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Wildlife Sightings - May 2016

  • Tue 7th Jun, 2016

May 2016 will be remembered for the long period of bitterly cold temperatures exacerbated by the strong northerly wind which blew towards the end of the month. Temperatures for the majority of the month were below average on the coast apart from a brief spell of warm weather 18th - 22nd when we were treated to a high of 20°! Temperatures across the UK were recorded as above the long term average by the Met Office.

Bird of the day on the 1st was undoubtedly the Rough-legged Buzzard which graced all three of Yorkshire’s Bird Observatories on its journey south. Having reached Spurn it decided to hang around another day before moving on across the Humber. Also at Spurn in the first few days of the month were two Spoonbill, Serin, Black Brant, Raven and Firecrest. A Hoopoe arrived at Flamborough on the 2nd and stayed until the 6th. Raptors continued to be seen at Filey with the first Hobby of the year on the 3rd along with Marsh Harrier and Red Kite by the 5th.  Birders in the Scarborough area started the month with 2 Ospreys, 4 Marsh Harriers and an Iceland Gull. A Yorkshire Coast Nature Diving Gannet cruise on the 4th created more than a Gannet stir when a sharp eyed birder on the boat found the Filey Surf Scoter off the Flamborough cliffs! The Surf Scoter diligently returned to Filey two days later to spend a couple more weeks there before moving on mid-month.

Hoopoe © Chrys Mellor Hoopoe © Chrys Mellor

Breeding birds arrived in good numbers during early May. 30 ‘Flava’ Wagtails were recorded at Spurn on the 1st and at Long Nab on the 4th along with 203 Sand Martins at the former site.  Top rare bird prize and photo capture for the 6th May must go to Terry Hobson who found a wonderful juvenile Pallid Harrier at Wykeham Lakes! This is the first record of this extremely rare bird in the Scarborough area and the sighting just goes to show what you can find when birdwatching at inland sites (all be it only a couple of miles).  On the same day a Stone Curlew was found on fields near Seamer. Influx bird prize of the month must go to Black Tern. It was a great spring for these beautiful marsh Terns and Yorkshire had its fair share. They were seen at almost all coastal watch points and wetlands.  Spurn scored the highest total with 74 counted migrating on the 8th.

Pallid Harrier © Terry Hobson Pallid Harrier © Terry Hobson

Scarborough has a great community of invertebrate enthusiasts and as temperatures warmed up the insects emerged and so did the experts! On the 4th May a very striking Marsham's Nomad Bee (a solitary bee) was photographed. This was followed throughout the month by lots of new insect records including a tiny bee Lasioglossum smeathmanellum, the conopid fly Myopa testacea, two hoverflies Xylota segnis (a sawfly mimic than runs around on leaves eating pollen) and Meredon equestris (a bumblebee mimic). In Forge Valley the hoverfly Portevinia maculate was found on Wild Garlic.

Marsham's Nomad Bee Scarborough 2016 © Jim Middleton Marsham's Nomad Bee Scarborough 2016 © Jim Middleton

By midmonth many of our spring butterflies had appeared, here’s a small selection of the first reported sightings. Numbers of Holly Blue butterflies appeared to be on the increase in Scarborough with three from the first brood in St Nicholas Gardens in the town centre on the 4th. Brown Argus emerges in early May, the first seen this year were at Fordon Bank on the 7th. The first Duke of Burgundy butterflies of the spring were three found on the 9th and the first Pearl-bordered Fritillary were seen on the 12th. By the end of the month Large Skippers were on the wing, the first being found at North Cave on the 29th and a newly emerged Small Heath was found at Strensall Common on the same date.

Pearl-borderd Fritillary © Richard BainesPearl-borderd Fritillary © Richard Baines

Two of our most loved scarce migrant birds arrived between the 7th and 8th. First up was a Bee-eater over Kilnsea on the 7th followed by a fabulous male Bluethroat at Filey on the 8th. Bluethroats were warmly welcomed at all three of Yorkshire’s Bird Observatories this month. The first was a fabulous male caught at Filey on the 8th followed by another male at Flamborough on the 12th and a female at Spurn on the 26th. Another notable song bird which occurred at all three sites this month was Nuthatch. Until very recently this was a very rare bird on the coast. In May a long staying bird was found at Danes Dyke Flamborough. Filey scored with one on the 8th and there was even one at Kilnsea near Spurn on the 11th.

