Lower Derwent Valley NNR - March Sightings
Another interesting month with activity increasing towards the end with plenty of passage movements.
Highlights included a record-breaking build-up of islandica Black-tailed Godwits, reaching 561 towards the end of the month. A sample of individuals caught and ringed showed a significant weight gain from 160-200g to 350-400g as birds fed up prior to departure. There was a notable national influx of Garganey mid-late month with the first bird appearing in the LDV on the 22nd, with at least five drakes and two ducks present. The now annual nocturnal passage of Common Scoter continued with 46 flocks/groups recorded passing over between the 13th and 29th, with a grounded adult male at Bank Island on the latter date, providing a notable but typical one day sight record. A single Spotted Crake was picked up singing on Wheldrake Ings at 03:00hrs on the 26th, with up to three birds daily thereafter to month end - the earliest to have been recorded on the reserve (previous record was a single singing bird on the 10th April 1995) - hopefully early indications of another successful year for the species.
Large numbers of wintering waterfowl remained throughout, with spring passage again noted with a minimum of 417 Whooper Swans moving through the site. Wigeon numbers peaked at 12,134 and likewise, the now established passage of Pintail reached 712. Two red-head Smew (9th-14th) continued the good run of records this winter and proved popular for visitors. Great White Egrets and Common Cranes were both recorded, whilst waders included the first returning Little Ringed Plover (16th), three Avocets, a single Bar-tailed Godwit, and an early returning Whimbrel (23rd). It was perhaps the usual large spring passage of Snipe which was most notable, with at least 1,000 birds spread throughout the site and 600+ alone at Wheldrake Ings during the month.
Incoming summer migrants included the first returning Chiffchaffs (from the 8th), Sand Martin (first on the 14th and again from the 27th), Blackcap (29th), with three singing Cetti’s Warblers at month end. Wintering migrants included flocks of 200 and 100 Brambling in the area and a return passage of Fieldfare and Redwing at month end.
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 & David Winspear for the use of their photographs below
Whooper Swan – The resident wintering herd declined from 115 on the 3rd to 66 by the 14th and 40 by the 20th. 14 remained on the 27th to month end.
Passage birds included 46 north on the 2nd, before a sizable departure from the Fens saw herds of 24, 6, 66 and 17 staging through the site over the course of the day on the 7th before five roosted at Wheldrake. Three further herds were picked up on noc-mig over Elvington after dark on that date, with eight present on the Low Grounds throughout the day on the 8th. 27 flew through Wheldrake Ings after dark on the 9th with 70 over Melbourne earlier in the day. Herds of 19 and 7 passed through on the 13th including colour-ringed bird ZXI. A herd of 17 passed over Wheldrake after dark on the 14th, with 74 over Thorganby and later Heslington on the 18th. Seven were present on Wheldrake Ings on the 24th, followed by five on 25th/26th with another herd over North Duffield Carrs after dark on that date. 14 were present for the day at Wheldrake on the 29th.
A total of 417 passage birds were logged with an additional four nocturnal herds recorded during the month.
Mute Swan – 73 were present throughout the site on the 14th increasing to 101 by the 20th – including 49 feeding on arable at Derwent Farm. Three pairs were nest building late in the month with the start of clutches being laid from the 27th.
Greylag Goose – Numbers continued to decline as individuals started to spread out into breeding pairs and smaller groups, with a total of 214 counted throughout the site on the 14th.
Canada Goose – Numbers continued to fall with just 49 remaining around the reserve from mid-month.
Pink-footed Goose – 100 flew over Bank Island heading north-west on the 3rd, whilst the wintering flock of 260 remained in the Thorganby/Ellerton area until the 13th – total of 305 present across the reserve with additional small numbers of passage birds passing through. 60 passage birds were present at Wheldrake Ings on the 18th with 16 across the NNR on the 20th. Eight remained in the Ellerton/Aughton/North Duffield areas on the 26th-27th.
Egyptian Goose – One or two were regularly recorded over Wheldrake Ings during the month, with eight remaining in the East Cottingwith area weekly, with a notable increase on the 20th (total of 12 recorded).
Shelduck – Numbers remained high although birds were widely scattered in pairs from early in the month. A total of 146 were present on the 13th.
