winter birding in the West Country
This short break take us to some of the best sites in Devon and Somerset in search of birds of the wetlands and coast.
To be confirmed
To be confirmed
To be confirmed
Four nights accommodation, half board. Local transport and entry fees as specified in itinerary.
Travel to Kingskerswell. Refreshments. Gratuities. Travel insurance. Covid tests and associated costs.
Minimum 5, maximum 14.
Devon is the perfect location for a winter break and this trip will introduce us to some of the special winter wildlife of this beautiful county and give us a chance to encounter some of its rich birdlife.
From our base in rural Devon, where we will stay in a restored 13th Century mill, we will visit some of the important local areas for wintering birds.
We explore the Exe Estuary on a gentle cruise giving us the opportunity to see some of the wintering waders and wildfowl for which the area is internationally recognised. Striking Avocets are joined by Curlew, Dunlin, Redshank, godwits and plovers, and wintering divers and grebes should be spotted in the shallows.
Our next day sees us head to the extensive wetlands of the Somerset Levels in neighbouring Somerset. Here we can expect to see a good range of birds including Lapwing, Pintail and Great White Egret, along with hopefully, a Bittern or two. Our day ends watching the vast Starling roost murmuring its way back into the reeds.
We will also spend a day in Torbay, stating with some time around Brixham Harbour where we will look for wintering Great Northern Divers along with Turnstones and Purple Sandpipers, before we turn our attentions to the fields and hedgerows as we search for the Cirl Bunting; a Devon speciality!
As well as the avian stars we also have chances to see mammals including Grey Seals loafing in the estuary or harbour, along with a chance of Water Voles and Otters on the Somerset Levels. All in all we expect to enjoy some fantastic West Country wildlife.
Please note that holidays change, although sometimes only slightly, from year to year and previous trip reports may not reflect the planned itinerary, or other holiday details, for the current trip. Please ask us if you would like to know of any significant differences.
Day 1 Our holiday starts near the village of Kingskerswell where we will meet at our hotel in time for an introduction to the holiday and our first dinner together.
Day 2 We visit the charming fishing town of Brixham to spend our morning exploring the harbour area and breakwater. We should see Gannets plunging into the waves, alongside perhaps Kittiwakes and Guillemots, and hopefully Great Northern Diver. We should find Turnstones and Purple Sandpipers as they pick their way along the breakwaters, and Grey Seals are often spotted in the harbour. After lunch we drive to Broadsands, where we may spot more divers, or perhaps grebes and scoters offshore. We will also check some of the nearby fields and hedgerows, where we hope to find a real Devon speciality and one of the stars of the area; the beautiful Cirl Bunting.
Day 3 We visit neighbouring Somerset to spend a day exploring Ham Wall and Shapwick Heath, at the heart of the Somerset Levels and Moors. In recent years the area has been home to some fantastic concentrations of breeding birds, and it is equally magnificent during the winter months. We hope to see Marsh Harriers quartering, along with a range of ducks including Teal, Gadwall and the elegant Pintail. We have a good chance to see Great White Egret here, and we will search among the vegetation for Water Rail and Bittern, whilst we keep an eye out for some of the area’s increasing number of Common Cranes. As the evening starts to gather we turn our attentions to the famous Starling roost; one of the largest in the UK, and we will find a good spot to wonder at the sight and sound of them swirling into their roost for the evening.
Day 4 We take the short drive towards Stover Country Park. Birds here could include Great Crested Grebes, Tufted Duck and Pochard, which may be joined on the water by Goosander along with shy Mandarin Ducks, and we will listen out for Kingfishers as they flash by. We should also enjoy close up views of woodland birds busy visiting the feeders. We then drive east to Exmouth to join a three hour cruise exploring the Exe estuary, an area of international importance for its populations of more than 20,000 wintering waders and wildfowl. This is the perfect way to enjoy the rich birdlife of the estuary and we can expect to find a great range of waders, along with Brent Geese, wintering divers and grebes, and perhaps Red-breasted Merganser. We will also keep watch for Grey Seals that can be spotted hauled out on mudbanks or keeping watch from the water.
Day 5 One final breakfast, and then it is time to bid farewell to Devon, and to head home, hopefully taking some good memories of the spectacular flocks and beautiful views of the West Country.
Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders.