Lower Derwent Valley NNR - April Sightings
April can be an exciting month with wintering birds departing, migrants returning and passage birds appearing, and this month certainly didn’t disappoint. Whilst a single lingering Pink-footed Goose and two Whooper Swans hinted at the season just gone, a pair of Garganey from the 7th were more of a welcome sign of spring. Mallard broods appeared in force from mid-month, whilst a lingering pair of Mandarin and pair of Goosander hinted at potential breeding in the area. Five nocturnal migrating flocks of Common Scoter were logged with two lingering day time individuals also noted. 29 pairs of Grey Heron were recorded in the heronry (first fledged young present on the 23rd), with 31 pairs of Little Egrets (new record). 3 lingering Great White Egrets, a passage Bittern and Common Crane were also noted, with a Spoonbill on the 9th and 13th.
A great month for raptors with yet another White-tailed Eagle through the site early in the month, three lingering Hen Harriers, three passage Merlins and a Short-eared Owl (18th), whilst the first returning Hobbies had arrived by the 23rd. Breeding waders are still being surveyed but early returns suggest a good year for Snipe and Curlew. Passage Snipe numbers were exceptional with 1000+ noted and good numbers present throughout, along with smaller numbers of Jack Snipe late in the month. Other passage waders included 400+ Black-tailed Godwits, Bar-tailed Godwit (26th), Wood Sandpiper (27th) and Grey Plover (30th). However, the star find was a Lesser Yellowlegs at North Duffield Carrs on the 16th. A Kittiwake (21st) and Arctic Terns (23rd) were also noteworthy. Otherwise returning migrant dates included House Martin (1st), Cuckoo and Whitethroat (15th), Reed Warbler (19th), Lesser Whitethroat (22nd), Grasshopper Warbler (23rd), Garden Warbler and Tree Pipit (26th) and Swift (28th). Five Ring Ouzels during the month were also exceptional with Fieldfares remaining to month end.
A total of 166 species have now been recorded in the area during 2021. Many thanks to everyone who contributed records and counts throughout the month, in particular to members of the YOC, and regular patch birder Duncan Bye - thanks also to Duncan for the use of his images.
Mute Swan – 88 non-breeding birds were present at Wheldrake and North Duffield Carrs on the 24th with 91 throughout the site on the 29th. Pairs were incubating clutches at Bank Island (one), North Duffield Carrs (three), Wheldrake Ings (three) and Pocklington Canal (four), with scattered pairs elsewhere on local ponds – total of 16 in the wider area.
Whooper Swan – 31
were present at Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd when
26 were also at Thornton Ings. Six remained at Wheldrake on the 3rd with two remaining on the 4th/5th and
seven at North Duffield Carrs on the 4th. Ten
were at Thornton Ings on the 9th with
two also at Wheldrake Ings - remaining until the 12th. Two
were present at North Duffield Carrs on the 13th whilst
two herds, 15 and 12, arrived later in the day at Wheldrake, with 15 leaving at
dusk, flying off north-west. 18 were present at North Duffield Carrs on the
morning of the 14th. Two remained
thereafter at North Duffield Carrs until the 18th, with
one until the 26th before
moving onto the river at East Cottingwith on the 27th.
Goose – The first goslings appeared on the 19th when 30 were present at Wheldrake, with a brood
of seven also at Bank Island. Further broods appeared around the reserve with
26 goslings in four newly hatched broods at North Duffield Carrs on the 26th.
Goose – Up to 30 remained in the North Duffield Carrs
area until the 5th, with passage
flocks of 21, 16 and 7 on the 1st, 22 on
the 2nd and 15 on the 3rd. A single was present at Wheldrake on the 11th-18th with one on the Low
Grounds on the 19th. One remained in the Bank Island/Wheldrake Ings area until month end.
Barnacle Goose – Two
were present on the reserve between the 10th - 17th.
Goose – Five pairs remained throughout the area, including one pair with five goslings.
