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Birding The Cleveland Way – Osmotherley to Lordstones

Tue 30th Apr, 2024

Growing up on the northern edge of the North York Moors National Park, Richard has always wanted to walk the entire length of the Cleveland Way, to explore the landscape, birds and wildlife along this fabulous National Trail. His plan is to walk a different section every month over the course of 2024 and write a blog in the process. Joining him on these leisurely walks is artist Jo Ruth.

The last week of April is a great time to find jewels from Africa. Two of our most attractive woodland birds, the Common Redstart and Pied Flycatcher, arrive back from their winter in Africa around the middle of April.

The sound of these two birds singing in a spring oak woodland fills my heart with joy. We were so lucky on this day to hear both on the edge of Arnecliff and Park Hole Woods. This woodland is a very special place, designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) because of its significant habitats and rare plants.

Redstarts hold a special place in my memory. When I was 18, a primary school class asked what my favourite bird was. I answered Redstart because I was impressed by their flashing red tails. In the south-west of England, they were once called Firetail, a fitting nickname.

Both Pied Flycatchers and Redstarts need holes in old trees, or in the case of Redstarts, they can nest in stone walls. Old trees capable of holding nesting birds have become harder to find, so if you live in the country and have old stumps or trees in your garden or local woods, please hold on to them, they are priceless for nesting birds and insects.

On the edge of the woods at Scugdale, where shrubs and young trees dominate, Willow Warblers sang their hearts out. These tiny powerhouses had only just arrived back from Africa, south of the Sahara. Males start singing almost as soon as they touch down in North Yorkshire to stake their claim on the best nesting habitat before the females arrive a few days later.

Walking east across Scarth Wood Moor, the bird sounds changed. Woodland bird song was replaced by the sound of Meadow Pipits and Eurasian Skylarks.

Another exciting sound for us was our first Common Cuckoo of the spring on our Cleveland Way walk. The high moors and upland habitats of the UK are good places to find Cuckoos, which lay their eggs in Meadow Pipit nests. Meadow Pipits are common in upland areas and still have eggs in their nests when the Cuckoos arrive back from Africa.

After Scarth Wood Moor, we dropped back down into the woods. As the morning lengthened, the bird sound decreased, but we still heard great birds such as Green Woodpecker and Great-spotted Woodpecker. Eurasian Treecreepers were still singing their high-pitched trill, and we could hear Eurasian Siskins over the trees above us.

Every time we concentrated on bird sounds, we were transported into another world. Each sound grabbed our attention as we strained to hear more. Tranquillity and the sounds of nature created a beautiful, timeless walk through Clain Wood towards Scugdale.

After crossing the minor road at Hollin Hill, we climbed up onto the moor again, heading towards Round Hill and Gold Hill. The names of the hills and cliffs along the Cleveland Way are endlessly entertaining. Below Gold Hill were the wonderfully named Little Bonny Cliff and Great Bonny Cliff, and to our right, Snotterdale Plantation! Above these woods, three Common Buzzards and two Eurasian Sparrowhawks circled in the low cloud.

By the time we reached the steep slopes of Carlton Moor in the afternoon, the atmospheric mist had lifted. This was a great end to the walk. All that was left was a short walk down to Lordstones Country Park café and cake.

Richard Baines, Director

© Yorkshire Coast Nature