Lower Derwent Valley NNR - March Sightings
interesting month with activity increasing towards the end with plenty of
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
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.
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.
total of 417 passage birds were logged with an additional four nocturnal herds
recorded during the month.
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.
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.
– Numbers continued to fall with just 49 remaining around the reserve from mid-month.
– 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.
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).
– Numbers remained high although birds were widely scattered in pairs from
early in the month. A total of 146 were present on the 13th.
– 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
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
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.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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.
– Two red-heads
were on Wheldrake Ings, south of Pool Hide, on the 9th (SR)
and daily thereafter until the 14th.
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
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.
– 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.
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.
– Two were present at North Duffield Carrs on the 24th/25th
with one remaining on the 26th. Three were at Wheldrake Ings on
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.
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.
– 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).
Up to four birds were present early in the month with at least three remaining
to month end.
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.
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.
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.
– 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
increased to 34 (17 pairs) in and around the site by the 13th.
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
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.
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.
– 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.
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
A single flew over Church Bridge at Melbourne on the 14th
– 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
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.
– 130 at Bank Island on the 17th was
a notable count followed by 30 at Thornton on the 27th.
– 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.
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.
– 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.
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.
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.
– A singing
bird was present in Thicket Priory on the 25th.
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.
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.