SPA description
(information as published 2001)

Caithness Lochs

image: SPA location map 


Caithness Lochs are located in lowland Caithness in northern Scotland. The site comprises Broubster Leans, a complex area of mire and fen developed on a river floodplain; Loch of Mey, a shallow ephemeral loch fringed by fen and marshy grassland; Loch Watten, a large, shallow, base-rich loch; Loch Scarmclate, a shallow mesotrophic marl loch; Loch Calder, an oligotrophic loch deeper than the other lochs within the site; and Loch of Wester and Loch Heilen, shallow mesotrophic sand lochs. In winter, Broubster Leans and Loch of Mey are subject to prolonged inundation and provide sheltered undisturbed roosting sites for two separate flocks of Greenland White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons flavirostris. As such, these constitute the two most important roost sites for this goose population in northern Scotland. In harsh conditions, the Broubster Leans flock roost on Loch Calder and some of the Loch of Mey flock occasionally roost at Loch Heilen. Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus use all components of the site but the largest numbers occur at Loch of Wester with large numbers also occurring on Loch Heilen and Loch Calder. Icelandic Greylag Goose Anser anser use all the lochs within the site as roosts during the winter, with Loch Watten, Loch Scarmclate, Loch Calder and Loch Heilen all supporting internationally important numbers. The geese and swans feed in surrounding areas of agricultural land and other wetlands outside the SPA, as well as within the SPA.


For more information see Phased, extended and subsumed SPAs  

Qualifying species

For individual species accounts visit the Species Accounts section

This site qualifies under Article 4.1 of the Directive (79/409/EEC) by supporting populations of European importance of the following species listed on Annex I of the Directive:


Over winter;
Greenland White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons flavirostris, 183 individuals representing at least 1.3% of the wintering population in Great Britain (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)
Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus, 250 individuals representing at least 4.5% of the wintering population in Great Britain (WeBS 5 year peak mean 1991/2-1995/6)
This site also qualifies under Article 4.2 of the Directive (79/409/EEC) by supporting populations of European importance of the following migratory species:
Over winter;
Greylag Goose Anser anser, 6,872 individuals representing at least 6.9% of the wintering Iceland/UK/Ireland population (5 year peak mean 1991/2 - 1995/6)



Many designated sites are on private land: the listing of a site in these pages does not imply any right of public access.
Note that sites selected for waterbird species on the basis of their occurrence in the breeding, passage or winter periods also provide legal protection for these species when they occur at other times of the year.