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Wildlife Sightings - July 2017

  • Tue 1st Aug, 2017

The weather in July 2017 started with light-moderate winds from the prevailing direction of west and temperatures around average for the time of year. The 1st was a balmy day in Bridlington at 20°. The 5th and 6th brought a stormy change with very heavy thunder storms in North Yorkshire causing localised flooding. There were several periods of north-east and easterly winds most of which involved light and variable winds and temperatures in the mid-late teens. The most significant period of weather influencing wildlife this month was the short blast of north – south easterly winds picking up from the 19th through to the 20th alongside periods of rain. The month ended with sunny intervals, short periods of showers and moderate south-westerly winds.

White-winged Tern at Kilnsea © Justin Carr White-winged Tern at Kilnsea © Justin Carr

Star birds graced three sites on the 1st July. The White-winged Tern was still at Kilnsea Wetlands, the Sabines Gull at Flask Lake Nosterfield and the excellent summer for European Honey Buzzards continued at Wykeham with three present on the first day of the month and they were still being seen on the 31st. On the 1st another Honey Buzzard flew over Cottingham Parks east of Hull. Alongside the Sabines Gull the most unusual sighting on this date was a very unseasonal Black-throated Diver seen flying west at Paull Holme Strays. An influx of Little Gulls arrived early in the month with 45 seen at Hornsea on the 1st and smaller numbers at several other sites on the coast. By the 4th numbers had increased to a month peak of 420 at Hornsea alongside a Great Egret seen flying west on the same day. Early signs of a good month for waders were a Temmincks Stint briefly at Nosterfield on the 2nd alongside a Wood Sandpiper at the same site. A mid-summer Hawfinch surprised birders at Spurn on the 7th. A Birch Mocha moth is always a lovely sight; one was caught by the Scarborough moth team in Broxa forest on the 1st. This was a great night for beautiful moths as a Lilac Beauty graced the same trap.  A Marbled White butterfly at South Gare on the same weekend was a good northern record. A count of 24 Dark-bordered Beauty at Strensall on the 6th was the highest count since 2012.

Lilac Beauty Broxa Forest © Allan Roddha Lilac Beauty Broxa Forest © Allan Roddha

The first rare wader of the month arrived at Kilnesa Wetlands on the evening of the 8th in the form of a Buff-breasted Sandpiper. On the same wetland was a Spoonbill and 34 Black-tailed Godwit many in summer plumage. These fantastic waders were on the move in early July turning up in the Spurn area first then further up the coast later in the month.  Ten dolphins of an unknown species were seen at Staithes on the 7th. It seems likely these were White-beaked Dolphin as a pod of this species were then seen further down the coast for the next few days. A Minke Whale seen at Flamborough on the 9th and at Filey on the 10th may have been the same individual. This sighting coincided with small numbers arriving in the Whitby and Staithes area around the same time. The summering female Montagu’s Harrier was seen again at Blacktoft Sands RSPB on the 10th. A Bittern was at North Cave on the 11th. The first large summer passage of Common Swift occurred at Spurn on the same date with 4875 counted. This movement was also recorded further north on the coast, on the same date. 1,100 were logged at Flamborough and 350 at Hunmanby Gap. A Lesser Emperor dragonfly was seen at Bempton on the 9th. This rare UK migrant has also turned up further south in very small numbers this year. The settled warm weather alongside winds from the south and east certainly seemed to be suiting dragonflies. Just down the road from Bempton at Thornwick Pools on the 13th were six Red-veined Darters, good number of migrant Ruddy Darters and a Southern Hawker.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Kilnsea © John Hewitt Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Kilnsea © John Hewitt

Black-tailed Godwit at Thornwick Pools © Craig ThomasBlack-tailed Godwit at Thornwick Pools © Craig Thomas

