Where to watch birds

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

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 and 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). 

2 Glascoe Dub and Ballacorey SC447988 

Glascoe is little more than a duck pond and the adjacent fields to the east regularly flood in winter. Ballacorey is a shallow mere in farmland, which dries off as summer progresses. 

Glascoe is close to A10, 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 motorable track off A13; the dubs are just to the east (permission at Ballacain Farm to north). The premier site for wild swans with 20 – 30 Whoopers and occasional Bewick’s, Greylag Goose, varied wildfowl on dubs (winter). 

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). It used to be possible to see up to 80 Hen Harriers (with 20-40 quite usual) as they 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. 

Goldeneye flock opposite Grand Island Hotel and possibility of unusual wildfowl in 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 regularly and unusual wildfowl may turn up (winter). Little Grebe has bred. Coot, Oystercatcher (summer). 

[Ravens nest in Bishopscourt Glen 800m to south]. 

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

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 foot path 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, Stonechat (summer). Hen Harrier, Chough (all year). 

10 Peel Hill and Castle 

Slate cliffs and rocky islet. 

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). 

Bay: Great Northern Diver (winter). 

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. 

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 which have recently included Ruddy Duck (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 Ousel (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’. 

Rocky Shoreline

Looking across Baie ny Carrickey towards Gansey beach, with Bradda Head in the background

Wildfowl – notably Shelduck and Wigeon (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. 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 places to see a Chough flock at close range. Just south of Derbyhaven take the right-hand fork for Langness and almost at once when the road turns left, keep straight ahead along a sandy, motorable track which follows the coast closely from Sandwick southwards for about a quarter of a mile before rejoining the lighthouse road. Watching from a car can be very rewarding, particularly at high tide. Grey Plover, Knot, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff, both godwits, Whimbrel, Greenshank, Sandwich Tern (passage). Wildfowl (Brent Goose now annual), Golden Plover, Short-eared Owl, Chough and in Derbyhaven divers and grebes (winter). 

Rarities have included Little Egret (several years), 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 at Cregneash village climbs to a car park whence one can walk down to the Chasms (dangerous fissures – take care). There is also limited parking at Fistard (SC200644) – then 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 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 Loghtan sheep.

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