Caerlaverock Wildflowl and Wetland Trust (WWT), Dumfries & Galloway

Some 35,000 barnacle geese spend the winter on the Solway Firth, with many thousands of those at Caerlaverock, after spending their breeding season in Arctic Svalbard.

Barnacle geese (Branta leucopsis) feeding on grazing marshes, with one bird wing stretching, Caerlaverock WWT, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, UK, December
Barnacle geese at Caerlaverock WWT. © David Tipling/Nature Picture Library/Getty

Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland

Noted for offering a winter home to three-quarters of the world population of light-bellied brent geese, nearly 40,000 birds. Waders and wildfowl visit in huge numbers, too.

More related content

Budle Bay, Bamburgh

Large numbers of overwintering greylag and pink-footed geese, plus wildfowl such as wigeon and teal. Stag Rocks (below the lighthouse) known for its wintering divers and grebes.

RSPB Fairburn Ings, West Yorkshire

Autumn brings passage waders, while in winter you can watch goldeneye, smew and goosanders starting to pair up in preparation for the coming spring.

Common Goldeneye
Goldeneye. © Getty

RSPB Parkgate / Dee Estuary, Cheshire

Autumn is a good time to see passage migrants such as black-tailed godwits and greenshank and also sees the arrival of the first pink-footed geese. Winter brings birds of prey such as hen harriers, merlin and short-eared owls.

RSPB Snettisham, Norfolk

Watch thousands of pink-foots leaving their night-time roost in The Wash any time from mid-November.

Knot Calidris canutus flock exploding from roost at Snettisham on the Wash Norfolk August
Snettisham is also famous for its huge roosts of Knot on a spring tide © David Tipling/Getty

Shapwick Heath NNR, Somerset

Best-known for its starling roost – mainly visitors from continental Europe – but also an excellent place to see gadwall, shovellers and tufted ducks. Adjacent reserves such as Ham Wall worth visiting, too.

Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) flock descends to reedbed to roost at Shapwick Heath.
Starling flock descending over Shapwick Heath to roost in the reedbed. © Wolstenholme Images/Getty

RSPB Pagham Harbour, West Sussex

A huge variety of birds, including large flocks of curlews, knot and bar-tailed godwits.

Dawlish Warren NNR, Devon

An impressive variety and numbers of waders spend the winter on the Exe Estuary – everything from avocets and bar and black-tailed godwits to curlews, dunlin and knot.

Sun breaking through the clouds at Dawlish Warren in winter
Dawlish Warren in winter. © Devon and Cornwall Photography/Getty

Stodmarsh NNR, Kent

Great flocks of wildfowl, and a spectacular starling roost. A winter visit here could also be your best chance of seeing a bittern.


James FairWildlife journalist