By the beginning of the month breeding was well underway with Egyptian Geese goslings from the 6th - a first for the reserve (C.Beale), Mallard broods from the 7th and Greylag goslings from the 13th. Good numbers of Grey Herons (39 adults) were counted from the heronry on the 16th with the first young heard on the 2nd. Breeding appeared widely staggered as usual from un-hatched clutches to well grown young - several were ringed and darvic'd (yellow with black numbers) so look closely the next time you come across a newly fledged Heron!
Towards the middle of the month there was a big wintering clear out with the departure of Wigeon, Teal and Pintail being rather rapid and noticeable from around the 12th, whilst incoming Garganey were present from the 13th - a rather late record in line with most migrants. Two pairs were present on Wheldrake on the 28th including one of our colour-ringed birds - the first record for the valley - more details to come soon.
Little Ringed Plovers made several appearances to flooded arable fields around the reserve from the 12th, whilst incoming waders included 2 Greenshank on the 13th, 2 Avocets on the 16th (T.Jones), an influx of Common Sandpiper from the 17th and 3 Ringed Plover on the 18th prior to the build up of spring passage Whimbrel on the 20th. A single first summer Little Gull on the 17th and Arctic Terns on the 19th/20th (O.Metcalf) were also indications of wider arrivals and movement.
The second week of the month saw a big clear out/movement of thrushes (12th) - the same time as the wintering wildfowl left and migrants started coming in. This included over 1500 Fieldfare through the valley between the 12th - 14th, along with 350 Redwings at North Duffield Carrs on the 12th, 250 at South Duffield and 125 near Dunnington - many of these birds were very vocal with high pitched chattering and some in full song, heavy nocturnal passage was then heard overnight. 100+ Blackbirds were also thought to be involved in this rather spectacular spring movement - one of the largest ever to be seen in the area - and much more typical of autumn than the usual small and largely un-noticeable spring period.
Ospreys were present either in or over the valley on the 2nd, 14th and 21st whilst the first returning Hobby was at Bank Island on the 23rd (C.Harris). Several Osprey platforms have been erected around the valley during the last few weeks as numbers of passage birds continue to increase year after year, with nine recorded in the spring of 2012. Birds are also showing a tendency to linger during the summer and early autumn so hopefully the platforms may just tempt one of the birds to have a go!
Chiffchaffs were back in small numbers from the 1st, followed by a larger and more widespread arrival on the 10th. The first returning Willow Warblers were back and in song on the 13th, with a large arrival then on the 23rd. The first record of a Sedge Warbler was at Wheldrake Ings and North Duffield Carrs on the 23rd (A.Walker), with numbers up to 6 by the 24th. The only record of a Reed Warbler was a single bird heard singing during the Whimbrel roost on the 26th at Wheldrake Ings.
A single Grasshopper Warbler (first for the month) was heard reeling near North Duffield village (A.Walker) on the 16th, with another record then from North Duffield Carrs on the 24th. Two Yellow Wagtails at Wheldrake Ings on the 15th were the first recorded birds back, numbers had built by the 20th with 50+ roosting on Wheldrake Ings and 30+ at North Duffield Carrs on the 22nd. By the 28th the roost had grown to at least 216 birds. This influx seemed to be in line with what appeared to have been a large arrival across the country resulting in the presumption that large numbers of birds had been held up in Europe by the bad weather, before overshooting into the UK. A single Blue-headed Wagtail was at North Duffield Carrs on the 27th followed by two together on the 28th, these were present along with two Channel Wagtails on the 27th/28th (A.Walker), and again many Blue-headed birds have been seen recently in the UK suggesting the overshooting of European birds.
A large count of Wheatears was had across the York area during the 15th/16th with the first valley bird recorded at East Cottingwith on the 15th. On the 17th a single appeared on the floodbank at North Duffield Carrs and was seen for the remainder of the month. The first Whinchat was seen at North Duffield Carrs on the 25th (A.Walker).
The first Blackcaps were reported from Bubwith village on the 15th, by the 20th the first returning Whitethroat was at East Cottingwith, followed by a single at Storwood and Bank Island on the 21st. By the 25th six pairs were recorded at North Duffield Carrs (A.Walker). On the 22nd the first Lesser Whitethroats for the year appeared as singles at Bank Island, Wheldrake and North Duffield Carrs, with three birds there by the 25th. Three seemingly early Spotted Flycatchers were seen fly-catching from Willows nearby Wheldrake car park on the 22nd (C.Harris). Whilst these are early they are well within the range of dates recorded in recent years and an encouraging start to the year - more this year already than in the whole of 2012!
Sand Martins beat the rest of the hirundines back to the valley, with two arriving at Wheldrake on the 10th (rather late arrival on previous years), the first two Swallows then made their appearance over Wheldrake on the 12th, followed by the first two House Martins on the 13th. The 17th saw a greater arrival of all species, with over 1000 SM, 100 HM and 400 SW over Bank Island. The first single Swifts were seen over Wheldrake and North Duffield on the 25th with at least 12 then present over Wheldrake by the 26th.
Then last but not least the first Cuckoo was heard on the 25th around Storwood, with another bird present on Wheldrake on the 26th along with a single at Melbourne and Sutton. Several of the BTO ringed and satellite tagged Cuckoos have also arrived back in the UK and others are on their way - for more information on these fascinating birds and their migration journeys follow this link to the BTO website.
The first butterflies of the month were 4 Small Tortoiseshells around Ellerton/Aughton and a single Brimstone near Skipwith Common. The 15th saw a large emergence of Peacocks at various sites around the valley, followed by the first Commas (8), Red Admirals (6) and Orange Tips (4) on the 22nd at Wheldrake (C.Harris).
Peacock - Wheldrake 15/04/13
A single Common Toad was found under tins on Skipwith Common on the 6th, with 40 (including mating pairs) in the scrape at North Duffield Carrs on the 15th, along with the first Common Frog spawn. Up to 20 Smooth Newts were present in ponds on Skipwith Common on the 15th. Four Adders and six Common Lizards on the 4th were the first to be recorded on Skipwith Common, followed by a single Grass Snake by the Bomb Bays on the 13th, with another towards the old orchard end on the 16th.
Thanks to everyone who's contributed records again this month, check back on the blog soon for a full April species report of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, butterflies and the rest!