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Recording at Flamborough
Site Guide: Danes Dyke | Print |


The ancient earthwork of Danes Dyke is an often neglected part of Flamborough, an under-utilised resource, usually only checked as a last resort when the rest of the Head has been covered. However, better coverage in the past 20 years has produced some excellent results, including a previously undetected raptor passage in spring and autumn. One of the outstanding highlights was the first proven breeding of Common Rosefinch in 1992.


The presence of a large woodland at a migration watchpoint is initially rather daunting. There is a danger of assuming that locating anything interesting is like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. Experience has shown though that, rather than being thinly spread throughout the wood, migrants tend to be found in concentrated pockets. Invariably, it is the same favoured spots that hold the birds, enabling the observer to do the area justice without tying up the greater part of a weekend. The track from the car park to the sea, the Dell and an area next to the Bridlington road are three such spots, each of which are described later





As with most areas on the Head, the wood is at its best in the early part of the day. This is particularly so in spring, when looking for singing migrants. In the autumn, when birds have to feed during the greater part of the day, it is worth checking Danes Dyke at any time. The obvious place to start is from the council car park, signposted from the Bridlington road. From here, you can walk a circular route of about one and a half miles, ending up back at the car park.


The car park itself can be a good area for birds. In winter, the bird feeders attract good numbers of tits and finches, along with regular Great Spotted Woodpeckers. There can be no more reliable site in the country for seeing Tree Sparrows, as the feeders here and at South Landing have a magnetic effect for this species. In spring and summer, the area is alive with birdsong, including Blackcaps and Garden Warblers. A track leads from here to the beach and this provides the best cover for migrants in spring and autumn. The scrub to the left of the track can hold feeding warblers and flycatchers, while the sycamores in the ravine on the right offer one of the best chances of finding a Yellow-browed Warbler from mid September through October. Also this area held Yorkshire’s first Blackpoll Warbler in October 1993. Once at the beach, it is worth scanning the sea for divers and grebes. Small groups of Eider sometimes attract Common and Velvet Scoter. A Black-bellied Dipper was once encountered at the bottom of the cliff next to the beach too.

From the beach, a path runs southwest towards Bridlington Links Golf Course, along the edge of the wood. The golf course itself is a likely spot for the first Wheatear in late March and the short grass has attracted Richard’s Pipit in autumn. The best section of the wood is found by the junction of the Sewerby footpath (which leads across the golf course) and the main path along the edge of the wood. On the right here is an area of elder, sycamore and hawthorn, which is known locally as the Dell. The shelter and good food supply are a big attraction to autumn migrants and, in recent years, has played host to Dusky, Pallas’s and Barred Warblers and Red-breasted Flycatcher.

The middle section of the wood is, in contrast, relatively unproductive. The walk is rather pleasant and in spring, the woodland flowers and drumming Great Spotted Woodpeckers are likely to be the highlights. However, if migrants are your quarry, you would be well advised to return to the car park by the most direct route.

If time is not a major consideration, it could be profitable to walk from the Dell towards the Bridlington road. There is an excellent area of hawthorns and bramble near to the main road, which became the centre of ringing activity for several years from 1996, turning up a Marsh Warbler among more common species. The plentiful food supply attracts warblers and thrushes in autumn and Long-tailed Tits and Bullfinches in winter. The increased observer coverage in this area means that it is only a matter of time before the site produces something rare.

The easiest route back from here is to follow the tarmac road to the car park. An alternative for the more energetic is to walk towards Flamborough village, then back to the car park by way of the exit road.

On fine spring days, especially when the wind is in the southwest, it is worth spending some time at Beacon Hill. Regular watching has shown this to be a good vantage point to look for birds of prey cutting across the headland. Marsh Harriers are regular in May, and other raptors seen in April and May in the past decade include Black Kite, Red Kite, Goshawk, Honey Buzzard, Osprey, Montagu’s Harrier and Rough-legged Buzzard, as well as a surprising number of Common Buzzards. Indeed, almost all of Flamborough good fly-overs would have been visible from Beacon Hill. In spring, watching from here has the advantage of being good on a south-westerly wind. It should not, in theory at least, cause you to miss things elsewhere on the Head, as this is traditionally an unproductive wind. In the autumn, things are less predictable, but if a movement of geese, swans or other diurnal migrants is detected during the course of the day, head for Beacon Hill to get the best counts. The same advice would apply if there were a report of a lingering Black Kite or Rough-legged Buzzard.

Danes Dyke cuts across the full width of Flamborough Head. The south end as described above is by far the best part for birds. The middle section is difficult to watch due to a lack of low cover and a large portion of it is privately owned. The north end of the dyke is strictly private. However, both sections can be overlooked from the Flamborough to Bempton road. Peregrines are a familiar sight in winter as they chase the large flocks of pigeons and Barn Owls can sometimes been seen hunting here.