Lincolnshire Coastal Country Park - October 2021

Lincolnshire Coastal Country Park - October 2021

Although October failed to produce the favourable wind directions for scarce migrant birds there were lots of interesting sightings to keep one entertained. Sea watching was again one of the highlights of the month as well as the excellent starling roosting which is starting to build up nicely at Chapel Six Marshes (30,000 birds estimated this week). Not to mention a new record count of bearded tits and whooper swan.

In early October the UK witnessed an arrival of jays from Scandinavia, these arrivals are often due to poor acorn crops in their natal areas. In total 10 birds were seen in the Lincolnshire Coastal Country Park with the best count being four birds together over Anderby Marsh. Jay remains a scarce migrant on the coast.

A yellow-browed warbler was trapped and ringed at Anderby Creek on the 8th. A second bird was seen in amongst a group of long-tailed tits at the same location on 25th and was thought to be a different bird. The lack of easterly winds resulted in a poor arrival of yellow-browed warblers on the east coast. Typically, double figures are recorded in October.

Yellow-browed warbler (c) Alan Ball

Yellow-browed warbler – one of only two birds recorded in October, the lack of onshore winds resulting in very few birds reaching the UK this autumn. © Alan Ball.

The Sandilands Golf Course produced a late sighting of a whinchat mid-month as well as good numbers of over-wintering stonechat. Meadow pipit numbers starting to increase as the autumn progresses into winter.

An excellent arrival of short-eared owls throughout the month with nine birds recorded flying in off the sea over several dates. These birds are likely to stay and winter in the UK; arriving from Scandinavia and northern Europe. 

Seawatching was excellent throughout October with sightings of two red-necked grebe, five velvet scoter, seven Manx shearwater, two sooty shearwater, 1000s gannets, 57 red-throated diver, two black-throated diver, great northern diver, three shag, two long-tailed skua (including a stunning adult on 6th), 11 arctic skua, 17 great skua, four pomarine skua, puffin (10th), four sandwich tern, five little gull, little auk (21st), Sabine’s gull (juvenile on 6th), and an immature glaucous gull (23rd).

Shag flying over the sea (c) Dick Lorand

Shag – a scarce visitor to the Lincolnshire coast, tends to favour rocky coast lines in the north of England, Scotland and wales. © Dick Lorand.

The first returning bearded tit were recorded back in the area on 18th with four birds at Wolla Bank. Further sightings included a group of 11 at Huttoft Pit on 28th, this is thought to be a new record count. Other wintering migrants included the first redwings on 12th, snow bunting at Chapel Six Marshes on 7th, jack snipe on 14th, water pipit over Wolla Bank on 18th, fieldfare at Chapel mid-month and a woodcock on 22nd. These species are all now present in the area with frequent sightings thereafter.    

Male bearded tit in reeds (c) Garry Wright

Bearded tit – lovely male bird showing the distinctive black moustache stripes. A new record count of 11 together at Huttoft Pit. © Garry Wright

Highlights from Huttoft Pit over the month included two Mediterranean gull on 4th, two water rail on 9th, daily marsh harrier and Cetti’s warbler sightings, great crested grebe on 24th (a scarce bird on the pits though common offshore in winter) and jack snipe on 29th and 30th. Wigeon numbers slowly rising with a peak count of 64 birds.    

Colder weather triggered a few more movements of pink-footed goose as well as the first whooper swan sightings of the autumn. An impressive count of 4,150 pink-footed goose flew south on 22nd. A total of 450 whooper swan flew south down the coast over a two-day period, including, a count of 347 on 22nd during a three-hour watch.

Other notable species in October included three crossbill and a corn bunting over Anderby Creek on 4th, a firecrest at Anderby Creek sycamore plantation and a great white egret overhead on 8th, flyover Lapland bunting and a late hobby at Huttoft Car Terrace on 11th.

The starling roost at Chapel Six Marshes has now reached 20,000 birds. 

Kestrel with mammal prey (c) Garry Wright

Kestrel with small mammal prey © Garry Wright

Non-avian highlights

Common darter, ruddy darter and migrant hawker dragonflies are still on the wing in very small numbers.

There were surprisingly no butterfly sightings in October presumably due to the colder weather.

Roe and muntjac deer are becoming more regularly in recent weeks as they venture further out into the fields. Good numbers can be seen on farmland to the west of the coast road, especially opposite Wolla Bank and Chapel Six Marshes.

There were two weasel sightings at Wolla Bank mid-month. The first sightings of these mustelids for a couple of months.

A single harbour porpoise was sighted on 23rd the only record in October. There are generally very few porpoise records during the winter months. Grey seals were seen regularly offshore during the month though sightings will begin to drop off as their breeding season approaches.     

Five species to look for in November

  1. Starling – experience the excellent starling murmuration at Chapel Six Marshes. The birds are roosting in the reedbed at the north of the car park. To make the most of this spectacle arrive at the car for 1530hrs. The birds typically come in to roost at around 4pm, though on dark overcast days you may wish to arrive slightly earlier. Calm days are best with no rain and low wind speeds. Watch out for sparrowhawk’s swooping low over the reedbed trying to catch an evening meal!      
  2. Bearded tit – wintering birds are now back in the area with frequent sightings at Wolla Bank and Huttoft Pit. The first sign will be their distinctive ‘ping, ping’ calls which can travel a surprisingly long way.
  3. Snow bunting – can be found on any stretch of beach within the Lincolnshire Coastal Country Park, mornings and evenings are often the most reliable time to see them.
  4. Brown hare – now the days are growing shorter hares are becoming increasingly more active. Look out for them on ploughed farmland throughout.
  5. Migrant hawker – usually one of the last dragonflies of the year, should remain on the wing until mid-month. Look out for them on sunny days in sheltered areas.