Lincolnshire Coastal Country Park – May 2021

© Garry Wright

Spring really is a great time of year to be out and about. There were lots of great sightings in May with new species of butterfly, dragonfly and orchid for the Lincolnshire Coastal Country Park area and avocets nesting for the first time.

The prolonged wet spell in mid-May resulted in the flooding of Anderby Marsh which is usually completely dry by this time of year. The flooding enticed a few species to the marsh most notably a pair of avocet, seen at the end of month, with a second pair briefly present. Avocet remains a scarce visitor to the area with just a handful of records each year. Although they present in good numbers at Gibraltar Point only 10 miles south.

In addition to the avocets, a pair of redshank and lapwing were also recorded on a regular basis. A spoonbill was also located on Anderby Marsh on the 31st May and remained until the next day. This illustrates just how successful the marsh can be when flooded at the right time of year. Three curlew sandpipers flew over on the 4th and may have been on the marsh prior to flying north.

Seawatching highlights throughout the month; a single little tern and four common tern on 19th. six kittiwake, a gannet and 11 common scoter on 20th, 15 fulmar, 9 gannet and 18 guillemot on 22nd. Sandwich tern was also recorded on several dates though only in single figures.    

Common terns (c) Garry Wright

A pair of common terns frequently visited Huttoft Pit © Garry Wright

Cuckoo appear to be in good numbers with up to five birds currently in residence and showing very well most days around the Wolla Bank area. 

Three pairs of marsh harrier still on territory throughout the country park. This is thought to be a record number of breeding pairs.

Good numbers of migrating swallow flew south on the 9th with an impressive count of 429, along with 69 house martin, 24 sand martin, 46 yellow wagtail, two hobby and a hawfinch (a rare coastal migrant thought to be of northern European origin). These migrations usually happen when the wind is in a southerly direction. The successive northerlies in April and May no doubt held up many birds on migration through Europe. Interestingly swallows always appear to fly south in the spring with very few seen heading north. One theory is that these birds overshoot on their migration and then have to track back south again to breeding grounds. On the 10th an additional 190 swallow flew south again on a southerly wind.

Swallow (c) Garry Wright

There was a good passage of swallows on the 9th May © Garry Wright

A long-eared owl was seen hunting around Marsh Yard on 11th May. Short-eared owls were again seen sporadically throughout the month. 

Huttoft Pit was reasonably quiet during the month with the exception of a single female garganey on 10th.

Female garganey (c) Garry Wright

Garganey (female) – the only summer migrant duck in the UK, an annual visitor © Garry Wright

A quail was heard singing in an oil seed rape field just north of Anderby Creek on 29th May and remained in the area for a couple of days. This is a rare visitor on the coast being only the second to be record here in the last 5 years. One lucky observer even managed to see it when it was flushed by a roe deer!  

The heatwave that started late in the month brought a few bee-eaters to the east coast of the UK with numerous sightings from Spurn Point in East Yorkshire, a couple of records at Gibraltar Point and a few in North Norfolk. Two birds were observed flying south over the Lincolnshire Coastal Country Park on the 29th May. Bee-eaters are rare migrants to the UK which usually turn up on spring migration. They are common breeders on the continent and occasionally breed in the UK every few years.    

Non-avian highlights

Two southern marsh orchids found in late May are thought to be a new species for the area. A good spread of common spotted orchids was also noted.

Butterflies seen include painted lady, brimstone, green hairstreak, common blue, small copper, brown argus (possibly a new species for the area), orange-tip, green-veined white, red admiral, speckled wood, peacock and small tortoiseshell.

Dragonflies recorded during the month have included hairy dragonfly (a new species for the area) with numerous sightings over several sites, broad-bodied chaser, four-spotted chaser, large red damselfly, azure damselfly, emerald damselfly and common blue damselfly.

Brown hare continues to do well throughout with sightings more widespread this year. A leveret (young hare) was seen on Anderby Marsh.

A grass snake was seen swimming across Huttoft Pit in late May. A water vole was also recorded from here the first sighting for a number of years.

Very few records of toad and frog during the month with just odd singles seen on occasion. 2021 seems to be a very poor year for amphibians; no doubt the cold snap in early spring curtailed the peak activity period. 

Despite numerous warm days in May there were no confirmed records of harbour porpoise which was a surprise in the flat calm conditions. Grey seals were recorded on most days during the month.

Top five species to look for in June

  1. Hobby – look out for this impressive species hunting for dragonflies over the reedbeds, particularly around Chapel Six Marshes and Wolla Bank. 
  2. Swift – look out for this species on cloudy days with a south-westerly wind. Counts of swifts usually peak in June with birds undertaking large feeding flights during the breeding season. An impressive day total of 46,000 recorded at Gibraltar Point in June 2019 was a new UK record. On a good passage day numbers can easily be in the 1,000s.
  3. Whitethroat – now the breeding season is well underway look out for this species in areas of coastal scrub. Despite being exclusively a summer migrant from sub-Saharan Africa this is the commonest breeding bird found in the dunes. Try the coastal footpath between Wolla Bank and Anderby Creek.      
  4. Painted lady – this butterfly is a long distance migrant that tends to appear in differing numbers from year to year. In 2020 there was only a single sighting in the area, however, 2021 is proving to be a good year for this species. Try the wildflower areas around Chapel Six Marshes or the Coastal Footpath along Anderby Creek.
  5. Hairy dragonfly – first recorded in the area in May 2021 this species has been found at numerous locations. Look out for any blue ‘hawker type’ dragonflies along the coastal footpaths. As the name suggests this species has small hairs along its body unlike any other UK dragonfly.