Our region is home to outstanding scenery which boasts emerald forests, pristine lochs and rivers, heathery hillsides, sweeping moorlands as well as a picture perfect coastline - and for nature lovers, that means an abundant wildlife scene just perfect for exploring.
With over 1800 square miles of mostly rural land and coastline, we can only touch the tip of the iceberg when it comes to wildlife sites and locations, but we very much hope we can give you a hint of what the local area has to offer.
Farne Islands Nature Reserve
The Farne Islands lie off Northumberland’s heritage coast and are home to 120,000 pairs of breeding birds, half of which are puffins, playfully known as the ‘clown of the sea’ or ‘sea parrot’ - inquisitive, colourful and full of character! Naturalists and photographers will delight at this rugged landscape and the 23 bird species which are resident here, including fulmars, eiders, guillemots and razorbills. The Islands are also home to a colony of over 5000 grey seals and you will be able to watch them basking lazily on the rocks at low tide. Pay a visit in late Autumn and you will be rewarded with the wonderful sight of 1,500 new-born seal pups.
Boats to the Farne Islands leave every day from Seahouses harbour (weather permitting) and take approximately 30-60 minutes - you may even be lucky enough to spot a pod of dolphins or perhaps a minke whale along the way!
St Abbs Head
Stretching over 100 metres high, the craggy cliffs of St. Abbs Head sit in an outstanding stretch of coastline and are summer home to over 60,000 nesting seabirds including guillemots, razorbills and kittiwakes. The rocky grasslands along the cliff-tops are dotted with spectacular flowers and butterflies from May through to August and the clear waters of the area’s Nature Reserve support a rich marine life - one of the most popular shore diving sites in Britain. There is a Nature Centre here with a camera link to nesting seabirds and a super walk over the headlands will allow you take in all the sights of this stunning area.
The Hirsel Estate, Coldstream
The Hirsel Estate sits on the northern edge of Coldstream and naturalists will enjoy the variety of walks through the grounds of the estate and along the edge of the lake and river. The estate has fine mature woodland with many oak and yew trees which attract nuthatch, woodpecker, jay and many other songbirds, and the lake is an important wildfowl roost for teal, goosander, whooper swan and grey geese. Other notable species include little grebe, kingfisher, otter and roe deer. The estate is particularly stunning from spring to early summer with a fine display of rhododendrons in May and a breathtaking explosion of colour in the Autumn.
The beautiful grounds of Paxton House are a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and photographers, supporting an extensive array of wildlife amidst spectacular surroundings. Conservation and protection of the natural environment is a real pride here and much time has been invested over the years building hides and developing habitats to encourage and sustain wildlife. There are wonderful walks along the river where heron, cormorants, mute swan and even seals can be spotted, whilst squirrels, deer and badgers can all be seen in the woods nearby.
Duns Castle Nature Reserve
The Duns Castle site is managed as a Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve and consists of loch, parkland, grassland and mixed woodland where you can spot an array of birdlife and wildlife in their natural habitat, including spotted and green woodpecker, red squirrel, redstarts, goldcrests, badger and roe deer. The occasional visiting osprey can be seen on the loch and the ‘Hen Poo’ and ‘Mill Dam’ is home to spectacular mute swans and various species of duck. It provides a perfect spot for twitchers, photographers and artists alike.
Yetholm Loch is a Scottish Wildlife Trust Reserve which sits 1 mile west of Yetholm at the foot of the Cheviot Hills. It is an important site for breeding and over-wintering wildfowl and a good site for observing otter. Noteable other species include osprey, kingfisher, reed bunting, gadwall, shelduck and blue tailed damselfly. There is a hide on the western side of the loch which takes in a pond and a woodland strip. Best time to visit is April through to July.
Bowhill Country Estate
The Bowhill Estate sits 3 miles west of Selkirk and comprises mature mixed woodland, conifer woodland, heather moor, river and loch. The woods are home to roe deer, tawny owl, greater spotted woodpecker, nuthatch, crossbill and siskin, while the hills are managed for red grouse, attracting curlew and cuckoo. Along the Yarrow Water, otter, dipper and grey wagtail are present, and the lochs contain heron, mute swan, moorhen and aquatic insects such as the damselfly.
Dawyck Botanic Gardens, Stobo
Managed by the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh, Dawyck is home to one of Britain’s finest arboreta with some of the country’s tallest trees. Resident birds include green woodpecker, greater spotted woodpecker, nuthatch, treecreeper, sparrowhawk and crossbill. In late spring when the rhododendrons and azaleas are ablaze, resident birds are joined by redstart, blackcap and spotted flycatcher. Quite simply stunning.
Kailzie Osprey Project
Kailzie Gardens is located 2 miles south of Peebles and is a major partner in the Tweed Valley Osprey Project which has helped attract and protect these rare and beautiful birds of prey into the Borders after an absence of more than 100 years. The birds are now well established in the Tweed Valley Forest Park, and in 2008 the Ospreys had their most successful breeding season ever in the area with a total of 18 chicks born to 8 breeding pairs. Cameras have been set up on the nest high in the forest canopy and you can follow their progress live on camera from the Kailzie Nature Centre from Easter until the end of August. The Centre also features information about other local wildlife, walks and nature including activities for children. Definitely one for the to-do list!