Lincolnshire Coastal Country Park – January 2021

Richard Steel/2020VISION

Summary of sightings from Richard Doan, Coast and The Wash Assistant Warden

New Year’s Day got off to a fine start with a total of 81 bird species recorded by several observers in the area on the day.

Winter 2020/2021 is proving to be much colder than winters of late with multiple days experiencing sub-zero temperatures. Due to the cold weather it was nice to see a good spread of typical wintering migrants such as redwing and fieldfare flocks throughout (very few present in winter 2019/2020), numerous short-eared owls on National Trust Sandilands (former golf course) on a daily basis (up to four birds present; no wintering birds in 2019/2020) and pink-footed geese and whooper swans in varying numbers. Scrutiny of a pink-footed goose flock near Huttoft Pit on New Year’s Day revealed the presence of a bean goose and three white-fronted geese. Water rails were prolific with sightings from the majority of coastal sites within the Coastal Country Park.   

Short-eared owl (c) Dick Lorand

Short-eared owl, daily sightings around the Sandilands Golf Course in the evenings (c) Dick Lorand

The starling roost present at the end of 2020 gradually decreased after a peak of 10,000 at Chapel Six Marshes in early January. Over the following days and weeks the birds gradually dispersed as is typical and moved to inland sites. Numbers at Far Ings and Whisby Nature Park have swelled since their departure from the coast.

Excitement ensued on the 4 January with the finding of a bittern on Chapel Pit the first record in the area since spring 2019. The bittern continued to perform well for almost two weeks before presumably departing due to cold weather. It was encouraging to note that fish stocks on Chapel Pit were sufficient to support a bittern during this period. A bearded tit was present at Huttoft Pit on 7 January. On the same day two ravens were observed flying south over Wolla Bank Reedbed.

An adult Iceland gull flew south over the beach at Marsh Yard on 15 January the first record since early 2019. 

Bittern (c) Garry Wright

Bittern on Chapel Pit for almost 2 weeks (first record since Spring 2019) (c) Garry Wright

Extensive heavy rain throughout the autumn and early winter created the favourable ‘wet grassland’ habitat at Anderby Marsh and Huttoft Marsh. The former location supporting good numbers of lapwing and golden plover with 176 and 57 respectively. The latter location continues to support over 50 curlew and a good variety of wildfowl. Huttoft Pit hosted regular triple figure counts of wigeon which peaked at 324 on 23 Januaary. A couple of marsh harrier were also present during the month which could be returning birds that breed in the area.

Seawatching was productive for red-throated diver with an impressive 177 on 26 January (of National importance). Other sightings have included black-throated diver, great northern diver, velvet scoter and great skua.    

An incredible sighting of a pod of five harbour porpoise was noted on 23 January the only sighting during the month and is undoubtedly the highest count for many years. Grey and common seals were frequently recorded during the month although in small numbers. A couple of grey seal pups were also seen close inshore and were occasionally encountered on the beach during rough weather days. These pups presumably the offspring from the Donna Nook colony or possibly Blakeney Point in North Norfolk. 

Marsh harriers displaying (c) J Siddle

Displaying marsh harriers over Wolla Bank (c) J Siddle