I am originally from the UK growing up in Merseyside and North Wales area, and I enjoy my birding trips back to the UK. There are also some great spots in Europe to explore.
Bempton Cliffs, RSPB
Bempton Cliffs is about an hour’s drive from York, this is a very popular site for viewing breeding cliff birds – Northern Fulmar, Kittiwake, Gannets, Puffins, Razorbills and Guillemots. The cliff views are spectacular and you can get close to the birds in many places. There are some other good birding sites in the area, including Flamborough Head, Skipworth Common and Wheldrake Ings.
It was a rather windy and drizzly day when we visited so no photos are posted, but there are excellent hides here with views over the lakes and walking tracks amongst the hedges which are good for warblers in summer. You could easily spend half a day here. We had Whimbrels in the fields and a pair of Little Gull on one of the lakes.
On the Northumbria coast, the Farne Islands are reached by ferry from Seahouses. The weather does affect sailings on a regular basis, and whilst our trip went ahead, the boat could not land at Staple Island (just Inner Farne). There are lots of nesting seabirds, including Common Tern, Arctic Tern and Sandwich Tern. The cliffs have nesting Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes and Fulmars. The Northumbria mainland also has a number of sites worth exploring – we were based in Amble which proved to be a good base for accessing these sites. See Hauxley nature reserve, Cresswell, Druridge Pools, etc. on the Northumberland Wildlife Trust site.
London Wetlands, Hammersmith
There is good birding in London at the Wetland Centre, with both a display of birds in cages and ponds, and wild birds on open lakes that can be viewed from hides. Good selection of waterfowl, and rarities turn up.
About an hour from London, east on the train to Purfleet station from which it is about a 10 minute walk. Besides the marshes, there are good views over the Thames with Gulls, Terns and waders. This is a good site for warblers in the summer, and is a breeding site for Bearded Tit (which are difficult to find – we didn’t see any). Cetti’s Warbler are there too – easily heard but hard to photograph in the open.
One of my favourite places, Slimbridge has both ornamental stocks of water fowl (including Flamingoes), and hides overlooking lakes with wild birds. Cranes are now breeding there, and in winter there are large numbers of migratory ducks, geese and swans from the north. You can easily spend half a day here.
South Stack Cliffs, Anglesea, UK
The main attraction for UK birders here is the (Red-billed) Chough. The scenery is also very nice.
Titchwell, Norfolk, UK
Another great spot for waders, with plenty of species on our day counts including Avocets. There are many good birding locations around the Norfolk coast, but it is also important to choose the right time of year for target species. There is a big difference between summer and winter species, and the passage migrants. We stayed at the White House Farm in Hindolveston who provide great accommodation near the birding areas, and are very birding friendly. Highly recommended.
After Staines reservoirs and Rainham Marshes, Tyttenhanger is one of next best birding sites near London. It is on the northern side just outside the M25, and requires a car (there is no public transport nearby). There are several lakes and marshes. Good site for Reed Buntings and Tree Sparrows.
Ballycotton Cliff Walk, Ireland
This is a popular walking track in southern Ireland about 40 minutes drive from Cork. On the track along the cliffs you will find Choughs without any leg bands, and Peregrine Falcons nesting. Also plenty of Stonechat and Whitethroat on my visit. There are good views of the sea, and whilst I didn’t see any Manx Shearwater on my visit, they can be seen at times off the coast.
Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland
Rathlin Island is at the top of Northern Ireland. We reached it via a popular ferry service from Ballycastle. There are a couple of places to eat near the wharf on the island, and some historical sites. The RSPB reserve is reached via the Puffin bus (picks you up from the ferry terminal) – otherwise it would be a good 4 km walk over some hills. The cliffs are full of nesting Fulmar, Guillemot, Razorbills, Kittiwakes, and a few Gannets and Puffins. Summer is the best time to get the nesting birds. Seals and Black Guillemot in the harbour areas.
Borgarfjörður Eystri, Iceland
It is quite a drive to get to this place on the east coast of Iceland. It is a scenic drive, about 1 hour north of Hofn, and chains will be required in winter. The small peninsula is a reserve for breeding Puffins and Eider Ducks, and there are the other cliff birds too (Fulmar, Guillemots, etc.). The fields on the way will have Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit and European Golden Plover breeding during summer.
Ebro Delta, Barcelona, Spain
About 1 hours drive south down the coast from Barcelona, the natural Ebro Delta is a wonderful place for water birds and shore birds. We got about 100 species in a morning. It is warm and sunny and birding is easy. Plenty of Flamingoes here.
This is the place to visit in Iceland for birds, especially the water birds. The location shown is for Sigurgiers Bird Museum. This is a good spot for bird watching, and there is a small cafe with scope beside the museum. Bird hides can be hired, but these are very expensive and they expect you to use it all day (ie not just for an hour). In summer there are cloud of midges, but most do not bite. Around the lake there are other small ponds where Barrow’s Goldeneye and Pink-footed Geese can be found.
Tagus Estuary, Lisbon, Portugal
You don’t need to go any further than the capital of Portugal for some great birding. We had a short tour with Birds & Nature Tours Portugal and it was very valuable having the knowledge of a local guide. There are many waders and water birds, plus raptors and passerines species. We got about 80 species in a day here, including some good views of Bee-eater and Hoopoe.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)
On a stopover to the UK we spent a couple of days in Dubai. It is hot there, so birding is best first thing in the morning. We had a local guide from UAE Birding, which we highly recommend. There is some good birding in Dubai if you know where to look, and one of the spots he took us to was Warsan Lake (see map above). There are also some good sites a few kilometres away outside the city areas which is where we saw Cream-coloured Courser and MacQueens Bustard, but best to go with a guide if you don’t know the area.