Royal County of Berkshire

Jerry O'Brien Sylvia undata ©Jerry O'Brien
Birding Berkshire

Ornithologically, Berkshire is an amazing place. No coast or marshland, cliffs or moor-land, but nonetheless a healthy 300 species have been recorded whilst birding in the Royal County. In fact, there is a fairly wide range of habitat. From above, the county resembles a piece of railway cake! The M4 and the Thames effectively cut it into three long slices in between which is a rich assemblage of farmland, heath, mixed woodlands, gravel pits and parks. Although this section of the Thames Valley has no major reserves, sympathetic land-owners and keen field ornithologists and birders have worked together to create some very interesting results.

The west of the county hosts our down-land (home to a remnant colony of Stone Curlew) and our highest hillscape. Here Buzzards play out their seasons and the area is renowned for passage raptors. The London-bound visitor will next encounter the Newbury and Kennet Valley area with its reed beds and canal systems playing host to numerous Nightingales, Cetti’s Warblers and wintering Golden Plovers. This area merges into the huge complex of gravel pits near Reading where just about anything turns up. South of the motorway, a large expanse of heath-land, home to Nightjar, Tree Pipits and increasing numbers of Dartford Warblers and Woodlarks, creep into the huge expanse of the Windsor Forests, with Firecrest, Redstarts and Woodcock to be encountered. Then the immense west-London water complexes of Reservoirs and Wraysbury Pits become prominent for a wide range of species in their seasons, especially healthy populations of Smew in winter.

Armed with a copy of Birds of Berkshire, (available from Brian Clews on 01628-526091); the visiting bird-watcher will probably want to visit the following hot-spots:-:-

Top Sites
  • Dinton Pastures and Lavells Lake

    InformationSatellite View
    Dinton Pastures Country Park are restored gravel workings flanked by the rivers Loddon to the West and smaller Emm Brook to the East. Lavell's Lake is the most Northern pits with Dinton and is designated a nature reserve. Whilst it is a small lake, it also offers two small scrapes, closely overlooked by the 'Teal Hide' at the West end and an impressively large 'Bittern Hide', these areas attract winter Water Rail, which also often appear under the feeders, Kingfishers are frequent. Also wintering are Little Egret, Snipe and Lapwing, Jack Snipe sometimes drop in. On Dinton the best place for passage waders is Lavell's Green and Common Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Dunlin, Little-ringed & Ringed Plover are all more or less annual. Rare birds here include Purple Heron, Wilson's Phalarope, Marsh Warbler and Red footed Falcon.Due to the Phragmites reed bed expansion (2005 and 2010) our star winter visitor, Bittern(s) have graced us each year since 2000 and with up to 4 other birds being seen at White Swan Lake a 15 minutes walk south, it really is the best place to see them in Berkshire if not even further afield.As Dinton offers a mixture of lakes and old hedgerows, there is very good diversity of species, winter and summer. 4-5 pairs of Nightingale breed, 30 pairs Reed Warbler, 15 pairs of Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat. The main lake 'Black Swan Lake' gets a lot of the wildfowl, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Wigeon, Gadwall, 30-40 Goldeneye and can attract interesting more rare wildfowl and terns on passage, plus Mediterranean Gulls do turn up.
  • Lea Farm Gravel Pit

    Satellite View
    The lake is a young gravel pit with shallow edges and shingle and floating islands which attract a colony of around 30 pairs of breeding Common Terns, it is quite good for passage waders like Green & Common Sandpiper, Greenshank, Redshank, Little-ringed Plover and gathering winter flocks of Lapwing, wintering Snipe hide in the lake edges. Wildfowl like Wigeon, Gadwall, Shoveler and Teal all have good numbers, Garganey are nearly annual spring and autumn as are passage Marsh Harrier. A Sand Martin bank has been installed and a hide erected, but access is available to members only. Great rarities since 2000 include Eider 2003, Great White Egret 2009, 2 Spoonbill & a Cattle Egret 2007 and Gannet 2010.
  • Lower Farm Gravel Pit - Newbury

    Satellite View
    The site is part of an active gravel pit, with lakes, reed beds and scrub occupied by a wide range of waterfowl, Common Terns, Reed and Sedge Warblers (with occasional Cetti's Warbler) in summer and large numbers of gulls, grebes and ducks in winter, when there is an occasional daytime roost of over 1000 Golden Plovers. It has an excellent reputation for scarcer visitors and is a very popular site for members of Newbury District Ornithological Club.
  • Moor Green Lakes

