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March 2014 – Bird Sightings Round-up

  • Thu 3rd Apr, 2014

In a month where quality birds were well distributed both geographically and chronologically, there were two outstanding highlights that had very little in common - except, that is, for having the honour of being found by the same birding couple..... 

One of the most outrageous and unexpected occurrences of recent years came in the distinctly non-migratory shape of a Red Grouse, at (of all places) South Dykes, Flamborough, on 7th. A good 30 kilometres from the nearest breeding area, the bird must have been as bewildered as its finders, Brett and Cynthia Richards, as it played hide and seek around the far-from-heathery surrounds of the coastal golf course; a first for Flamborough and perhaps only the second for the East Yorkshire coast (after an historical record from Spurn a long, long time ago). As least expected bird of the year, it'll surely take some beating (as it were). 

On a very rare morning away from their beloved Flamborough headland, Brett and Cynthia headed to the Wykeham raptor watchpoint on 21st – and promptly found a White-tailed Eagle circling high over the forests. Reported again briefly the following morning but not since, it was a mouth-watering find by any standards; here's hoping they leave something for the rest of us to find this spring. 

Quality wildfowl included a drake Green-winged Teal at Potter Brompton Carr for several days from 6th, a Bean Goose over Grimston on 15th (and several other possibles eluding positive identification along the coast), the long-staying Black Brant in the Kilnsea / Spurn area (where up to nine Scaup were seen), and Red-crested Pochard and Smew at Hornsea Mere. The latter site also hosted a Velvet Scoter (with another in Filey Bay) and both Red-necked and Black-necked Grebes, as well as a single Long-tailed Duck, with another off Filey Brigg on 31st. 

Scarcer seabirds were expectedly in short supply, with a Pomarine Skua off Flamborough on 22nd overshadowing a few early Bonxies along the coast. Rarer gulls were confined to several Glaucous Gulls (with up to three different birds noted at Spurn) and Iceland Gulls at three sites, including the long-stayer at Sandsend. Little Gulls continued to grace Filey Bay until the second week, but there were no reports of the Bridlington Bay Bay Kumlien's Gull this month. 

Divers were represented by odd Great Northerns off Filey, Flamborough and Spurn, while the long-suspected presence of multiple wintering Black-throats in Filey Bay was finally confirmed on 10th when two were on view simultaneously. The long-staying Slavonian Grebe in the same area was last seen on 3rd. 

Broad-winged fly-overs were confined to a pair of Cranes in the Buckton area on 9th, where up to three Short-eared Owls patrolled the cliff-top fields. Aside from a single Little Ringed Plover at Flamborough on 29th, waders barely registered, and it was left to a wide range of passerines to pick up the slack this month.

 Still attracting plenty of interest, the Northern Treecreeper continued its holidays in Millennium Wood, Flamborough, while coastal fields up and down the coast were brimming with quality and quantity as the month wore on. All the classic east coast specialities put in strong performances, with small numbers of Snow Buntings noted at several sites, while Filey remained the hotspot; thirty became fifteen became five by late in the month (but not before one was revealed, thanks to its colour-ring, to have recently arrived from France). 

Up to eight Lapland Buntings continued to hang on at Long Nab early in the month, but were soon eclipsed firstly by a handful at Bempton which included singing males in stunning summer plumage, and then by at least fifteen, including more stunning males, at nearby Buckton on 29th (with several lingering into April). 

Indeed, the ploughed fields along the clifftops of Bempton and Buckton were the place to be for the full range of northern seed-eaters, with the year's first Shorelarks frequenting both sites from 27th and excellent numbers of Twite, with about 40 at each location. A further 30 were down the road at Breil Nook on Flamborough Headland, while down on the Humber, up to 70 were in the Sunk Island area. Increasingly flushed with tell-tale warm pink hues, Scandinavian Rock Pipits began to give themselves away at several locations, with multiple counts at Filey, Flamborough and Scarborough. 

Several Firecrests (including two together at Spurn) would have made suitable light lunches for either of the Great Grey Shrikes, reported briefly in Langdale and Dalby forests respectively, this month, but neither of the latter put in return appearances. Otherwise it was all about returning summer migrants, with the usual suspects arriving pretty much on cue – small trickles of Sand Martins and Wheatears began mid-month, with the first of the latter at Spurn on 10th – the same location hosting a Woodlark on 9th, and, amazingly, a singing Grasshopper Warbler on the same day. 

After the first at Filey late in February, Black Redstarts arrived in good numbers, with up to five simultaneously at both Spurn and Flamborough as well as ones and twos at other sites; White Wagtails were being reported daily by the end of the month, and the first Willow Warblers and House Martins had sneaked in by the last week of a generally entertaining month.