Best Birdwatching Spots in Cumbria

Best Birdwatching Spots in Cumbria

Breed Facts

Cumbria is the third largest county in England and covers the far north-west part along the border with Scotland. It is best known for the Lake District National Park, which receives around 15.8 million visitors each year. The county town is Carlisle and the other major town is Barrow-in-Furness.


The Solway Firth forms part of the border of England and Scotland running from St Bees Head just to the south of Whitehaven to the Mull of Galloway at the western end of Dumfries and Galloway. The Isle of Man is also nearby. The firth is known for its geese as well as flocks of waders that make it home including Oystercatcher, Curlew, Lapwing, Dunlin, Redshank and both Golden and Grey Plover, all of which can be seen from the viewpoint near Bowness. To the east are raised banks where Barnacle Geese can be seen by the thousand as well as Whooper Swan on the nearby marshy land.

St Bees Head is named for the village nearby of the same name and is on the Cumbria Coastal Way as well as the Wainwright Coast to Coast. Thousands of gulls, Guillemots, Kittiwakes, Fulmars and Razorbills make the sandstone cliffs their home and Puffins and Black Guillemots are also sometimes seen. Access to the cliffs is through the RSBP Reserve and the top of the cliffs are home to Gannet, Cormorant and Peregrine Falcons. Nearby Tarn Flatts is home to a wide range of finches and other countryside birds with warblers seen in summer.

Walney Island is an island off the coast of Morecambe Bay and is part of Barrow in Furness. The southern tip is a reserve managed by Cumbria Wildlife Trust and has an active bird ringing station. The island has a mixture of mud flats, dunes and saltmarshes that means it has a variety of residents as well as good offshore bird watching. Overwintering species include divers and grebes as well as seabirds such as the Manx Shearwater and sea ducks.

Hodbarrow Point Reserve is an RSPB reserve between the towns of Millom and Haverigg. It was once the site of one of the world’s richest hematite mines and today the mines are flooded and part of the reserve. Hodbarrow Lagoon is the largest stretch of coastal open water in north-western England and is home to large numbers of waders and waterfowl including Common, Sandwich and Little Terns, Oystercatchers, Grebes, Herons, Spotted Redshank and Black tailed Godwits. It is also home to the now-rare Natterjack Toad.


Bassenthwaite Lake has an unusual area in its southern tip where a range of wildfowl makes a winter home. These include Pochard, Wigeon, Great Crested and Little Grebe, Goosander and Goldeneye. There are sometimes visits from otter across the bay while Ospreys are an ever-increasing visitor to the area. You can park near Powter How and walk through a small oak woodland to get by the lake where Great Spotted Woodpecker, Wood Warblers and pied Flycatchers can be seen seasonally.

Killington Lake is a reservoir that was formed from the damming of Killington Beck in 1819. Burns Beck Moss Nature Reserve is on the west side of the lake and cover 47 acres of infilled tarn dating from the Ice Age. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is home to a range of birds including tawny owl, reed bunting, snipe and heron. Other residents include curlew, sedge, grasshopper and willow warbler as well as meadow pipits. There are also fox, hare and roe deer on the site.


Haweswater is a reservoir in the valley of Mardale, created in 1929 and the area is home to the only Golden Eagle in England. His mate died in 2004 and he flies to display and tempt a new mate from over the border. Although sightings of him aren’t regular, the spot is also good for seeing a range of gulls and wildfowl as well as Peregrine Falcon, Ring Ouzel, Ravens and Wheatear.

Campfield Marsh is an RSBP reserve home to many familiar faces such as Barnacle Geese, Lapwings, Pink footed Geese and Redshank as well as Snipe often seen displaying in spring. It also has a number of season visitors of note including in spring Artic Skua, in the summer Dunlin and Knot, in the autumn Bar tailed Godwit and Hen Harriers as well as Oystercatchers and Pintail Duck and in winter Grey Plover and Shoveler Duck.

Watchtree Nature Reserve is near Wiggonby and is a 205-acre site between Solway and the Lake District. There have been over 60 species of bird spotted on the site with different ones at certain times of the year and particular areas of the site. For example, the meadows and hedgerows are home to Skylarks, Meadow Pipit and Stonechat while near the water are Curlew, Snipe and Oystercatchers. The woodlands on the site are home to Treecreepers, Jay and Greater Spotted Woodpecker. Seasonally, there are arrivals in spring from Eastern Europe and Scandinavia such as Swifts, Sand Martins and Warblers living alongside residents such as Robins, Blue Tits and Song Thrush.

Leighton Moss is another RSPB reserve near Carnforth and is the largest remaining reedbed in north-western England. It has a vast range of habitats including shallow meres surrounded by sedge and woodland, reed beds, saltwater lagoons and shallow open water and dykes. The range of wildlife is impressive and one of the most important is the Bittern, one of the largest and rarest birds in the country, which is now breeding on the site. Other notable residents include Avocets, Bearded Tits, Kingfishers, Merlins, Water Rail and Marsh Harriers.

The Osprey Project

Across sites in Cumbria is the Osprey Project where specially constructed viewpoints have been created to view these amazing birds of prey. Telescopes are provided to allow viewing of their nests and there are staff on hand during the day to help and provide information. The two main sites are in Whinlatter Forest Park near Bassenthwaite Lake and Dodd Wood.



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