Ring-necked Parakeet

West London Birding - Day Trips

A day trip with West London Birding gives you the opportunity to go that little bit further out of London. Perhaps you would like to sample the marshes of north Kent, go and see the herds of wild Swans in southern Norfolk or Gloucestershire in winter, a day at a migration hotspot, like Dungeness or the Isle of Portland, the reedbeds of Suffolk with their breeding (Pied) Avocet and Bearded Tits (Reedlings), or the heathlands of southern England, home to Redstarts, Tree Pipits and Dartford Warblers.

Or perhaps you want to go after that elusive British tick.

Alternatively, you might like to stay nearer London and explore some of the sites outlined on the half-day web-page.

West London Birding will come up with an itinerary that suits you.

Below are some suggested trips, though this list is by no means exhaustive.

WWT Slimbridge (Gloucestershire):

Winter is the best time to go to Slimbrige for it is then that the wildfowl numbers are at their peak, with up to 300 Bewick’s Swan (the European sub-species of Tundra Swan) and a flock of (Greater) European White-fronted Geese. Often the goose flock contains other species such as Brent, Pink-footed or Tundra Bean Goose. There are also large flocks of Eurasian  Wigeon, Eurasian Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck and smaller numbers of Pintail, Shoveler and Gadwall. Due to its proximity to the Severn Estuary, shorebirds are also in evidence and roosting flocks of Dunlin can contain Little Stint. In the evening, when the swans come in to roost from the surrounding fields they are fed by the wardens, so this provides a close-up encounter (often down to a few feet) of these otherwise wary birds. It may also be possible to visit the Cotswold Water Park on the way for species such as Smew, rarer grebes, Goosander and a re-introduced population of Red-Crested Pochard.

Slimbridge is approximately 21/2 hours drive from London. 

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Minsmere RSPB Reserve (Suffolk):

Minsmere is the flagship reserve of the Royal Society for the Protection for Birds (RSPB). It is a large coastal reserve with a variety of habitats including  woodland, heathland and freshwater and brackish marshes. It is worth a visit at anytime of the year, but late spring/early summer and autumn (fall) are probably the best times. Breeding birds include Marsh Harrier, Great Bittern, Pied Avocet, Nightingale and Bearded Tits. Little Tern and (Black-legged Kittewake are also often ssen). In addition Dartford Warblers breed nearby. There is an area of bushes adjacent to the beach which often attracts rare and scarce migrants during migration times. 

Minsmere is about 3 hours drive from London

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Little Paxton Gravel Pits (Cambridgeshire):

Little Paxton Gravel pits is a mixture of deep-water and shallow pits surrounded by scrub and woodland. It is an excellent place in the late spring and summer for warblers but the stars of the show here are a good population of Nightingale; the supporting cast includes Turtle Dove and Common Kingfisher and there is a colony of Grey Heron and Great Cormorant. Shorebirds and gulls are often attracted to the shallower pits and Common Tern breed. From here the large reservoir of Grafham Water is a short drive away and can be worth a visit if there is a passage of terns, or alternatively, the RSPB reserve at their Headquarters, the Lodge. The second site visited on this day trip would depend what you want to see or what is around of interest.

Little Paxton GP is approximately an 11/2 drive from London.

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North Kent Marshes:

The North Kent marshes are a large stretch of the Thames estuary from the eastern edge of London to west of the Isle of Sheppey. It is worth a visit at any time of year. The sites that would most likely to be visited on a day trip with West London Birding are the Oare Marshes and either RSPB Northward Hills (in summer) or the Isle of Sheppey (in winter). The Oare Marses are a great place for shorebirds at all times of year. In summer the open areas are also home to warblers (Cetti’s Warbler are resident all year) and Turtle Dove are sometimes seen. In winter sea-duck such as scoter and merganser can often be seen along with divers (loons) and grebes. Britain’s only record of Tufted Puffin was seen from this site in 2009! Just across the water lies the Isle of Sheppey. The whole island can be great for birds but the main areas that are worth visiting are the southern marshes which hold European White-fronted and Brent Geese and Bewick’s Swan in winter and there is a raptor viewpoint from where you are likely to see Marsh and Hen Harriers, and maybe Merlin, Peregrine, Short-eared and Barn Owl and in some years Rough-legged Buzzard overwinters. The north of the island faces onto the estuary proper and here one can find Ringed Plover, Sanderling and maybe Purple Sandpiper. It is from here that in northerly winds one can often see skuas & jaegers, black-legged Kittiwakes, Northern Gannets and sea-duck and maybe a Little Auk. Northward Hills holds a population of Nightingale, common warbler species and has one of the largest breeding colonies of Grey Heron in the UK There is also a sizeable colony of Little Egret here, whilst the wet marshes hold shorebirds species including (Pied) Avocet.

The North Kent Marshes are approximately an 11/2 drive from London.

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WWT Welney (Norfolk):

This is another Wildfowl and Wetland Trust reserve that can be comfortably reached from London. Again, it is best in winter and holds one of the largest concentrations of Wild Swans in the UK, with all 3 species present from October through to March. The site occasionally has Common Crane in the surrounding fields and in most winters Tundra Bean Geese are reported. There are also large numbers of other wildfowl in winter and Barn Owl and raptors are regularly seen. In the summer months the site holds breeding (Pied) Avocet, Common Snipe, Northern Lapwing and Little Ringed Plover. Migrant shorebirds are regular in autumn.

Welney is approximately 2 hours drive from London    

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The Brecks & Fens (Norfolk/Suffolk border):

The Brecks and Fens are a varied mixture of heathland, open woodland and marshland. They are also home to some of the scarcer British breeding birds and as such are best visited in late spring or early summer. These include Golden Oriole, Common Crane, Great Bittern, Stone Curlew, Woodlark, Bearded Tit  and Tree Pipit. As well as these there are a lot of the common warblers and other woodland birds, the wetland sites have breeding shorebirds, good populations of Reed and Sedge Warblers and there is a excellent chance of Hobby. 

The Brecks & Fens are about an 11/2 drive from London.

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The New Forest:

The New Forest contains one of the rarest habitat types is Britain - lowland acid bog. These areas are interspersed with heathland and mixes woodland with the coastal marshes of southern England nor far to the south. This range of habitats offers an excellent days birding at any time of year, but summer is usually favoured. The Forest itself is the summer home to Wood Warbler, Common Redstart, Woodlark, Hobby, Tree Pipit, and Whinchat, whilst Dartford Warbler, Common Crossbill, Stonechat and Siskin are resident. The marshlands to the south can contain many shorebirds and in winter Slavonian (Horned) and Black-necked (Eared) Grebes are regular. There is a good wintering population of Dark-bellied Brent Geese which are sometimes joined by a vagrant Red-breasted Goose. In summer the shoreland pools attract breeding Black-headed (and occasionally Mediterranean) Gulls and Sandwich and Little tern breed nearby. During spring, Pomarine Skuas (jaegars) are sometimes seen if the winds are in the right direction.  

The New Forest is about an 11/2 drive from London.

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Bewick Swan (& Common Pochard). The WWT reserves at Slimbridge and Welney hold this European sub-species of the Tundra Swan in winter.

(Pied) Avocet (right) with Ruff. Minsmere and the North Kent Marshes have these species in all months.

Bearded Reedling (female). This species can be found at many of the marshland sites in the south of the UK.

Willow Warbler

Yellow Wagtail (juvenile).