25 April 2024

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Focus On: Birds and the Law

Birds and the Law

The following is a summary of a presentation provided to Fife Bird Club members in March 2024. Refer to the respective acts for full details.

Behaviour around birds and nests

Under Section 1 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, it is an offence to intentionally or recklessly —

  • take, damage, destroy or otherwise interfere with the nest of any wild bird while that nest is in use or being built – Section 1(1)(b)
  • obstruct or prevent any wild bird from using its nest – Section 1(1)(bb)
  • disturb any wild bird included in Schedule 1 (see list of Schedule 1 species below) while it is building a nest or is in, on or near a nest containing eggs or young – Section 1(5)(a)
  • disturb dependent young of a Schedule 1 bird – Section 1(5)(b)
  • disturb any wild bird included in Schedule 1 which leks while it is doing so – Section 1(5A)
  • harass any wild bird included in Schedule 1A – Section 1(5B). 
  • take, damage, destroy or otherwise interfere with when not in use in Schedule A1

Schedule 1A include Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Red Kite, Hen Harrier         

Possession of avian parts and derivatives

It is an offence to be in possession or control of —

  • any live or dead wild bird or any part of, or anything derived from, such a bird – Section 2(a)
  • an egg of a wild bird or any part of such an egg – Section 2(b)

unless it can be shown that:

  • the bird or egg had not been killed or taken, or had been lawfully killed or taken – Section 3(a); or
  • the bird, egg or other thing in his possession or control had been lawfully sold – Section 3(b)


Wild bird” means any bird of a species which is ordinarily resident in or is a visitor to the United Kingdom or any member State or the European territory of any member State in a wild state but does not include poultry.

Reckless” undefined but consider it as behaving with prior knowledge that one’s actions are likely to cause interference or obstruction to a nest.

 Disturbance” undefined but consider it as an involuntary change in an animal’s behaviour caused by human presence.

 Harasses” undefined but consider it as a series of incidents of disturbance.

Access rights to land

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 provides everyone with the statutory right to be on or cross land for recreational or educational purposes.  These rights are known as “access rights” – Section 1(1)

Access rights can only be exercised responsibly and without unreasonable interference with anybody else’s rights – Section 2(1)&(2)

The following activities are not considered as acting responsibly:

  • not keeping your animal under proper control
  • driving a motorised vehicle or vessel without permission
  • accessing a golf course – Section 9

 Access rights are not exercisable on land which contains:

  • a building or other structure or works, plant or fixed machinery, or a curtilage or enclosure containing any of these
  • a caravan, tent or other place affording a person privacy or shelter
  • the curtilage of a building
  • school grounds
  • private house and garden so that the occupiers have reasonable privacy without unreasonable disturbance – Section 6

Schedule 1 Bird Species:

  • Avocet
  • Bee-eater
  • Bittern
  • Bittern, Little
  • Bluethroat
  • Brambling
  • Bunting, Cirl
  • Bunting, Lapland
  • Bunting, Snow
  • Buzzard, Honey
  • Capercaillie
  • Chough
  • Corncrake
  • Crake, Spotted
  • Crossbills (all species)
  • Curlew, Stone
  • Divers (all species)
  • Dotterel
  • Duck, Long-tailed
  • Eagle, Golden
  • Eagle, White-tailed
  • Falcon, Gyr
  • Fieldfare
  • Firecrest
  • Garganey
  • Godwit, Black-tailed
  • Goshawk
  • Grebe, Black-necked
  • Grebe, Slavonian
  • Greenshank
  • Gull, Little
  • Gull, Mediterranean
  • Harriers (all species)
  • Heron, Purple
  • Hobby
  • Hoopoe
  • Kingfisher
  • Kite, Red
  • Merlin
  • Oriole, Golden
  • Osprey
  • Owl, Barn
  • Owl, Snowy
  • Peregrine
  • Petrel, Leach’s
  • Phalarope, Red-necked
  • Plover, Kentish
  • Plover, Little Ringed
  • Quail, Common
  • Redstart, Black
  • Redwing
  • Rosefinch, Scarlet
  • Ruff
  • Sandpiper, Green
  • Sandpiper, Purple
  • Sandpiper, Wood
  • Scaup
  • Scoter, Common
  • Scoter, Velvet
  • Serin
  • Shorelark
  • Shrike, Red-backed
  • Spoonbill
  • Stilt, Black-winged
  • Stint, Temminck’s
  • Swan, Bewick’s
  • Swan, Whooper
  • Tern, Black
  • Tern, Little
  • Tern, Roseate
  • Tit, Bearded
  • Tit, Crested
  • Treecreeper, Short-toed
  • Warbler, Cetti’s
  • Warbler, Dartford
  • Warbler, Marsh
  • Warbler, Savi’s
  • Whimbrel
  • Woodlark
  • Wryneck

