Nature in Scarborough.
By Martin Dove
Everyone loves nature, but most of us are just too busy to take the time to notice what is around us. When, for example, did you last see a Red Admiral, or a Great Crested Grebe? Well they, and many more, are actually very easy to find if you just stop and look.
This year I set myself a target of spotting 50 different birds in Scarborough, and 10 species of butterfly. I also told family and friends that I would take photographic evidence of every one, and with summer looming, I am nicely on target.
Of course, you don’t need any fancy equipment, you could use a cheap digital camera, or if you have a smart phone, that will be fine. If you have no camera, then just use a pencil and a notebook, or if you can draw, then just make quick sketches of what you see.
Binoculars would be useful for birding, and a scope for butterflies. Personally I have a pair of Olympus 8 x 25 binoculars, which are great for spotting birds, and a Brunton 7 x 18 scope, which gives you the most amazing close up view of butterflies.
If you can’t tell your Avocet from your Egret, or your Green Hairstreak from your Clouded Yellow, just get some books from your local library to help you out. They have a great selection, which you can borrow free of charge, and later on you can buy your own copies to take with you on your walks. My own favourites are the Dorling Kindersley pocket nature guides.
There are so many great places in Scarborough for nature, that it’s difficult to know where to start, but let’s take the seafront and harbour area for starters. The first bird you will probably see, and hear, is the Herring Gull, which is the traditional seaside bird. It’s big, bold and brassy, and will pinch your chips if you stand around for too long. If you see a big gull with a black back, rather than grey, then that will almost certainly be a Great Black-backed Gull, a massive bird. If you want to see a daintier looking gull, then look up at the Spa Bridge, and you will see loads of nesting Kittiwakes. Running around on the West Pier you might just see Turnstones, and nearer to Luna Park, you might see Cormorants, and Redshanks. I’ve also seen Grey Heron, Eider, Great Northern Divers, and Purple Sandpipers along here too. If you venture along the Marine Drive, you might just be lucky enough to see a Peregrine nesting on the cliffs.
Around to the North Bay, you might just spot an occasional Curlew, an Oystercatcher, and in the winter months, Wigeon.
Peasholm Park and Glen is another great place for nature, with Mute Swans, Canada Geese, Mallard and Tufted Ducks all clamouring for food thrown out by holidaymakers, and let’s not forget Scarborough’s forgotten attraction, The Mere. There is a good chance of seeing a Kingfisher here, and Great Crested Grebes, Grey herons and Cormorants. Over the years I’ve seen Goosander, Little Grebe, Treecreeper, Grey Wagtail, and even a Mandarin Duck!
And, of course, don’t forget your garden! I’ve seen over 30 different birds just by looking out of my kitchen window. Every day, I see Blackbirds, House Sparrows, Blue Tits, and Collared Doves, and if I’m really lucky, I might see a Goldfinch or a Siskin. I’ve even seen a Sparrowhawk, and a rare Turtle Dove, which had a few twitchers knocking at my door!
Butterflies are mainly on the wing from March until October, peaking in August, and as there are only about 60 different species, they are even easier to get to grips with. You need a sunny day, with no wind to find butterflies, and gardens, parks, woodland, and cliff tops are the best place to find them. Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells are probably the easiest to spot, as they are very common, and are quite unique in appearance. Red Admirals are most people’s favourites, and are also quite easy to find. Up on the cliff tops near to the old Holbeck Hotel, you should find Ringlets and Speckled Woods in the summer months. Brimstones and Orange Tips are around now, and are both unmistakeable. The Brimstone is a beautiful sulphur yellow butterfly, and the Orange Tip, unsurprisingly has orange tips! Although, just to confuse you, the female doesn’t! She is mainly black and white and can be mistaken for the Small White, so if you’re a beginner, don’t worry about the difficult to identify butterflies, until you are confident with the easy to identify ones.
Butterflies also like wastelands, and the coach park just off Valley Road is a great spot for more unusual butterflies. Over there I have seen Common Blue, Wall Brown, and a Dingy Skipper.
A walk along the old railway line can also pay dividends to an avid butterfly hunter.
And there is Falsgrave Park, Oliver’s Mount, Scalby Mills, Burton Riggs, Forge Valley, The Italian Gardens, and many more great places for bird and butterfly hunting, and I haven’t even started on moths, wildflowers, fungi and trees!
Why not have a go yourself at my 50/10 challenge? If you want to make it easier, then go for 25/5, or if you are Chris Packham, then go for 100 birds and 20 butterflies. Just have some good clean fun in Scarborough’s wonderfully clean air and enjoy nature. Happy hunting!
All pictures taken by Martin Dove in Scarborough.
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