Cygnus in the mist

Sunday 17th February and the LDV, which to those in the know means the Lower Derwent Valley, an area of winter flood meadows around the villages to the South East of York. This was a Bird Forum Meet and we (Ken & I) were going to meet up with a few of the other Tyke BFer’s for a day’s birding. So up early to catch the early morning sun…not! As there was early morning mist.

The arranged meeting point was the car park at North Duffield Carrs, bonus point to me as I remembered the car park was before the barrier. Richard G was already in the car park and we’d had a text from Andy K that he was down the road scoping swans to find the Bewick’s. Once booted and suited Ken, Richard and I made our way down to where Andy was at the entrance to a farm. Here we had a fair few golden plover, they were nestling in the ploughing ruts and every time we counted them we found more. White blobs in the mist slowly resolved into whooper swans, nothing that we could definitely say was a Bewick’s. One white blob across to our right resolved into the tail patch on a roe deer, fun! It was here that Rob as well as Nick, Andy’s friend, caught up with us.

Having got fed up of looking into the mist, we ambled back to the Geoffrey Smith hide at North Duffield Cars and proceeded to freeze our butts for a short while. We did get a good number of ducks including pintail, just love those elegant lines. A goosander calmly swam in front of the hide before taking off and not being seen again. Once the cold had got through to us enough we upped and motored off to Ellerton and then Aughton to scan the water from their respective churchyards.

Ellerton was the best site, by the church was a flightless pink-footed goose – so a dead easy year tick there, more ducks and a few whooper swans. Nick picked up a small group of barnacle geese flying down the water, I think almost everyone got onto them except Ken who had chosen the wrong moment to be investigating the headstones in the churchyard. A little later a couple of Egyptian geese flew southwards, this time everyone saw them. A few of us managed to see the gt spotted woodpecker that flew across the field to the right of the church.

Aughton churchyard was less spectacular but the walk back to the cars gave us one, possibly two corn buntings and a song thrush, whilst on feeders near where we were parked, we picked up tree sparrow and coal tit. We did hear what was possibly a distant woodpecker drumming but as it was just a few drums and then nothing we couldn’t really count it.

Bubwith Ings next, so once more into the cars and thankfully there was no-one behind me as I slammed on the brakes to get a better look at a bird in the field – mistle thrush. The Ings came up trumps with dunlin, more golden plover, lapwings and half a dozen ruff. The lot went up, Rob thought he’d spotted a couple of other waders but couldn’t locate them again as the flock wheeled around, then the cause of this mass hysteria was found, a peregrine cruising slowly along. We watched as the bird flew off towards the south, then made our way back to the cars. A fly-over green woodpecker was a bonus for the sharp-eyed. A return to North Duffield and the farm to once more scan the fields for the Bewick’s no longer hampered by mist, this time it was the low afternoon sun that caused the problems. Plenty of whoopers and then after we moved to get a better angle of view at last a Bewick’s swan ambled across the field. It was whilst scanning for the Bewick’s that a pair of peregrines were located sat on the deck in the field, an odd location for them.

Back at the car park and the plans were discussed for the rest of the afternoon, first stop Thorganby, then York and finally Rufforth airfield. Thorganby was much the worst of the days choices, loads of water and very distant birds, so we only stayed there for literally 5 minutes.

Next stop, York – Beckfield Lane to be precise. Target birds -waxwings. 4 cars, 3 sat navs and still the driver of the only non -sat nav vehicle managed to be the first on the scene, I was the only one not to go through York, I came round the Northern Ring Road and in on the A59. Found the tree and the birds. Andy arrived and managed to park under the tree, within minutes he had waxwing crap all over his car roof. I too was targeted by the little beggars. Once Richard and Andy had taken their fill of photos it was on to Rufforth, pausing only to agree that there were no gulls in the field by the Red Lion. There were gulls at Rufforth though, sadly no white-wingers were located, and when a microlight took off the majority of them upped and jiggered off. Still it added another birding location to my library and is somewhere I will visit again but during the week when there is less man made aerial traffic.

All in all a great day out covering just over 120 miles and scoring just over 70 species and as always on a BF meet having some great craic!
Here’s to the next one.


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