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Where to watch cirl buntings

Male cirl bunting perched on branch in winter

Image: Chris Gomersall

Below are a number of sites in South Devon where you may have a chance of seeing cirl buntings, but please consider the following points before visiting any of them:

  • Always give careful consideration, as with any bird, so as not to disturb cirl buntings - both during and outside of the breeding season. We recommend visiting the 'How to watch cirl buntings' page before you make your visit  
  • All sites are accessible by car, but we would urge visitors to use public transport where possible
  • Please always keep to footpaths or public access areas
  • Please mention watching cirl buntings and other wildlife as a reason for your visit if staying locally or using cafes, pubs etc                 

Labrador Bay

Location: approximately four miles south of Teignmouth.
Best time: winter, but present all year round.
Access: See Labrador Bay webpage, linked from this page
Terrain: Undulating mixed farm. Some of the paths away from the car park are quite demanding.

Cirl buntings may be encountered across the reserve however, they are often to be seen and hear in the car park area and can be viewed in the hedge surrounding the car park.

Prawle Point 

Location: approximately five miles south of Kingsbridge.
Best time: year round.
Access: click on public transport links to the right, or park in the National Trust car park at SX774355.  
Terrain: flat well marked coastal footpaths. Note the steep rocky terrain if doing the loop walk.

Take the coast path to the east and cirl buntings may be seen anywhere along this stretch of coastline between the car park and Horseley Cove. Good flocks of up to 30 can be seen in winter and singing males are usually conspicuous in the summer months by their rattling songs. A good circular walk of approximately 2 miles is possible by taking the coast path east as far as Horseley Cove and then cutting up the steep valley west and back along the road to the car park.

Broadsands

Location: approximately two miles south of Paignton. 
Best time: October to April.
Access: click on public transport links to the right, or park in the pay and display car park at SX896572.  
Terrain: flat, tarmac car park - suitable for wheelchair access.

Cirl buntings can often be seen in and around the hedgerows adjacent to the most northerly car park. This car park is closed for parking in winter, but pedestrian access to view the fields is not a problem. On calm sunny days in winter, the buntings may even be heard singing from the car park itself and may also be present to the east around Elberry Cove. 

Maidencombe

Location: approximately three miles to the north of Torquay.
Best time: all year.
Access: click on public transport links to the right, or park in the Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust pay and display car park at SX926684.  
Terrain: slightly undulating coastal footpaths. 

Take the footpath north along the coast. Singing birds may be found along the extensive network of hedgerows in spring, whilst in winter, flocks of up to 20 birds can often be seen in the managed stubble fields with other finches and buntings.

Berry Head National Nature Reserve 

Location: approximately four miles south-east of Paignton, one mile to the north of Brixham.
Best time: October to April.
Access: click on public transport links to the right, or park in the pay and display car park at SX940562.  
Terrain: flat, well-marked footpaths.

Cirl buntings can often be seen perched in tress and bushes adjacent to the common, immediately west of the car park or feeding in the rough grassland along the cliff top path to the north–east.

Wembury 

Location: approximately five miles to the south-east of Plymouth.
Best time: mid-April to mid-August.
Access: buses from Plymouth (click on public transport links to the right), or park in the National Trust car park at SX519484.
Terrain: flat, well-marked footpaths.

Cirl buntings can be quite difficult to see at this site but perseverance is the key. The footpath through the valley taking you north to the village of Wembury can be good for singing birds. The coastal footpath heading west towards Heybrook Bay can also hold cirl bunting territories. It is worth spending time scanning for birds in the nearby fields and hedgerows.  

Jennycliff 

Location: approximately two miles to the south of Plymouth on the eastern edge of Plymouth Sound.
Best time: mid-April to mid-August.
Access: buses from Plymouth (click on public transport links to the right), or park in the pay and display car park at SX492523.
Terrain: grassy slopes and coastal footpaths.

Cirl buntings are uncommon at this site, but have been recorded just north of the car park. The coast path to the south, towards Staddon Heights is also worth a look.  

Any sightings from either Wembury or Jennycliff are of particular interest to the RSPB and we would be grateful to hear from you. Please e-mail sightings direct to cath.jeffs@rspb.org.uk or kevin.rylands@rspb.org.uk  

Stoke Point 

Location: approximately eight miles to the south-east of Plymouth, near Noss Mayo. 
Best time: mid-April to mid-August.
Access: click on public transport links to the right, or park in the pay and display car park at SX557465.
Terrain: grassy slopes and coastal footpaths.

Take the track south towards the coast. Cirl buntings may be found anywhere along the coastal path. They often sing from the gorse slopes below the path.