I used to guide wildlife and birding trips in Scotland so I have a lot of
Puffin spots up my sleeve, but it also means I'm Caledonia-centric... I've been
reviewing my birding notes recently, its all front of mind as I'm planning to
run a Scotland birding trip in May 2014.
Bass Rock near Edinburgh is much more accessible than most of the 'classic'
Puffin locations in the UK. Boats sail there from North Berwick (a 30 minute
train ride from the city). Bass Rock is one of the biggest Gannetrys on Earth.
Puffin nest in small numbers there, and the boat trip goes via smaller nearby
Islands which host 1000s of breeding Puffin. Its a fantastic day trip and
easily done from Edinburgh- you can be back in the city for dinner after a big
day of seabirding!
Scottish sites on the west coast such as the Treshnish Isles are more of a trek
but well worth the effort. Skua (aka Jaegers), Divers, various Shearwaters and
cetaceans are usually seen on the way out from the boat, and it gives you an
excuse to pop to Iona for Corncrake and Tree Sparrow, Mull for the two Eagle
sp. as well as a spread of other great Island fauna like Otter and the huge
Vole subspecies on the island. For a bird checklist and site info try this
site: http://www.mullbirds.com/ For Mull bird and wildlife guide and boat trip
info see http://www.wildisles.co.uk/operators.htm
Timing is important, and by August the english birds have mostly moved out to
sea, although if the sand eel resource is doing ok they tend to hang around
offshore in groups of 2-6 and can be often seen from boat trips or doing
'flybys' by sea watching from headlands. As its further north the Scottish
birds are a bit slower to leave so you may have better luck up there but you'll
mainly just get the stragglers. Most Puffin are still in their breeding
plumage/bills by August but are starting to look scruffy and their bills
colours are fading fast. Late April/May is the optimum time to visit the UK for
most birding. August is generally quiet- literally! Breeding is mostly done,
few birds are holding territories, many have started to leave for better climes
and the winter goodies haven't arrived yet so the country has a 'flat' feel.
August is also statistically the wettest month of the year in Scotland, and the
time of peak-midge!
Hope you find this useful. I'd love to hear how you get on.
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