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Gravel workings, sensitively restored, and surrounded by farmland guarantee nesting Common Terns, Little Ringed and Ringed Plover, occasional Mandarin, Little Owls and Stonechat on the reserve and regular happenings which have included Hoopoe and Shore Lark. A huge extension of the site is nearing completion and day-today sightings are recorded on Angus McDonald’s BLOG
  • Thatcham Moor

    Satellite View
    A large area of reeds and fishing pools, river, canal, worked gravel pit and mature reserve woodland. Cetti's Warbler, three woodpecker species, Nightingale, Little Ringed Plover plus typical wintering species.
  • Theale Pits and adjacent complexes

    Satellite View
    Fox and Hounds pit particularly well managed and observed. Huge additional expanse north and south of adjacent M4. Breeding terns and Redshanks, rare duck in winter (Great Northern Diver, Long-tailed Duck, Smew).
  • Wraysbury and Horton Pits

    Satellite View
    Numerous pits and wasteland encouraging a wide range of typical species which in recent years have included breeding Nightingales and Grasshopper Warblers, over-wintering Snipe, huge numbers of pre-roosting Parakeets (up to 2000 at their nearby roost opposite Slough Sewage Farm) and the aforementioned Smew in winter, often accompanied by Long-tailed, Ruddy and Goosander relatives.
County Recorder
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 319

Useful Reading

  • The Birds of Berkshire: Atlas and Avifauna

    | By Neil Bucknell, Brian Clews, Renton Righelato & Chris Robinson | Birds of Berkshire Atlas Group | 2013 | Hardback | 520 pages, 200+ colour photos, 332 b/w illustrations, 300 distribution maps | ISBN: 9780952929710 Buy this book from
  • Where to Watch Birds in Thames Valley and the Chilterns

    | By Brian Clews & Paul Trodd | Christopher Helm | 2002 | Edition 3 | Paperback | 368 pages, B/w illustrations, maps | ISBN: 9780713659535 Buy this book from
Useful Information
  • Birdline Southeast

    09068 700240
  • Berkshire Downs Ringing Group

    Observatory WebsiteSatellite View
    Mr J Swallow 07909118825
  • Newbury Ringing Group

    Observatory WebsiteSatellite View
    Duncan Long All the members of Newbury Ringing Group are volunteers who are enjoying a constructive hobby and contributing to the national bird ringing scheme organised by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). The scientific aims and results of our efforts are explained together with some of the highlights of our work over the last 30 or so years
  • Runnymede Ringing Group

    Observatory WebsiteSatellite View
    Dave Harris
  • BBO Wildlife Trust

    BBOWT is the local Wildlife Trust for Berks, Bucks and Oxon which aims to protect wildlife across the three counties. BBOWT is one of a network of 47 Wildlife Trusts across the UK which work to protect wildlife in town and country. With more than 2200 nature reserves in their care The Wildlife Trusts are dedicated to achieving a UK richer in wildlife.
  • Berkshire Ornithological Club

    The Berkshire Ornithological Club is a long established club, having celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2007 (previously known as Reading Ornithological Club). With a membership approaching 300 it boasts an impressive calendar of events. Its winter programme of indoor meetings take place at Reading University and feature an interesting variety of illustrated talks by leading ornithologists and photographers. The club caters for both experienced and novice birdwatchers. Field trips take place throughout the year and visit a variety of birding spots locally, around the South of England, with weekend trips further afield. With close links with the British Trust for Ornithology and local Conservation Groups the clubs members are actively involved in bird census work as well as practical conservation work to improve sites of ornithological interest. The club produces the annual Berkshire bird reports and maintains a charitable fund for Berkshire birds…
  • Friends of Lavells Lake

    We are a registered charity (297074) with nearly 300 members and we hold monthly volunteer work parties to help manage the habitats to maximise the biodiversity. Lavell's Lake has two scrapes, Phragmites reed beds and scrub habitats and in co-operation with Dinton Pastures Countryside Service (DPCS), we have worked together to build 2 excellent public hides overlooking Tern and Teal scrapes and from January 2010 F.O.L.L. built a 'members only' hide at Lea Farm GP
  • Newbury District Ornithological Club

    Newbury District Ornithological Club (NDOC) was founded in 1959 with the aim of promoting interest in birds and all aspects of their behaviour and habitats. Today the Club has a membership of around 90 and is open to all, expert or novice, with beginners particularly encouraged. Visitors are always welcome at Club events.
  • RSPB East Berks Members Group

