Lower Derwent Valley NNR - December 2021 Sightings
For most people, the Dusky Warbler found in the reedbed at Swantail Hide at Wheldrake Ings (27th ), was considered the bird of the month - representing the first record of the species in the LDV. However, the rest of the month also offered excellent counts and a wide range of species, including increasingly difficult to connect with species - five Bewick’s Swans on the 28th were welcome, with up to 130 Whooper Swans also present. 500+ Pink-footed Geese were joined by up to seven White-fronts and a single Barnacle. Seven Smew (including a pristine drake), were possibly caught up in the same movement away from the continent. A first winter hybrid American Wigeon (amongst 9850 European Wigeon), and a Green-winged Teal (amongst 5140 Teal) were good finds late in the month, with a respectable 280 Pintail towards month end.
At least six Marsh Harriers were recorded along with two sightings of a Merlin. One of the months wader highlights were the large numbers of Lapwing present across the reserve – 7160 were observed on the 28th, with up to 5000 alone at Wheldrake Ings on several dates. Up to 1885 Golden Plover were also noteworthy, with 228 Dunlin, 45 Ruff, 21 Curlew and good numbers of Snipe, Jack Snipe and Woodcock. The Wheldrake gull roost increased up with up to 10,000 Black-headed and 3000 Common Gulls by month end, attracting at least three different Mediterranean Gulls. It was also a good month for owls, with two or three Long-eared and a Short-eared at Wheldrake, with all five owl species recorded at Bank Island/Wheldrake Ings on the 21st.
Aside from the Dusky Warbler, a single Chiffchaff and Cetti’s Warbler were present during the month at Wheldrake, with several Stonechat remaining throughout. Large flocks of Linnets were also present around the reserve, with small numbers of Brambling feeding in mixed finch flocks.
Many thanks as always to everyone who contributed records and counts throughout the month, in particular to members of York Birding and regular patch birder Duncan Bye – thanks also to Duncan for the use of his images below.
Whooper Swan – Up to 120 were present across the reserve early in the month, with 131 counted on the 19th and 117 remaining on the 28th.
Bewick’s Swan – A family party of two adults and three immatures flew into Bank Island on the 28th before relocating to fields at Sutton Farm – departing there around noon and appearing later in the day at Nosterfield Nature Reserve. Possibly the same individuals were then present at Wheldrake Ings again on the 30th.
Mute Swan – A monthly maximum of 91 on the 19th. Sadly nine individuals were found dead during the month, with 89 individuals remaining on the 28th.
Greylag Goose – 2000+ were present throughout the reserve on the WeBS count on the 19th, followed by 2039 on the 28th.
Canada Goose – 311 were recorded during the WeBS count on the 19th, with two sadly picked up dead on the 21st. A further six were found dead later in the month with suspected Avian Flu. A count on the reserve on the 28th produced a total of 314 individuals.
Pink-footed Goose – 400+ were still roosting at Wheldrake Ings early in the month, with 100+ present in the Wheldrake/Storwood/East Cottingwith area on the 4th/5th and thereafter until the 9th. 280+ were recorded in the area on the 12th followed by 550 on the 15th. 522 remained on the 28th and 29th, including 368 feeding in fields along Wheldrake Lane.
White-fronted Goose – Two European race birds were present near Ellerton on the 11th with three at Bubwith Ings between the 16th-19th. Seven were then present at Storwood on the 24th with three again from the 27th-29th.
Egyptian Goose – Four remained in the East Cottingwith area whilst six were recorded at Wheldrake Ings on the 27th, followed by four there on the 28th and two on the 29th to month end.
Barnacle Goose – A single was present at Wheldrake Ings on the 20th and again at Bank Island on the 22nd – presumably the same individual then appeared at Hagg Bridge from the 24th to month end.
Shelduck – 57 were present at Bank Island on the 1st including the regularly returning hybrid - remaining there until at least the 15th. Numbers increased thereafter with 67 at Bank Island on the 16th/17th. 131 were present on the WeBS count on the 19th with 74 in the Wheldrake area on the 28th.
