Lower Derwent Valley NNR - May Sightings
Largely a month of two halves, with passage during the first two weeks, before records were dominated by breeding activity from the 19th. Two Whooper Swans and a lone Pink-footed Goose lingered, whilst seven pairs of Wigeon (with additional drakes) remained throughout. May was a good month for Garganey, with up to nine drakes and three females present late in the month. Great White Egrets and Common Cranes once again made appearances, along with two passing Ospreys and up to 11 Hobbies – inc. up to eight showing well at Wheldrake and Bank Island on the few warmer days. Up to 17 Water Rail territories were located, whilst the first singing Quail were heard at Ellerton (13th) and Melbourne (18th). Breeding wader surveys were still underway during the month, whilst many passage birds were also recorded - the spring Whimbrel roost peaked at 75, with the odd Dunlin, Green and Common Sandpiper noted, along with four Wood Sandpiper. Nine passage Arctic Terns moved through the site, whilst the resident pair of Common Terns returned. 29 male Cuckoos were mapped (with two hepatic females also recorded), along with a Turtle Dove in the Bubwith area on the 1st and 11th and a single Nightjar at North Duffield Carrs on the 19th. A Water Pipit was noted on the 10th along with a total of six Greenland Wheatears throughout the month, whilst four sites held Spotted Flycatcher and seven reeling Grasshopper Warblers.
A total of 173 species have now been recorded since the 1st January 2021.
Many thanks as always to everyone who contributed records and counts throughout the month, in particular to regular patch birder Duncan Bye and members of York Birding. Thanks also to Duncan Bye, Gerry Capelin, Ollie Grint and Mal Richardson for the use of their images below.
Mute Swan – A fourth pair were found at North Duffield Carrs on the 3rd when the non-breeding herd reached 51. 46 non-breeders were also present on the same date at Wheldrake Ings, giving a total non-breeding count of 97, in addition to the 12 pairs present. A pair also hatched three cygnets at Wheldrake Ings on that date, followed by a brood of seven at Melbourne on the 5th. 51 non-breeders were present at North Duffield Carrs on the 13th with 74 there on the 19th – presumably some had relocated from Wheldrake Ings, where only 19 remained – total of 93 non-breeding birds present on that date.
Whooper Swan – A single remained at North Duffield Carrs and Thorganby throughout the month.
Greylag Goose – A flock of 40 adults with 24 goslings were in fields by Skipwith village on the 11th, whilst a pair with five goslings were at Thornton Ings on the 20th.
Canada Goose – An adult flock of 38 individuals were seen with 13 goslings near Skipwith village on the 11th.
Pink-footed Goose – A single remained in the Bank Island/Wheldrake Ings area throughout the month.
Egyptian Goose – A single flew over North Duffield Ings on the 17th with one at North Duffield Carrs the following day.
Wigeon – Three pairs were present during the month at Wheldrake Ings, with two pairs at Bank Island and two pairs and three drakes at North Duffield Carrs. A further two drakes summered at other sites, giving a total of seven pairs and five additional drakes. Two drakes and a female flew north at Thorganby Ings on the 25th.
Garganey – A drake was present at Wheldrake Ings on the 1st – 4th, with singles at Bank Island and North Duffield Carrs on the 5th and daily thereafter at Wheldrake and Bank Island until the 9th. Three drakes were present across the site from the 10th, with two pairs and a drake on the 13th. Two drakes showed well at Bank Island from the 14th – 17th with two drakes at North Duffield Carrs – total of at least five drakes present during this time. On the 19th, at least one drake was heard at North Duffield Carrs with five drakes and a female at Wheldrake Ings (CSR, NC, DB). On the 21st Bank Island held three drakes and a female, whilst five drakes and a female were still present at Wheldrake with one (drake) at North Duffield Carrs – total of nine drakes and two females present on the NNR. Three drakes and a female were still present at Bank Island on the 23rd whilst seven females were scattered around the site on the 30th/31st.
