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Site Guide: South Landing Flamborough | Print |


South Landing is the small wooded ravine situated on the south side of the headland, halfway between Danes Dyke and the Outer Head. Its tall trees and dense undergrowth provide cover for migrants and it is rightly regarded as one of the Head’s hotspots. Particularly in the autumn, it can be filled with birds and may well provide the highlight of a visit to Flamborough.


Some of Flamborough’s rarest birds have been found at South Landing, along with a whole host of scarce ones. The two best birds in spring were both warblers: a singing River Warbler in the hedge by the car park and a singing Blyth’s Reed Warbler by Highcliffe Manor (formerly known as the Timoneer). Other birds to brighten up spring days have included White-tailed Eagle, Purple Heron and Subalpine Warbler and multiples of Bee-eater, Alpine Swift and Red-rumped Swallow. Common Rosefinches were regular here during their colonisation attempts in the 1990’s, but were not proved to breed.


The autumn, often the most productive season, has produced Olivaceous, Bonelli’s, Greenish and Desert Warblers, Short-toed Lark, Isabelline Shrike and Rustic Bunting, plus multiples of Hume’s, Radde’s and Dusky Warblers and Olive-backed Pipit. Scarce species that occur regularly include Icterine and Barred Warblers, Ortolan Bunting and Red-backed Shrike. However, it is not always the rarest birds which leave the clearest memories. The sight of thousands of Redwings and Fieldfares plummeting from the sky into the wood, or a flock of newly arrived Northern Bullfinches in the treetops, is often just as rewarding.



The usual plan of attack is to walk a circular route, starting in the pay and display car park. Walk down the tarmac road to the beach and follow the perimeter of the wood back round to the car park. This route enables a good variety of habitats to be checked and is not too long.



The car park itself is a good place to start looking for migrants. In the early morning, the short grass provides feeding for thrushes, while the longer grass can hold the occasional Short-eared Owl. On walking down the tarmac road to the beach, the hawthorns and brambles on the left are a good area for warblers, especially in the early morning when this is the first spot to get any warmth from the sun. It is advisable to wait for a while as skulking birds can take time to appear and the tit flocks often do a circuit. These flocks often contain Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests, and hardly a year goes by without the odd Yellow-browed and Pallas’s Warbler tagging along. Flycatchers flit amongst the canopy in both spring and autumn, while large flocks of Brambling, Siskin, Redwing and Fieldfare drop in during October and the first half of November.


Further down the track, the wood opens out into hawthorn, gorse and bramble scrub. The song of Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler is typical of the summer months and the occasional pair of Lesser Whitethroats also breed. Sometimes in spring, the reeling song of the Grasshopper Warbler can be heard, but these are rarely proved to breed due to their unobtrusive nature.


At the end of the tarmac road, the lifeboat station overlooks a small bay. At low tide, and especially in the autumn and winter, waders gather to feed, the most regular species being Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Redshank and Turnstone. In the autumn there are numerous possibilities, Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper being among the more predictable scarce waders. However, the most notable to date was a juvenile Baird’s Sandpiper in 2004. Rock Pipits and Pied Wagtails are also at home foraging amongst the seaweed on the beach. A scan over the sea can produce Eiders at most times of the year. During the autumn, a brisk south-easterly often generates good numbers of divers and other seabirds. These conditions are known locally as the “South Bay Trap”, a phrase coined by Ian Wallace to describe the situation when birds are forced close to shore by these winds.


From the lifeboat station, the path goes up some steps to the eastern side of the wood. By following this path around the wood, the more mature stand of woodland can be checked for warblers and other migrants. The nestboxes in this section of woodland are regularly used by Blue and Great Tits., while a Pied Flycatcher attempted to breed in one in 1992.


At the north eastern end of the wood is Highcliffe Manor. The pines and sycamores here provide good feeding grounds for small migrants. The grass fields are worth a scan and a pond and stream are located in the garden of Highcliffe Manor. Ring Ouzels can feed at the edge of the grazed area, particularly at the end of April, while the thistles and weeds attract flocks of finches, including Common Rosefinch infrequently. From Highcliffe Manor, it is only a short walk back along the edge of the wood to the car. Alternatively, a walk along the long hedge that skirts the back lane can be worthwhile.


Should you feel a little more adventurous, a couple of options are open to extend your walk. From the lifeboat station, you can walk in a westerly direction towards Danes Dyke. This will take you to Beacon Hill, where you can look for raptors soaring over the dyke. From here, you can either walk down to Beacon Farm and back through the village or continue along the cliff path to Danes Dyke, passing through Hartendale Gully, which boasts several sizable trees. Another option is to walk in an easterly direction from the lifeboat station. After half a mile, there is a small gully, known locally as Booted Gully. In fall conditions, it can hold a good variety of migrants and Flamborough’s first Dusky Warbler was found here in 1976. In the summer, it can be a pleasant spot to sit and rest to watch the Yellowhammers and Whitethroats. If you brave the elements in the late autumn and winter, any remaining stubble or setaside can have flocks of larks and buntings, including Lapland and Snow Bunting.


Any prospective visitor to South Landing should note that the best time to visit is before 10:00hrs. Early morning has the most bird activity and the least number of day trippers and dog walkers. The Heritage Coast Project arrange numerous activities, including bird and flower walks, full details of which can be obtained from the café and information centre. Please make sure to always park in the council’s pay and display car park. Parking on the grass verges can cause obstruction to the local residents and emergency services.