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Wildlife Sightings February 2015

  • Tue 10th Mar, 2015

Reptiles and Amphibians

The reptile and amphibian season had a slow start compared with 2014. A female Common Toad found under a log was active and out of hibernation a bit earlier than is typical. The females are at their maximum weight at this time of year, full of eggs ready for spawning. More obvious were the 100 or so Common Frogs at Beck Hole which were the first we recorded mating on 27th, although interestingly we haven't recorded any spawn since.  A single Palmate Newt briefly seen in a pond and a Common Lizard basking at the edge of a hibernaculum completed the key sightings of this group.

Common Frog and frogspawn © Dan LombardCommon Frog and frogspawn © Dan Lombard

Common Lizard © Dan LombardCommon Lizard © Dan Lombard

Mammals

Otter was recorded at a number of sites associated with the River Derwent and, unusually, an Otter was also noted at Ravenscar where it had travelled to a pond to feed on mating Common Frogs. Badgers and Brown Hares remained abundant with the latter seen boxing at a number of sites and aggregations appearing ready for breeding. The most interesting mammal sighting of the month was two male Roe Deer fighting near Ayton in North Yorkshire, an unusual and almost unrecorded event at this time of year in this species. Roe Deer seldom, if ever, fight when in velvet as they risk considerable damage to the developing antler. Records were subsequently sent to European deer experts.

Roe Deer fighting in February © Dan LombardRoe Deer fighting in February © Dan Lombard

Birds

On the coast, two unexpected pied visitors were a drake Surf Scoter which flew past Spurn and settled a few days later at Filey and an Avocet on Flamborough’s Thornwick Pools. Recent reserve improvements to the latter site include a new wetland and photography hide.

Surf Scoter at Filey © Dave AitkenSurf Scoter at Filey © Dave Aitken

A long-staying Greenland White-fronted Goose was joined by a Russian White-fronted Goose, also at Flamborough, where two Waxwings visited briefly early in the month. A Red-necked Grebe commuted between Flamborough and Sewerby and a Rough-legged Buzzard patrolled the cliff-top at Buckton. Two Chiffchaffs were at Ravenscar on 28th. Following Flamborough’s unusual January Gannet ‘feeding frenzies’, Spurn had a new winter record of 644 Gannets past in one day on 23rd.

Russian (left) and Greenland (right) White-fronted Geese © Brett RichardsRussian (left) and Greenland (right) White-fronted Geese © Brett Richards

Red-necked Grebe © Lee JohnsonRed-necked Grebe © Lee Johnson

In the forests Woodcocks had returned, Goshawks continued to display the entire month and Crossbills and Siskins were abundant, although Redpoll numbers appeared lower than normal.

Invertebrates

With cold weather and snow in places it is not surprising that active invertebrate numbers dwindled this month. Looking under stones, log and leaf litter revealed an array of common and widespread species, including the distinctive Harvestman Nemastoma bimaculatum which was regularly observed. A distant relative, Amaurobius fenestralis, a lace weaver, appears to be having a fantastic year. This spider is often found under bark (look for its close relative Amaurobius similis around sheds and other buildings).

Amaurobius fenestralis, a lace weaver © Dan LombardAmaurobius fenestralis, a lace weaver © Dan Lombard

Drinker Moth and Large Yellow Underwing larvae were observed numerous times in coastal grassland. A few Seven-spot Ladybirds were also noted on the warmer days but no butterflies, bees or wasps were observed this February.

Drinker Moth caterpillar © Dan LombardDrinker Moth caterpillar © Dan Lombard

Flowering Plants

Lesser Celandine, Primrose and Coltsfoot were in flower while Snowdrops and Winter Aconite were still abundant. Early Purple Orchid spikes were coming up near Pickering.

Early Purple Orchid spike © Dan LombardEarly Purple Orchid spike © Dan Lombard 

Marine

An Ocean Sunfish was seen off Flamborough Head towards the end of the month.

For more info on wildlife sightings up and down the coast and in the nearby Yorkshire Wolds and North York Moors National Park, check out the following websites:

Yorkshire Nature Triangle

North York Moors National Park

Spurn Bird Observatory     

Filey Bird Observatory and Group     

Flamborough Bird Observatory      

Scarborough Birders     

Butterfly Conservation, Yorkshire Branch