As the leaves leave the trees it is easier for the amateur birder to see the birds for the woods. That is not strictly necessary at Hellifield where there are good open views.
The Hellifield Flash is an area of open floodwater between Hellifield and Long Preston. Flash is Yorkshire dialect for a pond in a field! In this case ‘The Flash’ or more specifically three flashes are important birding sites particularly for migrating species.
Hellifield Flash or Gallaber Pond is the largest then Dunbars with the smallest known as Little Dunbars. The Hellifield Flashes provide habitat for wild fowl and migratory birds as the ground seldom dries out completely. There is little vegetation other than rushes so the birds can see the ponds as they migrate donw the Aire valley.
This important zone provides a sanctuary for many species on the RSPB red list together with breeding species around the edges and in adjacent fields.
Visiting Hellifield Flash
Approaching from Skipton on the A59, pass through Hellifield and after the loop layby on the left look for a line of large sycamore trees which straddle the road. Park on the right under the trees and watch the birds with a telescope.
A public footpath runs across fields from Hellefield to Long Preston passing the line of trees and is identified by a stile in the stone wall. It is possible to watch from here without disturbing the birds.
Autumn and winter can be good but the birds are often disturbed by wildfowlers.
The spring and autumn passage March-June and July-Septemeber may allow you to see Dunlin, Ruff, Whimbrel, Sandpipers, or the waders. Swifts, Swallows,Fieldfasre and a variety of Gulls also feed locally.
The birdlife is monitored regularly by the RSPB and features high on the ‘must visit’ list of ornithologists.
More Unusual Bird Species Seen at Hellifield Flash
Red Knot, Grey Plover, Little stint, Godwits, Spotted Redshank and Turn Stone.
In winter there may be an occasional Whooper Swan, Tundra Swan, Common Pochard, Greater Scaup and White fronted Goose.
Grèbe by bpmm CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Ruddy Shelducks by Sergey Yeliseev CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Oystercatcher by Marko_K CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Whooper Swans by Richard Towell CC BY-NC-ND 2.0