Devon Wildlife Photography: 8 Top Locations

Devon wildlife brown hare photography

Capturing the beauty of Devon wildlife through photography is a rewarding and captivating experience. With a wide variety of habitats and animals, this county is a must-visit for any wildlife enthusiast.

devon wildlife

From rugged coastlines surrounded by marshlands to the upland moors of Dartmoor and Exmoor, it’s a place that I feel very fortunate to call home.

Devon offers a great balance of coast and countryside, and owing to this, it’s possible to photograph brown hares, dippers, beavers, and wading birds all within a short walk of each other.

Consequently, finding wildlife to photograph really isn’t too difficult, and I’ve put together this article to make it even easier for you.

1. The River Otter

The River Otter rises in the Blackdown Hills near Otterhead and flows right through the heart of East Devon, ending at the mouth of Budleigh Salterton.

The river hosts a wide variety of wildlife, from a multitude of birds such as dippers and kingfishers to mammals like otters and beavers.

The best time to visit is between the months of May and September, and if you’re willing to take a walk along the riverbank at dawn or dusk, you stand a very good chance of seeing one of the River Otter beavers.

beaver photography

The beavers are extremely active along most stretches of this river now, and the best way to know if you’re in the right place is to look for signs of their activity – namely stripped bark, chewed willow, or even felled trees.

If you find a spot where it looks like beavers are active, then I suggest sitting down on the riverbank and remaining as quiet and still as possible.

Read more: How to Photograph Beavers in the UK

2. Stover Country Park

With 114 acres of woodland, heathland, grassland, and lakes all hosting an abundance of wildlife, including birds, insects, dragonflies, damselflies, and small mammals, it’s easy to see why Stover is my favorite Devon nature reserve.

It’s also a site of special scientific interest and is protected to conserve its wildlife and geology.

Devon wildlife

It’s the ideal place to take a stroll, with your camera in hand, and whether it’s waterfowl, woodland birds, buzzards, or roe deer you’re after, Stover is one of those places where it pays to be prepared at all times, and don’t be surprised by any unexpected wildlife encounters.

I would advise visiting early in the morning as it can get busy, and it’s also a wonderful location for capturing backlit images of the waterfowl as the sun comes up.

Read more: 6 Essential Camera Settings for Wildlife Photographers

3. Aylesbeare Common

Aylesbeare Common is composed mostly of heathland and woodland, interspersed with a few streams and ponds. It’s a popular location for macro photographers owing to the insects and wide variety of butterfly species found within, including the rare silver-studded blue butterfly.

Devon wildlife

There’s also a range of bird species to be found on the common, and a visit in the daytime will allow you to not only see Dartford warblers sing from the top of gorse bushes but also have a good chance of witnessing hobbies as they hunt butterflies, dragonflies, and damselflies.

If you’re prepared to visit the common in the evening, there is every chance you may witness nightjars chasing moths or barn owls as they hunt small mammals.

Read more: 4 Essential Tips for Photographing Birds in Flight

4. Exmoor National Park

When visiting Exmoor, it’s very possible to see herds of wild Exmoor ponies roaming across the landscape, and these make for fantastic subjects to photograph all year round.

However, if you choose to visit the National Park from late September through to early November, then it’s not only herds of wild ponies you’re likely to see – at this time of year, herds of red deer move across the moor as the males fight with each other for mating rights.

Devon wildlife deer

The rutting activity is typically best witnessed during the first few hours of daylight and again just before dusk. As with most deer, it’s best to approach downwind while using vegetation as cover.

Deer have impeccable hearing, so tread lightly, and once you find yourself in a position where you’re able to capture some images, keep your profile as low as possible and avoid sudden movements.

A focal length of 500mm or above is ideal for this, as well as camouflage clothing to help you blend into the environment and remain unnoticed.

Read more: 6 Tips for Better Fieldcraft in Wildlife Photography

5. Haldon Forest Park

Haldon Forest Park is alive with wildlife and is definitely worth a visit when you’re in Devon. It’s conveniently located just off the A38 with plenty of parking on site.

This is one of my favorite locations for photographing roe deer as they can often be seen grazing the fields on the forest edge.

Devon wildlife

I recommend arriving early, when the deer tend to be most active and the forest is quiet. The forest is also home to fallow deer, so keep your eyes open for them too.

Once you’re finished photographing the deer, it’s well worth taking a stroll along one of the many trails in search of adders, woodland birds, and if you’re very lucky, the scarce pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly.

The months of May and June tend to be the best time if it’s the adders and butterflies you’re after, however the deer can be seen throughout the year.

Read more: Wildlife Photography – Understanding Animal Behaviour for Better Images

6. Yarner Wood

Not far from Dartmoor National Park, Yarner Wood is a well-known location for bird watchers due to the range of woodland birds that can be found here.

It is best known for pied flycatchers, lesser spotted woodpeckers, redstarts, and wood warblers, which are best seen during April, May, and June.

Devon bird life

It’s also well worth a visit outside of these months too as it is home to a wide variety of other birds such as great spotted and green woodpeckers, nuthatches, yellowhammers, and sparrowhawks, to name just a few of my favourites.

Read more: How to Harness Light in Bird Photography

7. Seaton Wetlands

Seaton Wetlands is a nature reserve between Sidmouth and Lyme Regis and consists mostly of marshland and reed beds. These River Axe marshes are tidal and for that reason attract a wide range of wading birds and waterfowl.

Devon wildlife birdwatching

There are multiple hides that are well-positioned throughout the reserve, and these can be great for getting close-up views of kingfishers.

Like with most birds, the kingfishers tend to be most active during the summer when they’re busy feeding their young, but that being said, I would suggest visiting at any time of year, as there’s plenty of other wildlife to be seen.

Read more: How to Use a Floating Blind for Nature Photography

8. Lundy Island

This small island is located off the coast of North Devon and is home to a fascinating array of wildlife. You can visit the island by boat, which sets sail from the harbour towns of Bideford and Ilfracombe.

The crossing takes about two hours, and it’s not uncommon to see dolphins from the boat as you head to the island.

Devon wildlife puffin photography

Once you arrive on Lundy, you will have around six hours to explore. Jenny’s Cove is a good location for photographing puffins, as they return to land to breed and raise their young.

A visit between May and July will offer you the best opportunity, and I’d suggest using a focal length of at least 500mm, as depending on where they burrow, they can be quite far away.

There is also a herd of sika deer on Lundy, and these make for wonderful subjects to photograph too.

Read more: 7 Top Tips for Puffin Photography This Summer

In conclusion

I have outlined these locations to save you some time when you’re next visiting Devon, and it goes without saying that fieldcraft, understanding your subject, and patience will play a huge part in coming away with good images too.

Finally, it’s also worth me pointing out that by walking along footpaths situated near woodlands and arable fields, it’s very possible to find brown hares.

Devon wildlife brown hare photography

Early morning and late evening are the best times of day for this, and I would recommend wearing camouflaged clothing, keeping a low profile, and using a telephoto lens to give you the best chance of coming away with some great images.

Good luck, have fun, and if you need any advice, please do reach out and get in touch with me.

Visit Richard's website

Rich Campion is an award winning wildlife photographer based in Devon, UK. His work is widely published and he loves nothing more than showcasing the wildlife that we are fortunate enough to have here, in the British Isles. If he’s not away running photo-tours and workshops, then Rich can usually be found sat on a riverbank photographing dippers and beavers.

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