Welcome to the LDV NNR ringing blog, this blog is designed to share the experiences, findings and tales from a group of dedicated ringers. We specialise in conservation orientated research projects, largely focusing on wildfowl, waders, owls and birds of conservation concern, in and around the Vale of York NNR's.

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Mar' 19

Lower Derwent Valley NNR - March Sightings


An interesting month with several notable records occurring at the start of spring passage. A Common Scoter at Bank Island on the 5th was typically a one-day wonder and followed by two more individuals. Another Raven (6th) and a more notable Hooded Crow (8th) – presumably a bird returning eastwards following a notable influx last autumn were the standout highlights. The first Common Cranes of the year appeared 10th-11th whilst an adult Red-necked Grebe was a nice find on the 22nd.


Large numbers of wintering and passage waterfowl were noted, including an impressive 848+ Whooper Swans that staged through the valley during the second half of the month. Over 1100 birds have now been involved in spring passage through the reserve. Small, late and lingering flocks of Pink-footed Geese were noted whilst a new reserve record count of 602 Gadwall was made on 3rd. A passage White-fronted Goose was logged late in the month and the first returning Garganey arrived back at Ellerton on the 24th. Spring wader passage also got underway with a Sanderling lingering at North Duffield Carrs from the 23rd-28th allowing most local birders to connect with this delightful little species. A Grey Plover on the 24th was typically brief, but Black-tailed Godwits remained throughout, building to a peak of 75. At least 39 Ruff and 47 Dunlin remained at month end, with two Jack Snipe and a Green Sandpiper on the move.
The first returning Sand Martins were present on the 18th, and although Chiffchaffs had been present throughout the month, there was a noticeable arrival from the 20th/21st before the first Blackcap was heard on the 25th, followed by a Wheatear (30th) and Swallow (31st).

Many thanks to everyone who has contributed records throughout the month, and thanks also to regular valley birder, Duncan Bye, for the use of his photographs (credited DB).

BIRDS: 

Mute Swan – A total of 86 were present throughout the valley on the 3rd followed by 89 on the 24th - with the first birds noted to be incubating clutches.

Whooper Swan – 21 remained at Wheldrake Ings on the 1st whilst the resident herd at North Duffield Carrs numbered 51 on the 3rd. 223 passed through the valley during the day on the 19th, with 73 present at dawn over Wheldrake followed by 15 at Bank Island on the 20th.  Herds on the 21st included 71 at Bubwith, 121 at the Low Grounds followed by a herd over Bank Island after dark. Nine flew north over Bank Island at dawn on the 22nd followed by 19 at Wheldrake on the 24th, 50+ flew north over Wheldrake village shortly after dark on the same date whilst 129 left Wheldrake Ings after dark on the 25th. 53 arrived at Bank Island mid-morning on the 26th, moving on an hour or two later, with 76 pausing at Bubwith on the 27th. A lone single remained at North Duffield Carrs on the 30th, followed by 18 over Bank Island at dawn on the 31st - at least 848 moving through the site during the month but probably over 1000 involved when including uncounted nocturnal herds.

Greylag Goose – Numbers decreased quickly during the month with 226 remaining by month end.

Pink-footed Goose – 26 were present at Wheldrake Ings on the 1st with a sizable flock calling after dark on the flood water at North Duffield Carrs on the 4th and 6th. 20 were present on Thorganby Ings on the 10th, followed by 40 over Bank Island on the 23rd and 19 at Ellerton on the 24th. 21 lingered at Wheldrake from the 25th – 27th with four there on the 30th and five on the 31st.

Pink-footed Goose - Wheldrake - 31/03 - DB

White-fronted Goose – A single adult European race bird was at Wheldrake Ings on the 31st.

Canada Goose – Numbers reduced throughout the month with 40 ‘local breeders’ remaining at month end.

Egyptian Goose – A pair remained in the usual East Cottingwith area throughout the month.

Shelduck – Up to 80 birds remained throughout the month.

Wigeon – 8820 were still present throughout the site on the 3rd, declining to 5170 by the 24th.  A large departure took place overnight on the 30th leaving 1027 remaining on the 31st.

Teal – 3330 were still present throughout on the 3rd, reducing to 2130 by the 24th and 980 on the 31st.

Mallard – 1030 were present throughout the site on the 24th.

Garganey – A single first returning pair were present at Ellerton on the 24th (CSR) followed by the same or another at Wheldrake Ings on the 31st (DB).

Pintail – Numbers increased in line with spring passage, with 365 recorded throughout the site on the 3rd. Numbers declined quickly thereafter with 136 remaining at month end.

Gadwall – Numbers increased quickly early in the month with a new record count of 602 on the 3rd, although only 210 were recorded on the WeBS count on the 24th.

Shoveler – 283 were present in the valley on the 3rd with 314 present throughout the site on the 30th.

Tufted Duck – 216 remained throughout the valley on the 3rd, increasing to 310 by the 17th and 342 by the 24th as spring passage began.

Pochard – Wheldrake Ings held two males and two females on the 3rd with two males remaining on the 23rd and 24th, followed by a pair on the 30th.

