The Best UK Locations for Winter Bird Spotting

A useful guide for making the most of winter birding this year.

Winter is a fantastic time for UK birders, as the most interesting species flock together in spectacular numbers. Migrant birds from as far as Russia have been known to make an appearance in parts of England and Wales, which is quite the treat for those of us who have taken up bird spotting as a hobby.

When it comes to bird spotting locations in cold temperatures, the UK is something of a treasure trove. It’s just a matter of knowing where to go and when, so with this informative guide on winter birding, you should be well on the right track. All that’s left to do is wrap up warm and turn up to some of these brilliant winter birding hotspots!

Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Caerlaverock, Scotland

While there aren’t any captive birds at Caerlaverock, there’s a large number of barnacle geese that meet together on a cold winter’s morning. The view is something quite remarkable as they flock and fly together around the reserve.

The wardens are on site providing a daily update with what’s inhabiting the reserve, which, as well as the ducks, geese and swans, can also be some interesting winter migration species. There were 5,000 barnacle geese reported on site in September (2018) after a large overnight migration, along with an influx of wigeon and teal numbers.

Pagham Harbour, West Sussex

One of the last few undeveloped parts of the Sussex coast, Pagham Harbour has a wealth of wildlife, including some beautiful feathered friends to spot on a cold day. It’s a particularly peaceful reserve which makes for a lovely chilly walk out, with black-tailed godwits and little egrets to be spotted on your way.

Recent sightings as temperatures have dropped include a flock of brent geese (spotted by their black head and grey to brown back) and nightjars which are nocturnal birds inhabiting the area. These can be seen at any time of day and tend to hawk for food, so you can find them fairly easily.

Dawlish Warren NNR, Devon

During migration, thousands of birds come to feed or to spend the winter here, making it a real hotspot for seasonal bird spotting. As well as being a wildlife reserve, it’s also a popular holiday location which attracts thousands of people every year, a large percentage of which are lovers of wildlife and birds.

There are said to be over 20,000 wildfowl and wading birds flocking into the area each year as the temperature starts to drop, making it a top-notch location for a winter birding trip. Other species include flocks of dunlin, grey plover, bar-tailed godwit and oystercatcher.

Dee Estuary – Parkgate (Cheshire)

This former seaside promenade has become a high-quality reserve which has a wealth of winter birds. Popular winter visitors are hen harriers, which are often seen hunting over the marshes, merlins which appear around autumn time, and little egrets which tend to make a year-round appearance.

Visiting at high tide will enable you to see the ducks, geese, wading birds and birds of prey up close. Winter-specific trips may also result in sightings of pink-footed geese and stonechats.

Your very own garden

Providing food on a regular basis is bound to attract birds into your space, but your choice of food can go a long way to determine how many visitors and indeed, which type of visitors you attract.

If your garden becomes a safe haven for birds to feed as they take a break from the countryside, you can rest assured you’ll get some of the best sightings from the comfort of your own home. Be sure to feed them something they’ll come back for, such as sunflower hearts, and make sure the food is visible in your garden and high enough to be out of reach for cats and squirrels. You might be surprised what birds will come to you if you provide them with a great space to visit.


Please note that this is a sponsored post by the wonderful people at Kennedy Wild Bird Food – check them out!

One Comment Add yours

  1. Ashley says:

    Or how about Castle Espie (WWT) here in Northern Ireland to name only one site. Already 1500 Brent geese have been counted in and even a small flock of Northern Pintail! Definitely worth a visit!

    Liked by 1 person

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