Shelduck – A
full count on the 5th
produced a total of 147, with 42 at Bank Island, 43 at Aughton Ings and 15 at
Thorganby the largest counts. 136 were still present on the 10th with 128 on the 17th to
Wigeon – 2500
were still present throughout the site on the 5th with
970 on the 10th and 566
on the 17th. 70 remained at month
end with several pairs thought to be present.
Teal – 2300 were still present on the
5th with 1004 on the 10th and 743 on the 17th.
180 remained at month end.
Garganey – A pair were present at Bank
Island on the 7th (CSR) with a drake calling after dark by
Swantail Hide on the same date (CSR, GD). A single female was present at
Wheldrake Ings with a group of Shoveler on the 14th (JL, DB,
AF) and again on the 16th. A pair were present at Wheldrake on
the 18th with a pair at North Duffield Carrs on the 21st
Pintail – Up to 112 were recorded throughout
the site on the 5th with 78 on the 11th and
39 on the 17th. Numbers decreased overnight with 21 remaining
on the 18th and just 11 on the 19th.
Five remained at month end.
Mandarin – A pair flew south at Thorganby
on the 5th with a drake at Bank Island on the 13th
Mallard – The first brood of six
appeared at Wheldrake on the 10th with three broods (20 ducklings)
on the 16th – on the same day three broods (18 ducklings)
were present at North Duffield Carrs. A further brood of 11 were at North
Duffield the following day with numerous broods thereafter. A further three
broods (19 ducklings) were at Wheldrake Ings on the 19th when
three broods (22 ducklings) were at Bank Island. An estimated 40+ broods had been
recorded by month end.
Gadwall – 231 were present throughout the
reserve on the 10th, with 200+ recorded on the 28th.
Shoveler – 65 were at Bank Island on the 6th
including 37 drakes in pursuit of a single female. 112 were present at North
Duffield Carrs on the 8th. A total of 288 were recorded on the
10th followed by 281 on the 17th. Good
numbers were thought to be incubating late in the month.
Tufted Duck – 172 remained throughout the
site on the 17th with just 40 by month end.
Pochard – Two males and a female were
present at Bank Island on the 25th with a pair at Wheldrake on
the 27th, followed by records of two males and a female on
the 29th and a drake on the 30th.
Scoter – Three
flocks were recorded flying over Elvington after dark on the 7th
(AF). Two flocks were recorded after dark on the 8th whilst a
single female was present at Wheldrake the following morning on the 9th
(JL) with another, at North Duffield Carrs later in the day - both remained until
the 13th. A female was on the River Derwent south of Bubwith
on the 21st.
Goosander – Two red-heads were present at North
Duffield Carrs on the 6th with two on the river at Thorganby
on the 16th. A pair remained throughout the month at Sutton
Goldeneye – Up to 10 remained at Wheldrake
on the 1st/2nd, with six on the 8th,
five on the 11th, and one on the 24th being
Grebe – Up to
three pairs remained at both Wheldrake Ings and North Duffield Carrs, with a
single rehabilitated individual released at Bank Island on the 5th.
Three pairs remained throughout thereafter, with two incubating birds on nests at
North Duffield Carrs on the 17th to month end. Four pairs
were present on other water bodies in the wider area during the month.
Grebe – A
summer plumaged adult was seen at Bank Island on the 16th
Bittern – A single was heard booming at
Wheldrake Ings at dusk on the 13th (GD, CSR).
Little Egret – Good
numbers were present throughout the site with 14 over Bank Island at dawn on
the 5th, with an estimated 25+
throughout the reserve during the day. 31 were present throughout on the 10th with nine roosting at Wheldrake Ings on the 11th. 19 were recorded between Bank Island and
Wheldrake on the 23rd. A
visit to the Heronry on the 24th
produced a count of 31 apparently occupied nests - up from 19 last year - overtaking
the number of nesting Grey Herons for the first time.
