Lower Derwent Valley NNR - January Sightings
A combination of lockdown restrictions and extensive flooding both limited access, and resulted in a reduction in records and monitoring throughout the month, however, an impressive 118 species of birds were recorded during December. The highlight of the month was the discovery of a ringed, overwintering Lesser Whitethroat in an Elvington garden between the 18th and 23rd – ringing details showed this to be a bird of the eastern race Blythi, ringed at Bempton Cliffs RSPB reserve on the 10th October 2020. Records of both Blackcap and Chiffchaff in the area were also notable, although more expected. A Green Winged Teal (3rd and 12th), and Red-breasted Merganser (7th) were also noteworthy, whilst a new record count of 823 Pintail were logged during the month, which saw a large clear out of wintering birds due to the extreme flooding that occurred. Two Bewick’s Swans were present with three Tundra Beans and nine White-fronted Geese, whilst another Cattle Egret was logged on the 26th. Gulls attracted to abattoir waste on fields near Skipwith attracted two Iceland, three Caspian, a Mediterranean and Yellow Legged Gull among the masses of commoner species. The site also attracted large numbers of scavenging Common Buzzards, a handful of Red Kites and a Raven on the 12th.
Many thanks as always to everyone who contributed to the monthly sightings, either through records or photographs, in particular thanks to members of York Birding and regular patch birder Duncan Bye - thanks also to Duncan, Adam Firth and Mikey Naylor for the use of their images.
Mute Swan – Up to 93 were present on site during the month.
Whooper Swan – Numbers increased with freezing conditions early in the month, with 94 on the 1st and 155 on the 2nd (including 10 at Melbourne Ings). 140 were still present (including 18 immatures) in the North Duffield area on the 4th. 171 were recorded throughout the site on the 8th with 119 at North Duffield Carrs on the 18th.
Bewick’s Swan – A single adult remained with 129 Whooper Swans in the herd at Derwent Farm on the 1st - remaining there until the 7th. Two individuals were then present in the herd from the 8th to month end.
Greylag Goose – Counts on the 12th included 465 at Bank Island, 411 at Bubwith Ings, 277 at Wheldrake Ings and 66 at Elvington – a minimum overall count of 1219 on that date. 714 were at Bank Island on the 14th.
Pink-footed Goose – 120 flew over Wheldrake Ings on the 1st followed by 100 over Skipwith Common NNR on the 2nd, when a single was also present at North Duffield. Six grounded birds were present in goose flocks around the site on the 3rd when 124 passed over Bank Island. Three were present at Thorganby Ings on the 4th- 10th before moving to Bank Island thereafter. 60 passed over Bank Island on the 10th with 46 flying north west on the 13th. 14 were present with Greylags at Bank Island on the 14th and 15th, with 70 over on the 16th. 150 north west over Bubwith Ings on the 18th were followed by 250 over Skipwith Common NNR on the 19th and 180 over Thorganby Ings on the 23rd.
Tundra Bean Goose – A single was present in the Greylag flock at Bank Island on the 15th (CSR) with three there on the 25th.
White-fronted Goose – A single was present at Storwood on the 1st with flocks of six at Wheldrake on the 2nd and nine at Derwent Farm, North Duffield – both flocks lingering from 2020. Six were present at Elvington between the 3rd – 9th with a single at Wheldrake on the 13th - the flock of six then relocated to Newton Mask on the 17th. It’s possible this flock of six remained in the area thereafter with a sighting again on the 30th, when 13 were also present at Wheldrake before heading up the Pocklington Canal corridor.
Canada Goose – 277 were present throughout the site on the 12th.
Egyptian Goose – Two were present at Wheldrake Ings on the 3rd with five recorded in the East Cottingwith area on the same date. Two over Melbourne Ings on the 6th were followed by two at Wheldrake again on the 13th.
Shelduck – 130+ remained across the reserve on the 2nd, with 110 recorded in the favoured Thorganby Ings area. The hybrid returned to Wheldrake Ings on the 4th having been seen in several previous winters.
Wigeon – A minimum of 8500 were present on a part frozen reserve on the 2nd - mainly concentrated along the unfrozen river and at Wheldrake Ings.
Teal – 7000+ were present across the site on the 2nd.
Green-winged Teal – A drake was found at North Duffield Carrs on the 3rd (JL) and was present again there on the 12th (MN).
Pintail – 517 were concentrated by the freezing conditions at Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd, with 700+ throughout the reserve on the 4th. 823 were present across the whole site on the 8th – a new reserve record.
Tufted Duck – 80 were still present during the first week of the year.
