Back to Blog

Wildlife Sightings North And East Yorkshire - October 2018

  • Sun 11th Nov, 2018

October is without doubt the most exciting time of the year for scarce and rare birds and this year was no different. The month kicked off in shear style at Flamborough with 161 Manx Shearwater, 55 Sooty Shearwater and a fine Great Shearwater alongside 110 Skuas including nine Pomarine Skua, all brought closer inshore by the strong north-north westerly winds. Spurn added a Leach’s Petrel to the tally with Long Nab contributing Long-tailed Skua and two Great Northern Divers. The following day Flamborough added Red-necked Phalarope, Storm Petrel and Leach’s Petrel with the same or another passing Spurn where three Long-tailed Skua also graced the day. Filey scored with a Black Guillemot on the 2nd. During these storms a small number of seabirds were blown inland, a Northern Gannet even found its way to Pately Bridge in the Yorkshire Dales and two Velvet Scoter were a good site record at Scaling Dam on the 2nd. A highly diverse range of species proving early October to be one of the best periods for sea-watching on our coastline.

Ring Ouzel at Filey © Dan LombardRing Ouzel at Filey © Dan Lombard

The wind dropped and changed direction on the 3rd creating an opportunity for songbirds to arrive from across the sea. Flamborough recorded 1857 Redwing arriving in just under four hours with similar numbers at Spurn which also recorded two Ring Ouzel. Further inland a very proud Eurasian Hobby was putting on a show for photographers. Whooper Swan movement started early in the month with small daily movements picked up at Flamborough including six on the 3rd. Two Slavonian Grebes were a good find in Filey Bay on the same day. A Minke Whale was seen off Flamborough on the 4th. The first sign that this was to be a good month for Short-eared Owls came from many sites early in the month including Sunk Island which had three birds hunting over the salt marsh on the 5th. The 6th and 7th was all about Yellow-browed Warblers on the coast. They were a little later this year to arrive in significant numbers, but they got a big welcome when they finally touched down. Flamborough and Spurn started the show with nine and four respectively on the 6th, then on the 7th Filey had its first of the autumn and Scarborough two birds. A Richard Pipit was also found at Spurn on the 6th. The 7th was a red-letter day at Spurn as a Red-flanked Bluetail was found alongside an impressive site record tally of 39 Yellow-browed Warblers! Joining in the fall was a Barred Warbler, Rose-coloured Starling and a good influx of 114 Brambling. Flamborough Headland added a further 19 Yellow-browed Warblers, five Ring Ouzels and two Barred Warblers. The first Tundra Bean Geese of the autumn were seen over Hornsea on the 7th.

Spurn was still going strong on the 8th with Sabines Gull, Great Egret and Shore Lark, another Great Egret was at Hornsea on the same day along with a Slavonian Grebe and offshore a Long-tailed Skua. Bigger numbers of Hawfinch arrived during this early October fall compared with recent Octobers and as with most songbirds they showed a great urge to move south-west/west, a lucky observer in Howden saw one flying over on the 8th. Will they turn up at the same sites they flocked to in mid-winter 2017-18?

Olive-backed Pipit over Spurn © Tim JonesOlive-backed Pipit over Spurn © Tim Jones

Yellow-browed Warblers continued at arrive over the next week or so, on the 11th, 11 were at South Gare and 21 at Flamborough. 11 Ring Ouzel was a good count at Hummersea on the 11th. On the same day Ravenscar had a Shore Lark and Spurn scored with Olive-backed Pipit and a Richards Pipit amongst many other songbird migrants. The visible migration counts included excellent numbers of Brambling with 580 counted at Spurn. These higher than usual numbers arriving on our coastline were eclipsed however by birds moving over Kwintelooijen in the Netherlands. 18048 Brambling were counted over this local Park on the 14th October! A Spotted Sandpiper was a great find on the beach at Marske on the 12th, staying several days at the delight of birders. On the same day a Rough-legged Buzzard flew north near Top Hill Low NR and a Great Grey Shrike was found at Sunk Island on the Humber. On the 13th Bempton RSPB recorded its first ever Olive-backed Pipit and on the same day 15 Ring Ouzel were seen on the whole Headland. Spurn recorded its first ever Vagrant Emperor dragonfly on the 13th. A Rock Pipit was a good local find at Wheldrake on the Lower Derwent Vally NNR on the 14th highly likely to be the Scandinavian race Littoralis.

