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Searching For Wildlife In Exmoor, England


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Brande Ware



Welcome to Exmoor, a captivating region in England renowned for its stunning landscapes and rich wildlife. Nestled in southwest England, Exmoor National Park spans across both Somerset and Devon, offering visitors a diverse range of habitats that are home to a plethora of fascinating wildlife species. From wild deer roaming freely to rare bird species soaring through the skies, Exmoor is truly a haven for nature enthusiasts.


Exmoor National Park covers an area of approximately 267 square miles, encompassing a mixture of open moorland, rugged coastline, deep wooded valleys, and picturesque rivers. Its unique blend of habitats provides the perfect conditions for a wide variety of plants and animals to thrive. Whether you’re an avid birdwatcher, an animal lover, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of the natural world, Exmoor offers a wealth of opportunities to discover and observe its remarkable wildlife.


Throughout this article, we will delve into the diverse habitats of Exmoor, explore the rich wildlife that calls this area home, and provide tips on how to maximize your wildlife-watching experience. So grab your binoculars, lace up your hiking boots, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable adventure in search of Exmoor’s remarkable wildlife.


Exmoor: A Unique Wildlife Haven

Exmoor National Park is renowned for its diverse and unique wildlife, making it a haven for nature enthusiasts and wildlife lovers. The park’s varied habitats, from open moorland to dense woodlands, provide a home for a wide range of species, some of which are rarely found elsewhere in the country.


One of the park’s most iconic residents is the Exmoor pony. These sturdy and hardy ponies have roamed the moorland for centuries and are considered a key part of the cultural and ecological landscape of Exmoor. They are known for their distinctive appearance, with a compact and muscular build, a thick mane, and a calm yet alert temperament. Spotting these beautiful creatures grazing peacefully on the moorland is a sight to behold.


In addition to the Exmoor ponies, the park is home to a wide variety of bird species. From buzzards and kestrels soaring through the skies to the elusive merlin and peregrine falcon, birdwatchers are in for a treat. The heaths and moorlands provide an ideal habitat for ground-nesting birds such as the curlew and the iconic skylark, known for its melodious song that fills the air.


But it’s not just the birds and ponies that make Exmoor a unique wildlife haven. The park is also home to a thriving population of red deer. These majestic creatures can often be seen grazing in the open moorland or venturing into the woodlands. Exmoor is one of the few places in England where you can witness red deer in their natural habitat, and the sight of a stag with its impressive antlers is truly awe-inspiring.


As you explore Exmoor’s varied landscapes, you may also encounter other fascinating wildlife, such as badgers, foxes, and hares. The diverse habitats of the park support a healthy ecosystem, allowing these animals to thrive and coexist in harmony.


Whether you’re a seasoned wildlife enthusiast or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of nature, Exmoor National Park offers a unique opportunity to experience the wonders of the natural world. So grab your camera, pack your binoculars, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through Exmoor’s wildlife-rich landscapes.


The Diverse Habitats of Exmoor

Exmoor National Park boasts a remarkable variety of habitats, each providing a unique ecosystem that supports a diverse range of plant and animal species. From open moorland to ancient woodlands and rugged coastlines, Exmoor offers an array of landscapes to explore and discover.


The open moorland is perhaps one of the most iconic features of Exmoor. Vast expanses of heather-covered hills and rolling grasslands stretch as far as the eye can see, providing a habitat for many ground-nesting birds, such as the curlew and lapwing. The moorland also supports a rich diversity of plants, including purple heather, bilberries, and gorse bushes, which burst into color during the summer months.


Venturing into the valley bottoms, you’ll find yourself in the heart of Exmoor’s ancient woodlands. These ancient oak woodlands are teeming with life, from woodland birds like the great spotted woodpecker and tawny owl to a wide variety of small mammals, such as badgers and dormice. These woodlands have a magical aura, with dappled sunlight filtering through the canopy and a carpet of bluebells in the spring.


As you make your way towards the coast, the landscape changes once again, revealing dramatic cliffs and rocky shorelines. Exmoor’s coastal habitats are home to an abundance of marine life, including seals, dolphins, and a variety of seabirds. On a clear day, you may even catch a glimpse of the mythical beast that has long captured the imaginations of locals and visitors alike – the Exmoor Sea Serpent.


