Lower Derwent Valley NNR - February Sightings
Another excellent month with some notable records and counts, and a mix of winter and passage movements. Highlights included up to four Red-head Smew and four popular Tundra Bean Geese that lingered from the 4th-17th, as well as the first spring passage flock of nocturnal Common Scoter and two Hen Harriers including the long staying individual. A single first-winter Caspian Gull, five Mediterranean Gulls, a Raven and the first returning Woodlark added additional interest.
Wintering wildfowl included 176 Whooper Swans with the first return passage noted late in the month, whilst up to 600 Pink-footed Geese remained (in addition to 1763 passage birds logged heading back north-west). Other notable counts (presumably with returning passage) included 9150 Wigeon, 7717 Teal, 543 Pintail, 495 Gadwall, 248 Shoveler and 235 Coot. In addition to the Hen Harrier up to eight Marsh Harriers remained with up to 10 Red Kites noted – a record day count on the 27th. A Grey Plover on the 19th was notable as were the 7018 Lapwing on that date, whilst 1990 Snipe (and 11 Jacks) indicated some passage movement through the site - the first drumming Snipe was noted towards month end. Spring passage and returning breeding birds saw up to 103 Curlew back by month end, with 39 Ruff, 90 Black-tailed Godwit and one or two Green Sandpiper. Up to 80,000 Starlings continued to show well at North Duffield Carrs/Aughton to month end.
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 Bye, Tim Jones, David Salisbury and James Wild for the use of their images below.
Mute Swan – 69 were recorded on the monthly WeBS count on the 19th.
Whooper Swan – The month opened with 176 remaining from January. 143 were recorded at North Duffield Carrs on the 12th followed by 144 on the WeBS count on the 19th. 112 flew out of the roost at Wheldrake Ings at dawn on the 24th.
The first passage flock of 37 paused at Wheldrake Ings on the 21st with 30+ departing Wheldrake and heading north over the village after dark on the 26th.
Pink-footed Geese – 600 remained throughout the month until the 18th with 300 thereafter, although they were more elusive than previously (feeding in surrounding fields for much of the month returning to the Ings after dark). 300 still present at Wheldrake on the 26th.
120 flew over Bank Island on the 1st followed by 57 on the 2nd and 150 on the 3rd. 29 paused for less than an hour at Wheldrake on the 4th followed by 38 there on the 6th. 130 flew north-west at Wheldrake on the 11th. 200 passed over the reserve on the 15th followed by 30 on the 16th and 120 on the 17th. 430 passed over the NNR high on the 21st with skeins of 220 and 139 following on the 22nd. 100+ flew over Skipwith Common NNR on the 27th. A total of 1763 passage birds were recorded during the month.
Greylag Goose – Numbers declined quickly as usual during the month with just 215 remaining by the 19th.
Tundra Bean Goose – Four were present (with a Pink-footed Goose) at Bank Island and Wheldrake Ings between the 4th – 17th – proving to be a rather popular attraction.
European White fronted Goose – A single recorded from North Duffield Carrs on the 27th.
Canada Goose – There was a big reduction in wintering birds early in the month with just 43 (presumed local breeders) recorded throughout the wider area on the 19th.
Egyptian Goose – Up to seven individuals were recorded regularly throughout the month in the Wheldrake/Bank Island and East Cottingwith areas.
Shelduck – 100+ remained throughout the month with 115 counted on the 19th.
Wigeon – A monthly maximum of 9152 were recorded on the WeBS on the 19th.
Teal – Good numbers remained throughout with 7717 present on the 19th.
Gadwall –180 were counted at Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd with a total of 366 present throughout the whole site on that date. Numbers increased quickly with 300+ at Wheldrake Ings on the 7th with an additional 89 at North Duffield Carrs. The monthly WeBS count on the 19th produced a total of 495 with 200 at Wheldrake Ings a week later on the 26th.
Mallard – 1000+ were present early in the month with 603 on the 19th.
Pintail – Up to 400 remained across the reserve early in the month with 496 throughout the site on the 12th. A full count during the monthly WeBS resulted in a total of 657 throughout the site. 310 were present in the Wheldrake/Bank Island area on the 25th with 543 throughout the reserve on the 26th.
