Birdwatching in Perthshire

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  • A large bird or prey in flight preparing to land at its nest
    An osprey lands at its eyrie (image courtesy of RSPB/ Chris Gomersall - rspb-images.com)
  • Looking up at a brown bird of prey with open wings
    A red kite in flight (image courtesy of RSPB/ Ben Hall - rspb-images.com)

Thanks to its mixture of habitats, Perthshire guarantees birdwatchers some fantastic opportunities to spot an interesting variety of species throughout the year.

Birds of prey

Perhaps the most striking of all the birds to be found in Perthshire is the osprey. Many lochs in the region attract breeding pairs but one of the best places in Scotland to view these magnificent birds is the Loch of the Lowes Wildlife Reserve, near Dunkeld. A pair of ospreys have been nesting here for decades and if you time your visit between April and August, you should be rewarded with a great view of the ospreys in their nests from the observation hides or via a webcam link.

After an absence of over 130 years, red kites have made a welcome reappearance in Perthshire following a successful re-introduction programme run by the RSPB and Scottish Natural Heritage. Argaty Red Kites is located at Lerrocks Farm, near Doune, and is Central Scotland’s only red kite feeding station where visitors can watch these exciting birds and their spectacular flying without the risk of disturbing what is still a fragile population.

Amongst the reedbeds close to the River Tay, you'll find the Scottish stronghold of the rare marsh harrier. Look out for the large female with its distinctive V-wing slow motion glide hanging over the reeds, a sure sign of the good health and sound management of this, the largest reedbed in Britain.

Other raptors that are regularly seen here include the majestic golden eagle, white-tailed sea eagles and common buzzards.

Wildfowl

Loch Leven National Nature Reserve, including the RSPB Vane Farm, is one of the most important sites for wildfowl in Europe. Focused around the largest lowland loch in Scotland, this reserve is renowned for attracting  thousands of breeding ducks during springtime.

Three hides enable close viewing of action on the water and loch shore throughout the year. There's also an observation room in the visitor centre that overlooks the loch and which has displays and up-to-the minute viewing equipment. Expert staff are often on hand to point out features of interest.

During spring at the Loch of the Lowes, there is also the likelihood of sighting golden-eyes, mallards, goosanders and teals as well as many other species.

Woodland species

Also at Loch Leven, there's a woodland trail through the birchwoods to the summit of Vane Hill which gives spectacular views across the loch. There are frequent sightings of willow warblers, tree pipits and great spotted woodpeckers here and if you keep your eyes peeled, you might also see peregrine falcons on the nearby cliffs.

The capercaillie is our largest woodland bird and is roughly the size of a large turkey. Their favoured habitat is native Caledonian pine woods and at Drummond Hill, near Kenmore, there is a small population of capercaillie  thriving in the woods.

The best time to see them is very early in the morning - 4.30 am to 8.00 am - from April to mid May. During the spring breeding season, you can observe the dramatic spectable of the males performing their mating ritual in the woodland clearings when they try to impress the hens with a noisy display of tail-fanning and strutting.

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