Wild Bird Photography by Steve Oakes

Pendle Hill, Lancashire
(Text last updated 4 June 2013)
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Pendle Hill is a steep sided, plateau topped hill in East Lancashire not far from Clitheroe and Burnley. It is most famous for the alleged witches who were executed in the 1600s. From a bird watchers point of view it is most famous for its dotterel.

Small numbers of dotterel are regular spring visitors, with the first 10 days in May usually providing almost 100% guaranteed sightings. However, these birds prefer the shorter grassy areas with rocky outcrops near to the summit and although Pendle Hill is less than 600m high, it is a fairly steep climb. There are in fact two ways to get to the top. The short and very steep route and the longer and not quite so steep route. Both can hardly be described as easy going so not really for anyone with a serious disability nor for anyone who is very unfit.

The slightly less arduous route also happens to be the most interesting bird-wise. On the way up look out for wheatears in spring and summer. These handsome birds can readily be seen perched on prominent rocks or fence posts. In late April it might also be possible to spot a ring ouzel although I don't believe that these birds breed here. On the plateau itself there are red grouse (more easily heard than seen), skylarks and meadow pipits. In winter there is usually a small flock of snow buntings. However, the jewel of Pendle Hill is undoubtedly the dotterel. These birds are usually found just a few yards south or east of Trig Point, near the summit. They are not particular timid so getting close here is easy. However, there is no need to risk spooking them by trying to get too close. Watch what direction they are moving and get in position, a comfortable distance ahead of them, and just wait for them to come to you. They will get very close. So if you have the sun behind you in the early morning a perfect shot is almost guaranteed.

There is a pay and display car park in the nearby village of Barley. The way to Pendle from here is clearly sign posted with 'witches' pointing the way. However the car park is not open very early in the morning, when I wanted to go. So there is closer parking on the road by the footpath to Pendle House. The road is wide enough for parking without causing any inconvenience but please do park sensibly. In early May this area may fill up quickly so a very early start is recommended.

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