Lower Derwent Valley NNR - December Sightings
A nice end to the year with some classic winter birding - highlights including 7 Bewick’s Swans, up to 203 Whooper Swans, 2000+ wintering Pink-footed Geese, 3120 Greylag Geese, 11,000+ Wigeon, 7000 Teal and 349 Pintail, with the lingering Smew and female Scaup also present. Last month’s juvenile Hen Harrier remained (roosting at North Duffield Carrs), whilst up to nine Marsh Harriers, five Peregrines and a single Merlin were also reported. A Rough-legged Buzzard through Bank Island on the 2nd was also a notable record. Wader numbers fluctuated in response to cold weather conditions, with peaks of 5780 Lapwing and 4100 Golden Plover, along with 376 Snipe - forced to take refuge along the riverside in freezing conditions on the 11th. Small numbers of Jack Snipe were scattered throughout the site, with once again large numbers of Woodcock using the Ings after dark - including a staggering 31 on Wheldrake on the 22nd. A single Spotted Redshank (present from the 11th) and a late Common Sandpiper were notable, as were a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker at Wheldrake on the 15th, followed by a Raven there on 26th and a Hawfinch at North Duffield Carrs on the 10th.
Many thanks as always to everyone who submitted counts and records during the month, in particular to members of York Birding, and regular patch birder Duncan Bye – thanks also to Duncan, Adam, Stuart & Johnny for the use of their images below.
Whooper Swan – 68 were recorded at Thorganby Ings on the 2nd whilst herds of 11 and 23 arrived at Wheldrake Ings during the day – giving a total of 102 across the site. 30 were at Wheldrake Ings on the 4th with numbers increasing to 187 on the monthly WeBS count on the 11th. 203 were recorded on the dawn flight out of roost on the 18th with counts of 130-170 thereafter to month end.
Bewicks’ Swan – Four (two adults and two juveniles) roosted with Whooper Swans at Thorganby on the 19th. A presumed different party of three (one juvenile) appeared at North Duffield Carrs on the 27th and remained on the reserve until the end of the year – believed to be the long returning ringed bird (702) although it has now lost its darvic.
Pink-footed Geese – Up to 300 roosted on the Low Grounds on the 1st and 2nd - presumably feeding further afield during the day, moving between Hagg Bridge on the 3rd, Wheldrake on the 4th and Sutton Farm on the 5th. 557 were recorded on the monthly WeBS count on the 11th. 70 were at Seavy Carr on the 13th with 500+ remaining on the 18th - increasing to 1000+ by the 23rd and c2000 from the 27th to month end.
Greylag Goose – Up to 1700 remained throughout the site on the 1st including 900 at Melbourne and Thornton Ings. 2088 were recorded on the 11th on the monthly WeBS count. 1500 were at Bank Island on the 24th with a total of 3120 recorded on the 27th and large numbers remaining thereafter.
Canada Goose – Relatively low numbers were seen throughout the site with 159 recorded on the 11th. Numbers increased in the second half of the month with 328 recorded on the 29th.
Egyptian Goose – Nine were in the usual East Cottingwith area on the 11th. Two were on Elvington Airfield on the 19th, with two or three regularly recorded from Wheldrake Ings and the Low Grounds later in the month.
Shelduck – Numbers increased with 100 recorded (plus the returning the hybrid bird) on the 11th with 132 present on the 23rd.
Wigeon – The WeBS count on the 11th resulted in a count of 9268, followed by 11,000+ on the 17th and 9900 on the 27th.
Teal – 4695 were present throughout the site on the 11th with an estimated 7000 on the River Derwent at Ellerton Landing on the 15th during the ongoing freeze.
Gadwall – 100+ were recorded on the 1st with numbers down to just 23 by the 11th. Numbers increased thereafter with 188 on the 27th.
Mallard – The WeBS produced a count of 1365 on the 11th.
Pintail – Birds continued to increase with 170+ on the 1st, followed by 349 on the 4th (including 208 at Wheldrake Ings). Numbers then fell to 204 on the 11th during the freezing conditions with limited open water, however as the thaw continued numbers recovered and reached 350+ by month end.
Shoveler – 113 were present at North Duffield Carrs on the 4th, with only 15 remaining on the 11th when the freezing conditions and lack of open water forced birds away from the site. 111 had returned by the 27th.
Tufted Duck – 42 were recorded on the 1st with just a single remaining on the 11th. Numbers increased later in the month with up to 22 present by the 31st.
