Lower Derwent Valley NNR - May Sightings
May started off largely where April had ended, with Garganey continuing to show well, with four or five birds in the Bank Island/Wheldrake area on an almost daily basis, with a total of 14 drakes and five ducks reported across the whole site. Three Garganey broods (20 young) were also recoded during the month. The continued presence of the Spotted Crakes from early in the season gave hope for suspected breeding, with the first Quail and Corncrake also heard. A single Glossy Ibis appeared at Wheldrake Ings and Bank Island on the 8th, with two or three then present until the 16th. Two lingering Common Cranes put in occasional appearances throughout the month.
Wader passage continued, albeit at a reduced pace, with a peak of 65 Whimbrel on the 2nd, whilst a late individual on the 23rd/24th was the last to be reported. A single Bar-tailed Godwit (1st) and Spotted Redshank (13th) were notable, with a Turnstone at North Duffield Carrs and Wheldrake on the 2nd. A small and concentrated passage of Jack Snipe was had early in the month, with the last spring record on the 5th.
Barn Owls appear to be having a bumper season, with plenty of pairs well underway now with breeding. Cuckoo activity was apparent, including the long staying hepatic female at Wheldrake Ings. Three sightings of Turtle Dove in the area were encouraging, with a Green Woodpecker at Bank Island on the 1st being a notable record. Up to eight singing Cetti’s Warblers remained.
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 for the use of his images below.
Whooper Swan – A single was at North Duffield Carrs on the 2nd - presumably a late passage bird and possibly the one that appeared at East Heslington on the 5th. One paused at Wheldrake Ings on the 9th whilst another remained on the canal at Storwood. Two individuals were at North Duffield Carrs between the 17th – 23rd.
Mute Swan – In addition to 20 pairs present throughout the area, a total of 88 non-breeding birds were recorded across the site on the 1st – 126 in total. 68 were at North Duffield Carrs on the 11th, with numbers declining thereafter as water levels reduced and birds presumably started to move off towards moulting sites – 27 remained on the 31st.
The first hatched brood (five) were present at Wheldrake on the 3rd, with a brood of six seen on the canal near Hagg Bridge on the 5th. Broods continued to appear with four cygnets at Bank Island on the 15th and eight at North Duffield Carrs on the 17th. A total of 11 broods were recorded during the month.
Greylag Goose – 30 Goslings were at Thornton Ellers on the 12th, with 21 at Bank Island, 61 at Wheldrake and 32 at North Duffield Carrs. Numbers increased to 69 goslings at Thornton Ellers on the 26th with a further 29 throughout water bodies in the surrounding area. A total of 242 goslings were recorded throughout the area.
Egyptian Goose – Broods of seven and three remained at East Cottingwith early in the month, with 10 adults on the Low Grounds on the 3rd. Another brood of five were found on pools at Elvington Airfield on the 4th, with five adults at Bank Island on the 9th and eight on the Low Grounds on the 15th. A further brood of five newly hatched goslings appeared at East Cottingwith on the 26th.
It would appear the adult population reached a minimum of 17 during the month with a further 23 goslings joining the local population.
Shelduck – The first brood (eight) were seen at Thornton Ellers on the 12th. Good numbers remained throughout.
Mandarin – A drake was noted on the River Derwent near Stamford Bridge on the 7th with, more surprisingly, a pair with five ducklings at Breighton Meadows on the 17th – the first confirmed breeding for the reserve.
Wood Duck – A single drake was present on the Pocklington Canal on the 6th with either the same one, or another, on the River Derwent near Stamford Bridge on the 7th.
Wigeon – 21 were at Wheldrake and 19 at North Duffield Carrs on the 1st, but quickly declined thereafter, leaving two pairs and two drakes at Wheldrake, three pairs at North Duffield Carrs and two drakes and a duck elsewhere.
Teal – Up to 30 pairs remained widely scattered throughout the month.
Gadwall – The first brood (nine), were present at Bank Island on the 18th with several appearing thereafter. A total of 72 drakes were located around the reserve on the 30th.
