Bustling with birds

Experience the brilliance of birds at Sandscale Haws, from the towering song of the skylark in spring, to the crowds of waders in winter.

In spring there is a lot of chatter in the dune grassland at Sandscale Haws. Ground-nesting birds like skylark and meadow pipit are setting up home. Listen out for the high-pitched notes of the skylark as it flutters high in the air.

If you can, watch them as they tower up high in the sky until you can hear them but can’t quite see them. They fall silently back down to the ground like a leaf, hoping you’ve not noticed where they’ve landed or where they’re nesting.

Skylark at Sandscale Haws
Sandscale Haws Skylark
Skylark at Sandscale Haws

When you’re out exploring the dunes, listen out for a bird call that sounds like two pebbles being bashed together. This will be a stonechat. Along with linnets it likes to nest in the scrubby hawthorn and gorse on the reserve.

Stonechat at Sandscale Haws
Sandscale Haws Stone chat
Stonechat at Sandscale Haws

Early morning or late evening in spring is a perfect time to walk through the dunes and listen to the drumming snipe. These wetland birds fly up high in the air and soar back down creating a drumming sound with their tail feathers; all to entice a mate. Or listen out for the ‘pee-wit’ of a lapwing. Both these birds like to breed in the dune slacks at Sandscale.

It’s a magical experience to hear them call amidst all the stillness around you. If you enjoy seeing the birds in the spring in the dunes and are walking with a dog, try to keep them on a lead as breeding birds are easily disturbed by dogs running freely and this can cause their numbers to drop.

Windswept beaches in winter time are good for blowing away the cobwebs. Take a moment to watch the strandline along the beach as it's transformed by crowds of migrant birds which fly in for the winter.

Ringed plover on beach at Sandscale Haws
Sandscale Haws Ringed Plover
Ringed plover on beach at Sandscale Haws

See and hear the thousands of dunlin and hundreds of sanderling arrive to enjoy the tasty morsels which they peck, dig and probe for in the sand. Notice how they fly up in the air, twisting and turning and calling as the tide comes in and washes down their place on the sand. Or further along the beach head towards Scarth Bight Bay where you’ll see wintering ducks feeding out in the bay.