Common Crane Grus grus ©Jon Heath Website

The Cambridgeshire & Peterborough recording area (areas 29 & 31 in the Watsonian system) are comprised of the ceremonial county of Cambridgeshire. This is a land-locked county in East Anglia. It comprises the old counties of Cambridgeshire & the Isle of Ely and the historic county of Huntingdonshire and the ‘Soke of Peterborough’. It is an East Anglian county in England, bordering Lincolnshire to the north, Norfolk to the northeast, Suffolk to the east, Essex and Hertfordshire to the south, and Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire to the west. The county has an area of 3,389 km2 (1,309 square miles) and a population of around 850,000 people. Peterborough and Cambridge, located in the north-west and south respectively, are by far the largest settlements. The remainder of the county is rural, and contains the tiny city of Ely with its imposing minster, and small towns such as Wisbech and St Neots.

In medieval times, it contained a vast swamp, known as the fens, which was drained by Dutch engineers in the 1600s, rendering much of the county below sea level, but leaving one small remnant at Wicken Fen. Large areas of the county are extremely low-lying and Holme Fen is notable for being the UK’s lowest physical point at 2.75m (9 ft) below sea level. The highest point is in the village of Great Chishill at just 146m (480 ft) above sea level.

Cambridge University Botanic Gardens ©Chris Lotz

Cambridgeshire has a maritime temperate climate which is broadly similar to the rest of the United Kingdom, though it is drier than the UK average due to its low altitude and easterly location, the prevailing southwesterly winds having already deposited moisture on higher ground further west. Average winter temperatures are cooler than the English average, due to Cambridgeshire’s inland location and relative nearness to continental Europe, which results in the moderating maritime influence being less strong. Snowfall is slightly more common than in western areas, due to the relative winter coolness and easterly winds bringing occasional snow from the North Sea. In summer temperatures are average or slightly above, due to less cloud cover.

Of note is the fact that Cambridgeshire is the least wooded county in England with very few woods.

Birding Cambridgeshire

Those engineers also created a rich habitat called the Ouse Washes (an area which is deliberately allowed to flood taking pressure off other places) with breeding Black-tailed Godwit. Welney (close by in Norfolk); a Mecca for wintering waterfowl, is situated on the washes as is the RSPB reserve at Welches Dam further south.

Wicken Fen Vision, an ambitious landscape-scale conservation project, has opened up new areas of land to explore. Its grazing herds of Highland cattle and Konik ponies are helping to create a diverse range of new habitats, recreating fenland on an enlarging area.

Wicken Fen – May 2023 ©Jon Heath

Other popular birding spots are Grafham Water in the west, Fen Drayton gravel pits, the Nene Washes near Peterborough, Fowlmere as well as a number of landfill sites with a fine parade of gulls.

Recently, six or seven pairs of Common Crane have nested in the county and the wintering flock that wanders between Nene and the Ouse Washes numbers up to ninety birds!

The county is also home to the headquarters of Birdlife International and the World Conservation Monitoring Centre. The Cambridgeshire Bird Club and Peterborough Bird Club are both active with winter lectures and year-round outings. Records should be sent to the county recorder listed below.

Top Sites
  • Castor Hanglands

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    This ancient woodland, about five miles west of Peterborough is reached by leaving the A47 north at Ailsworth and following a minor road towards Helpston. Park at the north end of the wood by a bridle way approx. SP 1363. If you come to some crossroads, you have gone too far. Follow the bridle way into the wood. Best time to visit is in spring, either for the dawn chorus or towards dusk. Target species include Nightingale, Grasshopper Warbler, Woodcock and Long-eared Owl with a supporting cast of Turtle Dove, Hobby, Cuckoo and the occasional Quail. Beware; there have been a lot of cars broken into in the last year.
  • Eldernell

