Lower Derwent Valley NNR - October Sightings
A Swift sp. seen and photographed over Thorganby village on the 30th was thought to be a possible Pallid, with a definite record then confirmed two days later when a single was observed feeding over Elvington and Bank Island (seen by multiple observers). Both records coincided with an unprecedented influx of Pallid Swifts along the North-East coast.
The first returning Whoopers Swans headed south on the 7th - followed by 134+ during the month, before the first of the wintering herd appeared at Thorganby on the 29th. Up to 600 Pink-footed Geese were observed feeding around the reserve, particularly during the first half of the month. Duck numbers began to increase as the month progressed – albeit difficult at times to locate/count, especially during the daytime - a total of 2000 Teal and 800 Wigeon were recorded.
One or two Great White Egrets appeared with four Common Cranes on the 5th, with two again on the 24th/25th. At least one Osprey lingered into the month with the ongoing mild conditions, although the returning Hen Harrier and two Short-eared Owls were perhaps more expected seasonal highlights alongside the first returning Merlin. The same mild temperatures perhaps accounted for the lack of Woodcock, however there was a notable increase in Snipe from mid-month with a good number of Jack Snipe also appearing in the few wet patches remaining following the extended drought.
The mild, dry conditions may have helped Grey Partridge to have a more productive breeding season, with several notable coveys found around the area – with perhaps up to 100 birds involved in total. A Water Pipit on the 23rd at Wheldrake was notable, along with a pair of Ravens, two parties of Bearded Tits and a large arrival of wintering thrushes. The month ended with a notable flock of 140+ Corn Buntings at Hagg Lane, East Cottingwith.
Many thanks as always to everyone who contributed counts and records throughout the month, in particular to members of York Birding, and regular patch birder Duncan Bye. Thanks also to Duncan Bye, Leanne Evans, Oliver Metcalf, Stuart Rapson and Trevor Walton for the use of their images below.
Mute Swan – The resident pairs and broods remained throughout the site, however, Avian Influenza sadly resulted in the mortality of 80% of the years cygnets.
Whooper Swan – The first returning birds were five individuals south over Bank Island on the 7th, followed by birds over Elvington on nocturnal passage on the 7th/8th and 10th/11th. 15 flew west over Thorganby on the 11th just before dusk with 34 south over Bank Island on the 13th. 10 flew over Bank Island during the day on the 15th followed by 21 on the 16th. 22 flew south over North Duffield Carrs on the 18th whilst 15 flew into Melbourne Ings on the 19th with two over Wheldrake after dark. 21 flew south over Bank Island at 10:30hrs on the 24th with seven south over Wheldrake Ings at 19:00hrs on the same date. Three flew over Aughton Ings on the 25th with a single and a group of two at Wheldrake Ings on the 27th. A minimum of 134 passage birds were recorded during the month, with 20 ‘resident’ wintering birds present at Thorganby on the 29th to month end.
Pink-footed Geese – 500 went over the Bank Island/Wheldrake Ings area on the 1st followed by 300 on the 2nd, 250 on the 3rd and 400+ on the 4th. 510 were then present regularly in the Wheldrake/Bank Island area daily until the 10th feeding in local fields. 200 were in the Bank Island area on the 12th when 490 flew west over Skipwith Common NNR. 280 headed over Bank Island on the 14th, with 400-600 recorded daily thereafter – presumably relating to local feeding flights. Smaller numbers remained to month end.
Greylag Goose – 1150 were still present in the wider area early in the month. 600+ continued to roost at Elvington Water Treatment Works with 1300+ throughout the area on the 23rd.
Egyptian Goose – A pair were present in the East Cottingwith area on the 9th with seven individuals there on the 29th.
Wigeon – 80 were at North Duffield Carrs on the 9th with c100+ after dark on the 17th at Wheldrake. 600+ were at North Duffield Carrs on the 25th when 200+ were in the Wheldrake Ings area. 200 were at Elvington Water Treatment Works on the 30th.
Teal – 300 were present on Wheldrake after dark on the 5th, with numbers increasing thereafter although fairly difficult to survey after dark. 2000+ were present on the pool and scrape at Wheldrake Ings on the 17th. 600+ were recorded at Wheldrake during the day between the 20th - 24th.
Gadwall – Up to 20 were recorded around the reserve late in the month.
Mallard – Up to 500+ were using Wheldrake after dark throughout the month.
Pintail – A single flock were picked up after dark over Elvington on the 24th.
Shoveler – Up to 20 were present during the month, scattered throughout the site with other waterfowl.
Tufted Duck – 30 were recorded over Wheldrake Ings on the night of the 21st.
Goosander – Two red-heads flew over Bank Island on the 2nd with two over Wheldrake Ings on the 16th.