Goldeneye – 12 were present at Wheldrake on the 1st followed by 15 on the 3rd. A pair lingered at Bank Island early in the month, with seven recorded along the Pocklington Canal near Storwood on the 10th while 17 were present throughout the valley on the 24th. 10 remained at Wheldrake on the 31st

Goldeneye - Wheldrake - 09/03 - DB

Goosander – A pair were present at Wheldrake on the 3rd and 7th, with presumably the same lingering pair seen along the canal at Storwood on the 10th.

Common Scoter – A single drake was found at Bank Island on the 5th (DW et al), while a female flew into Bank Island late afternoon on the 18th (FM, CSR). Another drake paused briefly at Bank Island on the 22nd (DB). 

Common Scoter - Bank Island - 22/03 - DB

Cormorant – 21 were present at Wheldrake Ings on the 3rd.

Little Egret – Singles were recorded daily at Bank Island and Wheldrake early in the month, with four at Bank Island on the 5th and six on the 9th. Six were present throughout the site on the the 24th, increasing to 13 on the 30th and c20 throughout the site on the 31st.

Great White Egret – A single was reported near Hagg Bridge on the 5th.

Little Grebe – Several pairs were present throughout the month.

Great Crested Grebe – A single at Bank Island on the 3rd with a pair at Wheldrake Ings from the 14th to month end.

Red-necked Grebe – A single summer plumaged adult was present at Wheldrake on the 22nd (DB).

Red-necked Grebe - Wheldrake - 22/03 - DB

Marsh Harrier – A single adult male was present at Wheldrake on the 2nd with up to two adult females and one or two juveniles recorded throughout the month. Two pairs were present on North Duffield Carrs on the 13th.

Peregrine – At least three individuals were present to month end, and an immature bird present on the 30th.

Red Kite A pair were seen over Bank Island on the 5th, with singles at Wheldrake on the 6th, 9th and 10th. A single was present at North Duffield Carrs on the 13th with two birds seen near Thorganby on the 21st. Singles recorded at Wheldrake on the 30th and Bank Island on the 31st. Up to three birds were reported in the Melbourne area throughout the month.

Water Rail – Up to five singing males were present at Wheldrake towards the end of the month, with three individuals also reported in the Melbourne area.

Coot – Numbers continued to increase with 291 across Wheldrake and Bank Island on the 3rd and over 330 on the 10th. 270 were still present on the 24th (when several had started nest building), followed by a count of 276 on the 31st.

Common Crane – A single was heard calling several times from the Storwood and East Cottingwith area on the 10th (DB et al), followed by a pair at East Cottingwith on the 11th before presumably the same birds were seen heading over Fulford Golf course later in the day. A single was then present at Wheldrake Ings and the Low Grounds on the 24th (CSR).

Oystercatcher – A total of 18 were recorded throughout the valley on the 3rd with 17 counted on the 24th.

Oystercatcher - East Cottingwith - 23/03 - DB

Ringed Plover – A single at Wheldrake on the 30th (JL).

Golden Plover – 250 were at Bank Island on the 2nd followed by 681 throughout the valley on the 3rd and 17 on the 24th. 35 flew south at Wheldrake on the 31st.

Grey Plover – A single at Ellerton Ings on the 24th (CSR).

Lapwing – 2590 were still present in the valley on the 3rd but had reduced to 317 by the 24th.

Common Snipe – 150+ were present at Wheldrake on the 4th when 100+ were recorded at North Duffield Carrs including the first ‘chipping’ birds of the year. Three drumming birds were present at Wheldrake on the 18th.

Jack Snipe – A single after dark on Wheldrake on the 4th with another there on the 25th.

Woodcock – Two were at Wheldrake on the 4th with a single feeding on North Duffield Carrs on the same date. A thermal image survey on the 25th failed to locate any birds suggesting most had departed by this time.

Dunlin – Small numbers remained throughout with 47 still present on the 24th.

Sanderling – A single at North Duffield Carrs on the 23rd - 28th.

Ruff – 61 were still present in the valley on the 3rd with 39 remaining to month end.

Black-tailed Godwit – Six were recorded at Wheldrake on the 1st, followed by 22 there on the 2nd and 24 on the 3rd. Six were present again at Wheldrake on 10th with four at North Duffield Carrs on the 13th. 16 were present on Melbourne and Thornton Ings on the 20th. The first large passage flock of 63, were noted at Wheldrake on the 22nd while 75 were also present there on the 24th-27th and up to 66 thereafter to month end.  

Curlew – Birds were beginning to separate from the wintering groups into smaller groups and returning to breeding sites within the valley, with eight at Melbourne Ings on the 1st. 84 were present throughout the site on the 3rd followed by 21 on Melbourne and Thornton Ings on the 8th

Curlew - Wheldrake - 09/03 - DB

Redshank – Up to 34 birds were recorded throughout the site on the 30th.

Green Sandpiper – A single seen at Bank Island on the 28th on the new wader scrapes (AF, CSR) was present again on the 30th.  

