Best Places for Beginner Birding in the UK

With the wide array of specialised wildlife holidays on offer, nature lovers have the opportunity to travel to exotic destinations all over the world in search of a close encounter. For those with a particular interest in birds, the same is true and holidays close to home reveal an abundance of species.

For anyone just starting out, the beautiful regions around Somerset and South Devon set the scene for a truly wonderful birdwatching experience at different times throughout the year.

The Somerset Levels

The coastal wetland and moors area known as the Somerset Levels cover more than 170,000 acres of the county. Previously entirely enveloped by seawater, today it is a lush farming area which is regularly flooded, drained and artificially irrigated to sustain its agriculture. The entire region is an absolute haven for birdlife. In fact, the area is so richly populated by wildlife it is under consideration for World Heritage status.

Wildlife holidays in winter provide a wealth of easily identifiable sightings for beginners, including various raptors, Great White Egret, Starlings, Gadwall, Teal, Pintail, the reintroduced Common Crane and huge flocks of wildfowl.

In spring, during the migration and breeding seasons, the most treasured sighting is of the Hobby, a falcon that is particularly associated with the area. It’s not uncommon to see huge flocks overhead, travelling together towards the lakes. During this time it’s also possible to see Barn Owls, Bittern, Garganey and Marsh Harrier – among many, many more.

Winter in South Devon

A short break to the beautiful city of Exeter provides a myriad of opportunities for beginner birdwatching excursions along the mudflats of the Exe estuary and out into the beautiful Devon heaths.

By exploring along banks of the estuary, and also from the water on a boat cruise, a multitude of species can be seen and identified with ease. They include the wintering waders and wildfowl, as well as Oystercatchers, Red-breasted Mergansers, grebes, Black and Bar-tailed Godwits and Curlews. Around the marshy areas, Peregrines and Buzzards may be seen.

On the chilly heaths, sightings of the Great Grey Shrike and the Dartford Warblers
are a coup for any birdwatcher. While from a boat cruise, sightings of the huge flocks (up to hundreds at a time) of the migratory Avocets provide a truly memorable experience.

Encounter the Birds on Our Doorstep

Wildlife holidays offer the chance to travel to far off destinations in places like Europe, Asia, South America, Australia and Africa in order to gain sightings of endemic and migratory species of birds. However, for those who want to stay a little closer to home, UK-based destinations such as Somerset and South Devon stack up extremely well in terms of avian habitats, populations and opportunities.

Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in birds. With a passionate interest in rare avian species, Marissa chooses the expert-led wildlife holidays organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of flora and fauna in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.

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