    InformationSatellite View
    This is the back end of the Nene Washes and is the best approach to this reserve in winter as walking down the main drove means that you automatically break the skyline and spook the wildfowl. Access is from the A605 Whittlesey to March road. Just east of the village of Coates, turn north along Eldernell Lane and park in the car park at the end of the road. Much viewing can be done from the car park - indeed, due to flooding; you might well find that you can't go any further. The Nene Way footpath leads east and west but your best bet is to head west (turn left as you face the wash) and follow the path along the top of the bank. The pool and reed bed on your left sometimes holds a wintering Bittern. The wood on your right contains a large heronry, also Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker. As soon as you pass the wood, drop down to avoid flushing the wildfowl.
  • Fen Drayton

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    The site is easy to access by public transport with a guided busway running right through the middle. Buses travelling from Cambridge or St Ives will be able to stop at platforms close to where the Busway intersects with Holywell Ferry Road. There are a number of public and permissive rights of way around the lakes, though to cover the whole complex thoroughly will take a good 3-4 hours depending on what route is taken. The site is subject to periodic flooding and care must be taken as to which paths and bridleways can be accessed. Since the extraction of gravel began in 1953, at least 215 species have been recorded in the area with some 65 species being regular breeders. Recent highlights include Blue-winged Teal, White-winged Black Tern, Glossy Ibis, Red-footed Falcon and Great Reed Warbler. Bitterns are now a regular sight, with Holywell Lake and Elney Lake being the favoured sites. Small numbers of Smew are fairly regular in winter.
  • Ferry Meadows

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    This country park is accessed from the A605, a couple of miles west of Peterborough city centre and is well signposted. This is a fair, all-round site with a good mix of habitats - river, lake, scrub, woodland etc -offering a good range of the commoner species - a visit in May could produce 50-60 species. The wader scrapes (two hides) no longer support breeding waders - the odd pair of Little Ringed Plovers - but there are good numbers of Common Terns around (peak 75 this year) with passage Arctic Terns. Black Terns and Little Gulls appear in suitable conditions. The site is at the junction of two main migration routes - the A1 and the River Nene so the odd unusual bird does turn up though it is usually early dates for migrants rather than major rarities. Winter sees the occasional scarce grebe or diver on the lake and there is a huge pre-roost gathering of corvids. Redpolls and Siskins are often in alders by the hides. Bluebell Wood holds all three woodpeckers though Lesser Spotted Woodpecker is getting very hard to find.
  • Little Paxton Gravel Pits

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    One of the UK's best sites for seeing and hearing nightingales. See the Website below for further details.
  • Nene Washes

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    The main entrance to the Nene Washes is accessed from the B1040 Whittlesey to Thorney road. Leave the A47 at south at Thorney and continue until you cross the river. (On your right is a minor road with the Dog in a Doublet pub just along it. Park here and check the River Nene at the sluice for the occasional auk, shag etc.) Once you have crossed the river, continue until you see a track on your left by a row of trees at 90 degrees to the road. Follow this track (many potholes) as it doubles back on itself. Park when you come to the main drove and walk down the drove as far as you want (it is about three miles long) Best on a warm spring evening when there will be plenty of displaying waders - Redshank, Snipe, Lapwing, and the star bird, Black-tailed Godwit. Other waders can be seen on passage and you might see Barn and Long-eared Owls, Marsh Harrier and Hobby. Spotted Crakes are heard most years after dusk though there is no chance of seeing them.
  • Ouse Washes

    WebpageSatellite View
    The RSPB Reserve at Welches Dam offers the comfort of birding from (several) hides but the washes can be viewed along their entire length via footpaths along the banks that mark the eastern and western boundaries. Flood conditions are variable. In a typical year, the main winter floods come in late November or early December and leave the washes under a deep bank-to-bank flood along their entire length until March. These floodwaters drain off gradually during early spring to provide ideal conditions for wet grassland breeding species and grazing cattle (an essential management tool). During late spring, summer and autumn, specially created permanent pools provide the best areas for birding. Spring floods occur in some years. This is disastrous for breeding birds that become 'flooded out' but can provide excellent birding conditions during late spring and early summer. In some winters, a bank-to-bank flood does not occur and the mix of flash floods and drier areas provides excellent birding conditions too. During winter, the star attraction is the flocks of thousands of wildfowl including wild Swans that feed on adjacent arable land by day and roost on the washes.
  • Wicken Fen

