I’ve been travelling full time for almost two years now, so I often find myself in new places without any real knowledge of the local wildlife or where to find it. So in this post, I’d like to share how I research places to find wildlife to photograph.  

You can check out the video below where I talk through my process.  I’ve listed the resources below with links and some additional resources that I forgot to mention in the video.

1. Books for Finding Wildlife

I love books, and I always prefer to get a local book on an area if I can.  So I often visit used bookshops when I travel to look for local bird guides or general wildlife and habitats of the area.

On a recent visit to Cumbria, I found what is now one of my favourite bookshops called Bookends.  Their basement is filled with books on natural history!  Here, I picked up a book called ‘Where to watch birds in Cumbria, Lancashire and Cheshire‘ by Jonathan Guest and Malcolm Hutcheson.

A great little local guide for birds in the area and one that used to find brambling that I photographed from the car.  You can check out the video I made for it here!

A book that I refer to again and again is ‘Where to watch birds in Britain‘ by Simon Harrap and Nigel Redman. A great book that covers England, Wales and Scotland with detailed maps with habitat, species likely to be seen and what time of year is good to visit.

My favourite book so far is part of a series of books called ‘Best Birdwatching Sites‘.  Mine is on the ‘Scottish Highlands‘ but also includes Handa, Mull and Skye.  This book has been a life saver for my time on the Isle of Mull, where I made several videos for photographing wildlife.  You can check them out here!

I also have ‘Photographing Wildlife in the UK‘ by Andrew Marshall.  A decent book on places to photograph wildlife in the UK, with some tips on approaching and camera settings.  Some good info in the book, my only complaint is that many of the locations are from quite known locations like National Reserves and set up pay for hides for photography.

Other Books that are usful:

The Birds of Scotland – Detailed descriptions of species and migration timing.  A cheaper digital version can be found on the Scottish Ornithology Club website.  Or you can join for a free copy.

The Collins Bird Guide (Britain and Europe) is the ultimate guide for bird identification and I have it in both book form and the IOS app which includes features such as song and call recordings and the ability to compare birds side by side.  I’d say an absolute must to help with identification and species distribution.  Get the Apple App here!

2. Internet for Finding Wildlife

The internet is, of course, one of the most accessible research tools and very often when I’m in a new place I’ll just search for: where to find wildlife in…. or: top wildlife sites in… where to see birds in….

Very often I’ll come across blog posts that have been written or nature reserve or national trust websites which can all hold good information.

Useful Websites:

fatbirder.com An excellent site which has links to local sites, books, guides and bird reports from all over the world.  I almost always check out this site when I travel to a new country.

the-soc.org.uk the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club has a good website and a brilliant free IOS app to help you find locations for birds in Scotland.

birdtrack by BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) records of birds with location and time.  Here you can see when the first migrants have arrived in previous years and where certain trickier to find birds have been seen.

ebird.org similar to birdtrack, but worldwide coverage, it’s growing in usage and I will start using this more as I get more familiar with it.

3. Apps Useful for Wildlife Photographers

The Photographer’s Ephemeris IOS App or Android App also a free website version – an Incredibly detailed and useful app for sunrise/sunset times, moonrise/set, ability to input hight of mountains etc. etc.

My Tide Times IOS or Android for Tidal Times

OutDoors GPS IOS or Android – For a subscription of about £20 per year you get free download of all OS maps in the UK.  An incredibly useful app that I use all the time. It runs on the GPS which means you don’t need a phone signal to use it after you’ve downloaded the map for your area.  Great for hillwalking as well 🙂

Twitter – A great resource where you can follow specific accounts that give information on wildlife sightings.  I particularly like following accounts like @WaxwingsUK for details on sightings of waxwings in winter.

Google Maps is a great tool for looking up habitats and saving records.  It allows you to make maps that you can keep and even embed on websites.

4. Talk to Locals

Asking local people is probably how I’ve gotten some of my best tips for finding wildlife.  Very often people will start talking to me when they see me out with my camera and binoculars and share their knowledge.  

Only recently in Switzerland, a neighbour mentioned where I could find the Chamois (a goat antelope) and the exact time he would see them every morning.  Which then I was able to make a video for and get some good photos of.

Chamois in the Swiss Alps

5. Your Tips

Please share below if you have any good tips for researching and finding wildlife to photograph. Would be great to hear from you!