All creatures great and small...
1. Seal and bird colonies, Farne Islands
Did you know that puffins spend most of their time at sea – only really touching land while they’re nesting? Take a boat trip to the Farne Islands , off the coast of Northumberland and this is just one of the fascinating things you’ll find out.
From May to July and you’ll see thousands of nesting puffins and guillemots circling, feeding – and what is reported to be Europe’s largest colony of grey seals, too.
2. Sharks, The Lizard, Cornwall
Eleven metres long, with sharp teeth? They may sound scary, but rest assured the basking sharks you’ll see off the Cornwall coast are more interested in eating plankton than anything else. Head to the Lizard Peninsula and you’ll be able to see for yourself.
3. Common and grey seals, Blakeney Point
The 500 common and grey seals at Blakeney Point don’t get perturbed by the daily boat trips that hover a few metres away from them. Instead they just laze about in the Norfolk sun, giving you the opportunity get a really close look (and a fantastic photo). Occasionally they do rouse themselves for a quick dip, often swimming right underneath your boat.
4. Deer, Tatton Park
It was a Royal Charter that brought deer to Tatton Park in 1290 – and they haven’t left since. The 400-strong herd of red and fallow deer roam quite freely over the park’s 1000 acres, and look especially majestic in the autumn rutting season, when the stags bellow and posture in an attempt to “impress” the ladies. Apparently it must work, too, as the park’s breeding program is doing rather well.
5. Ponies, New Forest
The star attraction of the New Forest is without a doubt its ponies. Well-behaved, gentle in nature and so, so cute, the New Foresters (to give them their proper title) have been attracting visitors to these parts for centuries. There are now thought to be 3,000 of them wandering the forest freely; listen out for their trademark high-pitched whinny.
6. Otters, Whitelee Moor
A bog might not be the most appealing place to live, but the otters certainly seem to like Whitelee Moor . Look closely and you’ll spot their shiny, slippery coats glistening in the sun as they head out to hunt for their breakfast. You’ll probably see black grouse, skylark and the ring ouzel popping in annually, too.
7. Lee Valley Regional Park
This 26-mile park , which stretches along the River Lee on London’s doorstep, is a haven for water otters, kingfishers and others, which can all be spotted picking their way around the reeds. Come back at night and you could see bats, too…
8. Red Squirrels, Brownsea Island
Red Squirrels are shy little things, so if you want to spot them on Brownsea Island you need to be clever (or at least eagle-eyed). Thankfully the job is made marginally easier because they’re messy eaters, so look out for partly-munched cones among the pines. Sunrise in autumn and spring is also their favourite time to make an appearance so set that alarm...
9. Dolphins, Isles of Scilly
The warmer temperatures around the Isles of Scilly make it a hotspot for playful dolphins passing through in the summer. Generally speaking, if you see one, you’ll see 50 – as they’re quite a sociable bunch…
10. Birdwatching, Blyth Estuary, Suffolk
Even the most hardcore ‘twitchers’ will find plenty to get excited about at Blyth Estuary . The rare avocet visits regularly, as does the black tailed godwit, bittern and woodlark. And, to ensure you get a good look at all of them, English Nature has very helpfully built a bird hide.
Psst... Handy Hints
If you’re lucky enough to spot a basking shark in Cornwall, be sure to contact the Shark Trust . Your sightings are crucial to understanding and protecting these magnificent animals.
New Forest Ponies
To really see the New Forest ponies in action, watch the Boxing Day Race. Every year the course changes but you’ll have the chance to see ponies and competitors running in open forest.
If you’re heading for Whitelee Moor , it’s worth extending your visit to the neighbouring Kielderhead Moor, too, where a herd of feral goats spends most of their time munching on bracken.
While looking for red squirrels on Brownsea Island , keep an eye out for sika deer, too. They tend to hide in reed-beds and dense areas of rhododendrons.
Taking the kids to see newborn lambs at the Big Sheep in Devon.Big Sheep