Scaup – A single female was found amongst a mass of Wigeon and Teal on the river at Ellerton Landing on the 11th - presumably the same bird then reappeared at Wheldrake Ings on the 24th and remained to month end.
Pochard – Extensive flooding resulted in numbers building to 23 at Wheldrake by the 4th, however just a single remained on the 11th. Eight were present at Wheldrake on the 31st.
Goldeneye – Seven were observed at Wheldrake on the 4th with six throughout the whole site on the 11th. Numbers across the reserve then built up to 16 by the 29th.
Smew – A first year redhead was seen on the canal on East Cottingwith on the 24th before appearing at Wheldrake later the same day. A a drake was then present with a pair of Goosander on the river at Bubwith on the 27th. Single redhead at Wheldrake on the 31st.
Goosander – Five were on the Pocklington Canal on the 9th, whilst a single redhead flew north over Bank Island on the 11th. 11 were at Wheldrake Ings on the 24th with a pair seen on the river at Bubwith on the 27th.
Little Egret – Up to three were present (daily) at Bank Island early in the month, with several reported from Thorganby. Singles were also regularly recorded along the Pocklington Canal.
Great White Egret – A single remained at North Duffield Carrs between the 1st - 4th with another on the riverbank at Aughton on the 19th. A single frequented and roosted at Wheldrake between the 23rd - 29th.
Little Grebe – Eight were recorded throughout the site on the monthly WeBS count on the 11th, with birds concentrated on both the river and canal. Birds then returned to the flooded Ings after the thaw, with up to five at North Duffield Carrs on the 21st and two at Wheldrake on the 31st.
Marsh Harrier – D3, the long staying wing-tagged bird, was present from the 1st - 4th before roosting at RSPB Blacktoft Sands on the 5th, and then reappearing in the LDV again on the 7th. Four different individuals were present on the reserve on the 11th with numbers up to five by the 16th. Nine, including two adult males and D3, were present along the river on the 18th with a total of eight across the reserve on the 29th.
Hen Harrier – Last month’s immature bird remained on the reserve, with it appearing to roost at North Duffield Carrs overnight on the 1st. It was next seen late in the day on the 2nd at Bank Island, and at North Duffield Carrs again on the 3rd. It was then present again on the 16th and 18th at North Duffield Carrs - hunting the riverbank, before roosting daily from the 19th to month end. Presumably the same individual was also seen hunting fields to the north of Skipwith on the 30th.
Red Kite – One or two individuals were present regularly throughout the Wheldrake area with a pair also seen towards month end in the Melbourne area.
Rough-legged Buzzard – One flew over Bank Island on the 2nd (CSR, JT) before being relocated near Murton 30 mins later (JT).
Peregrine – Three were present across the reserve early in the month with one observed taking a Lapwing at North Duffield Carrs on the 10th. Three or four remained thereafter to month end with five different birds present throughout the site on the 29th.
Merlin – A single female/immature at Aughton on the 29th.
Grey Partridge – 19 were in fields next to Skipwith Common NNR on the 1st with 14 at Bank Island on the 9th. 12 were in a field in Wheldrake village on the 19th with nine near Raker Lakes on the 29th.
Water Rail –. Up to six were present early in the month at Wheldrake with two calling birds heard around Church Bridge, Melbourne on the 10th.
Golden Plover – 3500 were recorded throughout the reserve on the 2nd with numbers up to 4100 by the 4th. Freezing conditions then forced birds out the area, with just 65 remaining on the 11th. c1000 had returned by the 27th.
Lapwing – 3500 were present throughout the site on the 2nd, reducing to just 376 on the 11th. Numbers began to build up again late in the month with 5780 recorded on the 29th.
Snipe – Birds were widespread throughout the reserve early in the month with flocks of 15, 7, 6 and 21 arriving at Bank Island in freezing conditions on the 9th. A total of 461 were recorded across the site on the 11th - 376 of which were found concentrated along the edge of the river. Birds were noted in several unusual locations during the ongoing freeze, with one feeding in an Elvington garden on the 17th. 200+ were feeding in rush pasture by Elvington Airfield on the 19th whilst 180+ were back on North Duffield Carrs following the thaw on the 21st.
Jack Snipe – A single after dark on Wheldrake Ings on the 5th was followed by one on Skipwith Common NNR on the 7th and one on the riverbank at Aughton on the 11th. Two were at Elvington Airfield on the 19th with two at North Duffield Carrs on the 21st and two on North Duffield Ings on the 22nd.
