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There have been ornithological records from Flamborough Head dating back to the 19th Century. The fascination with the splendid cliffs and their thousands of nesting seabirds is obvious, but the attraction of the head to migrant birds was well known to some of the taxidermists of that time, such as Matthew Bailey. The history of his specimens and associated field observations were summarised in 1872 and 1894, mainly by John Cordeaux. Their intriguing lists inspired much of the endeavour of the earliest birdwatching visitors who later went on to form the Flamborough Ornithological Group (FOG), and then in 2000 it was agreed that Flamborough should put together an application to the Bird Observatory Council which granted the official status of a Bird Observatory in the same year.
In the 20th Century observations on the Head, except those on the seabird colonies, became fitful. Even in the post-war boom of birdwatching, Flamborough Head was left largely unwatched, it was deemed that Spurn Point and its observatory, and Filey Brigg held most sway for seabirds, so the huge white-cliffed cape of Flamborough Head slumbered!
But from the early 1960's a few watchers, notably Henry Bunce, began to correct the increasingly false impression that the Head was largely passed over by birds. The reprise and initial further development of ornithology at Flamborough Head was brought about by the chance arrival of some younger observers steeped in the Observatory tradition. From the autumn of 1972, dawn to dusk effort and the disciplined counting of seabird passages and landbird falls combined to put the Head and its birds firmly on the county and national maps.
We hope you enjoy your visit here and wish you good birds should you be fortunate to visit the Head.
Ian Wallace (DIMW)
Founder member of FOG and Honorary Life President of Flamborough Bird Observatory