26th Apr 2025

Nightingales & Spring in the Fens

A 1-day tour primarily to listen to and look for Nightingales, combined with a visit to the Fens for Bitterns and the Brecks for Stone Curlews.


The population of Nightingales in the UK has declined substantially but we still have a reliable site at the moment where we can find good numbers of them in the spring. They start to return from their African wintering grounds in April and the end of the month and the start of May are the best times to hear them. Later in the season, once they are breeding, they will sing less but now they are in full voice. We will go out specifically to listen for them singing their beautiful song and we normally have chances to find them perched too, even if their appearance does not quite match the beauty of their song! There should be a variety of warblers singing here too, so it is not just about the Nightingales. With so many birds singing, it is a wonderful way to spend a few hours in the morning here.

The Fens

By mid-morning, we will move on to Lakenheath Fen. Arable fields when the RSPB acquired the site in 1995, it is now a huge area of reedbeds. This is a good time of year to hear Bitterns booming and we stand a decent chance of seeing one in flight over the reeds too. The population of Bitterns in the UK was down to just 11 booming males in 1997, but following 30 years of conservation effort the population has recovered strongly and now Lakenheath alone has more than this number in spring. There are two or three pairs of breeding Common Cranes too, but we will need some luck to see one at this time of year.

There are other good birds to see here too. When Hobbys first return from Africa, they can gather in large numbers at suitable feeding sites like Lakenheath Fen. This should be a good time of year to see them here – in 2023, we counted at least 36 in the air together! It is also a great site for Cuckoos and there might be Garganey on the Washland too.

Stone Curlews

Before the 1920s, the Brecks was a vast area of grass heath and would have been home to a large population of Stone Curlews, as well as other species like Great Bustards and Red-backed Shrikes. The majority of the grassland was converted to forestry or ploughed for farming in the early to mid 20th century and Stone Curlew is now a very rare breeding bird in the UK, with only a little over 300 pairs left. The Brecks is the core area for them. We are spending the day on the border between the Brecks and the Fens, so we usually run in to one or two on our travels on this tour, but if we don’t see them earlier we will finish the day at the NWT reserve at Weeting Heath, one of the last remaining remnants of the original grass heath, to try to catch up with them there.

Gift Vouchers

If you would like to give a gift to someone who is interested in birds then a gift voucher from The Bird ID Company is an ideal present.

The vouchers can be flexible, and used against any tour or tours over the following 12 months, or can be bought for a specific tour.