Lower Derwent Valley NNR - December Sightings
The year ended on a ended on a final flourish for local listers, with the discovery of an adult Franklin’s Gull at North Duffield Carrs on the 13th, before it was located at Thorganby and Ellerton Ings the following day. This represents the first record for the reserve of this transatlantic visitor. Other local scarcities and notable records included a single Bewick’s Swan from mid-month, another Goshawk towards the southern end of the valley, a lingering Knot, and two records of Long-eared Owls at Skipwith Common NNR.
Flooding increased during the month with extensive floodwater throughout the site by month end. The Whooper Swan herd increased to 88, whilst eight goose species were recorded including a single Tundra Bean, up to 21 White-fronts, 100 Barnacles and nine Egyptian Geese. Other counts included 7000 Wigeon, 6500 Teal and a notable 633 Pintail. Wader numbers varied in response to flooding, however, monthly peaks included 4700 Golden Plover, 3000 Lapwing, 120 Dunlin, 88 Ruff, 18 Curlew,13 Black-tailed Godwits and the first returning Oystercatcher on the 29th.
Birds of prey were well represented again with at least six lingering Marsh Harrier, three or four Peregrines, single Red Kite and one or two Merlins, as well as the successful release of a rehabilitated bird at Wheldrake. Best of the rest included a late Swallow on the 1st, a Short-eared Owl at Wheldrake and a single Brambling at Melbourne – a scarce bird in the area this winter.
Many thanks to everyone who contributed records throughout the month, in particular to members of the York Bird Club - thanks also to regular patch birder Duncan Bye for the use of his images below - credited DB.
Mute Swan – Up to 89 were present across the site during the month.
Whooper Swan – Up to 88 remained in the wintering herd.
Bewick’s Swan – A single adult was observed on Ellerton Ings between the 14th-17th with the Whooper Swan herd.
Greylag Goose – 1500 were still roosting at Wheldrake Ings during the month - counted there on the 5th, with large numbers elsewhere giving an overall total of 2400. A total of 3022 were then present on the monthly WeBS count on the 13th, with 1000 still present at month end.
Pink-footed Goose – 120 were recorded at Aughton Ings on the 1st whilst 350 flew north over Bank Island on the 2nd. 800+ roosted at Bank Island on the 3rd. 300 were present across the site on the 4th/5th, followed by 200 over Melbourne on the 5th. 30 were observed at North Duffield Carrs on the 6th whilst 75 flew south over Skipwith Common NNR on the 8th. 55 were present at North Duffield Carrs on the 15th when 75 flew north-west over Wheldrake. 300 were present across the site on the 18th/19th, down to 50 by the 20th. 500+ moved north over Bank Island in several skeins on the 22nd. 200 flew north-west over the reserve on the 28th.
Tundra Bean Goose – A single flew south calling over Wheldrake on the 15th.
White-fronted Goose – Four adults flew over Bank Island early on the 3rd followed by nine over Bank Island towards Wheldrake on the 4th (CSR). Two adults were at North Duffield Carrs on the 5th (OM). 21 were then present on Melbourne Ings on the 8th with two at North Duffield Carrs between the 11th-22nd. 16 were recorded across the reserve on the 28th with a flock of nine over Wheldrake Ings and six feeding in fields at Sutton upon Derwent at the same time. A single remained at North Duffield Carrs on the 29th with two at Elvington on the same date, followed by 19 over Bank Island at dusk.
Canada Goose – c200 were present throughout the site during the month.
Barnacle Goose – A flock of c100 were present in the Melbourne and Thornton Ings area on the 18th (NC), with the same flock of up to 96 touring the reserve over the weekend of the 19th/20th. Seven were then present with Greylag Geese at Aughton on the 27th and Ellerton on the 28th.
Egyptian Goose – Four were on Melbourne Ings on the 14th. Up to five remained in the East Cottingwith area throughout the month with seven there on the 28th. Two at Wheldrake Ings were present on the 27th/28th, giving a total of nine in the area on the 28th.
Shelduck – 74 were present throughout the reserve on the 10th followed by 76 on the 13th. Numbers increased thereafter with 133 counted on the 28th.
