Nature inspiration for your outdoor pursuits
Spring is on the horizon, with the days getting longer and daffodils starting to peak out of the earth. This puts many of us in a planning mood – where will we go on holiday? What would we like to see? When should we go?
Every season has its own kaleidoscope of natural beauty, so we've lined up a snapshot of some of the sights you can see throughout the year right here in the UK. If you’d like to find out more about the more than 200 RSPB reserves, please just visit the RSPB website.
Seabirds on the wing
Head to Rathlin Island to see Northern Ireland’s largest seabird colony. As well as puffins there are also guillemot, kittiwake, razorbill, fulmar, even Northern Ireland’s only pair of breeding cough and corncrake! Visit in May for the best views of birds plotting out their nests, and to see the first chicks - many of which hatch on bare ledges right in full view of lucky visitors.
The Oa on Islay, Scotland, is one of the best places to spot golden eagles. They soar above the cliffs and moors, and in the early spring you can admire their territorial display flights.
Looking for some quiet contemplation? Then Blean Woods in Canterbury might be for you. This beautiful and ancient woodland has five trails to explore, the longest of which takes you on an eight-mile wander through mature oaks that host lesser spotted woodpeckers and nightingales.
Grass snakes? Dragonflies? Otters?
Nestled between the mountains of southern Snowdonia and the Cambrian hills, Ynys-hir has grass snakes, common lizards, bluebells, otters in the quiet pools, and a whole host of birds including pied flycatchers and redstarts. This incredible reserve, turning 50 this year, has something for everyone.
Itching for some insects
Canvey Wick in Essex is 93.2 hectares of bursting wildlife – as many species per square metre as there are in a rainforest! It’s one of the most important British sites for endangered invertebrates, the creatures at the heart of any thriving ecosystem. At Canvey Wick they help whole fields of wildflowers burst into bloom and provide ample food for the insect-eating yellow wagtails and skylarks.
Raving about reptiles
Arne in Dorset is one of the few places in the UK where you can see all six of the UK’s native reptiles. On a warm day you might catch a glimpse of a sand lizard soaking up some sun, or see a slow worm slithering across the path. It also has the largest flock of spoonbills, and is one of the best places to spot the Dartford warbler.
Dungeness on the south coast of Kent is a true crossroads of migrating birds. Sand martins, swallows and house martins will be flying through on their way south for the winter, while other such as the smew will have just arrived from Scandinavia or Russia, ready for a relatively warm winter season in the UK. With its long, shingle beach, it’s also got some spectacular sunsets to wind down your day.
Fun with fungus
There’s so much to see at the 800 hectare Inversnaid in Stirling that it’s hard to pick just one main feature. But we have to mention the milk cap fungus - it can be bigger than a dinner plate! While there you can also hear the stags rutting up on the hills, find rare ferns and mosses along the banks of Loch Lomond, and look for fieldfares feasting on berries on the hill trail.
An English safari
No need to travel to Africa, you can get a 4x4 safari right here in the UK. Head over to Minsmere in Suffolk to see parts of this incredible reserve which visitors normally never get to see (this is very popular and must be booked in advance, so please keep an eye on the website). Even without the safari experience the reserve is still bursting with wildlife – there are avocets, bearded tits and bitterns, and you might even see an otter around the reedbed pools.
Raptors of the sky
Capel Fleet in north Kent may well be the best place in Britain to see birds of prey. In the winter short-eared owls hunt the fields right next to the viewpoint, while cold easterly winds bring rough-legged buzzards to Sheppey. There are also peregrines, hobbies, marsh harriers, barn owls – a place that shows how much winter can have to offer.
Red Kites on the wing
With stunning views across Easter Ross to Ben Wyvis, Tollie Red Kites provides close-up views of one of the most graceful bird of prey. Volunteers feed the birds every day from a specially converted farmstead building, helping to build back up this species of bird which was, for a while, lost from the UK.
The Disney Princess experience
Ever wanted to hand-feed a woodland creature? Loch Garten might be the answer – you can feed coal tits straight from your hand, allowing you to feel just how feather-light they are (about the same weight as eight paperclips!). You can then take a walk around the reserve to see if you can find red squirrels, roe deer, wild greylag or pink-footed geese – there’s a whole cornucopia of wildlife all set against the magnificent backdrop of the Cairngorms.
Visit the RSPB at the show on stand 4610 in Hall 4.