Habitat: Limestone headland with thorn scrub and trees, cliffs, pasture, sandy beach, salt marsh, estuary and mudflats
ST296585, TA8 2RS
A limestone promontory jutting a mile out into the Bristol Channel, Brean Down is the premier migration watchpoint in Somerset, best in spring and autumn. It’s not exactly Portland, but still attracts rarities among good numbers of common migrants.
An early start is recommended, as migrants often move on quickly and it gets busy with visitors from late morning onwards. The ‘diagonal track’ along the old road is an easier way up than the long flight of steps, and better for migrants. The open ground on the top often hosts species like Wheatears and pipits, and any patch of bushes may host passerine migrants, so it is worth spending time searching for them. The area at the tip by the fort has produced some of the best birds, so could prove worth the walk. Visible migration can also be good in the right conditions. The thorn bushes and patches of sycamores along the bottom track to Brean Down Farm are particularly attractive to Phylloscopus warblers and ‘crests.
Rarities over the years include Sardinian, Barred, Pallas’s, and Yellow-browed Warblers, Rose-coloured Starling, Richard’s Pipit, Hoopoe, and Wryneck. Ring Ouzel and Firecrest are annual. In winter check Brean Down Cove by the café for Black Redstart.
The Axe Estuary is best in winter. Green-winged Teal and Spoonbill have been recorded on the estuary itself, and the salt marsh (wellies required) is a regular site for Jack Snipe and Water Pipit; in winter 2014-15 it also hosted Twite and both Snow and Lapland Buntings.
From Burnham-on-Sea head north through Berrow and Brean; the road ends at the Down. There are two P + D car parks – a National Trust one and one associated with the Bird Garden (captive parrots etc.).
The old road up the Down is tarmac but steep, so not very suitable for wheelchairs or those with stamina issues. The bottom track is wide, flat and even, providing access to one of the best migrant spots and views over the estuary. Two cafés and toilets by car parks.
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