Best sites to look for owls and birds of prey

Bird Watching (UK) - - Challenge #my200birdyear -

1 Find­horn Val­ley

More prop­erly called Strathdearn, this is a long-time favourite on Bird Watch­ing Reader Hol­i­days. Golden Ea­gles, Pere­grines, Buz­zards and Kestrels are reg­u­lar above the hill­sides (the end car park at Coignafearn is a good van­tage point) White-tailed Ea­gles also turn up, and Goshawks are also of­ten seen near the turn-off to Farr (check the py­lons for perched rap­tors).

2 Lough Foyle

All North­ern Ire­land’s loughs and sea loughs at­tract rap­tors such as Pere­grine and Mer­lin in win­ter, to prey on the wild­fowl and waders gath­ered there, and this is per­haps the best of all. Along the north coast of North­ern Ire­land, also keep an eye out for Hen Har­ri­ers, plus both ea­gle species drift­ing across from Scot­land.

3 Leighton Moss RSPB

In spring and sum­mer this is a great place (and one of the most northerly in the UK) at which to watch Marsh Har­ri­ers sky­danc­ing and car­ry­ing out food passes, but in win­ter Pere­grines and Mer­lins should also be present, try­ing to take ad­van­tage of the gath­er­ings of wild­fowl, waders and smaller birds.

4 Black­toft Sands RSPB

Marsh Har­ri­ers and Barn Owls breed here, so you can watch them dis­play­ing and hunt­ing dur­ing spring and sum­mer, but in win­ter they’re joined by oth­ers of their species, as well as Hen Har­ri­ers, Mer­lins, Pere­grines, Short-eared Owls and oc­ca­sion­ally Long-eared Owls, too. A late af­ter­noon visit is best, as the rap­tors start to ar­rive to roost in the reedbeds.

5 Park­gate

Both the RSPB re­serve here and the nearby sec­tions of Wir­ral coast­line are fa­mous for the gath­er­ings of rap­tors and owls that oc­cur dur­ing spring tides – as the in­com­ing wa­ter pushes small an­i­mals off the salt­marshes, the preda­tors take ad­van­tage of the glut of prey.

6 Thorn­ham Har­bour

Lots of north Nor­folk coastal sites are great for rap­tors, but try this one if you like to find your own birds, as it’s qui­eter than the likes of Titch­well and Cley. Marsh Har­ri­ers are here year-round, as well as Buz­zard and Kestrel, but in win­ter Hen Har­rier, Pere­grine, Mer­lin, Barn Owl, and Short-eared Owl are all likely over the wide ex­panses of salt­marsh.

7 Great Fen, Cambs

An­other favourite with BW, this time for win­ter bird­ing ex­pe­di­tions by the team. Buz­zards, Red Kites and Kestrels are plen­ti­ful, Rough-legged Buz­zard has turned up be­fore, Mer­lin and Pere­grine and Short-eared and Barn Owls are very pos­si­ble, and both Marsh and Hen Har­ri­ers of­ten quar­ter the flat fields. A non-rap­tor preda­tor, Great Grey Shrike, is an­other pos­si­ble win­ter vis­i­tor.

8 Gi­grin Farm, Powys

A bit dif­fer­ent, this one, be­cause it’s re­ally only one species you’ll see – Red Kite. It’s the num­ber, though, and the close-up views, that are ab­so­lutely amaz­ing, as the birds come in to be fed. Worth re­flect­ing, too, that it’s not so long ago that this area looked like be­ing their last UK strong­hold.

9 North Kent Marshes

An­other great ex­am­ple of how coastal marshes at­tract rap­tors in win­ter – look for Pere­grines, Mer­lins, Hen Har­ri­ers, Marsh Har­ri­ers and Short-eared Owls, while the lo­cal Buz­zards are joined by the Rough-legged Buz­zards in many win­ters.

10 Som­er­set Lev­els

Marsh Har­ri­ers can dom­i­nate the skies here, al­though you’ll also get plenty of prac­tice at telling them apart from Buz­zards. Kestrels and Barn Owls are also likely, and in win­ter the reedbeds and thick­ets can at­tract species such as Long-eared and Short-eared Owls.

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