Lower Derwent Valley NNR - January Sightings
A total of 108 species were recorded in and around the reserve on the 3rd, with plenty of coverage across the site as several teams took part in the annual bird race. A total of 119 species were recorded by month end.
A great start to the years birding was had with some typical winter watching to be enjoyed - the resident Whooper Swan herd built up to 192 and were again joined by two Bewick’s Swans. 2000 Greylag Geese attracted 680 wintering Pink-footed Geese (with several other groups on the move towards month end). Eight White-fronted Geese, three Tundra Bean Geese and a single Barnacle were also present. 10,200 Wigeon and 5,500 Teal were recorded, with spring passage seeing numbers of other species start to increase including 492 Pintail, 173 Shoveler and 157 Gadwall. A male and female Smew lingered from December’s influx with a Bittern recorded on the 11th.
10 or 11 wintering Marsh Harriers put on a great display alongside five Peregrines, with two regular Merlin also reported during the month. Coots started to return to the site during the month, with the first returning Oystercatcher on the 29th followed by three Black-tailed Godwits. Up to 7,000+ Lapwing and 2,800 Golden Plover were recorded with 358 Dunlin representing a good count in recent years. A wintering Green Sandpiper was also present. Up to four Mediterranean Gulls and a single Caspian Gull provided interest during the gull roost, whilst a single Short-eared Owl and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker were notable. Warblers were also well accounted for, with the Dusky Warbler remaining until at least the 22nd, along with two Common and two Siberian Chiffchaffs, Blackcap and two Cetti’s Warblers.
Many thanks as always to those 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, credited DB.
Whooper Swan – Up to 121 were present across the reserve on the 2nd/3rd, with 192 recorded on the monthly WeBS count on the 23rd.
Bewick’s Swan – A family party of two adults and three juveniles were present at Derwent Farm near North Duffield Carrs on the 1st. Two adults (presumably the regularly returning pair), were present with the Whooper Swan herd on the 23rd, remaining thereafter to month end.
Mute Swan – 86 were recorded during the monthly WeBS count on the 23rd.
Greylag Goose – 2,000+ were still present throughout the site during the first few days of the year, with 1,200 at Wheldrake Ings on the 9th, when a total of 1,370 were recorded throughout the site. 900+ were still present over the WeBS weekend count on the 23rd.
Canada Goose – 300+ were recorded over the New Year with 346 on the 23rd.
Pink-footed Goose – Up to 400 were recorded in the area on the 1st and 2nd with 589 in the Wheldrake/Storwood and East Cottingwith area between the 4th-10th. Numbers increased thereafter with 680 at Wheldrake Ings between the 16th-21st. A return north/north-west passage then started towards the end of the month, with two presumed passage skeins (120 and 230 flying east over Thorganby and Wheldrake Ings) on the 21st, followed by 150 over Melbourne on the 22nd and 240 over on the 23rd during the WeBS count, alongside the 600 ‘resident’ wintering birds. 217 passage birds went north-west on the 28th.
White-fronted Goose – Three lingering birds were present at Thorganby on the 7th and 13th. Two individuals were then recorded in the Storwood/Wheldrake area on 19th when six also appeared in a flock of 150 Greylag Geese over Bank Island. Two were then present with Greylag Geese feeding in flooded arable between Skipwith and North Duffield village on the 26th.
Tundra Bean Goose – Two adults were recorded at Aughton Ings on the 2nd (CSR) with three then reported from Allerthorpe on the 3rd (JL, RB). Three flew north at Aughton Ings on the 13th.
Egyptian Goose – Five were still present at Wheldrake Ings on the 8th/9th with eight (displaying) birds on the usual pond network at East Cottingwith on the 23rd.
Barnacle Goose – A single at Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd (remaining from the end of 2021), was present in the area until at least the 9th.
Shelduck – 70+ were present in the Wheldrake area on the 2nd with 86 counted throughout the site on the 23rd. 72 were at Bank Island on the 31st.
Wigeon – 10,230 were recorded across the site on the 2nd including 8,700 at Wheldrake Ings on that date. 9,698 were present on the monthly WeBS count on the 23rd.
Teal – A monthly maximum of 5,500 on the 23rd.
Mallard – A monthly maximum of 1,667 on the 23rd.
Gadwall – Numbers increased to 157 by the 23rd.
Shoveler – 132 were recorded on the 2nd followed by 141 on the 19th and 173 on the 23rd.
Pintail – 321 were present throughout the site on the 2nd with an increase thereafter, with 360 at Wheldrake Ings on the 16th and a total of 428 across the whole site on the 18th. Numbers had built up to 492 by the 23rd.
