Rare visitors to our shores

Hoopoe_Mandy WestHoopoe_Mandy West

With its unrivalled location in eastern England, the bird migration hotspots of Spurn and Flamborough have played host to countless rarities over the years. A spring or autumn visit may just surprise with an exotic visitor!

WHAT WILL I SEE?

Whatever turns up! East Yorkshire is one of the very best places for rarities dropping onto our shores, and is a known favourites of 'twitchers' for good reason. There are three Bird Observatories along the Yorkshire coast (the most of any county), with good reason.

East Yorkshire offers the opportunity to experience large-scale visible migration or 'vis-mig', of species like thrushes, swallows, swifts and martins, seabirds and wildfowl, along with arriving migrants like goldcrests and finches too. There are of course also the highly unusual visitors that have strayed from their usual migration routes like shrikes and warblers, through to colourful species like the hoopoe (above) and roller.

There are three Bird Observatories in Yorkshire, and their websites are the best source of information on what's around. Follow these links to visit their websites: Spurn Bird Observatory, Filey Bird Observatory, Flamborough Bird Observatory.

PROBABILITY OF SIGHTINGS

By its very nature, the probability of seeing a particular individual species is very low. However, choose the time of year carefully, and however taking into consideration a few simple elements like the time of year, weather, and often most importantly, the wind, gives you a great chance of encountering something special..

WHEN SHOULD I GO?

Best months: SEPTEMBER, OCTOBER

Individual rarities can appear at any time during the year, however the months of April and May offer a chance to witness arriving summer visitors, whilst August, September and especially October see both the reverse migration, winter arrivals and often the most interesting individual rare species blown off course in autumn storms.Easterly winds increase the chances of birds landing on our shores.

An early start means you may catch-up with overnight arrivals before they depart again, or get the chance to seek out something special before larger numbers of visitors arrive or the weather changes.

Those new to birdwatching (as well as experienced individuals) will enjoy the expert guidance at the annual Spurn Migration Festival which is held over the first weekend of September every year.

WHERE CAN I SEE THEM?

The natural outposts of Flamborough, Filey and Spurn are a natural choice as they offer both the chance to observe the sea at its closest, but are also locations where birds are likely to make landfall during normal migration or take refuge in poor weather. It's for this reason that dedicated bird observatories and equipment for trapping and leg-ring studies is based at these locations.

WHAT ELSE CAN I SEE AND DO WHILST I'M THERE?

Spring on the Flamborough Headland will also bring you face-to-face with thousands of seabirds including gannets, kittiwakes and puffins, and if the weather turns head on down to the Living Seas Centre at South Landing - itself a great place to see migration in action.

Spurn is also close to Paull Holme Strays and Kilnea Wetlands where you can see a wider variety of waterbirds and wading birds. The autumn months also see large gatherings of flocking waders from Spurn on the turning of the tide.

WHAT CAN I DO TO MAKE A DAY OF IT?

If you're heading from Flamborough to Spurn, then a drive through the Wolds may offer the chance of a red kite, and a visit to Tophill Low could bring encounters with otters, barn owls, bitterns and more. If you head back west from Spurn then try YWT North Cave Wetlands in spring for nesting avocets and brown argus butterflies, or RSPB Blacktoft Sands for marsh harriers and bearded tits.