Spring in the English Riviera countryside

Primroses flowering at Kellys Cove in South Devon

While spring is in the air why not put on your walking boots and head off on a wildlife spotting walk? Here is some of the top wildlife to look out for at this time of year, and where you're most likely to see everything from birds to lizards enjoying the spring sunshine.


A walk along the coast path in the spring is rewarded with lots of birdwatching opportunities. From February onwards look out for cormorants and shags nesting on the Mewstone (the rocky outcropping off of Froward Point), and from March you can see returning migrants such as swallows, swifts and martins, which can gather in large numbers and display superb aerobatic skills as they hunt for insects or drink from the pools on the wing. Wherever you go in spring you will be in with a chance of seeing breeding bird displays, and it's always worth a visit to the bird hide by Man Sands to see birds enjoying the wetland.


Man Sands

The wetland is used year-round by species such as grey heron, little eggret, coot, moorhen and mallard. It is also used as a staging post for spring and autumn migrants such as common sandpiper, dunlin and ringed plover. 

Find out more about the bird hide and marshland project at Man Sands.



Along the South West Coast Path and places further inland, such as Coleton Camp and Woodhuish near Coleton Fishacre, and around the Greenway estate, some of the migratory birds you can see are:

  • Whitethroat: these are distinctive with their white throats and sing largely from visible areas such as telegraph wires or the tops of bushes.
  • Spotted flycatcher: these birds fly in from Africa and have superb aerobatic skills to catch flying insects. They usually perch high up and dart out to catch prey before returning to the same perch, which makes them relatively easy to spot.
  • Willow warbler: a woodland species which again migrates in from Africa in the spring. They can be distinguished by their song which is cheerfully soft and descending.


Butterfly spotting

We carefully manage the coastal strip between Froward and Pudcombe and onwards to Scabbacombe Head to create the best wildlife habitat possible, which is why this area is a great place to see an abundance of butterflies. Highlights to look out for are:
  • The first male brimstones of the year can usually be seen from mid-March onwards as they patrol the path edges, scrub and woodland fringes looking for a mate.
  • Painted ladies start to appear in late March, having migrated from mainland Europe.
  • Peacock butterflies can be seen on warmer days throughout early spring, and sometimes even during late winter they will emerge from hibernation to feed on any available nectar source. They are often to be seen basking on bare ground such as footpaths; try to approach quietly and without casting your shadow over them if you'd like a closer look.

Find out how we care for the coast land to create the best wildlife habitats.


Look out for lizards

Adders and common lizards love to bask on small bare areas and rocks all along the coast in this area, but Brownstone Battery and around Scabbacombe are especially good areas to see them.


Sea gazing

Seals can be seen year round at the Mewstone, as they use it as a haul out (a place where they haul themselves out of the sea for a bit of basking on the rocks). A good place to go for great views of the Mewstone is the National Coastwatch Institute's lookout at Froward Point - don't forget your binoculars though. While you're there keep your eyes peeled for sunfish and harbour porpoise.