The North York Moors National Park contains a wide range of natural history – geology, fossils, birds, sealife and plants which is all around the village of Staithes.
Geology – the North Yorkshire coastline has many cliffs and rocky coves where the rock formations are exposed and easily observed. The headland at Boulby, a mile North of Staithes along the clifftops, is over 200 metres high (making it the highest cliff in England). The layer of sandstone in the upper part of the cliffs is undermined by the sea washing away the lower mudstone layers which produces rockfalls and the spectacular vertical faces of these cliffs. Lower Jurassic strata are beautifully displayed on Cowbar Nab, the cliff at the North of Staithes’ harbour. Whitby lies on a fault line which prompted the River Esk to use this path to the sea. You can see evidence of this in the rocks of the South and North cliffs. Robin Hood’s Bay is a fantastic example of a wave cut platform which is easily viewed from the top of the village at lower phases of the tide.
Fossils – can be found in all the cliffs around Staithes and Whitby, ammonites are particularly plentiful. If you do go looking for them the please follow the code for responsible fossil hunting (only look in loose beach material, only collect a small number etc.) and stay away from the base of cliffs where rock falls occur. There is a large collection of fossils in Whitby Museum (Whitby Museum, Pannett Park, Whitby 01947 642877). Several shops in Whitby sell fossils including split and polished ammonites.
Birds – the cliffs and seashore around Staithes provide plenty of opportunity for bird watching. All the usual residents species are present but in Autumn and Winter many more sea birds are present. Staithes Harbour usually contains redshanks, turnstones, plovers, wagtails and plenty of gulls. In the Winter you may see occasional eider, guillemots or razorbills. Whitby hosts a huge number of gulls and you can spot iceland and glaucous gulls within the thousands of herring, greater black backed, black headed and common gulls. Any sandy beach in the area will be well-populated with waders in the Winter. If you come in the late April to June period and haven’t been before then it is well worth the 50 mile trip South to see the thousands of puffins, fulmars, kittewakes, guillemots, razorbills and gannets that breed on the sea cliffs at the RSPB reserve at Bempton.