April 2024

March 2022 Sightings

March began as February had ended with the Green-winged Teal and two Greenshanks still showing at The Wilderness and the potential first accepted record for Fife of Ross’s Goose seen in that vicinity before returning to the Pitlessie/Kingskettle area. Another goose put in an appearance when a Greenland White-fronted Goose was spotted amongst the Greylags at Letham Pools and a Water Rail was seen. At Newburgh a Peregrine, Sparrowhawk, six Buzzards and six Ravens were noted while another raptor in the form of a male Goshawk was watched flying high to the North over Bogward Road in St Andrews. One lucky observer had two Short-eared Owls hunting over a field near St Monans and near Dunshalt a Twite was picked out amongst 60 Linnets. The second day of the month began with a drake Scaup and at least two Sinensis Cormorants at Loch Gelly and a Green-winged Teal upstream from the bridges at Guardbridge. The Greenland White-fronted Goose was still showing at Letham Pools and c200 Golden Plover were on the airfield at Crail with Bogward Road in St Andrews the venue for four Bramblings flying south. At Cameron Reservoir the drake Smew and nearby 17 Whooper Swans were seen on the 3rd dropping to 15 the following day. Newburgh was graced by a female Marsh Harrier on the 4th and Water Rail again showed at Letham Pools with two seen. The Green-winged Teal and the two Greenshank were at the Wilderness and 28 Purple Sandpipers roosted at St Andrews. A leucistic Herring Gull at Roome Bay, Crail caused a bit of head scratching before its identity was confirmed. The 5th started with nearly 2000 Pink-footed Geese NE of the Wilderness with the Greenland White-fronted Goose and later a Tundra Bean Goose seen. Nearby at Rossie Bog c1000 Pink-footed Geese were in flight including a partial leucistic bird, and probably involved birds from the Wilderness flock. Another c500 Pink-footed Geese were at Cairnsmill Caravan Park, St Andrews with the drake Smew and 24 Whooper Swans at Cameron Reservoir. The Green-winged Teal was at The Wilderness where a Woodcock was also seen and Kincraig had five plus Bramblings and two Ravens. A single male Snow Bunting showed at Kilrenny Mill and a Merlin at Morton Lochs NNR. The following day was much the same with the Greenland White-fronted Goose and Tundra Bean Goose still in the area NE of the Wilderness and the drake Green-winged Teal showing well at the Wilderness itself and all three still there on the 7th. Two pairs of Crossbills and 20 Corn Buntings were seen at Cellardyke with the male Snow Bunting and a Merlin at Kilrenny Mill. A male Black Redstart was moving through Bogward Road, St Andrews, singing occasionally, and nearby on the Eden Estuary a Black-necked Grebe was reported. The wintering Common Sandpiper, 41 Scaup and three Little Egrets were at Guardbridge on the 7th and unusually a Green Woodpecker was seen in Methil.

An adult Little Gull flew east past the sailing club at Dalgety Bay on the 8th when a Merlin was at Kincraig. 19 Whooper Swans were still in residence in the field just outside Star of Markinch and Green-winged Teals were showing at the Wilderness and Guardbridge on the 9th and the following day. Distantly off Coble Shore on the Eden Estuary the same day, a Black-necked Grebe was noted. Drumtenant Farm, Freuchie hosted a Greenland White-fronted Goose, c200 Greylag Geese, 21 Whooper Swans and 35 Mute Swans on the 10th. The drake Smew and c800 Pink-footed Geese were at Cameron Reservoir with a Woodcock flushed at Elie Estate and nearby Kincraig had Bramblings in a mixed finch flock numbering up to 1000 individuals. A seawatch from Fife Ness on the 11th had a summer-plumaged Black Guillemot as the highlight with 42 Long-tailed Ducks, seven Red-throated Divers and 200 Razorbills flying south. For the second year running two Common Cranes flew over the county in March. This time it was at Kinghorn and again early morning on the 12th. A Black Guillemot was again seen passing Fife Ness and Boghall, Kingsbarns had an impressive 72 Twite with Valleyfield Lagoons holding 30 Snipe, two Water Rails, 40 Teal and a Greenshank. Cameron Reservoir on the 13th had a Garganey, Smew and 17 Whooper Swans with the Black-necked Grebe again seen on the Eden Estuary with eight Slavonian Grebes for company. A Green Sandpiper was watched on the nature reserve at Lochore Meadows Country Park and was still there on the 14th with two singing Chiffchaffs for company. The latter species was being noted at a few sites around this time throughout the county.

