Back to Blog

Wildlife Sightings - March 2017

  • Wed 5th Apr, 2017

Settled weather started the month with moderate south-west to westerly winds and temperatures around average for the time of year. Mild nights and calm days then dominated for most of the month thereafter with day time temperatures often in the mid-teens, increasing to up to a tropical 18° on the last few days! The only period of variety in wind direction arrived between the 22nd and 28th when a light airstream produced south-east to north-easterlies.   

At the start of the month York held on to the best birding area prize for scarce birds in our region. Both the Pine Bunting and Great Grey Shrike were still attracting birders alongside both Iceland Gulls and Glaucous Gulls at nearby Poppleton. On the coast there were still up to 15 Shore Lark at Long Nab near Scarborough. These birds were still present into April benefiting from spring seed in a freshly sown barley crop. The Red-necked Grebe was still in Filey Bay along with 12 Velvet Scoter off Redcar, the Eastern Black Redstart at Skinningrove, Black Brant at Kilnsea, two Smew at Nosterfield, and the wintering Great Grey Shrike in Langdale, at Maw Rigg. A second Great Grey Shrike was found in Langdale on the 6th at Lunn Brow. A Water Pipit was a good new find at Lockwood Beck reservoir on the 4th.

Eastern Black Redstart Skinningrove © Damian Money Eastern Black Redstart Skinningrove © Damian Money

Visual migration was underway on the 6th at one of the top counting points on the Yorkshire coast Hunmanby Gap. Three Corn Buntings, five Crossbills, 66 Skylarks and 44 Chaffinches all flew north and 100 Pink-footed Geese went south on this day. The first Osprey of the spring flew over Long Preston on the 6th. Crossbills were still moving on the coast on the 10th when eight were seen at Flamborough. On the same day a male Ring-necked Duck was seen at Nosterfield. The first scarce song bird migrants arrived at the end of the first week. A Woodlark was seen at Spurn and a Firecrest at Flamborough, both on the 7th. This was a good day to be on the Great White Cape as a nice mixture of arrivals and winter birds were seen including small numbers of Lapland Buntings, Snow Buntings, Black Redstart and three Short-eared Owls at Bempton RSPB. Corn Buntings were still present in excellent numbers at nearby Buckton during this period where 87 were counted on the 12th. The first Firecrest of the year at Spurn arrived on the 11th. This kicked off more new for the year birds with Swallow and House Martin at Spurn on the 12th. Two early House Martins were then seen at Flamborough the following day. Slavonian Grebes are scarce birds on the sea in our area so one found at Filey on the 10th was a good record. A Bittern was an even better local bird at Scarborough on the 12th when one was seen flying over Ayton Football field.

Firecrest Spurn © Daniel BranchFirecrest Spurn © Daniel Branch

It was great to see Waxwings still in our area, present in good numbers throughout the month. Flocks were gorging on the last berries before returning across the North Sea to their breeding grounds in Scandinavia. At the start of the month 14 were in Harrogate on the 6th, 40 in Bishopthorpe and 20 in Goole on the 9th. 100 in Northallerton on the 10th was the biggest reported flock. Thereafter groups started turning up again in many places such as York, Hull, Scarborough, Strensall and Pickering where 25 were still present on the 31st.

Early spring raptors were also on the move with a peak during the middle of the month. One of the best sightings and biggest birds (literally) was an adult White-tailed Eagle seen originally at Wykeham from the raptor viewpoint on the 15th. It was then found later that day by a very surprised birder flying south-east over urban Hull and then Bransholme. Mid-march is often a great time to look out for wandering Red Kites and sure enough one turned up at Flamborough on the 13th when birders were in for a treat as it was joined by a Raven another scarce species on the Headland.  

Oak Beauty © Alan Rodda Oak Beauty © Alan Rodda

It was a good month for moth trapping One of the first good nights for the Scarborough moth team was on the 10th when a great selection of early species were trapped including Oak Beauty, Shoulder Stripe, Early Grey, Satellite, Yellow Horned, Red Green Carpet, Early Moth and Hebrew Character. On March 12th there were seven Orange Underwing moths found at Pilmoor in VC62.