White-rumped Swift at Hornsea © Tim JonesWhite-rumped Swift at Hornsea © Tim Jones

Everything seen in the first two weeks was then comprehensively blown out of the water late afternoon on the 14th as news arrived of a possible Pacific Swift at Hornsea Mere, shortly afterwards it was re-identified as Britain’s first White-rumped Swift! Birders had 2 hours 18 minutes in which to see the bird, from the time the news was released to darkness falling. Consequently, only a relatively small number of people reached the site in daylight. The Swift spent the majority of time flying above the western end of the Mere in loose association with six House Martins. Despite many people arriving the next day it had unfortunately moved on.

Long-eared Owl at Filey © Dan LombardLong-eared Owl at Filey © Dan Lombard

Lapland Buntings have again been scarce this autumn in a similar way to last year so five at Spurn on the 15th was good to hear. This date saw another arrival of Redwing with 2270 counted. Long-eared Owls arrived in small but much better numbers than in previous autumns with birds seen at many sites down the coast. This was a great time for them to arrive, as Filey and Flamborough Bird Observatories put on a great week-long ringing and migration event. There are few better birds to wow visitors than a big orange crazy-eyed LEO!

Barred Warbler at Bempton © Andy HoodBarred Warbler at Bempton © Andy Hood

A north-north easterly blow on the 15th created more good sea watching conditions especially in the north of the region. Long Nab enjoyed a Leach’s Petrel, there was a Slavonian Grebe in Filey Bay with another two at Flamborough alongside Red-necked Grebe and three Great Northern Diver. Two Olive-backed Pipits graced Spurn on the 16th, and on the same day Flamborough and Bempton birders delighted in a large fall of songbirds which included their very own Olive-backed Pipit, Eurasian Dotterel, Barred Warbler, 31 Ring Ouzels and 21 Yellow-browed Warblers. But the wow factor was all about the thrush rush; 10,350 Redwing, 1110 Fieldfare, 910 Song Thrush and 375 Blackbird! A day later the first Bohemian Waxwings arrived at Flamborough with two on the Outer Headland. Not to be outdone for long, Spurn hit back with a Pallid Swift on the 17th alongside the first Little Bunting of the autumn on the east coast of Yorkshire. Over the next two days a Marsh Warbler, three Long-eared Owls, Little Bunting and five Hawfinch were seen in the Easington and Spurn area. A Little Bunting was also found at Flamborough on the 18th. Two Bewick’s Swan flew past Spurn on the 19th.

Bohemian Waxwing at Flamborough © Craig ThomasBohemian Waxwing at Flamborough © Craig Thomas

On the 21st Flamborough had a record count of 15 Little Egret. A lone Firecrest was at Easington on the same day and a Richards Pipit was a good local find at Cattersley gill near Skinningrove. 1,500 Little Gulls were counted off Flamborough Headland on the 22nd, a great October record. A sign of things to come in an improved autumn for Rough-legged Buzzards was one in-off at Filey on the 22nd and there were more Short-eared owls coming in daily with five at Spurn on the 22nd. On the same day the first Eurasian Bittern of the winter was seen at Hornsea Mere. A late Sooty Shearwater flew south at Flamborough on the 23rd. A Shore Lark stopped off at Danby Beacon on the 24th. On the same day a Water Pipit was found at Danes Dyke and it was a three Grebe day show in Filey Bay as Slavonian Grebe, Great Crested Grebe and a Red-necked Grebe were all seen. Small numbers of Pomarine Skua were seen on many dates off the coast in various localities, but birders had no idea of the royal show they were about to witness as the wind changed to a north-westerly direction. 134 Pomarine Skua flew past Flamborough on the 25th with 34 past Spurn along with Leach’s Petrel. A Black-throated Diver flew past Flamborough amongst many other seabirds. A Rough-legged Buzzard arrived over Hornsea Mere on the same day and two Eurasian White-fronted Geese were seen close by.

