Scotland December 2021 And January 2022 Birding The Coast Near Burghead

Little Auk 1 Dec 2915

On one winter's day we enjoyed this wonderful Little Auk at Burghead a few years ago.

During our wonderful prolonged stay at the Grant Arms Hotel on Speyside in the Highlands of Scotland we made several visits to the coast. Our favourite area is the small coastal town of Burghead – it is on a narrow peninsula so sea on three sides with great birds. The harbour, on the west side of the peninsula overlooks a bay where concentrations of sea-duck winter. Scanning the bay with the telescopes produced fine views of stunning Long-tailed Ducks, smart Velvet Scoter, gorgeous Common Eider, Goldeneye and Red-breasted Mergansers were all enjoyed. We also picked out Great Northern Divers, Red-throated Divers and Slavonian Grebes and even better on our very first visit here in December a brute of a juvenile Glaucous Gull! On two occasions Common Eider came right into the harbour allowing simply stunning views at point blank range what a wonderful experience.

Purple Sandpiper 1

Purple Sandpipers are a regular sight on the east side of the headland in winter.

On the east side of Burghead headland is a rocky coastline where Purple Sandpipers can be found amongst the gangs of Ruddy Turnstones and we enjoyed super close views of both species. We were rather surprised to see a small flock Red Knot here – not their usual habitat choice? Offshore very similar species to those enjoyed off the west side minus the Slavonian Grebes but plus Gannets and Shags. Some of the views of the Long-tailed Ducks here were amazing coming in so close and displaying too just fantastic to see.

Long tailed Duck drake 2

Drake Long-tailed Duck photographed at Burghead Harbour such a beautiful bird.

Not far to the west lies Findhorn Bay, where the river Findhorn enters the sea and forms a huge shallow estuary that is teaming with birds. From a viewpoint on the east side of the bay it is possible to scan the east shore and enjoy big flocks of waders especially on the incoming tide as the birds are pushed closer. Hundreds of Dunlin, Knot and Bar-tailed Godwits are here form swirling flocks as the water rises around them these in turn attract hunting Peregrines. Lots of ducks here too, particularly Northern Pintail, with hundreds of these most beautiful present in the winter providing a wonderful spectacle. Big flocks of Pink-footed Geese often use the bay as a night time roost but only flight in just before dusk. We also saw Goldeneye further out in the bay along with Red-breasted Mergansers and lots of gulls. We are sure some scarce gulls must occur here given the huge numbers of Herring Gulls just a case of getting close enough to check through them for Iceland and Glaucous Gulls.

A road runs along the south side of the bay we only had time to check it briefly once but it looked good giving views over the southern part of the bay and areas of rough grassland. We see our only Stock Doves of the trip here and also enjoyed close views of Pink-footed Geese in the roadside fields.

At the mouth of Findhorn Bay are sandbanks where both Common and Atlantic grey seals haul out to loaf about. Scanning offshore here produced similar species to off Burghead with Long-tailed Ducks, Eider, Slavonian Grebes and Great Northern Divers. In the dunes behind the beach we watched Hooded Crows and Stonechats.

All in all a wonderful area to explore and well worth giving a whole day over to with several other access points to the coast between these two main sites – Roseilse just west of Burghead perhaps the best. The conifer forest here held just behind the beach holds Crested Tits and Common Crossbills and the dunes allow good vantage points to scan the entire bay.

We are looking forward to our next trip to this wonderful area in March 2022 when we run one of our custom Tours for Two sure to be amazing birds to enjoy.

We would love to put together a custom Birdwatching Trips tour perfect for you please just drop us a line and we can do the rest…

We look forward to enjoying great birds and wildlife with you soon.

Contact us

* * *



Our Tweets

This site uses cookies to store information on your computer. See our Cookie Policy for further details on how to block cookies.
I am happy with this


What is a Cookie

A cookie, also known as an HTTP cookie, web cookie, or browser cookie, is a piece of data stored by a website within a browser, and then subsequently sent back to the same website by the browser. Cookies were designed to be a reliable mechanism for websites to remember things that a browser had done there in the past, which can include having clicked particular buttons, logging in, or having read pages on that site months or years ago.

NOTE : It does not know who you are or look at any of your personal files on your computer.

Why we use them

When we provide services, we want to make them easy, useful and reliable. Where services are delivered on the internet, this sometimes involves placing small amounts of information on your device, for example, your computer or mobile phone. These include small files known as cookies. They cannot be used to identify you personally.

These pieces of information are used to improve services for you through, for example:

  • recognising that you may already have given a username and password so you don’t need to do it for every web page requested
  • measuring how many people are using services, so they can be made easier to use and there’s enough capacity to ensure they are fast
  • analysing anonymised data to help us understand how people interact with our website so we can make them better

You can manage these small files and learn more about them from the article, Internet Browser cookies- what they are and how to manage them

Learn how to remove cookies set on your device

There are two types of cookie you may encounter when using our site :

First party cookies

These are our own cookies, controlled by us and used to provide information about usage of our site.

We use cookies in several places – we’ve listed each of them below with more details about why we use them and how long they will last.

Third party cookies

These are cookies found in other companies’ internet tools which we are using to enhance our site, for example Facebook or Twitter have their own cookies, which are controlled by them.

We do not control the dissemination of these cookies. You should check the third party websites for more information about these.

Log files

Log files allow us to record visitors’ use of the site. The CMS puts together log file information from all our visitors, which we use to make improvements to the layout of the site and to the information in it, based on the way that visitors move around it. Log files do not contain any personal information about you. If you receive the HTML-formatted version of a newsletter, your opening of the newsletter email is notified to us and saved. Your clicks on links in the newsletter are also saved. These and the open statistics are used in aggregate form to give us an indication of the popularity of the content and to help us make decisions about future content and formatting.