Pintail – A single pair remained at North Duffield Carrs throughout the month, with breeding thought to have been attempted.
Mandarin – A single drake was again present at Bank Island on the 1st and 4th.
Gadwall – The first brood of seven were present at Bank Island on the 31st.
Tufted Duck – Up to 20 pairs were located across the site, with a leucistic bird present at Wheldrake at month end.
Pochard – A pair and an additional drake were still present at Wheldrake on the 1st, remaining thereafter, with the female thought to have started egg laying by the 5th. All three remained thereafter.
Great Crested Grebe – A pair were incubating throughout the month at North Duffield Carrs, with a pair on the pool at Wheldrake Ings on the 19th. One flew south at Aughton Ings on the 25th, with the same mobile birds between North Duffield and Ellerton on the 26th. A pair were nest building at Bank Island on the 29th with two pairs there on the 30th, when another pair were present at Wheldrake Ings.
Little Egret – Increasing numbers were present throughout the month, with 18 across Wheldrake and Bank Island on the 31st.
Great White Egret – One remained in the Wheldrake Ings area early in the month, roosting in the nearby Heronry. A single was at Wressle Clough on the 1st, and was followed by two over Skipwith Common NNR on the 2nd. A single was at North Duffield Carrs on the 18th followed by one at Wheldrake Ings on the 28th and 31st.
Grey Heron – A single was seen predating Mallard ducklings at Wheldrake Ings early in the month, with increasing numbers of young and feeding adults building up. 21 were present at Wheldrake Ings on the 18th with 26 there on the 19th and six at North Duffield Carrs.
Coot – 13 pairs were incubating clutches at Bank Island during the month, with many pairs building nests higher towards month end due to rising water levels.
Common Crane – A single drifted high, north-east over East Cottingwith on the 5th (OM) before being reported heading north-east over Allerthorpe Common an hour later. Two were present at Storwood on the 10th (CSR).
Marsh Harrier – D3 was at North Duffield Carrs on the 1st and 2nd. An adult male flew north at Wheldrake Ings on the 3rd and 7th, with three cream crowns present across the site on the 9th. Single over Bank Island on the 10th and two at Wheldrake Ings on the 11th - up to three different cream crowns were regular thereafter. An adult female was at Wheldrake Ings on the 31st.
Osprey – A single was seen over Wheldrake Ings on the 7th (OG) with one over Bank Island on the 11th (CSR et al).
Peregrine – A single immature male remained in the Bank Island area until the 2nd, with another seen at North Duffield Carrs where it narrowly missed taking out a Black-tailed Godwit.
Hobby – Up to four remained daily in the Bank Island and Wheldrake area early in the month, with a single at North Duffield Carrs on the 1st. Five were in the Wheldrake/Bank Island area on the 5th with eight over the pool at Wheldrake Ings on 6th, followed by four there on the 7th and 9th. Five were present on the 12th with six on the 13th and four on the 16th. Five were reported in the Wheldrake/Bank Island area on the 17th when one was also present at North Duffield Carrs. Five were again present at Wheldrake Ings on the 18th and 24th, with three at Bank Island on the same date. Singles at Aughton Ings on the 25th and over Ellerton village on the 26th.
Grey Partridge – A pair were present by the Escrick Moraine on the 4th with another at North Duffield Carrs on the 15th. Three pairs were present on Melbourne and Thornton Ings on the 18th.
Water Rail – Up to five calling males were present in the Swantail area, with two by the pool at Wheldrake Ings – in addition three pairs were in the refuge with a single on Windpump Ings – total of 11 pairs/males present during in the month. Singles were also present at Bank Island (with a pair seen there on the 21st), Thornton Ellers, Melbourne Ings and North Duffield Carrs, with two territories on Skipwith Common NNR – total of 17 in the area.