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    A fen, dyke and woodland in a sea of farmland. Attracts bunting and finch flocks in winter. Good for marshloving species etc.
  • Dick Newell (Cambridgeshire)


County Recorder
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 349

    County Bird - Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa [It used to be Ruff but that no longer breeds in the county. Cambridgeshire has an important breeding population of the nominate race of Black-tailed Godwit and get large numbers of migrant Icelandic birds]. The County Emblem is the Great Bustard - last confirmed breeding in 1831 and last recorded in 1902.
Useful Reading

  • Cambridgeshire Bird Atlas 2007-2011

    | By Louise Bacon, Alison Cooper & Hugh Venables | Cambridgeshire Bird Club | 2013 | Paperback | 294 pages, b/w illustrations, tables, 500 colour distribution maps | Out of Print | ISBN: 9780902038271 Buy this book from
  • Handbook to the Natural History of Cambridgeshire

    | Editors John Edward Marr & Arthur Everett Shipley | Cambridge University Press | 2010 | Paperback | 260 pages, 2 b/w maps | ISBN: 9781108007665 Buy this book from
  • The Birds of Cambridgeshire

    | By PMM Bircham | Cambridge University Press | 2009 |Paperback | 296 Pages, Illustrations | ISBN: 9780521111720 Buy this book from
  • The Birds of Cambridgeshire: Checklist 2000

    | Compiled & publiushed by Cambridge Bird Club | Out of Print | ISBN: Buy this book from
  • Where to Watch Birds in East Anglia

    (Cambridgeshire, Norfolk & Suffolk) | By David Callahan | Bloomsbury Publishing | 2020 | Edition 5 | Paperback | 366 pages, b/w illustrations, b/w maps | ISBN: 9781472962225 Buy this book from
  • Beds, Cambs & Northants Wildlife Trust

    The Trust has managed nature reserves, right across the three counties, for many years. Now we’re connecting these reserves together.
  • Cambridge Conservation Forum

    Facebook Page
    Cambridge Conservation Forum endeavours to achieve its aims by: fostering contacts between people in different organisations; broadening awareness of the exceptional pool of local expertise and activities; and encouraging the development of joint initiatives aimed at tackling common problems
  • Cambridgeshire Bird Club

    The Cambridgeshire Bird Club promotes the study, recording and conservation of birds in Cambridgeshire and encourages a wider interest in natural history and the protection of county wildlife habitats.
  • Cambs Bird Club

    Twitter Website
    We promote the study, recording and conservation of birds and their habitats in Cambridgeshire. @CambsBirdClub
  • Peterborough Bird Club

    The aim of the PBC is to bring together all those with an interest in birds in the Peterborough area and to increase their knowledge and enjoyment of birds and other wildlife. We also aim to raise awareness of birds among the local people and to promote their conservation. Outdoor Meetings are held most months, with a healthy mix of visits to both local sites and reserves further a field. Our winter indoor programme runs from September to April (excluding December) on the last Tuesday of the month. Indoor meetings start at 7.30pm at the Post Office Sports and Social Club on Bourges Boulevard Peterborough PE1 2AU…
  • RSPB - Cambridge Local Group

    This is the website of the Cambridge Local Group. RSPB local groups are a great way to meet friendly, like-minded people in your area while learning more about birds and wildlife.
  • RSPB - Huntingdonshire Local Group

    This is the website of the Huntingdonshire Local Group.
  • Rockingham Forest Trust

