Lincolnshire Coastal Country Park – August 2021

Lincolnshire Coastal Country Park – August 2021

With northerly winds during the month, August was very exciting for our local sea watchers. They put in a huge amount of time (118 hours) sea watching, resulting in a great number of bird and porpoise sightings.

Sea watching was the main theme of the month with northerly winds dominating the weather system. At this time of year many species are migrating south for the winter including many oceanic seabirds. Generally these species will be migrating miles out to sea completely avoiding the coastline and therefore avoiding detection. The northerly/north-easterly winds often push these birds closer to land. In addition to this, birds can become quite exhausted battling against the winds and might shelter close inshore.

During these weather conditions you can literally see anything over the sea from wildfowl, waders, seabirds, birds of prey, terns and even small passerines. This makes for very exciting watching, though it has to be said, it is very much an acquired taste particularly in gale force winds.

Highlights from the month include 21 pale-bellied brent goose, 1138 teal (364 south on 22nd), velvet scoter on 31st, 4 red-throated diver, 6 fulmar, sooty shearwater, 2 Manx shearwater, 276 gannet, 995 oystercatcher, 2 purple sandpiper, 3 little stint, 308 redshank (79 south on 7th and 125 south on 8th), 25 little gull, juvenile Sabine’s gull south on 26th, 4000 sandwich tern (678 on 9th and 800 on 27th), 18 black tern, 6 great skua, 7 pomarine skua, 317 Arctic skua (61 south on 28th), 8 long-tailed skua and singles of peregrine falcon and merlin south over the sea. An impressive 118 hours of sea watching was logged in August by four observes! 

Black tern (c) Dick Lorand

Black tern – a scarce passage migrant to the UK usually in late summer, rarely seen on the ground, often just seen in flight over the sea. ©Dick Lorand

A few signs of autumn now beginning to show with the departure of most of the summer warblers, such as sedge and reed warblers, with no confirmed sightings since early August. The first returning golden plover, curlew and lapwing have now taken up residence in the area and will be with us until next spring. The last swift was seen on the 14th, following good numbers migrating through earlier in the month, this included several days of triple figure counts.

Water rail continue to show well at Huttoft Pit in front of the hide. Other records from the pit included regular sightings of common and green sandpiper, a wood sandpiper on 8th and a redstart on 22nd

A barred warbler was discovered on the Sandilands Golf Course on 24th feeding in scrub at the southern end. Barred warbler does not breed in the UK (breeds throughout Eastern Europe) but can overshoot on migration in the autumn, these tend to be juvenile birds on their first migration.

Two roseate tern were found on the beach out from Chapel Six Marshes with a mixed flock of terns on 17th. Presumably the same birds (or perhaps different individuals) flew south calling over Marsh Yard on 20th. Also at Chapel Six Marshes were 2 corn bunting on the 25th feeding in thick marram grass, this sighting coincided with a spell of very strong north-easterly winds, and as a result were possibly newly arrived birds that had been blown across the North Sea. Corn bunting is an exceptionally rare bird in the Lincolnshire Coastal Country Park with only one confirmed sighting over the last five years.

Non-avian highlights

An impressive count of 26 willow emerald damselflies was made along the Huttoft Pit path on 12th, which beats the previous site record of only three. Further sightings were noted at Chapel Pit and Sandilands Pit which was the first-time willow emerald has ever been recorded from these areas. Sightings of banded demoiselle were also made at Anderby Creek and Huttoft Pit over two dates. Though relatively common inland on fast flowing streams and rivers, banded demoiselle remains a scarce migrant on the coast.

Harbour porpoise sightings were regular with an impressive 19 sightings throughout the month. The highest counts were six off Wolla Bank on 11th and four off Huttoft Terrace on 17th.  

Two red underwing moths were photographed on the Huttoft Pit hide on the 30th. These moths feed on both poplar and willow. The latter species is quite abundant on the reserve. A gold spot moth was observed nectaring on knapweed at Wolla Bank.

Red underwing (c) Garry Wright

Red underwing – a large moth that has a spectacular underwing pattern as the name suggests but is only seen in flight. ©Garry Wright

Dragonfly species are now dwindling away as we come into the autumn with only common darter, ruddy darter and migrant hawker being regularly recorded on the wing.

Butterfly sightings seen during the month included common blue, gatekeeper, large white, small white, red admiral, peacock, painted lady, small tortoiseshell, small skipper, small copper and Essex skipper. A small patch of thistles on the Anderby Marsh banks contained 2 painted lady, 10 red admiral, 3 peacock, 2 small tortoiseshell and 20 large white. This just goes to show the importance of thistle as a nectaring species for insects in late summer.

Painted lady butterfly resting on the ground (c) Dick Lorand

Painted lady – a good year for this species with numerous sightings throughout the Coastal Country Park. ©Dick Lorand

Top five species to look for in September

  1. Pink-footed goose – the arrival of pink-footed goose in mid-September is always a fantastic site and sound on the east coast as they return for the winter months. Listen out for their musical calls ‘wink, wink, wink’ rather than the nasally calls of our resident greylag and Canada goose.
  2. Golden plover – a few birds have returned to the area in recent weeks with some still in summer plumage. Best place to look is freshly ploughed farmland between Anderby Creek and Huttoft Car Terrace.
  3. Sanderling – freshly arrived birds from Greenland have now returned to the coast. Look out them feeding actively along the tide line.
  4. Small copper – look out for this late flying butterfly in sheltered areas on warm days. The Anderby Creek coastal path is an excellent place to see them.
  5. Migrant hawker – this dragonfly can be actively seen feeding anywhere in the Lincolnshire Coastal Country Park. Look out for the distinctive blue patterning of the males in flight.