Wigeon – Following a large clear out in late February with extensive flooding, spring passage saw numbers increase to 12,134 on the 13th - with nocturnal passage also noted at this time. 7,381 remained on the 20th decreasing to 6,098 on the 27th.
Teal – 3,733 were still present on the 13th with 3,317 recorded on the 20th, dropping to 2,649 on the 27th.
Mallard – 700 were still present early in the month, with birds then starting to disperse as early breeders began to pair up.
Gadwall – Numbers started to increase further during the month with incoming breeding and passage birds, with 256 recorded on the 13th. 172 were still present on the 20th with 234 on the 27th.
Shoveler – 190 were recorded throughout the site on the 13th increasing to 262 by the 20th and 273 by the 27th. A total of 142 were present at Wheldrake Ings on the 29th.
Garganey – A single drake was heard calling at dawn on the 22nd with three drakes and a duck found later in the day at Aughton Ings - the first for the year. A drake was then present at Bank Island on the 23rd with presumably the same individual again on the 25th – 28th. Two drakes were present at Wheldrake between the 26th-28th with one at North Duffield Carrs on the 27th. One was on the Pocklington Canal at Hagg Bridge on the 28th with a pair at Bank Island on the 29th. A single flock of five drakes and two ducks were at Bank Island on the 30th.
A good start early in the season in line with the national influx – at least five drakes and two ducks involved but possibly more with perhaps as many as eight or nine drakes.
Pintail – Numbers increased with spring passage to an impressive 712 on the 13th before falling again, with just 419 remaining on the 20th. 330 were still present across the site on the 24th – down to 257 by the 27th. On the 29th 127 remained at Wheldrake Ings, along with 23 at Bank Island and 96 at North Duffield Carrs – total of 246 throughout the site.
Tufted Duck – Numbers increased with the extensive flooding and onset of spring passage with 176 recorded on the 13th. 158 were still present on the 20th with 151 on the 27th. 101 were observed at Wheldrake on the 29th.
Pochard – 25 were present at Aughton on the 5th with 24 scattered throughout the site on the 13th, although just four (two pairs) remained on the 20th to month end.
Goldeneye – 15 were present between Wheldrake and Bank Island on the 13th. 23 recorded at Wheldrake on the 17th perhaps indicated some spring passage, with 15 on the 20th, 24 on the 23rd and 11 on the 27th - 29th.
Smew – Two red-heads were on Wheldrake Ings, south of Pool Hide, on the 9th (SR) and daily thereafter until the 14th.
Common Scoter – Two flocks were heard passing over Wheldrake Ings and Bank Island after dark on the 13th at 21:30hrs. 11 flocks, totalling over 115 birds passed over between 20:40 hrs and 22:00 hrs after dark on the 14th. Another flock passed over Elvington after dark on the 20th and was followed by another at 22:00hrs on the 23rd. Further flocks were recorded after dark on the 24th and 27th while 29 flocks/groups (minimum 210 birds) were logged between 22:30 and 23:50 on the 29th. A single adult drake was then found grounded at Bank Island the following morning (29th).
Goosander – Three (a drake and two red-heads) were present on the 13th on the River Derwent at Thorganby, with a single red-head at Wheldrake on the 27th and a drake at Bank Island on the 29th.
Cormorant – Up to 30 roosted at Wheldrake Ings early in the month with 32 on the 17th, and a total of 33 across the whole site on the 20th.
Little Grebe – Numbers increased as birds returned to the breeding sites on the Ings with totals of seven on the 13th, 17 on the 20th and 23 on the 30th.
Great Crested Grebe – Two were present at North Duffield Carrs on the 24th/25th with one remaining on the 26th. Three were at Wheldrake Ings on the 27th.
Grey Heron – Numbers increased and birds became more obvious as breeding activity in the local heronry increased, with 18 recorded around the reserve on the 13th followed by 28 on the 20th.
Little Egret – Up to five lingered around the reserve early in the month before numbers increasing as breeding birds returned. Six were recorded on the 13th followed by five at Bank Island on the 15th and nine at Bubwith Ings on 17th. A total of 13 were recorded throughout the reserve on the 20th with birds back in the Heronry from the 22nd. 11 were present across the site on the 27th with seven at Wheldrake at dusk on the 28th. 12 were recorded again there on the 29th followed by 15 on the 30th.
