LAST week cyclists on the Tour De Yorkshire whizzed along the road leading to my gallery in a whirr of wheels and fierce concentration; passing through an outdoor exhibition of 28 two-metre high copies of my paintings as they did so.

Each of these detailed portraits featured a wild creature from the landscape the cyclists were fiercely pedalling through.

My exhibition was aimed at those spectators watching the race on their TV sets at home.

As they admired the sweeping Yorkshire countryside, I wanted to remind them that this landscape is alive with animals.

There are birds hiding in every hedgerow, owls gliding across meadows and hares running across arable fields.

After the race, which took in Yorkshire’s most spectacular scenery, including the moors and dales, I hoped my paintings will have provoked a lasting memory of one the Yorkshire Wolds’s greatest assets; its wildlife.

In recent years, the Yorkshire Wolds has started to earn a reputation as a wildlife tourism destination.

It is estimated that the region draws some £15 million from visitors hoping to spot the UK’s greatest wildlife treasures.

It’s not difficult to see why. The coastline here is one of the most important places in the country to watch birdlife.

Each summer over a quarter of a million seabirds crowd the coastline. And further out at sea, tourists even have the opportunity to go whale watching in autumn. Only last year a “super pod” of more than 100 white beaked dolphins were spotted off the coast from Whitby.

Each summer RSPB Bempton Cliffs, near Bridlington, plays host to the largest mainland colony of gannets in the country.

People who flock to see this spectacle are rewarded with the sight of puffins too, since these comical looking birds nest on the cliffs.

In autumn, Spurn Point is one of the best places in England to watch birds migrate into the country to spend their winter here.

Large flocks of some of Europe’s rarest migrating birds literally “drop” exhausted from the sky onto the ground after their long journeys.

But aside from these showstoppers, the area boasts some of the UK’s best-kept wildlife secrets, from the badgers that live in ancient underground setts to the roe deer and fox that slink out of our woodlands.

Did you know, for instance, that the Yorkshire Wolds is one of the best places in the country to watch hares boxing?

The open grass dales here are free-draining and ideal for this agile species. And the large arable fields here mean there is little cover so they are easier to spot. Hares are usually solitary, so if you spot more than one it usually means they are courting – and this means you could catch them boxing.

Look out for them on bright days, when the sunshine seems to act as a natural aphrodisiac. When hunkered down they look like a row of molehills. Be patient and you’ll see them explode into action as the males box and chase the females. Although March is the peak breeding season, you can see them box throughout the year.

Allerthorpe Common, near Pocklington, is one of the best places in the UK to spot adders. In spring they sun themselves on the banks of small streams. And great crested grebes perform one of the most elaborate mating rituals of any in the British Isles. You can see them on ponds and lakes as they literally ‘walk on water’ during these intricate courtship dances, known as the reed dance.

As the year progresses, the wildlife action here on the Wolds continues.

Right now, I’ve got cameras trained on the nests of tawny owls, kestrels and barn owls. These birds of prey are all sitting on eggs at the moment. The action is being relayed live on screens in my gallery for visitors to enjoy. These special eggs should all be hatching until mid-May. And I’ll enjoy watching the chicks in the nest right through to the end of June.

By July curlews are nesting here, having flown in from the moors and coasts in spring. Their loud, ringing calls that you can hear now seem to announce that warmer days are almost here.

In late summer it is time to spot roe deer perform their unusual mating dance, in which they circle around one another in a trance, tramping what are known as ‘roe rings’ into the ground.

In autumn, if you are lucky, you can see woodcock, one of Europe’s most elusive birds too.

While the helicopters and motorcycles filming the cyclists as they rushed through the region were likely to have flushed out most of the wildlife before the sportsmen reached it, those watching the race on TV will I hope have appreciated that there’s more to Yorkshire than just its spectacular scenery.