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The Yorkshire Nature Triangle offers something to discover in every corner. Tom Marshall reports.

Yorkshire’s world-renowned scenery has rarely been out of the spotlight in the last couple of years, as the world of cycling has descended on the region not once but twice in a flurry of cameras and yellow jerseys with ‘Le Tours’. But what of the amazing wildlife that lives amongst those breath-taking landscapes? Set amongst the nature-rich East Riding of Yorkshire, the Yorkshire Nature Triangle has plenty to discover, and those in know can find something to discover all year round.

Dressed for dinner

Few of us would choose a 400ft exposed high-res residence taller than that of the white cliffs of Dover, but for 250,000 seabirds every summer there’s no better spot than Bempton and Flamborough. Arriving as early as the New Year in the case of our largest seabird, the gannet, East Yorkshire’s ‘seabird cities’ provide perhaps the best spectacle of globe-trotting birds in Europe.

These unique east coast cliffs provide an unrivalled opportunity in the UK – the chance to see gannets, kittiwakes, guillemots and more from dry land via an array of purpose-built viewing platforms at the RSPB nature reserve and the coastal footpath at Flamborough. The most sought after visitor however, is the puffin, with around 500 pairs of these dapper-dressed ‘sea clowns’ making the area home each summer. With an assault on the senses that combines sights, sounds and even smells, this is a part of your Yorkshire adventure you simply can’t miss.


Top: bearded tit © Chris Grady; above: puffin © Tom Marshall

For those who still like to take to the surf, not one but two boat trip opportunities from Bridlington and Flamborough itself offer a chance to get a view of the action from behind the crest of a wave.  

A whale of a time

Whale watching means a long drive to Scotland or an expensive flight abroad, right? Wrong – whale watching is right here in East Yorkshire. Based (with no small sense of irony) at the former whaling port of Whitby, every year in late summer you can head out with local experts to seek out one of the world’s most diminutive whales – the minke. Not that the minke whale is any less impressive at up to 10 metres in length (that’s about the same as a London bus) – and when you’re eye-to-eye, it’s more than big enough.

Arriving to feed on coastal movements of herring, other whales have topped the charts in the area during recent years too, with humpback, sei and even fin whale – second only to the world’s largest, the blue whale – recorded on one astonishing day in 2014. A supporting cast of regular dolphins, resident harbour porpoises and of course seals, mean few trips will disappoint.

Check out the seasonal graph with Whitby Whale Watching to find out your best chance to catch a glimpse of these ocean giants.

Above left: minke whale © Eleanor Stone; right: Spurn National Nature Reserve © David Nichols

Yorkshire’s ‘lands end’

With over three miles of sand dunes carved at the hand of Mother Nature, Spurn – at Yorkshire’s most south eastern tip, is like nowhere else in Britain. Not running parallel to the coast, but in fact sticking straight out into the North Sea in a long, sandy peninsula, it’s easy to feel like you’re at the end of the world. This unique wilderness landscape has played host to a remarkable history from lost villages to two World Wars and now as an iconic shipping landmark with one of the last residential RNLI stations in Britain.

Such an unusual landscape also means intriguing wildlife, from rare Little Terns to hummingbird hawkmoths and often exotic birds blown off course. After a storm surge in 2013 carved a 500-metre swathe from the dunes, the area can now only be explored at low tide by the most intrepid – or for a more relaxed option, take the weekend 4x4 ‘safaris’ with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. A newly restored lighthouse due for completion in autumn this year will be another fantastic reason to don your walking boots, with breathtaking views from the very top guaranteed.

The autumn Migration Festival or ‘MigFest’ celebrates all that is great about Spurn and its unique wildlife, with a chance to get up close to birds with local experts and discover what more than half a century of bird watching at Spurn has uncovered.

Seeing red?

Everyone loves to fly a kite, but you can leave the tangles of string at home when you head to the Yorkshire Wolds, where Britain’s third biggest bird of prey is now a regular sight. Second only to Scotland’s two eagles, the red kite boats a 5 ft wingspan and that distinctive and unmistakeable forked tail.

Readily at home above the twisty lanes and gentle valleys of the Wolds, the kite has made a welcome comeback thanks to inquisitive birds exploring from other UK introduction sites, and East Yorkshire’s own programme in the south of the region. Now seen as far south as the outskirts of Hull and across to York, and occasionally along the coast, keeping your eyes to the skies is a must all year round.

Reed all about it

With perhaps not the most glamorous of reputations, the Humber Estuary in fact holds a wealth of wildlife to rival some of Britain’s top nature spots. Myriad reedbeds and wetlands along the river play host to iconic and enigmatic birds like the bittern with its ‘booming’ spring calls, the colourful and moustachioed bearded tit, and in recent years a celebrated number of avocets – the delicate and monochrome wading bird that adorns the logo of the RSPB.

red kite

Above: red kite © Martin Batt; below: Flamborough © Bill Richards

These same havens become the winter haunts of birds of prey that count peregrines, hen harriers and merlins amongst their numbers, while the thousands-strong flocks of ducks and wading birds are spectacle enough in themselves. For the more patient, a trip inland to Tophill Low or Wheldrake Ings may be rewarded with a glimpse of an otter – now present along many of the region’s waterways.

For a guide to the very best locations and when to visit, plus a guide to what to look out for, visit or follow them on Twitter @VisitYNT

Tom Marshall has been working in communications across the environmental sector for more than 10 years, including four years with RSPB Scotland and most recently with The Wildlife Trusts, following a two-year stay in New Zealand. A freelance nature and conservation photographer, Tom has captured high-profile campaigns like the UK badger TB vaccination programme, and ranks photographing Sir David Attenborough as a career highlight. He currently writes a monthly column for Yorkshire Life. Tom is Business Development Manager at Yorkshire Nature Triangle.


Green Adventures July 2015

Wildlife in Yorkshire