Great White Egret – A single was present in fields between Skipwith and North Duffield on the 6th with another in the southern half of the valley (Ellerton, Aughton and North Duffield Carrs) on the 20th.
Common Crane – A single was heard calling on Skipwith Common NNR on the 24th (MR), with one also seen and heard on the Low Grounds (from Wheldrake Ings), on the 27th (JL et al). A single was then heard calling again from the Elvington area (from Bank Island) on the 28th (CSR).
Marsh Harrier – Up to four birds were present early in the month with at least three remaining to month end.
Red Kite – Seven were present around the NNR on the 5th with a total of five to six pairs scattered around the reserve throughout the month.
Peregrine – Up to three birds were regularly reported early in the month, although fewer sightings were had towards month end, with two - three individuals remaining.
Goshawk – A large adult female was present over Bank Island on the 17th (MR) with presumably the same bird seen again nearby on the 30th.
Merlin – One was present between Bubwith and Aughton on the 5th with one at the NNR reserve base at Bank Island on the 11th and 25th.
Coot – Numbers increased as the month progressed with counts of 122 on the 13th, 191 on the 30th and 214 on the 30th.
Spotted Crake – A single was heard at 03:30 hrs from Wheldrake Ings on the 26th (SE), with the same bird heard again at 20:30hrs on the same date with two singing there on the 27th (JL, AF, OM) followed by three on the 28th (CSR, DB, OM et al). These are the earliest to have occurred on the reserve, with the previous earliest on the 10th April 1995. Two continued calling thereafter to month end.
Water Rail – Up to eight singing birds were present at Wheldrake Ings during the month with two at Bank Island after dark on the 28th - singles at North Duffield Carrs and Aughton on the same date.
Little Ringed Plover – A single at Barmby-on-the-Marsh wetlands on the 16th was the first of the year, and was followed by the next, at Bank Island, on the 22nd.
Avocet – A single was present at Wheldrake Ings on the 4th (AF) with two at Thorganby Ings on the 17th (CSR) and another at Bank Island on the 30th (AF).
Oystercatcher – Numbers increased to 34 (17 pairs) in and around the site by the 13th.
Golden Plover – 3,000+ were still present early in the month with 1,800 at Wheldrake Ings on the 5th. 1,820 were recorded in the area on the 13th, however, only 33 were located on the WeBS count on the 20th. 69 were present at Wheldrake Ings on the 28th followed by 190 on the 29th as northern migrants started to move through the site. 406 were present at Wheldrake on the 30th with 56 at Elvington on the same date.
Lapwing – Numbers declined quickly from the 10,000+ recorded in February with birds displaying on territory early in the month. A total of 1,281 remained on the 13th, down further to 525 on the 20th and 300+ at month end.
Snipe – A single was ‘chipping’ at Seavy Carr on the 7th with two displaying at Thornton Ings on the 10th and four drumming after dark at Wheldrake on the 16th. 35 were at Seavy Carr on the 7th with 120+ at Wheldrake Ings on the 16th. Three drumming birds were present at Aughton on the 24th. 600+ were present at Wheldrake Ings on the 22nd/23rd (presumed spring passage), with six drumming birds there on the 28th and four at North Duffield Carrs on the 29th – at least 150 present. An estimated 1000 were thought to be present throughout the reserve during this time.
Jack Snipe – A mere single present at Wheldrake Ings on the 9th was disappointing, but perhpas reflected survey effort and the amount of available suitable habitat across the reserve during the month.
Curlew – Numbers reached 106 by the 13th and 137 by the 17th, with 97 counted on the 20th. Flocks of 36 at Wheldrake Ings and 28 at Thornton Ellers on the 27th were presumed migrants passing through.
Whimbrel – The first of the year, an early individual, flew over Bank Island calling on the 23rd.
Dunlin – 173 remained on the reserve on the 3rd with 67 remaining by the 13th and 75 on the 20th. 20 remained thereafter to month end with 26 on the 30th.
Ruff – 26 were present throughout the site on the 13th followed by 30 on the 20th. Up to 20 remained thereafter with 28 counted on the 30th.
Redshank – 36 were present across the site on the 13th. Three birds were displaying at Bank Island on the 18th with 32 throughout the reserve on the 27th.