Quail – The first singing bird of the year was at Ellerton Ings on the 13th with another at Melbourne Ings on the 18th. The same singing bird was at Ellerton again at dawn on the 26th, with two there and one at Thorganby Ings at dusk on the same date. One was reported at Wheldrake Ings on the 27th, with one between Wheldrake and Bank Island on the 28th – this individual was heard again on the 31st, along with one at Wheldrake and one on the Low Grounds - total of seven calling males located.
Little Ringed Plover – Three pairs remained early in the month with additional passage birds moving through the area, including a colour-ringed bird at Bank Island on the 1st and a pair at Thornton Ellers on the same date. One at Bank Island on the 21st was the first for 10 days at this site.
Ringed Plover – Two at Bank Island on the 5th with two near Thornton Ings between the 9th – 13th.
Lapwing – Broods appeared at Thorganby on the 3rd, followed by Thornton Ellers/North Duffield Carrs on the 4th, with birds hatching on arable towards South Duffield on the same date. Further broods continued to appear throughout the month, although some birds were still incubating at month end. Three broods (eight young) were ringed at Bank Island during the month.
Snipe – The numbers of passage birds continued to decrease early in the month, leaving the resident ‘drumming’ population with good numbers heard in the first week of the month.
Woodcock – Two roding birds were present at Skipwith Common NNR on the 6th with four there on the 24th.
Curlew – The first hatched young were at Melbourne Ings on the 19th, with young noted at Thorganby and Aughton on the 25th and further pairs hatching broods by month end.
Whimbrel – An estimated 75 were present at the Wheldrake roost on the 2nd. Four were present at North Duffield Carrs on the 5th, with one at Wheldrake Ings on the 11th. Singles at North Duffield Carrs and Aughton Ings on the 13th. A small sample were ringed this year at the Wheldrake roost, with several birds fitted with our new darvic rings - a single yellow ring on the right leg, with a white ring/black numbers on the left leg - please look out for colour-ringed birds when visiting the reserve, thank you.
Dunlin – Two were still present at North Duffield Carrs on the 1st with three there on the 2nd/3rd and a single on the 4th. One flew into Bank Island after dark on the 5th. Two at Bank Island on the 19th.
Ruff – Three were still present at North Duffield Carrs on the 1st-3rd with two males and a female at a lekk at Aughton on the 12th. A single different male was at Bank Island on the 13th with a single at Wheldrake on the 19th.
Green Sandpiper – One at Ellerton Landing on the 17th.
Common Sandpiper – A single was at Bank Island on the 1st/2nd with one on Thorganby floodbank on the 3rd. A single was then present at North Duffield Carrs on the 7th followed by one at Ellerton on the 17th and Bubwith on the 20th.
Wood Sandpiper – A single was present at Bank Island on the evening of the 7th (AF) with the same one or another, at North Duffield Carrs the following morning (OM). Two were present on the 14th/15th at Bank Island although rather elusive.
Redshank – Two pairs were seen with young at Wheldrake Ings on the 31st.
Greenshank – Single at Bank Island on the 6th.
Lesser Black-backed Gull – There was an increase in sub-adult birds moving through the site during the month, with eighteen at Thorganby Ings on the 19th, seven at Bank Island on the 25th and four on the 26th.
Herring Gull – 31 sub adults passed through Bank Island on the 26th.
Little Gull – A second calendar year bird paused briefly in heavy rain at Bank Island on the 25th.
Common Tern – Two at North Duffield Carrs on the 3rd were followed by two over Wheldrake Ings later in the day with two Arctic Terns. Up to three were then present daily at Wheldrake thereafter, with a pair settled on the tern raft from the 5th. Four were recorded there on the 9th with one pair thought to be incubating from the 18th - four adults present on and off to month end.
Arctic Tern – Five were hawking insects high over Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd (DW) with two north there on the 3rd (DB, RC, JC) followed by two north at Ellerton on the 7th (OM).