Bluethroat Filey 2016 © Dan LombardBluethroat Filey 2016 © Dan Lombard 

One of the best birding periods of the month at Spurn occurred between the 11thand 13th.  With an easterly breeze, drizzle in the early morning followed by sunshine the conditions were ideal on the 11th  Rarest bird of the day was a female Citrine Wagtail followed by Icterine Warbler, Grey-headed Wagtail, Blue-headed Wagtail, Osprey and Wood Sandpiper. By the end of the three days new species had arrived in the form of Nightjar, Hoopoe, 2 Red-backed Shrike and Serin.  Up the coast there was an Ortolan Bunting at Crook Ness on the 10th, a Great White Egret at Wykeham Lakes on the 13th a Serin at Filey on the 15th, Hawfinch and 2 Dotterel at Flamborough on the 12th and a Honey Buzzard over Bempton on the 15th. The rarest bird at Flamborough over this period was a Fea’s type Petrel which flew past the Fog Station on the 14th

It was a good month for Dotterel on the North York Moors National Park. Five were found at Danby Beacon on the 12th. By the following day this had increased to 10 with smaller numbers lingering over the following days. Spurn had its second purple patch between the 14th and 16th. A Thrush Nightingale, Montagu’s Harrier, Richard’s Pipit and Red-backed Shrike on the 14th were followed by Great White Egret and Spoonbill on the 15th. The 16th then saw the rarest bird found in the form of a female Sardinian Warbler (only the second record for the site). Also seen on the 16th were three Common Crane. Blacktoft Sands had a great second period of the month. Both Male and female Montagu’s Harriers were seen followed by a singing Savi’s Warbler on the 24th.  

Dotterel © Steve Race Dotterel © Steve Race

The final part of the month saw weather conditions worsen hampering migrant and breeding birds up and down the coast and inland within our region. Despite the weather there were still great birds to be seen. A Honey Buzzard flew north at Flamborough on the 19th and a Spoonbill dropped in at Filey Dams on the 22nd. Also at Filey was a Stone Curlew on the 24th, a very rare bird, only the third record for this site. The harsh weather may have influenced movements of breeding seabirds during this period. 666 Puffins were counted moving north at Flamborough on the 24th with 321 the next day. The 26th saw a mini arrival of Icterine Warblers with two at Spurn and one at Flamborough. By the following day there were two Red-breasted Flycatchers on the coast; one at Spurn and a fabulous male at Flamborough along with 2 Red-backed Shrike at Spurn and one at Flamborough. In the last few days of the month there was also a male Red-backed Shrike at Filey, 2 female close to Scaborough and a male and female at Ravenscar.

Red-breasted Flycatcher Flamborough 2016 © Craig Thomas Red-breasted Flycatcher Flamborough 2016 © Craig Thomas

The moth trapping group in the North Yorkshire forests had a good night on the 20th. Only 96 moths but this included several good species including a Scorched Wing, a stunning moth and quite scarce in our area.

Scorched Wing © Allan Rodda Scorched Wing © Allan Rodda

The first Minke Whale of the year was seen at Ravenscar on a Yorkshire Coast Nature tour on the 29th May. A Quail, the first to be reported in our area this spring was heard at Ellerton on the 27th May. Back down at Spurn a marvellous way to round off a busy month for rare birds was a singing Melodious Warbler on the 30th joined by Common Rosefinch and 2 Red-backed Shrikes and a Montagu’s Harrier on the 31st.  Further inland two Glossy Ibis arrived at North Cave Wetlands on the 29th and showed very well to the joy of many birders. A Great White Egret was at North Duffield Carrs from the 30th. By the end of the month there had been reports of small numbers of Garganey from many sites in East and North Yorkshire, it looks like it could be a good summer for these beautiful ducks. 

Garganey © Andy Hood Garganey © Andy Hood

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