Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
1:04 AM 9th September 2023
Pink footed geese
© David Tipling2020 Vision
Autumn migration is one of the UK’s most impressive natural events and has a very different feel to the great, noisy chorus and urgency of spring.
As our own summer visitors gradually disappear, birds that spent the summer in more northerly countries start to pass through on their way south, working their way towards their wintering grounds, often stopping for days to refuel for the rest of their journey. Huge numbers of flycatchers, chats and warblers are leaving our coasts for long journey’s south to Africa. Most swallows have now left and won’t return until April, though you may see a few house martins flying high in groups over towns and villages, gathering too for their impending journey.
Look out for the first impressive skeins, characteristic V-formations of pink footed geese flying south across East Yorkshire at dawn and dusk as they make their way down the UK. Most head for Norfolk where they spend the winter arriving from Norway, Iceland and Greenland – and numbers seem to be increasing.
©Jon Hawkins (Surrey Hills Photography)
Soon the first winter thrushes will arrive including redwing and fieldfare which gorge on our berries and stay for our milder winter, away from the true arctic blasts in Scandinavia, Iceland and Russia where most return to breed in the spring.
Late summer into autumn is also a great time for seabird watching - wrap up warm, find a comfortable spot on a headland and scan for migrating seabirds. Thousands of auks, kittiwakes and gannets leave their colonies and head out into the Bay of Biscay and the North Atlantic for the winter – an incredible sight to behold.
© Chrys Mellor
While you’re on the coast, keep an eye on the waves. Over recent years there have been incredible sightings of cetaceans – whales, dolphins and porpoises - delighting sea-watchers on Yorkshire’s coast in late summer. Minke whales, pilot whales and bottle nose dolphins have been seen searching for feeding grounds. If you want to get more involved in spotting these amazing creatures, to help us better understand them, find out more at Sea Watch Regular Observer.
Where to visit
North Cave Wetlands
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves provide a home, safe refuge and refuelling station for a wonderful array of birds, mammals and marine wildlife throughout the year.
Spurn Point nature reserve
A curving spit of land, which stretches for three-and-a-half miles across the mouth of the River Humber, Spurn is one of the best sites in the UK for seeing migrant birds. Autumn spectacles of migration can see thousands of birds passing overhead. Many birds stop to refuel, offering great views of migrants such as ring ouzel, whinchat and a variety of warblers, and rare birds are regularly recorded. A dedicated sea watching hide offers a sheltered spot to scan the waves.
Flamborough Cliffs nature reserve
Out at sea, all four skuas may be seen plus large numbers of common seabirds, divers, grebes and wildfowl. Clifftop fields attract short-eared owl, wheatear and whinchat, whilst berry-laden scrub and wooded areas in Holmes Gut attracts hordes of migrant thrushes, warblers and finches. A great vantage point for sea watching.
North Cave Wetlands
Wonderful all year round but autumn sees the reeds turn golden and early morning mists hang over the water. A great place to watch the pink footed geese overhead early morning and evening from late September, as well as winter thrushes and a host of wetland wildfowl and wildlife. A circular level walk of about a mile takes you around the main lake.