Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti ©Steve Blain Website

The Bedfordshire recording area (area 30 in the Watsonian system) is co-terminus with the ceremonial county of the same name. Bedfordshire (abbreviation Beds) is in the East of England bordered by Northamptonshire to the north, Cambridgeshire to the northeast, Hertfordshire to the south and the southeast, and Buckinghamshire to the west.

The county has an area of c.1,200 km2 (470 square miles) with a population of around 700,000. The largest settlement is Luton  where about a third of the population live. Bedford is the county town and its other towns include Leighton Buzzard, Dunstable, and Biggleswade. However, much of the county is rural.

The southern end of the county is on the chalk ridge known as the Chiltern Hills, which has the county’s highest point at Dunstable Downs (243m). The remainder forms part of the broad drainage basin of the River Great Ouse and its tributaries. Most of Bedfordshire’s rocks are clays and sandstones with some limestone. Glacial erosion of chalk has left hard flint nodules deposited as gravel and these have been commercially extracted in the past at pits which are now lakes, notably at Priory Country Park, Wyboston and Felmersham. The Greensand Ridge is an escarpment across the county from near Leighton Buzzard to near Gamlingay in Cambridgeshire.

Birding Bedfordshire

At some 123,000 hectares Bedfordshire is one of the smallest counties in England, though it can boast of being the home of both the RSPB and for many years of the journal British Birds.

RSPB HQ & Reserve – The Lodge, Sandy – ©Peter Nash

Its geology, with four main strata of chalk, gault clay, lower greensand and Oxford clay traversing the county roughly from south-west to north-east ensures that it supports a diverse range of habitats even in a predominantly agricultural context, though some, such as heathland, now occur only in small, isolated fragments.

A total county list of about 300 species includes between 110 and 120 that regularly breed. On average around 200 species are recorded in all each year.

Bedfordshire’s speciality used to be Lady Amherst’s Pheasant, which occurred on the greensand having spread from its original introduction at Woburn (also occurring just into Bucks). The population of this extremely secretive bird has declined rapidly and is now presumed to have died out there.

Some popular sites for birdwatching are given below.

Top Sites
  • Blow's Downs

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    Famous for its migrant Ring Ousels in spring, as well as several other scarce migrant species, the details of which can be found regularly updated on the site's own website.
  • Harrold/Odell Country Park

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    for a variety of water birds and migrants.
  • Priory Country Park

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    where sightings in past years include Ferruginous Duck, Radde's Warbler and Yellow-browed Warbler…
  • The Marston Vale Brick Pits

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    (from Brogborough to Elstow) which hold large numbers of roosting gulls, often including several white-winged gulls, in winter.
  • Additional Material - Philip Tyler


  • Contributor - Andy Banthorpe

County Recorder
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 307

    County Bird - Hobby Falco subbuteo
  • Bedfordshire Bird Club County List

    The Bedfordshire List - last updated January 2023
Useful Reading

  • Bedfordshire Wildlife

    | By BS Nau | Castlemead Publications | 1987 | Hardback | 192 pages, Line illus, diagrams, maps, col & b/w photos | ISBN: 9780948555053 Buy this book from
  • The Birds of Bedfordshire

    | By Paul Trodd & David Kramer | Castlemead Publications | 1991 | Hardback | 376 pages, Illustrations | with 8 colour plates, line drawings and 113 distribution maps | ISBN: 9780948555152 Buy this book from
  • Where to Watch Birds in Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire & Oxfordshire

    | By Brian Clews, Andrew Herget & Paul Trodd | Christopher Helm | 2002 | Paperback | 320 pages, 69 maps, 30 line drawings | Out of Print | ISBN: 9780713640021 Buy this book from
  • BCNP - Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust

    We are the largest charity working for the conservation of wildlife and wild spaces within the three counties (including Beds). Based in five offices, the Trust campaigns for the sensitive and sustainable management of wildlife in the countryside and the urban landscape, manages thousands of hectares of land for wildlife and people, and carries out extensive educational work…
  • Bedfordshire Bird Club

    The Bedfordshire Bird Club was set up in 1992 by birdwatchers, from both inside and outside The Bedfordshire Natural History Society, to cater for their specialist needs. Its main functions are to record and document the avifauna within the County and to provide a forum for local birdwatchers
  • Bedfordshire Natural History Society

    he BNHS was founded in 1946, its main function to record the fauna and flora of Bedfordshire. The society is here to help, encourage and support those with an interest in wildlife. We endeavour to cover all branches of natural history particularly in relation to Bedfordshire

Abbreviations Key

  • *Bedfordshire Nature Reserves

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    The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire manages 126 nature reserves and 95% of our population lives less than five miles away from their nearest reserve. Use their interactive map to find a Wildlife Trust BCN nature reserve (shown with a badger flag) near you. Click on a number (indicating a cluster of reserves) to zoom in to show individual sites in this area.
  • CP Forest of Marston Vale (Marston Vale Millennium Park)

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    In the early 1990s, the government designated the 61 square mile area between Bedford and Milton Keynes a community forest and the forest of Marston Vale was born…
  • CP Harrold-Odell Country Park

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    Its main features are two picturesque lakes, river meadows alongside the River Great Ouse, a Nature Reserve and a range of managed habitats.
  • CP Millennium Country Park

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    Wetlands Nature Reserve – the home of our bird hides, sand martin wall and Tower Hide and Woodland Walkway. This part of the Park is a haven for wildlife
  • CP Priory Country Park

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    Priory Country Park is an established green area, of around 360 acres, made up of lakes, meadows and woodland, partially enclosed within a bend in the river Great Ouse.
  • Great Bramingham Wood

