An osprey catches a trout in the Highlands

Bird Watching Around Inverness and Loch Ness

Wildlife enthusiasts will enjoy the many birding opportunities around Loch Ness and Inverness...

The Best Places for Birding Near Loch Ness and Inverness

Inverness Loch Ness is a popular destination for wildlife lovers, and ornithologists will be excited by the range of birding opportunities in the Highlands. From the Red Kite that circle over the Black Isle and Tollie to the waders of the reserves at Nigg and Udale Bays the area is a great destination for a bird watching break in Scotland.

While keen birders will find opportunities wherever they go across the area, a visit to one of the sites listed below is a great way to get started discovering the bird life on offer in the Inverness Loch Ness area:

Fairy Glen

Situated on the Black Isle and easily accessible by bus from Inverness*, by cycle using Route 1 of the National Cycle Network or on foot using the Black Isle Footpath Network, the Fairy Glen is a wooded reserve with a walk that takes you past wonderful waterfalls. A dedicated car park is available for those who choose to travel by car. Spring sees the area attracting summer migrants such as the Willow Warbler, while Grey Heron are attracted by the area’s water in the hopes of grabbing a bite. The summer brings Grey Wagtail, Dippers and Treecreepers as well as the ubiquitous local Buzzard. In the autumn expect Coal Tits, Robins, Goldcrests and Goldfinches while winter is time to keep an eye open for roving Tit flocks.

*Call Rapsons on 0870 6082608 for up to date timetable information

Merkinch Local Nature Reserve

Situated in the South Kessock area of Inverness and easily reached from the city centre, this hidden gem of a nature reserve boasts great birding opportunities with species spotted in the area including the beautiful blue barn swallow, black headed gull, dunnock and curlew to name but a few, as well as the occasional osprey.

Loch Ruthven

16 miles to the south west of Inverness lies the Loch Ruthven RSPB reserve, signposted from the B851 and also accessible via the local sustrans cycle route. Come in spring and summer to see Grebe, and Diver species and even the off Osprey. Choose autumn for Buzzards, Chaffinches and the Red-Breasted Merganser.

Tollie Red Kites

Just outside Dingwall, signposted from the B835 and off National Cycle route 1 is Tollie Red Kites. The bird for which this reserve is named is usually present year-round and is joined in spring by Stonechats, Whitethroats and Willow Warblers and in summer by Buzzards and Osprey. Great Spotted Woodpeckers may be seen here in summer and autumn, when Siskin are also likely in the area. In the winter highlights include Bramblings and Crossbills

Culbin Sands

1.5 miles east of Narin lies Culbin Sands RSPB reserve, accessible via the footbridge from the Harbour. In the Spring you can see Arctic and Sandwich Tern, as well as the Eider Duck and Ringed Plover which both remain into the summer, when they are joined by Oystercatcher and Osprey. Autumn brings the Brent Goose, Red-Breasted Merganser, Shelduck and Turnstone while winter visitors can look out for the Velvet and Common Scoter as well as the Long-Tailed Duck.

Nigg Bay

North of Inverness is the Nigg Bay RSPB reserve, accessible on National Cycle Route 1, by the 25X bus from Inverness Bus Station or by road using the B9175 from where the car park is signposted. In the spring expect Pink Footed Geese as well as the Lapwing, Oystercatcher and Redshank that stay here into the summer months, when they are joined by the Snipe. The geese return in the autumn, joined by Dunlin, Pintail and Wigeon, and remain into the winter months when visitors can also hope to see Bar-Tailed Godwit and Knot.


25 miles from Inverness, 1.5 miles off the Inverness-Cannich bus route on the Sustrans Cycle Route, and signposted from the A831 is the Corrimony Reserve (use the Corrimony Cairns car park.) Spring here offers chances to spot Black Grouse, Tree Pipit, Whinchat and Osprey, while in the summer the area is home to Red Grouse, Goosander, Crested Tit and Black Throated Diver. Autumn highland birding highlights here include Pink Footed Goose, Scottish Crossbill, Whooper Swan and Woodcock, while winter brings the Bullfinch, Goldeneye and Goosander as well as that elusive opportunity to maybe spot a golden eagle in Scotland.

Udale Bay

On the Black Isle, just off the B9163 and near to Ntional Cycle Network Route 1 is Udale Bay RSPB reserve. In the spring the area boasts Oystercatcher and Pink footed Geese as well as Lapwing and Redshank, the latter two remaining into the summer season when they are joined by Shelduck and Osprey. Autumn brings an opportunity to spot Bar Tailed Godwit, Goldeneye, Knot and Wigeon, while in the winter the area hosts Dunlin, Peregrine and Teal as well as the returning Pink Footed Geese.

Birdwatching at Loch Ruthven RSPB reserve