With more nature reserves than any other county in the Southwest, Somerset is a fabulous place for birdwatching. Situated just a stone’s throw from several nationally important nature reserves on the Somerset Levels and Moors, Cossington Park is the perfect spot for a birdwatching holiday.
Nestled between the Mendip and Quantock Hills, the Somerset Levels are a huge network of rivers, rhynes and reclaimed peat workings providing a fantastic wetland habitat for a huge range of birds and wildlife throughout the year.
Somerset birdwatching highlights
Just a short drive from Cossington Park, you’ll find the stunning RSPB Ham Wall and Shapwick Heath Nature Reserves.
Together with the Westhay Moor, Catcott, Huntspill and Bridgwater Bay Nature Reserves, they form part of the Somerset Wetlands sNNR, one of England’s largest “Super National Nature Reserves”.
Birdwatchers can spot an amazing variety of birds at Ham Wall and Shapwick Heath throughout the year, including Great Bitterns, Marsh and Hen Harriers, Hobbies and various owl species.
The Somerset Levels are also home to the UK’s largest breeding populations of Great White Egrets. You may even catch a glimpse of an Osprey at certain times of the year.
In winter, the reserves see a significant influx of waterfowl, such as Teal, Wigeon, Pintail, Gadwall and Shovelers.
Somerset starling murmurations
The Ham Wall and Shapwick Heath nature reserves are famous for their spectacular winter starling murmurations.
Between November and March, the reserves host one of the UK’s largest starling roosts. At dawn and dusk each day, birdwatchers can witness the spectacle of hundreds of thousands of starlings dipping and diving over the reed beds.
Tips for watching the starling murmurations:
- Visit on weekdays, outside of school holidays or at dawn to avoid the busiest times for visitors
- Call the Starling hotline on 07866 554142 for roost locations at Ham Wall or Shapwick Heath
- Arrive before 2pm to secure parking at Ham Wall reserve. Visitors may be turned away if the car park is full
Bridgwater Bay and Steart Marshes Nature Reserve
The Bridgwater Bay Nature Reserve is one of the UK’s largest intertidal mudflats, forming the coastal edge of the Levels.
The reserve is an internationally important site for waders and waterfowl and boasts the largest area of salt marsh in Somerset.
In spring, birdwatchers can enjoy the sight of Godwits, Golden Plovers, Avocets, Curlews, Oystercatchers and Lapwings. Summer highlights include Spoonbills, Ringed Plovers and Curlew Sandpipers. The reserve is also an internationally significant moulting ground for Shelducks in July.
During winter, the reserve provides a crucial habitat for overwintering ducks and waders, including Wigeons, Gadwalls and Pintails, as well as Lapwings, Dunlins, Golden Plovers and Avocets. Birdwatchers may also spot Peregrine Falcons, Hen and Marsh Harriers, Merlins and Short-Eared Owls.
Somerset Birdwatching Holidays at Cossington Park
Cossington Park Estate provides the perfect group accommodation for birdwatching holidays.
With two stunning period properties set in 22 acres of wildlife-rich grounds, our luxury self-catering accommodation comfortably sleeps 18 guests.
Our kitchens are brilliantly equipped to cater for large groups. You can also arrange for private catering.
Nature reserves near Cossington Park
Cossington Park is conveniently close to the different reserves making up the Somerset Wetlands sNNR:
Huntspill River: Around 3 miles (7 minutes)
Catcott: Around 4.5 miles (12 minutes)
Westhay Moor: Around 8 miles (17 minutes)
RSPB Ham Wall and Shapwick Heath: Around 8.5 miles (20 minutes)
Bridgwater Bay: Around 33 miles (40 minutes)