Pochard – 18 were recorded at Wheldrake on the 2nd, increasing to 37 there on the 8th. A total of 51 were recorded throughout the site on the 12th, with numbers increasing thereafter with a total of 118 recorded on the 31st.
Goosander – A pair flew over Thornton Ellers on the 3rd, with a single over Bank Island and a pair on the Pocklington Canal at Melbourne on the 6th. This pair lingered thereafter with regular sightings until the 18th.
Red-breasted Merganser – A drake flew north up the Derwent with two drakes and a female Goosander early on the morning of the 7th – possibly having roosted at Wheldrake Ings overnight (CSR).
Goldeneye – 12 were at Wheldrake Ings on the 4th, with numbers then increasing due to the extensive deep flooding, which resulted in 20 at Wheldrake on the 17th.
Great Crested Grebe – A single was present at Wheldrake Ings on the 9th and 10th.
Little Egret – A single over Wheldrake Ings on the 3rd was followed by one at Elvington Bridge on the 6th. One flew east towards Thornton Wood over Church Bridge, Melbourne, at dusk on the 26th. Singles remained in the same area daily to month end.
Cattle Egret – One flew east towards Thornton Wood over Church Bridge, Melbourne, at dusk on the 26th, shortly followed by a Little Egret.
Cormorant – 25 flew over the Pocklington Canal at Melbourne on the 15th.
Coot – A single remained at North Duffield Carrs from the 1st.
Marsh Harrier – Wing-tagged bird ‘D3’ was present at Bank Island on the 1st, with five birds (including ‘D3’) recorded from North Duffield Carrs on the 2nd. A single cream-crown was observed at Skipwith Common NNR on the 4th, with two un-tagged individuals still present at Bank Island on the 12th.
Peregrine – Seen regularly throughout the reserve with up to four individuals present – a single over Skipwith Common NNR on the 12th was more unusual.
Merlin – A single flew through the NNR base garden at Bank Island on the 5th.
Red Kite – Two lingered in the Thorganby Ings area early in the month, with sightings on the 1st and 2nd. Three were in the same area on the 3rd with a single also present at Bank Island. A single was at North Duffield Carrs on the 4th when two were also present over Storwood. Three were recorded near Skipwith Common NNR on the 5th with four on the 8th and three regularly thereafter. One was present at Bank Island on the 21st.
Grey Partridge – Three near South Duffield on the 4th with nine on the 5th. 12 were observed near Newton Mask on the 17th.
Water Rail – Flooding brought two individuals into the car park scrub at Wheldrake on the 1st and 2nd. Two birds were wintering on the Canal at Melbourne on the 4th and 6th - remaining thereafter to month end.
Oystercatcher – The first returning bird was present at Wheldrake Ings on the 28th.
Lapwing – 2000+ remained throughout the reserve during the month.
Golden Plover – Numbers on the Ings grasslands remained low with extensive flooding, although 1000 were observed on arable at Derwent Farm on the 12th.
Jack Snipe – One or two individuals were present at North Duffield Ings on the 1st and 3rd, and again on the 16th.
Woodcock – A single was flushed by beaters adjacent to North Duffield Carrs on the 1st with regular sightings across Skipwith Common NNR during the month. One was present at Church Bridge Melbourne on the 6th, with one in the Wheldrake Ings car park woodland on the 17th. Three were recorded on Adder Heath at Skipwith Common NNR on the 18th, with eight on Nightjar Heath on the 19th. Numbers wintering on the Common during the month from numerous sample counts were likely to be in the region of 30-40 wintering individuals.
Curlew – Six were present at Wheldrake Ings on the 1st. The following day 12 were feeding during the daytime in floodwater in Elvington, with 25 then roosting at Wheldrake during the evening. On the 17th the number of roosting birds at Wheldrake had reached 27.
Black-tailed Godwit – Up to two birds were observed at Wheldrake on the 1st and 2nd, and were followed by three on the 3rd and four on the 4th. A single remained between the 8th-10th, with numbers back to two again on the 12th. One remained on the 30th with two again on the 31st.
Dunlin – Up to 100 remained across the reserve on the 1st and 2nd, with 160 present on arable at Derwent Farm during freezing conditions on the 8th.
Ruff – Up to 80 remained early in the month.
Green Sandpiper – A single near Skipwith Common NNR on the 12th (CSR), was followed by another, picked up dead, near Melbourne on the 15th - possibly the individual seen in the same area during December. The unfortunate individual was ringed in July at Wheldrake Ings, and gives the first indication as to the link between autumn passage birds remaining to overwinter in the area.
Mediterranean Gull – An adult at Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd (CSR) with a second winter individual at Skipwith on the 10th (CG).
