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Wildlife Sightings North And East Yorkshire - May 2018

  • Sat 2nd Jun, 2018

After such an awful early spring for weather in the UK, May started warm and settled with a southerly airflow and temperatures in the mid-teens just what we all needed! By the 6th temperatures in Humberside hit a maximum off 22°C. On the 16th things got a bit chiller especially on the coast as a colder northerly took over and temperatures dipped to  a 4°C minimum on the 18th in Bridlington. Despite north to north easterlies dominating for the remainder of the month the warm temperatures returned with minimal rain events. The only downer was the shifting fog banks which rolled in from the sea on a daily basis during the last week of the month.   

Eurasian Dotterel at Flamborough © Lee JohnsonEurasian Dotterel at Flamborough © Lee Johnson

The Purple Heron continued to devour amphibians and fish at Hempholme Meadow Top Hill Low on the 1st May no doubt impressed by the presence of continental Marsh Frogs in big numbers! On the same day a flock of 16 Eurasian Dotterel arrived in a traditional ‘trip’ location near Swinefleet. Birders watching the Eurasian Dotterel on the 3rd got an extra treat when a female Montague’s Harrier flew past. After this sighting what was presumably the same bird continued to be seen in the Blacktoft area throughout the month. At Nosterfield NR the rare combination of Slavonian Grebe and Black-necked Grebe were still in residence on the first day of the month. A trickle of migrants arriving on the coast included a Common Nightingale in song at Sammy’s Point near Spurn and a Firecrest at Flamborough. Pied Flycatchers have been present in above average numbers on the coast this spring. Three at Flamborough on the 1st and Six at Spurn on the 2nd were notable totals. A Hawfinch flew over Filey Bird Observatory on the 1st and three were seen over Wykeham Raptor View Point on the 7th.  A male Garganey at Potter Brompton Carr on the 1st was the first record this spring in the Scarborough Birders area, much later than is usual. Small numbers present in the Lower Derwent Valley (LDV) at the start of the month included signs of breeding activity. The late spring arrival even included a pair on Albert Park Lake in the centre of Middlesbrough on the 9th. The Lower Derwent Valley was the best place in our area to connect with Great Egret at the start of the month as one bird took up residence joined by a second on the 8th.

A small but very welcome arrival of Wood Warblers at the start of the month included a few on the coast mainly at Spurn and three males on territory in suitable habitat on the western escarpment of the North York Moors National Park (NYMNP)/Howardian Hills. Two additional birds were subsequently found in Nidderdale later in the month. A good arrival of migrants on the 4th at Spurn included 113 Northern Wheatear. Further up the coast 35 were counted at Flamborough and nine at Long Nab. A Hen Harrier was at Filey on the 4th and the first Wryneck of the year arrived at Spurn on the 5th. There was also a notable arrival of Common Whitethroats and Garden Warblers on the eastern side of the county between the 4th and 6th with both species appearing in good numbers in traditional breeding habitat. Firecrests continued to be found in good numbers on the coast at all three Observatories this spring with Filey Bird Observatory recording up to five by the 5th. The first European Bee-eater of the spring flew over Flamborough Lighthouse on the 6th.

Pearl-bordered Fritillary NYMNP © Damian Money Pearl-bordered Fritillary NYMNP © Damian Money

Early May proved to be very productive on the moth and butterfly front with a rush of interesting sightings. Moth of the month caught by the Scarborough moth team spearheaded by Allan Rodda and Jackie Holder at Low North Camp on the 4th was The Tissue a very rare species in Yorkshire. On the same night a Mullein moth was caught at Hunmanby Gap along with an additional 13 species of 68 Individuals. Good numbers of Green Hairstreak butterflies were reported from Commondale on the 6th along with a very fresh and spectacular Puss Moth. Green Hairstreaks were also found at Spurn near the point with two found on the 7th, this is a rare butterfly in the Holderness area so the Spurn colony although small is locally important. In the same week the warm weather also helped with good numbers of Orange Tip butterflies emerging. A count of 21 was made in the Ashberry Pasture/ Rievaulx Abbey area on the 6th. 30 male Emperor Moths must have been a fantastic sight as they were lured to pheromone within five minutes of setting up the trap at Danby Beacon on the 7th. A Streamer moth was found on a cars tyre (alive) at Liverton Mines on the 8th. On the same date the first Painted Lady to arrive on the cliffs at Long Nab near Scarborough this year was seen.

