Pick the right time, and you’ll get right up-close to nature
Even if you're not a twitcher, the arrival of thousands of birds on the coast is a thrilling spectacle.
Further south, the Donna Nook Nature Reserve in Lincolnshire is another magnet for wildlife. Lined with dunes and inter-tidal areas, you’ll find 47 species of breeding bird. Situated just north of Skegness, this area’s also home to one of the UK’s largest and most accessible colonies of grey seals, best seen from October to December when they haul themselves onto the beach to breed.
Still on the east coast, Blakeney, Horsey and Winterton, Norfolk, also offer seal watching opportunities, volunteer wardens will help you observe them safely from the sand dunes.
Two of the most startling wildlife experiences along the Norfolk coast takes place at Snettisham Nature Reserve. One is the Wader Spectacular the other is the flight of the Pink Footed Geese, you’ll see hundreds and thousands of wading birds taking off and landing, swarming like bees. Check out the RSPB timetables for the best times to arrive.
With 37 islands, Essex has one of the longest coastlines in the UK and a glut of wildlife. Head to Wallasea Island, jump on a two-hour trip around the creeks and inlets of the Rivers Crouch and Roach to spot seals, Common and Grey. If you’re lucky, you might glimpse a porpoise or two too! Visit Wallasea Marina or Burnham Town Quay.
South East Coast
Brighton might not spring to mind for wildlife wathcing, but from November to March, thousands of over-wintering starlings gather en masse at Brighton’s West Pier as dusk descends. Up to 40 thousand birds whir into action before funnelling down on the pier joists for the night, an absolute show-stopper!
Off the south coast, 50% of The Isle of Wight is protected as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and one of only seven places in the UK to have the accolade UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
One of its famous residents is the endangered Red Squirrel, but here you’ll also spot vast populations of Brent Geese, the beautiful Glanville Fritillary butterfly and maybe a Cattle Egret bird or Bottlenoise Dolphin.
If you’re in search of Harbour porpoises, Common or Bottlenose dolphins or Common or Grey seals, grab the binoculars and get over to St Catherine’s Point, Bembridge Ledge or Compton Bay, also a haven for fossil hunters.
Set in the heart of Poole Harbour, Brownsea Island is also home to the rare red squirrel, visit in autumn when they’re foraging for nuts and seeds for best sightings. The Island’s lagoon draws scores of overwintering birds such as avocets, black-tailed godwits and huge numbers of wildfowl. Winter’s also the best time for catching sight of tall white spoonbills.