Great White Egret – Three
were present on the 1st, with
up to two daily thereafter from the 2nd - 4th. Single at Bubwith Ings on the 5th and Wheldrake on the 9th -13th. One
was present at North Duffield Carrs on the 15th with
another in the Heronry at Wheldrake on the 16th, where
it was thought to be roosting most evenings. Two were then present on the
reserve from the 17th to 22nd, with three seen between the 23rd-27th and two remaining
thereafter to month end.
Grey Heron – The first
fledged young - two adults and a brood of five, were observed feeding at Bank
Island on the 23rd. A
minimum of 29 apparently occupied nests were recorded in the Heronry on the 24th.
Spoonbill – A single
second-year bird flew over Bank Island towards Wheldrake Ings on the 9th (CSR, JT) with a possible sighting of the same
bird from Bank Island on the 13th.
Cormorant – Up to
38 were present at the Wheldrake roost early in the month but were fewer and
more widespread thereafter.
Coot – 168
were present throughout the site on the 10th, followed
by a count of 147 on the 17th. The
first completed clutch (seven) was at North Duffield Carrs on the 13th with 32 nests found by month end.
Common Crane – Single
over Skipwith Common NNR on the 17th.
Marsh Harrier – An adult female and immature
bird (D3) were both present early in the month, with a single at North Duffield
Carrs on the 6th. An adult female was observed at Wheldrake
Ings on the 20th whilst D3 re-appeared at Wheldrake on the 24th.
Hen Harrier – An adult and sub-adult male
were present at Wheldrake and Bank Island on the 1st, with
the sub adult male reported daily until the 9th, ranging
throughout the site with sightings at Storwood, Aughton and Melbourne. It was then
present and showing well at North Duffield Carrs on the 10th
and 11th, before appearing in the Aughton and North Duffield
Carrs area on the 13th and Bank Island on the 14th.
A single ringtail was then present at Melbourne Ings between the 18th
Eagle – Following
on from a record in March, another passed north through the reserve early in
Osprey – A single flew over Raker Lakes
on the 2nd (CSR), with one reported over Bank Island on the 12th.
One flew up the River Derwent at North Duffield Carrs on the 29th.
Common Buzzard – Up to 20 were visible over the
Escrick Park Estate on the 1st. Numerous elsewhere and
Peregrine – A single immature male and
immature female remained until at least the 17th, with an
immature male present in the Bank Island area on the 19th-21st
and Wheldrake on the 27th/28th – where it was seen
killing a Whimbrel. Several adults from
nearby breeding pairs were seen in the wider area throughout the month.
Merlin – A female was reported from
Melbourne Ings on the 1st and Thorganby on the 9th.
An adult male was present at North Duffield Carrs on the 17th
- observed chasing Meadow Pipits.
Hobby – The first returning bird was
present at Wheldrake Ings on the 23rd (CSR), with two at Bank
Island on the 25th and two at Wheldrake on the same date (DB).
Four at Wheldrake on the 26th, with three there on the 28th
and two over Thorganby village on the same date. Singles at Menthorpe and
Melbourne at month end.
Red Kite – Regular pairs were present
throughout the area with four at Skipwith on the 6th, and five
in the Wheldrake area on the 18th.
Water Rail – Up to five calling males were
present in the Swantail/Pool Hide area at Wheldrake, with four pairs elsewhere
on the reserve.
Ringed Plover – A pair
remained at North Duffield Carrs from the 1st to the 11th
with three there on the 12th. Between one and three remained
(although mobile), thereafter. A single was present at Thornton Ings on the 17th
with four on the Low Grounds on the 19th. One flew north at
Wheldrake on the 20th with singles at Aughton and Wheldrake
on the 21st and four at the Low Grounds on the same date. Up to four
pairs remained thereafter to month end.
