Bird Watching




Bird Watching on the Coast

Bird watching is a very popular activity in the UK which appeals to all age groups and both sexes. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has more than one million members. One of the great attractions of bird watching, as an activity, is that it is relatively easy to participate in. Birds inhabit the whole of the UK area and even if you live in a city you don't have to travel far to find open countryside or the coastline. 

East Devon CoastThe focus of this brief overview of bird watching is the coastline of the UK and the birds that live in this area. There is a great variety of bird life on our coastline as may be observed on any trip to the seaside. One sign that you are approaching the coastline is the call of the seagulls and the sight of them wheeling overhead. Seagulls are the most common of the seabirds that inhabit our coast but there are several distinct varieties to look out for and there are many other bird species to observe as well. 

While some of the more common species of seabird may be seen at the beachside many more varieties can be seen on cliff tops and rocky outcrops. Some of the rarer seabird species can only be observed by visiting the more remote areas of the UK coastline. Most types of seabird chose cliffs and headlands for building nests and raising their young. 

UK Seabirds

What do you need to get started with bird watching? Not very much actually - you can make a  start with a good bird reference book and a good pair of eyes. however the experience will be greatly enhanced if you cab see birds at a distance - as they tend to move around a lot! A good pair of lightweight binoculars will be a good investment. If you become really keen you can invest in a spotting scope fixed to a tripod - so you can see birds before they see you! Taking photos of wild life is huge subject in its own right requiring specialised equipment and a high degree of expertise but you can make a start with a good digital camera with something like a x10 zoom capability. From personal experience - we can say you should also have a tripod to make sure you take what you intended to and not empty sky! Some good walking boots and suitable outdoor clothing are both essentials. Finally - bags of patience - birds have got lives of their own and may not fit into your schedule. 


Where to go

The RSPB has around 150 nature reserves around the UK and 15 of these are on or very near the coast. Below are brief details of these areas around half of them have visitor centres attached to them, the other are open coastline. Please check the RSPB website for full details and opening times. Visitors should heed all warning signs and take steps to avoid danger when visiting remote sites. Remember to take your binoculars and digital cameras! There are many other reserves around the country that are owned by Councils, where you can also watch birds.

Ramsey Island - Situated off of the Pembrokeshire coast at St. David's, the island offers dramatic cliff top views and lots of bird life. See below to book the boat trip. 

Birds you may see depending on season - Chough, Guillemot, Peregrine Falcon, Raven, Razorbill

Contact: Ramsey Island c/o Trefeiddan Farm St David's Pembrokeshire Tel: 07881 846498

South Stack Cliffs - Located at Holyhead, Anglesey. Spectacular cliff tops and lighthouse not far from Holyhead.

Birds you may see depending on season - puffins, guillemots, razorbills, fulmars, ravens and choughs.

Contact: Information Centre Holyhead Anglesey Tel: 01407 764973

St. Bees Head - South of Whitehaven, Cumbria. Very large seabird colony with many species nesting on the cliffs. Open reserve site, also a lighthouse on cliff top. 

Birds you may see depending on season - razorbills, kittiwakes, fulmars, guillemots, puffins, cormorants, rock pipits, ravens, peregrines.  

Mersehead - Southwick, Dumfries. The reserve overlooks the Solway Firth with rolling hills behind - an idyllic spot.

Birds you may see depending on season - Barnacle Goose, Lapwing, Pintail, Reed Warbler, Skylark. 

Contact: RSPB Mersehead Farm Southwick Dumfries Tel: 01387 780298

Mull of Galloway - near Drummore, south of Stranraer. Located on cliffs overlooking the Solway Firth. Visitor Centre open in summer months. 

Birds you may see depending on season - Razorbills, Guillemots, Puffins, Gannets.

Contact: Near Drummore Dumfries and Galloway Tel: 01671 402861; visitor centre 01776 840539 

                                            Rathlin Island

Rathlin Island Cliffs - Rathlin Island lies six miles off the Antrim coast, in Northern Island. Thousands of seabirds to be seen wheeling over the cliffs. No amenities at the site but toilets and shelter at the harbour. Book the boat at Ballycastle. 

Birds you may see depending on season - Razorbills, Guillemots, Kitywakes, Fulmars, Puffins.

Contact: Warden 028 2076 3948

The Oa - Port Ellen, Islay.  Generally the island is a good location for seabirds. May occasionally spot a Golden Eagle as a bonus!

Birds you may see depending on season - Choughs, a variety of other seabirds.

Balranald - North Uist. A wild mixture of sandy beaches, rocky foreshore and marshes. good for spotting seabirds and waders.

Birds you may see depending on season - Corncrakes, other seabirds, waders.

Contact: Near Bayhead, North Uist, Outer Hebrides. Tel: 01876 560287

Culbin Sands - Reserve overlooks the Moray Firth - large area of shingle and sand dunes with Culbinforest behind. May spot dolphins in the Moray Firth.

Birds you may see depending on season - Many varieties of seabirds, including sea ducks. Bar-tailed godwit, Oystercatchers. 

Contact: Near Nairn, Highlands.  Tel: 01463 715000

Fowlsheugh - near Crawton, 3 miles south of Stonehaven. Clifftops offer excellent views of birds. boat trips available in summer months. 

Birds you may see depending on season - Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Herring Gulls, Puffins and Shags.

Contact: Crawton, Aberdeenshire Tel: 01224 624824

Bempton Cliffs - near Bridlington, East Yorkshire. high sea cliffs along a 5km site - a great spectacle. 

Birds you may see depending on season - Gannet, Kittiwake, Puffin and many other varieties of seabird, particularly during the breeding season. 

Contact: Visitor Centre, Cliff Lane, Bempton, Bridlington, East Yorkshire Tel: 01262 851179

Snettisham - A couple of miles south of Hunstanton, Norfolk. Reserve overlooks The Wash with its vast mudflats - thousands of wading birds come here to feed. Be aware of the tides - as this will affect viewing ie - fewer birds when the tide is in.

Birds you may see depending on season - waders and many seabirds.

Contact: Snettisham, Norfolk Tel: 01485 542689

Titchwell Marsh - Near Kings Lynn, Norfolk. This is a very popular reserve with plenty of bird life to see. 

Birds you may see depending on season - Marsh Harrier, Bittern, Bearded Tit, Avocet, Redshank.

Contact: Titchwell Marsh Reserve, Titchwell, King's Lynn, Norfolk Tel: 01485 210779

Minsmere - around 5 miles north east of Saxmundham, Suffolk. Suitable for all the family, with walks and a visitor centre. 

Birds you may see depending on season - Marsh Harrier, Bittern, Bearded Tit, Avocet, Nightingale.

Contact: Minsmere Reserve, Westleton, Saxmundham, Suffolk Tel: 01728 648281

Arne - near Wareham, Dorset. Arne is not really a coastal reserve but it is very close to Poole Harbour and is included as it is the nearest thing to a coastal reserve on the south coast. Arne is mostly low lying Dorset heathland with gorse, birch and pine among the heather. 

Birds you may see depending on season - Avocet, Dartford Warbler, Little Egret, Nightjar, Stonechat. 

Contact: RSPB Work Centre, Arne, Wareham, Dorset Tel: 01929 553360


Some of the seabirds you may to see along the UK coastline. 


                  Herring Gull                    Common Gull                   Great Black Backed Gull


                                             Razorbill                                      Chough


                                         Puffin                                          Kittiwake





Ukcoastguide 2019