Black-tailed Godwit – 34 (including a single colour-ringed bird), were present early in the month at Wheldrake Ings, increasing to a flock of 90 by the 4th. 125 were recorded there on the 5th with a total of 189 across the site on that day. 60 were still present at Wheldrake Ings on the 6th followed by 67 on the 8th. Numbers then fluctuated thereafter with 108 on the 9th, 188 on the 12th and 338 on the 13th. 412 were at Wheldrake Ings on the 18th, increasing further to 487 on the 20th – a new reserve record. 360+ were still present on the 22nd – 24th followed by 432 on the 25th. A further increase (and record count) was then had on the 27th with a total of 561 individuals recorded. c550 were still present on the 29th with most of the birds at North Duffield Carrs. 481+ were counted there on the 30th with 385 later in the day at Wheldrake – possibly involving some or all of the same birds.
Bar-tailed Godwit – A single flew over Church Bridge at Melbourne on the 14th (OM).
Green Sandpiper – A single was present at Bank Island on the 15th.
Black-headed Gull – The roost fell away quickly from 2,000 birds early in the month with just 200 remaining on the 12th and none thereafter. Small flocks of presumed passage birds (up to 100) moved through late in the month.
Herring Gull – 48 were present on the 8th but few thereafter.
Greater Black-backed Gull – A lone single remained in the Wheldrake roost early in the month until the 8th.
Lesser Black-backed Gull – Singles were present in the roost on the 1st, 5th and 7th with four there on the 9th. Small numbers (less than 10) were then regularly recorded towards dusk thereafter.
Short-eared Owl – Single at Wheldrake Ings on the 14th.
Long-eared Owl – Two calling birds at Wheldrake Ings on the 27th.
Stock Dove – 130 at Bank Island on the 17th was a notable count followed by 30 at Thornton on the 27th.
Woodlark – Five singing birds were present at Skipwith Common NNR on the 2nd with six singing birds present on site on the 5th and seven between the 8th and 14th. Up to eight singing males had territory by month end.
Sand Martin – The first returning individual was seen at Bank Island on the 14th with the next, (two), seen over North Duffield Carrs on the 27th.
Stonechat – Pairs were present early in the month at Melbourne, Wheldrake and North Duffield Carrs until the 11th.
Wheatear – A single at Thornton Ellers on the 30th was the first of the year.
Raven – Two at Skipwith Common NNR on the 23rd.
Fieldfare – Small numbers moved through the site during the first part of the month. Later flocks including 80 at Skipwith Common NNR on the 29th and 310 at Bank Island on the 30th and 90 on the 31st.
Redwing – Small numbers passed back through the site during the month with 70 at Skipwith Common NNR on the 8th. Nocturnal passage was noted throughout the reserve after dark on the 29th with 220 over Bank Island heading east on the 30th. A further 180 went east there on the 31st.
Chiffchaff – Singing birds were at Wheldrake and Bank Island on the 8th - the first of the year, (CSR, DB), with two at Melbourne on the 9th (NC). Numbers then increased with a total of 13 around the site on the 13th. A minimum of 21 were reported around the site on the 17th with increasing numbers thereafter.
Blackcap – The first singing male was present at Bank Island on the 29th.
Cetti’s Warbler – A singing male was at East Cottingwith on the 26th with one in the NNR Base Garden/Water Treatment Works at Bank Island on the 27th. This individual was still singing on the 28th to month end, with another between there and the car park at Wheldrake Ings on the 28th. Single was caught and ringed in the base garden on the 31st.
Nuthatch – A singing bird was present in Thicket Priory on the 25th.
Brambling – The flock at Thornton suddenly increased to 200 on the 1st, and was still present on the 4th with 150+ remaining on the 7th. Numbers then increased to 130+ on the 18th. Another flock of 100+ was present near Wheldrake village from the 15th to the 23rd. Several were present in the Cheesecake Farm area on the 25th.
Chaffinch – 100+ present with mixed finches at Thornton on the 7th.
Greenfinch – 60 were recorded with mixed finches at Thornton on the 7th.
Tree sparrow – 70 were present at Thornton on the 7th.
Siskin – 100 were present at Seavy Carr on the 7th.
Linnet – 350 remained at Thornton early in the month, with 300 still present on the 7th.
Corn Bunting – Present throughout the month on Hagg Lane, East Cottingwith.
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