Lower Derwent Valley NNR - February Sightings
A total of 166 Whooper Swans were present on the 21st, which was the first evidence of returning spring passage birds. Equally the return passage of Pink-footed Geese moving north-west from Norfolk to Lancashire also started from mid-month, whilst the lingering pair of Bewick’s Swans remained to month end. Extensive flooding towards the end of the month suppressed waterfowl numbers and limited the usual spring build-up, however, 158 Coots had returned by the 21st with three Smew also appearing briefly.
On the wader front numbers increased with breeding birds returning to the Ings, with 13 Oystercatchers back by the 21st, at which time several pairs of Lapwings were displaying and several pairs of Curlew were displaying and singing over the flooded Ings. Black-tailed Godwits reached a total of 23, whilst over 7,400 Lapwing were present throughout with a notable peak of 10,295 early in the month. 2,533 Golden Plover were also noted with 223 Dunlin and 45 Ruff.
A count of 130 Stock Dove in fields by Bank Island on the 17th (regularly thereafter) was notable, with three to four singing Woodlark present at Skipwith Common NNR throughout the second half of the month, following the first record on the 15th. Two Water Pipits were present at North Duffield Carrs on the 22nd, with other notable records being two Raven near Crockey Hill on the 18th. A return movement of winter thrushes was detected during the course of the month, with several good flocks of farmland birds also present around the NNR. 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, Adam and Stuart for the use of their photographs below.
Whooper Swan – Up to 151 were counted across the site on the 1st, increasing to 166 by the 21st – perhaps involving some returning passage birds. Three flew north-west over Bank Island on the 2nd - possibly the first early returning migrants. Six flew over Melbourne on the 23rd, with 43 north through the site on the 26th and a further seven north-east over Newton Mask on that date. Three herds, of unknown numbers, also passed over Elvington during the night of the 25th/26th in what was clearly the first big push of the spring return passage.
Bewick’s Swan – Two adults (presumably the regular returning pair), were present with the Whooper Swan herd from the 1st and still there on the 20th.
Mute Swan – 82 were recorded early in the month with 70+ remaining following extensive flooding on the 20th.
Greylag Goose – Numbers fell during the month with just 641 remaining by the 20th.
Canada Goose – Up to 240 remained throughout the month.
Pink-footed Goose – 280 were at Ellerton on the 2nd with a single at North Duffield Carrs on the same date, whilst 87 passed north-west over Melbourne. The same flock of 280 remained at Ellerton until month end. On the 7th 110 flew north-west over Bank Island, with 17 following on the morning of the 8th and 190 on the 10th. Three skeins (total of 389), flew north-west over the NNR on the 13th. 400+ flew north-west over the site on the 23rd, followed by nocturnal passage overnight on the 25th/26th, during which a larger movement took place throughout the region with 570+ north on the 26th.
Egyptian Goose – Up to six remained in the usual area at East Cottingwith during the month, with a single over Wheldrake Ings on the 19th.
Shelduck – Up to 60 were present daily at Bank Island early on in the month with 70 there on the 13th. From mid-month several pairs were spread out to take up breeding territories, with 18 recorded in pairs in the Elvington/Kexby area on the 27th.
Wigeon – Up to 9,000+ remained early in the month although numbers fell as the site started to flood from the 19th/20th. A total of 4,867 were recorded on the WeBS count on the 20th.
Teal – 5,000+ were present during the month, reducing in number with the onset of rapid, extensive flooding on the 20th, with 2,628 counted during the WeBS.
Mallard – 817 were recorded on the WeBS on the 20th.
Gadwall – Numbers reached 201 by the 5th but had declined with extensive flooding to 76 by the 20th.
Shoveler – 144 were recorded at Wheldrake Ings on the 14th followed by 162 on the 20th. 56 were at Melbourne and Thornton Ings late in the month when deep flooding forced birds to the shallower flood water in this area.
Pintail – 323 were at Wheldrake Ings on the 3rd with 339 there on the 13th (total of 476 throughout the site), followed by 297 throughout the site on the WeBS on the 20th. Increasing water levels caused birds to move to other sites with 15 at Elvington on the 20th - an unusual record there, with 91 at Melbourne and Thornton Ings on the 26th.
Tufted Duck – Numbers increased but remained low with limited flooding, with 37 at Wheldrake Ings on the 6th and 33 on the 20th. Deep and extensive flooding saw numbers increase marginally thereafter with 59 on the 27th.
Pochard – Two ducks and a drake were present at Wheldrake Ings on the 20th with seven across the site on the 23rd following extensive flooding. Numbers increased thereafter with 42 throughout on the 27th with deeper water levels.
Goldeneye – 19 were present at Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd with 18 there on the 20th.
Smew – A single red-head (immature male) was present at Wheldrake Ings on the 1st with a different red-head on the 6th. A drake and two red-heads were present at Bank Island on the 23rd.
Goosander – A single drake flew over Bank Island on the 2nd with a red-head lingering at the Melbourne Arm on the canal from the 2nd to the 5th, with a pair there from the 8th to the 10th and a female until the 25th. A drake flew over Wheldrake Ings on the 19th.
Cormorant – Numbers increased with 43 at Wheldrake Ings on the 3rd and 46 on the 6th.
Little Grebe – Birds were as usual scattered in small numbers along the River Derwent and Pocklington Canal with extensive flooding (and the onset of spring perhaps), producing a count of seven at Wheldrake Ings on the 20th.
Great Crested Grebe – The first returning spring birds were back at Wheldrake Ings and Melbourne Ings on the 27th.
Little Egret – Up to five lingered around the reserve throughout the month.
