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January Bird sightings at Saltfleetby-Theddlethorpe NNR

Cliff Morrison

There are many keen birders involved in Dynamic Dunescapes, and one such individual is Cliff Morrison who volunteers at Saltfleetby-Theddlethorpe NNR in Lincolnshire. In this blog series, he'll be sharing his recent experiences and bird sightings at the reserve. This first entry covers 01 Jan - 17 Jan 2021.

2020 saw an exceptional harvest of hawthorn, blackthorn and buckthorn fruit. Despite a succession of autumn gales blowing many berries from the bushes, lots remained on the bushes into the second week of January. The harvest attracted several hundred blackbirds and redwings, along with a roaming group of 59 fieldfares, all having arrived earlier in the autumn from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.

Hawthorn berries are always favourite and when these had been consumed the thrushes moved onto buckthorn, after which the redwings moved on, leaving only blackbirds and a few song thrushes. Literature often claims that birds don’t eat buckthorn berries, but thrushes, finches, starlings and carrion crows certainly do here.

Redwing. (Photo: Owen Beaumont)
Redwing. (Photo: Owen Beaumont)

An exceptional range of birds of prey species was seen during the period, with up to 4 short-eared owls, 2 each of peregrine and merlin, marsh and hen harriers being noted over the saltmarshes on several days. Over the dunes and grasslands, 1-2 kestrels, sparrowhawks and a barn owl were also noted, with tawny owls heard calling at night.

The area attracts many wintering wildfowl, pink-footed geese being most common, with a roost of over 3,500 birds present on the sands. A few Russian white-fronted geese were also with the pink feet. Pink-footed geese breed in Iceland, whilst the white-fronts, as the name suggests are an eastern Arctic species. 2-300 local Canada geese were also to be seen in adjoining fields and flighting along the dunes, but these are local feral breeding birds. Over 400 wigeon and 150 teal could also be seen in the fields and on the River Eau. Both on the river and Paradise Lagoon were a few tufted ducks, 5 gadwall, 37 shoveler a pintail and goldeneye.

The wigeon and teal often flight onto the sea, where an eider, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, 3 velvet scoters, 200 common scoters, 2 long-tailed ducks, goldeneye and pintail have been recorded. Up to 70 red-throated divers, a black-throated diver and at least 2 different great northern have also been seen, along with 3 great crested grebes.

Long-tailed duck on the sea. (Photo: Owen Beaumont)
Long-tailed duck on the sea. (Photo: Owen Beaumont)

An adult wintering Iceland Gull, a Canadian breeding species, was still present on 1st January, last noted on 17th along with a Mediterranean gull.  Up to 80 wintering cormorants are wintering and can be seen holding their wings out drying after fishing trips, whilst a peak of 120 sanderlings were along the tideline on the 17th. Curlew, now a species of conservation concern, roost along the shore and feed inland during the day and a peak of 476 being counted.

The tide wrack has attracted a small flock of 13 snow buntings, often seen south of Crook Bank along the edge of developing dunes, which have also proved attractive to a feeding flock of up to 34 yellowhammers.

Snow Bunting. (Photo: Owen Beaumont)
Snow Bunting. (Photo: Owen Beaumont)
Adult Iceland Gull. (Photo: Owen Beaumont)
Adult Iceland Gull. (Photo: Owen Beaumont)

Jack snipe rely heavily on camouflage and will often not fly until about to be stood on and was flushed in this way from the dry new dunes. This is a species normally found in wetter areas and one was also noted in the Rimac saltmarsh, along with several common snipe. Woodcock, however, are a woodland wader species, many arriving from Eastern Europe to winter inland in the woods. They do though come back to the coast in frosty conditions and several were to be found in the scrubby areas of the dunes during the cold snap in the month.

A wintering Chiffchaff was north of Rimac on 7th, whilst a Cetti’s warbler heard briefly in the freshwater marsh at Rimac on 15th where 2 water rails were also be heard during the period. Other species of note have included a green and several great spotted woodpeckers, 2 siskins, up to 6 bullfinches, 5 stonechats along the dunes, with 22 linnets, 2 Lapland Buntings and 27 little egrets across the saltmarsh.

 

The areas covered include the whole reserve along with the adjoining Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust coastal grazing marsh and Paradise Lagoon, where some 97 species of birds were recorded in the period, reflecting the wide range of habitats to be found on and adjoining the reserve.

 

Keep your eyes peeled on our blog or our social media for more updates from Cliff and The Twitchery.

 

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