The wooded ravine at South Landing lies on the southern flank of the headland between South Dykes and the Outer Head. The whole area is easily accessed from the pay-and-display car-park and can be walked in a loop, with connecting paths leading either east through the plantation woodland or south down the slipway to the Lifeboat Station and beach. Containing a large area of cover, South Landing comes into its own during the latter half of the autumn, when leaf cover reduces and migrants concentrate in the sycamores.
Scrub adjacent to the car-park attracts Sylvia warblers and the occasional shrike. Mature woodland east of the car-park is favoured by common woodland species including Treecreepers and Tawny Owls, whilst autumn can bring impressive arrivals of thousands of thrushes from over the North Sea. These trees are also then frequented by Phylloscopus warblers and Goldcrests, with Firecrests and Yellow-browed Warblers appearing annually from mid-September and Pallas’s Warblers present in most autumns.
The slipway to the beach leads through a scrubby ravine. This area is again favoured by warblers, but due to its more open nature, also by flycatchers, finches and buntings. During winter, the slopes offer perfect roosting conditions for (and sometimes great views of) a handful of Woodcock. Many birders will fondly remember this area as being graced by the UK’s first Taiga Flycatcher in April 2003.
The sea shelters small numbers of Eider and Common Scoter outside of high summer. Red-throated Divers are regular, with Great Northern Divers a scarcer visitor. Strong south-easterly winds during autumn can produce interesting seawatch conditions, when large numbers of Little Gulls can appear offshore, together with smaller numbers of terns and skuas.
A five minute cliff top walk heading east from South Landing leads to a small scrubby ravine known locally as Sandholes or ‘Booted Gully’. A relatively isolated patch of coastal cover with a single sycamore on its northern edge, this area of cover has an enviable track record of attracting scarce passerine migrants. Favoured by Yellow-browed and Pallas’s Warblers in particular, Greenish and Radde’s Warblers have also been discovered here in recent years.
Contributed by Craig Thomas