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    Bramingham Wood is an area of natural woodland, located immediately to the north of the town of Luton in the County of Bedfordshire. In 1985, the Woodland Trust, a nation-wide charity now with in excess of 100,000 members, took over the management and subsequently the ownership of Bramingham Wood from the then private owners. Consisting of approximately 45 acres, the wood is classified as an ancient woodland in that it has known to have been in existence for at least 400 years and has probably been a woodland for much longer.
  • LNR Begwary Brook

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    From swans floating majestically across the water, to tall vegetation swaying gently in the breeze, Begwary Brook offers a range of interest to wildlife lovers at any time of year.
  • LNR Blow's Down Nature Reserve

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    Blow's Downs is now a well-known birdwatching site, particularly renowned for the regular appearance of Ring Ouzel on spring passage. Despite this species traditional use of the site many people visit Blow's but go away having not seen this elusive thrush. These notes aim to pass on some of the expertise that the locals have gained in locating them.
  • LNR Cooper's Hill

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    The reserve consists of rare and endangered open heath, patches of gorse and broom and isolated trees, surrounded by pockets of woodland.
  • LNR Cople Pits

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    Dragonflies can often be seen hunting other insects and fighting with each other for territory, while kingfishers take small fish from the pits. Other birds feed and nest amongst the dense scrub that now exists. Great spotted woodpeckers can be glimpsed in the canopy of mature willow and ash trees as they search for insects inside dead branches.
  • LNR Felmersham Gravel Pits

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    Wildfowl congregate on the open water including great crested grebe, teal and tufted duck, while grey heron hunt along the banks. Chiffchaff, reed bunting, and sedge and willow warblers can all be found on site.
  • LNR Flitwick Moor (& Folly Wood)

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    An important wetland with an mix of fen, meadow, wet woodland and fragile peaty soils. In the heart of the Flit Valley, this wetland was left behind when peat was cut from the site as recently as the 1960s. The peat was used in the purification of natural gas. Long before that, the naturally iron-rich groundwater that bubbled up to the surface from springs was bottled and sold as a tonic for the blood.
  • LNR Old Warden Tunnel

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    The scrub provides nesting sites and song posts for summer warblers and the cutting can echo with the song of willow warblers and blackcaps.
  • LNR Pavenham Osier Beds

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    Osiers, a type of willow, have been grown here for many years, the constant cutting stimulates their rapid growth and provides a ready supply of material for basket weavers. We are continuing the tradition by planting more osiers, which also produce dense cover for the nests of summer visiting warblers. Hops can be seen draped over the boundary hedgerows, whilst the mature wooded section of the reserve offers a secluded retreat with large willow trees lining the riverbank, giving a perch for kingfishers to hunt their prey, swimming innocently below.
  • LNR Pegsdon Hills

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    Steep hills and tranquil valleys in the Chilterns, with magnificent views of the countryside. One of the jewels of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Pegsdon Hills’ steep chalk hills offer some of the best views in the county. In spring, moschatel, or town-hallclock, named after the arrangement of its flowers, can be found in the woodland, while dingy and grizzled skipper butterflies flutter around in the grassland.
  • LNR Totternhoe

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    Large anthills on the open grassland are home to the yellow meadow ant; green woodpeckers visit to feed on the insects and larvae. Cowslips are the food plant of the caterpillars of the scarce Duke of Burgundy, which prefers to lay its eggs on those leaves growing in the dappled shade of light scrub. Totternhoe is also the best place in the county to see the small blue butterfly. In the early evening hundreds can be found in the quarry edges.
  • NNR Barton Hills National Nature Reserve

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    Barton Hills are situated southeast of the village of Barton-le-Clay in the English county of Bedfordshire. They are part of the Chilterns and hiking routes are marked on maps at the entrance to the hills. From the foot of the hillside, a spring (Barton Springs) marks the start of a chalk stream river. During the summer, Dartmoor ponies roam the hills.
  • NNR King’s Wood and Rushmere

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    Birch, sessile oak, bracken and heather grow in the sandy areas, with pedunculate oak, hornbeam and dog’s mercury on the clay. There are small-leaved lime trees here and a large population of lily-of-the-valley. The site is also home to rare mosses and fungi and there are recent records of the purple emperor butterfly here.
  • NNR Knocking Hoe

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    Colourful wildflowers cover the chalk grassland, including horseshoe vetch, small scabious, rock rose and clustered bellflower. The site is also well known for its population of the orchid autumn lady’s-tresses which has been studied continuously on the reserve for 50 years.
  • RSPB Reserve - The Lodge

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    This reserve is a mixture of woodland, heathland and includes the formal gardens of the RSPB's UK headquarters…
Sightings, News & Forums
  • BedsBirds

    Mailing List
    Birding in Bedfordshire, England. - Register here:
  • Herts, Beds & Bucks Birding

    Sightings, Photos, ID Help & Birding
Other Links
  • Ivel Valley Wild Bird Food

    Ivel Valley Wild Bird Food © 2024 - Lodge Farm, Chicksands, Shefford, Bedfordshire, SG17 5QB
  • Opticron

    Opticron Unit 21, Titan Court, Laporte Way, Luton, Bedfordshire, LU4 8EF, UK
  • Steve Blain - Bedsbirds Images

    Photoblog from a whole raft of good Beds photographer/birders…
Photographers & Artists
  • Bedfordshire Birds

    Flickr Gallery
    Collecting together photographs of all wild bird species taken in Bedfordshire, England.
  • Photographer

  • Photographer - Steve Blain

    Flickr Gallery
    Bird Porn - Steve Blain lives in Bedfordshire, loves digiscoping, local patching and county birding. Also enjoys the odd trip to far away lands to seek out mystical forest dwellers.

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