One of the premier migration watchpoints on the English east coast, Gibraltar Point is ideally situated to receive migrants in large numbers and variety.
At the northern end of the Wash, where it meets the North Sea, this area attracts migrants from the north and east in autumn and again on their return journeys in the spring. In addition to passage periods this reserve is of great importance for wintering waders and waterfowl.
The habitats include the open sea and extensive sandy beaches backed by dunes, the older ones now scrub-covered with Sea Buckthorn and Elder. In addition there are areas of grassland, saltmarshes and freshwater lagoons and marshes.
The importance of Gibraltar Point is reflected in its designation as a National Nature Reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Protection Area and a Ramsar Site.
Although not an area noted for its breeding birds Gibraltar Point has a small Little Tern colony, Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher. However, during passage periods virtually anything can turn up. Divers and grebes, waterfowl and waders, raptors and seabirds, and a huge array of passerines pass through the area and there is a viewing platform on Mill Hill from which many movements can be seen.
Spring passage begins in March with typical early migrants such as Northern Wheatear and Common Chiffchaff, regularly joined by Black Redstart and Common Firecrest, and in recent years Wood Lark has been recorded with some frequency. Numbers of migrants build up in April with flocks of pipits, hirundines, thrushes and finches and diversity reaches a peak in early May.
By the end of July autumn passage is underway and the high tide wader roost which involves tens of thousands of birds includes large numbers of Oystercatcher, Red Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit in particular. Terns pass south along the shore, often chased by Arctic Skua and gull roosts often include Mediterranean Gull, and Long-tailed Skua and Sooty Shearwater are possible offshore.
Gibraltar Point in midwinter has wader roosts including all the usual species seen in northern Europe such as Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Red Knot and Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit, Eurasian Curlew and Common Redshank. Dark-bellied Brent Goose winters in good numbers in the Wash and can usually be seen on the reserve from September to April. The flocks are often joined by a few Pale-bellied Brent Goose and Pink-footed Goose regularly overfly the area.
Winter on the saltings brings regular Twite and Snow Bunting, sometimes also Lapland Bunting, with larger numbers of commoner finches and buntings. Horned Lark is still annually recorded in autumn and winter but until very recently numbers have been very low for the last two or three decades. Rock Pipit is common and the berries of Sea Buckthorn attract Fieldfare and Redwing.
On the sea there are usually duck such as Common Eider, Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser and scoters and Red-throated Diver is regular. The large numbers of birds in this area inevitably brings raptors and Hen Harrier, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Merlin and Peregrine Falcon can all be present as well as Short-eared Owl.
Being a well-watched east coast migration site, Gibraltar Point has amassed over the years and enviable species list including many rare migrants recorded annually as well as real rarities. In spring species such as Bluethroat, Red-backed Shrike and Eurasian Wryneck are recorded annually, Eurasian Spoonbill is regular and, as elsewhere, Little Egret is increasingly recorded.
Rarer species on the Gibraltar Point list include raptors such as Western Honey Buzzard and Rough-legged Buzzard, Red and Black Kites, Red-footed Falcon and waders such as Lesser Yellowlegs, Pectoral Sandpiper and Wilson's Phalarope.
Vagrant passerines have also transatlantic wanderers such as American Redstart and Northern Waterthrush as well as eastern birds including Olive-backed Pipit, Greenish Warbler, Arctic Warbler, Pallas's Warbler and Isabelline Shrike.
Birds you can see here include:
Red-throated Diver, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Sooty Shearwater, Manx Shearwater, Northern Gannet, Great Cormorant, Grey Heron, Mute Swan, Whooper Swan, Bewick's Swan, Pink-footed Goose, Dark-bellied Brent Goose, Pale-bellied Brent Goose, Common Shelduck, Eurasian Wigeon, Gadwall, Common Teal, Mallard, Common Eider, Common Scoter, Velvet Scoter, Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, European Honey Buzzard, Western Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Osprey, Common Kestrel, Merlin, Northern Hobby, Peregrine Falcon, Water Rail, Common Moorhen, Eurasian Coot, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Northern Lapwing, Red Knot, Sanderling, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Ruff, Jack Snipe, Common Snipe, Eurasian Woodcock, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Eurasian Curlew, Spotted Redshank, Common Redshank, Common Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Grey Phalarope, Pomarine Skua, Long-tailed Skua, Arctic Skua, Great Skua, Mediterranean Gull, Little Gull, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, European Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Black-legged Kittiwake, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Arctic Tern, Little Tern, Black Tern, Common Guillemot, Little Auk, Woodpigeon, European Turtle Dove, Common Cuckoo, Long-eared Owl, Short-eared Owl, Common Swift, Eurasian Hoopoe, Eurasian Wryneck, Wood Lark, Eurasian Skylark, Horned Lark, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Northern House Martin, Tree Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Yellow Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Common Wren, Dunnock, Bluethroat, Eurasian Robin, Black Redstart, Common Redstart, Whinchat, European Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Ring Ouzel, Eurasian Blackbird, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Common Grasshopper Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Common Reed Warbler, Icterine Warbler, Barred Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Yellow-browed Warbler, Wood Warbler, Common Chiffchaff, (PM,W), Willow Warbler, Goldcrest, Common Firecrest, Spotted Flycatcher, Red-breasted Flycatcher, European Pied Flycatcher, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Red-backed Shrike, Great Grey Shrike, Common Magpie, Carrion Crow, Common Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Brambling, European Greenfinch, European Goldfinch, Eurasian Siskin, Eurasian Linnet, Twite, Common Rosefinch, Lapland Bunting, Snow Bunting, Reed Bunting, Corn Bunting
The plant life of the peninsula includes many species of interest with Sea Buckthorn being very common and its berries providing food for large numbers of passing thrushes in autumn and winter. Sea Lavender is found in the saltmarsh and Pyramidal Orchid around the freshwater margins.
Areas of Interest
South of the visitor centre is the Wash Viewpoint overlooking mudflats and saltmarsh.
Access and Facilities
The reserve at Gibraltar Point lies about 3km south of Skegness and is signposted on a minor road from the town centre. There is car-park at the northern end of the reserve from which visitors can explore the freshwater Mere, a fenland lagoon and the migration viewpoint at Mill Hill.
Further south is the main reserve car-park where the visitor centre and Field Studies Centre can be found. There is an extensive network of footpaths covering the area giving access to the West and East Dunes and other habitats.
Content and images originally posted by Steve