Spectacular birding in late autumn/early winter

2022 Dates
  • 18 Oct - 21 Oct 2022
Duration4 Days
2022 Price
Price TBC
2023 Dates
  • 17 Oct - 20 Oct 2023
Duration4 Days
2023 Price
Price TBC
2024 Dates
  • 22 Oct - 25 Oct 2024
Duration4 Days
2024 Price
Price TBC
2025 Dates
  • 21 Oct - 24 Oct 2025
Duration4 Days
2025 Price
Price TBC
Max Group Size7 per guide

Autumn sees a fascinating and often spectacular migration of wintering birds to the wetlands and grasslands of north-west England. Wildfowl and waders will be moving around and passing through as we visit Leighton Moss, Morecambe Bay, the Ribble Estuary and Martin Mere. Whooper Swan, Great and Little Egret, Pink-footed and Greylag Goose, Ruff, Black- and Bar-tailed Godwits, Gadwall, Pintail, flocks of Wigeon and Teal, and maybe an occasional American Wigeon graze on the saltmarshes, and Red-breasted Merganser and Eider may be drifting offshore. The variety and sheer numbers of waders and wildfowl will give us constantly changing birdlife at the larger reserves, with plenty of opportunity for grey winter-plumage wader identification.   

Raptors include Peregrine, Merlin and both Marsh and Hen Harrier, and a range of wintering woodland passerines include Marsh Tit, Nuthatch, Tree Sparrow, Lesser Redpoll and Siskin. Fieldfare and Redwing will be exploiting winter berry crops, and we may find Waxwing or other Scandinavian migrants including Brambling. Twite, Cetti’s Warbler and Kingfisher may be found in exposed stretches or marginal wetland, and we may encounter Red Deer, Roe Deer and Otter too. 

You will visit reserves managed by RSPB, WWT and Lancashire Wildlife Trust, and all are supported by our visits, as your entry fee is included if you are not already a member.

Based a few miles south of Lancaster, our hotel offers lovely accommodation and excellent food inspired by traditional Lancashire recipes. This quiet backwater offers a great base to head north or south to Lancashire's nature reserves. We are directly on the towpath of Lancaster Canal’s Glasson Branch, and within walking distance of the River Conder, a small river which winds its way towards the mouth of the much larger River Lune a few hundred yards away from our hotel. Greenshank, Shelduck and a range of other ducks and waders change places daily here. We also plan to visit the key tidal locations of Glasson on the south side of the river Lune, and spectacular Sunderland Point on the north side, where tidal flooding of the only access road offers excellent birding, but means we have to plan our visit very carefully!

A relaxing and rewarding short break as autumn turns to winter, featuring many of the migrant and resident birds which characterise this part of the UK.

Day 1: Tuesday

Our holiday starts in Lancaster at 14:00. Our hotel is situated a short drive from the M6, and a few miles from the busy city of Lancaster, which has a main line rail station, where we can meet and return you at either end of the holiday. Arrival, welcome and dinner.

Days 2 & 3: Wednesday and Thursday
We visit the key tidal locations of Glasson on the south side of the River Lune, and spectacular Sunderland Point on the north side (please note our visit to Sunderland Point depends upon favourable tides). A variety of waders and wildfowl can be seen at close quarters, and Shelduck, Redshank and Little Egret can be particularly obliging. The only access road is subject to comprehensive flooding, giving the chance to be very close to individual birds, though we must emphasise this experience is only available subject to suitable tides! The coast at Morecambe is of great ornithological interest, especially on a rising tide when waders and ducks can gather in large numbers, and we also spend time at RSPB Leighton Moss, which boasts the largest reedbed in north-west England, and holds Water Rail and Bittern, easier to see in winter, and where Bearded Tits form flocks at this time of year, and gather grit from trays placed out for them. Vast Starling murmurations might swirl above the reedbeds as thousands of birds flock together before going to roost, and Little Egrets may gather in the trees at dusk. 

Heading south, the new Brockholes Nature Reserve was once an active quarry site, though Lancashire Wildlife Trust have now created a mosaic of habitats on the residual landscape, forming a key site for birds and other wildlife. Adjacent to the motorway, we spend a fascinating couple of hours here as we head towards Martin Mere, one of Lancashire’s premier birding sites. Here the daily swan feed can attract hundreds of Whoopers, and thousands of ducks plus flocks of geese and many migrating waders at close quarters can be expected. We will keep our eyes and ears open for any rarities in the area, and will be ready to drive to the many well-watched part of the coast should something extra-exciting be within reach!

Day 4: Friday
Breakfast, birding and depart. We enjoy some more birding in the immediate local area around Glasson, before having our packed lunch and saying our farewells. Transfers to Lancaster rail station will be available for trains departing after 14:00.

Please note: all itineraries are given as a guide only. Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather).

Being autumn, expect a wide variation in weather conditions, which can be unpredictable with temperatures perhaps averaging between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius. Sunshine, rain and strong winds are all possible, and you will probably experience a bit of everything. Biting insects are not expected. Please bring waterproof walking boots or shoes, weatherproof clothing and a small rucksack. The holiday will be run at a relaxed pace with short to moderate (1 to 3 mile) walks mainly on well walked tracks and paths, nothing overly strenuous.

What's included in your holiday price

• Three nights comfortable en-suite hotel accommodation. We choose from our personally inspected shortlist, where birders are welcome and the hospitality is special. Guests are never expected to share. All rooms are en-suite. Full details with your joining pack.

• Full English breakfast and dinner from Tuesday evening till Friday morning, packed lunch on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

• All entrance fees for reserves

• All transport by comfortable minibus.

• Guidance from a professional Group Leader.

What's not included in your holiday price

• Insurance, drinks and other items of a personal nature.
. Travel to/from Lancashire. This holiday starts and ends in Lancaster. Please note, your guide will meet you at Lancaster station at 14:00 on arrival day. Transfers to Lancaster rail station will be available for trains departing after 14:00 on the final day.


Other birding and wildlife holidays in Northern England

Why choose Heatherlea for your birding and wildlife holiday?

Heatherlea is one of Britain's leading wildlife holiday operators. In 2019 we celebrate our 29th Anniversary with more choice than ever, both in Scotland and overseas. Relax and enjoy yourself, as we do all the planning! Above all, we make it our business to show key wildlife to you. Our fully inclusive guided holidays concentrate on the real experience, and we take time to ensure that each of our guests enjoys everything we do.

  • We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for 30 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
  • We are a small company, run BY birders FOR birders. Come and see!
  • Heatherlea are Mainland Scotland’s FIRST ‘5-Star Wildlife Experience!’ This is the highest available grading, classified as ‘exceptional’ by visitScotland.
  • Heatherlea hold full Tour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
  • Heatherlea is a limited company, registered in Scotland. We are also registered to pay VAT, which is included in your holiday price as quoted on this page.
  • Once your holiday is confirmed in writing by us, we promise not to surcharge the price for any reason.

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About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: 01479 821248