    The Rockingham Forest is an area of some 200 square miles in North-East Northamptonshire, lying between the Rivers Welland and Nene and the towns of Stamford and Kettering. It has a rich and varied landscape, with farmland, open pasture, pockets of woodland and villages built from local stone
  • The Raptor Foundation

    We are in a purpose built centre near St Ives in Cambridgeshire England. Our address is: The Raptor Foundation, The Heath, St Ives Rd, Woodhurst, Cambs, PE28 3BT Tel (44) 01487 741140

Abbreviations Key

  • *Accessable Reserves

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    Each of the following links lead to a BFA assessment of the reserve by BFA members and others, using the BFA form. ALL types of mobility problem are assumed so there are details of path surfaces, gradients and distances as well as benches and hide details.
  • *Cambrideshire Reserves

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    All of BC&NWT reserves
  • LNR Paxton Pits

    WebpageSatellite View
    Paxton Pits are flooded gravel workings in southwest Cambridgeshire. Much of the former workings have been given over to wildlife and it is now an important haven for birds, mammals, flowers and insects. The pit complex is home to a quarter of the county's nightingales…
  • LWT Deepings Lakes

    WebpageSatellite View
    A number of flooded gravel pits noted for their abundance of wildfowl and waterbird communities
  • NNR Castor Hanglands

    InformationSatellite View
    Dense thickets of scrub provide a habitat for summer migrant birds: nightingale, garden warbler, grasshopper warbler and turtle dove. In the woodland, all 3 British woodpeckers occur along with woodcock and the elusive hawfinch. Grass snakes are often seen by the ponds and harvest mouse occurs in the rough grassland on the heath
  • NNR Chippenham Fen

    InformationSatellite View
    Breeding birds include woodcock, snipe, and 9 species of warbler.
  • NNR Great Fen Project

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    The Great Fen project will restore over 3,000 hectares of farmland situated between Huntingdon and Peterborough to fenland wildlife habitat. This will be achieved by connecting and enlarging, two existing vitally important National Nature Reserves. The project will combine nature conservation, tourism, education and local access…
  • NNR Holme Fen

    InformationSatellite View
    Main habitats: birch woodland, remnant ancient bog, heathland, acid grassland
  • NNR Monks Wood

    InformationSatellite View
    A good range of woodland birds are found including woodcock, tawny owl, and lesser spotted woodpecker. Red Kite and buzzard breed regularly. Mammals such as badger, hare and fox are seen often and Muntjac deer are numerous.
  • NNR Wicken Fen

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    There is no higher recognition of ecological importance. These designations have been principally made on account of the open Fen habitats such as sedge beds, reed communities and Fen meadows. Aquatic habitats such as the dykes and pools are also very important. Dryer grassland and woodland also add diversity to the site but in the case of woodland, its expansion has often been at the expense of more valuable open Fen habitats.
  • NNR Woodwalton Fen

    InformationSatellite View
    Woodwalton Fen is one of Britain's oldest nature reserves and occupies a substantial site of 208ha north-east of Huntingdon…
  • RSPB Fen Drayton Lakes

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    This complex of lakes and traditional riverside meadows next to the River Great Ouse used to be gravel workings. It is a fantastic place to explore and watch birds with huge numbers of ducks, swans and geese on the lakes in winter. In summer, terns, hobbies and a variety of dragonflies are regularly seen. Otters also live here, but are rarely seen.
  • RSPB Fowlmere

    WebpageSatellite View
    Fowlmere's reedbeds and pools are fed by natural chalk springs and a chalk stream runs through the reserve. Special birds, include kingfishers and water rails, breeding sedge, reed and grasshopper warblers and a roost of corn buntings…
  • RSPB Nene Washes

    WebpageSatellite View
    The Nene Washes are a Flood Storage Reservoir for the River Nene and the grassland here is frequently flooded during the winter. It's an excellent spot to watch birds of prey - marsh harriers and hobbies in summer, and hen harriers and peregrines in winter.
  • RSPB Ouse Washes