Exmoor also boasts a network of rivers and streams that crisscross the park, carving their way through the valleys and providing vital habitats for aquatic creatures. These freshwater habitats are home to a variety of fish species, such as brown trout and Atlantic salmon, as well as otters, which can occasionally be spotted playfully splashing in the water.


By embracing the diversity of Exmoor’s habitats, you’ll have the opportunity to witness a wide range of wildlife and explore the intricate relationships between plants and animals. Whether you’re hiking along the open moorland, meandering through ancient woodlands, or marveling at the rugged coastline, Exmoor offers an ever-changing landscape that is sure to captivate and inspire.


Exploring the Moorland

The open moorland of Exmoor National Park is a vast and captivating landscape waiting to be explored. Spanning for miles, the rolling hills, heather-covered moors, and expansive grasslands offer a tranquil escape into nature’s beauty.


One of the best ways to experience the moorland is by embarking on one of the many walking trails that crisscross the park. With a map in hand, you can set off on a journey through this enchanting terrain, immersing yourself in the sights, sounds, and smells of the natural world. Be prepared for breathtaking views as you reach the higher peaks and take in the sweeping panoramas of the surrounding countryside.


As you traverse the moorland, you may come across the iconic and hardy Exmoor ponies, grazing peacefully in their natural habitat. These ponies are a true symbol of the moorland and have roamed the area for centuries. Remember to keep a safe distance and observe them from afar, allowing them to continue their grazing undisturbed.


Keep your eyes and ears open for the array of bird species that call the moorland home. From soaring buzzards and kestrels to the distinctive call of the skylark, the moorland is a haven for birdwatchers. Binoculars are a must-have accessory as you scan the skies and the grassy expanses for these winged wonders.


Exploring the moorland also presents the opportunity to encounter other wildlife that thrives in this unique habitat. Look out for hares darting across the fields with incredible speed or badgers emerging from their setts at dusk in search of food. The moorland is a quiet and undisturbed realm where wildlife can flourish, so tread gently and respectfully.


If you’re feeling adventurous, why not try wild camping on the moorland? Spending a night under the stars, surrounded by the peacefulness of the landscape, can be an unforgettable experience. Just make sure to follow the guidelines and obtain any necessary permits before pitching your tent.


Whether you choose to explore the moorland on foot, by bike, or even on horseback, you’ll find yourself immersed in a world of natural wonders. The moorland of Exmoor National Park is a place of enchantment, offering a glimpse into a timeless landscape that is both captivating and serene.


Spotting Rare Bird Species

Exmoor National Park is a haven for birdwatchers, offering a variety of habitats that attract a diverse range of avian species. From common residents to rare migratory visitors, the park provides ample opportunities to spot some of the most sought-after bird species in England.


One of the most iconic birds that can be spotted in Exmoor is the majestic red kite. Once on the brink of extinction in the UK, conservation efforts have helped revive their population, and now they can be seen soaring through the skies above the park. With their distinct forked tail and striking reddish-brown plumage, red kites are a sight to behold.


Another notable species that frequents Exmoor is the elusive merlin. These small and agile falcons are known for their high-speed aerial displays as they hunt their prey. With their swift flight and stealthy nature, spotting a merlin is a thrilling experience for any bird enthusiast.


For those who appreciate the melodic songs of birds, a visit to Exmoor wouldn’t be complete without listening out for the skylark. These small brown birds are known for their distinctive and beautiful songs, delivered as they hover high in the sky. Listening to the skylark’s song is a reminder of the natural symphony that fills the moorland.


During the spring and autumn migration seasons, Exmoor becomes a temporary home for a variety of rare bird species. From wading birds, such as curlews and golden plovers, to colorful warblers and flycatchers, the park becomes a veritable hotspot for birdwatchers hoping to catch a glimpse of these transient visitors.


If you want to maximize your chances of spotting rare bird species, investing in a good pair of binoculars and a bird field guide is highly recommended. These essential tools will help you identify the different species and observe their behaviors from a safe distance. You might also consider joining a guided birdwatching tour led by knowledgeable local experts who can share their insights and point out hidden gems.


