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Wildlife Sightings - April 2016

  • Tue 3rd May, 2016

April temperatures started around the seasonal average and then cooled down by the end of the month! The feel of spring earlier in the month gave way to winter as temperatures dropped to below freezing, a cold northerly wind blew and snow fell from the sky! Despite these depressing conditions there was lots of celebration as the first of our summer migrant birds arrived, filling our coasts, fields and woods with colour and song!

Early in the month bird migration was in full flow with arrivals, long staying winter birds and departures crisscrossing the county! Smew, Black-necked Grebes, Surf Scoter and the Richards Pipits were still lingering from the winter as were small numbers of scarce Gulls at Rufforth including Glaucous Gull and Caspain Gulls. A Long-eared Owl was found on the 1st on Old Fall hedge Flamborough. Meanwhile from the south Chiffchaffs flooded into Spurn with 51 counted on the 2nd and the first Willow Warbler turned up in the Scarborough area on the 3rd. On the same date an Osprey flew over Seamer Road Mere and one flew over Spurn. Filey recorded its first of the year on the 22nd. More arrivals and migrants on the 3rd included a Serin at Spurn along with Firecrests at Spurn and Scalby, Siberian Chiffchaff, two Garganey at Aughton Ings and 2 at Top Hill Low. Going in the opposite direction were 100 Fieldfare leaving our shores! Ring Ouzels arrived in good numbers along with Little Ringed Plovers and a Tree Pipit was an early bird at Flamborough on the 5th.

Ring Ouzel © Steve RaceRing Ouzel © Steve Race

Ravens have had a mini revival in recent weeks with two being seen several times near Ravenscar in North Yorkshire. They are still a very rare bird at Flamborough so one over the Headland on the 5th had local birders running to their windows! Spurn recorded only its 6th record of Raven on the last day of the month. Up in the North Yorkshire Forests the moth group caught another Sword Grass on the 4th.

Raven Flamborough April 2016 © Craig Thomas Raven Flamborough April 2016 © Craig Thomas

By the end of the first week of April many of our best loved summer migrants had chalked up their first dates. From House Martin and Swift to Yellow Wagtail, Cuckoo and Redstart birders spirits everywhere were lifted by the sight of these birds arriving back from their southern winter. Along with these commoner migrants small numbers of Common Cranes were seen early and late in the month. Two over Dunnington on the 3rd kicked things off then one over Filey on the 5th, one was over Spurn on the 6th, one flew over Blacktoft Sands on the 7th and two over Skipwith Common on the 10th. At the end of the month two were over Clifton Ings on the 22nd and then Flamborough on the 29th followed by one on the 30th. Five Bottle-nosed Dolphins were found in Cornelian Bay Scarborough on the 9th and still present on the 10th. This stretch of coast is certainly the best bet for anyone wanting to try their luck at seeing these fantastic animals!

Moth trapping early in the spring is often rewarded with some beautiful species and one of our favourites is the Water Carpet, this one was caught in the North Yorkshire forests on the 10th. Little Gulls were seen in good numbers this winter on the Yorkshire Coast. A sudden increase in spring sightings sounded like these birds returning to their breeding grounds in mainland Europe. The most significant count was 41 seen at Wheldrake Ings on the 11th.  This appeared to be the main day of movement as small numbers were also seen on the coast near Scarborough on the same date. A fine Green-winged Teal was also at Wheldrake on the 12th.

Water Carpet © Jackie HolderWater Carpet © Jackie Holder

Mid-April saw another small surge in birders heart rates as a few scarce species graced our shores. A Woodlark at Filey on the 13th was followed by a Short-toed Lark at Long Nab on the 18th. This rare lark heralded a purple patch for Scarborough birders as it was joined by Osprey and Hen Harrier. Nine Ring Ouzel were also seen at Ravenscar on the same date. Two beautiful Blue-headed Wagtails were at East Lea Filey on the 14th. Two Dotterel were a good find in a field by Old Fall Flamborough on the 21st nearby the two Richards Pipits continued their stay.  A Hoopoe seen in the village of Wigginton on the 18th was a very good inland find!

Blue-headed Wagtail Filey Dams © Mark PearsonBlue-headed Wagtail Filey Dams © Mark Pearson

Short-toed Lark at Long Nab © Chris BradshawShort-toed Lark at Long Nab © Chris Bradshaw

The great majority of Curlews wintering on our coastline originate from Scandinavia. These fabulous birds build up into their thousands on the Humber Estuary in mid-winter. Daily counts of fly-over migrants at Spurn by dedicated volunteers show us exactly when these birds leave. Over 1,000 were logged over several dates in mid-April with a peak of 424 on the 17th all flying north east out into the North Sea! A Spoonbill was seen at 3 East Yorkshire sites including Top Hill Low on the 14th.

Moth numbers were low towards the end of the month as the cold weather started to bite. Despite this the forest group turned up a Lunar Marbled Brown on the 22nd and a rare Yorkshire micro Epinotia Pygmaeana on the 24th. The larvae of this moth feed on the needles of coniferous trees such as Spruce.

Epinotia Pygmaeana © Dan LombardEpinotia Pygmaeana © Dan Lombard

A Common Rosefinch at Spurn on the 24th must go down as one of the strangest sightings of the month. This species usually turns up in late May or early June on our coastline.  Heading in the opposite direction back to Scandinavia was a Great Grey Shrike found at Bempton on the 25th and still present the following day. The rarest bird in this week though was a Pectoral Sandpiper which dropped in briefly at North Cave Wetlands on the 23rd.

Common Rosefinch © Spurn Bird Observatory TrustCommon Rosefinch © Spurn Bird Observatory Trust

Swallows often gather over areas of water in bad weather taking full advantage of a supply of flying invertebrates. 140 Swallow counted feeding over Filey Dams wetland on the 25th was a great example of this. On the same date a White Stork arrived for 2 days at Southfield Reservoir.  Black Terns are scarce in April in our area so four seen migrating down the Humber from Paull Holme Strays on the 30th was a good find. The end of the month was a tough time for birds such as Chiffchaffs already nesting in our woodlands. On our YCN Birding Discovery Day in Dalby Forest on the 29th we watched over 30 feeding near water having left the exposed tree canopy in search of food at lower levels. 

Swallow over Filey Dams © Ian Robinson Swallow over Filey Dams © Ian Robinson

 Chiffchaff feeding near Staindale Lake Dalby Forest © Richard Baines Chiffchaff feeding near Staindale Lake Dalby Forest © Richard Baines

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