Shoveler – The first brood (eleven), were present at Bank Island on the 24th, with a different brood of nine there on the 25th. Three broods were at Wheldrake (21 ducklings), on the 30th, with three broods (18) at North Duffield Carrs on the same date,
Garganey – Drakes remained at Bank Island, North Duffield Carrs, Thornton Ellers and Wheldrake Ings (three) on the 1st, with the colour-ringed drake still present at Bank Island on the 2nd. Four drakes were still in the Bank Island/Wheldrake area on the 3rd, with three at Bank Island on the 4th. Seven drakes were counted across both sites (BKI/WI) on the 6th, with two at North Duffield Carrs and a single at Thornton Ellers on the same date. Four were at Bank Island on the 10th with seven drakes still on the reserve on the 15th. The first brood (nine), appeared at Bank Island on the 13th, with a brood of at least four on the Pocklington Canal at Storwood on the 15th. Up to four drakes remained at Bank Island thereafter with two at Wheldrake, whilst an amazing flock of nine drakes were present at North Duffield Carrs - a record total of 15 drakes present across the reserve on that date. Up to five drakes remained in the Bank Island/Wheldrake area to month end, with four drakes and two ducks at Wheldrake on the 24th when two drakes were also present at Bank Island. Another brood of seven were located at North Duffield Carrs on the 30th.
Pintail – A single drake remained at Wheldrake Ings between the 1st - 6th - possibly with an incubating female nearby. However, only a single drake remained thereafter until the 18th with no further sign of breeding.
Cormorant – Up to 15 remained at the Wheldrake roost.
Little Grebe – Up to six pairs remained on the Ings to month end with four pairs in the surrounding area.
Great Crested Grebe – A pair were on the pool at Wheldrake Ings on the 20th and again on the 25th. Four pairs were on water bodies surrounding the reserve during the month.
Grey Heron – Three fledged young were on Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd with six there on the 5th and more appearing thereafter.
Little Egret – Numbers of feeding birds on the reserve increased from mid-month as young started to hatch in the heronry – a total of 17 were present across Wheldrake and Bank Island on the 15th with 21 there on the 16th.
Great White Egret – One flew north of Low Catton Ings on the 5th with one at Bank Island on the 11th.
Glossy Ibis – A single was present at both Wheldrake Ings and Bank Island on the 8th - reappearing at Wheldrake and Storwood Ings on the 9th. Three (two adults and an immature) were then remarkably located on the 10th with two roosting in the heronry. Two remained on the 11th, roosting again in the heronry, before leaving the roost and flying onto Wheldrake at 05:40hrs on the 12th. Three birds were present again on the 14th with two remaining on the 15th and early morning on the 16th, before relocating to Alkborough Flats on the Humber, where all three joined up several days later.
Common Crane – A single was on farmland adjacent to Melbourne and Thornton Ings on the 1st - 6th with a pair at Wheldrake Ings on the 9th - reappearing at Ellerton on the 15th and Thornton Ings on the 17th. One was heard calling from Bank Island on the 23rd with one near Escrick on the 27th.
Osprey – A single showed well fishing on the pool at Wheldrake Ings on the afternoon of the 8th with either the same individual or another, seen heading towards Melbourne on the 10th.
Marsh Harrier – A single female remained on Wheldrake between the 1st - 3rd and Bank Island/Wheldrake between the 5th - 16th. Two females were present on the 17th and regularly thereafter.
Red Kite – Up to five pairs were recorded throughout the wider area during the month.
Peregrine – What was presumably last month's ‘brown’ immature male was present again at North Duffield Carrs on the 11th, the same day an adult male was present over Bank Island.
Hobby – Numbers increased with five at Wheldrake Ings on the 1st, six on the 2nd and five again on the 3rd - with one caught and ringed whilst wader ringing after dark. Numbers increased to nine hawking over the site between the 6th - 9th, with one chasing Swifts at North Duffield on the 11th. Scattered records came from across the site for the remainder of the month with up to five daily at Wheldrake thereafter. Birds were also reported from Skipwith Common NNR and Thorganby Ings during the second half of the month. Singles were at North Duffield Carrs and Sutton on Derwent on the 25th and Bank Island and North Duffield village on the 30th.
Coot – A brood of eight were present at Bank Island on the 20th with up to 19 broods recorded by month end.
Spotted Crake – A single was heard during the day-time at Bank Island on the 1st with one seen briefly in flight at North Duffield Carrs on the 18th. A single individual gave some brief song at Wheldrake Ings on the 30th.
Corncrake – A singing male was reported at Wheldrake Ings on the 12th with one singing and another seen elsewhere on the same site on the 16th. A singing male was present at North Duffield Carrs on the 17th and heard again on the 24th.
Quail – The first singing bird of the year was at Melbourne Ings on the 14th with another at Ellerton Ings on the 18th. An individual was logged on nocturnal passage and on the ground at Elvington at 03:00hrs on the 26th.
