Dorset Discovery Winter Tour January 14th - 16th 2019

Dorset can be at it’s most spectacular during the winter. Vast wader flocks are attracted to our Harbours including 1000+ Avocet and 2000+ Black-tailed Godwit in Poole Harbour alone, not to mention the usual 20+ Spoonbill. All three-diver species, Black-necked, Slavonian and Red-necked Grebe are annual in Portland Harbour and Long-tailed Duck, Eider Duck, Common and Velvet Scoter could be amongst them too. Winter is also raptor time as both Marsh and Hen Harrier patrol the reedbed, Peregrine Falcon and Merlin make a nuisance of themselves in the estuaries and Short-eared Owl hunt low over grassy fields. As dusk approaches we’ll also be on the look out for Woodcock flying over our heads as they go out to feed.  


What makes ‘Dorset Discovery’ unique?


  • Gain access to some of the UK’s best wildlife spots and RSPB reserves never before opened to the public.
  • You will be led by expert local guides, who also happen to be the very people responsible for managing, surveying and protecting these wonderful landscapes.
  • Learn about why and how we manage sites for wildlife too.
  • 100% of the profits go straight back in to local wildlife conservation, right back in to the places you’ve visited.


Why come in the winter?


  • Mass of wintering waders, including one of the largest Avocet and Black-tailed Godwit flocks in the UK, 20 + Spoonbill, Little Egret, Greenshank, Knot, Spotted Redshank, Grey Plover, Curlew and more.


  • Large numbers of wintering wildfowl, including 1000+Brent Geese, Wigeon, Teal, Pintail, Goldeneye as well as likely Long-tailed Duck and Eider


  • Bird rich Harbours including Black-necked, Slavonian and Red-necked Grebe, Great Northern and Black-throated Diver, Red-breasted Merganser and Common Scoter.


  • Hunting birds of prey including Marsh and Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Merlin and possible Short-eared Owl.


  • Woodcock heading out to feed at dusk


  • Resident Dartford Warblers feeding with Stonechat on the heathlands, while Fieldfare, Redwing and Firecrest can be seen in the surrounding woodland.


  • Reedbeds alive with Bearded Tit, Water Rail, Cetti’s Warbler, Kingfisher and Snipe, with a chance Bittern lofting over the reeds and Otters emerging at dusk 


Below is our tour Itinerary. The Itinerary is flexible based on what we have seen and members of the group wish to see, as well as taking into consideration weather and wildlife spectacles.

Day 1 

Meet at 12 midday at the stunning RSPB Arne reserve. You’ll meet your guides for the tour and head straight out onto the heathland, including exclusive access to areas of the reserve not usually open to the public. Arne is a hot spot for the Dartford Warbler as well as being a likely spot to track down Firecrest, Fieldfare, Redwing and Stonechat. We’ll also be getting down to the waters edge and looking out over the magical Poole Harbour where we hope to see Spoonbill (a British record of 75 occurred in the harbour last autumn), Avocet, Brent Geese and large wader and wildfowl flocks. After dinner we'll be heading back out again and we'll attempt to host a Woodcock ringing demo for the group which is part of a long term monitoring effort and will hopefully allow you to see these incredible birds up close. 


Day 2 

An early start after Breakfast, as we head over to Portland Harbour to enjoy a whole host of wintering species. We’ll hope to spot Black-necked and Slavonian Grebe, Great Northern Diver, and possible scarcer species such as Long-tailed and Eider. On the way to our next destination we’ll make a short stop off at the famous Chesil Beach which protects the bird rich Fleet in search for Turnstone, Ringed Plover and large numbers of Brent Geese, before arriving at RSPB Radipole Lake for lunch. We'll have a short stop off here as we search for Bearded Tit, Cetti’s Warbler, Water Rail and a whole host of wildfowl. Also on our hit list will be Bittern, Marsh Harrier and Kingfisher. Later in the afternoon we’ll head out onto RSPB Wareham Meadows, a reserve never before opened to the public. Here we’ll be hoping to see birds of prey like Hen and Marsh Harrier, Merlin, Peregrine, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk  coming in to roost and keeping an eye out for Woodcock and Short-eared Owl if they're about.