Bittern – A single was present and seen on several dates in late January/early February at the Pocklington Canal in East Cottingwith/Storwood.
Marsh Harrier – Up to four or five continued to roost at Aughton and North Duffield Carrs, with two observed hunting Reed Buntings in the bulrushes at the Top Pond at North Duffield Carrs on the 1st. Up to three were recorded daily at Wheldrake Ings where they were seen predating Teal, Wigeon and Black-headed Gulls, with five present throughout the site on the 20th.
Hen Harrier – A ring-tail was reported from Skipwith Common NNR on the 5th, 9th and 21st.
Red Kite – A single was present at Bank Island on the 2nd with three seen later in the day over Thorganby, followed by singles at Melbourne and Wheldrake Ings on the 20th. Birds were then regular around the NNR thereafter as local breeding birds returned from winter communal roosts.
Peregrine – Up to six remained across the reserve throughout the month.
Merlin – A single was present at North Duffield Carrs on the 26th.
Coot – Numbers continued to increase with spring passage, with 58 at Wheldrake Ings on the 6th increasing to 153 by the 12th. 158 were present throughout the site on the 20th.
Oystercatcher – Following on from the first returning bird at North Duffield Carrs on the 29th January, a single was at Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd and North Duffield Carrs on the 5th. Two were present at Wheldrake on the 13th with seven throughout the site on the 14th. Numbers increased as more birds returned with 13 around the NNR on the 21st and 19 by the 27th.
Golden Plover – Up to 2,300 remained across the site on the 2nd with 1,500 at Wheldrake Ings on the 13th and 2,533 on the 20th. 3,000+ were present in the Ellerton Ings area on the 28th.
Lapwing – Numbers increased following a good winter for the species with an impressive 10,295 across the site on the 2nd. Good numbers then remained throughout the month with 5,000 between Wheldrake Ings and Bank Island on the 13th/14th, with 7,417 still present throughout on the 20th. Numbers then decreased to 4,800 following extensive flooding at month end.
Snipe – Up to 400 were scattered throughout the site prior to extensive flooding on the 20th.
Jack Snipe – Up to four remained at Skipwith Common NNR throughout the month.
Curlew – 20+ remained early in the month at Wheldrake Ings with 26 there on the 13th. Numbers then increased with 62 on the 20th including scattered pairs back on territory and several singing birds, as well as 42 roosting at Wheldrake. Numbers at Wheldrake had increased to 76 by the 28th.
Dunlin – 223 were still present during the month until the 20th, with 200+ remaining on the 28th.
Ruff – 45 were recorded at North Duffield Carrs on the 2nd with 44 counted on the WeBS survey on the 20th.
Black-tailed Godwit – Numbers started to increased with eight at Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd, followed by 11 by the 6th and 21 by the 13th. 23 were present on the 17th followed by 14 on the 19th/20th - increasing to 34 (including a single colour-ringed bird) on the 27th.
Black-headed Gull – 7,000 were present at the Wheldrake roost on the 6th with 9,000 on the 14th and 12,000+ on the 23rd.
Common Gull – 300 were at the Wheldrake roost on the 6th with 1,000 by the 14th and 4000+ on the 23rd.
Mediterranean Gull – The long staying regular second-winter bird was present again at Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd, with a first-winter individual on the 17th and an adult at the Bank Island pre-roost on the 24th.
Herring Gull – 300 were still present at the Wheldrake roost on the 6th.
Greater Black-backed Gull – A mere two were present at the Wheldrake roost on the 2nd and 6th.
Lesser Black-backed Gull – One or two were noted in the Wheldrake roost throughout the month with seven there on the 28th.
Stock Dove – 130 at Bank Island on the 17th was a notable count, with 30 at Thornton on the 27th.
Skylark – Singles at Bank Island and Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd were observed in full song. 26 were singing and holding territory in and around the NNR on the 20th, including several over the flooded Ings.
Woodlark – The first of the year (three singing males), were present at Skipwith Common NNR on the 15th, with one singing on the 17th and 3-4 present daily thereafter to month end.
Water Pipit – Two were observed at North Duffield Carrs on the 22nd before being flushed by a Marsh Harrier and Peregrine - flying off up the riverbank to the north (OM).
Grey Wagtail – Three birds remained at Bank Island throughout the month with a pair at Church Bridge and a single at Elvington on the 25th.
Stonechat – Pairs were still present at Wheldrake and Melbourne, with two pairs at North Duffield Carrs during the month.
Raven – Two were present between Crockey Hill and Fulford on the 18th.
Starling – 3,000 were at Ellerton Ings on several dates between the 25th and month end.
Fieldfare – 500 were noted at Bank Island on the 12th – an influx on recent weeks. A further notable 1,670 were counted around the NNR on the 20th - perhaps a suggestion of return passage taking place.
Marsh Tit – A single was present in a Melbourne garden on the 6th and 9th, with one at Elvington on the 26th.
Willow Tit – Two were observed in the car park area at North Duffield Carrs on the 2nd, with three at Wheldrake Ings on the same date. A singing bird was at the Melbourne Arm on the 10th.
Brambling – Up to five were still present at Thornton on the 20th including a stunning spring male. Numbers had increased by the 27th with a total of 20 present.
Greenfinch – A notable flock of 50 were at Thornton on the 20th.
Tree Sparrow – 40 were present in a large mixed finch flock at Thornton on the 20th.
Siskin – Up to 100 remained in the Melbourne Arm area early in the month with 60 remaining on the 14th.
Linnet – 350 were recorded at Thornton throughout the month, with 50 at Bubwith on the 20th and 250 remaining at Thornton at month end.
Yellowhammer – A flock of 100 remained along Intake Lane at Bubwith on the 20th.