Common Scoter – A flock (numbers unknown) were heard passing over Wheldrake Ings on the 11th after dark.
Little Egret – One or two lingered around the reserve early in the month but weren't reported again after the 19th.
Great White Egret – Single over Bank Island on the 20th with one flushed from a ditch there on the 22nd - presumably the same bird appeared again there on the 25th before flying north. Single at Wheldrake Ings on the 26th with a different colour-ringed individual present there on the 27th. One north-west over Bank Island on the 30th.
Great Crested Grebe – A pair remained at Elvington Water Treatment Works throughout the month.
Common Crane – Four were present on the Low Grounds before flying off towards the Hagg Bridge area of the Pocklington Canal on the 5th. At least one was calling in the Thorganby area after dark on the 24th before flying over onto Wheldrake Ings. Two flew south at Wheldrake shortly after dawn on the 25th.
Osprey – A single was present at Raker Lakes near Wheldrake village on the 13th, with presumably the same individual present the following day at Wheldrake Ings on the 14th. Single at Bank Island on the 22nd.
Marsh Harrier – Seven roosted at Bank Island on the 4th including two adult males and the wing-tagged bird D3, with six individuals into roost on the 5th and 6th. Three birds remained at the roost on the 17th with two at North Duffield Carrs on the 18th. An adult male was still present in the Bank Island area on the 25th to month end, with D3 continuing to roost there most evenings. Five were present in the Bank Island roost on the 30th.
Hen Harrier – A ringtail at Skipwith Common NNR on the 19th was possibly the same bird present at Bank Island on the 22nd and 24th. Another individual was reported at North Duffield Carrs on the 29th.
Red Kite – Three were at Bank Island/Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd with three there again on the 9th and others in the North Duffield Carrs and East Cottingwith areas. Daily sightings were then had throughout the remainder of the month across the reserve.
Buzzard –12 were at Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd with 8 at Bank Island on the same date, with other individuals seen regularly throughout the month.
Peregrine – A single immature female was hunting over Bank Island on the 7th with one at Wheldrake Ings on the 23rd and North Duffield Carrs on the 25th and 28th.
Hobby – Two were present at dusk at Bank Island on the 4th with one there on the 11th being the last to be reported.
Merlin – The first returning bird was present over Bank Island on the 14th.
Grey Partridge – Up to 12 were regularly recorded from the field adjacent to the NNR base at Bank Island during the month, and from adjacent arable fields on the other side of the road. 30 were present in the car park at Wheldrake Ings on the 23rd with 12 seen on the Ings after dark on the 24th. A covey of 14 were present at North Duffield Carrs after dark on the 27th. Elsewhere, several coveys were seen on adjacent arable fields in the Elvington, Wheldrake and Skipwith areas – perhaps as many as 100+ birds scattered through the area. 17 were caught and ringed during the month.
Water Rail – Three were present at Wheldrake on the 24th with regular records from this site throughout out the month.
Ringed Plover – Single at Elvington on the 2nd.
Golden Plover – 190 had built up in the Elvington area by the 2nd with 140 across Wheldrake.
Lapwing – Very small numbers passed through the area.
Snipe – 60 were recorded at North Duffield Carrs on the 9th with an estimated 140 throughout the site at this time. 80 were present after dark on Wheldrake Ings on the 19th increasing to 200+ on the 20th. 200+ were also present at North Duffield Carrs on the 25th.
Jack Snipe – Three were present over arable fields adjacent to Bank Island on the 4th (first returning birds), 10 + were then located on Wheldrake Ings with eight feeding on the newly re-profiled Swantail Ings scrape after dark on the 5th. Six were present at Wheldrake after dark on the 6th with one at Bank Island on the 7th. A movement then appeared to take place throughout the site with no further sightings until a single at North Duffield Carrs on the 18th - with six at Wheldrake Ings after dark on the same date. Five were present at Wheldrake on the 19th followed by three on the 20th, six on the 25th and three on the 27th.
Woodcock – The first bird of the autumn was feeding on the main meadow at Wheldrake Ings after dark on the 5th with birds recorded on local arable fields and pastures on the 11th and 16th. No obvious influx of incoming wintering birds was noted.
Green Sandpiper – Two were still present early in the month with one remaining on the 3rd and 7th.
Common Sandpiper – A single was present at dusk at Wheldrake Ings on the 24th and later heard calling on the Swantail scrape after dark.
Lesser Black-backed Gull – 60 were present in fields adjacent to Bank Island on the 11th. Small numbers (up to 20) flew south across the reserve on several evenings.
Caspian Gull – A first winter bird was present in fields at Thorganby on the 28th.
