RSPB Nature Reserves in Devon
28th April 2022
All across the UK, there are wonderful wildlife locations known as RSPB Nature Reserves waiting to be enjoyed. The RSPB is the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and as part of their conservation work, they look after a collection of nature reserves to protect local birdlife. These reserves make for brilliant locations to visit, enjoy the outdoors, and marvel at the vibrant birdlife on display. Devon is home to its fair share of RSPB Nature Reserves and for those who live in the county or are visiting soon, this guide will highlight a handful to consider going to. You will also find a word or two about the accessibility of these locations for those who may have limited mobility or rely on stair lifts at home.
Labrador Bay in Torquay is known as one of the most stunning viewpoints on the South Devon coastline, offering wonderful views far out across Lyme Bay on a clear day. It is also an RSPB Nature Reserve and is, therefore, a brilliant place for some birdwatching. It’s an important location for the protection of the rare cirl bunting whose population is mostly restricted to South Devon. Other species that you can look forward to seeing at this coastal setting are buzzards, peregrines, and yellowhammers.
Alan and Ruth, professional bird guides from BirdWatching Trips, have been treated to a tour of Labrador Bay by local volunteers and have shared the following insight and tips for those planning to go themselves: “We have visited the reserve at Labrador Bay and really enjoyed our visit with great views of cirl buntings. Our top tips for a novice birdwatcher would be to visit early in the morning, and if possible, to contact the reserve and ask if a volunteer is going to be onsite at the time to help show some birds.”
The nature trails at Labrador Bay feature numerous gates and stiles that those with limited mobility might want to be aware of, as well as uneven paths and a lack of seating to rest weary legs.
You can read more about accessibility at Labrador Bay here.
Bird species at Labrador Bay
- Cirl bunting
- Peregrine falcon
Aylesbeare Common, located in Sidmouth, is a fantastic RSPB Nature Reserve, made up in a large part of heathland and woodland. Here you will find streams and ponds interspersed throughout the reserve, where butterflies and dragonflies love to congregate. Among the highlights to be found at Aylesbeare Common are Dartford warblers – a small, long-tailed warbler that remains on the Amber List of endangered species. The striking stonechats are another star species of the reserve and pairs can be seen throughout the year.
David, from the wildlife photography blog, David at the Hall of Einar, has visited Aylesbeare Common and has shared his experience of seeing Dartford warblers for the first time: “They’re not at all what I expected. They’re very long tailed and have real character when they fly. They remind me of seeing Sardinian warblers; they have the same fleshy eye-ring. Dartford warblers seem very furtive. I saw two in the same bush, and they definitely seemed up to no good. Occasionally they fly up to a perch to survey their domain. It’s amusing to see such a small living being so utterly convinced that it owns this territory.”
There are a number of events that take place at Aylesbeare Common, including Nightjar Walks and Yoga on the Heath. In terms of accessibility, there are uneven trails in places, with gradients and steps to take into consideration. However, there are benches available, and a mile of level tarmac.
You can read more about accessibility at Aylesbeare Common here.
Bird species at Aylesbeare Common
- Dartford warbler
- Tree pipit
Bowling Green and Goosemoor
Located near the town of Topsham, Bowling Green and Goosemoor is a nature reserve on the confluence of the River Exe and River Clyst. It’s an ideal location for watching migratory birds who come to the Marsh throughout the seasons. Over-wintering birds love Bowling Green Marsh thanks to the choice of safe roosting sites and many different types of wetland birds are attracted by the open water. The Nature Reserve is a great location for spotting the likes of Siberian brent geese from October to spring and black-tailed godwits in spring and autumn.
There are a number of events at Bowling Green and Goosemoor including photography workshops and cycling tours. In terms of accessibility, there is a viewing point designed for wheelchair accessibility, though the other viewing platform is only accessed by shallow steps.
You can read more about accessibility at Bowling Green and Goosemoor here.
Bird species at Bowling Green and Goosemoor
- Black-tailed godwit
- Brent goose
Located in Croyde is another wonderful RSPB Nature Reserve called Chapel Wood. This broadleaved woodland is not only a place of natural beauty but a historic setting, being home to its very own Iron Age fort, which crowns its hillside location with a stream running down either side. In terms of birdlife, visitors can look forward to spotting great spotted woodpeckers, tawny owls, and nuthatches to go along with terrestrial wildlife such as red deer and brown hares.
When it comes to accessibility at Chapel Wood, the nature trail features an unsurfaced path that can get muddy and steps on steeper slopes. There is seating available at the viewpoint and there are no gates or stiles to contend with.
You can read more about accessibility at Chapel Wood here.
Bird species at Chapel Wood
- Great spotted woodpecker
- Green woodpecker
- Tawny owl
Exminster and Powderham Marshes
Exminster and Powderham Marshes is a short distance from the city of Exeter and makes for a perfect location to escape the hustle and bustle and relax in nature. This wetland nature reserve features a freshwater marsh and canal with birds enjoying the location all year round. Flocks of geese, ducks, and waders populated the reserve, providing plenty of company for those who enjoy a lovely walk through this ever-fascinating landscape. Warblers like to visit the area, with a star attraction being the cettis and sedge warblers.
Events at Exminster and Powderham Marshes include a great range of cycle tours for spring arrivals, cirl bunting, and ospreys. In terms of accessibility, there are blue badge parking spaces and there are some seats at viewing points. The paths are unsurfaced and uneven except for part of the canal path.
You can read more about accessibility at Exminster and Powderham Marshes here.
Bird species at Exminster and Powderham Marshes
- Brent goose
- Cetti's warbler
- Sedge warbler
- Cirl bunting
RSPB Nature Reserves in Devon
- Labrador Bay
- Aylesbeare Common
- Bowling Green and Goosemoor
- Chapel Wood
- Exminster and Powderham Marshes
As you can see, there are a number of lovely locations to visit in Devon that are perfect for birdwatchers and wildlife lovers or just those who want to enjoy some time in nature. If you are in the area or will be soon, consider putting one or two of these locations on your to-do list.
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