Wigeon – Numbers had increased to 6500 by the 2nd with 7131 recorded on the 13th and 7820 on the 28th.
Teal – Numbers increased with 3749 on the WeBS count on the 13th, rising to 6550 by the 28th.
Pintail – 200 were present across the site on the 2nd with 140 at North Duffield Carrs on the 6th. 100 were at Wheldrake on the 7th with 271 counted throughout the reserve on the 13th. Numbers continued to increase with extensive flooding thereafter, with 200+ at Wheldrake on the 27th and 633 throughout the site on the 28th.
Shoveler – 63 were present at Wheldrake on the 7th.
Gadwall – 45 were at Wheldrake Ings on the 6th when 33 were also present at North Duffield Carrs. Up to 80 had returned by month end.
Tufted Duck – Four arrived with increased flooding at Bank Island on 9th with 15 on 10th, 21 on 11th and 28 by 21st. A flock of 61 arrived at Bank Island on 29th, increasing the total present on the reserve to 88.
Pochard – Three were seen at Bank Island on the 10th (the first returning wintering birds), increasing to seven the next day. Five were recorded at Bubwith Ings on the 12th with 22 there on the 21st and 12 at Thorganby on the 22nd. Up to 25 were present thereafter until the end of the year.
Goosander – A single redhead remained at Wheldrake on the 5th, with a single on the river at Ellerton Landing on the 12th/13th. A pair flew over Bank Island on the 24th heading towards Wheldrake.
Goldeneye – Up to six birds remained on the reserve throughout the early part of the month, with 13 at Wheldrake on the 27th and 10 on the 28th.
Great Crested Grebe – A single at Bank Island on the 26th/27th relocated to Wheldrake Ings on the 28th.
Little Egret – Singles were present in the Melbourne area from the 1st with three at Bank Island on the 5th. Four were present near Storwood on the 29th with three there the next day.
Great White Egret – Three north over Bank Island on the 1st (CSR) were followed by one there on the 24th.
Coot – A single at North Duffield Carrs on the 29th was the first returning bird since the departure of the breeding population.
Goshawk – A single immature flew south down the River Derwent towards Barmby-on-the-Marsh on the 20th (MS).
Marsh Harrier – At least six were still present across the site on the 1st/2nd, with four at Ellerton/Thorganby (including wing-tagged bird D3) on the 12th. Up to six were present across the reserve on the 19th/20th, with four at Bank Island on the 24th and three throughout the site on the 28th.
Peregrine – Two were present at Bank Island on the 2nd with regular sightings across the site thereafter. Singles were also reported over Skipwith Common NNR and the surrounding area on several dates. A pair were seen over Bubwith Ings on the 12th with three at North Duffield Carrs on the 20th.
Merlin – A single rehabilitated first-winter was ringed and released at Wheldrake on the 5th (JT el al), with possibly the same bird seen at Bank Island on the 8th. A single was observed at North Duffield Carrs on the 12th.
Red Kite – Single at Crockey Hill on the 1st and Bank Island on the 4th, with up to three seen regularly in and around Skipwith Common NNR during the month. Single at Thorganby village on the 22nd with two there on the 28th. Two at Storwood on the 30th.
Grey Partridge – A covey of eight remained on farmland near Wheldrake village during the month.
Water Rail – Up to 15 wintering territories were noted during the month.
Oystercatcher – The first returning bird was present at Wheldrake Ings on the 28th.
Golden Plover – Up to 500+ were present in the Crockey Hill area on the 1st with 1000+ across the site on the 2nd. 1000+ were present at Wheldrake Ings/the Low Grounds on the 5th, with 1800 throughout the site on the 6th. Increased numbers were found feeding after dark on farmland along the Escrick Moraine during the month. 4047 were recorded on the WeBS count on the 14th, followed by 4700 across the site on the 15th. Flooding forced birds back into the surrounding area later in the month, with 500 at Wheldrake on the 28th and just 20 remaining by the 29th.
Lapwing – 2000+ were still present across the site on the 1st/2nd, with 3000 on the 3rd and 3160 on the 14th. Numbers decreased thereafter as birds spread out due to extensive flooding with 1117 counted on the 28th.