The good summer for moth trapping continued. Finding a first moth species for Spurn becomes more difficult every year as this site has one of the biggest species totals in the UK. A Four Dotted Footman on the 15th was therefore a major event. On the same date a Privet Hawkmoth and a Pine Hawkmoth made a memorable catch. Wader numbers were still increasing slowly with European Whimbrel taking the prize at Spurn on the 15th with 118 counted. On the same date a Pectoral Sandpiper was a good find at Smallways Lake near Barnard Castle and a Red Knot graced the inland site of Lingham Lake at Nosterfield gravel pits. July is traditionally the time for European Storm-petrel ringing on the Yorkshire coast. The season kicked into gear at three sites in the same week with one caught at Crook Ness on the 14th, two at Flamborough on the 16th and a single at Filey on the 17th. A single Willow Tit was ringed at Buckton on the 16th and then the same bird or another was found in a Flamborough garden the following day. A productive Seasearch dive off Scarborough On the 17th found some great species, whilst they didn’t find anything rare; several species of attractive nudibranchs were found including a splendid Flabellina pedata in the Calf Allen Rocks area.

Flabellina pedata in the Calf Allen Rocks area © Paula Lightfoot Flabellina pedata in the Calf Allen Rocks area © Paula Lightfoot

The change of weather overnight on the 18th   brought a fall of waders in the Spurn area on the 19th. 10,000 Dunlin were the main species with 360 Red Knot, Curlew Sandpiper, four Wood Sandpiper and a good count of 37 Common Sandpiper. The following day as the weather improved many of these birds had moved on. This wader movement was reflected up the coast at Flamborough where the small wader refuelling stations at Thornwick Pools and Buckton Pond recorded a combined nine Common sandpipers and 21 European Whimbrel amongst other waders on the day. However Filey stole the Whimbrel show on the same date with an impressive 244 logged moving south. An eclipse drake American Wigeon was at Hay-a-Park gravel pits on the 19th.

Red Knot Thornwick Pools © Andy Hood Red Knot Thornwick Pools © Andy Hood

A Black Stork was seen flying south-west past Wykeham Raptor Viewpoint on the 21st, this was an exciting sighting especially when at the same site a European honey Buzzard was also on show! The Stork kicked off what was to become the best few days of the month for rare birds. At the other end of the coast an adult White-rumped Sandpiper was found at Kilnsea Wetland on the same day. This was also another good date for Little Gulls as 600 were logged migrating over the sea at nearby Spurn. An adult Pacific Golden Plover was found at North Cave Wetlands YWT, also on the 21st. Spurn then scored a July hat trick of rare American waders as the following day an adult summer plumage American Golden Plover arrived! This beautiful ‘Yank’ quickly vanished before being found again on the 25th at Kilnsea Wetlands alongside the long-staying White-winged Tern. A very impressive 28 species of wader were seen at Kilnsea Wetlands in July! The first autumn Sooty Shearwater at Flamborough flew past on the 22nd and on the same date a Cory’s Shearwater was recorded passing Staithes with another or the same bird again on the 24th. On the 25th the first Red-backed Shrike for Spurn in 2017 was found and following suit another female was found at Filey the following day. The first Roseate Tern of the autumn was at Kilnsea Wetlands on the 27th.  

White-rumped Sandpiper at Kilnsea © Nigel GennWhite-rumped Sandpiper at Kilnsea © Nigel Genn

Back on the insect front an impressive count of 674 Essex Skipper was logged at Sunk Island on the banks of the Humber on the 18th. This species has been slowly colonising Yorkshire from the south and this count confirms they are here in big numbers now. A colony of Purple Hairstreak on an Oak near Whitby was a good find in the north of the county on the 21st and further south White-letter Hairstreaks were seen at Skipwith Common YWT. An excursion by the YWT living Seas team to Runswick Bay on the 25th came up trumps with superb views of some amazing rock pool life. A tiny and gorgeous Spiny Squat Lobster stole the show.

Spiny Squat Lobster © Mark PearsonSpiny Squat Lobster © Mark Pearson

Sings of autumn were everywhere in the final week as post breeding movements of many species were being seen. A typical example was the Tern roost count at Spurn on the 29th as 4015 Common Tern, 30 Arctic Tern, 81 Sandwich Tern and three Black Tern were logged on an evening seawatch. Two Golden Orioles were seen briefly at Holbeck Scarborough on the 28th. A more typical late July record was a Wood Warbler found in Kilnsea on the 30th. Eight Curlew Sandpiper at Kilnsea Wetlands on the 31st was a good late July count.

Curlew Sandpiper at Kilnsea © John Hewitt Curlew Sandpiper at Kilnsea © John Hewitt

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