Best Bird Watching in England

By Sian Williams

If lockdown has made you more appreciative of the birds in your neighbourhood, why not further your interest with a visit to a bird reserve during your staycation?

Birdwatching doesn’t need to be an expensive hobby – you don’t need to buy a huge telescope like you see some twitchers carrying, just as you don’t need to sit for hours munching on sandwiches, praying for that one elusive bird to show up!

If lockdown has made you more appreciative of the birds in your neighbourhood, why not further your interest with a visit to a bird reserve during your staycation?

Birdwatching doesn’t need to be an expensive hobby – you don’t need to buy a huge telescope like you see some twitchers carrying, just as you don’t need to sit for hours munching on sandwiches, praying for that one elusive bird to show up!

A good pair of binoculars (many reserves offer them for sale, or check out second-hand pairs on sites such as eBay), a bird book or app so you can identify what’s in front of you, and a little bit of patience will reward you with an absorbing day out.

Although spring and summer are great for spotting birds during the breeding season, autumn and winter also offer a great deal of variety as many species prepare to migrate.

Bird-watching is truly a year-round activity the whole family can enjoy.

Here are our top nine bird-watching sites in England.

Farne Islands

Farne Islands
Farne Islands. Credit: DomWPhoto

A 20-minute boat trip will take you to the dramatic Farne Islands off the Northumberland coast.

Once home to saints and monks, today the tiny archipelago supports breeding colonies of several species of seabird. At the height of the season (May to June), you could see around 70,000 Puffins!

The islands are also a haven for Eider Ducks, Razorbills, Little Terns, Arctic Terns, and Sandwich Terns. Look out for seals basking on the rocks or swimming, too.

Find it: Boat trips to the Farne islands run from Seahouses. Check out SerenityBilly Shiel’s or Golden Gate. The National Trust cares for the islands; non-members must pay a landing fee in addition to the cost of the boat trip.

Find out more here.

Bempton Cliffs

Known locally as Seabird City, the towering white cliffs at Bempton, near Bridlington, in East Yorkshire, attract up to half a million seabirds every year.

Between March and October, they come to nest and raise their young, making this place a must-see for any bird-watcher.

The cries (and smells!) are unforgettable as thousands of birds swoop around you.

Look out for the Gannets with their startling blue eyes and large grey bills. True romantics, Gannets mate for life – and often the male will offer the female little gifts of flowers.

Bempton is the only mainland seabird colony in England, so you’re guaranteed to see ‘the big eight’ of species that visit our shores: Gannet, Guillemot, Puffin, Razorbill, Kittiwake, Fulmar, Shag and Herring Gull.

Find it: RSPB Bempton Cliffs, Cliff Lane, Bridlington, YO15 1JF

Find out more here.

Coombes Valley

A Redstart
A Redstart. Credit: SussexBirder

A lovely oak woodland in a steep-sided valley, this Staffordshire spot provides an ideal habitat for migratory birds such as the Pied Flycatcher, Redstart and Wood Warbler to nest.

A trail leads you around the site – look out for Dippers and Willow Tits in summer, and in winter, hundreds of Redwings and Fieldfare descend to feed on the berries.

A steep climb will take you to open moorland and pasture, where you may see Woodcock and Sparrowhawks.

Find it: RSPB Coombes & Churnet Valley Nature Reserve, Bradnop, Leek, ST13 7EU

Find out more here.

Continue reading

30 UK campsites to book now for summer 2021

We’ve rounded up the best camping and glamping getaways … assuming the Great British Summer gets the green light, that is

Before you book, check individual campsite Covid refund and rescheduling policies

WALES

Three Cliffs Bay, Penmaen, Gower

The dramatic clifftop location is a huge selling point for this family-run campsite on the south side of the Gower peninsula. It is right on the Wales Coast Path, and a short stroll from the spectacular Three Cliffs Bay. Guests can choose between sea-view or (cheaper) countryside-view pitches, for tents, caravans or campervans. There are also sea-view bell tents and inland yurts (both sleeping five). The shower block is particularly impressive, with power showers, LED lighting and underfloor heating … Even the dog-washing points have warm water. The shop is also well stocked, with local bread, meat, beer and wine; and guests can order hampers, and rent picnic tables and firepits. The campsite was started in 1948 on North Hill Farm, which dates back five generations, and is still run by the Beynon family.
• Camping £29.50 a night for a family of up to 5, glamping £454 for three nights, threecliffsbay.com

Top of the Woods, Pembrokeshire

Friendly pigs at Top of the Woods Eco Camping & Glamping Pembrokeshire

“Eco luxury” is the vibe at this site on a 27-acre farm. Campers can pitch their tents in the four-acre wildflower meadow, while glampers can choose from safari lodges, nature domes or pioneer camps; there is also one pitch for a campervan. The farm courtyard is the social hub, with a huge Dutch barn, campfire and wet-room showers. Breakfast is served in the barn at weekends, as is a stew supper on Fridays and barbecues on Saturdays. There are pop-up food stalls during the summer holidays and a fishmonger comes every Wednesday. Campers can help feed the site’s three kunekune pigs, walk to the secret waterfall in the woods for a swim, and take yoga classes in the barn. The owners also run glamping activity weekend breaks several times a year, from “wild gin” foraging to canoe treks and paddleboarding safaris.
• Camping £16/£8 a night adult/child, campervans £20/10, dogs free, five-metre bell tents for hire at £30 a night, glamping from £100 a night for 4, topofthewoods.co.uk

Continue reading

England told to prepare for worst weeks of pandemic

England’s chief medical officer has said the next few weeks will be the worst of the pandemic as he urged everyone to minimise meeting people.

Prof Chris Whitty said the public should not wait for any government “tinkering” with rules but should “double down” now on avoiding any unnecessary contacts.

Pleading with the public he said: “Even within them [the rules], we should be doing our level best to minimise the amount of unnecessary contact with people who are not in our household. I can’t emphasise that enough.”

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, he said the NHS was facing its “most dangerous” point. | Continue at THE GUARDIAN

England to enter toughest Covid lockdown since March

England will enter its toughest nationwide lockdown since March, with schools closed and people allowed to leave home once a day for exercise for at least six weeks, Boris Johnson has announced as the numbers of people in hospital reach new highs.

All pupils will switch to remote learning until the February half-term, the prime minister said in an address to the nation, and GCSE and A-level exams are unlikely to go ahead as planned. All non-essential shops will be told to close.

Under the third national lockdown, people in England will be ordered to stay at home until at least 15 February and advised only to leave once a day for exercise. MPs are expected to vote the tough new measures into law from Wednesday, though businesses will be advised to close from Monday night [ . . . ]

Continue at THE GUARDIAN: England to enter toughest Covid lockdown since March