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    The Ouse Washes is an excellent introduction to Fenland wildlife. In the winter, the reserve attracts thousands of ducks and swans; and redshanks, lapwings and snipe breed in the summer…
  • WWT Welney

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    Official WWT site. In winter, enjoy the magic of hundreds of Whooper and Bewick's Swans accompanied by flocks of thousands of ducks. During the day, carpets of Wigeon graze this precious wetland, while flocks of Pintail, Teal, Gadwall and Shoveler dabble in the pools and lagoons. Late afternoon is a special time as necks of swans flight-in to claim their night roosting sites.
Sightings, News & Forums
  • CamBirds

    For access, try asking to join the group or contacting the group's owners and managers
  • Cambridgeshire Bird Club 'What's About'

    This page is maintained on behalf of the Club by Paul Rule and Peter Holt. This is a news page and the reports are not official records. If you have any general news then please e-mail Paul and Pete.
  • Cooper & Scott

    Cambs Bird Highlights Daily
  • Peterborough Bird Club

    Welcome to the Peterborough Bird Club. We are a friendly group and warmly welcome new members. Whether you are an expert or beginner, the Club aims to bring people together that have a shared interest in birding in the Peterborough and surrounding area.
Other Links
  • Campkins Cameras

    We specialize in providing high-quality binoculars, telescopes, and spotting scopes from popular brands such as Zeiss, Swarovski and Opticron to name a few. Our selection of products is specifically curated to meet the needs of avid birders, and our team of experts is always on hand to provide expert advice and support
  • Deeping's Birding

    The Deepings Pits comprise two old ballast pits which were dug for material for the construction of the railway which runs between them. They are The Mere and Dandridge's Pit. Both are private and very difficult to work. The Mere can be viewed from the track which runs alongside the River Welland where, especially in the spring, excellent views can be had of the breeding herons and cormorants. The woodland area alongside the track is also excellent for general woodland species with woodpeckers, treecreepers, tits, etc….
  • Kennedy Wild Bird

    The present day range of Anne Kennedy Aristocratic wild bird feeds are the result of over twenty years continuous research into the feeding of wildlife. Wild bird seed mixtures have been around for many years
  • Naturenet

    Directions to some of the sites etc.
  • Peckish

    At Peckish our aim is to develop the very best in quality garden bird food and to help bring more bird species to your garden, that
  • Stuart Elsom Ecology

    An established Wildlife Photographer with a Royal Photographic Society Distinction to his name and over 500 images published to date. Stuart's images have appeared in many highly acclaimed ornithological books including The Owls of the World and The Crossley Guide to North American Birds.
  • Brian Stone - The Natural Stone

    Mainly a pictorial nature diary - last updated 2016
  • John Saunders - Hedgeland Tales

    Keen local birdwatcher with a love of the natural world, all that is beautiful and ugly and everything in between.
Photographers & Artists
  • Cambridgeshire Bird Club Gallery

    Welcome to the photo section of the Cambridgeshire Bird Club website. As well as featuring some superb photographs of birds regularly occurring in Cambridgeshire, this gallery also serves as a photographic record of some of the rarer and more interesting sightings from around the county.
  • Photographer - Garth Peacock

    My interest in wildlife photography, (especially birds) really only began in 2004 after early retirement gave me the time and the opportunity to revisit my childhood interest of bird-watching
  • Photographer - Jeff Harrison

    Jeff is one of only a handful of photographers holding Schedule 1 Licences from Natural England to photograph both Kingfishers and Barn Owls at their nest sites and both of these species feature heavily on his website
  • Photographer - Neil Triggs

    Lots of wildlife pics including some very good shots of commoner UK birds
  • Photographer - Peter Beesley

  • Photographer - Rebecca Nason

    Welcome to my website! I hope you enjoy browsing through my image gallery. The photographs shown are only a small sample of an extensive high quality image library I have developed over the last few years. Please do not hesitate to contact me with image requests from the website or from my library stock

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