Five top birdwatching hotspots in the UK

Lockdown has given us all a newfound appreciation of nature. Why not take it beyond the garden and head to some of the UK’s best birdwatching destinations? Here, we round up five, plus reveal the gadget every budding twitcher needs.

By Swarovski Optik
Published 8 Sept 2020, 09:27 BST
The Loch Garten Nature Reserve in the Cairngorms National Park is a sprawling expanse of rugged ...

The Loch Garten Nature Reserve in the Cairngorms National Park is a sprawling expanse of rugged wilderness, home to rare birds such as ospreys. 

Photograph by Getty Images

Having spent much of the summer indoors, Covid-19 has given us a renewed appreciation for nature. Now, as we head to wide open spaces once again, suddenly only having birds for company no longer feels like social distancing and starts feeling rather nice. And if it’s birds you’re looking for, we know just the spot — five of them, in fact. Plus with the Swarovski Optik dG, identifying and sharing your findings has never been easier.

1. Cairngorms, Scotland

Located in the eastern Scottish Highlands, the Cairngorms is home to five of the Britain’s six highest peaks. It’s a sprawling expanse of arctic-alpine wilderness with pine forests, waterfalls, granite cliffs and a quarter of the UK’s endangered species. The Loch Garten Nature Reserve in the Cairngorms National Park is renowned for its Osprey Centre — a species that was extinct in Britain until it was reintroduced in Loch Garten in 1954.
Spot with Swarovski: The capercaillie is the region’s bucket list sighting. Huge though it is, this woodland grouse is notoriously elusive. Spotting a fan-tailed male engaged in his courtship dance is a rare thrill. If you get lucky, don’t forget to download your pictures to share with other budding birders. 

2. Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland

Rathlin Island is Northern Ireland’s northernmost point, a boot-shaped isle whose dramatic cliffs are all the more breathtaking for the sheer magnitude of seabirds nesting in the wind-scored crags. Though the human population hovers around 150, an avian population in the hundreds of thousands makes Rathlin a bird-watchers’ paradise. Lockdown restrictions are slowly being eased with the ferry operating a reduced timetable but due to the limited accommodation, it’s essential to plan well in advance should you be after more than a daytrip.
Spot with Swarovski: Puffins are the island’s most popular feathered attraction, though if you’re looking for more of a challenge, last year two pairs of shy corncrakes were spotted on the island for the first time in 30 years.

Rainham Marshes in Essex attracts a multitude of beautiful birds such as the kingfisher.

Photograph by Getty Images

3. Avalon Marshes, Somerset

For most of the 20th century, Avalon Marshes was ravaged by peat extraction on an industrial scale. But in the past two decades, conservation efforts have seen the scarred and desolate landscape restored to a thriving wetland. The region’s autumn and winter murmurations of up to half a million wheeling, diving and swirling starlings quite literally, can’t be missed. For a little history with your ornithology, go birdwatching from the Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve’s replica of the Sweet Track, a Neolithic trackway through the swamp, dating back to 3806 BC.
Spot with Swarovski: The ‘Big Three:’ the bittern with its booming mating call, the majestic marsh harrier and the great white egret. Not sure if it’s an egret or a heron you’re seeing? Take a picture and the dG app will identify it. 

4. Rainham Marshes, Essex

Not far from London’s thrumming streets, the low-lying grassland of the Rainham Marshes hums with activity of a different kind. Once a shooting range for the Ministry of Defence, the 411 hectares bordered by the Thames and flanked by road and rail may seem an unlikely place for an RSPB-managed nature reserve, though the teeming woodland species will beg to differ. Masses of colourful wigeon ducks are just one of the area’s star species, and with family- and wheelchair-friendly paths and boardwalks, enjoying the sights of this cityside reserve is accessible for all.
Spot with Swarovski: Acrobatic lapwings, brilliant visiting kingfishers and majestic peregrine falcons are just a few of the sightings you're likely to make in this glorious patch of Essex countryside. 

5. Minsmere, Suffolk

Minsmere, on the North Sea coast, is a draw for birdwatchers all year. In spring, the reedbeds play host to wading birds, while in summer, the air is thick with nightingale song. Autumn sees a stream of migratory birds, but the jewel of the area is RSPB Minsmere, a 2,500-acre reserve that’s home to colonies of avocets and is one of the UK’s few breeding sites for bitterns.
Spot with Swarovski: In winter, look out for marsh harriers, peregrine falcons and owls. There are many different types of owl here, so identify each sighting on the app. 

Should your sighting be of the furry variety, the Swarovski Optik dG Mammal Guide will let you know if you’re seeing a pine marten or a stoat.

Photograph by Swarovski Optik

Birding with Swarovski Optik

Whether you’re tracking capercallies in the Cairngorms or simply looking out for parakeets in Regent's Park, the Swarovski Optik dG is the first long-range gadget that makes identifying, documenting and sharing your sightings as easy as actually seeing them. 

Spot, capture and share in three simple steps with the Swarovski Optik dG 

Photograph by Swarovski Optik

1. Spot the bird. The Swarovski dG has 8x magnification, making catching a glimpse of smaller, more elusive birds that bit easier. 
2. Take a picture. The monocular also has an integrated 13-megapixel camera for capturing every single feather. 
3. Download the image. Using the dG app, with a push of a button you can then download the image to Merlin Bird ID, which will identify the sighting for you. A built-in Wi-Fi hotspot means you can also share the picture in real-time with devices within five metres and, of course, put it on social media. 

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