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East Ayrshire

Grasshopper Warbler Locustella naevia ©David Mason Website

Birding East Ayrshire

East Ayrshire is one of thirty-two council areas of Scotland. It shares borders with Dumfries and Galloway, East Renfrewshire, North Ayrshire, South Ayrshire and South Lanarkshire. With South Ayrshire and the mainland areas of North Ayrshire, it formed the former county of Ayrshire.

With no shoreline and having a landscape heavily influenced by coal mining and latterly wind farms you might expect East Ayrshire to be less than ideal place to check out. Luckily there are still some places that resist development and the remote nature of some areas leads to a restricted but very important avifauna.

Loudoun Hill (NS613379)

The only reliable place for passage Ring Ouzel in Spring but also Raptors all year and Brambling in winter.

Knockentiber to Springside (NS400396)

A tarmac cycleway on an old railway line acts as a transect across typical Ayrshire farmland. Local rarities such as Grey Partridge and Tree Sparrow occur here along with a good cross section of common residents.

Martnaham Loch (NS403173)

This is a large area of freshwater straddling the boundary between South and East Ayrshire with reasonable road access. Wintering flocks of Duck, Geese and Swans with the occasional rarity such American Wigeon, Ring necked Duck and Lesser Scaup. Passage waders can be of interest if the conditions are right and flocks of Whimbrel are regular in May. Black Tern and, on one occasion, Caspian Tern, have been seen here.

Knockshinnoch Lagoons (NS617138)

Created by the dumping of mine waste this area is now an SWT reserve . Mainly consisting of flooded rough grazing with several pools and extensive regenerated Birch woodland this site unfortunately does not always live up to its potential. Water Rail breed here and a passing rarity is always possible. Past stars include Spotted Crake and Wilson’s Phalarope.

Glen Afton (NS632080)

An impressive upland Glen with a river running through good mixed woodland, spruce forest, open hillside and a rocky mountain plateau. Redstart and Flycatchers are present in the woods with Willow Tit an outside possibility. Dipper are on the river and Crossbills in the conifers. The higher reaches have Raven, occasional Merlin, Peregrine, breeding Golden Plover and in the first two weeks in May the highest point on Blackcraig plays host to trips of Dotterel.

Muirkirk uplands (NS697265)

The speciality for this area is breeding Hen Harrier which are under the protection of the RSPB. The same moors have Golden Plover and Red Grouse and Black Grouse can be found in surrounding forestry. Merlin, Short-eared Owl and the last breeding Dunlin in Ayrshire occur in this area. Access is not easy and its best to stick to roads and lay-bys except at Muirkirk where you can walk to Cairn Table the highest hill in this area.

Ness Glen (NS476013)

This is a spectacular gorge that acts as an outlet for Loch Doon. A rough path can be walked from Loch Doon Dam downstream to a small bridge allowing a walk back on the opposite bank. Dipper, Goosander and Grey Wagtail all may be encountered and summer breeders include Tree Pipit, Redstart, Pied Flycatcher and possibly Wood Warbler. Crossbills occur in the Scots Pines.

Loch Doon and Galloway Hills (NX476942)

Loch Doon is 9km long and can be a forbidding place often grey and wet and a haven for midges in summer. Despite this it is the gateway to the Galloway Forest Park which includes some real wilderness. The usual upland species can be encountered and Black Grouse are plentiful though difficult. Great Grey Shrike and Great White Egret have turned up in the past and there are plenty of remote places for surprises to hide.

Top Sites

Martnaham Loch

Satellite View

This is a large inland lake, southeast of Ayr. Scan from lay-bys at E end (see grid ref above) or on S hillside (NS 403 173). Good for wintering wildfowl & birds on passage. There are wintering flocks of Goldeneye, Wigeon, Pochard, Teal; possible Shoveler, Scaup, Long-tailed Duck, Gadwall; Greylag Goose & Whooper Swan. There are also many gulls, possibly Glaucous, Iceland, Mediterranean shelter from storms. Passage flocks of waders can include Whimbrel, Ruff, Green Sandpiper, and Black-tailed Godwit. Breeding Great Crested & Little Grebe. Notable for rarities: Smew, Ring-necked Duck, Black Tern, Lesser Scaup, Hobby, American sub species of Teal.

