Friday 28 December
Following several years of only seeing mute swans in Yorkshire I decided to have a shot at the whoopers and Bewick’s that gather in the Lower Derwent Valley. Ken, Rob and Andy elected to join me on the day.
The drive out to the LDV was relatively uneventful, Ken and I had a nice low red kite as we were leaving Leeds and good numbers of kestrels on the drive over. I managed to find the North Duffield Carrs car park first time, didn’t need to come back to it – unlike my first visit many years ago.
We had a walk round to the Geoffrey Smith hide and gawped at the amount of water there was, we managed to locate the roof of the other hide on the reserve, the rest of it is still underwater. Very quickly we picked up Canada geese, greylags, along with hundreds of wigeon. Ken picked out a handful of pintail but they didn’t stay for long. Some swans in the fields across the water couldn’t be firmly id’ed as anything other than ‘not mute swan’. The yellow on the beak was only just visible, but this may have been due to the poor light rather than size of the yellow patch, so we couldn’t nail them as either of the target birds. Andy joined us in the hide and we spent a few more minutes scanning the water before heading off to the village of Ellerton to hopefully find the swans.
Rob was already on site and had found the whoopers but couldn’t locate any Bewick’s, we all gathered in the lee of the church building to try and cut down on the wind chill factor. More pintail, wigeon, mallard and teal were on the water in front of the church. There was a line of roosting swans away across the water, however the majority were mutes, there were whoopers. No amount of trying could turn any of them into Bewick’s. After we’d spent enough time turning blood to ice we headed back to the cars and were grateful for the tree sparrows on the feeders in the gardens. A swift conference and the decision was made to head to Aughton and scan the water from the church there for Bewick’s.
The walk to the church was somewhat lively, the mud making keeping your feet somewhat awkward. Other than a different view of the water there was little gained here, there weren’t even the same number of ducks down on the water here. So very rapidly we headed back to the cars, the walk adding mistle thrush, jackdaw and blackbird to the day list.
We rounded off our time in the LDV by returning to North Duffield Carrs and scanning the waters from the hide. This turned up some 25+ dunlin, shelduck and a little grebe but no Bewick’s.
At the end of the morning as Andy had to shoot off, the rest of us decided eventually to try Pugney’s C.P. near Wakefield. A bittern had been reported on and off for a couple of months and as Rob needed one for his year list it seemed a good idea. The weather was turning against us a little, and the light was certainly fading fast when we arrived. A chap already there was trying to convince himself that a juvenile gull was a yellow legged, but he did let us know that the long tailed duck had been seen that day.
So with hope in our heart we walked the Main Lake path towards the Nature reserve lake and the hide. Nothing much on the water other than gulls, great crested grebes and cormorants. As we neared the nature reserve area we picked up on a few goldeneye, more grebes but no LTD on the Main lake. The Nature reserve lake didn’t hold anything hugely exciting, although we did add pochard, stock dove and heron to the day list from here.
One of the local guys said that the scaup had been seen over on the wetlands so we decided to decamp to the Calder Wetlands. Again not a huge number of birds were present and the scaup proved elusive until Rob found the bird asleep in a group of tufted duck.
By this time both the light and the weather were turning against us so we called it a day.
Total species count for the day on my reckoning was 45