Concrete jungles or countryside? 10 places to spot birds this spring
Broadcaster and writer David Lindo has made it his mission to introduce new audiences – young and old – to the joys of birding in city environments. Also known as The Urban Birder, he’s eager to dispel the myth that observing our feathered friends is a nerdy activity – on the contrary, it’s becoming rather cool.
His own fascination with birds started when, at the age of three, his mum recalls him going missing during a family gathering. A search party was dispatched and they eventually found him standing outside a churchyard, watching magpies. He hasn’t stopped since.
With spring around the corner, now is one of the best times to go birdwatching – and you don’t need to travel far. These are some of Lindo’s favourite spots in the UK.
1. Wormwood Scrubs, London
“This is my favourite place in the whole world. Why? Because this large park in west London was virtually unknown as a birding venue when I first visited it over 25 years ago. It’s the place where I first realised that, by simply looking up, you could see so many birds. Head there to find northward bound spring migrants like gorgeous wheatears and my favourite bird, the ring ouzel.”
2. Lundy Island, Bristol
“OK, so this isn’t an urban spot, but it fulfils another desire that I have: My love of being on islands. Situated in the Bristol Channel, this magical island is a magnet for rare birds. Springtime sees the return of the island’s breeding seabirds including manx shearwater, guillemots and the comical looking puffin.”
3. Alderney, Channel Islands
“This Channel Island is another of my favourite islands in the UK. I love the fact it is small and easy to walk around, as well as being a throwback to earlier times when people used to keep their doors open all the time. The bird life is pretty special too, and they have even established a new Bird Observatory on the island. Spring is a great time to look for ravens and returning gannets.”
4. Conwy RSPB Reserve, North Wales
“I’ve had some great times watching birds at this funky little nature reserve in North Wales, like the common sandpiper feeding along the shoreline of the lake there. It is also pretty urban too, which always helps to make me feel more at home!”
5. Barons Haugh RSPB Reserve, Motherwell, Scotland
“What a little gem! Sandwiched between Motherwell and Hamilton, this is a great place to observe the ordinarily unobtrusive kingfisher and the reedbed dwelling water rail. For some reason, these birds can sometimes parade out in the open, seemingly without a care in the world.”
6. Walthamstow Wetlands, London
“This place in east London has romantic connotations for me. Run by the London Wildlife Trust, it’s a great spot to watch common terns in the spring, fresh back from their wintering areas of southern Africa – and it’s also the site where I once took a girl on a date. However, far from having a romantic stroll, I stood her under cold grey rainy skies for two hours waiting for a rare dusky warbler to emerge from a bush.”
7. Hartlepool Headland, County Durham
“This is a bit of an oddity as a birding venue. To the average eye, it is just a neighbourhood by the coast; to a birder, it is a potential oasis. During spring, many migrant birds make first landfall along the east coast, including this headland. In bumper years, tired birds can be found in the residents’ gardens and even on their houses.”
“Another unlikely birding nirvana. This Yorkshire city is often much derided for not containing anything of interest to outsiders, but I beg to differ. There are some great places in the city to watch birds, and springtime at Paull Holme Strays Nature Reserve can be pretty special. Watch out for newly arrived swallows as well as wading birds.”
9. Belfast Lough RSPB Reserve, Northern Ireland
“Although just a stone’s throw from the busy George Best Belfast City Airport, this is a fabulous place to watch for spring migration. Despite its tiny size, it packs a mighty punch and is always seemingly buzzing with gulls and terns.”
10. Saltholme RSPB Reserve, Middlesbrough
“With a backdrop of oil refineries and factory towers – the visual inspiration for local boy Ridley Scott in his iconic film, Bladerunner – this is a marshy wildlife oasis. It is possible to be here during the spring and watch great birds like barn owls and marsh harriers.”
David Lindo is an Ambassador for Leica Sports Optics. Leica have a range of Sports Optics ideal for bird watching, starting from £421 for the Trinovid Compact 8 x 20 BCA Compact Binoculars. Visit leicastore-uk.co.uk/collections/sport-optics.
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