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Lancashire and The Wirral

Spectacular birding in late autumn/early winter

2024 Dates
  • 21 Oct - 27 Oct 2024
Duration7 Days
2024 Price
£1795 pp
£245 single supplement. Deposit £300
2025 Dates
  • 20 Oct - 26 Oct 2025
Duration7 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, Martin Mere and The Wirral peninsula. 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.

Whooper Swan, Ruff, Black- and Bar-tailed Godwit, Great and Little Egret, Pink-footed and Greylag Goose, Gadwall, Pintail, flocks of Wigeon and Teal, and maybe an occasional rarity such as American Wigeon graze on the saltmarshes, and Red-breasted Merganser and Eider may be drifting offshore. Water Rail, Bittern and Bearded Tit are also found. Raptors include both Barn and Short-eared Owl, 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 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.

This is a two-centre holiday. Our first base is located at a lovely hotel on The Wirral, with views over the Dee estuary to North Wales. Both Marsh and Hen Harrier can be seen from the hotel balcony and we are within easy reach of RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands and the northern coast of The Wirral.

In Lancashire we stay in a comfortable hotel just south of Lancaster, offering lovely accommodation and excellent food inspired by traditional Lancashire recipes. This quiet backwater is 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 easy 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, previous rarities on this trip include Lesser Yellowlegs, Long-billed Dowitcher and Glossy Ibis!

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

Day 1: Monday

Our holiday starts in Lancaster, which has a main line rail station, where we can meet and return you at either end of the holiday, at 14:00 and we transfer to our hotel on The Wirral. 

Arrival, welcome and dinner.

Days 2 and 3: Tuesday and Wednesday

We visit the RSPB reserve of Burton Mere Wetlands which pulls in a good number of waders & wildfowl, often with a rarity or two. The reedbeds contain Cetti’s Warbler and Water Rail and the wader scrapes often have Spotted Redshank and plenty of Black-tailed Godwit. Rarities here in autumn over the last few years have included Long-billed Dowitcher, Wilson’s Phalarope and Spotted Crake. Nearby Burton Marsh and Decca Pools are also worth a visit and we will spend some time surveying the saltmarsh from Parkgate where Short-eared Owl, Merlin, Hen Harrier and Marsh Harrier are often seen along with Great Egret.

The northern coast of The Wirral will also be visited, sites such as New Brighton and Leasowe attract waders while the paddocks and fields alongside the coast can attract migrant passerines including winter thrushes and finches. The marine lake at West Kirkby often pulls in a diver or rarer duck species and there are lovely views from here across to Hilbre Island and North Wales.

Day 4: Thursday

We begin our journey to Lancashire, heading through one of the Mersey Tunnels and birding along the Sefton coast. We head for WWT Martin Mere, one of Lancashire’s premier birding sites, where the daily swan feed can attract hundreds of Whoopers, and thousands of ducks plus flocks of geese and many migrating waders can be expected at close quarters. 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 parts of the coast should something extra-exciting be within reach!

Our hotel is situated a short drive from the M6, and a few miles from the busy city of Lancaster.

Day 5 & 6: Friday & Saturday

We visit the internationally important Morecambe Bay which provides valuable food to many wintering waders and wildfowl, which can gather in large numbers. Nearby Heysham Power Station is perhaps a surprising location but the outflows draw in a number of gulls, sometimes including Little Gull or maybe something rarer! The harbour here is a good place for wintering auks and sometimes Twite. 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, gathering grit from trays placed out for them.

The Ribble and Wyre estuaries and Fylde coast also provide excellent birding opportunities and we visit key sites in the area where large flocks of geese gather, sometimes including one of the rarer species. A large flock of Twite regularly winters in the area and we may also find other migrants such as Snow Bunting and Black Redstart. Wetland reserves such as Marton Mere and Fairhaven near Blackpool can give more opportunities for Bittern and Water Rail as well as wildfowl.

Day 7: Sunday

Breakfast and depart. Transfers to Lancaster rail station will be available for services departing after 12:00pm.

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°C. 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 (2 to 5 miles) walks mainly on well walked tracks and paths, nothing overly strenuous but a reasonable level of fitness is recommended.

What's included in your holiday price

• Six 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 Monday evening till Sunday morning, packed lunch from Tuesday - Saturday

• 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 (other arrangements can be made if travelling by car). Transfers to Lancaster rail station will be available for trains departing after 12:00 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.

About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: +44(0)1479 821248