The 15th heralded the first Sand Martins of the spring with three at Lochore Meadows Country Park with the Green Sandpiper still showing nearby on the nature reserve and 18 Whooper Swans flying north over Thornton Pool. The only report on the 16th was the Green Sandpiper at Lochore Meadows Country Park again with an Avocet gracing the Eden Estuary on the 17th, three Little Gulls were at Kilconquhar Loch and the Garganey was still at Cameron Reservoir. A sighting of a Green Woodpecker at Kilmany was only the second there in 25 years and 60 Whooper Swans headed north over West Sands, St Andrews with the flock at Star of Markinch rising to 33. The Smew and Garganey were still at Cameron Reservoir on the 18th with a supporting cast of ringtail Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl. Kincraig had 15 Twite with 980 Linnets and a Red Kite while further west at Lower Largo there were 41 Slavonian Grebes and 24 Red-throated Divers on show. Lindores Loch had the pick of the day with a Great White Egret seen from the fisherman’s jetty and it was still there over the next two days. A Red-necked Grebe was off Leven on the 19th with Garganey, Smew and a ringtail Hen Harrier seen at Cameron Reservoir. An adult Little Gull was at Kilconquhar Loch with a minimum of six Jack Snipe on Cocklemill Marsh. 36 Whooper Swans flew north over Ladybank with another 12 at Letham Pools which had a flock of c500 Pink-footed Geese for company which included a European White-fronted Goose. A Short-eared Owl was noted on East Lomond and a Ring-necked Parakeet was again seen at Beveridge Park, Kirkcaldy. The Avocet appeared again on the Eden Estuary on the 20th at Guardbridge with four Little Egrets counted also. The Garganey was still showing at Cameron Reservoir with a Red-necked Grebe off Ruddons Point. An unringed drake Mandarin Duck added a bit of colour at Birnie Loch on the 21st with the Avocet still on the Eden Estuary and the Green Sandpiper at Lochore Meadows Country Park. Two sinensis Cormorants were seen at Loch Gelly with 85 Goldeneye, 32 Pochard and five Gadwall. The adult Little Gull remained at Kilconquhar Loch and a Greenland White-fronted Goose was with c500 Pink-footed Geese at Star Moss near Star of Markinch. The Avocet was continuing its stay on the Eden Estuary on the 22nd as was the Short-eared Owl at Cameron Reservoir. An Osprey flew north over Blairadam on the 23rd with an adult Little Gull at Kilconquhar Loch, a Red-necked Grebe off Leven, the Green Sandpiper at Lochore Meadows Country Park and the ringtail Hen Harrier seen again at Cameron Reservoir. The latter site still had the drake Garganey, Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl in attendance on the 24th. The 25th was a memorable day with an adult Golden Eagle at West Lomond before flying off to the north-west. The Garganey was at Cameron reservoir with three Short-eared Owls and six Whooper Swans. Eight Whooper Swans were also noted at Loch Fitty, with nine just east of Steelend also. At Lower Largo on the 26th were a Red-necked Grebe, nine Slavonian Grebes, 18 Red-throated Divers and c200 Razorbills. The first reported Sandwich Tern was reported off Sauchope Links, Crail and two Short-eared Owls were at Cameron Reservoir. A similar start to the previous day saw a Red-necked Grebe, two Slavonian Grebes and a Sand Martin noted at a misty Pathhead first thing on the 27th. Ospreys were noted going over Lindores Loch and Newburgh with the Garganey and two Short-eared Owls at Cameron Reservoir. A lunchtime break at St Andrews University on the 28th resulted in a pair of Garganey being found on the pond there and at Golden Loch a Red Kite drifted south-west. The pair of Garganey were still showing well in St Andrews on the 29th and remained until the end of the month. At Fife Ness a Greenshank and 20 Purple Sandpipers were roosting with a Manx Shearwater passing there the next day. Just along the coast at Kilminning a Great Northern Diver flew east and 180 Golden Plovers were counted also on the 30th. The last day of March began with a report of ten Garganey at Cameron Reservoir early morning but only two were noted by mid-afternoon with the ringtail Hen Harrier also there. The Eden Estuary had eight Scaup, three Little Egrets, 35 Pintail with four of the latter at Dalgety Bay and a White Wagtail was seen at Pleasants Farm Pools.

Information supplied courtesy of Malcolm Ware

New Members – Offer ☀☀☀

For people applying for club membership after May 1st, the club constitution allows us to offer membership through to 1st August of the following year. So, anybody joining between now and August 1st won’t have to pay again until August 1st next year. For anyone considering joining the club, it’s a good time to join. Membership forms for 2020-21 can be used. See HOW TO JOIN FBC under the VISITORS tab on the main menu.

Yearlist For 2021?

Ever thought of creating a list of different bird species that you’ve seen in Fife during a given year? Why not 2021? There’s not much else to do. See article in From The Archives on Home page for some inspiration.

