3rd March, 2014
Here at The Carter Company, we're not about lycra-clad, high-speed road cycling. Whilst we do offer some more challenging trips, we specialise in creating itineraries that let you amble along at your own pace. We believe in slow travel, giving you the time to immerse yourself in your surroundings, to stop and admire the view and to follow your nose off from the beaten track (experience has shown us that 'creative' detours always lead to some interesting discoveries!)
Our time-generous trips offer a major advantage for those of you who are interested in the local wildlife of the area you are cycling or walking in. Below are some of our recommendations for places to visit if you enjoy a spot of birding...
First up, Braunton Burrows near Barnstaple, which you can explore on Devon Coast to Coast and Whistle-Stop Devon. In addition to some incredibly abundant flora - including sea stock, sand toadflax, bee orchid and water germander (which is only found on one other site in the UK) - Braunton is also home to an amazing array of fauna, including 33 species of butterfly, hedgehogs and of course rabbits. In the spring and summer you can see good numbers of migrants such as chiffchaff, willow warbler and common and lesser whitethroat. The highlight during May is to listen for the call of the cuckoo - sadly a declining species in the UK but just a few still visit the Burrows. Meadow pipits, skylarks and stonechats can be found where the vegetation is low. And the rabbits tend to attract some bigger birds of prey - watch out for kestrels and buzzards hovering overhead.
In Dorset, Studland Heath Nature Reserve on our Dorset Tours and the RSPB's Arne Bay are worth a visit. At the former, you can expect to find purple sandpipers, Dartford warblers, nightjars, and hobbys. At Arne, star species include the avocet, little egret and stonechat. If you're lucky in Autumn you might catch a glimpse of an Osprey or Marsh Harrier.
Finally, The Chilterns (where our small HQ office is located) is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Perhaps its most famous avian resident (and a personal favourite of the team here) is the red kite, a beautifully majestic bird of prey which was extremely rare until it was re-introduced to the Chilterns in the early 1990s. There are now over 300 pairs. Buzzards have increased across the area in recent years and are often seen flying with red kites - surprisingly they seem to tolerate each other! Blackcaps, great spotted and green woodpeckers, tawny owls are frequently found in the Chiltern woodlands. Apart from birds, other interesting wildlife finds here are the rare stag beetle and many badger sets. Check out our Whistle-Stop Chiltern tour if you've only got a couple of days, or our Grand Tour for the ultimate tour of quintessential England by bike, which takes in sections of The Chilterns.
The good news is, panniers come included on all our bikes, so there's plenty of space to pack the binoculars. Happy Birding!