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Wildlife Sightings North And East Yorkshire - December 2018

  • Sat 12th Jan, 2019

An adult Black-crowned Night Heron must have been a big surprise on a garden pond in the York area on the 1st, maybe it was the Redcar bird from November… Goose migration really kick started the month with another movement of Pink-footed Geese on the coast. 527 flew south at Long Nab Scarborough on the 2nd with 800 south at Flamborough. Smaller numbers were seen south of Flamborough with 52 south at Hornsea but no movements picked up at Spurn. A bigger movement on the 3rd occurred with 224 over Scarborough, 450 over Filey, an impressive 2205 counted over Flamborough, 100 over Hornsea and 1190 over Spurn. In typical form these geese were joined by Whooper Swans, the biggest flocks being 27 seen migrating over Filey and 34 over Spurn.

Great Egret © Andy HoodGreat Egret © Andy Hood

At the start of the month a male Smew, two Black-necked Grebe and a Greater Scaup graced Hornsea Mere along with 130 Barnacle Geese, Great Egret and Common Scoter. Three more Great Egret were seen at Wykeham South Lake the same day. 30 Twite were also at Barmston on the 3rd when the wintering flock of approximately 100 were also present at South Gare. A Black-throated Diver was found at East Pier Scarborough on the 3rd, it then stuck around in the wider area to the end of the year. Filey Bay had a very good start to the month especially on the 4th when a great selection of wintering birds was present including Black Guillemot, Black-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Long-tailed Duck, Little Gull and two Snow Buntings. With lower water levels than normal in the Lower Derwent Valley (LDV) wildfowl numbers were concentrated around the North Duffield and Wheldrake areas. On the 3rd 4,500 Eurasian Wigeon and 82 Whooper Swan were counted in the LDV.

Bohemian Waxwing at Skelton © Damian MoneyBohemian Waxwing at Skelton © Damian Money

A trickle of Bohemian Waxwings arrived on the 4th with three in the Scarborough area and 1 at Spurn on the same day, this was followed by 16 in the traditional car park site at B&Q Scarborough on the 6th when three were also seen in York. Whooper Swans were still present at many sites down the coast and inland including unusually good mid-winter numbers at Flamborough peaking at 15 on the 6th. Eight Snow Buntings were on the top of Ingleborough near the summit on the 9th. On the same day 20 Twite were found on Dallowgill Moor and the wintering egrets at Newburgh Priory included one Great Egret and two Little Egrets. A further two Great Egret were seen at Wykeham South Lake also on the 9th.

Shore Lark at Marske-by-the-Sea © Damian MoneyShore Lark at Marske-by-the-Sea © Damian Money

Scarborough birders were pleased to hear of a Great Grey Shrike in the Langdale Forest area on the 11th with the same bird or another seen in the May Moss area on the 22nd. White-winged gulls have been scarce this winter so an Iceland Gull seen past Flamborough on the 10th was significant. On the same day the sea watch produced three Great Northern Divers and a good mid-winter count of 17 Great Skua passing the Headland. A Shore Lark was found near Saltburn on the 11th.

White-fronted Goose Flamborough Headland Dec 2018 © Craig ThomasWhite-fronted Goose Flamborough Headland Dec 2018 © Craig Thomas

Early-mid December saw a new movement of White-fronted Geese and Tundra Bean Geese. Three Tundra Bean Geese flew past Flamborough on the 9th, two White-fronted Geese were at Wykeham South Lake on the 13th with 28 arriving at Filey Dams on the same day. The White-fronted Geese flock near Filey Dams then increased to an impressive 50 a day later when 28 were also seen in the LDV in the Thornton area. 60 were then found at Wykeham South Lake on the 15th with eight arriving at Wheldrake on the 16th. A day later on the 17th, birds moved south on the coast to Hornsea and Spurn with seven White-fronted Geese near the Mere on the 17th increasing to 19 on the 23rd. 16 White-fronted Geese were new in at Spurn on the 17th and included the star of the show a Taiga Bean Goose. The biggest flock of White-fronted Geese for the month in our region were then seen at Spurn on the 21st when 150 birds flew south over Easington.

Water Pipit at Skinningrove © ian Boustead Water Pipit at Skinningrove © ian Boustead

Two Raven flew over Tower Hide at Wheldrake Ings on the 14th. On the same day a Rosy Starling was seen in a private garden in Throxenby and a Water Pipit was a good find at Skinningrove. A count of 60 Corn Buntings was a good sign at Buckton a day later on the 16th. Two Shorelark were at Easington Lagoon on the 19th. On the same day a Rough-legged Buzzard was found at Snilesworth. A Dipper was a great birding area find at Newburgh Priory in the York Birding patch on the 21st. This is a site where they historically bred but are now very rare. A mini grebe rush in the final part of the month produced a Slavonian Grebe at Skinningrove, a Red-necked Grebe on Hornsea Mere and two Slavonian Grebes off Scarborough. A male Smew was at Top Hill Low on the 22nd. Two signs of the mild winter were a Barn Swallow seen at Eggborough on the 24th and seven Common Chiffchaff at Hunmanby on the 25th.

Slavonian Grebe at Skinningrove © Brian ClasperSlavonian Grebe at Skinningrove © Brian Clasper

Bohemian Waxwings appeared again in Skelton on Christmas Day with 20 gracing the village. They were then seen again in the Scarborough area on the 27th with eight birds found feeding on Rowan berries. 60 were then counted in Middlesbrough a day later on the 28th. 11 were then seen in Melbourne village near York on the 30th with another single in York city centre on the same day and two in a garden in Skelton N.Yorks.

Male Smew at Top Hill Low © Mike Robinson Male Smew at Top Hill Low © Mike Robinson

34 Snow Buntings was a good flock and probably the largest flock this month in Yorkshire at South Gare on the 28th. On the same day the male Smew was still on Hornsea Mere and a female was found at Bubwith Ings LDV. A single Lapland Bunting was at South Gare with the Twite flock on the 28th and a Black Guillemot still there on the 30th. On the 29th four Hawfinch were found at Harewood House and a further six Hawfinch were seen at Fountains Abbey. A Black Brant was found at Spurn in the Brent Goose flock on the 31st along with a Siberian Chiffchaff at Easington sewage works. The last day of the month produced two great sightings; an immature White-tailed Eagle seen again the Sleddale area of the North York Moors NP and a male American Wigeon was a very good find at Bubwith Ings LDV. Wildfowl counts in the LDV towards the month end included 8,800 Eurasian Wigeon, 5,200 Eurasian Teal, 212 Northern Pintail, 192 Shoveler and an impressive 6,200 Northern Lapwing!

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  Smew photo by Mike's Nature Photography

For National News: Birdguides

Richard Baines 

Yorkshire Coast Nature