Festive Greetings

Wishing all members as merry a Christmas as you can make it and here’s hoping that our birding is less restricted in 2021!

February Outing Report

Club Outing to Scone Palace And Argaty - Sunday 23 February 2020

Meeting time at Scone Palace was 10am since that is when the gates are opened. Since I was approaching the entrance just before 9.45am I pulled into the car park of Quarrymill Woodland Park. Allister Todd and I took a walk upstream to see if we could see a Dipper but were out of luck. But we did better than that. On the way back to the car park we saw a crow mobbing a raptor, but it wasn’t the usual Buzzard; the crow was mobbing a female Hen Harrier. What a way to start the day, even before the outing started.

Twelve club members gathered in the palace car park just after 10am and we quickly saw the expected driveway species such as Woodpigeon and Jackdaw. Some members also saw a Sparrowhawk whilst a Goldfinch was heard.

Although our weather has been most unkind to birders recently, Sunday, although coldish, started off bright and sunny and remained so for the rest of the day. Our search for the target species, Hawfinch, commenced with a stroll up the main drive. Blue Tits, Coal Tit and Great Tits were active as we made our way to the top of the drive. Some of the group managed to see a Jay on the way up. Just before the end of the drive we took the track to the left to look at some trees on our right where we had seen Hawfinches on previous occasions. It didn’t take long before the first Hawfinch was spotted. We spent some time in this spot and saw a number of these heavy-billed finches flitting from tree to tree and we reckoned we saw at least a dozen.

Whilst admiring the Hawfinches we also picked out Chaffinch, Song Thrush, Carrion Crow and Long-tailed Tit. But two other specialities were also added to our day’s list. On our way up to this spot we had been hearing a Nuthatch and eventually one was seen and I think everybody got onto it. All experienced birders know to ‘look up’ and we did, just in time to see a Peregrine passing overhead.

We then retraced our steps the short distance to the main drive and continued towards the top far enough so we could see the garden bird feeders of the house situated at the end where there is a private entrance to the grounds from the main road. We immediately saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker at the one of the feeders. The feeders were a hive of activity with all three tits busy going back and forward whilst Blackbird and Robin were added to our list. Across the main road, just above the trees, three Buzzards added to the growing raptor list.

We then walked back down to the beginning of the maindrive where the estate’s Peacocks were strutting their stuff and being very vocal. What a noise! Hawfinches had previously been noted at the Kitchen Garden but a visit there proved fruitless. However before we finished at our first stop we added Greenfinch, Mistle Thrush and Treecreeper to the day’s list.

We said goodbye to half the group who were not going on to the Argaty Red Kites station and the remaining six had their lunch before making their way out of Scone for the 45 minute drive to Lerrocks Farm, Argaty where the Red Kites feeding event was to take place at 2.30pm. We had half an hour to bird the car park first and immediately saw our first Red Kite. Nuthatch was only heard but we saw Woodpigeon, Robin, Blue Tit, Great Tit and also, new for the day, Magpie and Tree Sparrow.

When we first went into the hide there were no birds at the feeders. There was a very brief shower but quickly the blue sky returned giving great light for the photographers in the hide. The feeders came alive with a frenzy of activity before and after the food was dropped on the ground for the Kites. The hide list included Chaffinch, Dunnock, Coal Tit, Robin, Carrion Crow, Siskin, Long-tailed Tit and Pheasant. But, of course, we were there for the Kites and it was, indeed, quite a sight. Over 40 birds flying, soaring, dropping but not landing to pick up the food scraps had us all glued to this spectacular scene for about 1½ hours. At one stage they were joined by a Buzzard.

We then made our way back down the track to the cars, but Allister and I stopped to take more photos (the others were away by the time we got back to the car park) and whilst doing so heard a familiar sound. We quickly turned round to see a Raven flying over the feeding station area. The two of us ended as we started the day, having our own moment of personal satisfaction since both the Harrier and the Raven were year firsts.

As usual we have to thank Ron for leading another highly successful outing. How he organized the one day change in the weather beats me!

Stewart Neilson

Eden Centre Closure

Please see below from Ranald Strachan:

“Apologies to all but we will be closing the centre from 5pm on 13th March. This is potentially for up to 4 weeks however we will monitor public health advice and manage. The Evans hide will also be locked down.

We all need to do what we can to flatten the curve of infections and protect the most vulnerable. There is increasing evidence that ‘social distancing’ is the most effective way to do this, so by the Trust closing public buildings we endeavour to reduce the likelihood of any of our sites being the centre of an outbreak’.

The wee wooden hide by the centre is still available and of course, it’s not ‘Avian flu’ so there are still birds out on the estuary, which never closes”.