Plover – One at
Bank Island on the 1st and 2nd and with a
single through Wheldrake Ings on the 8th. Singles reported at
Thornton Ings on the 16th, Wheldrake on the 20th
and Sutton on Derwent on the 28th.
Golden Plover – One at North Duffield Carrs on
the 20th with 12 south at Wheldrake Ings on the 24th.
A single summer plumaged bird was seen at North Duffield Carrs on the 27th.
Plover – A single
briefly at North Duffield Carrs on the 30th (OM).
Lapwing – The first birds were incubating
clutches at Aughton Ings (two complete) by the 2nd, with the
first newly hatched chick seen in fields near Skipwith on the 19th.
Jack Snipe – Spring passage saw an increase
in birds moving through the site with five at Wheldrake on the 7th
and a further 11 elsewhere on the same date. One was still present there on the
13th with a single at Melbourne Ings on the 15th
and three at Wheldrake on the 20th. Singles were reported from Aughton and
Wheldrake on the 21st with a single at the latter site on the
Snipe – A large movement of spring passage
birds was observed on the 7th with a flock of c100 newly arrived
individuals at Bank Island on the 7th. On the same day 400+ were present after
dark at Wheldrake Ings with over 1000 present throughout the reserve. 200+ at
North Duffield Carrs on the 10th were flushed by a male Hen
Harrier. Numbers appeared to decline quickly thereafter but 300+ remained at
Wheldrake after dark on the 13th, including at least six drumming
birds. 14 drumming individuals were present there on the 26th
when passage numbers had decreased to c150. 11 birds were drumming at Wheldrake
on the 19th with 300+ still present on the 20th.
50+ were noted at Aughton on the 21st. Passage birds reduced
thereafter, with 130+ remaining at Wheldrake on the 30th.
Whimbrel – Following an early individual
in late March, singles were present at Bank Island on the 1st
and 4th, with 23 arriving at Wheldrake on the 11th.
A single was on Storwood Ings on the 12th with three at Bank
Island on the 13th. Singles reported at Wheldrake Ings on the
14th/15th and East Cottingwith on the 17th.
16 roosted at Wheldrake on the 25th/27th –
although other birds were thought to be roosting elsewhere on site. At least 45
were present across two roost sites at Wheldrake on the 28th.
Scattered singles were recorded elsewhere throughout the second half of the
Black-tailed Godwit – Up to 218 were present at Wheldrake
from the 1st to 5th, with 14 at North
Duffield Carrs on the 4th. The Wheldrake flock increased to
270 on the 7th when 58 were also present at North Duffield Carrs
– a total of 328 throughout the site. 220 remained at Wheldrake on the 8th
with 400+ present throughout the site on the 9th. 220 remained
on the 10th with 320+ present on the 11th and
200+ on the 12th - declining to 120 by the 14th.
110+ remained thereafter to the 16th, with 170 reported on
the 17th and 18th. 70 were at
North Duffield Carrs on the 19th, when part of the Wheldrake
flock were seen rising to a height and flying off north - presumably onward
migration - 90 remained at dusk. Approximately 30 were present at North Duffield
Carrs with 40 at Wheldrake on the 20th/21st
with 32 throughout the site on the 22nd. Up to seven remained
at North Duffield Carrs to month end. 51
birds were present there on the 28th with 21 on the 29th.
Single at Bank Island on the 30th.
Godwit – Two flew
through Bank Island heading north on the 23rd (RT).
Dunlin – 20 were still present at North
Duffield Carrs on the 4th with five there on the 9th.
Up to 12 lingered until the 17th with five there on
the 18th and eight to month end.
Ruff – Two individuals, a male and
female, were present at Bank Island on the 13th, with up to
eight lingering at another site until the 16th. Two were
reported from North Duffield Carrs on the 17th and 18th.
Five or six summer plumaged males were at North Duffield Carrs on the 20th/21st,
with four present at Aughton Ings on the 21st. Up to seven
remained at North Duffield Carrs thereafter to month end, with some limited lekking
observed. Eight males and three females were present at a lekk on the 29th,
with copulation noted.
