Finding your own birds is tricky, but surely the key is to find your own sites first of all? It's giving the game away perhaps, but a here's a quick rundown of some of my faves.....
Covenham Reservoir, Lincs
Rare bird gold....and again just to make sure, rare bird gold. Everytime I pop my head over concrete wall I see massive potential here....the flock of 1 White-winged Black and 16 Black Terns, Grey Phal and Manxie in a light westerly, all 5 grebes within 2 months, the water white with gulls, an enormous number of feeding hirundines etc etc. Not quite sure how it works - 'it's near the coast' seems the most obvious explanation but there are many similar sites equally as close to the coast, which do nowhere near as good. My best guess is it's isolation - I can't think of any other sizeable stretches of water for miles. Any birders passing this site are obliged to check it!
Donna Nook, Lincs...(yes Lincs again - take note of the theme beginning to arise)
Up until this autumn, I would have placed this in both the underwatched and underated categories. But having seen it swarming with birders on several days in October, perhaps the underated category is sufficient. I've had a soft spot for this site ever since I first visited in May (perhaps finding RBF and RB Shrike were something to do with that). The Lincs coast seems to be a continuous wall of sea buckthorn and elders, but you get impression stuff is more concentrated at Donna Nook. It's feel rare, and this year's Steppe Grey Shrike (well almost...just up the road actually) and Pallas's Gropper add weight to the theory. While Gib is busy taking on Blakeney Point at the bottom end, Donna Nook is giving Spurn a run for it's money at the top end.
North Cave Wetlands, East Yorks
First of all, a massive well done to the people who have created such as fantastic reserve here, turning an old gravel pit into something pretty special. Expectations of crap pond with a pair of Mute Swans and a few Coot were totally blown out of the water when I first visited in April this year....piping Avocets everywhere, a double-figure flock of north-bound Whoopers, the contrasts of a group of s/pl Blackwits and so on. It's recently handed me Green-winged Teal, but the potential is large.
Amble Braid, Northumberland
Just north of the Cresswell-Druridge-Hauxley circuit, and too far south of the Lindisfarne circuit, this easily viewed patch of esturine mud fails to grab the attention it deserves. Waders, wildfowl and gulls - all in decent numbers - are all on hand to pull in vagrant goodies. Several visits during this year haven't produced as yet, but the potential is obvious. Distant memories of seeing a Long-billed Dowitcher here (1998?) proves it can do it.
Derwent Reservoir, Durham/Northumberland
I really should visit this site more often (or should that read, 'I really should visit this site'). Not quite sure which county it's in, but there's plenty on offer....a massive evening gull roost, a biggish goose flock, decent numbers of ducks, plus waders (if the water levels drop). And don't forget to scan the ridges for raptors. It might attract an odd birder during the day, but I never heard of anybody brave enough to tacke the huge (mainly Common) gull roost. Definitely underwatched, and probably underated. A recent Spotted Sandpiper springs to mind.
Loch of Strathbeg, Aberdeenshire
The locals probably know all about this one, but mention to others and you'll receive a blank expression. Birderless and full of birds - perfect. Do a search on Birdguides and be wowed by this year's list of rares.