a small charge. Celebrated migrant hot spot; wonderful seabird colonies.
  • Kilconquhar Loch

    Satellite View
  • Kinghorn Harbour

    Satellite View
    See above
  • Kinshaldy Beach

    Satellite View
  • Largo Bay

    Satellite View
    has a large sandy beach from the River Leven stretching past the town of Leven, through Lower Largo to the Cocklemill Burn (NO468013) and Ruddons Point (NO454005) and Shell Bay (NO459002). Thousands of winter seaduck present in the area, especially around the outfall of the Leven by Methil Power Station (NO382003). The best place in Britain to see Surf Scoter Melanitta perspicillata, with up to 5 birds off Ruddons Point (access via Kincraig Caravan Park) in the winter.
  • Lindores Loch

    Satellite View
  • Loch Gelly

    Satellite View
  • Lochore Meadows CP

    Satellite View
  • Lomond Hills

    See above
  • Morton Lochs

    Satellite View
  • Mountcastle Quarry & Letham Pools

    Satellite View
    Grid ref NO3113 - This is a disused quarry with several lagoons and extensive woodland and scrub. The quarry next to flooded fields to east (not marked on maps). Both attract many wildfowl year round and the occasional rarity, with pools often a focus for a range of migrant waders. Water Rails breed and are not difficult to see in summer. Greylag and Pinkfeet feed in fields in winter. Pools easily visible from minor road. Parking for quarry at entrance on A92.
  • North Queensferry

    Satellite View
  • St Andrews & NE Fife

    is a good area for winter wildfowl and passage waders. There is a public hide on the Eden Estuary LNR (NO478195) at the Guardbridge Nature Centre (NO452192); which offers panoramic views over the mudflats and Leuchars army base. Other hides are at Edenside (NO457192) and Balgove Bay (NO485185); but keys are needed for these. Also visit Outhead (NO494197) at the end of the West Sands in St Andrews, to view the estuary mouth.
  • Tentsmuir Point

    WebpageSatellite View
    You can find pine-scented forest, windswept sands and a wonderful range of wildlife at Tentsmuir.
  • Torry Bay

    Satellite View
  • Valleyfield Lagoons

    Satellite View
Contributors
  • Dr Rob Lambert

    St Andrews, Fife | ral2@st-andrews.ac.uk

County Recorder
  • Graham Sparshott

    19 Inverewe Place, Dunfermline KY11 8FH

    grahamspa@aol.com

    07770 225440

  • Isle of May - Iain English

    19 Nethan Gate, Hamilton, S Lanarks ML3 8NH

    i.english@talk21.com

    01698 891788

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 307

Useful Reading

  • The Fife Bird Atlas

    | Edited by Norman Elkins, Jim Reid, Allan Brown, Derek Robertson & Anne-Marie Smout | Norman Elkins | 2003 | Hardback | 364 Pages | ISBN: 9780953932429 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 | ISBN: 9780713656930 Buy this book from NHBS.com
Useful Information
  • Isle of May Records

    Ian Darling, 579 Lanark Road West, Edinburgh, EH14 7BL
Observatories
  • Isle of May Bird Observatory

    Observatory WebsiteSatellite View
    The Isle of May Bird Observatory is Scotland’s oldest bird observatory, founded in 1934. The observatory is administered by a charitable trust (The Isle of May Bird Observatory and Field Station Trust) and manned by volunteer observers between March and November. The Observatory was founded by a group of young Scottish ornithologists and has continued to depend on the enthusiasm of amateurs who come to the island, usually for a week at a time, to maintain observations. The living accomodation is housed within the low light, a former navigational lighthouse… Jonathan Osborne, The Shieling, Halcombe Crescent, Earlston, Berwickshire TD4 6DA 01896 848126 jonathan@osborne108.fsnet.co.uk
Organisations
  • Fife Bird Club

    Website
    Formed in July of 1985 by a group of keen birdwatchers wanting to provide more information and better facilities for those interested in the birds of mainland Fife. The Club has grown to include several hundred members, with over a third of these actually living outwith Fife…
  • Fife Coast & Countryside Trust

    Website
    We are an independent environmental charity committed to ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to experience Fife's great outdoors. We do this through careful management in a manner which respects the balance between people and nature. We manage many sites and paths throughout the Kingdom including the Fife Coastal Path and the Lomond Hills Regional Park. We also manage several Local Nature Reserves and many other sites used by local communities.
  • SOC Fife Local Group

    Webpage
    Venue: Supper Room of St Andrews Town Hall (at the corner of South Street & Queen’s Gardens), KY16 9TA Contact: Caroline Gordon, 01592 750230
  • Scottish Wildlife Trust - Fife & Kinross Branch

    Website
    Welcome to this web site which is about the wildlife and the activities of Scottish Wildlife Trust members in the East Coast counties of Fife and Kinross
Reserves

Abbreviations Key

  • LNR Birnie Loch

    WebpageSatellite View
    The two lochs are joined by a network of paths with plenty of rest areas and a picnic site at the main car park which offers excellent views across Birnie Loch. We also maintain two bird hides at the site, keys are available on request. The site is ideal for family recreational use including walking, bird watching and picnics. While the site is predominately open water surrounded by sparse woodland it also includes smaller areas of wetland and grassland habitats that help attract a variety of wildlife. As well as the excellent bird watching opportunities there’s a chance to spot some of Fife’s rare mammals including red squirrel, otter and bats.
  • LNR Coul Den

