Nature’s best waders

Waders are among the most enigmatic of British bird species.  They inhabit the marshes, estuaries and coastal fringes, their mournful cries filling the chilly, dawn or twilight air.

To spot some of them, you’ll have to get up early, or be lucky at dusk.  So lets find out which of our feathered friends, you can hope to spot whilst out and about in your fishing waders.


curlew wader

Photo courtesy of Duncan Brown

Found right across Northern England, Wales, Scotland, and with concentrations in the Thames and the Wash,  the Curlew is the biggest of the European waders.

You’ll know it instantly by its haunting call.  Spotting one might be a little harder because this long legged bird is well camouflaged for its life on the mud or moors.  A long down curved bill is perfect for feeding on worms, shellfish and shrimps.

You can see a curlew at any time of year but they breed between, April and July and are most numerous in coastal areas in the New Year.  Want to hear what one sounds like?

To listen now click >> Curlew call


Photo courtesy of John Haslam

You’ll find Oystercatchers nearly all around the coast of the UK, but they love estuaries. The rich feeding grounds might seem a bit dank and smelly to us humans, but to wading birds, they’re a well stocked larder.

Oystercatchers thrive on worms, cockles and mussels and thanks to their distinctive plumage,you shouldn’t have to look too hard to see one.  Black back, white belly, with pinky red bill and legs, this is quite a chunky bird, and one which gathers in numbers in the major estuaries.

To listen now click >> Oystercatcher call


Photo courtesy of Britta Heise

The striking black and white wader is the emblem of the RSPB.  This bird actually became extinct in Britain in around 1840, but was reintroduced in Suffolk in 1947.  A truly inspiring example of a successful conservation program, you can see an Avocet in the marshy lagoons of the East coast of Britain and in the winter, in Devon and in particular, the Exe estuary.

The Avocet’s long, elegant, upturned bill, allows it to sift through the mud for delicacies like, larvae, small crabs and delicious worms.

To listen now click >> Avocet call

Grey Heron

Grey Heron
Photo courtesy of Claude Robillard

There’s something quite enchanting about the heron, and its not hard to see why it has a place in mythology, as a messenger from the Gods.  Herons are masterful hunters, feasting on fish, amphibians and even small rodents.

They can be found in any aquatic environment and although they love to wade the waters of the estuary or creek, you could be lucky enough to see one by your garden pond, though you may lose a few fish as a result.

To listen now click >> Grey Heron call

Little Egret

Little Egret
Photo courtesy of Frank Zed

Smaller cousin of the great egret, the little egret is interesting because it is a European interloper.  This wader has been gaining ground in Northern France and in the late eighties, fluttered its way across the English channel.  It has distinctive yellow feet and sports an elegant white plume on top of its head.

To see one, visit the coastal marshes and estuaries of Southern England, from East Anglia to the tip of Cornwall, this is one foreign visitor that’s here to stay.

To listen now click >> Little Egret call

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