Duke of Burgundy at Hawnby © Lindsey BowesDuke of Burgundy at Hawnby © Lindsey Bowes

Duke of Burgundy butterflies were on the wing on the 8th at the main site at Hawnby where 32 were counted on the 19th the highest ever total at this site which is great news! A thorough survey of all known and historical sites conducted in May by VC62 butterfly and moth recorder Dave O’Brien revealed Dukes present in 11 separate locations of which two were probably new colonies, the first new ones discovered since 1998! In total over 200 individual butterflies were seen with the final total count expected to be higher. This is wonderful news and a huge credit to the hard work carried out by Butterfly Conservation Volunteers in recent years.  A Ruddy Highflyer moth at Catterick on the 9th was the first recorded in Yorkshire since 2014.  Small Yellow Underwing moths were found at Walmgate Stray in York on the 11th with 11 counted in the same place on the 14th.  By the middle of the month the Pearl-bordered Fritillaries were also out in good numbers in the North York Moors NP no doubt enjoying the warm temperatures and sun. A Maiden’s Blush was caught in a garden in Beverley on the 15th; a scarce moth in Yorkshire. By the middle of the month two Waved Umber moths had been caught at Spurn during what was mostly a fairly quiet month for migrant moths there. The Scarborough moth team noticed a distinct dip in numbers of moths mid-month.

Sandwich Terns are a very rare bird away from the coast so one at Wheldrake on the 7th created a local twitch for York Birders. A Red-rumped Swallow flew over Spurn on the 8th. A notable arrival of European Turtle Doves included small numbers of birds back in the majority of their 2017 breeding locations in the southern area of the NYMNP. However, worryingly by the end of the month there had been no sightings in the Ampleforth/Gilling East area where birds had been present annually up to this year… It was good news though from the Goole area where at least one was seen at the traditional site of Oakhill Local Nature Reserve on the 20th.

A notable arrival of House Martins was recorded at Flamborough on the 12th when 52 were counted. By the middle of the second week two male Corncrake had taken up residence in the LDV with birders delighted to see one bathing from the Geoff Smith hide on one lucky date. Four Eurasian Dotterels graced the summit of Ingleborough on the 13th with a single bird in the traditional site at Danby Beacon on the same date and two at Flamborough. On the same day in the Flamborough area were two Common Cranes over Bempton and three Spotted Flycatchers.  A Roseate Tern was a great inland find at Southfield Reservoir on the 13th. Spurn had a good day on the 14th with two European Bee-eaters, Red-backed Shrike and a female Red-breasted Flycatcher. Three Common Cranes flew over Thurcross Reservoir on the 15th. The good two day run for scarce birds on the coast continued on the 16th when a male Eastern Subalpine Warbler was found at Flamborough and a very smart male Bluethroat at Spurn. A notable mid-May passage of Great Northern Divers was picked up at Spurn on the 17th when six flew past; three were seen passing Flamborough on the same day. Continuing the run of rare warblers a singing Iberian Chiffchaff was found at the unlikely location of Norwood Edge by Lindley Wood Reservoir on the 19th. On the same day another male Bluethroat graced Kilnsea/Spurn. A European Bee-eater flew over South Gare on the 20th. The first European Honey Buzzard to arrive in North Yorkshire not far from the Scarborough forests flew in off the sea at Long Nab on the 20th. On the same day an adult White-winged Tern put in a frustratingly brief appearance in the LDV.

Light Knot Grass at Hawnby © Gary FlakesLight Knot Grass at Hawnby © Gary Flakes

Scorched Wing at Broxa Forest © Allan RoddaScorched Wing at Broxa Forest © Allan Rodda

This picked up in the final half of the month for moths and butterflies. A Scarce Prominent moth and Alder Moth were good species at Braffetron Spring wood on the 19th along with 35 other species and 100 moths in total. Another moth night here on the 27th produced 142 moths of 46 species including another Maiden’s Blush which is a scarce moth in Yorkshire. 50+ Dingy Skippers were counted at Fordon Banks on the 21st but only one Common Blue was seen. At the same site a count of 20 Wall Brown butterfly was locally significant on the 22nd. An Argent and Sable moth found in the NYMNP on the 21st was the second earliest emergence record in Yorkshire. A Light Knot Grass moth was a great find at Hawnby on the 21st Small Blue butterflies were also doing well at their North Yorkshire site with 30 counted near Harrogate on the 25th. A Scorched Wing moth is a fantastic insect and the Scarborough moth team were excited to catch one in Broxa forest on the 27th. A single Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary was found in Deepdale on the 28th, a really good early emergence date for VC62.