Day 3 

After Breakfast we’ll head to Poole Harbour, travelling along the Studland peninsular and cross the narrow Harbour mouth on the local Chain Ferry. There, we will be escorted by boat to the famous Brownsea Island, owned by the National Trust and home of the Red Squirrel. Here we will have exclusive access (the Island is not fully open to the general public during the winter months) to the incredible Brownsea Lagoon, managed by the Dorset Wildlife Trust. Here we will hope to see large gatherings of many species of wader that we haven’t previously caught up with such as Bar-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Grey Plover, Redshank and Knot as well as more chances to get great views of Avocet, Spoonbill and Black-tailed Godwit. Leaving the Island we will head back to our accommodation partner via some of the least well known birding hot spots in the area such as Shell Bay, Brands Bay and Studland Bay to give us the last chance to pick up views of species we may have missed out on over the last few days, before parting late afternoon. 

Event Type 
Guided Walk
14 January, 2019 - 12:00
Midday Jan 14th - 4pm Jan 16th
£375 per person (Excluding Accommodation)
Additional Information 

Tour Leaders – There will be a minimum of two tour leaders at any one time. We may also be joined by site-specific staff as and when necessary.

Paul Morton

Founder of the ‘Birds of Poole Harbour’ charity Paul has been watching and monitoring Poole Harbour's wildlife all his life and is the Poole Harbour Wetland Bird Survey Organiser , runs the hugely popular school bird boat scheme and project led the recent Poole Harbour Osprey translocation project. Paul was also the Information Officer at Arne RSPB reserve for several years and he’ll be your lead guide for the tour.

Luke Phillips 

Luke is the information Officer at the RSPB Arne reserve but lives (and birds) over in Weymouth. His expertise and knowledge covers the Weymouth and Portland and he is also the youngest BTO ringing trainer in the country.

Edward Chivers

What is included?

Food included:  Lunch on day 1, day 2 and on day 3.

Transport is included on day 2 and 3. On day 1, guests are expected to make their own way to meet at the RSPB Arne reserve. This set up will not add to participants mileage and will enable us to spend more time out watching wildlife. At the end of day 1 guests will make their own way to their accommodation.

Expert guides are included. Our group will always have a minimum of two guides and as we visit different reserves site-specific staff may join us.

And what isn’t?

Accommodation is not included.


For our Dorset Discovery tours we use the Kingston Country Courtyard as our accommodation partner. Nestled on top of the Purbeck ridge with breathtaking views of Corfe Castle and Poole Harbour, the Kingston Country Courtyard hotel provides us easy access to all of our birding destinations whilst providing you with the comfort and warm welcome you’d expect.

Please note – As accommodation is not included within our price you are free to stay at any destination you wish.

However, Quote your ‘Dorset Discovery tour’ booking reference number when booking with our accommodation partner and receive a special deal at the 4 star hotel.

If you choose to stay at the Kingston Country courtyard then ALL bookings (including dinner options) must be done through them.

On the Monday and Tuesday evenings of the tour two of your guides will be having dinner at the Kingston Country Courtyard should you wish to join them.

If you choose not to stay at the Kingston Country Courtyard but would like to join the group for dinner you're more than welcome. Dinner bookings and choices can be made directly through the hotel. 

All guest pick up and drop offs for the duration of the tour will be from the Kingston Country Courtyard Hotel at the specified times on the finalised itinerary. 

Optics and Clothing

Optics are an important part of the trip so please bring Binoculars with you and scopes if you have one. The guides will have telescopes that you will be able to use, but the more scopes the better! Suitable wet weather gear should be brought just in case along with sturdy footwear.

How to Book

This is an exclusive trip with only 8 places available, so please book early to avoid disappointment. To book please ring RSPB Arne on 01929 551693 and ask to book on to the RSPB and ‘Birds Of Poole Harbour’ Autumn Tour. Bookings are being taken now. If you wish to be put on the reserve list prior to that date, please contact Rob Farrington on 07725574793

By booking you are agreeing to our terms and conditions.


You will be sent directions to RSPB Arne, booking confirmation and details of our accommodation partner.


Edward Chivers -

Paul Morton –


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