Water Carpet (melanic form) © Alan RoddaWater Carpet (melanic form) © Alan Rodda

Water Carpet (normal form) © Alan RoddaWater Carpet (normal form) © Alan Rodda

A rare micro moth for VC62 Acleris literana was found on the 16th at Skelton. There was then an explosion of moths during the second week when night time temperatures rose above a balmy 12°. The Scarborough team had 126 individuals in their trap at Low North Camp on the 14th and over 260 in two hours on the 18th. On the same night a melanic form of Water Carpet (very rare in this species) was caught. More spring butterflies were on the wing mid-month when there were lots of reports of Comma, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock. March was a great month for Brimstone butterflies. Good numbers reported at Askham Bog on the 15th and 12 were counted at Ellerburn Bank on the 31st.

Brimstone North Yorks © Ed Tooth   Brimstone North Yorks © Ed Tooth

More spring birds were arriving on the coast at the start of the third week where there was a real thrill of spring in the air. The first Ring Ouzel was found at Hunmanby on the 15th. The prize for the first Wheatear was taken at Warsett Hill near Saltburn on the 11th. Single Wheatears then arrived at both Spurn and Flamborough a few days later on the on the 16th. As African migrants arrived, Arctic birds were leaving. 52 Whooper Swans stopped off at Hornsea Mere on the 17th then 115 were seen flying north over Staxton ridge near Scarborough on the 18th. This must be one of the biggest migrating groups of swans ever seen in Yorkshire and a fantastic sight to see. Good numbers of Bramblings traditionally gather to feed under the large Beech trees at Lang Gate at the top of Troutsdale. On the 18th over 100 were there providing an excellent opportunity to pick out males molting into summer plumage. The rarest bird prize of the month and a new species for the Scarborough area was the Cattle Egret found by local birder Andy Malley at Ellerburn on the 19th. A Yellow-browed Warbler was another great find, seen at Rawcliffe Lake on the 22nd. Both Black-necked Grebe and Slavonian Grebe were seen at Hornsea Mere on the 22nd.

Cattle Egret Ellerburn Bank © Dave MansellCattle Egret Ellerburn Bank © Dave Mansell

Small numbers of Garganey started to arrive in the area from mid-month, this included two smart males at Johnson’s Marsh near Burniston on the 22nd, staying into early April at least. A Little Bunting discovered in a Flamborough garden on the 25th was a great find and a typical early spring record. It or a different Little Bunting was then found in another garden in Flamborough on the 29th, two local birders sharing rare songbirds between gardens! A Firecrest was found at Warsett Hill Saltburn on the 25th.  

Brambling © John Harwood Brambling © John Harwood

A colony (on the sea) count of 2868 Puffins in the Flamborough Headland and Filey area on the 25th was a great effort by the observers and a good indication of the best time to count this species. Three Common Cranes found at Potter Brompton Carr on the 28th were presumably the same three seen the day after at Flamborough. A Quail heard singing at Grimnston on the 25th was a very early record. Hooded Crows are a scarce bird in our area but despite this, a small number migrate through Flamborough on an annual basis with the majority of records in spring. After two were seen at Barmston earlier in the month, singles were at Flamborough one several dates then three were in a field here on the 31st. This was a good day for migrants on the headland with Firecrest and three Little Ringed Plovers at Thornwick Bay. Down at Spurn their local specialty, a Red-rumped Swallow graced the peninsular on the same day.  A Minke Whale at Flamborough on the 31st was a very early sighting of this species. The first on our coast last year was on the 31st May.

Hooded Crow and Carrion Crow © Andy Hood Hooded Crow and Carrion Crow © Andy Hood

Richard Baines YCN 

This article covers North and East Yorkshire. For more wildlife sightings visit these great local, regional and national web sites

Spurn Bird ObservatoryFlamborough Bird ObservatoryFiley Bird Observatory and GroupNorthern Rustic blogspot Yorkshire Naturalists UnionYorkshire Wildlife TrustScarborough BirdersButterfly Conservation Yorkshire Branch  Yorkshire Nature Traingle  For National News: Birdguides