Cambo Estate is a good place to go bird watching. The estate firstly has a wide range of bird species that can be easily seen in its parkland, woodland and adjacent farmland. The estate has a wide range of habitats and works closely to enhance these to strike a balance between conserving bird biodiversity within the context of a working estate and farm. The species list for Cambo is well over 200 species, including most of the commonly breeding bird species to be found in wooded agricultural land in east Scotland. But Cambo also has a coastal location next to the Firth of Forth, so is good site for observing seabirds from the nearby colonies on the Isle of May and Bass Rock. Cambo is also adjacent to Fife Ness, a well know site for rare migrant birds and so during spring and autumn Cambo can play host to a wide range of scarce European migrants such as red-backed shrikes and wrynecks, as well as potentially much greater rarities from further afield (Pallas’s warblers are regulars!). Cambo Estate can therefore provide interest to the novice bird watcher who needs to see common birds easily in beautiful surroundings to become enthused, right through to the more experienced birder who might want to see a range of interesting species to maintain their interest. Most importantly, Cambo Estate provides an excellent venue for helping people appreciate how birds fit into a human landscape, and what we can do to promote the environment both for human quality of life and well as biodiversity.
Cambo is an island of woodland and mixed farming, surrounded on one side by the sea and the other by much more intensive arable farmland with few remaining trees. As a result it has a lot to offer both as a relic of more favourable wooded habitats in the area and because of its position on the North Sea, stuck out at the eastern edge of Fife.
Cambo has many resident bird species typical of mixed Scottish woodland and farmland. The commonest birds are probably the wrens, along with blackbirds, chaffinches, dunnocks, robins, blue tits and great tits. The woods are alive with these common birds’ songs all spring and summer. In the parkland there are many greenfinches, goldfinches and still a good number of tree sparrows, which have declined in many other areas recently. The hedgerows have many yellowhammers and reed buntings and there are a few corn buntings in the more open fields around the estate. In winter there may sometimes be large mixed flocks of these three buntings with many skylarks and tree sparrows in the stubble fields around Kingsbarns. Birds of prey include a few sparrowhawk and buzzard pairs and at least one kestrel pair. Barn owls are breeding near the estate but are strictly nocturnal: there also a few tawny owls. Jackdaws and carrion crows are common and Cambo has a large and noisy rookery in the sycamores at the mouth of the burn, but jays and magpies which are common almost everywhere else in the UK are very scarce. There are a few great spotted woodpeckers, although treecreepers are common (but difficult to see). Long-tailed tits, bullfinches and mistle thrushes are to be found on the estate but are never common. Woodpigeons and stock doves are common, particularly around the large trees in the parkland.
In the summer several species of migrants arrive to breed at Cambo after spending the winter in Africa. Barn swallows and house martins breed in and around the buildings of the estate and there is small sand martin colony on a sandy bank behind the beach just to the south of the estate. Willow warblers, chiff-chaffs, whitethroats, sedge warblers and blackcaps are common breeders in the woodland and in the scrubby edges to the fields and golf course. At migration time, in spring and autumn, and particularly after an easterly wind, rarer migrants such as pied flycatchers, whinchats, northern wheatears, spotted flycatchers, ring ouzels, common redstarts and cuckoos can be found, although one of any of these species in a day would be a good find.
In the spring and particularly late autumn, easterly winds bring in rarer birds. Yellow-browed warblers, lapland buntings, red-backed shrikes, black redstart, red-breasted flycatcher, barred warblers and icterine warblers are annual or near annual vagrants. Over the last ten years, there has also been a collared flycatcher, desert wheatear, pied wheatear, Sardinian warbler, radde’s warbler, greenish warbler, red-flanked bluetail, Siberian chiff-chaff, eastern olivaceous warbler and Pallas’s warbler all found within 5km of the estate. With the right winds, the Cambo Estate is a good hunting ground for the next big rarity!