Lower Derwent Valley NNR - January Sightings
The month was dominated by extensive flooding and freezing conditions which resulted in some good winter birding – up to 168 Whooper Swans were present along with three Bewick’s (early in the month), with 5200 Pink-footed Geese and 300 Greylag Geese, alongside a brief appearance of up to four Tundra Bean Geese. Notable counts included 12,000 Wigeon, 9000 Teal, 2788 Mallard, with just 24 Pochard - a far cry from the 1000+ (and up to 5000+) that used to winter on the reserve, with numbers falling in line with national trends. A female Scaup and two redhead Smew were additional highlights.
At least eight Marsh Harriers remained with two to four Hen Harriers across the wider area, whilst a Great White Egret was recorded at several sites throughout the month. Wader numbers varied depending upon flooding and the frozen conditions, however, 6120 Lapwing was a notable count, whilst thermal surveys further increased our knowledge around wintering Woodcock in the area. One or two Jack Snipe and a wintering Green Sandpiper were also logged. The Wheldrake gull roost held two different Mediterranean Gulls and a 1st winter Caspian Gull, although the most popular attraction was the Starling murmuration of up to 150,000 individuals at North Duffield Carrs during the month.
Many thanks as always to everyone who submitted records and counts throughout the month, in particular to members of York Birding, and regular patch birder Duncan Bye. Thanks also to Richard Baines, Duncan Bye, Adam Firth, Tim Jones, Stuart Rapson and David Salisbury for the use of their images below.
Mute Swan – Monthly maximum of 83 on the 22nd.
Whooper Swan – 140+ were present across the reserve on the 3rd, followed by 120+ on the 15th and 176 on the 22nd.
Bewicks’ Swan – A party of three (two adults and one juvenile), remained at North Duffield Carrs between the 1st - 8th.
Pink-footed Geese – Up to 3250 roosted on the Low Grounds on the 1st and 2nd with 4000+ there on the 3rd, building up to 5200 between the 6th - 14th. 2500 were present on the 15th, with numbers declining thereafter with 613+ remaining by the 22nd to month end.
In addition to the resident wintering numbers, several high flying ‘directional’ skeins passed over heading north or north-west - likely relating to birds returning to the NW coast. These included skeins of 120 on the 5th, 320 on the 6th and 88 on the 8th – this return spring passage is however now harder to detect given the numbers present around the reserve over the last few years. 90 flew high and east over Bank Island on the 16th, followed by a total of 230 in several skeins on the 18th, followed by 190 on the 19th, 340 on the 20th, 230 on the 21st and 198 on the 22nd. 300+ moved north-west on the 27th followed by 730 over on the 29th and 218 on the 31st.
Greylag Goose – 3000+ were present early in the month with reduced numbers thereafter, with flock's mobile over a wide area in the southern Vale of York. A neck collared bird, originally ringed at the moulting site at Windermere was seen on the reserve and at several other locations (on the Ouse Ings at Acaster and in the Ryther Ings area of the Wharfe Valley) during the month.
Tundra Bean Goose – Four were present at Bank Island on the 17th before flying onto the Low Grounds and then over to Wheldrake Ings. Two flew south at Bubwith on the 27th.
Canada Goose – Monthly maximum of 342 recorded on the WeBS on the 22nd.
Egyptian Goose – A single at Bank Island on the 1st, with one to three regularly there thereafter and up to two throughout the month at Elvington Airfield. 14 were present throughout the site on the 22nd.
Shelduck – Good numbers present throughout, largely in the Thorganby/Ellerton area, where 117 were counted during the WeBS on the 22nd.
Wigeon – 12,052 were recorded on the WeBS counts on the 22nd.
Teal – 9242 were counted during the monthly WeBs on the 22nd.
Gadwall – Numbers fluctuated during the month in response to flooding and freezing conditions. 176 were recorded early on but declined to 54 on the 22nd before 100+ were present on the 29th.
Mallard – 2788 were recorded on the WeBS count on the 22nd.
Pintail – 429 were present throughout the site on the 8th followed by 250 at Wheldrake Ings on the 29th.
Shoveler – 80 were counted at North Duffield Carrs on the 7th with 123 throughout the site on the 29th.
Tufted Duck – 41 at Wheldrake Ings on the 15th was the largest count during the month.
Scaup – Last year's individual remained at Wheldrake Ings between the 1st - 8th - presumably the same bird that relocated to Dringhouses Pond on the 14th. A week later it reappeared at Wheldrake again on the 22nd and remained to month end.
Pochard – Eight were present at Wheldrake Ings on the 1st before moving to Bubwith Ings on the 2nd. 24 were at North Ings (Elvington) on the 14th, with 12 at Wheldrake on the 29th.
Goldeneye – 16 were present throughout the site on the 22nd.
Smew – A redhead was at Storwood on the 1st with two at Wheldrake Ings the following day on the 2nd.
Goosander – 12 were at Wheldrake Ings on the 1st with nine into roost on the 8th and five there on the 15th. Six were on the Low Grounds on the 17th followed by five at Wheldrake Ings on the 22nd and 25th. Two were at Bank Island on the 26th whilst ten roosted at Wheldrake on the 29th - the best showing for several years.
Cormorant – Up to 21 roosted at Wheldrake Ings throughout the month.
Little Egret – Four or five birds were present throughout the site daily during the month with six at Bank Island on the 31st.
Great White Egret – One at Hagg Bridge on the 2nd remained in that area, before moving to the Wheldrake/Bank Island where it was present until the 8th. Presumably the same bird then appeared at Melbourne on the 15th, with one/the same at Thorganby Ings on the 16th, before settling at North Duffield Carrs between the 17th – 22nd and then onto Hagg Bridge on the 26th to month end.