Green Sandpiper – Singles
flew north at Melbourne on the 1st and Wheldrake
on the 3rd. Two
were at Thornton Ings on the 16th/17th, with
singles at Wheldrake on the 20th and
North Duffield Carrs on the 24th - a good
Common Sandpiper – A single
at Thornton Ings on the 17th was the
first of the year, and was followed by one at Bubwith Bridge on the 23rd and North Duffield Carrs on the 24th – 27th.
Wood Sandpiper – A single
flew north over Wheldrake Ings and the Low Grounds on the 26th (CSR, NC, GD) with one present at North Duffield
Carrs on the 27th (TJ,
Greenshank – A single
was present at North Duffield Carrs on the 16th – 19th
with singles at Bank Island on the 27th and Sutton on Derwent on the 28th.
Lesser Yellow-legs – A single
was present at North Duffield Carrs during the afternoon of the 16th (CSR, DB, OM, DW, EBB).
Kittiwake – An adult was present at North
Duffield Carrs on the 21st (TJ, OM).
Tern – The first
birds returned to the pool at Wheldrake Ings on the 23rd and
were present again there on the 24th – 26th.
Tern – Two flew
high through Wheldrake Ings on the 23rd (TJ, OM).
Owl – Singles
at Aughton and North Duffield Carrs on the 18th.
Cuckoo – Singles were present at Breighton
and Wheldrake on the 15th, with one at Allerthorpe Common on
the same day. Birds arrived at Thornton on the 19th and
Melbourne on the 20th. A male and female were at Wheldrake on
the 22nd, with two males there on the 23rd
and 24th. Two calling males were heard at Skipwith Common NNR
on the 25th, with three there on the 27th
and four on the 28th. Two males were in the Melbourne area on
29th. Records also came from Wheldrake Woods and Bubwith towards
the end of the month.
Swift – The first returning bird was at
North Duffield Carrs on the 28th, with four more arriving onto
the NNR later that day. Small numbers were present daily thereafter.
Pied Wagtail – 40 roosted in the reedbed at
Wheldrake Ings on the 22nd.
White Wagtail – A pair were present at East Cottingwith
on the 10th. Singles were present at Thornton Ings on the 14th,
Thornton and Ellerton on the 16th, North Duffield Carrs on the
17th and 22nd, and Bank Island on the 27th.
Yellow Wagtail – A single was present on the
Low Grounds on the 9th and East Cottingwith on the 10th,
with three there on the 12th. Two flew over Wheldrake on the 14th
with one at Melbourne the same day. Seven at Thornton Ings on the 16th.
Small numbers were present throughout the site thereafter until 15 were
reported at a roost at Wheldrake Ings on the 22nd.
Sand Martin – A poor month with only small
numbers present in the cold weather. 80 passed through Bank Island on the 1st
followed by 150 on the 12th. The first birds returned to the
Bank Island nesting bank on the 15th. Only a single pair had excavated
a nest hole at Bank Island by the end of the month.
Swallow – 20+ were present at Bank Island
on the 1st with 110 passing through on the 3rd.
130+ were present there on the 5th followed by 300+ on the 12th.
House Martin – Eight at Bank Island on the 1st
were the first of the year, with 20+ present there on the 5th.
Small numbers thereafter.
Woodlark – At least six/seven singing
males were still present at Skipwith Common NNR on the 24th.
Pipit – A singing
bird was back at Skipwith Common NNR on the 26th (DB), with
two there on the 27th (CSR, NC).
Song Thrush – The first fledged young appeared
at Wheldrake Ings on the 30th where up to seven pairs were
– 400 were
present near Skipwith on the 4th with 16 over Bank Island on
the 3rd and seven on the 5th. 12 were present
at Skipwith on the 6th. Some evidence of return passage was
noted with 65 at Thornton Ings between the 15th-17th.
