The Springtime Soundscape of Ilkley Moor

The Springtime Soundscape of Ilkley Moor
Cow calf Ilkley moor

Spring has arrived early this year! A mild winter seems to have encouraged the UK’s natural world to make a significant head start for 2014.

Ilkley Moor has to be one of the best places in the world to enjoy spring. It hosts a hive of activity as the varied plant life starts to bloom so do the insects and bird life. A walk on the moor during spring is a multisensory experience, if such walks existed in London, they would fence it off and market it as a “4D experience”, then charge you thirty odd quid to enjoy it! But it’s not in London, it’s in Yorkshire and people can enjoy the delights of Ilkley moor completely free of charge!

For this blog posting I wanted to explore the sense of sound that can be experienced while walking both Ilkley moor and neighbouring Burley moor, during the spring. It’s the feathered creatures that take center stage during this season. The landscape provides an ideal environment for ground nesting birds and these guys in particular like to make their voices heard!

Sounds of Ilkley Moor in Spring

Here’s some of the classic sounds you’re almost guaranteed to hear on Ilkley Moor ramble. Illustrations courtesy of RSPB and sounds from xeno-canto.


Some folk may be more used to seeing these wading birds on the coast but the moors make great nesting grounds for them. Not only are these birds the largest wader in Europe their call is one of the loudest heard over the moors!


Sound: Stein Ø. Nilsen


I love these birds, when in flight everything about them reminds me of a Sci-Fi space craft. Their unique wing shape, the speedy and elaborate aerial displays and even the bizarre, almost electronic sound they make as they whiz about. It’s a sound that wouldn’t seem out of place on a Kraftwerk track.


Sound: Andre et Odile BOUCHER

Red Grouse

This iconic Ilkley Moor full-time resident can be heard on the moors all year round. At this time of year though they are easier to hear than see. They’re extremely well camouflaged among the heather and bilberry bushes, often you wont spot them until someone nearly treads on them!

Red Grouse

Sound: Patrik Åberg


For me, the Skylark’s call instantly conjures up memories of childhood holidays and feelings of optimism towards warm, sunny days! I will never get bored of watching these guys shoot straight up into the sky at ninety degrees and seemingly hovering like a helicopter.


Sound: Frank Lambert


With so many ground nesting birds, Ilkley Moor is an irresistible location for the Cuckoo. If you’re lucky, you can sometimes see birds like Meadow Pipits mobbing and chasing off this treacherous trickster!


Sound: Ashley Fisher

So there you have it, you can play all these calls together for a 15 second ‘soundscape’ of spring on Ilkley Moor! Of course these aren’t the only bird sounds you’ll hear up on the moor, there’s also kestrels, red kites, wheatears and much, much more, including the calls of Tawny Owls in the evening. So get up there and let me know what sounds you hear!

Here’s some photos of bird sightings we’ve had recently on Ilkley Moor…

Interested in developing your photography and camera skills in this stunning location?Then checkout the WPT Ilkley Moor Photo Walk

1 comment

  • Najmah Iqbal

    Really helpful, I saw A Lapwing today and had no idea until I read it on here! Thankyou for great info and sounds!! 👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍👍

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