Where to watch Manx birds

Raad ny Foillan (Way of the Gull)
Raad ny Foillan (Way of the Gull)

Here are some of the best places to see birds on the Isle of Man. 

For more information about visiting, including travel and accommodation, please go to www.visitiom.co.uk.

1 The Ayres NX415034

Sandy and shingle beach, dunes, maritime heath, gravel pits and freshwater pools.

This site extends from The Lhen (NX378016) to the Point of Ayre. It can be reached from several roads from A10 and by A16, which passes between the gravel pits.

Little Tern (up to 60 pairs), Arctic and Common Terns and non-breeding Sandwich Terns (summer). Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Skuas (passage). Divers, Golden Plover, Short-eared Owl and Raven flock, Twite (winter).

Whooper Swans (Neil G Morris)
Whooper Swans (Neil G Morris)
2 Glascoe Dub and Ballacorey SC447988

Glascoe: small duck pond with adjacent fields to the east regularly flooding in winter. 
Ballacorey: shallow mere in farmland, drying up as summer progresses.

Glascoe is close to A10, while Ballacorey is reached by a lane leaving a minor road to the west at SC439991.

Shelduck (summer). Whooper Swan (transient), Wigeon, Shoveler (winter).

3 Ballacain SC358968

Dubs and meadows on farmland.

The meadows can be viewed from a track (suitable for motors) off A13. The dubs are just to the east (permission at Ballacain Farm to north).

Premier site for wild swans with 20-30 Whoopers and occasional Bewick’s, Greylag Goose; varied wildfowl on dubs (winter).

Grasshopper Warbler (Neil G Morris)
Grasshopper Warbler (Neil G Morris)
4 Ballaugh Curraghs SC363951

The Island’s most extensive area of marshland with a rich growth of willow and birch and scattered rushy meadows.

Minor sign-posted roads lead into the Curragh from A14 N of Sulby and A10 N of Ballaugh. Park at SC363951 by the Killane River or at SC359957 and follow the boardwalk SE to the Manx Wildlife Trust hide.

Greylag Goose, Teal, Water Rail, Woodcock, Peregrine, Merlin, Raven (all year). Grasshopper Warbler, Blackcap, Siskin, Redpoll (summer). In the past, up to 80 Hen Harriers (with 20-40 quite usual) gathered for what was the largest roost in Western Europe; the numbers now are much lower. View from hide starting 90 mins before sunset October to March.

5 Ramsey

Sandy bay with harbour at Sulby river-mouth. Artificial Mooragh Lake to north partly drained in winter. Steep wooded hillside to south.

Opposite the Grand Island Hotel is best for seaduck and divers, with the possibility of unusual wildfowl in Ramsey harbour and on Mooragh Lake which, when drained, attracts waders (winter). Park at Hairpin and follow several paths over the hillside for Sparrowhawk, Blackcap (summer) and Wood Warbler (spring passage and summer).

6 Bishop’s Dub SC333929

Small roadside pond – open water reduced by bogbean in summer.

Whooper Swans are regular and unusual wildfowl may turn up (winter). Little Grebe has bred. Coot, Oystercatcher (summer). Ravens can be see throughout the year.

7 Maughold Head and Brooghs SC496919 (MNH)

Slate cliffs.

Take A15 to Maughold village and follow single track lane for lighthouse which skirts north side of churchyard. Rough track north to large car park and another small car park to west of lighthouse. From main car park follow path to St. Maughold’s Well and then follow path along coast to west (easy) and east with great care (dangerous).

Hosts tsland’s largest Cormorant colony (50+ nests) to west. To the east are Kittiwake and Guillemot colonies, Black Guillemot, Puffin (summer). Peregrine, Raven, Chough (all year). Grey Seals on rocks to west (winter).

Short-eared Owl (Neil G Morris)
Short-eared Owl (Neil G Morris)
8 Druidale SC345866

Grass and heather moor, conifer plantation. Recent planting of deciduous woodland.

Park beside Sartfell Plantation and walk up west or east side. Look at Sartfell to west and follow footpath north to reach Slieau Freoghane summit.

Hen Harrier (summer), Merlin (passage), Red Grouse, gull colonies on Sartfell and Slieau Freoghane, Short-eared Owl, Wheatear, Redpoll (summer).

9 Laxey Valley SC418868

Upland valley with sheep grazing and extensive bracken.

Drive up past Laxey Wheel and park at Agneash (SC431860). Follow broad track up valley to Snaefell mines. Wheatear, Whinchat (though possibly now extinct as a Manx breeder), Stonechat (summer). Hen Harrier, Chough (all year).

Sabine's Gull (Neil G Morris)
10 Peel Hill and Castle

Slate cliffs and rocky islet, with scallop chute attracting large numbers of gulls.

Take road along west side of harbour and park at Fenella Bay on left before short causeway. Walk around Castle and follow footpath south along coast to Contrary Head.

Peel Hill: Peregrine, Black Guillemot, Chough (all year). Kittiwake, Guillemot, Puffin (summer).

Castle on St. Patrick’s Isle: Purple Sandpiper (up to 40) and Black Redstart (winter). Good sea-watching (July to September), especially in north westerly gales.

Bay: Leach's Petrel and seabirds (autumn), Great Northern Diver (winter) plus Eider and Black Guillemot all year.

11 Greeba Curragh SC307803

Willow carr and rushy meadows.

Walk along old railway line track either from Crosby village or from lanes leaving A1 at SC308806 or SC299810.

Roding Woodcock (summer), Grasshopper Warbler (passage and possibly summer).

12 Kerrowdhoo and Clypse Reservoirs SC403807

Two reservoirs with intervening settling pool.

