Dawlish Warren is an important part of the Exe Estuary Special Protection Area and Ramsar site – an area of international importance for wildlife. It provides the main roosting site for large numbers of wading birds and wildfowl that spend the autumn and winter on the Estuary. The Warren is also designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for its dune grassland, humid dune slacks and the tiny, rare ‘petalwort’ that grows there. As well as fixed and mobile dunes, there are meadows, copses, reedbeds, ponds and saltmarsh – and the whole sandspit is of considerable geomorphological interest.
The Warren is also designated as a National Nature Reserve (NNR), a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), a Special Protection Area (SPA). Please follow the Dawlish Warren code of conduct when visiting the site.
The mudflats are a particularly valuable refuge for thousands of over-wintering and migratory waterfowl. The Warren harbours nationally important populations of the following bird species in winter: black tailed godwit, brent goose, ringed plover, dunlin, grey plover, slavonian grebe, red-breasted merganser, oystercatcher, wigeon and teal. Around 180 different bird species are recorded each year.
It is thought that 2000 species of invertebrate are found here, including the spectacular day-flying Jersey Tiger-Moth, colourful dragonflies, such as the rare ruddy darter, and solitary sand wasps which excavate tiny burrows and stock them with paralysed insect prey for their wasp grubs to eat!
Almost 600 different types of flowering plant can be found here including the warren or sand crocus.