Southwest Winter Birding Weekend

Friday 19th – Tuesday 23rd January 2024

At this time of year and with relatively mild winters, the Southwest can produce some of the best birding in the UK. Rarities on previous tours have included American Buff-bellied Pipit, Pacific Diver, Temminck’s Stint, Balearic Shearwater, Stilt Sandpiper, Blue-winged Teal, Eastern Black Redstart, Rosy Starling, Long-billed Dowitcher, Desert Wheatear, Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Duck, Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon and overwintering Yellow-browed Warbler.

Regular winter visitors include Siberian Chiffchaff, Great Northern, Black-throated and Red-throated Divers, Black-necked, Red-necked and Horned Grebes, Purple Sandpiper, Common Firecrest and Black Redstart to name but a few.

Our two bases for this tour are ideally situated to ensure easy reach of all the main birding sites making this a break not to be missed!

Tour Leader: Steve Grimwade
Maximum Group Size: 7

Day 1
Travelling from Essex with possible pickups on route, we spend the late morning looking for the sought-after Cirl Bunting on the sheltered slopes of coastal Devon. These attractive birds that only occur in Devon and Cornwall often give good views as they feed in hedgerows and scrub. We explore a nearby shallow bay where we can expect to see Horned and Black-necked Grebes, Great Northern Diver plus Northern Fulmar, European Shag, Black-legged Kittiwake and Northern Gannet. The surrounding woodland often has Siberian Chiffchaff, Common Firecrest and the occasional Yellow-browed Warbler.

We arrive at our hotel in Devon early evening and settle in before enjoying our evening meal.
Overnight: Newton Abbott

Days 2 – 3
After a good breakfast we head into Cornwall and during the next two days explore local birding sites including the Hayle Estuary, Marazion Marsh, Penzance, Carbis Bay and other areas. The Hayle Estuary is one of the best places to see Mediterranean Gull amongst large numbers of gull species that may include goodies such as Ring-billed, Iceland and Glaucous Gulls. Hayle has held wintering Spotted Sandpiper, Eurasian Spoonbill, Green-winged Teal, White-billed Diver, American Wigeon and Common Tern in past years.

Penzance seafront is famous for its winter population of Purple Sandpiper and with a scan of the sea we may locate all three common diver species and perhaps a scarce grebe such as Horned or Black-necked. Rarer gulls are attracted to the fishing harbours of Newlyn and Penzance and could include Glaucous or Iceland and these often give fabulous views. The rocks and scrub in the surrounding areas are also great places to locate wintering Black Redstart and Common Firecrest.

Marazion Marsh boasts Cornwall’s largest reed-bed, a great place to locate overwintering Eurasian Bittern as well as the occasional Water Pipit on the wet grassland. It is also home to a very large Common Starling roost and the sight of thousands of birds wheeling in the sky is something never to be forgotten. Carbis Bay and Cape Cornwall in recent years have been a magnet for Balearic Shearwater, a rare bird in winter in the UK which is attracted inshore by large shoals of fish in the bays. These shoals also attract Northern Gannet, Common Guillemot, Razorbill and Common Scoter as well as both Bottle-nosed and Common Dolphins and we will keep our eyes peeled for Red-billed Chough that can be seen flying over the rocky headlands

Time will be spent searching for rare passerines such as Siberian Chiffchaff, Yellow-browed Warbler, Common Firecrest and Black Redstart around the many sheltered sewage works that create their own micro-climate. Cornwall’s larger water bodies are a magnet for rarer wildfowl and with diligent searching, we hope to find rarities such as Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup and American Wigeon amongst the more common wildfowl.
Overnight: Helston

Day 4
After breakfast we will check up-to-date information with our local contacts before leaving the hotel and spend the day exploring the area for any new birds before heading back to Devon for the final night.

In 2021 and 2022, Cornwall and Devon held good numbers of rarities and scarcities such as American Buff-bellied Pipit, Ring-billed Gull, Green-winged Teal, Western Cattle Egret, White-tailed Eagle, Lesser Scaup, Black Guillemot plus Iceland, Glaucous and Caspian Gulls amongst others.
Overnight: Newton Abbott

Day 5
After a good breakfast we will visit great local sites and nature reserves in search of any new birds before heading home early afternoon after a great weekend’s birding!

Tour includes
Full board accommodation for 4 nights
All ground transport
Full guiding throughout

Not included
Drinks and items of a personal nature
Lunch on Day 1

Pace
Relaxed, one to two miles walking per day

Birds
Expect between 100 and 115 species

Tour Cost: £890

Single Supplement: £120

Deposit: £250

Full

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