164 roosted at North Duffield Carrs on the 20th followed by 300
there on the 21st. 40 were at Wheldrake Ings and 12 at North
Duffield Carrs on the 24th. 50 at North Duffield on the 27th
with 46 at Sutton on Derwent on the 28th/29th.
Flock of 20 at Wheldrake on the 30th.
Redwing – 30 flew north-east over Bank
Island on the 6th.
Ring Ouzel – A male at Thornton
Ings on the 17th (CSR), with three males at Sutton on Derwent
on the 23rd/24th (JC). A single was present at
Allerthorpe Water Park on the 26th (per birdguides).
Redstart – A singing male was present at
Skipwith Common NNR on the 14th (CSR) and was present again
on the 17th. Another male was present at Bank Island on the 18th
Wheatear – A single was seen at Thornton Ings
on the 9th with another there on the 11th.
Eight were recorded at East Cottingwith, Hagg Lane on the 12th.
A single Greenland race male was present at Bubwith Ings on the 15th
with another at Hagg Lane, East Cottingwith on the 24th. Singles
were present at North Duffield Carrs on the riverbank and the Bubwith floodbank
on the 26th - two still present there on the 27th.
Nuthatch – A single was calling from Thicket
Priory on the 3rd with one singing at Skipwith Common NNR on
the 8th/9th. Two pairs were located in the Melbourne area
early in the month.
Cetti’s Warbler – Up to five singing males were
present early in the month but appeared to have departed by mid-month.
Willow Warbler – Four were present at Wheldrake
on the 1st with small numbers arriving thereafter. A further influx
was noticed on the 9th, with more arriving from the 12th
and a large arrival on the 16th. 15 were singing at Wheldrake
on the 16th with 17 at Skipwith Common on the 17th
and 21 across Bank Island/Wheldrake on the 18th. 23 were
reported from Bank Island/Wheldrake on the 19th when 25 were counted
on part of Skipwith Common NNR. 40 were recorded along Sands Lane and Common Lane
to the bomb bay loop on the 26th – as many as 100 may have
been on Skipwith during this time.
Common Whitethroat – Two at Wheldrake Ings on the 15th
were the first of the year, with one at Thornton on the 17th.
Two were at Thornton Ellers on the 20th with one at Bubwith Bridge
on the 21st. Further arrivals took place on the 22nd
with 10+ around the reserve.
Lesser Whitethroat – A single at
Bank Island on the 22nd was the first of the year, with one
at North Duffield Carrs and at Menthorpe Lane on the 27th. A
single followed in the Wheldrake car park scrub on the 28th with
two at Bank Island on the 29th.
Warbler – The first
of the year was singing at Skipwith Common NNR on the 26th
(DB) with two at Wheldrake Ings on the 30th.
Sedge Warbler – Following the first ever March
record, another early bird was singing in the reedbed at Wheldrake Ings on the 4th,
and was followed by two there on the 9th-18th and
three on the 19th. Further arrivals appeared on the 22nd
with two at North Duffield Carrs and two at Bank Island. 10+ were present in
the Wheldrake/Bank Island area on the 24th with 20 by month
Reed Warbler – The first of the year was at Wheldrake
Ings on the 19th with three there on the 21st - the same day the first bird returned to Melbourne.
Warbler – A reeling
bird was present behind Pool Hide on the 23rd and again on
Willow Tit – A single was seen carrying nesting
material behind Pool Hide at Wheldrake on the 13th.
Linnet – 64 were at Thornton Ings on
the 15th with scattered pairs and displaying males present throughout
the site, including several pairs around the NNR base at Bank Island. Several pairs were also present on the Low Grounds.
Brambling – Two males were present at
Melbourne on the 8th with a single nearby on the 9th.
Corn Bunting – Up to 30 singing males were present around the eastern side of the reserve on the 16th, when up to 100 were present in two flocks in the North/South Duffield areas. 50+ were still present there on 26th.