Ayrshire hosts a wide variety of different habitats supporting a diverse range of bird species. As many as 20-30 different species may be easily seen in our gardens alone, and it is these that many people are most familiar with. Whether it be House Sparrows Passer domesticus, Robins Erithacus rubecula, Blackbirds Turdus merula and Blue Tits Parus caeruleus or less common visitors such as Bullfinches Pyrrhula pyrrhula and Reed Buntings Emberiza schoeniclus, birds are many peoples first link with wildlife watching and recording.
Agriculture is the dominant industry in Ayrshire, with over 30% of the land in the region being farmed. This produces a mosaic of habitats, from improved grassland to upland sheepwalk, from scrub and hedgerows to wood pasture. Swallows Hirundo rustica and Starlings Sturnus vulgaris utilise the insect-rich feeding areas associated with livestock grazing, though on a national scale the latter has declined markedly over the last 30 years at least partly as a result of changes in agricultural practices. The region is a stronghold for Barn Owls Tyto alba which hunt over the plentiful areas of rough grassland. There are also a number of other locally important species associated with agricultural land, including Lapwing Vanellus vanellus, Tree Sparrow Passer montanus, and Linnet Acanthis cannabina. Unfortunately some of our farmland species are not faring so well with the Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra no longer breeding in Ayrshire, with the last record of the species being recorded in the early 1990’s.
The long stretch of coast in Ayrshire provides key habitat for many resident and over wintering birds, with the variation of sandy beaches, rocky areas and several cliffs, provides a range of sites for breeding coastal birds and migrating and wintering wildfowl and waders. Estuarine habitat can be found at Bogside Flats at Irvine which attracts many passing waders, and good numbers of Teal Anas Crecca and Wigeon Anas penelop over the winter months. Small estuaries and bays, such as Doonfoot and Maidens harbor are key sites for migrating waders. Ayrshire has one of the most important Gannet breeding colonies in the UK, with Ailsa Craig being a stronghold for the species.
Upland areas in Ayrshire, such as those found on Arran and in South and East Ayrshire provide suitable habitat for some of Scotland’s most iconic raptors, with the Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos and Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus having been recorded. These areas also provide habitat for breeding waders such as the Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria, as well as smaller species such as the Skylark Alauda arvensis and Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis, and the scare Twite Acanthis flavirostris, which is now a very rare breeding bird in the Ayrshire uplands. Upland areas in East Ayrshire also hold small populations of Black Grouse Lyrurus tetrix which can be seen on Airds Moss.
SUP is registered in Scotland as a company limited by guarantee with charitable status. Registered address: The Southern Uplands Partnership, Studio 2, Lindean Mill, Galashiels, TD1 3PE. Company No. SC200827 / Charity No. SCO29475