    WebpageSatellite View
    Built in 1890 as a reservoir suppling water to the Haig Bottling plant in Markinch, Coul Den is now a shallow loch with landscaped ponds, and an impressive path network. The site contains large areas of developing natural habitats that attract many birds, insects, and mammals. It is one of the largest areas of natural occurring ‘Willow Carr’ in Fife. Amphibians thrive in the ponds with Dragonflies and Damselflies also abundant in summer. Common breeding birds you may see include Mute Swan, Coot, Moorhen and Little Grebe
  • LNR Dalbeath Marsh

    WebpageSatellite View
    Dalbeath Marsh is a former quarry site immediately west of Cowdenbeath. There is a pleasant circular path running around the entire site that will take you both to the waters edge and to the top of the little hill (approx. 0.75 miles circular route).
  • LNR Eden Estuary, Guardbridge

    WebpageSatellite View
    The Eden Estuary reserve is vast and is used for many different purposes, including recreational activities such as wildfowling (permit required), walking, bird watching, and horse-riding. The Fife Coast & Countryside Trust maintain a small visitor centre that is the perfect spot for bird watching and there are also numerous other access points including large parking area and interpretation at West Sands in St Andrews.
  • NNR Tentsmuir

    Information PDFSatellite View
    Tentsmuir NNR is on the east coast of Scotland, 10km north of St Andrews. Within Tentsmuir NNR is Tentsmuir Point, the tip of a large sand dune system, most of which is now covered by forest and farmland. Sand is still being deposited at the Point and the dunes continue to grow seaward. Indeed, this is one of the fastest growing parts of Scotland. As well as the dunes, there is a large seal colony, and important numbers of wildfowl and waders use the coast especially in the winter months. Morton Lochs, also within the NNR, has open water and a fringing fen which attracts wintering and breeding ducks and a variety dragonflies and damselflies.
  • RSPB Loch Leven (Vane Farm)

    WebpageSatellite View
    Although now in Perth and Kinross, Vane Farm RSPB Reserve on the shores of Loch Leven, sits on the border with Fife and is popular with local birders. It has an excellent tearoom, RSPB shop and bookstore, and a board with recent bird sightings from the entire East of Scotland.
  • SWT Bankhead Moss

    WebpageSatellite View
    Bankhead Moss is a small raised bog, an uncommon habitat in this part of Scotland. There is an area of woodland and wetland with pools and scrapes where curlew, snipe and lapwing may be spotted. The bog provides ideal conditions for specialised plants including cottongrass and sundews.
  • SWT Barnyards Marsh

    WebpageSatellite View
    This small and fascinating wetland reserve has a range of vegetation types, including reed canary grass, sedges and mosses. Reed buntings and sedge warblers breed here, and snipe may be seen in winter.
  • SWT Cullaloe

    WebpageSatellite View
    Cullaloe originally had two reservoirs, one of which has been drained. Willow scrub now thrives here, and there are areas of open water, wildflower meadow and marsh. Lapwings and sedge warblers breed here, and great crested grebes and teals visit during winter.
  • SWT Dumbarnie Links

    WebpageSatellite View
    Lime-rich dune grassland is an increasingly rare habitat on the east of Scotland. Such conditions make Dumbarnie Links an important habitat for rare plants and invertebrates. Nearly 2,000 species, including 1,200 insects and a wide variety of shore and sea birds, have been recorded here.
  • SWT Fife Ness Muir

    WebpageSatellite View
    Approaching 150 species of birds have been seen from the reserve including 17 species of warbler. During spring and autumn recording is carried out on a daily basis and the reserve is now a ringing station with permanent traps similar to those on the Isle of May…
  • SWT Fleecefaulds Meadow

    WebpageSatellite View
    Fleecefaulds Meadow is a mosaic of species-rich grassland, fen meadow and scrub woodland. In summer, the colourful display of wildflowers, including globeflower, twayblade, and cowslip, attracts a number of butterfly species. Brown hares graze in the meadow and warblers nest in the scrub.
  • SWT Kilminning Coast

    WebpageSatellite View
    This stretch of coastline has species-rich grassland, salt marsh and coastal scrub where rare grassland and wetland plants grow, including purple milk vetch and northern marsh orchid. The scrub provides nesting sites for whitethroats, stonechats and linnets.
  • SWT West Quarry Braes

    WebpageSatellite View
    West Quarry Braes is an important woodland and scrub habitat in an otherwise arable landscape. Willow and elder scrub, along with ash and hawthorn, make this a haven for breeding birds.
  • Scottish Wildlife Trust Reserves

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Annotated list
Forums & Mailing Lists
  • RSPB Tayside & Fife

    Twitter Website
    Nature news, sightings & events from our Loch Leven reserve and across Tayside and Fife.
  • Wild Crail

    Sightings & News
    A look at what's happening around us
Places to Stay


Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

  • Braemore B&B

    Accommodation
    Newport is well placed for the tourist routes to the Highlands or the North East after you enjoy the delights of St.Andrews and the East Neuk of Fife.
Other Links
  • Birding by Bike

    Article
    In the company of Ranger Bob Weston take to the lesser known country roads and tracks to look at the wild birds and waterfowl in some of the hidden lochs near Collessie.
Blogs
  • Barry Farquharson - Stonefaction Birding

    BLOG
  • Graham Sparshott - Birding; a way of life

    BLOG

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