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Fife Wildlife - Bird Watching Holidays - Kingdom of Fife

Small in area, but with a long coast, wildfowl-rich lochs and a major seabird island within it’s bounds, this distinctive peninsula and its surrounding waters have plenty of wildlife-watching potential. Eyeing-up ducks, seeking seaside flowers and watching puffins and seals not far from towns and major road routes can be part of the natural attraction of Fife and Kinross.

 

Widlfowl galore

Ducks and geese galore – that’s what the largest stretch of lowland loch in central Scotland has on display year-round. Loch Leven sits roughly halfway between Edinburgh and Perth, not far from the M90 and beside Kinross. Travel 2 miles east of Junction 5 to reach Vane Farm. Use telescopes in the visitor centre there to scan the loch, then walk trails to hides to see many kinds of ducks, waders and wintering geese.

Cruise and watch

Take a boat trip (Apr-Sept) to Loch Leven Castle (once a prison for Mary Queen of Scots) to get a different perspective of Loch Leven’s shallow waters. Look for ducks on the water, swallows over the reeds and be alert for the occasional osprey. Nearby St Serf’s island has the biggest concentration of breeding ducks – especially tufted ducks - in Britain. The jetty is at the edge of Kirkgate Park, down Burns-Begg Street. 

Flowers, seals and woodpeckers

Faster than most, that’s the speed of the coast growth at Tentsmuir Point, just to the north of St Andrews. Part of the sandy headland here grows more than a metre each year, while other parts are eroding. Use the Kinshaldy beach car park, signed from the B945 north of Leuchars, to explore the forest (some great-spotted and green woodpeckers and red squirrels), sand dunes (varied flowers and butterflies) and beach (common and grey seals offshore year-round, massive eider flocks in winter). 

Sea duck by St Andrews

St Andrews is best known as the home of a land-based game featuring a small white ball. But look out to St Andrews Bay from the town’s beaches, harbour or castle area to see eider duck all year and common and velvet scoter and other seaduck in winter. Walk a path through mixed, planted woodland along the Lade Braes (access from the Argyll car park, just east of the West Port) to see dippers and grey wagtails using the Kinnessburn through the heart of town. 

Wader haven

The Eden Estuary takes up all the inshore between Guardbridge and the West Sands beside St Andrews. It’s an ace place for shelduck, but most impressive in autumn and winter, when it’s a major wading bird roosting and feeding area (black-tailed godwit a speciality). Check the mudflats from Outhead, near a car park at the north end of the West Sands road flanking the Old Course, or park at the end of a short track, 4 miles east of Guardbridge, to view the Coble Shore.

Bog-hole wildlife

It doesn’t look much like an old industrial site. But in a way, that’s what the small bog at Bankhead Moss, beside Peat Inn, 5 miles south-west of St Andrews, is. Pits were dug in the bog moss here in the 1700s and 1800s to rot down fibres of flax plants for use in the manufacture of linen. Use a small car park opposite Greigston Farm from the B940 and follow a signposted walk, including a boardwalk, to see meadowsweet, ragged robin and other marsh flowers, bog mosses and heath plants on the bog surface and dragonflies that breed in the lint-holes. 

Coastal flowers, migrant birds

The long-distance footpath that runs along much of the southern and eastern edge of Fife (the Fife Coastal Path) gives good access to this attractive seaboard. Sample it at the Kilminning Coast, between Crail and Fife Ness, to see plants such as ragged robin and sea arrowgrass. The headland itself, and the nearby Fife Ness Muir, are good areas for migrant birds in spring and autumn. Small paths help you to move quietly around the Muir area to check for warblers, thrushes and other visitors. See the wesite for the Fife Coastal Path  

Watch the puffins

A summer sea crossing of 40 minutes or so from Anstruther will take you on a day-trip to the Isle of May, outermost island in the Firth of Forth. ‘The May’ has one of the most accessible major puffin colonies in Britain (more than 60,000 pairs nest here), Use the central track to move along the island from either of the landing places (don’t stray off, or you could damage puffin burrows). Common, arctic and sandwich terns nest near the main lighthouse. See grey seals offshore (they breed here) and thousands of kittiwakes, guillemots and razorbills on the west cliffs.  Trips can be arranged through Isle of May Cruises  

Grebes and tufted ducks

Reclaimed from former coal-mining land, the Lochore Meadows Country Park, near Lochgelly is now an attractive mix of grassland, coniferous and broadleaved woods and a loch. Go to the visitor centre (all year, facilities) off the B920 at Crosshill and use footpaths to reach a wheelchair-accessible unroofed hide at the west end of the loch. Tufted duck, pochard and coot are common and there are great crested and little grebes on the nature reserve ponds. Listen for warblers such as blackcap in Harran Hill Wood. See the listing for Nature Reserves in Kingdom of Fife

Eider Duck, RSPB images