Tufted Duck – 52 were recorded across the site on the 2nd however numbers then decreased as water levels receded, leaving just 11 on the 23rd. 30 were present on the 31st.
Pochard – Nine drakes and a duck were present at Wheldrake on the 2nd with three or four lingering until the 10th. Absent thereafter until a single drake reappeared on the pool at Wheldrake on the 29th.
Goldeneye – 11 were present on the pool at Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd with nine there again on the 10th and 14 between the 15th - 18th later increasing to 17 by the 29th.
Smew – Single redheads were at Hemingbrough and Sutton-upon-Derwent on the 3rd. A drake was seen on the river at Aughton on the 6th with a red-head at Wheldrake again on the 7th and 18th.
Goosander – A single flew over Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd with one present there the next day.
Little Grebe – Up to six birds were on wintering territories on the Pocklington Canal during the month, with three at Wheldrake, six at North Duffield Carrs and scattered singles or pairs along the Derwent – an estimated 16. 11 were on the Pocklington Canal at Storwood on the 21st with six at Melbourne on the 22nd.
Little Egret – Four were seen by the River Derwent at Sutton/Elvington on the 1st, followed by two at Wheldrake on the 3rd, and singles at Melbourne on the 5th and Wheldrake on the 12th. Three were roosting at Wheldrake regularly throughout the month, no doubt accounting for many of the sightings.
Bittern – One at Aughton Ings on the 11th.
Marsh Harrier – Six were still present across the reserve on the 2nd with the wing-tagged bird (D3), present at Wheldrake on the 4th with up to nine thought to be in the area from the 7th. Seven were recorded on the 18th with eight in the Aughton area on the 21st (not including wing tagged D3 but two immature males). At least 10 or 11 individuals were thought to be involved during the month.
Hen Harrier – A single ringtail was present at North Duffield Carrs at dawn on the 13th.
Red Kite – A single at Wheldrake on the 2nd with another at North Duffield Carrs on the 3rd. Regular scattered sightings continued throughout the month with one over the NNR Base at Bank Island on the 28th.
Peregrine – Up to five individuals lingered throughout the month.
Merlin – A single was seen hunting Pied Wagtails at North Duffield Carrs on the 3rd with another at Wheldrake on the same date and again on the 7th. A single was at Wheldrake Ings again on the 14th with one at North Duffield Carrs on the 19th.
Grey Partridge – Two were present at Bank Island on the 2nd and 18th.
Water Rail – Up to eight were present in the reedbed area at Wheldrake early in the month with four in the Melbourne area, three at Thornton Ellers and singles at Bank Island and North Duffield Carrs. Three were calling at Bank Island at dusk on the 18th in addition to another two on the riverbank there - a minimum of 21 calling birds across the reserve during the month.
Coot – Numbers increased with eight at Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd reaching at least 40 individuals by the 23rd.
Oystercatcher – The first returning bird was at North Duffield Carrs on the 29th.
Golden Plover – 1,900 were at Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd followed by 2,200 on the 3rd. 3,100 were at North Duffield Carrs and Ings on the 4th. 1,000+ remained at Wheldrake on the 10th with 1,800 at East Cottingwith Ings on the same date – total of 2,800 throughout. 2,000+ were recorded again at Wheldrake on the 12th. 1,500+ were still at Wheldrake on the 16th and thereafter to month end.
Lapwing – 7,000+ remained early in the month with 5350 at Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd. 3,000 were still present at Wheldrake on the 9th with 6,700 throughout the site on the 10th. Large numbers remained thereafter with 4,000+ at Wheldrake Ings on the 16th. 3,900+ remained on the 23rd with 4,000+ at month end.
Snipe – 50+ were present at a day time roost at Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd. 100+ were feeding along the river bank at Aughton after dark on the 11th, when two were amazingly drumming in temperatures of one degrees. 418 were logged across the site on the monthly WeBS count on the 23rd.
Jack Snipe – Three were at Skipwith Common NNR on the 3rd with a single at Wheldrake on the 10th. Another individual was found at a different site at Skipwith on the 12th, 18th and 19th with one at Thornton Ellers on the 23rd.
Woodcock – Four flew onto Wheldrake Ings at dusk over the car park area on the 3rd with 11 after dark there on the 4th. Survey work at Skipwith throughout the month estimated a wintering population of 25-30+ birds on site.
Curlew – 24 were present at Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd, remaining throughout the month - last recorded count was 25 at Wheldrake on the 29th.
Dunlin – 240 were present throughout the site on the 2nd with 296 at Aughton Ings on the 11th and 358 on the 23rd. 111 were counted at Wheldrake on the 29th.