Little Auk at Flamborough © Craig ThomasLittle Auk at Flamborough © Craig Thomas

A day later the seabird flood gates opened; In the north 38 Pomarine Skua passed Saltburn, 75 passed Long Nab, 156 passed Flamborough, 86 passed Grimston and 146 passed Spurn, a record site count, along with Glaucous Gull, Leach’s Petrel and Grey Phalarope. Whooper Swans were still on the move too, a count of 47 at Wykeham South Lake on the 26th was the highest of the month. The 27th then hit an even greater peak at Spurn as 203 Pomarine Skua were counted along with both Storm Petrel and Leach’s Petrel. This was then eclipsed in big style by the 515 Pomarine Skua counted passing Hornsea the same day! There were many other scarce seabirds and migrants seen up and down the coast on the 27th with birders experiencing what must have been one of the best late autumn sea watching days for many years. A fantastic diversity of species, here are a few highlights. At Spurn; 28 Little Auk, three Glaucous Gull, Grey Phalarope, 13 Short-eared Owl, three Long-eared Owl and eight Bohemian Waxwing. Flamborough; Black Guillemot, 17 Little Auk, Grey Phalarope, Storm Petrel and an impressive flock of ten Hooded Crow which arrived off the sea over South Landing YWT living Seas Centre. Two Pomarine Skua even reached Wheldrake LDV, a fabulous site record for the York Birding area.

The 28th was just as good with Little Auks increasing to 175 at Flamborough along with five Black-throated Divers, six Great Northern Divers, a Storm Petrel and Grey Phalarope. Nearby on the land a cracking total of four Siberian Chiffchaff with two Barred Warblers setting up home in Bempton dell. The only Iceland Gull was seen at South Gare. A White-billed Diver flew past Hornsea but even better was an immature male King Eider seen briefly in Filey Bay. Down at Spurn no less than four Leach’s Petrel were seen. The first sign of a brief but very special Arctic Redpoll event was down at Spurn where two of the race exilipes arrived. On the same day six Long-eared Owl were amongst the many migrants in the Spurn area. 21 Pomarine Skua were seen at the Humber Bridge flying west up the river. A little further inland at Blacktoft RSPB a Green-winged Teal was found.

Arctic Redpoll at Bempton RSPB © Richard BainesArctic Redpoll at Bempton RSPB © Richard Baines

The northern Observatories caught up a day later with one Arctic Redpoll each at Filey and on Flamborough Headland where one was found at Bempton RSPB. The former ringed and the latter found on the nature trail, a very tame bird which flew around the feet of an amazed small group of local birders as the evening light set. Nearby at Flamborough a Great Grey Shrike was fresh in. Spurn was not done yet though with another Arctic Redpoll on the 29th bringing the county total to five in two days, also at Spurn on the 29th was a new Pallas’s Warbler, 59 Eurasian Woodcock and four ‘eastern’ race Lesser Whitethroat, nearby a Hoopoe was an unseasonal find at Easington. On the 30th Spurn scored again with a Dusky Warbler. This amazing place also took the last day of the month trophy, as a site record seven Great Egret flew south and a new Great Grey Shrike arrived. Another Rough-legged Buzzard was at Hornsea on the 31st.

Death's Head Hawkmoth in Hull © Carol ToohieDeath's Head Hawkmoth in Hull © Carol Toohie

The second period of October saw a number of migrant moths recorded on or near the coast. A Small Mottled Willow at Scarborough on the 16th and a very late Hummingbird Hawkmoth at Spurn on the 26th. A White Point was in the Spurn moth trap on the 20th and a Convolvulus Hawkmoth caterpillar nearby. Other notable moth catches were 132 Large Wainscot trapped at Blacktoft RSPB on the 17th, but the by far the biggest find was a Deaths Head Hawkmoth found in a factory in Sutton fields estate in Hull, it was taken into the finder’s garden and released on a tree.

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