Black-headed Gull – Birds were starting to be seen heading south down the reserve at dusk during the second half of the month - presumably to roost on the upper Humber. c2300 headed over Wheldrake Ings on the 27th.
Short-eared Owl – A single spent late afternoon and evening quartering fields at Bank Island on the 13th, and again on the 15th-17th. One, possibly two, were at North Duffield Carrs on the 18th with one seen again on the 25th to month end.
Long-eared Owl – Two in the Bank Island/Wheldrake area on the 28th.
Green Woodpecker – Single present at Bank Island on the 15th and Wheldrake on the 22nd.
Swift – One over Bank Island on the 3rd.
Pallid Swift – Single photographed over Thorganby village on the 30th was thought to be a probable Pallid (LE), with a definite record then confirmed two days later with a single feeding over Elvington and Bank Island (seen by multiple observers), and in line with an influx across the Yorkshire and North-East coast as well as elsewhere in the UK.
Swallow – Smaller numbers lingered into the month with six south at Bank Island on the 2nd and 14 at Wheldrake the following morning. Five flew over Bank Island on the 4th. Two passed through Wheldrake on the morning of the 7th followed by two at Bank Island on the 9th. Four were at North Duffield Carrs on the 13th with two over Bank Island on the same date.
House Martin – Five were still present at Wheldrake Ings on the 7th with one there on the 11th.
Skylark – 80 were recorded on passage at Bank Island/Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd. 24 passed over Bank Island on the 9th with 26 in fields at Hagg Lane on the same date. 80+ passed over the reserve on the 18th with daily passage noted thereafter. 100+ were feeding in fields at Hagg Lane, East Cottingwith on the 29th.
Meadow Pipit – 100+ were recorded on passage over Bank Island and Wheldrake on the 2nd with 60 over Bank Island on the 9th.
Water Pipit – A single showed well on the pool at Wheldrake Ings on the 23rd (DB).
Raven – Two were at Breighton Meadows on the 30th.
Stonechat – Up to three remained at Bank Island, with five at Wheldrake Ings, three at North Duffield Carrs and pairs at both East Cottingwith and Thornton Ellers early in the month. Seven were at North Duffield Carrs on the 18th with five were at Wheldrake Ings on the 23rd. Several pairs were back on wintering territories on the 29th/30th.
Wheatear – A single was present at Wheldrake Ings on the 5th.
Redwing – A total of 90 were recorded through the Bank Island/Wheldrake area on the 1st followed by 60+ on the 2nd. Small numbers continued to trickle through with 17 at Bank Island on the 9th and 40+ on the 11th. 162 were counted passing over Bank Island on the 15th. A large arrival took place during the early hours of the 19th with perhaps 4000+ recorded during the day, with birds still continuing west overhead after dark – the movement continued the following day with 2000 on the 20th and 3000+ on the 21st.
Fieldfare – The first two of the autumn were seen over Bank Island on the 15th with four over Wheldrake village the following day. A large arrival took place at dawn on the 19th with 400 over Wheldrake and 200 over Melbourne before 08:00hrs and 1500+ throughout the remainder of the day. 800 were logged on the 20th followed by 1800 on the 21st.
Song Thrush – 10 (including five south) were recorded at Bank Island on the 2nd.
Cetti’s Warbler – Several birds continued to be recorded daily at Wheldrake Ings during the month with two there on the 23rd.
Bearded Tit – Five were ‘pinging’ behind Pool Hide, Wheldrake on the 19th before flying off high north-west. Two were reported in the reedbed at Swantail Ings, Wheldrake on the 26th.
Blackcap – Five were still at Bank Island on the 2nd with three there on the 7th. A single was still present there on the 9th followed by one on the 15th and again on the 21st. Two were still present there on the 30th.
Chiffchaff – A total of 11 were seen across Bank Island and Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd with two still at Bank Island on the 9th. Four were present there on the 24th.
Willow Warbler – Three late birds were present on Skipwith Common NNR on the 4th.
Siskin – The first single of the autumn passed over Bank Island on the 2nd followed by two on the 9th and 20+ on the 25th.
Crossbill – The first of the autumn (typical record), flew south at Bank Island on the 9th.
Lesser Redpoll – Likewise, the first of the autumn headed south over Bank Island on the 2nd with four south on the 15th. 25 headed over Bank Island on the 21st followed by 15 on the 29th.
Brambling – Single over Bank Island on the 9th.
Reed Bunting – 100+ at the Wheldrake Ings Swantail 'reed bed roost' on the 27th when 80 were also present at Bank Island. 100+ were at Church Bridge Melbourne at month end.Corn Bunting – 140+ were in the Hagg Lane area in East Cottingwith on the 29th.
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