Ruff – 11 were recorded at Wheldrake Ings on the 4th followed by eight on the 11th. 27 were present throughout the site on the 29th.
Dunlin – 48 were at Wheldrake Ings on the 4th with 124 throughout the reserve on the 11th – present until month end.
Curlew – Up to 22 remained throughout the month.
Woodcock – 12 were feeding in arable between Skipwith village and the Common after dark on the 1st, with nine individuals present on the same night at Pool Bridge Farm near Crockey Hill. Five birds were flushed from more unusual locations around Wheldrake, Bank Island and North Duffield Carrs on the 18th - perhaps the result of freezing conditions. One was again present at North Duffield Carrs on the 19th – on the same day eight were seen after dark in fields around Wheldrake village with a further nine at Elvington Airfield. 10 were on arable fields adjacent to Skipwith Common NNR on the 21st when nine were also present at North Duffield Carrs. A staggering 31 were recorded at Wheldrake Ings after dark on the 22nd.
Black-tailed Godwit – Single at Wheldrake Ings on the 3rd followed by six on the 4th. Two were observed standing on a frozen Thorganby Ings on the 11th with four there from the 23rd to month end.
Redshank – Numbers had increased to 28 by the 11th.
Spotted Redshank – A single was present with Redshank along the riverbank at Aughton/Ellerton Ings on the 11th and was seen again on the 31st – a drastic change to previous years with them being regular winter visitors in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.
Green Sandpiper – One was present at Skipwith Common NNR on the 7th with another/the same seen on the Pocklington Canal near Hagg Bridge on the 16th.
Common Sandpiper – One flew off calling from the beck at Melbourne on the 7th.
Caspian Gull – A first winter bird was present again at Wheldrake on the 16th.
Black-headed Gull – 15,000 were recorded at the Wheldrake Ings gull roost on the 4th with numbers up to 18,000 on the 11th. 12,000 were still present on the 27th.
Mediterranean Gull – An adult was seen at Wheldrake Ings on the 3rd.
Common Gull – 5000 were recorded at the Wheldrake Ings roost on the 4th - increasing to 7000 on the 11th. 2000 were present on the 29th.
Herring Gull – The Wheldrake Ings roost held 100 on the 4th with numbers reaching 150 by the 11th. Numbers then increased further and were higher than in recent years with 1000+ observed on the 27th and 1500 on the 29th.
Greater Black-backed Gull – 50 at Wheldrake Ings on the 4th with 100 there on the 27th.
Green Woodpecker – Single at Wheldrake on the 4th and then again on the 27th, 28th and 31st. Several were heard regularly throughout the month from Skipwith Common NNR.
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker – A single was reported by riverside willows between the bridge and Tower Hide at Wheldrake Ings on the 15th.
Stonechat – Up to four remained at North Duffield Carrs throughout the month with two at Wheldrake Ings and two at Thornton Ellers on the 11th. Single at Ings Lane, East Cottingwith on the 29th.
Redwing – Good numbers remained across the reserve on the 1st and 2nd with wet, drizzly and misty weather grounding birds which took advantage of the local berry supply and feeding areas around the edges of the flooded Ings. 2000+ were in the Melbourne area on the 10th.
Fieldfare – 2500 were recorded throughout the reserve on the 11th including 1300 feeding on the flooded, (but frozen Ings), on the 11th. As the thaw began, a total of 5200 passed southwest through Bank Island on the 19th, with large numbers present after dark feeding in arable fields around Wheldrake village.
Raven – Single at Wheldrake Ings on the 26th.
Cetti’s Warbler – Up to four birds were present early in the month at Church Bridge, Melbourne and the surrounding area, with another at East Cottingwith on the 3rd and two at Wheldrake Ings on the 4th. Two were still present at Melbourne on the 13th and remained to month end – as did the two at Wheldrake.
Chiffchaff – Two at Wheldrake Ings on the 4th.
Blackcap – A male and female were present in a garden in Elvington on the 24th with two males and a female there on the 31st.
Linnet – The Bank Island roost increased to 80 by the 4th with 300 still in the Thornton area - remaining until the 11th. 300+ were present in arable around Cheesecake Farm on the 29th.
Siskin – 96 were recorded along the Pocklington Canal at Melbourne on the 5th.
Common Redpoll – Two were caught and ringed during the second half of the month at Skipwith Common NNR with a single seen at Melbourne on the 20th.Hawfinch – A single was seen with a flock of Redwing in the car park at North Duffield Carrs on the 10th.