With the prevailing wind coming from the southwest, the western side of the UK is wetter than the eastern side. Atlantic currents, warmed by the Gulf Stream, bring mild winters particularly to the west, however, the north and east of the UK can experience cold winters when weather systems open airflow from eastern Europe and Siberia. Arctic blasts from the north and Mediterranean blasts from the south can occur in winter and spring, and during the autumn period mild hurricanes can hit (usually the tail end of hurricanes that have come across the Atlantic Ocean). All these factors lead to the UK being a great place to see birds from different areas of the world, all through the year.
Following International Ornithological Congress (IOC) taxonomy (version 10.2 in October 2020) the UK has a bird list of 653 species; however, a vast number of these are vagrant birds. About 250 species of birds occur frequently, and tours during the spring and winter periods can connect with a good percentage of these. There is currently one widely recognized endemic bird in the UK, the Scottish Crossbill, although some authorities do consider the subspecies of Willow Ptarmigan, known as Red Grouse, to be another endemic. The climate and geography of the islands plays a huge part in where these species occur. For example, winter sees the arrival of hundreds of thousands of ducks and geese from their northern breeding grounds, while spring sees the hedgerows and gardens filled with bird song with the arrival of migrant birds. The UK is also known for its fantastic nature reserves and these are often where most species are seen during a wildlife holiday. Reserves such as Rutland Water, RSPB Titchwell Marsh, RSPB Bempton Cliffs and WWT Caerlaverock all offer visiting birders the chance to witness sensational wildlife spectacles, such as the bird of prey roost at Titchwell in winter.
An increasing number of people are interested in natural history and specifically in bird watching as evidenced by the fact that the UK’s number one birdwatching charity, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), has over one million members. Many towns, cities, and regions also have their own bird clubs or societies, with social birding a big hobby, whether it is people giving nature a home within their garden or traveling around the country. Technological advances have furthered the work carried out by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), and eBird is increasingly widespread, furthering the value of citizen-science birdwatching. Twitching is an extremely popular hobby within the realm of birdwatching, as is bird photography. “Bird news” is a very important way of birders finding out about rare birds, and websites such as BirdGuides, Rare Bird Alert, and Surfbirds have all helped with the flow of bird-sighting news and undoubtedly increased the number of people interested in birds and birding.
We have two exciting small-group bird watching tours in the UK, both tours will provide excellent views of some exciting common birds for a first-time visitor to Europe, such as European Robin, Eurasian Bullfinch, Eurasian Blue Tit, European Greenfinch, European Goldfinch, Eurasian Nuthatch, Yellowhammer, and Northern Lapwing. Each tour will then focus on some of the seasonal specialties:
Occurring in the peak mid-winter period, this exciting tour will focus on finding a wide-range of resident and over-wintering birds, such as Whooper Swan, Pink-footed Goose, Taiga Bean Goose, Smew, Velvet Scoter, Eurasian Bittern, Red Kite, Western Marsh Harrier, Caspian Gull, Iceland Gull, Purple Sandpiper, European Golden Plover, Willow Ptarmigan (Red Grouse), Black Grouse, Common Kingfisher, Fieldfare, Redwing, Bearded Reedling (Tit), Lapland Longspur (Bunting), Twite, Brambling, Hawfinch, and Bohemian Waxwing. Follow the link above to see the detailed itinerary.
This comprehensive tour will focus on the summer visitors to the UK, as well as a range of Scottish specialties. It could also connect with some of the species present in winter (outlined above). Some of the tour highlights should include European Honey Buzzard, Montagu’s Harrier, Eurasian Hobby, Garganey, European Turtle Dove, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit, Spotted Redshank, Corn Crake, Common Quail, European Nightjar, Eurasian Stone-curlew, Dartford Warbler, Common Crane, Scottish Crossbill, Parrot Crossbill, Western Capercaillie, Rock Ptarmigan, Red-throated Loon (Diver), Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Eurasian Dotterel, European Crested Tit, and Snow Bunting. Follow the link above to see the detailed itinerary.