Whitelees Windfarm & Eaglesham Moor

Satellite View

The high upland of Eaglesham Moor straddles the border between the South Lanarkshire, East Renfrewshire and East Ayrshire council administrative districts. Covering a massive area, it encompasses moorland, wetland and woodland, with a diverse range of bird and animal species co- existing with Whitelees Windfarm- the largest facility in Europe. While not a nature reserve as such, the operators of the windfarm have taken steps to mitigate the impact of their facility, at least to date. The impact of their latest expansion remains to be seen, and windfarms in general remain contentious issues for birders. The on- site Ranger service is a major plus- point for the site, however, and have been happy to answer queries regarding birding visits. As of July 2011 their site list was 95 different bird species. The car park at the windfarm offers a good starting point for a day’s birding and walking, heed the car park closing times though. Skylark are in abundance in all areas, becoming more bold farther away from the visitor centre. Meadow Pipit are also present in good numbers. Wheatear have been recorded on the vicinity of the turbines themselves.

The major water bodies are recommended for waders and wildfowl, with snipe and curlew recorded. Raptors, as expected, are present, with kestrel and buzzard being the obvious ones. Less common, but still recorded, are hen harrier and peregrine. Finches have been recorded near the visitor centre and at the wooded areas on site. The forests are worth a look for visiting great grey shrike. The path system covers over 70km in total, although by no means all offers birding opportunities. If you are intrepid enough, there are, though, areas to go ‘off trail’, - care should be taken in areas of marshy ground (I was once mobbed by a pair of curlew while stranded knee deep in a marsh) The site is used extensively by walkers and cyclists, although it could not be described as crowded. In short, a more than decent site, which provides good birding in perhaps an unexpected setting.


County Recorder

Fraser Simpson

4 Inchmurrin Drive, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire KA3 2JD


Useful Reading

Fieldguides & Other Birding Books
For a full list of fieldguides and other books see the general UK page

Ayrshire and Galloway Upland Forest Birds

Narrated by Angus Hogg, Robin Heaney & Ken Jackson | Sounds Natural | 2011 | CD | Run Time 62 Mins |

ISBN: #220553

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 illus, maps |

ISBN: 071365693X

Buy this book from NHBS.com


RSPB Central Ayrshire Local Group


All RSPB Central Ayrshire activities appear on the Ayrshire Birders website. This covers Central and North Ayrshire local groups indoor meetings, field trips and any other special events held individually or jointly with the two groups and with the SOC Ayrshire.

SWT Ayrshire Local Group


Ayrshire extends for over 60 miles along the shore of the Firth of Clyde, rising from coast to a crescent of hills and moorland. The Scottish Wildlife Trust Group works to support all types of wildlife in its 15 reserves and throughout the wider countryside.


Abbreviations Key

CP Dean Castle


Satellite View

The country park, covering over 200 acres, is nestled in the heart of Kilmarnock. It boasts beautiful woodland walks.

LNR Catrine Voes


Satellite View

In 2006, the so-called Catrine Voes (the reservoirs to the former cotton works), the Radical Brae and the Chapel Brae were designated as a Local Nature Reserve. The river provides an ideal habitat for Atlantic Salmon as well as being home to water voles, otters, kingfishers, heron and dipper.

SWT Dalmellington Moss


Satellite View

Dalmellington Moss is a raised bog on the floodplain of the River Doon. Hummocks of heather and deergrass are interspersed with waterlogged hollows full of Sphagnum mosses and cottongrass, allowing beetles, moths and dragonflies to thrive in these conditions.

SWT Knockshinnoch Lagoons


Satellite View

The open water, islands, marshland, reedbeds and willow carr make this reserve important for birdlife in the Nith Valley. Migrant birds favour the valley in the autumn. Plant and insect enthusiasts can enjoy the partially vegetated coal spoil heap in the main public area of the reserve.

Forums & Mailing Lists

Ayrshire Bird News

Sightings & News

Email reports to recorder@ayrshire-birding.org.uk for publication in the Ayrshire Bird Report. Tweet to @ayrshirebirds and use the #AyrshireBirds hashtag


Mailing List

A forum for news on bird sightings (rare, unusual or just interesting) and birding events in Ayrshire, UK. To subscribe send a blank email…

Bird Sightings in Ayrshire

Sightings & News

Trip Reports


Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

Other Links

Birding in Ayrshire


This website exists to provide information of value to all with an interest in the wild birds of Ayrshire and in birding in this area, whether resident or visitor. The site is sponsored by SOC Ayrshire (the Ayrshire residents of the Scottish Ornithologists' Club)…

Fraser's Birding Website


Personal site with trip reports, info on local patches, recent sightings, photographs and butterflies/dragonflies in Ayrshire…