Remember, when birdwatching, it’s important to observe birds with minimal disturbance to their natural behavior. Keep noise levels low, avoid getting too close, and never disturb nesting sites. The welfare of the birds should always be a priority.


With its diverse habitats and rich birdlife, Exmoor National Park is a paradise for birdwatchers. Whether you’re a seasoned ornithologist or a novice enthusiast, exploring the park’s picturesque landscapes is sure to reward you with memorable birdwatching experiences.


Discovering Exmoor’s Wild Deer Population

Exmoor National Park is home to a thriving population of wild deer, making it a prime destination for those wanting to witness these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. The park is home to two deer species – the iconic red deer and the smaller but equally captivating roe deer.


The red deer, Britain’s largest land mammal, can be seen roaming freely across the moorland and woodlands of Exmoor. With their impressive antlers, red deer stags make for a breathtaking sight during the mating season, known as the rut, when they compete for dominance and the attention of females. During this period, which usually occurs from September to November, the sound of their distinctive roaring echoes through the valleys.


The red deer hinds, on the other hand, can be spotted all year round, usually in small groups or with their calves. These majestic animals are remarkably well adapted to their surroundings and have become an integral part of the Exmoor landscape.


In addition to the red deer, Exmoor is also home to a population of roe deer. These smaller deer can often be seen in woodlands and more secluded areas of the park. Known for their agility and keen senses, roe deer are elusive and typically prefer to stay hidden among the trees. However, with patience and sharp eyes, you may be lucky enough to spot one during your explorations.


When encountering deer in Exmoor, it’s important to maintain a safe distance and observe them from afar. Deer are wild animals and should never be approached or fed. It’s essential to respect their space and allow them to go about their natural behaviors undisturbed.


For those who have a keen interest in deer and want to learn more about these magnificent creatures, Exmoor offers guided deer-watching experiences. Led by knowledgeable guides, these tours provide insights into the behavior and ecology of the deer while ensuring minimal impact on their natural habitat.


Remember, Exmoor is not just a haven for deer; it’s also a protected national park. So, while enjoying the presence of these magnificent animals, take the time to appreciate the surrounding landscapes, listen to the sounds of nature, and embrace the tranquility of the park.


Exploring Exmoor and discovering its wild deer population is a truly unforgettable experience. Witnessing these majestic animals in their natural habitat reminds us of the beauty and diversity of the natural world.


Wildlife Watching Tips and Etiquette

When venturing into Exmoor National Park to observe its remarkable wildlife, it’s crucial to follow some essential tips and guidelines to ensure both your safety and the well-being of the animals you encounter. By practicing responsible wildlife watching, you can have a memorable experience while minimizing your impact on the environment.


1. Keep a safe distance: It’s crucial to maintain a safe distance from wildlife to avoid causing stress or disturbance. Use binoculars or a zoom lens to observe animals from afar, and never approach or chase them.


2. Stay on designated paths: Stick to designated paths and trails to avoid trampling on sensitive habitats and disturbing nesting sites. Respecting the natural environment helps preserve the fragile balance of the ecosystem.


3. Observe quietly: Keep noise levels to a minimum when observing wildlife. Sudden loud noises can startle animals and disrupt their natural behavior. Appreciate the peacefulness of the park and allow animals to go about their daily activities undisturbed.


4. Be patient and respectful: Wildlife encounters can be unpredictable, so be patient and respectful. Avoid crowding or surrounding animals and give them space to move freely. If an animal shows signs of discomfort or agitation, slowly back away.


5. Leave no trace: It’s essential to practice Leave No Trace principles when exploring Exmoor. Carry out any trash or litter with you and avoid leaving any food scraps behind. This helps maintain the cleanliness of the park and prevents harm to wildlife.


6. Respect nesting and breeding seasons: During nesting and breeding seasons, some species may be particularly sensitive to disturbances. Familiarize yourself with the wildlife calendar and be aware of any sensitive areas where animals may be nesting or rearing their young. Avoid these areas or observe from a distance to avoid disrupting important life stages.


