As it flies through the air with such grace and ease one can but look in wonder and envy at the bird’s freedom to go where it pleases. Be it the gregarious starling, who always comes in a flock, the more solitary robin or the powerfully built bird of prey, there is something marvellous about each one. It is therefore, no surprise that so many people are being drawn to birdwatching and revelling in the enjoyment of studying each species behaviour and admiring their plumage.
These days, it is not only serious birdwatchers who ensure their holiday destination is near a nature reserve or open countryside where they can observe their favourite species in it’s natural habitat. More and more ordinary people whose interest has been fuelled by the antics of birds in their garden, are choosing to holiday in the countryside where they can be near to wildlife, especially birds. And what a choice there is in Great Britain regardless of season. We are fortunate to have milder weather than much of continental Europe and still have huge areas of countryside, much lying within the protective boundaries of our fifteen unique national parks; each a magnet for different species of birds.
All nature lovers need do is to find that pleasing holiday cottage that suits their tastes and pocket and to book the best dates for birdwatching. There are literally thousands of country cottages in England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland; in each national park.
Like people, many species of birds are attracted to the 885 square miles of lakes, forests and fells that make up the Lake District National Park. A thousand or more waterfowl including swans can be seen on Lake Windermere alone. In winter the population on this lake rises to over 2½ thousand and includes goldeneye, tufted duck, coot, pochard and red-breasted mergansers who create winter homes in the reeds around the lake.
But the Lake District is not just about waterfowl; powerfully built birds of prey such as golden eagles, red kite and buzzards are also much in evidence. Now due to the success of recolonisation work by the Park, Forestry Commission and RSPB, fish eating, Ospreys can now be seen in Spring as they nest on special platforms erected near Dodd Wood close to the Nature Reserve at Basenthwaite Lake.
There is something truly majestic about birds of prey as they soar through the air high above their mountainous or wooded habitat. The Cairngorms National Park, in Scotland the largest of the Great Britain’s national parks, is home to many of these large birds including golden eagles, hen harriers and peregrine falcons. Also see Scottish crossbill and ospreys. 25 percent of all the UK’s endangered species live in the park making it a must destination for wildlife lovers.
Staying in Scotland there is the scenic Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park where again you can observe birds of prey; golden eagles, ospreys and peregrine falcons who are perfectly at home in it’s 720 square miles of mountains, hills, forests, rivers and lakes (lochs). In addition the park is the place to see the world’s biggest grouse the capercaillie.
Clamber happily over the hills and vales of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and through it’s many woodlands such Grass Wood, Grassington, Wharfedale, a nature reserve, and home to tree pippit, wood warbler, pied flycatcher and redstart. At Strid Wood and the Strid you’ll hear pied flycatcher, wood warbler and on the river the goosander. The waterfalls and rapids are breathtaking.
Residents of the Dales moorlands include black grouse, eurasian wigeon, eurasian curlew, northern lapwing and twite. On the grasslands see snipe and if you are lucky one of the many sky larks. Yellow wagtails are at home in the flower rich hay meadows still plentiful on the Dales. At the viewpoint at Malham Cove catch sight of peregrine falcons, said to be one of the fastest flying birds – able to achieve up to 350kph. Breeding season April to late July is a good time to visit and learn more from the wardens on site. You may also see other birds of prey such as merlin, hen harriers, northern goshawk in the park.
Go to Wales and the Snowdonia National Park, 823 square miles of forests, lakes and mountains (including the World renowned peak Snowdon). It’s not surprising to find many species of birds are drawn to the area, including buzzards, ospreys, peregrines plus such regularly seen species, but loved nevertheless, thrushes, blackbirds, robins wrens, tits, finches, owls, cuckoo, jays. Visit the RSPB reserve at the Mawddach estuary to see many species and obtain information. The RSPB also has an Osprey viewpoint on Glaslyn Marshes where you will can observe Wales’ only pair of breeding ospreys and can obtain a spectacular view the mountain ranges including Snowdon.
The very scenic Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is a must if you want to view sea-birds such as gannets and puffins and do a spot of sunbathing on it’s beautifully sandy beaches. A boat bus gives access to the RSPB nature reserve on Ramsey Island, home to sea-bird colonies.
Over in the west of England in the Dartmoor National Park find dunlin, wading birds and golden plover nesting in the mossy bogs. The heather and gorse of the moors are the chosen areas for nesting by the sky larks and red grouse. The moorlands of it’s neighbour Exmoor National Park also attracts numerous species including merlins, buzzards, peregrine falcons, eurasian curlew, european stonechat, dipper, dartford warbler and ring ouzel.
The very picturesque Northumberland National Park and it’s heather moorlands is home the year round to red grouse. Bird watchers will be spoilt for choice here. Dependant on season, see dippers, common sandpipers, grey wagtails, redstart, lapwing, snipe, sky larks meadow pipits, nuthatchers, kestrels, cuckoos, curfew (largest of UK;s wading birds) the list goes on.
All that is left to you is to choose the location and be free as a bird, well at least for the duration of your holiday.