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Hoddy Cows Lane – An Alternative Way To The Cliffs

  • Sun 16th Feb, 2020

Bempton RSPB reserve is a fantastic reserve giving protection to thousands of breeding seabirds and allowing access to these awesome birds to thousands of people. The reserve is one of the RSPB’s flagship sites and deservedly so. But parking at the visitor centre isn’t the only way to get to the cliffs.

Buckton Pond the start of Hoddy Cows Lane © Margaret BoydBuckton Pond the start of Hoddy Cows Lane © Margaret Boyd

Beginning at the western edge of Buckton, which is just west of Bempton village, the old farm track that is Hoddy Cows Lane takes you all the way to the edge of those fabulous cliffs. Walking east from here you then enter the RSPB reserve, soon reaching the most northerly viewpoint, Jubilee, where you can experience the true seabird spectacle of thousands of northern gannets breeding on the cliffs below.

Hoddy Cows Lane track to the cliffs © Margaret BoydHoddy Cows Lane track to the cliffs © Margaret Boyd

Hoddy Cows Lane starts from Buckton pond which is home to resident moorhens and mallards. It’s always worth a closer look, this site has had rarer visitors appear over the years such as bluethroat and even black throated thrush. Using the small viewing platform just up the track gives better views of the scrape at the edge of the pond, where snipe, redshank, wigeon and occasionally geese can often be seen feeding.

Reed buntings on the hedge © Margaret BoydReed buntings on the hedge © Margaret Boyd

Walking up the track between the ancient hedgerows typical farmland birds can be seen. Resident reed bunting, yellowhammer and chaffinch are common, but their numbers increase in winter as they flock together to feed on the adjacent land, using the hedgerows as a refuge if disturbed. In summer, lesser and common whitethroat, corn bunting, dunnock, wren and blackbird can all be seen along the hedgerow and in autumn and early winter the berry laden bushes are well-placed feeding sites for incoming winter migrants such as fieldfares and redwings, before they head further west.

Fieldfare © Steve RaceFieldfare © Steve Race

Two small areas of scrub border the path on the last stretch up to the cliff. The first, known as the dell consists of hawthorn, blackthorn and gorse and acts as a magnet for incoming migrants; red-backed shrike, great grey shrike, ring ouzel, red-breasted flycatcher and long-eared owl have all been recorded here.

Peregrine © Steve RacePeregrine © Steve Race

The long grassland in this area provides ideal habitat for small mammals which in turn attracts hunting barn owls, over wintering short eared owls and occasionally hen harriers. Skylarks and meadow pipits also breed here and it is an area where a variety of buntings and finches can be seen when the grass dies off exposing its seeds in the winter.

Short-eared Owl © Steve RaceShort-eared Owl © Steve Race

Arriving at the cliff top look out for peregrines throughout the year, patrolling the cliffs below. The height gives a good vantage point to spot distant cetaceans as well as seabirds before heading east along the cliff path where the sights and sounds of the breeding colony of gannets, razorbills, guillemots, kittiwakes and puffin await.

Asian Brown Flycatcher © Mark PearsonAsian Brown Flycatcher © Mark Pearson

As you walk further east towards Bempton RSPB don’t ignore any small area of bushes. On the 5th September 2010 the UK’s fourth Asian brown flycatcher was found in this area. A one-day wonder from Siberia. Read more about that amazing day on Mark Pearsons blog Here

Hoddy Cows Lane is one among a series of walks available in our YCN Flamborough Headland walking pack, to see the pack Click Here.

Margaret Boyd and Richard Baines YCN