Wildlife in the Scottish Borders

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Year of Natural Scotland 2013
Year of Natural Scotland 2013

Celebrate Scotland's natural beauty throughout 2013

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  • Looking along a woodland path through daffodils at Kailzie Gardens, near Peebles
    Looking along a woodland path through daffodils at Kailzie Gardens, near Peebles
  • A red squirrel © Lorne Gill/Scottish Natural Heritage
    A red squirrel © Lorne Gill/Scottish Natural Heritage
  • Sir Walter Scott's view looking west over the River Tweed towards Melrose
    Sir Walter Scott's view looking west over the River Tweed towards Melrose

With its rolling hills, scenic valleys and dramatic coast, the Scottish Borders is full of wildlife waiting to be discovered. Visit nature reserves or stroll through the many parks and gardens to spot the diverse range of species, from salmon in the River Tweed to birds of prey prowling the skies.

Winding its way up from the hills above Selkirk and Peebles to the North Sea, the River Tweed is the Scottish Borders’ most important geographic feature. Each stage of the river offers its own wildlife gems, from swans at the slow moving waters by Berwick to ducks further upstream at Kelso. The Tweed is widely recognised as one of the world's foremost rivers for Atlantic salmon and also has Scotland's finest displays of water crowfoot. Watch at the Salmon Viewing Centre on the Philiphaugh Estate as they leap up the cauld on the epic final stages of their journey along the Ettrick Water, a tributary of the Tweed.

Bird watching

Each stage of the river Tweed is favoured by specific species. The mossy banks near Peebles are popular with dippers and the reeds downstream near Kelso are favoured by many different species of duck. At the river’s estuary at Berwick, the slow-moving waters make it one of the best places in Scotland to observe swans.

A short distance to the north of Berwick on the coast, fine seabird colonies are to be found at St Abb's Head by Eyemouth. Species resident at this National Nature Reserve in summer include kittiwake, guillemot, razorbill and puffin. Rare migrant insects, such as the Camberwell beauty butterfly and Death’s-head hawkmoth can also be spotted, as well as a number of more common butterflies that breed on the reserve.

Birds of prey find fertile hunting grounds in the Scottish Borders and ospreys in particular can be spotted thanks to dedicated centres at Glentress Forest and Kailzie Gardens near Peebles. Major partners in the successful Tweed Valley Osprey Project alongside the RSPB, the Forestry Commission and Scottish Natural Heritage, they provide access to these fish-hunting raptors thanks to CCTV high up in the forest canopy.

Country Parks

Inland, the Hirsel Country Park offers some of the finest bird watching opportunities in the south of Scotland, with 160 species having been recorded here. Hirsel Lake forms the centrepiece of the park and is surrounded by reed beds in which sedge warbler and reed bunting may be found. The adjacent woodland is home to many absent or rare species like the marsh tit and hawfinch but also resident are woodpeckers and flycatchers.

A visit to Jedforest Deer and Farm Park gives the opportunity to meet the herd of red deer as well as breeds of rare farm animals including miniature donkeys, water buffalo and Connemara ponies.

Find more information on Scotland’s wildlife including tips on how to spot it and for booking wildlife holidays and tours, visit the Wild Scotland website.