Autumn migration begins in earnest

One of the most exciting times of the year for birdwatchers, the autumn migration, is already underway and reaches a peak in September with the chance of a rarity turning up or a "fall" of many thousands of more common species grounded by bad weather.

The Yorkshire coast has a number of migration hotspots among them Flamborough Head and birdwatchers visiting there this autumn are being invited to combine their hobby with some help for both migrating and breeding birds.

Flamborough Bird Observatory is asking birdwatchers to form teams of two, three or four people to take part in a Visable Migration Event being held on the headland throughout September.

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Each team can take their pick from a list of predetermined vantage points and watch these over a flexible period of time from just a few hours upwards.

Each team is being asked to obtain sponsorship per species per individual or make a direct team contribution to a fund for several projects including the continued restoration of Northcliffe Marsh and improvements to a famed calling off place for migrating birds, the Old Fall Plantation.

Richard Baines, the observatory's conservation officer, said the aim is to raise at least 3,000 to match soon to be available grant funding.

The restoration of Northcliff Marsh, near the golf course at Flamborough, is an ongoing project involving the observatory, Natural England, Wold Ecology and the RSPB.

The marsh had been progressively drying out until 2007 wh0en landowner Simon Waines agreed to the restoration and Beverley farmer Chris Freer carried out excavation work. A footpath to the marsh was provided and a viewing screen put up.

Since then the marsh has attracted regular flocks of teal and wigeon, a pectoral sandpiper, little stint, spoonbills and in March last year a bittern.

The additional work should make the marsh even more attractive to many migrating birds.

Old Fall Plantation is owned by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council and the observatory wants to adopt the wood, improve access for visitors and habitats for birds which will include the building of a pond.

Over the past 30 years the wood has been visited by many rare birds, including only the second brown flycatcher ever seen in the UK which attracted some 1,500 birdwatchers to see it in October 2007.

Prizes including optics and books will be awarded for various categories and to register your team, make a direct donation to the fund or to find out more about the project e-mail Richard on [email protected] or ring him on 01 262 850937.

Two rare waders were present on the Humber estuary this week, an adult sharp-tailed sandpiper at Patrington Haven, Spurn and Kilnsea and a semipalmated sandpiper at Alkborough Flats where the Trent joins the Humber just below the Blacktoft Sands reserve.

The sharp-tailed sandpiper breeds on the tundras of north-east Asia and is a very rare vagrant to western Europe. The last Yorkshire record was also on the Humber at Sammy's Point in September 2007.

The semipalmated sandpiper, a moulting adult, could have been in the area for some time – there was

an unconfirmed sighting on one at Blacktoft Sands on August 9.

Waders seen at Blacktoft this week have included 21 spotted redshanks, 82 ruff, 13 greenshanks, eight green sandpipers and two wood sandpipers.

Along the Yorkshire coast a wryneck was present in the Spurn area and a red-backed shrike at Flamborough. Barred warblers were seen at both sites, while a juvenile red-backed shrike was seen inland near the village of Rudston, East Yorkshire. An ortolan bunting was seen again at Flamborough