I had a quick scan of the numerous wildfowl and waders that were either on the river, unfrozen pools or were stood roosting on the ice. The usual suspects really with Scaup (1st winter male - new bird to the one I had last time (which was a 1st winter female) - presumably the bird found by Tim on Monday), Pintail, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Wigeon, Mute Swan, Coot and Moorhen (the latter two species up on last couple of visits). Marsh Harrier flew through and a Barn Owl almost flew into the hide! (it was 1pm!). Quite a few waders about, Golden Plover and Lapwing, 10+ Ruff, 40 Dunlin (20 feeding along river bank and 20 roosting on ice) and a few Snipe too.
The highlight however came with the familiar sound of Whooper Swan as 82 flew in from the south. A good 60% of these landed on the River Derwent half way between Geoff Smith and Aughton. whilst scanning the flock I picked out three birds that struck me as being a bit different, so I got a couple of pictures on my phone. They were Bewick's Swans!
Bewick's Swan is a Lower Derwent Valley Special Protection Area (SPA) Qualifying Species i.e.: one of the reasons the Lower Derwent Valley has European Protection (under the EU Birds Directive) - however this was a first at the site/in the LDV/York Recording Area for me!
The occurrences of Swans within the LDV today is markedly different to what it once was and looking at the patterns seems to fluctuate regularly. In my (relatively short) time in the LDV Whooper Swans are the regular species with counts of over 100 birds common during the winter and several hundred others going through on passage, with Bewick's Swans pretty much a scarce (but probably more-or-less annual in very low numbers) very brief visitor. All the ones I can remember hearing about recently have been seen once, on one day but then not again (often coming in to roost late pm)! Now, if you speak to the old guard, back in the 1980s it was the other way round, with counts of 200+ Bewick's Swans with far fewer Whooper Swans about!
Potentially interesting, is that one of the Bewick's Swans appeared to be darvic-ringed (noticeable in some of the pics). Hopefully (if they linger) the swans will be found foraging somewhere and we'll be able to get the ring code read. There was a minimum of 3 Bewick's, but there may have been 4-5 (check out the mixed shot at the end)
Some pictures of the swans from today:
Mixed flock here...
The floods have gone down (for the time being) but are now frozen solid!