Leave A18 at Hillberry (SC386797) and after 1 km keep left on Clypse Moar Road until bearing right at the drive to The Grange. Park and walk down to reservoirs.

Kerrowdhoo: Tufted Duck, Pochard (winter) attracts a fair variety of duck, with recent records of Scaup, Goosander and Smew.

Stonechat (Neil G Morris)
Stonechat (Neil G Morris)
13 East Foxdale SC297778

The two reservoirs of Eairy and Kionslieu, plus Stoney Mountain to the south.

Whooper Swans used to winter annually on the reservoirs which still attract a variety of wildfowl (winter). Breeding Tufted Duck (summer).

There is a Hen Harrier roost on Stoney Mountain – view from B36 at SC298767 starting about 90 mins before sunset (winter). Also breeding Hen Harrier, Raven, Crossbill and (irregularly) Short-eared Owl (summer).

14 Port Jack and Onchan Head SC390772

Rocky coast forming northern limit of Douglas Bay.

Up to 20 Goldeneye gather at the sewage out flow below Onchan Head and similar numbers of Purple Sandpipers on the rocks of Port Jack at high tide (winter).

15 Glen Rushen and Eary Cushlin

Heather moor, conifer plantation (mature, failed and new) and bracken covered coastal slopes.

Take A27 south from Peel and park at SC232767. Explore Glen Rushen from SW to NE, then drive along track SW to SC225762. Walk south to Lag-ny-Keeilly (SC216745).

Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Red Grouse, Chough, Raven (all year). Merlin, Ring Ouzel (passage). Short-eared Owl, Redpoll, Whinchat, Grasshopper Warbler (summer).

16 Marine Drive and Port Soderick

Slate cliffs, coastal scrub and wooded glen.

Either walk along the Marine Drive from Douglas, park at Port Soderick or use the train.

Sparrowhawk, Peregrine, Stonechat, Chough, Raven (all year). Black Guillemot at Gob Lhiack to the south and cliff nesting House Martins immediately south of Port Soderick (summer).

17 Strandhall (Baie ny Carrickey) SC240686

Sandy bay with indented rocky shore leading S. to Poyllvaaish (SC245676) or W to Gansey shore (SC218688).

The rocks and seaweed exposed at low-tide makes Strandhall in Baie ny Carrickey attractive to duck, waders and gulls. Park at Strandhall. A lane follows the coast to Poyllvaaish Farm before branching northwards past Balladoole to rejoin A5. Alternatively, continue following coastline along A5 towards Port St. Mary, leading to the ‘Shore Hotel’.

Looking across Baie ny Carrickey towards Gansey beach, with Bradda Head in the background: wildfowl including Shelduck and Wigeon, also Pale-bellied Brent Goose most years, Golden and Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit and good Chough flocks (particularly coastline below Kentraugh) (winter). Shelduck, Ringed Plover (summer).

18 Castletown Bay, Langness and Derbyhaven

Sandy bay, weed-covered rocks, saltmarsh, low cliffs, golf course, rocky islet and intertidal mud. Adjacent airfield.

The entire area from Scarlett Quarry in the west to the flying club north of Derbyhaven and as far as the Langness car park at SC284660 is well served by roads. The best areas are around the isthmus to Langness and include Sandwick (the eastern extremity of sand in Castletown Bay) south past the Pool to the car park and the intertidal mud separating Derbyhaven from its breakwater. During winter this is one of the best areas to see a Chough flock at close range.

Just south of Derbyhaven take the right-hand (westward) fork for Langness by the ruined building (SC285673):

  • For Sandwick, immediately after the fork park by the ruined building then walk a few metres further on to where the road bends left, at which take the footpath straight ahead across the golf course to the shore.
  • For Langness, after taking the westward fork continue driving past the ruined building and parking area (now on your left), bearing left at the bend and continuing along the shore road overlooking the grass flats and rocky coastline to your right (west). Watching from a car can be very rewarding, particularly at high tide. Little Egret, Grey Plover, Knot, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff, both Godwits, Whimbrel, Greenshank, Sandwich Tern (passage). Wildfowl (Pale-bellied Brent Goose now annual), Golden Plover, Short-eared Owl, Chough; and in Derbyhaven, Divers and Grebes (winter).

Rarities have included Temminck’s Stint, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher and Calandra Lark.

19 Chasms and Sugarloaf SC195663

Vertical slate cliffs and stack.

Arguably the Island’s finest cliff scenery. A lane south of Cregneash village climbs to a car park with a path down to the Chasms (dangerous fissures – take care). There is also limited parking at Fistard (SC200644), from which follow the coast for about 1 km.

Stonechat, Chough, Raven (all year). Kittiwake, Guillemot, Black Guillemot (just S of Fistard), possibly Puffin and Wheatear (summer).

20 Calf of Man

A two and a half sq. km islet off the SW tip of the Isle of Man combining rough pastures and slate cliffs.

The old farmhouse is now a Bird Observatory and there are two disused 19th Century lighthouses.

Stonechat, Chough, Raven (all year). Great variety of passerine migrants (passage). Manx Shearwater, Storm Petrel, Eider, Hen Harrier, Water Rail, Kittiwake, auks, possibly Short-eared Owl and Wheatear (summer). Good sea-watching early autumn. Recent rarities: Osprey, Red Kite, Goshawk, Sabine’s Gull, Pechora Pipit, Bluethroat, Aquatic Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Woodchat Shrike, Eastern Bonelli's Warbler, Subalpine Warbler and Scarlet Rosefinch.

There is a resident Warden at the Bird Observatory for most of the year. Activities include bird-ringing and monitoring the breeding bird population. There is a considerable flock of Loaghtan sheep.