In 2010 my ‘Solway’ book came out covering the whole of Cumbria and Dumfries and Galloway. It was one of a series done by Buckingham Press called ‘Best Birdwatching Sites’ guide. It was really great to do as I visited so many new locations but returned to many that I already knew. Mike Henry did the front cover and inside sketches continuing his great work with me over the years. The editor and owner of Buckingham Press, Dave Cromack, was someone I had done a lot of work for in the past when he was editor for the monthly magazine ‘Bird Watching’. Things were going well for him at the time and he asked if I would do the ‘Lancashire’ book!
As many of you know I was born and bred in Yorkshire so to be asked to do a Lancashire book is a bit below the belt! I replied that I would do a Yorkshire book but sadly he had already given it to someone else. Six years on the Yorkshire book has not been finished and who do you think they asked to do the bits missing! Well it was hard to refuse as I had already done some of the sites for another publication and wanted to return to many of these other locations like Scarborough where I used to spend my holidays when I was very young.
I picked some amazing days in May to cross the Pennines and start looking at the sites needed doing. I never try to miss an opportunity and on the A66 is an interesting site that I have often stopped at while traveling to see my late mum back over there. This is Smallways Lake which is a private shooting lake between Barnard Castle and Scot’s Corner. Parking is terrible but I managed to get my car parked up against the gap in the hedge where most people watch from.
This was one of the last places in Yorkshire to have Ruddy Duck before the cull came to this country. It was a special bird to me as I found the first breeding record for Scotland at Kinnordy way back in 1979. [found my wife there as well!!] The problem [they said] was it might breed with an Asian White headed duck now found in Spain. Being American and escaped from Slimbridge WWT the duck had to go! An estimated £10 million was spent to get rid of it. But of course a fraction of that money would be needed if the duck did in fact turn up in Spain and was removed there!
The area was not so busy this day with a very large Black headed Gull colony taking the viewing at a site where I had previously had Ruff, Little Ringed Plover, Hobby and Peregrine before so after lunch it was onto Fountain’s Abbey near Ripon. This was a regular spot for taking my mum before Sunday lunch [and a pint of Black Sheep!]. Instead of the Abbey itself we used to drive around Studley Park watching especially the many deer and birds there. This time it was the Abbey itself on a very sunny day and loads of people on a Sunday! Using my Scottish member’s card to get in [it is cheaper than the English!] the best birds were Green Woodpecker and Marsh Tit but the Grey Squirrels doing the tight roping to get at feeders was amazing not to mention the many ferns growing on the walls of this ancient set of buildings and constant sun!
I stayed at my sisters just a few miles away but by seven, next morning, was on the road away towards Scarborough. First stop Sutton Bank with the famous vet, James Herriot claiming ‘the finest view in England’! The view that is very rare in England is of the Turtle Doves which come to feeders here. As a lad they were so common and I often saw them down the river bank when walking the dogs in summer along with yellow Wagtail which seems to be going the same way.
Moving on I started at Scalby Mills just to the north of Scarborough. This has a lovely walk up onto the clay cliffs along the Cleveland Way slowly falling into the sea. Scalby beck in contrast is full of gorse, blackthorn and hawthorn trying to hold the steep sides together. It was funny seeing a small pond half way down the cliffs in one place with bulrushes growing around it. Some lonesome Mallard must have droped in carrying the seed! The views were fantastic looking back over Marine Drive to the castle at Scarborough and north up the coast to Nab Point. There is a circular walk along to Scalby Lodge ponds and back along Scalby Beck looking down into it.
Next I drove into Scarborough noticing a man with a scope looking at a small cliff by the road. There was ample of parking here so I pulled over to him and asked what he was looking at. ‘Peregrine Falcon breeding’ was the answer in a Kittiwake colony with a few Fulmar thrown in for good measures. I stayed for an hour it was so good! Every time the Peregrine came in there was a big rush of Kittiwakes heading across the road and then back to the cliffs. Lots of information was obtained about the birds and the many sites around the area and it was great to see the folk walking along the Marine Drive enjoying it so much with the scope set on a high magnification allowing stunning views. https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=peregrine%20watch%20scarborough
The day was busy so I tried several locations but really enjoyed Castle Howard again a place where I had taken my mum. This time it was a walk along the lake with amazing light and great birds. I had my first Swifts of the year and spied an American Wood Duck which may have been an escape but amazingly no one had recorded it previously. This turned out to be a ’12 hour’ day and boy was I ready for a good sleep after all my driving!