Little Grebe – Freezing conditions concentrated birds on to both the river and Pocklington Canal with 24 recorded on the 22nd.
Marsh Harrier – Three were at Wheldrake Ings on the 1st when five were also at North Duffield Carrs, with three at both Wheldrake and North Duffield Carrs on the 2nd. At least eight remained across the reserve on the 23rd.
Hen Harrier – Last month's immature remained, roosting at North Duffield Carrs on the 1st -2nd. Two ringtails were hunting together in the Low Grounds/Sutton Farm area on the 4th and perhaps accounted for a bird seen on the Tilmire on the 7th. The single juvenile was again present at North Duffield Carrs at dawn on the 8th and regularly thereafter until the 26th, with occasional sightings of another at the Tilmire until the 14th. At least two but possibly three or maybe even four were present in the wider area during the month.
Red Kite – Present throughout with signs of nest site prospecting.
Peregrine – Up to five or six birds were recorded during the month.
Merlin – Singles at Bank Island on the 4th and 17th.
Grey Partridge – Two coveys, totaling 14 birds, were recorded in fields by Wheldrake village on the 3rd followed by 23 there on the 17th. Up to nine remained at Cheesecake Farm on the 21st with 12 nearby on the 24th. Some of the covey sizes started to reduce towards the end of the month as early birds started to pair off.
Water Rail – The month started with five or six calling birds in the Wheldrake reedbed on the 1st, with four or five birds present along the Pocklington Canal and up to three calling birds by the hides at North Duffield Carrs with another two at Bank Island.
Golden Plover – 1370+ were present across the reserve on the 1st, which turned out to be the largest count (very few birds returned to the reserve after leaving the site during the freezing weather).
Lapwing – 4000 were at Wheldrake Ings on the 1st with an estimated 6120 throughout the site on that date – up to 7230 by the 2nd. However, just 161 were recorded after extensive flooding and prolonged freezing conditions on the 22nd.
Snipe – Up to 100 were recorded at Heslington Tilmire throughout the month, with 120 at Wheldrake on the 22nd, followed by 140 at North Duffield Ings on the 23rd and 100+ at Elvington Airfield on the 25th – total of 800 throughout the wider area.
Jack Snipe – Two were recorded at Skipwith Common NNR on the 3rd with three after dark at North Duffield Ings on the same date. Two were also at Skipwith Common NNR on the 8th with one at Wheldrake Ings on the 26th and three there on the 30th.
Ruff – 16 were at Wheldrake Ings on the 1st with 30 at Thorganby Ings on the 16th. Another flock of 16 were present again at Wheldrake on the 29th.
Dunlin – 200+ were at North Duffield Carrs on the 13th with 161 there on the 22nd.
Curlew – Up to 22 remained early in the month with 28 at Wheldrake Ings on the 7th and 25 remaining at month end.
Woodcock – Five were seen on Skipwith Common NNR on the 2nd and 3rd with six in fields in Skipwith village after dark on the 3rd – on the same date four were also at North Duffield Ings. 20+ were present on Heslington Tilmire on the 6th with 50+ there on the 11th to month end. 15 were in the Skipwith area on the 12th followed by 11 at Escrick on the 15th. Four had returned to Wheldrake Ings on the 26th due to the falling water levels.
Black-tailed Godwit – Four remained at Wheldrake into the New Year - increasing to six by month end.
Redshank – Small numbers were scattered throughout the site early in the month with 15 at Thorganby Ings on the 16th.
Green Sandpiper – A single was present near Elvington Airfield after dark on the 5th – presumably the overwintering bird present in late December.
Caspian Gull – A first winter bird was seen again at the Wheldrake Ings roost on the 1st with another there on the 29th.
Black-headed Gull – 20,000 were recorded at the Wheldrake roost on the 7th with 10,000 on the 15th and 12,000 on the 22nd.
Mediterranean Gull – A first winter bird was observed at the Wheldrake Ings roost on the 1st and 2nd, with an adult appearing on the 7th and again on the 15th and 22nd. Two first winter birds were feeding in fields by Skipwith Common NNR on the 31st.
Common Gull – 10,000 were present at the Wheldrake roost on the 15th with 3000 on the 22nd.
Yellow-legged Gull – A first winter was at Wheldrake Ings on the 8th.
Herring Gull – 300 at the Wheldrake roost on the 22nd.
Great Black-backed Gull – Up to 100 were present at the Wheldrake roost throughout the month.
Green Woodpecker – One at Wheldrake Ings on the 1st with two at Skipwith Common NNR on the 2nd and then regularly thereafter. Single at Thorganby village on the 31st.
Starling – 10,000 were present in the North Duffield/Aughton area at dusk on the 3rd with numbers increasing quickly thereafter to 50,000+ on the 8th. Numbers continued to increase with 90,000 on the 15th and 100,000-150,000 by the 17th.
Raven – One flew south through Bank Island on the 1st.
Cetti’s Warbler – Up to two birds continued to winter at Wheldrake, with three also present in the Church Bridge area of the Pocklington Canal at Melbourne.
Chiffchaff – A single on the riverside track at Wheldrake Ings near Tower Hide was first heard on the 8th and again on the 14th.
Blackcap – Two were reported from gardens at North Duffield during the month with another from Melbourne.
Linnet – Up to 100 roosted at Bank Island during the month, with a flock of 300 also present in the area around Cheesecake Farm. 220 roosted at Bank Island on the 30th.
Corn Bunting – 47 roosted at Church Bridge Melbourne on the 30th.
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