Black-headed Gull – Numbers at the Wheldrake roost increased quickly with an estimated 20,000 there on the 7th. 16,000 were counted there on the 10th with extensive flooding attracting 30,000+ on the 21st.
Common Gull – 10,000 roosted at Wheldrake Ings on the 7th with 7000 recorded on the 10th.
Greater Black-backed Gull – 100 were present in fields adjacent to Skipwith Common NNR on the 2nd with 400 there by the 6th. 500 roosted at Wheldrake Ings on the 7th.
Lesser Black-backed Gull – A single was present near South Duffield on the 4th with one in fields near Skipwith Common NNR on the 8th.
Herring Gull – Up to 800 were present in fields by Skipwith Common NNR early in the month, whilst the numbers at the Wheldrake roost built up to 1500 by the 7th.
Caspian Gull – A single adult in fields adjacent to Skipwith Common NNR on the 2nd (CSR, DB) with a different large individual present there on the 5th (OM). A second winter bird was then present on the 6th (TJ). An adult and first winter were present on the 8th.
Yellow Legged Gull – A single adult in fields adjacent to Skipwith Common NNR on the 2nd (CSR, DB) and again on the 5th (CSR, NC, MR) and 27th.
Iceland Gull – An adult near South Duffield on the 4th (CSR, DB) and again in fields at Skipwith Common NNR on the 5th (CSR, NC, MR, OM). It was then present at this site from the 6th, with two adults in the same area recorded on the 7th with one again on the 8th. A single individual roosted at Wheldrake Ings on the 9th (DB) with one still in the Skipwith area on the 27th.
Pied Wagtail – Up to 150 were present in fields near Skipwith Common NNR between the 1st – 10th, with 40 at Melbourne on the 8th and 60 feeding amongst flood debris at Bubwith Ings on the 9th. 230 were present adjacent to Skipwith Common NNR on the 12th.
Stonechat – Early in the month up to three were still present at Bank Island, Wheldrake Ings, and East Cottingwith, with four at North Duffield Carrs and two at Thorganby on the 2nd, when two pairs were also present in the Melbourne area. A single was observed at Skipwith Common NNR on the 4th, with a pair there on the 5th. Extensive flooding towards the end of the month presumably displaced many birds away from the Ings, although a single bird remained at Bank Island on the 25th with a pair at Melbourne to month end.
Cetti’s Warbler – Wintering birds remained at Melbourne, Church Bridge, from the 1st, with two at East Cottingwith and one at North Duffield Carrs on the same date.
Blackcap – A single wintering bird was present in an Elvington garden on the 1st and remained throughout the month until at least the 20th.
Chiffchaff – A single at Elvington on the 9th.
Lesser Whitethroat – A single, confirmed of the race Blythi, was present in an Elvington garden, feeding on fat balls on the 18th (AF). It was still present on the 19th and was seen again, on and off, until the 23rd.
Raven – A single was feeding with gulls, corvids, buzzards and kites at Skipwith on the 12th (CSR).
Jay – More numerous as birds roamed widely in response to cold weather. Six were at Thorganby on the 8th with seven in a loose flock at Skipwith Common NNR on the 12th.
Nuthatch – One was calling at Thorganby viewing platform on the 2nd, with another by Elvington churchyard on the 3rd, followed by one on Skipwith Common NNR on the 6th. A further record came from Elvington on the 9th whilst birds were recorded regularly at Skipwith Common NNR until month end.
Marsh Tit – One in the NNR base garden at Bank Island on the 5th, with regular sightings from Crook Moor, Thorganby during the month.
Greenfinch – Signs of the ongoing recovery included a total of four caught and ringed at Bank Island on the 4th, with 12 reported from an Elvington garden on the 7th.
House Sparrow – 40+ remained at the NNR base garden feeding station from the 1st.
Tree Sparrow – Up to 40 were at Bank Island on the 1st with 40 at Skipwith Common NNR on the 2nd.
Lesser Redpoll – 120 at Skipwith Common NNR on the 2nd, with small numbers (up to ten) in the Bank Island/Wheldrake Ings area early in the month. 50 were present in canal-side Alders at Melbourne on the 2nd.
Siskin – Up to 60 were present during the month at Melbourne in alders alongside the Pocklington Canal.
Crossbill – Three or four calling birds were present at Skipwith Common NNR on the 20th (MR).
Brambling – A single was present in a garden at Seaton Ross on the 3rd.
Bullfinch – A total of 38 individuals were caught and ringed at Bank Island during the month.
Corn Bunting – 20 were present at Hagg Lane at East Cottingwith on the 3rd when five were also present in the Seaton Ross/Laytham area.
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