7. Do not feed the wildlife: Feeding wildlife can have negative impacts on their health and behavior. It can lead to reliance on human-provided food, alter natural feeding patterns, and even cause harm to the animals. It’s best to appreciate wildlife from a distance and let them find their own sources of sustenance.


8. Be aware of your own impact: Remember that you are a visitor in the wildlife’s home. Take steps to minimize your own impact by following park regulations, using designated parking areas, and keeping noise levels low. Encourage others to do the same and be a responsible advocate for wildlife preservation.


By following these wildlife watching tips and etiquette, you can have a rewarding and ethical experience in Exmoor National Park. Embrace the opportunity to connect with nature, observe the incredible wildlife, and leave a positive impact on the environment you are exploring.


Experiencing Exmoor’s Nightlife

As day turns to night, a whole new world awakens in Exmoor National Park. The park’s nocturnal creatures come to life, offering a unique and fascinating experience for those who venture out after dark. Exploring Exmoor’s nightlife can be an opportunity to witness a different side of its wildlife and immerse yourself in the mysteries of the night.


One of the most enchanting experiences of Exmoor’s nightlife is stargazing. Away from the bright city lights, the park offers exceptional conditions for observing the night sky. On a clear night, the stars blanket the sky, creating a breathtaking celestial display. Settle down in a dark spot, away from any artificial lights, and marvel at the wonders of the universe.


As you navigate through the darkness, listen for the hoots and calls of owls. Exmoor is home to several species of owls, including the tawny owl and barn owl. These elusive creatures are expert hunters, using their exceptional night vision and acute hearing to locate their prey. Catching a glimpse of an owl silently soaring through the night is a truly magical experience.


Keep an eye out for the smaller residents of the night as well. Bats, with their delicate wings and superb echolocation abilities, are fascinating creatures to observe. Exmoor is home to a variety of bat species, such as the common pipistrelle and the greater horseshoe bat. Look for them flitting through the air as they search for insects to feed on.


Exmoor’s rivers and streams also come alive at night. Take a walk along the water’s edge and look for the telltale signs of otter activity, such as footprints and spraints (otter droppings). These elusive creatures are most active at dawn and dusk, so a nighttime excursion might give you a chance to spot these charismatic mammals as they go about their aquatic adventures.


It’s important to exercise caution when exploring Exmoor’s nightlife. Make sure to bring a flashlight or headlamp to navigate safely and be aware of your surroundings. Dress warmly and wear appropriate footwear, as nighttime temperatures can be cooler and paths may be uneven.


Respect for the wildlife and their natural habitats is paramount during nighttime adventures. Keep noise levels low and avoid shining bright lights directly at animals, as this can disrupt their behavior and potentially harm their sensitive eyes. Admire and appreciate the nocturnal wonders from a respectful distance.


Experiencing Exmoor’s nightlife offers a unique perspective on the park’s wildlife and landscapes. Whether you’re stargazing, listening for owls, or observing the mystical dance of bats, venturing into the night allows you to connect with a different side of nature and discover the hidden marvels that come alive after darkness falls.



Exmoor National Park is a captivating destination for wildlife enthusiasts, offering a treasure trove of diverse habitats and an array of fascinating species. From the open moorland to ancient woodlands and rugged coastlines, this unique corner of England provides a home for a rich variety of wildlife.


Whether you’re spotting the iconic Exmoor ponies grazing on the moorland, marveling at the majesty of red deer, or listening to the melodic songs of birds, Exmoor showcases the wonders of the natural world in all their glory.


By following responsible wildlife watching practices and respecting the park’s guidelines, visitors can immerse themselves in the beauty of Exmoor without causing harm to the delicate ecosystem and its inhabitants.


So, whether you’re embarking on a journey to identify rare bird species, exploring the moorland, or discovering the park’s nocturnal creatures, Exmoor promises an extraordinary adventure filled with awe-inspiring encounters and magical moments.


As you wander through the scenic landscapes and witness the remarkable wildlife, take a moment to appreciate the tranquility and balance of nature that Exmoor embodies. The park reminds us of the importance of conservation and preserving these natural havens for future generations.


So, lace up your boots, bring your binoculars, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through Exmoor National Park. May your wildlife encounters be rewarding, your experiences be memorable, and your appreciation for the wonders of the natural world be forever ignited.