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.

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.

Children and peahen walking in heather
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.

An unringed Chough with the female at 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.

Marsh Harrier over Orford Ness

Orford Ness, Suffolk 

Orford Ness is a birdwatcher’s dream. Marsh harriers nest among the reeds of King's Marsh and Airfield site, while barn owls make their homes in several of the site’s old military buildings. Peregrine falcons are winter visitors, but can sometimes be spotted in late autumn. The mud flats and salt-marsh also provide valuable feeding and roosting areas for many hundreds of waders and wildfowl.

Have you ever explored the sand 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.

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 on the Stourhead estate 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.

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.

Visit the Bird Hide
Walking trail

The Vyne, Hampshire 

This easy, level walk takes you through ancient woods and out to The Vyne’s bird hide overlooking the wetlands. Kids will love looking out for all sorts of autumnal bird life, from visiting migrant waders to grebes, swans and herons.

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.