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The origins of Flamborough Bird Observatory

Ornithological records from Flamborough Head in the historic East Riding of Yorkshire in England, date back to the 19th Century.


The fascination with the splendid cliffs and their thousands of nesting seabirds is obvious, but the attraction of the head to migrant birds was well known to some of the taxidermists of that time, such as Matthew Bailey. The history of his specimens and associated field observations were summarised in 1872 and 1894, mainly be John Cordeaux. Their intriguing lists inspired much of the endeavour of the earliest Flamborough Ornithological Group members.


In the 20th Century, observations on the Head, except those on the seabird colonies, became fitful. Even in the post-war boom of birdwatching, Flamborough Head was left largely un recorded. Spurn Point and its observatory prospered; Filey Brigg held sway for seabirds, whilst the huge white-cliffed cape slumbered!


From the early 1960's a few watchers, notably Henry Bunce, began to correct the increasingly false impression that the Head was largely shunned by birds. Nevertheless its full promise remained unfulfilled. The reprise and initial further development of ornithology at Flamborough Head was brought about by the chance arrival of some younger observers steeped in the observatory tradition mostly lead by Andrew Lassey and joined by myself, Irene Smith and Andrew Grieve.


From the autumn of 1972, when dawn to dusk efforts became the norm, the disciplined counting of seabird passages began in earnest, plus any landbird falls were noted and reported. These activtities combined to put the Head and its birds firmly on the county and national and now international maps.

From these early beginnings the Flamborough Ornithological Group was formed (FOG), which then became the basis of Flamborough Bird Observatory accredited in 2002, with over 30 years of experience to draw on.



Ian Wallace (DIMW)

Honorary Life President Flamborough Bird Observatory



Map of the Recording Area of FBO

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