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Wildlife Sightings - March 2016

  • Sun 10th Apr, 2016

The first few days of March saw low pressure and a rare snow fall in the north of England including parts of Yorkshire. Up to 17cm in West Yorkshire (with less towards the east) created headline news! Despite this short Arctic blast, temperatures stayed above freezing for most of the month but below the national average. Rainfall was above average with two very wet periods creating fantastic conditions for amphibians!

By far the best place in East and North Yorkshire for scarce Gulls was Rufforth near York. On the 1st March there were 4 Glaucous Gulls, 2 Iceland Gulls and 2 Caspian Gulls in the line-up. A diverse range of white winged gulls continued to grace the site throughout the month including an impressive 6 Glaucous Gulls on the 26th.  At Blacktoft Sands RSPB 4 Hen Harriers roosted in the reed beds on the 1st. 5 Smew at Aughton Ings was a good regional total for this scarce sawbill. In Scarborough Harbour the 2 Black-necked Grebes continued to show very well.

Juvenile Glaucous Gull at Rufforth © Chris Gomersall Juvenile Glaucous Gull at Rufforth © Chris Gomersall

Adult Iceland Gull at Rufforth © Chris Gomersall Adult Iceland Gull at Rufforth © Chris Gomersall

Over on the coast the birding month started in the slow lane with everyone desperate for spring to arrive. The long staying rare birds were still present. The 2 Richards Pipits at Flamborough, the Surf Scoter at Filey, American Wigeon at Scarborough and a Black Brant at Spurn. The 3rd saw the first unusual migrant with a Bittern landing at Thornwick Pools Flamborough; only the third record in the Bird Observatory area. Almost a bigger surprise was that it decided to hang around for 17 days!

Immature male Surf Scoter Filey Bay © Mark Pearson Immature male Surf Scoter Filey Bay © Mark Pearson

In the Scarborough forests the Great Grey Shrike showed again on the 5th, favouring clearings with lots of standing dead wood.  30 Brambling were nearby on the 6th. Goshawks were displaying in good numbers especially early in the month. An excellent moth trapping session in Wykeham Forest on the 11th by the Butterfly Conservation team produced 24 moths of 6 species, a good haul for the time of year. Yellow Horned, an early spring species whose larvae feed on Birch trees was the highlight of the catch. Another Sword Grass moth was caught in the Pickering area on the 13th. After small numbers last month it sounds like the keen lepidopterists have found a small colony of this rare Yorkshire species.

Immature female Goshawk North Yorkshire © Mark Coates Immature female Goshawk North Yorkshire © Mark Coates

Yellow Horned © Dan LombardYellow Horned © Dan Lombard

Bats flying in March are unusual so a Serantine Bat at Spurn on the 10th was an excellent find and may have been a migrant from the continent. Improving weather mid-month encouraged songbird migration to kick off with increasing numbers of resident birds noted moving at Spurn. The first Black Redstart of the spring at Spurn was found on the 12th. Flamborough scored well with 2 Woodlarks on the 19th. Winter birds were still hanging around with an Iceland Gull at Flamborough (a rare bird on the coast this month) and 4 White-fronted Geese at Wykeham Lakes on the 13th. Up to 4 Mediterranean Gulls were moulting into beautiful summer plumage at Holbeck Car Park Scarborough on the 15th.  A big surprise on the 16th was the sight of a Bittern flying over Scarborough University!

Med Gull Holbeck Scarborough © Steve RaceMed Gull Holbeck Scarborough © Steve Race

Numbers of Brent Geese have been high at Spurn all winter leading to a record count of 1820 on the 20th well above the previous record. The first White Wagtails of the spring were 3 at Flamborough on the 21st. These birds heralded a new songbird arrival as Spurn scored its first Firecrest of the month on the 22nd along with a fine male Hen Harrier on the same day. Firecrests were then present for the next 10 days at Spurn reaching a maximum of 7 on the 27th. A lucky omen as Spurn Bird Observatory opened its doors on a new impressive building the same day!  

Firecrest at Spurn © Richard Wilson Firecrest at Spurn © Richard Wilson

The all new Spurn Bird Observatory The all new Spurn Bird Observatory

The first Sand Martin to be reported on a local reserve was one at North Cave wetlands YWT on the 22nd, closely followed by the first Wheatear of the spring at Spurn on the 23rd. It was great to hear the Scarborough area was still holding on to wintering Jack Snipe late in the month as 4 were seen on Taylor Way on the 23rd. At the other end of the migration scale, 4 Little Ringed Plover arrived at Wykeham lakes on the 30th. The only Avocet reported on the coast was at Filey on the 24th. Blacktoft Sands was still the place to be for wintering Spotted Redshanks with 4 on the 26th. The first House Martin seen on the coast was at Bempton on the 27th along with a Swallow the same day! At Top Hill Low 2 Garganey arrived on the 26th.

The last few days of the month gave a true taste of spring. The three Bird Observatories were home to a selection of Firecrests, Black Redstarts, Wheatears, Sand Martin, Swallow and another Woodlark at Flamborough. Two Common Cranes were over Garton on the 29th and a Long-eared owl was at Barmston.

Making their now almost annual spring trip into Yorkshire was a pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphin presumably originating from the Scottish population. Between 10 and 15 were counted from Scarborough Marine Drive on the 31st

Richard Baines YCN

For more wildlife sightings visit these great web sites!

Spurn Bird ObservatoryFlamborough Bird ObservatoryFiley Bird Observatory and GroupNorthern Rustic blogspot Scarborough BirdersButterfly Conservation Yorkshire Branch  Yorkshire Nature Traingle