Learn wading birds in a day
A good place to start is the car park at the end of Inches Road in Newburgh during the winter, a couple of hours before high tide. In front of you is a mixture of mud, mussel beds and the River Ythan. The first wading bird you are likely to see is the Oystercatcher. This noisy bird is black and white with a bright orange bill and legs. Similar and also likely to be present is the Lapwing which is also black and white but a lighter, daintier bird with a short dark bill and long crest. It is more common in wet fields.
The next bird is our largest wading bird the Curlew. They are much better camouflaged than the Oystercatcher, being generally brown but with a large and obvious down turned beak. Smaller but equally common is the Redshank, easily identified by its long red legs, brown body and long bill.
Whilst observing the larger waders at Inches Point you may well see a flock of small waders flying quickly down the river. To identify these smaller waders I suggest you move to a location closer to the sea.
Travel back along Inches road and south along Main Street (the A975) until you reach the Newburgh Inn. A small road called Beach Road takes you to an area of rough carpark where a track leads down to the river by a boathouse. This is a popular area with dog walkers so the birds are used to people.
By now the tide will be nearly high meaning that the birds have less available ground to feed on. To your right is a small bay that should be filled with waders so settle down close to the water’s edge and they will eventually start moving closer. The first easily identifiable birds are the Sanderlings. They are small, mostly white in colour with dark legs and bill and move at a frenetic pace but they are not shy and may well come very close. Dunlins are a little larger and darker with a slightly down turned bill. Turnstones are larger and more colourful and may well be looking for food in the shingle.
If you are lucky you may even see a group of much larger birds that look like a more upright 'smart' curlew with a straight beak. These are Godwits. Take a closer look at the bill. If it is completely straight then it is a Black Tailed Godwit. If it is slightly up curved then it is a Bar Tailed
When the tide is very high take a look at the shipwreck that is east of the boathouse. This is a popular roosting site for turnstones and redshank and can be completely cover with dozing birds.
The last wader will require a trip to Aberdeen at high tide. Go to the car park at the Torry Battery, cross the road and go though the kissing gate that leads to a path descending to the shore. In front of you will be a pier which should be covered in birds. You will quickly recognise oystercatchers, redshanks and turnstones but there will also be a group of small dark birds that cling to the side of the pier. These are Purple Sandpipers, nationally rare birds that even keen birdwatchers in the south of England may have never seen, yet we have around 250 that regularly roost at this point.
Other places to try - St Cyrus, the Donmouth and the Ugie estuary are all good places to look however I would recommend a trip to the RSPB Loch of Strathbeg, where the Visitors` Centre is warm and has good views over a wide area. Telescopes are also available and best of all a member of staff or volunteer may be on hand to help identify the wide range of birds and answer your questions