Mediterranean Gull – A summer plumaged adult was on North Duffield Carrs on the 3rd.

Great Black-backed Gull – Up to 350 birds roosted at North Duffield Carrs throughout the month, feeding on nearby fields during the day.

Little Owl – A single was present in the usual spot from the viewing platform at Thorganby on the 30th.

Fieldfare – 40 flew over Thorganby Ings on the 3rd with seven over Bank Island on the 4th.

Sand Martin – The first three returning birds were at Bank Island on the 18th (CSR) followed by nine at Wheldrake on the 24th. Between five and ten were recorded daily thereafter to month end with 16 on the 31st.

Swallow – The first returning birds were two individuals seen at Wheldrake on the 31st (AF, DB, CSR).

Raven – A single near Canal Head Pocklington on the 6th.

Hooded Crow – A single was present on Melbourne and Thornton Ings, loosely associating with a flock of eight Carrion Crows on the 8th (NC).

Woodlark – Up to three singing males were present at Skipwith throughout the month.

Wheatear – A single male was present by the top pond at North Duffield Carrs on the 30th (CSR).

Stonechat – A single female at North Duffield Carrs on the 30th.

Willow Tit – A single bird was calling at Melbourne on the 1st with three singing birds at Wheldrake on the 2nd and five throughout the valley on the 3rd. Two pairs were present along the canal between Storwood and East Cottingwith on the 10th, with a single in the NNR base garden on the 19th.

Nuthatch – Singles were present at Wheldrake on the 1st and Melbourne on the 3rd, with another at Wheldrake on the 31st.

Chiffchaff – Following mild unseasonal weather in late February, singing birds were present at both Wheldrake and Melbourne on the 1st (JL, NC). Two were singing at Wheldrake on the 2nd with three there and two at Melbourne on the 3rd. Numbers remained low until fresh migrants started to arrive on the 20th/21st with five in the Bank Island area. Six were present on Skipwith Common on the 25th.

Blackcap – A single singing male at Skipwith Common on the 25th (TH) was followed by another at the reserve base at Bank Island on the 26th, three at Bank Island on the 27th and two at Wheldrake on the 30th.

Lesser Redpoll – 100+ remained at Skipwith Common early in the month with 120 around the bomb bay loop on the 8th.

Common Redpoll – Six were present with the Lesser Redpoll flock on Skipwith Common on the 8th.

Tree Sparrow – 40 to 50 remained at the NNR base feeders throughout the month.

Brambling – Two were present at the Bank Island base feeders on the 3rd.

Reed Bunting – A flock of 30 were recorded near Melbourne on the 8th.


MAMMALS:

Brown Hare – Two young leverets were present at North Duffield Carrs on the 4th.

Red Fox – One seen near Bank Island on the 28th.

Fallow Deer – 13 seen near Crockey Hill on the 11th followed by 18 there on the 27th. Up to 20 frequented the Thorganby area throughout the month. 

Roe Deer - Ten recorded at Wheldrake on the 3rd were followed by three on the 9th and seven on the 10th. Two at Bank Island on the 13th and six at Wheldrake on the 17th. On the 24th four were seen at North Duffield Carrs and two at Wheldrake, followed by three at Bank Island on the 27th and two on the 31st.


REPTILES:

Common Lizard – Two on Skipwith Common NNR on the 20th and 21st.

Adder – First of the year, a single, was spotted on Skipwith Common NNR on the 20th, followed by another on the 21st

Adder - Skipwith Common NNR - 21/03

Grass Snake – Two were recorded on Skipwith Common NNR on the 21st – first record of the year.


MOTHS:

Throughout the month a high total of 1,126 moths were caught, of 23 species, including: Early Thorn, Oak Beauty, Satellite, Pale Pinion, Pine Beauty, Satellite, Shoulder-stripe and Yellow-horned.


Oak Beauty - NNR Base - 28/03


BUTTERFLIES:

Brimstone – Two males at Skipwith on the 20th were followed by two singles on the 28th at the NNR base and Melbourne.

Green-veined White – Two at Wheldrake on the 29th and one at Bank Island on the same date were the first records of the season.

Orange Tip – The first for the year was a male seen flying through the NNR base garden on the 28th, followed by two at Wheldrake on the 29th and one at Bank Island.

Peacock – After a quiet month due to the cool weather, two at Skipwith on the 20th were a pleasant surprise, followed by two there the next day. Singles were then recorded at Melbourne and Thornton Ellers on the 28th, along with two at Wheldrake on the 31st and one at East Cottingwith.

Comma – Three at Skipwith on the 20th were followed by four there on the 21st and a single at Melbourne on the 28th. Three at Wheldrake on the 29th were followed by three at Wheldrake on the 31st and three at East Cottingwith.

Small Tortoiseshell – Four at Bank Island on the 29th followed by one at Wheldrake on the 31st and two at East Cottingwith.


OTHERS:

Green Tiger Beetle – Noted in abundance on Skipwith Common on the 20th, where 30+ recorded on a small patch of heath.

Red-tailed Bumblebee – First of the year was recorded at the NNR base on the 26th

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