Back to Blog

Wildlife Sightings North And East Yorkshire - April 2018

  • Wed 2nd May, 2018

After a wild and cold end to March, April started relatively balmy with temperatures around 8°C on the 1st this was despite a northerly airflow on the coast. Light South-easterly winds and slightly warmer temperatures made the 6th and 7th the first days of the year that really felt like spring.   The weather then became much warmer by the middle of the month with southerly winds and temperatures in the mid-late teens by the 11th with local headlines proclaiming “Hull will be hotter than Istanbul today”. Temperatures reached 17°C in Bridlington on the 20th. Just as we all got used to this early summer weather, another northerly blast arrived in the last few days of the month dropping minimum temperatures in Bridlington to a wintery 2°C on the 27th.

Hawfinch at Spurn © John HewittHawfinch at Spurn © John Hewitt

The first week of April brought welcome summer migrants in the form of the first Willow Warbler of the year recorded for the Spurn area and the first few Swallows. Winter was not quite over though with two good birds in the first two days; a Black-throated Diver on Wykeham Lakes and a Grey Phalarope at Kilnsea wetlands on the 2nd which was the first ever to be recorded at Spurn in spring. On the same day was the 11th record of Nuthatch for the Observatory area. The 3rd was the first good spring migrant day in Flamborough/Bempton area. A Bluethroat was the main highlight alongside lots of other good birds; Great Grey Shrike, three Firecrests, two Black Redstarts and a Hawfinch. Migrant highlights at Spurn on the same day included Woodlark, three Firecrests and the first Yellow Wagtail of the spring. Two Western Ospreys at Scaling Dam on the 3rd were good examples of a distinct early April movement with several singles seen in other areas in the first few days. By the middle of the first week Sand Martins were rushing into nest in our region with 50 counted at Nosterfield on the 5th. On the same day, a flock of 58 Whooper Swans seen at Bolton on Swale were on their way to nest much further north!

Firecrest at Huntcliff © Damian MoneyFirecrest at Huntcliff © Damian Money

The good spring for Firecrests was appreciated at Flamborough with birds seen every day in the first week. Smaller numbers were seen in many places on the North Yorks coast and Filey got in on the act with two caught and ringed in April. Movement inland was evident on the 7th with one at Sunk Island. Alongside Firecrests was a good sprinkling of Black Redstarts with one even singing at Skinningrove on the 4th. Our first Tree Pipit of the spring was seen at Spurn on the 7th. There were two Great Egrets at Top Hill Low on the 5th and then the 8th saw up to three on the coast with one at Flamborough and two at Spurn.

Black Redstart singing at Skinningrove ©  Ian Boustead (majority of second yr males cannot be separated from females in spring)Black Redstart singing at Skinningrove © Ian Boustead (majority of second yr males cannot be separated from females in spring)

Black-necked Grebes turned up in several places this month, one of the first appeared at Hornsea on the 4th. This proved to be the best place to see them in our area with a maximum of five seen on the Mere on the 15th. At Nosterfield NR the wintering Slavonian Grebe continued to perform slowly molting into summer plumage. On the 15th an early House Martin was seen at North Cave Wetlands. Even more surprising in this first week was the first Turtle Dove singing in a North Yorkshire village on the 6th. The warmer temperatures brought a Daubenton’s Bat out of hibernation, feeding and roosting nearby at Nosterfield NR on the 5th. A Grass Snake found at Spurn on the 6th was a good early record and a welcome return for the species after floods in previous years had been thought to have destroyed most of the population.

After several records of Common Cranes early in the month, the end of the first week produced an even bigger rush of sightings. The first flew over Honsea on the 7th and on the same day six flew west over South Gare. More spectacular though was a flock of 11 over North Cave Wetlands YWT reserve on the following day. On the 10th four flew over Bank Island Wheldrake. On the 8th a Hobby was over North Cave reserve. The 7th was one of the first good moth catching nights of the year with suitably mild temperatures and overcast skies on the coast. At Hunmanby Gap 120 individuals of 11 species were caught including a single Satellite and a Pale Brindled Beauty.