Cuckoo – Further birds arrived on the 8th and 9th with two males and females at Thornton Ellers, including a single ‘hepatic’ female on the 8th. Two, including another ‘hepatic’ female, were at Wheldrake Ings on the 9th, with three calling birds at Wheldrake at dawn on the 10th. Singles at Escrick and Bubwith Ings were newly arrived on the 10th, with a single at Thorganby on the 11th. Two males and a female were present around the pool at Wheldrake Ings on the 12th. Further birds continued to arrive with a single at Bank Island and two at North Duffield Carrs on the 15th, followed by singles at Elvington on the 16th and East Cottingwith on the 17th. Five males and two females (including a single hepatic female), were at Melbourne Ings on the 18th. Singles at Aughton on the 25th and the Bubwith rail trail on the 30th.
A total of 29 calling males and 7 females (two hepatic) were recorded during the month.
Nightjar – A single was heard calling at Skipwith Common NNR on the 17th (GD, CSR), with a male feeding and calling along the riverbank at North Duffield Carrs at dusk on the 19th (OM).
Turtle Dove – A purring male was reported near Bubwith on the 1st and again on the 11th – the first in this traditional area for several years.
Swift – 30 were present in the Bank Island/Wheldrake area on the 1st, with c50 throughout the site on the 3rd. 100+ were present throughout the reserve on the 6th, followed by c200 at Wheldrake Ings on the 9th. 300+ were reported at North Duffield Carrs on the 15th, with 200 over there on the 17th. c500 were over Wheldrake Ings on the 22nd.
Barn Owl – Day flying birds appeared at Bank Island late in the month, presumably feeding young.
Green Woodpecker – One in the Thorganby area early in the month, with singles at both Wheldrake and Bank Island on the 17th – rather unusual locations.
White Wagtail – One at North Duffield Carrs on the 1st and Bank Island on the 4th – 6th.
Blue-headed Wagtail – A female at Thornton Ellers on the 4th (TJ).
Sand Martin – Three pairs were using the box at Bank Island towards the end of the month, with four pairs at North Duffield Carrs.
Swallow – 500 were at Wheldrake on the 2nd and 3rd.
House Martin – 130+ were present at Wheldrake Ings on the 3rd.
Woodlark – At least six singing males were still present at Skipwith Common NNR on the 24th.
Tree Pipit – Three pairs were present at Skipwith Common NNR on the 7th.
Water Pipit – A single summer plumaged individual was present at Thornton Ellers on the 10th (CSR), before being flushed by a Sparrowhawk.
Common Redstart – A female was present at Skipwith Common NNR on the 27th with one at Wheldrake Ings on the 31st.
Wheatear – A single was present at the Low Grounds on the 3rd when one was present near Thorganby, with Greenland race birds following at East Cottingwith and Aughton on the 13th, and Thornton Ings and East Cottingwith on the 15th.
Spotted Flycatcher – One near Bubwith on the rail trail on the 2nd (R&JC) with one near Sutton Wood on the 22nd and a pair by Sutton Farm on the 23rd. A pair also returned to the usual breeding site at the Melbourne Arms on the Pocklington Canal on the 22nd.
Lesser Whitethroat – Six /seven pairs were observed in the Pocklington Canal area near Melbourne during the month.
Garden Warbler – Nine singing males were present between the bridge and windpump at Wheldrake Ings on the 6th, with six on Skipwith Common NNR on the 11th. Five singing males were present again at Wheldrake on the 12th.
Sedge Warbler – 11 singing males were on the wash dykes at Skipwith Common NNR on the 7th.
Grasshopper Warbler – A singing male remained at Wheldrake Ings throughout, with three reeling birds present at Skipwith Common on the 7th followed by two on the 11th – 25th. Single at Seavy Carr on the 10th and 14th with two at Melbourne Ings on the 18th – 22nd.
Willow Tit – Two calling/singing birds at Skipwith Common NNR on the 2nd.
Robin – Two juveniles were being fed by a pair at the NNR Base on the 16th, with another pair found to be nesting in the workshop there on the 25th.
Corn Bunting – 34 were still present in a flock at North Duffield Carrs on the 17th.
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