Water Rail – 11 singing males were located on Wheldrake early in the month, with two in reed/fen between East Cottingwith and Hagg Bridge on the Pocklington Canal on the 5th. Up to eight continued to call at North Duffield Carrs during the month with four at Bank Island. Two were also recorded on nocturnal recorders during the night of the 22nd flying over Elvington.
Little Ringed Plover – A pair were present at Bank Island from the 1st with two pairs on the 2nd and 3rd. A single was present at Thornton Ings on the 12th and Bank Island on the 13th and 23rd. A pair were at Thornton Ellers on the 25th with singles at Bank Island from the 27th to month end. A single pair were thought to have bred, or attempted breeding, on the Low Grounds.
Avocet – A single was on the pool at Wheldrake Ings on the 3rd.
Oystercatcher – Breeding was underway with most birds breeding on adjacent sites and flying onto the Ings to roost and feed. Six came into roost at Bank Island after dark on the 23rd.
Lapwing – The first hatched young were present at Seavy Carr on the 1st and Bank Island on the 2nd, with a brood on the Low Grounds on the 3rd, Wheldrake on the 4th and Melbourne on the 5th. Two broods (eight young) were at Bank Island on the 9th with another pair incubating on the same date. A brood were present on Storwood Ings on the 10th with another hatching at Bank Island on the 23rd. Several broods were at Thornton Ellers on the 25th including the first fledged brood of two.
Snipe – 130+ were still present at Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd with c40 there on the 5th. A completed clutch of four eggs were found at Wheldrake Ings on the 10th when three were drumming at Bank Island. A drumming male at Bank Island was caught on the 23rd - found to be a chick hatched and ringed at Wheldrake Ings in 2020.
Jack Snipe – Four were present and caught and ringed at Wheldrake Ings after dark on the 2nd, with three at Bank Island on the 3rd and three at Wheldrake on the 5th.
Curlew – 21 roosted at Bank Island on the 24th - perhaps early failed breeders, non breeders or late passage birds. A similar flock of 12 were at North Duffield Carrs on the 30th when six roosted at Bank Island. Small numbers of broods followed from the first at North Duffield Ings on the 21st.
Whimbrel – Two were present at Bank Island on the 1st whilst the Wheldrake roost increased to 65 after dark on the 2nd. 39 roosted on the 3rd with 25 recorded on the 5th. Several birds were captured on nocturnal passage over Elvington, with one over Bank Island on the 8th/9th and four into roost at Wheldrake on the latter date. Singles were heard over the Low Grounds and Wheldrake on the 10th and 11th. Singles recorded over Elvington on nocturnal passage on the 12th and the Low Grounds during the day on the 15th. A late individual passed over Bank Island during the night of the 23rd/24th.
Dunlin – Three passage birds were present at North Duffield Carrs on the 2nd with one there until the 8th. Two were at Bank Island on the 16th.
Turnstone – One was heard over North Duffield Carrs on the afternoon of the 2nd with possibly the same bird at Wheldrake that evening.
Ruff – Three were at North Duffield Carrs on the 1st and 2nd, with three (two males and a female), on the Low Grounds on the 2nd and North Duffield Carrs between the 7th - 17th.
Redshank – A pair were incubating four eggs at Bank Island on the 24th. Two pairs were present at Bank Island, with five at North Duffield Carrs, five at Wheldrake Ings and a handful throughout the rest of the reserve.
Spotted Redshank – A single bird coming into summer plumage was present at Thornton Ings on the 13th.
Greenshank – One at North Duffield Carrs on the 1st - 2nd with another at Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd.
Black-tailed Godwit – A single was present at North Duffield Carrs on the 1st and Bank Island on the 2nd when a passage flock of 17 were at Thornton Ellers.
Bar-tailed Godwit – A single was present at Thornton Ellers on the 1st.
Common Sandpiper – Two were heard calling after dark at Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd with one on the riverbank at Thorganby on the 3rd. One flew into the Melbourne Arm on the 6th, with one on the riverbank at Thorganby again on the 18th.
Wood Sandpiper – A single was present at Wheldrake Ings on the 1st and 2nd, with one at Thornton Ings briefly on the 13th and Bank Island on the 18th.
Common Tern – Two remained on the tern rafts at Wheldrake Ings from the 1st with a pair on the river at Thorganby on the 3rd. A pair were at North Duffield Carrs between the 11th - 17th. Up to four pairs remained on the reserve to month end, with six at Wheldrake Ings on the 24th.
