Back to Blog

Wildlife Sightings - September 2016

  • Mon 3rd Oct, 2016

September started very warm and sunny with temperatures into the 20° range on the 1st. The settled sunny weather dominated by south-south westerly winds continued throughout most of the first week with temperatures peaking in Hull on the 6th at a tropical 27° and in Scarborough at 26°. Cooler temperatures arrived on the 4th and the 10th when the wind turned to a brief northerly only to turn back to the dominant south-south west wind shortly afterwards with temperatures back up to 25° on the 12th in Hull. A brief south-easterly on the 13th didn’t last long turning to an equally brief northerly on the 15th. By the end of the month we were back into the 20° mark with warm westerly winds.

The first few days of the month were very quiet for songbird migration with very low totals at most coastal sites, it looked like Europe’s breeding birds were staying put for the time being. The long-staying Spotted Crake at North Cave Wetlands was still present on the 2nd. Small numbers of Little Gulls, Black Terns and Garganey put in an appearance at Hornsea in the first few days and a sprinkling of Little Stints delighted observers at all three Bird Observatories.

Seabirds were the first to move on the 4th and 5th with a good variety of species seen all the way up the North and East Yorkshire coast. A White-winged Black Tern at Staithes was the pick of the bunch on the 4th. This bird then moved up at South Gare to delight observers on several dates mid-month.  Cory’s Shearwaters were seen at Staithes with one on the 4th then seen at Flamborough, Filey and Scarborough. All three sites recorded two on the 5th. On the same day Flamborough saw the best variety with 51 species seen on a seawatch over 9.53 hours. Highlights included an adult Sabines Gull, Caspian Gull, two Mediterranean Gulls, two Roseate Tern (three at Filey), 62 Skuas including two Pomarine Skua and 26 Sooty Shearwater. Only Spurn recorded Long-tailed Skua with three on the 4th. This was an good few days on the Great White Cape of Flamborough Headland especially in the Thornwick area where an Icterine Warbler kicked off the month on the 1st followed by Pectoral Sandpiper on the 4th.

Sooty Shearwaters at Flamborough © Craig ThomasSooty Shearwaters at Flamborough © Craig Thomas

The 6th September was a significant day for visible migration, dominated by huge numbers of Hirundines. By far the biggest totals were in the Filey recording area where 10,150 Swallows, 3650 House Martins, 210 Sand Martins and 22 Common Swifts flew south along with 2147 Meadow Pipits. Numbers peaked between 0800 and 0930. The passage was so strong the numbers overwhelmed the counters at Hunmanby. Totals were far less at Scarborough and Spurn where both sites recorded 2-3,000 Swallows although Spurn managed to clinch the best Meadow Pipit total with 4847. The first Wryneck of the autumn was warmly welcomed at Spurn on the 6th with two the following day and a Barred Warbler on the 7th. A Great White Egret was seen at Hornsea then Kilnsea on the 7th. This species is gradually increasing in Yorkshire. A single was also seen at Blacktoft on the 8th.

Up in the Scarborough area the Butterfly Conservation team started reaping the rewards of the good weather with a Barred Hooktip at west Ayton on the 1st and a Heath Rustic on the 2nd, but the big highlight was a Northern Rustic on the 6th trapped at Ravenscar. The habitat of Northern Rustic is described as rocky places such as sea-cliffs, quarries and scree slope. They have only been found twice in VC62 in 1983 and 1987 so maybe there is a colony at Ravenscar…. Also here on the 6th were a Hedge Rustic moth and a Hieroglyphic Ladybird. This is a fairly scarce ladybird in our area; it varies in numbers from year to year favouring heathers and heathland as habitat. At the southern end of the county a Maiden’s Blush was trapped at Spurn on the 5th and the first Convolvulus Hawkmoth of the autumn on the 7th.

Northern Rustic Ravenscar ©  Allan RoddaNorthern Rustic Ravenscar © Allan Rodda

Hieroglyphic Ladybird Ravenscar © Allan Rodda Hieroglyphic Ladybird Ravenscar © Allan Rodda

One of the birding highlights of the month for many observers was the discovery of a very tame White-rumped Sandpiper on the rocks of Filey Brigg on the 8th. The first birders to arrive couldn’t find it anywhere only to realise after searching with telescopes it was actually at their feet!  On the sea two Balearic Shearwaters were welcome passing Spurn on the 8th and Flamborough on the 9th and 10th. A juvenile Black Guillemot on the sea below Flamborough Fog Station was a good find on the 10th. Inland a beautiful adult Red-necked Grebe arrived at Beaver Dyke Reservoirs on the 10th. A flurry of raptor migration in the first part of the month included good numbers of Ospreys and a few Hen Harriers. Spurn Migration Festival is a fantastic event and this year’s got off to a good start on the 9th with a Corncrake and a Red Kite heralding a wonderful weekend celebrating the best in birding. With so much coverage something was bound to turn up and sure enough everyone was thrilled to enjoy great views of a juvenile Kentish Plover found on the Humber moving to Kilnsea Wetlands on the 11th.

