The easterly winds have always been very exciting in the United Kingdom especially this time of the year when rarities are popping in. For the weekend I had two potential life birds to go for within a reasonable reach. One was the Leach’s Storm Petrel and the Little Auk. I monitored the report rate at BirdGuides for both species on Saturday and decided to give some chances of finding my first ever Little Auk in the northeast.
As usual, we left early in the morning to get to Lincolnshire’s Huttoft Car Terrace Beach at dawn. It’s always rewarding to drive through the night to a distant destination knowing how bad English traffic can be during the daytime. As soon as we positioned our car on the beach we had perfect viewing conditions. A good mixture of gulls started moving northward from the roosting site with the first lights including Common (Mew) Gulls, Black-legged Kittiwakes, and mainly Black-headed Gulls. Later in the afternoon, a juvenile first winter Little Gull joined one of the flocks.
At the sea, I saw Manx and Sooty Shearwaters but there might have been more of these birds but they were too distant for positive species-level identification. A few Pomarine Skuas, a Great Northern Diver (Common Loon) and some Red-throated Loons were also heading north. Scattered, but decent flocks of Brants, Common Scoters and Eurasian Wigeons and a few Common Eiders have been constantly flying towards the north. I also saw a small group of Velvet Scoters and Northern Pintails as well. As the sun came up, I saw a distant Little Auk but for a life bird, I hoped for a little better view. I did not have to wait long, as they started flying north at the shoreline providing amazing close views. Except for three birds, most of them were flying north, some over our head.
Ever since I moved to the UK, I wanted to see this high Arctic breeder but always missed the perfect winds. This time I was lucky. Just in the morning, there have been 18 birds reported through BirdGuides from the same spot, although I saw only 14 of them. Considering that by the time other birders arrived, I had already seen a few Little Auks, so this number should be higher. At low tide, they did not show up at the shore but further at the sea where it was challenging to find them.
While trying to photograph these fast flying birds, a Snow Bunting flew over me and a swimming Black Guillemot surprised me that slowly headed north. Weirdly, despite the name, it was almost all white.
eBird checklist from the area:
Pink-footed Goose (Anser brachyrhynchus) 5
Brant (Branta bernicla) 241
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) 1
Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope) 146
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) 8
Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca) 32
Common Eider (Somateria mollissima) 26
Velvet Scoter (Melanitta fusca) 6
Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra) 206
Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) 1
Sanderling (Calidris alba) 19
Dunlin (Calidris alpina) 35
Pomarine Jaeger (Stercorarius pomarinus) 5
Little Auk (Dovekie) (Alle alle) 14
Common Murre (Uria aalge) 1
Black Guillemot (Cepphus grylle) 1
Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) 68
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) 375
Little Gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus) 1
Mew Gull (European) (Larus canus canus) 101
Herring Gull (European) (Larus argentatus) 93
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) 12
Red-throated Loon (Gavia stellata) 5
Common Loon (Gavia immer) 1
Sooty Shearwater (Ardenna grisea) 1
Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus) 2
Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus) 24
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) 4
Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica) 1
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) 3
Eurasian Skylark (Alauda arvensis) 2
Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 89
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) 10
Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis) 1
During our stay, a Glaucous Gull was also reported as per BirdGuides, but I missed that. All in all, we had a fantastic experience with the Little Auks and this location. My world life list moved to 2,202.