    We are an active, lively and friendly local group that promotes the RSPB's national objectives. Our local area is twelve miles radius centred on Maidenhead, which includes Windsor, Slough and High Wycombe. With about 200 members, we support local conservation issues while also aiming to enjoy ourselves. Between September and July we organise indoor talks, bird watching walks and coach trips which are open to everyone - particularly beginners or people new to the area. Full details on our website
  • RSPB Reading Members Group

    The Reading Local Group, is a local branch of the RSPB, we not only meet together to listen to interesting lectures on Birds and Wildlife, or go on Walks in the surrounding countryside. But we also Fundraise and raise awareness of the work the RSPB is doing throughout the United Kingdom. If you would like to know more about us, then please contact either myself or one of the committee…
  • RSPB Wokingham & Bracknell Members Group

    (07963 076940 or EMail)A list of committee, Meetings and outings etc. It also has links to other RSPB member groups. A site in its early stages.
  • Theale Area Conservation Group

    Brian Uttley (0118 983 2894)The group is dedicated to the habitat conservation of the gravel pits complex located either side of the M4 motorway near Junction 12 to the South of Reading, Berkshire. The group is actively involved in habitat management including both creation and maintenance. in addition the group monitors the local bird populations through survey work. Through it`s endeavours a gravel pit, Hosehill, has now been granted nature reserve status by Newbury District Council…

Abbreviations Key

  • BBOWT - Greenham Common

    WebpageSatellite View
    Situated just a few miles south east of Newbury in the county of West Berkshire, Greenham Common and adjoining Crookham Common (to the east) together form over 1000 acres of heathland. Greenham Common was returned to natural habitat back in 2000 when the former US Air Force Base closed.
  • Moor Copse Nature Reserve

    WebsiteSatellite View
    This Berkshire reserve is a part of a Sulham and Tidmarsh Woods and Meadows Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The ancient woodland is a place of character, variety and great beauty, with its 70 acres comprising a series of three wet woodland copses, a small meadow and a healthy chalk stream…
  • Moor Green Lakes Nature Reserve

    WebsiteSatellite View
    The existing Reserve occupies 36 hectares (90 acres) north of the River Blackwater and lies in the boroughs of Bracknell Forest and Wokingham, in Berkshire, England. It comprises three lakes: Colebrook North, Colebrook South and Grove Lake… Grid reference OS805628. However, it is being extensively enlarged with additional scrapes and lakes to the west.
Forums & Mailing Lists
  • BerksBirdNews

    Mailing List
    To register for this news group (you can state the level of news you would like to recieve) go to the website at the click the Profile link and enter your Primary email address. Tick the Enable alerts to your primary email address check box. You can then select a rarity level. Then click Save and the service is set up.
  • BerksBirds

    Mailing List
    Discussion group - A group for the discussion of Berkshire-related birding matters primarily for birdwatchers resident in Berkshire, England, but to which other birders are welcome to subscribe.
  • Thames Valley Bird Forum

    Local forum for anyone with an interest in birds and wildlife
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Birding Pal

    Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area
Other Links
  • Berks Birds

    Website is a free resource about birding in Berkshire. It is run by local birder, Marek Walford
  • Feathers and Fur Falconry Centre

    Feathers and Fur Falconry Centre is a Berkshire based collection of Hawks, Falcons and Owls used to allow people the opportunity to experience falconry and the unique and wonderful bond between man and bird. (Not my cup of tea but I guess it will help new birders with future ID - Fatbirder)
  • Primrose

    Primrose offers a wide selection of birdbaths for the garden
  • P Bright-Thomas - Birding over my head

    Just another blog by a local patcher, probably with fewer excursions than most. Where I live, there are no views like that above. Beautiful, isn’t it? But most of us can’t stand on windswept headlands as often as we would like. So we have to get our birding fulfillment closer to home, and that’s what I try to do with Birding Over My Head…
  • Pete Walkden - Pete's Birding Blog

    Last updated 2011 - As a wildlife photographer I try to get out and about as much as possible, and as such keep this blog as a record of what I saw, when, where and any mishaps along the way.
Photographers & Artists
  • Photographer - Michael McKee

    Some excellent photographs taken within the county

Fatbirder - linking birders worldwide... Wildlife Travellers see our sister site: WAND

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