Arctic Tern – Two flew high over Bank Island on the 1st with another in the Wheldrake Ings/Pocklington Canal area on the 10th.
Barn Owl – Activity continued to increase during the month with day hunting males carrying food to feed incubating females and broods. The pair at Bank Island had a brood of five on the 20th with cached food present in the nest site.
Cuckoo – Birds continued to arrive with two at Skipwith on the 2nd when a hepatic phase individual was at Wheldrake Ings. Two calling males were heard on Skipwith Common NNR on the 3rd with a pair also at Melbourne. Three calling males were at Melbourne on the 4th when three calling males and the hepatic female were present at Wheldrake Ings. Other individuals were at Thorganby and Bank Island on the 4th. Birds were then present at Low Catton on the 5th with seven male birds along the Pocklington Canal on the same date. One was calling at Thorganby on the 6th with two at North Duffield Carrs on 7th and a single at Elvington on the 9th. Three males and the hepatic female remained at Wheldrake on the 10th. One was at Sutton on Derwent on the 11th. Sightings continued thereafter until 3-5 birds were present daily at Wheldrake Ings, including the hepatic individual. Singles at Foggathorpe on the 24th and Ellerton on the 25th.
Green Woodpecker – Single at Bank Island on the 1st.
Swift – 15 were recorded at Wheldrake Ings on the 3rd with six on the 4th. Small numbers continued to move through the site daily, with the first breeding birds back in low numbers in local villages from the 7th. 100+ passed through Wheldrake Ings on the 7th and 8th, followed by 300+ on the 10th. 300+ were also present at North Duffield Carrs on the 11th. 150+ were again at North Duffield Carrs and Wheldrake Ings on the 30th in another notable arrival or movement.
Turtle Dove – Single at Hagg Bridge on the 11th with one at Foggathorpe on the 17th. One then flew over Wheldrake Ings towards Sutton on Derwent on the 22nd – an encouraging series of records.
Grey Wagtail – Single on the riverbank at Thorganby Ings on the 4th.
Pied Wagtail – Up to 40 roosted in the Wheldrake reed bed early in the month with 50-60 there on the 10th.
White Wagtail – One at Bank Island on the 1st.
Sand Martin – A worrying showing with very few recorded during the month and no breeding attempts in the banks.
Swallow – 200+ were present at Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd when 130+ were at North Duffield Carrs. The pair nesting under Tower Hide laid the first egg on the 10th.
Whinchat – A single at North Duffield Carrs on the 3rd.
Wheatear – One at Wheldrake Ings on the 4th.
Chiffchaff – 52 were counted along the Pocklington Canal on the 5th.
Willow Warbler – 53 singing males were recorded along the Pocklington Canal on the 5th.
Blackcap – 21 were present along the Pocklington Canal on the 5th.
Garden Warbler – A large, widespread arrival on the 1st/2nd brought six to Wheldrake, seven to Skipwith and smaller numbers throughout the site.
Cetti’s Warbler – Up to four were present daily at Bank Island with two at Wheldrake Ings early in the month. A single was still being heard on the canal at Storwood on the 10th with three at Bank Island, one at Wheldrake, two on the Pocklington Canal and two further singing males remaining to month end (total of eight present). Another individual took up residency around the Wheldrake Ings car park area from the 20th to month end.
Sedge Warbler – 23 singing males were recorded at Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd. 33 singing males were present along the Pocklington Canal between Hagg Bridge and East Cottingwith on the 5th, with 75 along the whole length of the canal on that date.
Reed Warbler – Numbers at Wheldrake increased to seven on the 2nd with 32 along the Pocklington Canal on the 5th.
Grasshopper Warbler – Two reeling males were still present at North Duffield Carrs on the 1st with one at Seavy Carr between the 1st - 8th.
Spotted Flycatcher – The first returning birds were a pair at Melbourne on the 13th, with one at Wheldrake Ings on the riverside track on the 16th.
Bearded Tit – Two females were reported from Wheldrake Ings on the 23rd.
Marsh Tit – One at Bank Island on the 1st.
Willow Tit – A single adult was seen carrying food at Wheldrake Ings on the 5th.
Corn Bunting – The first singing bird on the Ings was an early individual at Tower Hide on the 6th. Up to 15 pairs were present in the Hagg Lane area of East Cottingwith, with five pairs at Thornton Ellers and scattered pairs elsewhere. Three singing males were on the Ings at East Cottingwith from the 22nd.