brackish pool at Swanpool Local Nature Reserve in winter
summer morning at Swanpool beach

Swanpool is one of the best places for birdwatchers in the Falmouth area because it has both a sea shore and an enclosed brackish pool surrounded with woodland within a few yards of one another. Such a mixed habitat attracts a large number of bird species. It is also easily accessible by road and connected to the South West Coast Path.

The Pool: this brackish pool is an SSSI and Local Nature Reserve and the only place in the UK where the Trembling Sea Mat, a primitive microscopic animal that en mass resembles a plant, can be found.

Mute Swan
Mute Swan cygnet

Unsurprisingly Swanpool has a resident pair of swans and in summer their cygnets provide quite an attraction for both locals and holidaymakers alike. These are Mute Swans which are highly territorial and will chase off other swans attempting to join them on their patch.


Moorhen and Coot are resident throughout the year and nest within the reeds. Close up views can be had as they feed on bread thrown in by visitors for the swans and ducks. Here the Coots often emerge from the water providing the opportunity to see their extraordinarily large lobed feet.

male Mallard Duck
male Tufted Duck

The most common duck all the year round is the Mallard although many here have interbred with domesticated ducks and consequently some do have mixed plumages. In the winter good numbers of Tufted Duck join them to feed on bread and grain thrown in by locals.

female Goldeneye

Also in winter the occasional Goldeneye and Scaup can be seen either on the pool or on the sea off Swanpool beach. Even Common Scoter and Long-tailed Duck have been recorded in the past.

Water Rail
Little Grebe

The most common grebe on the pool is the Little Grebe which can be seen diving for food in open water and nests among the reed beds.

Resident breeding water birds include Little Grebe and, possibly, even Water Rail. One of the pleasures of Swanpool is that the normally very secretive Water Rail can be seen here around the edges of the pool and sometimes right out in the open. It seems to have become used to people and can often be seen on the edge of the reeds, even feeding on bread left for the ducks.


Great Crested Grebe

The occasional Great Crested Grebe turns up from time to time and in winter there is always a chance of getting a glimpse of a secretive Bittern amongst the reeds.

Black-headed Gull
Mediterranean Gull

Over the years Swanpool has gained a reputation for attracting rare birds, in particular, species of gull and it’s always worth checking out the common Herring Gulls and Black-headed Gulls. Mediterranean Gulls are increasing in numbers all along the coast and from autumn to spring it is not uncommon to see one or more amongst the Black-headed Gulls on the pool.

Iceland Gull
Glaucous Gull

Iceland and Glaucous Gull have been recorded in the past and the best time to look for rarer gulls is between the autumn and early spring. Some gulls are not easy to identify but these two species do not have black tips to their main flight feathers which can make them stand out.

Yellow-browed Warbler

At the north west corner of the pool is Swanvale Nature Reserve, a marshy wooded area managed by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust which is always worth checking for less common woodland species with Firecrest and Siskin sighted most winters. Here good numbers of Chiffchaff may be seen all year round and, when studying the tit flocks and Goldcrests, keep an eye out for Yellow-browed Warblers which can occur in the winter.

Willow Warbler

Bullfinch, Blackcap, Goldfinch and Long-tailed Tits are commonly seen in gardens and trees around the lake. In the spring the willows surrounding the pool are filled with the calls of migrant Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs.

Links to other parts of the Illustrated Guide to Falmouth Birds