East Lothian Council

What to see

The Best of East Lothian's Wildlife

Cover

Is the guide to get you to what are considered the best places to enjoy the county's wildlife and countryside.

It costs £4.50 and is widely available at local outlets or can be purchased (add £1.50 p & p) from ourselves by contacting landscapeandcountryside@eastlothian.gov.uk or by telephoning 01620 827421.

What to see - Wildlife through the year

Spring

  • mad march hares boxing and chasing around arable fields early in the morning
  • the frog chorus croaking away at a Linkfield pond, John Muir Country Park
  • early birdsong/the arrival of spring migrants on the shore at Barns Ness
  • first flowers: blackthorn, primroses and bluebells. Try Pencraig wood or the coast at North Berwick

Summer

  • the Bass by boat: gannet-tastic!
  • butterflies around the dune grasslands at Yellowcraig
  • summer flowers along the coast: bloody cranesbill, cowslip and clustered bellflower are three of the specialities found at Longniddry Bents
  • orchids: four types growing in the grasslands around Gullane Bents
  • rockpool beasties: all along the coast, but North Berwick and Longniddry shores are always good for a look
  • damselflies and dragonflies: only a few species live in this part of Scotland, try any local pool/pond on a warm day
  • seek out the night hunters: owls, badgers, hedgehogs, bats and moths are all active around the county, hunker down in a quiet spot and see what passes by

Autumn

  • mushrooms/fungi: Butterdean Wood is a great place to look, but no picking please!
  • berries and other fruits rowan trees throw up livid red berries now; other things to look for are crab apples, raspberries and bilberries on the hills. The heather on the Lammermuirs will be turning purple too
  • bring on the Pink Feet: up to 30,000 pink-footed geese may use Aberlady Bay as a stop-off point as they migrate south; stand on the footbridge near sunset and watch wave after wave fly in
  • turning leaves: late October is the time to get out into a wood near you and enjoy the myriad of autumnal colours put on as the trees start to drop their leaves. Binning Wood is a good example

Winter

  • storms: when it gets bad it gets really bad; wrap up, take care but see how wild it can get on a winter's day. Try Belhaven Bay and watch the surf roll in
  • snow fun: enjoy the snow when it comes. Animal tracks are easy to spot, even during a snowball fight. Try the slopes of the Lammermuirs
  • the midwinter sky: if it's cold and clear, take a trip up the hills and marvel at the stars. Who knows you could see an aurora too?
  • winter coats: look out for stoats and weasels now, some go white, some do not and some do a bit of both!
  • ducks and waders: keeping warm but looking good in shiny new plumage, many ducks and waders can be seen close-up at Levenhall bird reserve
  • waxwings: if they come these wonderfully coloured birds are likely to feed in small flocks on Cotoneaster bushes. North Berwick and Haddington have both had recent sightings

Wildlife watching tips

There may be a host of birds, bugs and beasties at your doorstep and beyond, but this is of little use if you are not equipped in the skills to sneak up on them. Consider the following hints;

  • Dress in neutral clothing-green / brown colours will help you blend in to most places, so wear clothes in these colours. Also avoid fabrics that rustle. If you want to get really close you should also cover any exposed skin.
  • You smell. Nothing personal, but humans have a scent at the best of times. Add perfume and any self-respecting badger etc. will sniff you from miles away. So, leave off the smellies and try and have any wind coming towards you.
  • Get down. Standing up and walking around, we tend to stick out, and can easily be an obvious silhouette against the background. Be prepared to crouch and crawl into the ideal position. Above all, be patient, wait once you are there.
  • Move slowly and quietly. The first is easier than the second. I find walking on the outside edge of my boots and rolling the foot forwards makes less noise than thumping all my foot down in 'normal' walking fashion.
  • When to go. Most animals and birds are active at dawn and dusk and get harder to see during the middle of the day. But it depends, butterflies and bats are two of the exceptions to this 'when best to view' rule!

Landscape and Countryside, East Lothian Council, Block C Brewery Park, Haddington, EH41 3HA.

Telephone: 01620 827430

East Lothian Council, John Muir House Brewery Park Haddington East Lothian EH41 3HA.