5 Top Birding Spots in Milton Keynes

5 Top Birding Spots in Milton Keynes - Hobby in flight
5 Top Birding Spots in Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes may not seem the best urban birding location in the UK, but we have our fair share of interesting places for the birds (sadly many have declined over the years through neglect or pressure from the growing town). So here are my 5 top birding spots in Milton Keynes, a few details about local wildlife hotspots to be found in (and around) Milton Keynes (click on the link/name to see location on Google maps).

As you will see they are mainly lakes, Milton Keynes has a lot of lakes of various sizes, so I've added Little Linford wood in to break up the lake theme, and each site title can be clicked on to take you to a Google map of  the area (I hope) and so onto my 5 Top Birding Spots of Milton Keynes.

5 Top Birding Spots in Milton Keynes

Manor Farm - Now Known as the Floodplain Forest

Currently Manor Farm (where the majority of posts on this blog are located) is the premier location in Milton Keynes for waders, and passage birds (it is currently, 2016, no.1 in my 5 Top Birding Spots in Milton Keynes). Created from a recent gravel workings the area is a complex of small interconnected lakes and pools fed by the river Ouse, but you can read all about it in more detail in my Introducing the Patch pages the nature reserve is covered under Main Pits and Stilt Pits.

Manor Farm - Floodplain Forest Nature Reserve
Manor Farm - Floodplain Forest Nature Reserve
no.1 in my 5 Top Birding Spots in Milton Keynes

At present you can park by the Galleon pub in Old Wolverton (over the canal is a small car park) or you can park off Haversham Road where there is a larger car park - then walk under the viaduct and round to the right and you will find paths off the river path into the reserve. There are plans for a larger Car-park by the farm buildings. There are three hides currently onsite with potentially screens being added in other areas at later dates.

Habitat wise, it is currently a combination of river side (the Ouse) Pools and lakes, and Farm land, although what the place will eventually look like I'm not really sure, but it will be wonderful.

Great White Egret on the Floodplain Forest Nature Reserve
Great White Egret on the Floodplain Forest Nature Reserve

The wildlife that can be seen there varies, but there are good numbers of wading birds at the right time and if the weather has been kind (especially Lapwings), as well as Little Egrets, and water birds but the odd passage bird turns up sometimes, and it has had some really good birds. (Best birds -  Cattle Egret and Great White Egret have turned up as well as Black Winged Stilt and Pectoral Sandpiper). 

The area is also good for Butterflies (such as Small Skipper, Large Skipper and Marble White to name but three), Dragonflies (including, but not limited to Banded Demoiselle, in huge numbers, Red-eyed Damselfly and I believe Small Red-eyed Damselfly), and a whole host of insects if you look hard enough.

If you continued along the Ouse from here (west) you would reach Stony Stratford nature reserve, and the town itself.

Willen Lake

Banded Demoiselle (Willen Lake, MIlton Keynes)
Banded Demoiselle (Willen Lake, MIlton Keynes)
Willen lake used to be THE number one location for birds in Milton Keynes, the nature reserve on the north lake used to have a changeable water level that in peak wader migration would be lowered to attract passage birds, real rarities like Caspian Tern, Whiskered Tern (2 at once) and Black-winged Stilt (tried to breed) have turned up and Spotted Crake was almost annual, then they built the road through the middle and it all changed. The water level is now no longer changed and the birds don't turn up as much as they used to. It still holds the odd good bird but not remotely as it used to. The South lake gull roost which used to be huge has diminished, probably due to the increase in water sports. Sadly there is also a lack of people watching the lakes now, regular birders having moved on to better, less disturbed areas.

There is still interesting wildlife around, I have personally seen huge numbers of Banded Demoiselles along the river and Otter have been seen in front of the hide playing in broad daylight. Bat numbers are quite good I believe and butterflies can easily be seen during the summer months. And it can be a very tranquil location, the peace pagoda and Buddhist temple would be evidence of that.

Parking however is now a costly affair, the main car park by the water sports and family area charge quite a bit (as does the one behind the peace pagoda), but there are two free parking areas, one opposite the sewage works (you'll need to cross the river but there is a bridge) alternatively there is a location by Willen sports pavilion that is also free although for a new visitor it could be tricky to locate.

