Birding DC

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Sample destinations

Whilst there are a great variety of habitats to explore, each often holding different species at varying seasons, we list here a few examples of what is available. We are always happy to discuss your exact needs or if you prefer, just sit back, relax and leave it to us!

Winter – The Lea Valley
Winter – The Thames estuary
Spring – Minsmere, Suffolk
Summer – The Surrey heaths
Autumn – Dungeness
Other destinations




Drake Smew, a speciality of the London area in winter © Les Borg.

A day exploring the Lea Valley in winter

In a river valley on the Herfordshire/Essex border, just north of the conurbation, we will find a mixture of habitats giving a good cross-section of species to be found near London. Old gravel workings will provide opportunities to see large numbers of ducks and grebes with the possibility of encountering less common birds such as Bittern, Smew, Water Rail and Green Sandpiper. Local woodlands will hold flocks of tits, woodpeckers and finches though the elusive Hawfinch is now only an outside chance. Late afternoon at several of the pits will offer the opportunity to scrutinise the assembling gull flocks for more unusual species such as Mediterranean or Glaucous Gulls.

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A Short-eared Owl at dusk © Les Borg.

A day in winter on the Thames estuary

Experience the lonely saltmarshes so evocatively described by Charles Dickens in 'Great Expectations'. Teeming with waders, gulls, divers, grebes, and ducks, we would start the day at first light looking at shorebirds before walking out to a shell bank where, if conditions allow, roosting waders congregate or passerine species may include Snow Bunting and Twite. A little inland we will look out for raptors, of possibly six species, and flocks of geese and swans from arctic Russia. After lunch the afternoon will be spent in a leisurely walk across open agricultural land behind the sea wall to visit hides overlooking scrapes containing large numbers of ducks, geese and waders. On our way back we may be lucky to encounter a hunting Short-eared Owl or a Little Owl. Up to 80 species are possible in the day.

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Sedge Warbler

A Sedge Warbler in full song © Chris Mills.

Suffolk extravaganza in spring

On the quiet, almost forgotten coast of East Anglia lies Minsmere, one of Britain's premier bird reserves where 100 species plus is a realistic target for a day in spring. Arriving at the reserve centre at around 9 am, we are likely to be greeted by the effusive song of Nightingales from the nearby hedgerows and copses. The morning will be spent on a circular walk of the brackish lagoons where Avocets and terns are breeding and Grasshopper Warblers may be 'reeling' from the bushes. Waders and gulls will be present in numbers and we should take time to explore the coastal bushes for migrants.

After lunch we would return to the reserve for our second circular tour of the freshmarsh and woodland. Marsh Harriers and 'pinging' Bearded Tits should be in evidence whilst good numbers of warblers will be found. The woodland contains many of the expected species plus specialities such as the Marsh Tit. It will be a long day but one which, in the right conditions, will be a memorable experience.

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Common Redstart © Chris Mills.

A day in summer looking for special heathland birds

South-west of London lie remnants of lowland heath which still contain a range of species not usually found in other habitats. In this delightful area of pines, heather, gorse and bracken, we will look for specialist birds such as Dartford Warbler, Woodlark, Tree Pipit and Hobby, but will certainly encounter many other species whilst doing so.

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Mediterranean Gulls

Two adult Mediterranean Gulls © Chris Mills.

A day of migration on the south coast in autumn

Low bushes and scrub on the unique shingle peninsular of Dungeness in Kent can hold large numbers of pipits, chats, thrushes, warblers and flycatchers – all making their way south across the English Channel to mainland Europe. We will explore the area thoroughly and also spend time studying 'the patch' – upwelling cooling water from the dominant power station – that acts like a magnet for many species of gulls and terns which are usually present in large numbers. After lunch we will change venue to the RSPB reserve where freshwater pits and bushes should contain good numbers of birds of a variety of species.

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Other destinations can include:

Dorset (Portland Bill and Weymouth, Durlston Head, Studland and Poole Harbour), Abberton Reservoir, Walton-on-the-Naze, The London Reservoirs (Staines/Queen Mother, Wraysbury gravel pits), Stodmarsh, Grove Ferry and Sandwich Bay, Languard Point, The Brecks, The New Forest, North Norfolk (Titchwell, Wells-next-the-Sea, Cley-next-the-Sea), The Colne Valley (Stocker's Lake, Hilfield Park Reservoir, Tyttenhanger Gravel Pits).

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