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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Northern ducks fill the skies in the Lower Derwent, early Spring flowers along the Foss and handsome Fieldfares pulling up worms!

Hallelujah, bright skies and normal weather makes a return! This Monday in my part of the world was just the most perfect early Spring-like day, so good that I even submitted my first ever pic to Paul the Weatherman (local tv news station) ... it didn't get selected but for your delectation here it is... some lovely Hazel Catkins hanging in the sun.

Hazel Catkins, River Foss

Should've shot some Daffodill pics! More images from that glorious day later but hey we've been a bit spoilt with nice weather days lately and so I took full advantage of a few spare hours last week to pop into Wheldrake Ings now the floods have receded.

One of Northern England's finest wetland areas, I've posted about this place and the Lower Derwent Valley several times in the past so no need to dwell on it's qualities, and on day of my trip out the place certainly delivered, nothing spectacular in terms of species, just the normal throng of wildfowl, wader and gull mayhem!

Black Tailed Godwits, Wheldrake Ings.

Dodgy pic out of the way first and a rubbish image it is too but the birds aren't ... a couple of Black Tailed Godwits on the last day of Feb potentially and surely scouting out the nesting possibilities.

Northern Shoveller, Wigeon (front) & Teal (back)

It was as thrilling as ever to see plenty of northern ducks still filling the skies and feeding up on the flood plains of the Derwent. I'm typically slapdash about recording flocks of birds at places like Wheldrake but made an effort with the Wigeon on that day (Feb 28th) and reckoned on about 2700. They were the most numerous I guess, along with Teal (c 2000), Mallard (c1500), Shoveller (c400), Pintail (c250), Tufted Duck (c250), Shelduck (25), Pochard (c40) and Goldeneye just 4 ... bored with the numbers yet? I am a bit too so here's a few pics ...
Mainly Northern Shoveller, plus a Wigeon (bottom left)


Loved the way these 3 Gadwall came out. Not sure I've ever got a better image of these grey cousins of our familiar 'quack quack', the ubiquitous Mallard.

Male & Female Northern Shoveller

My attempt at a similar close up of Shovellers by way of some heavy post shoot 'cropping' produced a much less sharper image (looks like a digi scope pic!) but I like the way the lens has caught the diametrically opposite wing beats of male and female ...

Male Northern Pintail, Wheldrake Ings

The Pintails, though plentiful, were not flying anywhere near my camera so, as usual, had to make do with a long range effort ... I must get to grips with these beauties before they depart!

Nothing of else of note on the Ings, a cursory glance at the 1000s of gulls coming into roost revealed no white winged species. Precious few waders about apart from Lapwings, 10ish Curlew, the odd Golden Plover and a couple of Oystercatchers.

A smattering of Redwings and Fieldfares occupied the riverside trees and a couple of  calling Willow Tits was a good record.

The light was great for most of the afternoon and even at 4.00pm this Grey Heron flying over was looking splendid!
Grey Heron, Wheldrake Ings

As were these wonderfully turned out Mute Swans
Pair of Mute Swans, Wheldrake Ings

So that was February then, now back to that glorious Monday morning start to the week .....I'm so lucky to be able to take advantage of the relative quiet out in the countryside during the week and it would have been a crime not to be out on such a day so I ditched my planned chores, enjoyed a few moments of smugness as I drove and watched a few late commuters rush into work, and headed off for a stroll down the River Foss nr Strensall Common and ended up finding a previously undiscovered (to me) back way onto the Common itself. Look it was such a lovely Spring day that I'm gonna stop blabbing and let my pictures do the talking.
River Foss at Strensal

Red Dead Nettle, River Foss

Lesser Celandines, River Foss

Particularly like the composition on these Celandines ... some flowers just seem to arrange themselves so nicely!!
Alder Tree catkins

Small Tortoiseshell, River Foss

... and with the flowers come the butterflies again, like this rather ragged looking Small Tortoiseshell, one of three I saw along the bank and my first of the year.

Crossing the river and skirting the edge of Strensall Common I came across a big flock of Fieldfares and was totally bewitched to hear one singing in the sunshine from the top of a tree. Took a shed load of pictures some good, a couple really good ...great light and it really showed some of them off! .... here's 6 of the best.
Fieldfares at Strensall

Fieldfares at Strensall

Fieldfares at Strensall
Fieldfares at Strensall

Wow a Fieldfare in flight, exploding from a tree and just about in focus!! All these winter thrushes ... Redwings, Blackbirds and Song Thrushes are gathering in fields now, feeding up before they head back up to Northern Europe. This particular flock of maybe 250 strong were pulling up and devouring worms like their lives depended on it .... which of course is the truth of the matter!
Fieldfares at Strensall
Fieldfares at Strensall

Long Tailed Tit with nesting material

Making my way back the same way there was yet more evidence of the changing seasons .... Long Tailed Tits in the hedgerows, already paired up and gathering nesting material for their intricate ball shaped houses, and Great Spotted Woodpeckers doing their courtship drumming and occasionally resting a while for the purpose of getting their faces on some blog!

Great Spotted Woodpecker, River Foss
Shelduck breezing in
It may not be officially Spring yet but my oh my it's felt like it on 2 or 3 days recently and that day by the sheltered River Foss, feeling the heat on the back of my legs,  I was reminded of warmer climes and far away places .... such a dreamer!!

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