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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Early signs of Spring at Wheldrake Ings

Gazing out of my window upon cold and cloudy skies and a very wet garden I have to remind myself that it will be the first day of Spring in just 3 days time on March 20th! Yes, next Wednesday is down on the calender as the vernal equinox - where daylight hours begin to match those of darkness and the Northern Hemisphere warms up.... hurray, bring it on!

The very first signs of Spring have been with us for a a few weeks already of course with Snowdrops, Crocuses and Hazel Catkins bringing a bit of colour to the countryside and I noticed the Willow trees at Wheldrake coming into bud earlier this week. Haven't seen any Sand Martin records for Yorkshire yet but one in Liecestershire on the 14th with several more further South shows they are on their way up and they've had Swallows in Cornwall, Dorset and Ireland already!

Apart from my truly enjoyable working hours at Askham Bog, I've not been out much recently ....been taking advantage of this pre Spring lull to get a few things done around the house and when I have ventured abroad its still felt like Winter to me!

Dodging the snow flurries at Wheldrake Ings last week was kinda fun and as I sought refuge in Tower Hide my reward was a couple of drake Scaups in with the rest of the wildfowl. Too far away to photograph sadly because as you can from this view the light was good in between the showers.

These roaming Whooper Swans were a little closer (but not much!) and managed a couple of half decent shots with a lucky capture of a bit of argy bargy swan behaviour!

It was a shame the good light didn't remain long enough to get more pics because I was after some wildfowl in flight. There was a healthy number of Pintail on the reserve (I reckoned about 100) and I was dying to get one of those but had to settle for Comon Teal and a pretty grubby and hastily shot fly over of a small group of Pink Footed Geese
Common Teal
Pink Footed Geese

It was certainly no day for a surprise early Swallow or anything like that - but then Spring comes in many guises; depends of course where you are on this planet as to what may be that harbinger of warmer days ahead,but as I look out again on to settling snow in my garden, I'm secretly chuffed to have caught a few of Wheldrake's own symbols of Spring .... Curlews calling and drifting overhead

Pussy Willow starting to bud and alongside the pathways

...... and the occasional Oystercatcher probing for worms that are themselves starting to wriggle again.

Highlight birds on the day were some good flocks of waders with maybe 120 Dunlin, 20ish Ruff, about 500 Lapwing, 50 Golden Plover and 2 Snipe. Still plenty of ducks and geese about with maybe 100 Pintail, 70 Gadwall, 150 Shoveler, 200 Tufted Duck, 2 Scaup, 8 Goldeneye, 150 Pochard in amongst the many hundreds of Wigeon, Teal and Mallard. With a brisk and chilly Easterly blowing a couple of hours in Tower Hide was not good for my hands and as the light began to fade I gave up on trying to pick out anything special like a Glaucous or Med Gull amongst the other gulls coming into roost and sought refuge!

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