Bird-watching walks

During the autumn months, millions of migrant birds arrive on UK shores from north and east Europe, seeking milder winter weather. Here's some of our top places to spot them while they're here, along with some of our resident bird species.

Which places are open?

  • More than 135 gardens and parklands are open through advance booking
  • Over 40 historic houses are now open. If you book a ticket for an open garden or park, you may also be able to visit the house. Visits to the houses are limited to ensure safe, social distancing and so we can't guarantee you’ll be able to view the house on the day you visit
  • We’ve opened many of our cafés and shops at these places to help make your visit feel as close to normal as possible
  • Hundreds of coast and countryside car parks are open and most don’t need to be booked

We're following government advice closely and will reopen more places as soon as we can.

Chaffinch at Castle Ward, Northern Ireland

Birdsong boosts wellbeing

Hearing the birds' chorus that's echoing all around on an autumn walk boosts wellbeing. A psychological study has found that natural sounds have restorative qualities. The calls of birds and other sounds of nature can help people recover much quicker from stressful scenarios compared with the noise of urban living, because the sound of birds can suggest a feeling of calm and safety wherever you hear them. Three-quarters of us feel more connected to nature when we hear birdsong, which is when the sounds bring back happy memories of childhood for many.

Where to spot birds in the UK
Brent geese over Strangford Lough, County Down, Northern Ireland
Walking trail

Blakeney Point, Norfolk 

Blakeney Freshes is a popular spot for bird watching. In autumn and winter, large swirling flocks of golden plover move between the harbour and the marshes, while the fields and salt marsh provide grazing for wigeon and dark brent geese from Siberia.

View over the island lagoon
Walking trail

Brownsea Island, Dorset 

The large sheltered lagoon on Brownsea’s eastern shore is always brimming with activity, particularly during autumn migration. The island attracts large flocks of waders, particularly spoonbills, avocets, sandwich terns and black-tailed godwits. The reedbeds are home to reed warblers, water rails and moorhens, while on the inland heath you might be able to spot elusive Dartford warblers and flocks of peafowl.

A red kite in flight in a bright blue cloudless sky
Walking trail

Calke Abbey, Derbyshire 

As well as a grand Baroque mansion, Calke has secret walled gardens and a large parkland, much of which is a National Nature Reserve. Birds of prey such as hobbies, buzzards and red kites can all be seen here, particularly in the summer months, along with woodland birds such as woodpeckers, tree creepers, nuthatch, starling and tits. Autumn visitors include brambling and siskin finches.

A Little Tern on the hut roof at the Long Nanny near Low Newton, on the Northumberland Coast
Walking trail

Craster to Low Newton, Northumberland  

Eider ducks can be spotted along this walk, known locally as Cuddy's Duck after Saint Cuthbert who is said to have cared for them in the 7th century. On the shoreline, keep a lookout for waders like oystercatcher, dunlin, ringed plover, turnstone and redshank. You might even spot linnet or yellowhammer in the scrub and grassland behind the dunes and castle.

An unringed Chough with female near Lizard Point
Walking trail

Lizard Point, Cornwall 

Choughs are the national bird of Cornwall, but by the mid-20th-century loss of habitat meant that they had vanished from the UK shores. In the 1980s, donations to the Neptune coastline fund allowed us to buy land at Lizard Point and begin re-introducing the traditional clifftop grazing. This provided perfect conditions for choughs to dig up insects from the short-cropped grass. In 2001 wild choughs were once again sighted on the Lizard, and they have been breeding here successfully ever since.

Portstewart Strand Dunes
Walking trail

Portstewart Strand, County Londonderry 

The Bann Estuary is an important site for birds, especially over-wintering waders and wildfowl that mostly feed on the mudflats and roost on the shore. During this walk, look out for birds such as shelducks and other waders resting on the river's edge. If you want to make a day of it why not ask at the visitor centre for a key to the Barmouth bird hide; located just across the river.

