Radipole Lake is a great place to come, whether you are new to wildlife watching or an experienced birdwatcher. There are well-known birds at the reserve such as house sparrows, finches and robins, alongside rare birds like the Cetti’s warbler and bittern. On a typical walk you can even see seven or eight different kinds of ducks.
There is plenty for families to do, with specially-created trails, bird events and, during the summer, family activities such as pond dipping and bug hunts.
In spring, the air is filled with bird song as they compete to establish territories and attract a mate. Flocks of swallows and martins gather over the water to feed on insects after their migration from Africa. Warblers also arrive, including grasshopper, willow and Cetti’s warblers, blackcaps, whitethroats and lesser whitethroats. The reed beds are full of singing sedge and reed warblers.
In summer, look out for young birds making their first venture into the outside world. Hobbies can be seen flying after small birds and dragonflies, which they catch with their feet then pass to their beaks while still flying. Flowering plants attract good numbers of butterflies, such as commas, painted ladies and peacocks.
Autumn brings large movements of migrating birds – some heading south to a warmer climate, others seeking refuge in the UK from the cold Arctic winter. Bearded tits become easier to see, with family groups roaming the reed beds and making their distinctive ‘pinging’ call. As the water levels are lowered in preparation for winter reed cutting, the mud attracts wading birds such as dunlins, snipe, redshanks and lapwings.
In winter, look out for large flocks of birds gathering to feed, or flying at dusk to form large roosts to keep warm. You may see a bittern if you are patient – they will fly up from the reeds occasionally to get to different feeding areas. During cold snaps, water rails become much easier to see as they must feed outside the frozen-up reed beds. There is a large roost of pied wagtails in Weymouth and the birds can often be seen at Radipole Lake before heading into town for the night.
The first marsh harriers to breed in Dorset in almost 50 years successfully raised three chicks in 2009 at Radipole Lake. Being only 10 minutes’ walk from Weymouth town centre, these marsh harrier chicks are thought to be the most urban of their species to fledge in the British Isles. The arrival of the parents at the reserve was filmed for the BBC television programme Springwatch.
- information centre
- refreshments available
- picnic area
- pushchair friendly
- wheelchair accessible
- pay and display car park (not RSPB)
- toilets, including disabled, in the car park (not RSPB)
- binocular hire
- group bookings accepted
- guided walks available
- dogs allowed on public footpaths and bridleways
It is free to walk around the reserve. Fees are only charged for use of the hide.