Ruddy Shelduck – The single from last month re-appeared at Thorganby on the 19th.
Wigeon – Numbers increased early in the month with the onset of flooding, with 2000 in the Wheldrake/Bank Island and Low Grounds area on the 4th – on the same day 2500 were present at Ellerton and 800+ at Thornton Ellers. 1300 were then recorded in the Melbourne and Thornton Ings area on the 10th. 8723 were counted on the WeBS survey on the 19th followed by 9600 on the 22nd - 9850 remained on the 28th.
American Wigeon Hybrid – A first winter drake was present on Melbourne Ings on the 30th and 31st (NC et al).
Teal – 3270 were present throughout the site on the 19th increasing to 5140 by the 28th.
Green-winged Teal – An adult drake was present on the River Derwent at Aughton on the 30th (CSR).
Mallard – A monthly maximum of 1223 were recorded on the 19th.
Gadwall – Numbers remained low with 30 present on the 19th - increasing thereafter with 102 on the 28th.
Shoveler – 41 were recorded throughout the site on the 19th - increasing to 124 by the 28th.
Pintail – Up to 121 were present on the reserve on the 4th and 5th. Numbers increased to 116 at Wheldrake on the 12th when 230 were present throughout the site. 284 were counted across the reserve on the 28th (including up to 200 at Wheldrake Ings).
Tufted Duck – 10 were at Bank Island on the 6th, with a new arrival coinciding with the extensive flooding on the 9th with a total of 19 present – 34 followed on the 14th/15th and 35 on the 19th.
Pochard – A drake was present at Bank Island on the 15th with two drakes and a duck from the 20th, followed by two pairs on the 28th/29th.
Goldeneye – A single was present on the pool at Wheldrake early in the month with two red-heads at Bank Island on the 16th. Two remained at Bank Island on the 20th when 11 were on the pool at Wheldrake Ings. 11 were observed at Bank Island on the 28th with a total of 22 across the site the following day.
Smew – A single red-head at North Duffield Carrs on the 13th was present again nearby on the 19th. Six redheads were then present at Wheldrake Ings on the 26th with two at Wheldrake and Ellerton Landing on the 28th – it’s possible that one of this group relocated to Hemingbrough, appearing at the Clay Pits on the 29th. A pair were then present at Wheldrake Ings on the 30th/31st.
Goosander – A single red-head was at Bank Island on the 12th.
Great Crested Grebe – Two winter plumaged birds were present at Bank Island (an adult and immature) on the 13th.
Little Grebe – Five were recorded at the Melbourne Arm on the 10th, with smaller scattered numbers elsewhere along the canal and river.
Little Egret – One at Melbourne Ings on the 9th with another at Bank Island from the 15th - 20th when two also roosted at Wheldrake Ings. Two or three then remained to month end.
Goshawk – A single male was reported at Wheldrake Ings on the 30th (JD).
Marsh Harrier – From the 1st up to four remained on the reserve (including wing-tagged individual D3), with four or five still present on the 4th/5th. Six were noted at North Duffield Carrs on the 29th with a second-year male at Thornton Ings on the 30th.
Red Kite – A pair were present at North Duffield Carrs on the 1st.
Merlin – A single at Skipwith Common NNR on the 1st was followed by a male at Ellerton Landing on the 9th and a single at Wheldrake Ings on the 30th.
Water Rail – Four were calling from the Wheldrake reedbed on the 1st (and regularly thereafter), with up to three in the wider Melbourne Ings area early in the month.
Coot – A single at the Melbourne Arm on the 10th with four returning to Wheldrake Ings on the 29th.
Golden Plover – 1000 were present at Wheldrake Ings on the 12th having returned following the flooding. 1750 were recorded on the 24th with 1200 on the 28th and 1885 on the 29th.
Lapwing – 2000 were observed at Wheldrake Ings on the 12th, increasing to 3000 there on the 19th when a total of 4130 were present throughout the site. Numbers then increased further to 5000+ at Wheldrake Ings on the 27th and 7166 throughout the site on the 28th.
