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Ford and Etal

Bird watching

Bird watching in Northumberland and the Scottish Borders

Puffins, Farne Islands

Puffins, Farne Islands © Gail Johnson -

Northumberland has been called a birder’s paradise, with the county’s diverse landscape – from mountainous moorland to wide mudflats – providing some of the best birdwatching in the country.

Oyster Catchers near Berwick
Oyster Catchers near Berwick ©

The county is well-known for the vast numbers of breeding common and Arctic terns, kittiwakes, puffins and shags on the Farne Islands. There are also boat trips from Amble around – landing is not allowed – the South Coquet Island, where there is a colony of roseate terns, Britain’s rarest breeding seabird.

In The Scottish Borders the best locations are Eyemouth, Peebles, Kelso and, of course, parts of the River Tweed.

Northumberland National Park and the North Pennines, both listed as areas of outstanding natural beauty, are home to black grouse, golden plover and other moorland species such as the curlew.

Crossbills, goshawks and ospreys can be seen in the county’s woods while dippers, goosanders, common sandpipers and grey wagtails are found on the rivers and, on a good day, visitors to the raptor viewpoint at Bakethin in Kielder can see nine species of birds of prey.

During the migration periods in spring and autumn, the coast is a fantastic venue for keen rarity-spotters, while in the winter pale-bellied Brent geese can be spotted around Lindisfarne.

Newbiggin-by-the-Sea is also a migrant hotspot, with many species such as the Mediterranean gull regularly spotted as they stop off on their way to their regular nesting grounds.

Northumberland and Tyneside Bird Club publishes the county bird report Birds in Northumbria. Each year it contains a full systematic list with accounts of all species recorded during the period. Notable records include Wilson’s & Swinhoe’s petrels, slender-billed curlew, red flanked bluetail, red-eyed vireo and black faced bunting.

It also includes regular features such as a ringing report, arrival and departure dates of regular migrant visitors, wetland bird survey results and other articles of interest.

Birdwatching is a pastime that can be done individually or in the company of a professional birdwatching guide, whose intimate knowledge of the area will include  the best spots, at the best times of the year.


Greylag Geese landing.

Greylag Geese © North East Wildlife