Shoveler – Numbers increased to 100+ at Wheldrake Ings on the 7th when 190 were recorded throughout the site. Numbers had reached 248 by the 19th.
Tufted Duck – 60 were recorded at Wheldrake Ings on the 7th, increasing to 97 throughout the site on the 19th.
Scaup – Last month’s individual was still present on the 1st but wasn’t seen again during the remainder of the month.
Pochard – Small numbers present with five at Wheldrake on the 11th followed by eight briefly on the 19th and five again on the 25th.
Goldeneye – Up to 13 were at Wheldrake Ings early in the month followed by 15 on the 11th and 13 again on the 19th. Nine remained at Wheldrake on the 26th.
Smew – A single red-head was at Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd with two then appearing there the following day on the 3rd. A single remained on the 4th with two reappearing once again on the 19th. Four red-heads were then present together at Wheldrake on the 20th with three present on the 24th, four on the 25th -26th and two to month end.
Common Scoter – The first nocturnal passage flock was recorded over North Duffield Carrs on the 21st.
Goosander – Six were at Wheldrake on the 2nd followed by 13 on the 5th and 11 between the 11th – 18th. Three were still present on the 25th with two at Wheldrake/Bank Island on the 28th.
Cormorant – 36 were at the Wheldrake roost on the 12th followed by 60 on the 19th.
Little Egret – One or two were recorded daily early in the month, with an increase in frequency of sightings as breeding birds started to return to the area.
Great White Egret – A single was present again at Hagg Bridge on the 1st and Wheldrake on the 2nd - remaining there throughout the rest of the month.
Little Grebe – Birds started to return to the flooded Ings to breeding sites from around mid-month.
Great Crested Grebe – The first returning bird was at Wheldrake Ings on the 12th.
Marsh Harrier – Five were still present in the Bank Island/Wheldrake Ings area on the 10th with three at Wheldrake Ings on the 25th – an estimated seven/eight birds still wintering across the reserve (recorded on the 18th).
Hen Harrier – The long staying immature bird was seen at Bank Island on the 3rd with another at Heslington Tilmire on the 6th. Individuals were also recorded from Wheldrake Ings and the Low Grounds at Hagg Bride on the 11th, North Duffield Carrs on the 18th and 24th, and Wheldrake Ings on the 20th and 24th-25th. Two juveniles were present across the reserve on the 27th.
Red Kite – Four were recorded at Wheldrake on the 11th with six in the same area on the 24th. A ‘group’ of 10 were present in the Wheldrake/Escrick area on the 27th.
Peregrine – Up to five wintering birds remained throughout the month.
Grey Partridge – A pair were recorded at Bank Island throughout the month with a pair also at Wheldrake Ings on the 11th.
Water Rail – Up to 14 calling birds were recorded on wintering territories during the month.
Coot – Numbers increased early in the month with 26 on the 6th followed by 126 at Wheldrake on the 11th and 235 across the whole site on the 19th. 222 were recorded at Wheldrake on the 26th.
Oystercatcher – A single was recorded overnight at Elvington on the 3rd/4th with two pairs back on the reserve on the 4th. Two were at Wheldrake on the 11th with a pair at North Duffield Carrs on the 12th. Seven were recorded on the WeBS count on the 19th.
Golden Plover – 215 were recorded on the 19th with 150 at Wheldrake on the 25th and 374 on the 26th.
Grey Plover – A single was present at North Duffield Carrs on the 19th.
Lapwing – c2000 were at Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd (a return following the freezing conditions in mid-January). 4000+ were present throughout the site on the 5th with 6500 recorded on the 11th (including 4000 at Wheldrake Ings) and 7018 on the 19th. c5000 were at Wheldrake Ings on the 22nd followed by c3000 on the 25th.
Snipe – 100+ were recorded on Melbourne and Thornton Ings on the 2nd. 300+ were present at Wheldrake on the 12th, with 200 at North Duffield Ings and 800 at North Duffield Carrs on the 15th. 50 were counted at Bank Island on the 16th – on the same date c200 were also present at Heslington Tilmire). An estimated 1500-2000 were possibly present throughout the reserve during this time, with 1990 recorded on the 19th - presumably a degree of spring passage. The first drumming birds (three) were present after dark at North Duffield Carrs on the 27th with five or six additional chipping birds.
