Each season brings new activity to Orkney's 13 nature reserves. Spring is full of birdsong as Orkney's birdlife competes for territory and attracts a mate. In summer, newborns take to flight for the first time and explore their surroundings. In autumn, large flocks of migrating birds fleeing the harsh Arctic winters take shelter in the milder climbs of Orkney and take to the air in large flocks in winter to feed and keep warm.
From seabirds that nest in the towering cliffs of Noup Head to the hides and trails beside the Neolithic Ring of Brodgar, there are plenty of opportunities to experience the islands' animal life first-hand. The Burgar Hill hide at Birsay Moors RSPB reserve is an excellent place to observe the red-throated divers nest on the hill lochans. There is also a good chance of spotting the hen-harrier and the short-eared owl which breed on Orkney and can be seen on wild moorland and in meadows.
As well as ample opportunities to spot seabirds in cliff colonies at Marwick Head RSPB Reserve, look out to sea from this great vantage point for a fine chance of spotting a wide range of marine life. The warm waters off the coast of Orkney attract many different species including porpoises and dolphins looking for a feed.
Orkney’s diverse range of habitats are good for plants as well as wildlife, and a wide range of wild flowers bloom each year in the islands. The region's most northerly reserve at North Hill on Papa Westray is an ideal place to find a unique variety of flora, such as the extremely rare plant; the Scottish primrose. Its low-lying cliffs are also a nationally important breeding ground for Arctic terns and skuas.
Through binoculars at the hide around the Mill Dam reserve's natural marshes, spy large numbers of wildfowl, including Britain's rarest breeding duck the pintail, that make their nests on Shapinsay in the summer and migrating whooper swans that arrive in winter.
Browse the listings to plan your trip to the hides, reserves and visitor centres in Orkney today.