Ruff – 47 were recorded throughout the reserve on the 2nd.
Redshank – Up to 20 were present early in the month, with 41 counted along the riverbank at Aughton on the 11th, with a similar number reported at North Duffield Carrs on the 26th.
Black-tailed Godwit – A single was present at Wheldrake Ings on the 23rd with three there on the 29th.
Green Sandpiper – One at Melbourne Ings on the 3rd.
Black-headed Gull – 15,000+ were recorded at the Wheldrake roost on the 2nd with 20,000 there on the 3rd - numbers then fell to around 3,000 following the freezing conditions on the 23rd.
Common Gull – 5,000+ were present at the Wheldrake roost on the 2nd followed by 6,000 on the 3rd with numbers then down to only 600 on the 23rd.
Mediterranean Gull – Two adults and a second winter type were present at the Wheldrake roost on the 2nd with an adult there on the 3rd. A second and first winter were present on the 4th with the second winter remaining on the 8th/9th. What was presumably the same second year bird was present at Aughton on the 10th - the same date an adult roosted at Wheldrake Ings. The second winter bird was reported regularly thereafter to month end.
Caspian Gull – A first winter at the Wheldrake roost on the 9th (JL, DB).
Herring Gull – Numbers generally remained low, but had increased to 170 by the 9th - up to 300 were recorded on the 23rd.
Greater Black-backed Gull – Up to 70 were present at the Wheldrake roost by the 9th but only two remained on the 23rd.
Lesser Black-backed Gull – Singles were present on the 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 14th and 21st.
Short-eared Owl – One on the Low Grounds on the 3rd.
Great Spotted Woodpecker – A bird was drumming for extended periods at Wheldrake Ings on the 23rd with two drumming at Skipwith Common NNR on the 27th.
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker – A single appeared at Bank Island briefly before flying off towards Wheldrake and Thorganby on the 26th (MFJ, CSR).
Water Pipit – A single winter plumaged bird was found at Hagg Bridge on the 3rd, and was relocated the following day when a second bird was possibly heard calling. Two birds were present there on the 5th with at least one remaining thereafter until the 10th.
Stonechat – Three were still present at Wheldrake on the 2nd with another pair at Thornton Ellers on the 3rd when two were at North Duffield Carrs. Two were present by East Cottingwith Cemetery on the 9th with three by Cheesecake Farm throughout the month.
Nuthatch – A single was present on the riverbank at Wheldrake Ings on the 7th, 13th and 16th, with a single then present in a Thorganby garden from the 17th.
Starling – A single flock of c15,000 flew fast, low and direct over Bank Island towards Wheldrake Ings at 1645hrs on the 19th - continuing over Wheldrake towards Thorganby, clearly en-route to a large roost.
Cetti’s Warbler – A single bird was present by the canal at Melbourne between the 3rd - 5th and again on the 8th, with another at Wheldrake Ings (Pool Hide) on the 22nd.
Dusky Warbler – Last month’s single remained but was elusive, present until at least the 22nd.
Chiffchaff – A single was at Wheldrake Ings on the 1st with one at Bank Island on the 19th.
Siberian Chiffchaff – A single showing characteristics of Siberian was present at Elvington Sewage Works between the 16th - 20th. Another was found in the central part of Skipwith Common NNR on the 28th (NC, MR), skulking in bramble and bracken and calling occasionally.
Blackcap – A male was present in an Elvington garden for a few days mid-month from the 19th.
Marsh Tit – A single in the Wheldrake car park lane on the 5th was followed by one in a Thorganby garden on the 9th and Thicket Priory on the 14th.
Willow Tit – Up to five were recorded at Wheldrake Ings regularly throughout the month.
Goldfinch – 180 were present in the Melbourne area on the 1st with 100 near Church Bridge, Melbourne on the 17th.
Brambling – Up to eight remained at Thornton early in the month with a flock of 30 at Cheesecake Farm, Wheldrake on the 3rd and 11th.
Crossbill – Three singing birds were present at Skipwith Common NNR on the 27th (NC, MR).
Linnet – Up to 250 were roosting at Wheldrake Ings during the month with 200 at Bank Island. 300 were present at Thornton on the 1st with 200 still at Bank Island on the 11th, with an additional 150-200 at Intake Lane, Bubwith. 200 were near Church Lane, Melbourne on the 17th.
Yellowhammer – Up to 90 were recorded along Intake Lane, Bubwith on the 23rd with 30 at Thornton Ellers on the same date.
Corn Bunting – 71 were roosting in Melbourne at Church Bridge reedbed on the 3rd.
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