Jack Snipe – Three were at Wheldrake Ings on the 8th followed by two there on the 10th. Two were recorded at North Duffield Ings on the 15th with three also present at North Duffield Carrs. Five were located at the Heslington Tilmire on the 16th with three at Wheldrake on the 17th. A total of 11 were recorded throughout the site on the 19th. A single individual was showing during the day from the hides at North Duffield Carrs on the 24th with three there on the 27th.
Ruff – 39 were recorded throughout the site on the 12th with numbers up to 27 by the 19th.
Dunlin – 150 remained on the reserve on the 11th with 298 recorded throughout the site on the 12th. 200 were at North Duffield Carrs on the 18th with 276 on 19th suggesting a degree of spring passage. 300 were present at North Duffield Carrs on 24th.
Curlew – Up to 27 remained early in the month with 37 at Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd and the first singing bird at Bank Island on the 3rd. 34 were at Wheldrake on the 11th with 69 throughout the site on the 19th. 40 were recorded at Wheldrake on the 25th followed by 66 there the next day on the 26th (with a minimum of 103 across the reserve on that date).
Woodcock – Following extensive flooding last month, up to four were present at Wheldrake Ings after dark early in the month. However, the number of birds feeding on the Ings after dark fell dramatically from the second week of the month, presumably as birds started their return migration. A single was recorded at Wheldrake Ings on the 15th and 17th.
Black-tailed Godwit – Six were at Wheldrake on the 1st with a flock of 20 (including a single colour-ringed bird) arriving in to Wheldrake Ings on the 5th. 90 individuals arrived at the same site on the 7th with 40 remaining there between the 11th – 18th. A flock of 46 were recorded at Wheldrake again on the 19th, increasing to 60 on the 25th with a total of 66 throughout the site on the 26th.
Redshank – Up to 21 were present on the reserve throughout the month.
Green Sandpiper – Single at North Duffield Carrs was heard after dark on the 15th and was present again on the 19th - when two were also recorded at the Hemingbrough Gravel Pits.
Caspian Gull – A first winter bird was again located at the Wheldrake Ings roost on the 4th (a different individual to that recorded in late January).
Black-headed Gull – 15,000 remained at the Wheldrake roost on the 19th.
Mediterranean Gull – A first winter bird was observed at the Wheldrake Ings roost on the 1st and 3rd, with two adults and a first winter on the 4th and a first winter and different adult on the 5th, with just an adult seen on the 6th. Four individuals (two adults and two first winters) were present on the 11th, with two first winters and an adult present on the 12th. A single adult was still present on the 19th.
Common Gull – c5000 were present at the Wheldrake roost on the 19th.
Herring Gull – 100 were at Wheldrake on the 19th.
Great-spotted Woodpecker – Six drumming birds were recorded on Skipwith Common NNR on the 26th.
Green Woodpecker – A single was at Wheldrake Ings on the 11th followed by one at Bank Island on the 19th.
Long-eared Owl – A single calling bird was heard after dark near Wheldrake on the 26th.
Skylark – Two birds were singing over Melbourne Ings on the 1st with single singing birds at Bank Island and Skipwith on the 3rd, and Wheldrake Ings and North Duffield Carrs on the 4th.
Woodlark – The first returning bird was back on Skipwith Common NNR on the 9th, although not singing, with the first (two) singing birds heard there on the 15th followed by five on the 18th and four on the 26th.
Starling – Up to 100,000 remained at the Aughton roost early in the month, proving a popular attraction for visitors to North Duffield Carrs. 80,000 remained on the 12th. Elsewhere, 15,000 flew south at dusk at Wheldrake Ings on the 12th – presumably on their way to joining the Aughton roost.
Song Thrush – A singing bird was present at Melbourne Arm on the 1st followed by one at Bank Island on the 8th.
Raven – A single between Wheldrake and Thorganby on the 21st.
Stonechat – Up to two remained at North Duffield Carrs during the month with one at Ellerton on the 19th.
Cetti’s Warbler – Two were heard at Wheldrake Ings on the 11th.
Willow Tit – Three were seen at Wheldrake on the 11th.
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