Snipe – 100 were present at North Duffield Ings on the 13th with up to 200 at North Duffield Carrs on the 16th - probably a wintering population of 400-500 birds throughout the site.
Jack Snipe – A single was at Wheldrake Ings on the 1st with five recorded after dark on North Duffield Ings on the 6th (including two caught and ringed). Two were present at Skipwith Common NNR on the 8th with four caught and ringed at North Duffield Ings on the 13th. Two were at Skipwith Common NNR on the 14th with three there on the 15th.
Woodcock – Up to eight were feeding after dark on Wheldrake Ings on the 21st, with good numbers (large proportion of juveniles), present on farmland throughout the wider area.
Curlew –10 were still present at Bank Island early in the month with 13 at Wheldrake Ings on the 20th. Numbers reached 21 on the 28th.
Dunlin – 15 were at Bank Island on the 1st with 30 at Ellerton Ings on the 4th. 74 were present at Ellerton Landing on the 9th with 127 throughout the site on the 19th. Numbers increased to 228 on the 28th.
Ruff – Up to seven were present from the 1st with 10 at Ellerton on the 4th and 29 throughout the site on the 5th. 47 were recorded throughout the reserve on the 19th followed by 41 on the 28th.
Redshank – 19 were present throughout the reserve on the 19th followed by 21 on the 28th.
Black-tailed Godwit – The first returning wintering bird appeared at Wheldrake Ings on the 5th with possibly the same individual, or another, present at Wheldrake Ings on the 29th.
Green Sandpiper – Single at Ellerton on the 9th with another at Melbourne Ings on the same day.
Black-headed Gull – The roost appeared at Wheldrake quickly following the recent flooding, with 4000 there on the 7th increasing to 8000+ on the 20th. 10,000+ were present at the roost on the 27th.
Common Gull – 500 were present at the Wheldrake roost on the 7th with an estimated 2000 there on the 20th and 3000+ on the 27th.
Mediterranean Gull – A single second winter type was at the Wheldrake roost on the 16th with the same bird seen again on the 20th. An adult was then present on the 27th, with a second winter on the 29th and a first winter bird on the 30th.
Short-eared Owl – A single was seen over Swantail Ings at Wheldrake on the 21st.
Long-eared Owl – A probable was seen via a thermal at Skipwith Common NNR on the 12th with the same, or another, seen 500m away during the day on the 15th. One was seen after dark in the Wheldrake car park lane on the 20th with one 100m away after dark on the 21st.
Little Owl – A single at Bank Island (Cheesecake Hide) prior to dawn on the 21st.
Stonechat – Up to four remained at Wheldrake Ings during the month with a pair at Bank Island. Five were present in the Melbourne and Thornton Ings area with three at North Duffield Carrs on the 9th. One or two scattered birds remained throughout the site thereafter to month end.
Nuthatch – Single at Wheldrake Ings on the 5th.
Starling – The Wheldrake roost held 250 on the 1st.
Cetti’s Warbler – Singles were present by Tower Hide, Wheldrake, on the 18th and 20th.
Dusky Warbler – A single was found in the reedbed at Swantail Hide at Wheldrake Ings on the 27th (JL), although it may have been present for several days prior to this time. Still present the following day, and remaining to year end - first record for the reserve.
Chiffchaff – A single was present by the windpump at Wheldrake Ings on the 29th.
Brambling – One flew over Wheldrake Ings car park on the 4th with three at Skipwith Common on the 15th. Two were feeding in an Elvington garden from the 23rd with several in the Thornton area feeding with mixed finches in game cover.
Siskin – Up to 150 were at the Melbourne Arm on the 7th.
Linnet – 80 roosting at Bank Island on the 13th increased to 200 on the 20th. 150 were present in a game cover strip at Thornton during the month, with 100+ still present on the 28th and an additional 55 at Hagg Lane, East Cottingwith on the same date.