Snipe – A minimum of 126 were counted on a marshy area of Skipwith Common NNR on the 8th. 400+ were scattered throughout the site on the 13th.
Jack Snipe – A single at Skipwith Common NNR on the 8th, with three at Wheldrake on the 11th.
Woodcock – Five were present on Skipwith Common NNR on the 2nd when another was seen at Melbourne - the first returning bird of the autumn at that site. Single at Melbourne again on the 16th. Regularly reported on Skipwith Common NNR in ones and twos throughout the month. Single at Bubwith Bridge on the 28th. 12 were recorded roosting on Skipwith Common NNR on the 29th.
Curlew – 12 were present at Wheldrake on the 7th with seven still there on the 28th and 18 there on the 29th.
Black-tailed Godwit – Up to two birds lingered on the reserve throughout the month, increasing to 13 on the 27th.
Redshank – 30 were scattered throughout the site early in the month, with 37 recorded on the 14th and 40+ on the 20th. 34 were still present there on the 29th.
Knot – A single bird was present at North Duffield Carrs between the 18th-22nd.
Dunlin – Up to 50 were present throughout the site early in the month, with 80 at North Duffield Carrs on the 6th and 107 across the whole site on the 7th. 100+ remained thereafter with 119 on the 28th.
Ruff – 31 were present on the 1st with numbers increasing to 46 by the 13th, 80 by the 20th and 88 by the 28th.
Green Sandpiper – Single at Melbourne and Thornton Ings on the 7th.
Mediterranean Gull – Adult at Wheldrake Ings on the 15th.
Black-headed Gull – Numbers increased quickly with the onset of extensive flooding with 2000 at the Wheldrake roost on the 13th and 6000 on the 19th (when two leucistic birds were recorded). 10,000 were present in the roost there on the 28th.
Common Gull – 800 were present at the Wheldrake roost on the 13th with 1500+ on the 21st, increasing quickly then with extensive flooding on the 28th to 6000.
Franklins Gull – An adult found at North Duffield Carrs on the 12th (OM), then relocated to Thorganby Ings (JL, DB) and later Ellerton Ings (MR) on the 13th - first record for the LDV NNR and wider York area.
Greater black-backed Gull – A mere total of 11 at the Wheldrake roost on the 28th.
Herring Gull – Just 100 birds present at the Wheldrake roost on the 28th.
Short-eared Owl – A single was present on the boardwalk at Wheldrake Ings before sunning itself in the evening sun and hunting over Swantail Ings on the 7th.
Long-eared Owl – One at Skipwith Common NNR on the 1st with another nearby on the 21st.
Collard Dove – 55 were present at the Melbourne Arm on the 7th with a good population reported from the nearby village.
Swallow – Presumably the same late lingering individual was present at Bank Island on the 1st.
Stonechat – Pairs remained at both Melbourne and Barmby-on-the-Marsh during the month, with up to five birds at both Wheldrake and Bank Island, and three at North Duffield Carrs. Five were at North Duffield Carrs on the 22nd when three were still present at Bank Island. Five were still present at North Duffield Carrs on the 28th when a single male was also seen at Aughton Ings, as well as two in the refuge area at Wheldrake.
Cetti’s Warbler – Calling birds remained at Church Bridge Melbourne throughout the month, with up to three at Wheldrake, where yet another first-year male was caught and ringed on the 7th - the ninth to be ringed during 2020 and the eighth in the Wheldrake/Bank Island area since October. A single bird was also present at North Duffield Carrs during the month.
Linnet – Up to 80 roosted at the NNR base garden and surrounding area, whilst c75 were present in the Bubwith area on the 29th.
House Sparrow – 40+ at the NNR base at Bank Island between the 12th- 22nd were an unusual record.
Brambling – A single male was at Melbourne Arm on the 9th.
Bullfinch – 15 were present at the Bank Island feeding station on the 29th with 18 there on the 30th.
Corn Bunting – The first 12 birds were present at the Church Bridge roost at Melbourne on the 5th. A flock of 60 were feeding along Hagg Lane at East Cottingwith Ings on the 28th.
Fallow Deer – Four at Bank Island on the 4th.Otter – A female with a single cub was seen at Melbourne again during the month.