Want to see rare wildlife but conscious of your carbon footprint? I've been wildlife watching car-free for years and it’s easier than you might think. As a wildlife photographer, getting great views of our rarer species is really important to me. In 2021, I saw around 180 different bird species in Sussex; all by public transport or on foot!
Some nature reserves, like Rye Harbour, are really accessible by train. Regular buses from the town can get you closer to the visitor centre but I always choose to walk there, enjoying the quieter Castle Water paths first. Black-necked Grebes, Bitterns and Bearded Tits can sometimes be found around the inland reedbeds of this coastal reserve, making it well worth taking the scenic route.
Arlington Reservoir and Abbots Wood are also great wildlife watching spots and both are close to train stations. In summer, I enjoy long, leafy walks between Berwick and Polegate stations, photographing Nightingales, Cuckoo and Stoats on my way. Autumn is mainly spent at the coast, looking for Wryneck, Ring Ouzels and Black Redstarts around the downland. The Seven Sisters, Cuckmere Haven and Seaford Head cliffs are all easily accessible by bus.
Urban birdwatching sites are well worth checking out too. I’ve seen Water Pipits and Dartford Warbler at West Rise Marsh, and Guillemots and a Great Northern Diver in Eastbourne harbour.
Exploring on foot means you really immerse yourself in your local landscape, finding new trails and species you never knew were nearby. My hikes have helped me find breeding Turtle Doves, Spotted Flycatchers and Tawny Owls in Sussex. This winter, a brief wander around a Polegate woodland revealed a surprising roost of rare Hawfinches. You never know what you might spot!
If you’re keen to take on a new challenge this year, check out the #LocalBigYear, run by Birdguides. I’ll be aiming to spot 200 birds, car-free, by 31st December 2022 and you can follow my low-carbon wildlife travels through my Instagram, @Sussex_Sara
This post is also available on Sussex Wildlife Trust website