The Springwatch guide to UK nature spotting

Wildlife experts Michaela Strachan, Martin Hughes-Games, Chris Packham and Iolo Williams reveal their top spots for species watching in Britain...

BBC2’s seasonal exploration of British wildlife is in full swing (Mon-Thurs, 8pm), and in the upcoming programmes the presenters will uncover the aerial world of the swift, wild beavers in Devon and our island’s fascinating marine wildlife. If you feel inspired by what you see on screen, here’s how and where to do some nature spotting of your own around the UK…


Farne Islands, Northumberland
Northumberland is an amazing place for breeding birds,” explains Michaela Strachan. “One of my favourite birds is the puffin, which you can see there in great numbers. I went there years and years ago and it’s a lasting memory for me. It’s one of those real spectacles that you can go and see. You get these nesting terns that you have to duck from, because they come and whack you on the head because they are protecting their nests.”

The Isle of Man
“I go here every year for the motorbike racing, it’s also fantastic for wildlife,” says Martin Hughes-Games. “They have a bird called a chough there, which looks like a jackdaw with a blood-red beak and blood-red legs. They are fantastically acrobatic. There’s a place called the chasms which are these great rocks that dive down to thundering seas beneath. You stand there and you get chough flying all around you. There are seals, there’s a hen harrier roost, there’s an amazing cormorant nesting site and there’s even wallabies there. It’s the largest breeding colony of wallabies in the UK – it’s very exciting.”

“It’s an area of the River Spey that meanders down. It’s a fantastic place for all different kinds of breeding waders – you’ve got snipe and all kinds of birds here,” explains Iolo Williams. “If you know where to go, you can see pine marten, and if you are really lucky you’ve got wild cats. On the high tops there are golden eagles and white-tailed eagles moving across. In other areas there are hen harriers, merlin and short-eared owl. It’s a huge, vast area.”

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Isles of Scilly
“If you are going to have fun on the Scillies, you need to be on your knees,” laughs Hughes-Games. “A lot of the things on the Scillies are quite small; there are three different species of stick insects there. It has exotic plant life, colours and turquoise sea. You can also go diving with seals and there are fantastic migrating birds.”

Minsmere, Suffolk
“It’s one of the best places to see a rich diversity of wildlife, particularly if you are into your birds,” reveals Strachan. “You can sit in a hide and watch bitterns. For anyone living in the area, it’s incredibly accessible. If you don’t live in the area, come down for the weekend.”

Skomer Island, Wales
“Off the coast of Pembrokeshire, you have a very good chance of seeing porpoises and dolphins,” says Williams. “When you land you are hit by this cacophony of noises. There are 6,500 puffins there, thousands of guillemots and razorbills, and owls. In May the island is carpeted in red campion and blue bells, it’s a beautiful place. If you dive below the sea there, you’ve got over 20 species of sea slugs, an array of lobsters, spiders, seaweed, rose corals and all kinds of incredible wildlife.”

Dungeness, Kent
“It’s a large shingle spit forming over hundreds of years, with a series of ridges,” explains Chris Packham. “There’s a nuclear power station there and a number of strange properties that have been built out on the shingle… it’s got a really quirky quality. It strikes me as a beautiful place, the sparse landscape, the minimal quality of it; I find it an easy place to be. Wildlife-wise it’s great. There’s an RSPB reserve – it’s on the south coast, so it gets a large number of migrant birds. The shingle spit has some specialist woodlouse species; they’ve got medicinal leeches in the lakes.”

New Forest, Hampshire
“I like the New Forest, it’s the largest piece of sandy lowland heath that we have,” says Packham. “It’s an open hot habitat, close to continental Europe. It’s got things like smooth snake and sand lizard, both reptile species that need heat. It’s always been the home of the Dartford warbler, a species that’s spread out over many other heathlands now. It’s got a lot of ancient woodland as well, home to the lesser spotted woodpecker, honey buzzard, hawfinches and a lot of deer. It has great access and everyone can come and enjoy it. It’s a fantastic resource.

Watch Springwatch today at 8pm, on BBC2.


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