A heron in the gardens at Quarry Bank in springtime

Quarry Bank, Cheshire 

In autumn, the birds at Quarry Bank are starting their migrations, the swallows, swifts and house martins are leaving and fieldfair and red wings appear from Russia and Iceland. You might also see large flocks of geese and swans migrating together in the sky. On this Kingfisher walk, wander along scenic paths and you could catch a glimpse of the elusive blue kingfisher.

Seabird at Souter Lighthouse and The Leas
Walking trail

Souter Lighthouse and the Leas, Tyne and Wear 

The Leas and Whitburn Coastal Park are a hotspot for migratory birds in the UK. Pay a visit to the bird hide during the autumn months to see winter birds such as snow buntings, waxwings and dunnock arriving from the north, as our summer visitors depart for sunnier climes.

Five Brent geese inflight across a bright blue sky
Walking trail

St Helens Duver, Isle of Wight 

Brent geese and wigeon can be seen here between October and March, feeding on the eelgrass beds off St Helens Ledges and in the harbour. The area is also important for migrant wading birds such as dunlin, redshank, sanderling and turnstone, which feed on the invertebrates in the mud, while on the dunes you may see common whitethroat, wheatear, chiffchaff and linnet.

A tree sparrow on a branch at Yorkshire Coast
Walking trail

Stourhead, Wiltshire 

Search Farm at Stourhead is home to a thriving population of rare tree sparrows. Their numbers have been in decline since the 1970s but with the support of tenant farmers we’ve put up 37 pole boxes in the sparrow's natural nesting areas, with great results. On an autumn walk around the estate see if you can spot migratory golden plovers in large flocks on Stourhead's open farmland, or red kites gliding overhead.

Murmuration of starlings at Studland Bay, Dorset

Studland Bay, Dorset 

Embark on a peaceful journey in Studland as you take in the views and find wintering wildfowl, including pochards, teals and goldeneyes. The bird hide overlooks Little Sea, a freshwater lake about 1 mile (2km) long. Over 350 years ago it was part of Studland Bay, but was gradually cut off to form a lagoon as the sand dunes built up. In the winter there can be as many as 3,000 birds on the lake.

Light bellied Brent Geese on the water at Strangford Lough
Walking trail

Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland 

The arrival of Brent geese is one of Strangford Lough’s iconic autumn sights. The lough now hosts over 75 per cent of the Canadian light-bellied Brent goose population during the late autumn, and is by far the most important site for this species outside the breeding season.

A Dartford warbler perches on a gorse bush
Walking trail

Tennyson Down, Isle of Wight 

The cliffs, fields and high downs around Tennyson Down, and at the Island’s most southerly point near Knowles Farm, are excellent sites for bird watching. Peregrine falcons and ravens patrol the coast. Many migrant terns and ducks pass at sea and the scrub attracts migrant warblers and chats.

Wicken Fen - Barn Owl
Walking trail

Wicken Fen, Cambridgeshire 

Wicken Fen is teeming with wildlife, including a large variety of bird species. Take a walk around the reserve during the autumn months to see swallows and martins gathering prior to their migration south, plus newly arrived winter migrants such as wigeon, redwing and fieldfares. Hen harriers will also be returning from their summer breeding grounds in Northern Britain.

How you can help birds to thrive

It’s now more important than ever to play our part, big or small, in looking after these havens for wildlife like birds. We've seen a decline in these habitats in recent years.

There are lots of things you can do at home to help wildlife to thrive. You could try building your own DIY bug, bee or bird house. Why not get the whole family involved in making homemade seed balls to feed the birds?

How to help the birds where you are

ENN appeal image

Everyone needs nature appeal 

Trees that give us life, calming coastlines to walk along and bees that hum in blossoming flowers. Imagine if this all disappeared in the blink of an eye. You can make a difference when you donate today to help look after these natural spaces.