Mud, glorious mud... Some great places to see overwintering birds
An incredible 1.5 million waders spend the winter on the UK's tidal mudflats. That's nearly half of all Europe's population. So if you're thinking winter's a bad time for watching wildlife, then get yourself down to an estuary to see all manner of birds, often in spectacular numbers (and then read our guide to enjoying winter wildlife).
Redshank foraging by Ivan Ellison
Exe estuary, south-west England
The Exe, the largest and most important estuary in the south-western peninsula, is designated a Special Protection Area and SSSI. It's made up of five key habitats: mudflat, saltmarsh, reedbed, eel frass and mussel beds and holds international importance for wading birds.
Look out for avocet, greenshank, redshank, dunlin, curlew, red-breasted merganser and lapwing. Brent geese will overwinter here too and osprey may be seen passing through on their way south in autumn.
Dee estuary, north Wales
The Dee estuary, situated at the north-west border with England, is the most important wetland site in Wales. It has cockle beds, mudflats, salt marsh and sand flat habitats. Over 110,000 waders and 20,000 wildfowl spend the winter here including around 1,500 black-tailed godwit, hundreds of lapwing and pintail, and many bar-tailed godwit, golden plover, grebes and eider ducks. It's a big favourite of Autumnwatch guest presenter Iolo Williams.
Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland
Strangford Lough attracts huge flocks of overwintering birds. Its mud flats and sand flats are perfect feeding grounds for birds fuelling up to survive the winter or indeed to continue their vast migrations. Nearly all the world's population of light bellied brent geese (some 30,000 birds) overwinters around the loughs of Northern Ireland. Brent geese, knot, bar-tailed godwit and terns will also arrive in the autumn months to spend the winter here.
Right now, strong northeasterlies have brought in large numbers of knot and bar-tailed godwit.
Loch Gruinart, Islay, west Scotland
A stunning nature reserve on the stunning island of Islay, Loch Gruinart's mudflats are a great place to see roosting barnacle geese during the winter. Also look our for waders like snipe, oystercatcher, turnstone, redshank and curlew and hen harriers, golden eagles and peregrine falcons on the hunt.
Wash estuary, east England
As one of the largest estuaries in Britain, the Wash provides a rich supply of food attracting waders and wildfowl in large numbers such as grey plover, dunlin, oystercatchers and godwits will overwinter here and are best spotted on the rising tide.
So there's a few of our favourites. What are yours?