Ring Ouzel  North Yorkshire © Damian MoneyRing Ouzel North Yorkshire © Damian Money

The 11th was an exceptional day for Ring Ouzels at Roseberry Topping. A minimum of 40 were seen there on the south-eastern slope with approximately 30 still present the following day. At their breeding grounds in Rosedale a male arrived for its third year, being seen only a few hundred meters away from where it fledged from the nest in 2015! The first breeding Pied Flycatcher in the Bolton Abbey area arrived back on the 13th. On the same day a Green-winged Teal was found at Johnsons Marsh Scarborough. A female Smew was a great local find at Wykeham Lakes on the 15th especially as it was present with the Black-throated Diver and on the same day a Woodlark flew over nearby Crook Ness. There were many scattered coastal records of small numbers of Hawfinches throughout the first few weeks of the month. Spurn had its highest ever count on the 14th when seven were seen. This appeared to be a good indication of a movement away from their inland winter feeding areas back to the continent to breed. An excellent count of 4105 Atlantic Puffins was made at Flamborough on the 14th between the Fog Station and Speeton. This day also proved to be a major arrival day for song bird migrants. Counts included 46 Chiffchaff and 82 Fieldfare. Spurn had its highest count of Chiffchaff a few days earlier on the 11th when 61 were recorded. Another bird moving in significant numbers mid-month were Little Gulls with 115 seen at Spurn on the 15th. A male Pallid Harrier seen flying over the M62 near Howden on the 20th was a great spring record and a fantastic sight.

Red-rumped and Barn Swallow at Spurn © John HewittRed-rumped and Barn Swallow at Spurn © John Hewitt

The 20th brought a Wood Warbler to Ashberry Farm near Helmsley and the first Red-rumped Swallows to our coast in 2018 with a single at Spurn. It or another was then seen almost daily in the same area until the 26th. On the 20th two Black-necked Grebes found on the sea at Flamborough was a very good spring sighting. Also on the Headland that day were 26 Lesser Whitethroats and a good count of 47 Corn Bunting at North Dykes. This date was also a notable day for Lesser Whitethroat arrival at Spurn with 29 recorded. The 21st brought the first yearly records of Serin and a Turtle Dove to Spurn. On the 22nd Flamborough scored with two Red-rumped Swallows and then one was found at Hornsea Mere on the 25th with another or the same individual on the 28th. Another Wood Warbler graced the North York Moors NP near Bilsdale on the 23rd. The 25th was a red-letter day at Top Hill Low as a Purple Heron was found from the Hempholme Hide staying until the end of the month.

Streamer © Damian Money Streamer © Damian Money

Emperor Moths were on the wing at Strensall Common on the 18th and Pine Beauty moths were seen two days later on the 20th. A “spectacular night’s moth trapping” was reported from Hunmanby Gap on the 19th with 148 individuals of 17 species caught. A single Streamer moth was caught in the north of the county on the 20th and another was then found at Low North Camp by the Scarborough moth team on the 22nd. First sightings of butterflies were many in the third week and included the first Holly Blue, Orange Tip and Small White on the 19th and the first Green Hairstreak butterflies were seen in the Great Yorkshire Forest on the 20th.

Common/Mealy Redpoll Filey © Richard BainesCommon/Mealy Redpoll Filey © Richard Baines

During this period a fantastic site fidelity record was discovered at Filey when on the 21st two Lesser Whitethroats were ringed at Filey. Both birds had been ringed on the same day in 2017 in the same place and stayed to breed nearby in 2017! A Common/Mealy Redpoll ringed on the same day this year must have been going in the opposite direction back across the North Sea! Further up the coast two Common Cranes flew over Seamer Scarborough. The first Little Tern to arrive back at the breeding colony at Easington was seen on the 23rd.

Olive-backed Pipit at Flamborough © Craig Thomas Olive-backed Pipit at Flamborough © Craig Thomas

The last few days of April are often great for spring migrants and this year was no different especially at Spurn on the 28th. Up to three Wrynecks, Firecrest, five Ring Ouzels, 62 Willow Warbler, three Pied Flycatcher and 75 Wheatears were seen amongst other migrant songbirds. These totals were good but Flamborough struck back on the same day with one of the rarest bird to be seen in April an Olive-backed Pipit which graced a garden in the village for one and a half precious minutes! Four Turtle Doves were back at Sutton Bank North York Moors Visitor Centre on the 29th.

Scarce Prominent © Allan Rodda Scarce Prominent © Allan Rodda

The end of the month was generally very poor for the moth catchers in the cold weather but the Scarborough team persevered and it paid off on the 28th when a beautiful Scarce Prominent and the first Brown Silver Lines of the year were caught.  

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