Shark/Ray egg cases found at Spurn © Richard BainesShark/Ray egg cases found at Spurn © Richard Baines

Beach combing is always a great way to discover exciting objects washed ashore, find of the month was definitely the spectacular haul of 189 ray and shark egg cases ‘mermaid purses’ found at Spurn on the 23rd by Anthony Hurd (Living Seas Centre ManagerYWT). The species involved were Small Spotted Catshark (189 found); Spotted Ray (8 found); Thornback Ray (2 found) all discovered in a 90 minute walk. The reasons behind this wreck are unknown but it could be a result of the severe weather event earlier in the year.

The final ten days of May are almost always notable for rare and scarce birds and this was year was no exception. The first Common Quail of the year at Spurn was found on the 21st. Black Terns were only present in our area in small numbers in May so two at Nosterfield Quarry on the 21st was a nice find with three seen flying through the LDV a day later. Also on the 22nd the first Marsh Warbler of the spring was found signing in Kilnsea. Up the coast at Flamborough on the same date, a single Eurasian Dotterel arrived to start what was to become a prolonged stay at Beacon Hill Flamborough and a Grey-headed Wagtail (Thunbergi) was found at nearby Thornwick Pools. Spurn got in on the wagtail act on the 24th with two Grey-headed Wagtails (Thunbergi). The first Little Tern egg to be laid in Yorkshire this year was carefully guarded in the Spurn colony on the 23rd.

Rosy Starling © John HarwoodRosy Starling © John Harwood

This period was to prove a bit of a purple patch for the Great White Cape (Flamborough) as the following day on the 23rd a very smart adult Rose Coloured Starling was found at North Landing. Down at Spurn two Temmincks Stints arrived at Kilnsea Wetlands and by the 26th Flamborough joined in with another Temmincks Stint at Thornwick Pools. A female Montague’s Harrier flew through Spurn on the 24th with a new Marsh Warbler found nearby on the same date. At the northern end of our coastal belt a singing Marsh Warbler was found at Hummersea on the 26th. The 25th was a really good birding day at Flamborough and especially in the North Landing area where the Rose-coloured Starling was joined by a female Red-backed Shrike. The following day it or another female was on the southern cliffs east of South Landing.  Down at Spurn birders had a really good day on the 25th with a surprise flock of 10 Pomarine Skua and a new Red-breasted Flycatcher joining the assorted goodies from previous days which included three Marsh warblers and seven Black Terns. With Flamborough and Spurn stealing all the highlights it was good to hear of a Common Rosefinch at Potter Brompton Carr on the 24th and even more unusual, a Northern Gannet on the 26th at Top Hill Low!

Eastern Subalpine Warbler at South Gare © Brian ClasperEastern Subalpine Warbler at South Gare © Brian Clasper

Scarborough birders were still slogging it out at Long Nab during this period and their efforts paid off on the 26th with discovery of a male Eastern Subalpine Warbler, the following day a male Icterine Warbler took up residence here and the second European Honey Buzzard of the spring flew in at long Nab. Further inland on the 26th a male Montague’s Harrier flew through Nosterfield NR. A Marsh Warbler was a good catch in the Heligoland Trap at Buckton on the 27th with another at Old Fall on the Headland and on the same day a new Red-backed Shrike arrived at Spurn with two females a day later on the 28th when a European Nightjar was also seen in the Spurn Bird Observatory area. The relatively good arrival of Red-backed Shrikes continued with a male at Thornwick Flamborough on the 27th.  A Black Stork the first of the year in our area, seen circling over Swinefleet on the 28th must have been a very exciting sight! There was no let-up in the daily arrival of scarce birds at Spurn in the last few days of the month. A Golden Oriole was found singing along the canal 29th and the following day an Icterine Warbler at the point and a Savi’s Warbler in the same area as the Oriole!

Purple Cloud at Easington ©  Martin StoylePurple Cloud at Easington © Martin Stoyle

Arguably even more exciting than any of these rare birds though was a Purple Cloud moth caught at Easington on the night of the 30th, only the second record for Yorkshire of this rare migrant. There was no let-up in the excitement the following day as the north of the county tried to match Spurn. A male Eastern Subalpine Warbler in song was a great find at South Gare, the third bird in Yorkshire this spring! A small songbird fall on the morning of the 31st occurred at Flamborough/Bempton included 11 Spotted Flycatchers. Red-backed Shrikes were still arriving in small numbers with a new male at Thornwick Pools and two females at Spurn on the last day of the month.  A small pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins was seen heading north from Bempton RSPB on the last day.

Many thanks to all the observers who contributed sightings and photographs. 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

Richard Baines 

Yorkshire Coast Nature