5 Top Birding Sites in Milton Keynes
5 Top Birding Sites in Milton Keynes
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Linford Reserve (Permit only) - Now Known as Linford Lakes Nature Reserve

Short-eared owl, Linford Nature Reserve
Short-eared owl, Linford Nature Reserve
This little oasis of a nature reserve, run by the parks trust is actually under threat, the local council in their wisdom is building houses closer and closer and wants to turn the surrounding land into a country park, so rather than the rugged farmland that has attracted Short-eared owls will be a manicured haven for dog walkers and youths! Sometimes we really do need to allow nature to do as it wishes.

Anyway, the wildlife is still (currently) very good, anything can and does turn up from Great White Egret to River Warbler, it was home to the first inland breeding records for Little Egret and has held all 5 species of Owl at different times. Most of the species of Milton Keynes dragonflies have been recorded here and there are some good moth and butterfly records.

Currently you can drive around the back of the reserve on a public road, so some viewing is possible, although the road is rough and there is no right of way to stop. The actual reserve has its own small car park reached down a road opposite the turning to the black horse pub car park (the road is owned by the fishing lakes so again no stopping) but is permit only - Permits can be obtained from Linford lakes Nature Reserve.

Caldecotte Lake

Caldecotte Lake Pub
Caldecotte Lake Pub

The largest of the Milton Keynes lakes, located in the South-east of the city, it is a huge body of water that now holds a decent Gull roost. The lakes often hold interesting ducks and other water birds including birds such as Great Northern Diver, Red Necked Grebe and Slavonian Grebe and has even had real rarities like a Spotted Sandpiper once!

Personally I probably know this lake the least of all, as I have never lived that side of the town, but there are good birds, butterflies and other wildlife can be found here, just look at Holding Moments blog all about the lake and it's residents.

Great Northern Diver (Caldecotte Lake, Milton Keynes)
Great Northern Diver (Caldecotte Lake, Milton Keynes)

What I do know is that there is a great pub on the lake (semi-newly built but looks like a converted windmill), they do some nice food and you can look out over part of the lake which offers some nice views with your pint.

If you are interested in fishing, the lakes hold some nice specimins and there is a sailing club that can often make the lake waters busy. Caldecotte lake is home to the largest number of Cormorants in Milton Keynes, the island roost used to be huge (I'm not sure what it is like now).

Little Linford Wood

Little Linford Wood is a BBOWT nature reserve set quite a way up a (what would appear private) road, it is a piece of ancient woodland that is a haven for wildlife, and located just near the M1 motorway. This one is the furthest outside of Milton Keynes and near the walled village of Gayhurst. It has a small car park but I must admit it isn't an area I would want to visit at night.

Little Linford Wood Milton Keynes
Little Linford Wood Milton Keynes
The wood is home to a great array of butterflies with Purple Emperor, White admiral and wood white all distinct possibilities. Dragonfly numbers are also really good here and you can find huge swarms some years at the right time. Bird wise, the woods used to hold all three woodpeckers (although I'm not sure about lesser anymore) and does hold woodcock at the right time, as well as tree sparrow and other finches and buntings in the winter.

But it is the bluebells that make this wood. In spring it is a wonderful site to see the carpet of purplish blue spreading out under the ancient oaks.

Other sites:

Other sites, that did not make the list but are always worth a look are:

  • Gayhurst Quarry (Another good water body).
  • Stone Pit Park (great for Butterflies and Dragonflies).
  • Walton Balancing Lakes (Near the OU, good for Dragonflies and Water Rail).
  • Linford Wood (a small piece of ancient woodland in the heart of the town, often has Tawny Owls calling).
  • Howe Park Wood (another piece of ancient wood great for rare butterflies and Dragonflies)
  • Blue Lagoon (a deep lake by the rubbish tip, great for gulls, butterflies and dragonflies)

If you can visit one of these sites then please do, and let me know what you see, they can turn up some wonderful wildlife and it is always nice to hear about local sightings.

I hope you enjoyed Top 5 Birding Sites of Milton Keynes, if you did or found it useful please feel free to share with your friends.

Please feel free to leave me a comment, I really appreciate the interaction and will reply as soon as I can. I apologise for any issues with posting comments, but sometimes Google's blogger platform plays up.


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