Royal County of Berkshire

Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata ©Jerry O'Brien

The recording area of Berkshire (area 22 in the Watsonian system) is co-terminus with the ceremonial county in the south east of England of the same name.  Royal Berkshire (abbreviation Berks) is bordered by Oxfordshire to the north, Buckinghamshire to the northeast, Greater London to the east, Surrey to the southwest, Hampshire to the south and Wiltshire to the west.  (The historic county included the parts of Oxfordshire south of the River Thames, which formed its northern border, but excluded Caversham and Slough.)

The county town, Reading, is the largest settlement followed by Slough, Bracknell and Maidenhead. The county has an area of c.1,250 Km² (under 500 square miles) with a population of over 900,000 people concentrated in the east of the county with the west being more rural, where the Berkshire Downs are an area of outstanding natural beauty. The south-east of the county contains Swinley Forest, a remnant of Windsor Forest now used as a forestry plantation.

Birding Berkshire

Ornithologically, Berkshire is an amazing place. No coast or marshland, cliffs or moorland, 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 Angel 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. Several ‘chalk streams’ such as the River Kennet and River Loddon feed into the Thames in Berkshire.

The west of the county hosts our downland (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 and the ever expanding Red Kite population. 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 heathland, is home to Nightjar, Tree Pipits and increasing numbers of Dartford Warblers and Woodlarks. They 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 and Where to Watch Birds in Berkshire the visiting bird-watcher will probably want to visit the hot-spots below.

Top Sites
  • *Top County Sites

    Webpage
  • Dinton Pastures & Lea Farm

    WebsiteSatellite 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Marsh & Lower Farm

    WebsiteSatellite 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.
  • Theale & Burghfield Gravel Pits

    WebsiteSatellite 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

    WebsiteSatellite 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.
Contributors
County Recorder
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 321

Checklist

  • The Berkshire list

    Checklist
    The following is a list of all the species recorded as having occured within the county of Berkshire. See the notes at the foot of this page for further information. The Berkshire List currently stands at 321.
Useful Reading

  • Berkshire's Birdscapes 1947-2022

    | By Renton Righelato | Birds of Berkshire Atlas Group | 2022 | Paperback | 32 pages, 30 colour photos, colour illustrations, and colour maps | ISBN: 9780952929734 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • 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 NHBS.com
  • Where to Watch Birds in Berkshire

    | 20 of the Best Sites | By Brian Clews & Renton Righelato | Birds of Berkshire Atlas Group | 2019 | Edition 3 | Paperback | 49 pages, colour photos, colour maps | ISBN: 9780952929727 Buy this book from NHBS.com
Organisations
  • BB&O Wildlife Trust

    Website
    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

    Website
    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…
  • Bracknell Forest Natural History Society

    Webpage
    The Society is for everyone interested in nature and its conservation. Our aims are to present and share information about the Natural World, to increase awareness about its importance and to work to increase the biodiversity of local wildlife habitats.
  • Lavells Wetland Trust

    Website
    In August 2023 we will commence building our third subscription viewing facility – Another new substantial hide on stilt legs. It will be positioned on the North Spit overlooking the NE bay reed bed and East shore marshes and significantly closer to our Eastern boundary.
  • Newbury District Ornithological Club

    Website
    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.
  • Newbury Ringing Group

    Website
    News and ringing sessions reports
  • RSPB Reading Local Group

    Website
    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 Wokingham & Bracknell Members Group

    Website
    (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.
  • Reading & District Natural History

    Website
    The Society was founded way back in 1881 to encourage the study of natural history in all its forms in the Reading area (for more on our long history see here). Our members come from all around Reading but the ‘district’ covers a large area including neighbouring counties. Natural history covers all wildlife including birds, mammals, wildflowers, fungi, butterflies, insects, fish, mosses and almost everything else.
  • Runnymede Ringing Group

    Website
    Runnymede Ringing Group operates from Maidenhead in the north to Chobham in the south covering parts of Berkshire, Middlesex and Surrey.
  • Theale Area Conservation Group

    Facebook Page
    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…
Reserves

Abbreviations Key

  • CP Wellington Country Park

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Wellington Country Park, Odiham Road, Riseley, Berkshire, RG7 1SP
  • CP Windsor Great Park

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Part of the Windsor Estate, Windsor Great Park is an ancient Royal landscape of forests, grasslands, lakes and gardens. Visit and you will discover 1,000 years of history including historical monuments, rare wildlife and National Collections of plants and Champion Trees.
  • LNR Greenham and Crookham Commons

    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.
  • LNR Moor Copse Nature Reserve

    WebpageSatellite 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…
  • LNR Moor Green Lakes Nature Reserve

    WebpageSatellite 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

    Website
    News, sightings etc
  • Thames Valley Bird Forum

    Forum
    No Recent Activity
Other Links
  • Feathers and Fur Falconry Centre

    Website
    Feathers and Fur Falconry Centre in Berkshire is a 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.
Photographers & Artists
  • Photographer - Michael McKee

    Gallery
    Some excellent photographs taken within the county

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