Five of the UK's best birdwatching sites

Interested in birdwatching around the UK? As Walthamstow welcomes its new wetlands reserve, we select five other great spots to take flight to for feathery figures

Puffins on Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland

Rathlin Island, the northernmost point of Northern Ireland, is home to the country’s biggest seabird colony. The star is the puffin, which arrives in April to breed and heads back out to sea in late July. Other birds to see at the West Light Seabird Centre, a refurbished lighthouse, include razorbills, guillemots, kittiwakes and fulmars. The Roonivoolin Reserve in the south of the island attracts choughs, lapwings, corncrakes and snipe, while eider ducks laze around the harbour.
Roonivoolin Reserve free, Seabird Centre free for RSPB members or £5 adults/£2.50 children, return ferry fare from Ballycastle is £12 adult, £6 child and £32 family,

Swans at Abbotsbury, Dorset

Mute swans (Cygnus olor) at Abbotsbury Swannery on the Fleet lagoon, Dorset, south-west England on a sunny summer day

The Abbotsbury Swannery was founded by Benedictine monks in the mid-11th century and today is the only managed colony of nesting mute swans in the world. The 600 free-flying swans live in a 25-acre sanctuary; fluffy cygnets hatch from mid-May to the end of June, and learn to fly in September and October. Visitors can walk among the swans and help at feeding time (midday and 4pm). There are also lots of geese, ducks and other waterfowl.
From £10 adult, £7.60 child,

Ospreys at Loch Garten, Highlands

Osprey eating a trout.

In 1954, a pair of breeding ospreys nested in Abernethy Forest next to Loch Garten – the first seen in Scotland since 1916. Since 1959, a pair has nested there every year, and today there is an Osprey Centre with binoculars, telescopes and CCTV views of the nest. The ospreys can be seen from April to August, while the capercaillie, Scotland’s largest grouse, put on courtship displays in April and May. Other inhabitants include crested tits, goldeneyes and Scottish crossbills.
£5 adult, £2 child, £10 family,

Nightingales at Whisby nature park, Lincolnshire

Whisby Nature Park, near Lincoln, Lincolnshire. One of the man made lakes within Whisby Nature Park, near Lincoln, Lincolnshire, UK
Whisby nature park. Photograph: Alamy

Nightingales are on the Red List of UK birds, which means urgent action is needed to save them from extinction: according to the RSPB, their numbers have dropped by 90% over the past 50 years. As well as the challenge of crossing the Sahara twice a year, and finding food during winter in west Africa, they need a suitable breeding site when they return in spring. One such site is Whisby nature park, reclaimed gravel pits now run by Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, which organises guided nightgale walks in late April. Warblers, swallows and terns also flock to the lakes, woodland and meadows.
Free, small car-parking charge,

Eagles on the Isle of Rum, Inner Hebrides

The Isle of Rum from Laig Bay, Eigg, Scotland, United Kingdom.

The white-tailed eagle is the UK’s biggest bird of prey. It became extinct in Britain in the early 20th century but has since been reintroduced. The Isle of Rum, where the first eagles were released in 1975, now has more than 50 breeding pairs, and is also home to golden eagles. The eagles are outnumbered by the colony of Manx shearwaters, however: more than 60,000 pairs nest in mountain burrows from late March to September.
Admission free, return ferry fare from Mallaig is £8.30 adult, £4.20 child,

  • This article was amended on 26 October 2017 to add the admission price at the West Light Seabird Centre.


Rachel Dixon

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Wild in Walthamstow: Europe’s biggest urban wetlands opens
Europe’s biggest urban wetlands open on Friday. Few locals knew of it before but now they, and nature lovers everywhere, can enjoy this amazing bird reserve for free

Liz Boulter

19, Oct, 2017 @1:06 PM

Article image
Salisbury travel tips: great bustard birdwatching on the plain

Salisbury Plain is the perfect spot for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts to catch a glimpse of the once extinct great bustard

Charlie Jacoby

25, Mar, 2013 @8:00 AM

Article image
‘An unmissable spring spectacle’: readers’ favourite places to spot birds
Migrant birds like swallows and wheatears are arriving in the UK at the end of epic journeys. Our tipsters share their favourite places to see them

Guardian readers

05, May, 2022 @10:00 AM

Article image
Essex rediscovered: ghosts and falcons on a rural ride
A cycle through quiet countryside, on the trail of a great nature writer and the elusive peregrine falcon, offers fresh insights into Essex’s ‘dark mystery’

Carol Donaldson

28, Jan, 2018 @10:00 AM

Article image
Eight superb wildlife reserves in UK: readers' travel tips
From otters near Chepstow and myriad butterfly species in Croydon to ospreys in the Highlands, our readers celebrate nature nationwide

Guardian readers

10, Aug, 2020 @10:00 AM

Article image
Take the kids to … RSPB The Lodge nature reserve, Sandy, Bedfordshire
Its wildlife trails and play areas make this free attraction a fun and affordable day out in the countryside – with the odd woodpecker for company, too

Katie Gregory

13, Aug, 2019 @10:37 AM

Article image
10 of the best UK birdwatching breaks
Combining areas rich in birdlife with birder-friendly places to stay, these breaks offer truly immersive birdwatching experiences

Sarah Turner

15, May, 2022 @3:00 PM

Article image
Garden birdwatching: the wildlife travel drama on your doorstep
We may be stuck indoors but the skies are a source of ornithological wonder. Experts reveal what’s out there, where to look – and how to get competitive about it

Adam McCulloch

25, Mar, 2020 @6:25 AM

Article image
Never mind the election – vote now for the UK's national bird
Never mind who runs the country: choosing Britain’s national bird, from a shortlist of 10, is also the subject of a hotly contested vote. Here are the more elusive species and where to spot them

Kevin Rushby

04, May, 2015 @11:00 AM

Article image
10 brilliant birds to spot in Britain this winter – and where to find them
Britain hosts an array of migrant birds that bring a bit of magic to the darker months. If you’re in the right place, you may spot a flock or two

Kevin Rushby

06, Nov, 2021 @11:00 AM