1. Bempton Cliffs
Bempton Cliffs is one of the best known bird watching haunts in Yorkshire and located on the East coast, just north of Bridlington. The coastal village of Bempton plays host to one of the most dramatic natural spectacles in the county. Between the months of April to August 250,000 seabirds arrive on the reserve’s chalk cliffs to breed. The sight of this mixture of Gannets, Guillemots, Puffins, Razorbills, Cormorants and other sea birds flying too and from the sea in search of food is a sight that cannot be missed, even to the novice birdwatcher. Outside the breeding season the reserve is still worth visiting due the Yorkshire coast’s importance in bird’s migration patterns, when ducks, geese and swans fly south from the Arctic to seek warmer waters. There is also the opportunity to look out for some rarities which have been blown off course during the migration seasons.
Gannets: Bempton Cliffs is home to the largest colony of Gannets in England.
Puffins: Regularly seen around the cliffs from May to July. they are one of the most colourful and popular birds on the cliffs.
Rareities: Hen Harrier, Corn Bunting, Short Eared Owl, Pink Footed Goose, Richard’s Pipit, Brambling, Porpoise, Roe Deer
The reserve has six safe clifftop viewing platforms, which means you can observe the nesting birds at close quaters. There are also plenty of information boards to let you identify and learn more about the species on view. The reserve has a shop, seabird centre and cafe as well. Admission from March 1 to 1st November is £3.50 adults, £1.50 children (5-17). RSPB members free all year round. November to February is free for non-members.
2. Potteric Carr
This flagship reserve for the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust is spread across a huge 200 hectare site just south of Doncaster, adjacent to the M18 motorway. It may seem like an unusual place for a nature reserve, but there have been over 230 species of birds recorded, along with 28 species of butterfly and 21 types of dragonfly. The reserve consists mainly of woodland and wetlands, which attract a wide variety of land birds, waterfowl, wading birds and gulls.
Bittern: This rare species is growing in numbers after nearly becoming extinct in the 1990s. In 2014 the reserve reported its first successful breeding pair of Bitterns.
Cetti’s Warbler: These birds were mainly found in the South, but in recent years have spread north to Yorkshire, some of which are now regular sightings at Potteric Carr.
Kingfisher: These beautiful birds can be regularly seen feeding and nesting on the inland pools at Potteric Carr.
Marsh Harrier: This is another recent breeder on the reserve. They can be seen frequently hunting over the reedbeds looking for small birds and mammals.
Potteric Carr is a vast reserve with 15 hides or viewing points at regular intervals along the paths. There is a Visitors Centre along with the Kingfisher Tearooms to enjoy something to eat during a hard day’s birdwatching. Plans are currently in progress to build new tea room at the beginning of the reserve, which is due to open in 2017. Large car park plus overflow. Admission prices £4 Adults, £2.50 children and £3.00 concessions. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust members free.
3. North Cave Wetlands
One of Yorkshire’s newest nature reserves has an extraordinary story, plus a fantastic selection of both water and land birds available to view from this ever expanding site. In 2000 the land was bought by the Yorkshire Wildlife trust, in partnership with a local soil company, Humberside Aggregates. The company dig up the land for the soil and then after they have finished with it, restore it to the design of the Yorkshire wildlife Trust. The results have been several lagoons and wetlands created which encourage a large range of birds to breed here. By 2020 the reserve is set to be 340 acres, over three times the size of the original land.
Currently there are four hides, plus three viewing areas created with bird feeders to be found at various points along the way. As of July 2015, 210 different species of birds have been recorded here, including such rarities as a White Winged Black Tern, Grey Phalarope, Great Grey Shrike and a Glossy Ibis.
Avocets are one of the star attractions at North Cave during the summer months and breed regularly on the site.
Red Kites can be seen flying over the fields surrounding the reserve. They were re-introduced into this area of Yorkshire
Siskin can be seen in fairly large numbers around the bird feeders at the viewing platform and in the maize field.
Good, free car parking and free entry. There is a food van which is there most days and hides are easily accessible. A portable toilet is located at the beginning of the path.
4. Spurn Point
The very tip of Yorkshire, where land meets sea and estuary has always been dominated by the ways of nature. This provides one of the best places to birdwatch during the migration seasons (Spring and Autumn,) as almost anything can turn up, alongside more native species. Recently, birds such as a Firecrests, Black Redstart and Red Throated Divers have been seen here from the reserve’s newly opened observatory and sea-watching hides. A walk down the point, now only accessible by foot, will uncover wintering ducks, geese and swans, along with wading birds such as Avocets, Curlew and Dunlin to name but a few. Please check local tidal information before walking down to Spurn Head.
Brent Goose (Black Brant) These darker sub-species of the Brent Goose can be seen at the reserve and on the shore at Kilnsea village.
Firecrest These birds, usually found on the continent and related to the native Goldcrest are visitors here during the migration season.
Red Throated Diver– These sea faring birds are often seen at reserve during the migration seasons.
In March 2016 the new observatory and visitors centre opened at the reserve to accompany the existing hides and viewing points. These also have rooms available for those wishing to stay overnight. Two good car parks and the nearby village of Kilnsea has a cafe’ and pub.
5. Fairburn Ings
This RSPB reserve just of the A1 at Fairburn, West Yorkshire provides and exciting mixture of birds, insects and different habitats to explore. The bird feeding station near the visitor centre attracts Bullfinches, siskins and Nuthatches among others. Other wetland species include a Kingfisher, Water Rail, Pintail and many other ducks and geese. Fairburn is also a great place if you enjoy a bit of pond dipping and is renowned for its numbers of frogs and toads who live in the ponds around the reserve.
Kingfisher– Special viewing areas can be found at the reserve and if you are very lucky you may spot a flash of blue.
Common Frog – Found in the ponds and lakes around Fairburn for those who like to do some pond dipping.
Common throughout the reserve it can be seen both in the reedbeds and on the bird feeders.
Reed Warbler Seen in summertime buzzing about the extensive reedbeds on the reserve.
Good parking and Visitors Centre with toilets, picnic area and baby changing facilities. Entrance charge £3 for non-members. Five hides located around the reserve and pond dipping platform plus extended walks and nature trails.
North Cave Wetlands
Plus some of my own knowledge….