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Bird Watching

Over 550 different species on our doorstep

Around 550 different species of plants have been identified at the reserve including a number of rarities in Scotland and the Lothian’s. It has been advised that visitors can only appreciate the sheer variety of plants here by visiting monthly between April and September.

The reserve arguably renowned for its ornithological interest also has a thriving community of other Animals and Invertebrates. Roe Deer live on the reserve year round and small mammals such as shrews, voles, stoats, weasels, rabbits and brown hares are very common sights. In wet springs, frogs and toads are abundant and offshore, grey and common seals are regularly seen and occasional sightings of Porpoises. Although not as commonly studied as birds and plants at the Reserve, recent studies have found around 15 species of butterflies are seen in an average year, along with a number of dragonflies.

At low tide, the remains of two miniature submarines from the Second World War can be seen. They were used for target-practice by the Royal Air Force in 1946.

Due to the abundance of wildlife, no dogs are allowed on the Reserve between April and July and must be kept on a lead at all other times.


Summer is often a quiet time for birds, but the returning winter birds as well as passage waders may begin to appear in late July. By the autumn, up to 10,000 waders may be present, with Lapwing and Golden Plover the most numerous. Several hundred Widgeon feed in the bay, while one or two Short-eared Owls may be hunting over the marsh.


Aberlady Bay has a reputation for attracting rare birds, like Ospreys in the spring and a female King Eider which has been attracted to the bay for the past seven summers. Other rare birds that have made flying visits over the years are the Caspian Plower and the Western Sandpiper (a small American wader).

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