White-rumped Sandpiper at Filey © Mark Pearson White-rumped Sandpiper at Filey © Mark Pearson

A Richards Pipit was a good find at Flamborough on the 13th and a Pectoral Sandpiper put in a long stay at Top Hill Low. Even better was a Buff-breasted Sandpiper in a ploughed field at Grimston on the same day. A Leaches Petrel flew past Marine Drive at Scarborough on the 15th. The first Yellow Browed Warblers of the autumn arrived at Bempton RSPB where one was found and two were at Spurn on the same day. Also on the 15th a Citrine Wagtail flew over migration observers at Spurn. Friday the 16th was a good day for offshore wildfowl migration at Long Nab, Filey and Flamborough where the main movers were Wigeon, Teal, Pintail and Common Scoter. Divers were also noted in good numbers at Flamborough with 75 Red-throated Divers counted. This wonderful spectacle was not mirrored at Spurn but migration counters were understandably distracted when the rarest bird of the month was found in a ringing net, a fabulous Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler at Kilnseacreating a genuine Boom moment!  

Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler Kilnsea ©  Micky Maher Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler Kilnsea © Micky Maher

Mid-month was a great time for significant sightings and following on from the Boom bird at Spurn on the 16th Flamborough fought back with two Great Shearwaters, 1003 Sooty Shearwaters (by far the biggest autumn total so far), two Sabines Gulls and seven Long-tailed Skua on the 17th. Flamborough is undoubtedly the best place in mainland Britain for Sooty Shearwater passage but Spurn croaked back into action with an elusive Great Snipe the same day along with a Leaches Petrel and nine Long-tailed Skua. It was all eyes again on Spurn and Kilnsea on the 18th where a Greenish Warbler and a Blyth’s Reed Warbler were found supported by 8 Yellow-browed Warbler, Wryneck and Barred Warbler; a classic few days!

Migrant moths do sometimes arrive during good bird migration conditions and this was certainly the case with Scarce Bordered Straw a migrant moth from southern Europe. Several arrived at Spurn on the 14th, 17th and 22nd. The Scarborough moth team decided to trap in the town mid-month and they came up trumps with good consecutive catches of Large Ranunculus, a rare and very local resident in Yorkshire. A brave moth trapping foray into the local seafront gardens after dark also paid dividends where a colony of Black Rustic was found by the team in the South Cliff area of Scarborough. A Black Rustic was also trapped at Spurn on the 28th. Convolvulus Hawkmoths continued to arrive in small numbers up and down the coast with one even reaching Pontefract! The invasion even reached the Telegraph newspaper with the headline ‘Invasion of giant palm-sized moths hits Britain’. Butterfly numbers were up towards the end of the month with good counts of Painted Lady, Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral reported arriving on the coast. This was a very welcome ‘Indian summer’ for butterflies after poor numbers of these species earlier in the season. Minke Whales continued to be seen throughout the month with a maximum of 18 seen on the 10th and 9 off Whitby on the 22nd. Unfortunately strong winds in the final week curtailed all boat trips from Whitby and Staithes earlier than in 2015.

Large Ranunculus Scarborough © Alan RoddaLarge Ranunculus Scarborough © Alan Rodda

An Ortolan Bunting was seen briefly at Spurn on the 18th along with a Richard Pipit. Flamborough Headland was up and running again over the next few days with Honey Buzzard, Barred Warbler, and nine Long-tailed Skua. Nearby at Buckton a Common Rosefinch was trapped on the 18th. The 19th saw a Dotterel put in a good show on Flamborough Outer Head along with the second Black Guillemot of the autumn. Hunmanby Gap has been put firmly on the birders map in the last few years with some great visual migration counts and it’s also a good place for Divers offshore in the calmer waters of Filey Bay. A Great Northern Diver arrived here on the 19th hopefully the first of many throughout the winter. On the same date four Lapland Buntings arrived at Long Nab with the first of the autumn at Spurn on the 18th. Records are there to be broken but it’s even better when they are smashed! Flamborough certainly did this on the 21st with a massive arrival of Yellow-browed Warblers. A final count of 139 constituted the largest single site total ever recorded in the UK. Large numbers were also recorded up and down the Yorkshire coast with a site record 34 at Filey. On the same day a Bluethroat, Red-breasted Flycatcher and adult Sabines Gull were also seen at Flamborough.

Taiga Bean Goose is a very rare bird in Yorkshire. A long-staying bird arrived at Flamborough Thornwick Pool on the 23rd and was still present on nearby North Cliff Marsh into early October. A Red-backed Shrike at Cromer Point Burniston on the 22nd livened up a very poor autumn for this species and another juvenile was at Filey on the 26th along with a Firecrest and Hen Harrier. Two Great White Egret flew north at Spurn on the morning of the 25th. These birds were then seen by birders at Filey and Whitby on their way north. Newly arrived Jack Snipe delighted observers in front of bird hides at Spurn and Filey in the final week of the month. A White-winged Black Tern seen at Sandsend on the 30th was presumably the same juvenile first seen at Staithes on the 4th. Pink-footed Geese really started to move on the 28th with 336 counted at Flamborough. The following two days at Spurn saw a wonderful passage of 2135 on the 29th and 2704 on the 30th. The final day of the month also saw a big finch movement at Spurn with 1586 Linnet recorded. The first Whooper Swan of the autumn arrived at Flamborough North Cliff Marsh on the 30th.

Jack Snipe Canal Scrape Spurn  © Richard Willson Jack Snipe Canal Scrape Spurn © Richard Willson

Taiga Bean Goose Flamborough © Craig Thomas Taiga Bean Goose Flamborough © Craig Thomas

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