Nature at the Crags

Creswell Crags is home to a wide variety of rare species and plants. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and offers a great many rewards for nature lovers throughout the year. Our gorge is little changed since the Ice Age and repeat visits are essential to fully appreciate the richness of our natural environment.

Check our Events page for our regular nature activities which include Bat Nights, Bird Ringing, and special tours.

Spring

Creswell Crags bursts into life at this time of year. The woodland path becomes carpeted with colour as bluebells, primroses and wild garlic flowers bloom under the shade of the trees. The stream that runs into the gorge lake is home to secretive water voles and spring gives you the best chance to see them before the vegetation grows and hides them away.

The earliest butterflies begin to stir on the sunny days of March as Brimstones awaken from their winter long slumber in the ivy. Small Tortoiseshells and Red Admirals follow, emerging from their hibernation in the caves to take advantage of the warmth of the south facing side of the gorge.

The defining feature of spring is bird song, and Creswell Crags is a great place to experience it. Resident birds are joined by migrants that have travelled thousands of miles to add their voices to the chorus at the Crags as they set about establishing territories and attracting mates for the upcoming breeding season. In May, the Spotted Flycatchers return from sub-Saharan Africa to breed and, while this red-listed species has undergone serious declines around the UK, a handful of pairs can be found around Creswell Crags each year.

Summer

Butterflies are the stars of the show during the summer, with regular surveys revealing a total of 22 different species living here. From the stunning Peacock to the electric Holly Blue, the butterflies of the Crags are always worth looking out for. White-letter Hairstreak and the unfortunately named Dingy Skipper are for visitors who want to look for our more unusual residents. The butterflies wouldn’t be here without the flowers for them to feed on, and summer is the best time to see orchids with Early Marsh, Common Spotted, Pyramidal and Bee Orchids all growing here.

As the evening draws in, the aerial aces of the night pour forth from their underground lairs as bats burst from the caves to hunt flying insects. 9 species of bat have been recorded here including Daubenton’s, Whiskered, Natterer’s and Brown long-eared to name a few. Creswell Crags also boasts one of the most northern populations of Barbastelle bat anywhere in Europe!

Late summer often provides the best chance to see one of Britain’s most iconic birds, the Peregrine Falcon. The fastest animal on the planet nests nearby every year and you may be lucky enough to see them circling above Creswell Crags. Ravens also frequently appear around the Crags, and their distinctive deep “kronk” call and large size make them an easy spot if they happen to be around.

Autumn

The changing leaves provide a beautiful backdrop to a walk at Creswell Crags at this time of year. Bring your camera, as the sight of the yellows and reds against the striking cliffs give an atmospheric shot for any keen eyed photographers.

Autumn is a bountiful time for the natural world and you can easily spot an array of wild foods for wildlife to enjoy. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t join in too –search out the brambles and help yourself to a few tasty blackberries!

It’s worth keeping your eyes peeled as you walk along the river and lake too, as autumn is the best time to see the Kingfishers that live here. Studying them has shown that the Crags is used as a wintering site by young birds before they go off to make their own nests the following spring, so try to spot one while you can! Listen for their high pitched call and look out for that electric flash of blue whenever you’re near the water.

Winter

Our bird feeding station is the place to be during the cold winter months as our regularly stocked feeders provide food for many species of bird. Siskins, Goldfinches and Redpolls can often be found here and bird ringing has shown that many of them travel from as far as Scotland to be here. You may also catch a glimpse of a Marsh Tit by listening out for their sneeze-like “pitchoo” call, and looking for their glossy black cap and bib as they dart onto the feeders.

Make use of our bird hide to see which species you can see, there’s always a chance you might get a visit from the Great-spotted Woodpecker or perhaps even a Sparrowhawk as it comes through looking for a meal!

In many local’s opinion, Creswell Crags is at its most striking during times of snowfall and, safe travel permitting, a chance to see our stunning landscape in the snow should not be missed. Snowdrops are one of the first signs that spring is on its way, and a walk along our woodland path in late winter provides you a chance to lift your spirits with the sight of their white flowers blanketing the woodland floor.