Happy New Year!
It was a beautiful winter's day today, with clear blue skies and crisp air. Despite having almost lost my voice due to a throat infection and feeling decidedly ropey, I had to get out of the house to do some birding. The lure of lots of geese (38 White-fronts and 3-4 Tundra Beans) in the LDV was strong, but sadly I couldn't find the herd. Not a good start to my New Year's birding.
The valley is still dry, with no water at all visible from the platform at Thorganby and consequently a big concentration of birds at Wheldrake Ings, where some shallow floods remain. I headed there to see what the Tower Hide could offer. Perhaps the geese might be on the floods, as they sometimes are. A few birders were present and along with Duncan Bye and family, I also met Trevor Douglas who gave me a notebook I had lost two years ago. Nice one!
The spectacle from the hide was impressive with three Roe Deer scampering along the edge of the main meadow, and the dwindling flood holding thousands of birds, the best of which were seven Black-tailed Godwits, 40 Dunlin, 8 Ruff and dozens of Pintail. Very few geese were present however, apart from a few Canadas and Greylags. Gulls began to arrive after 3pm and shortly Trevor picked up a female Marsh Harrier cruising around over towards Swantail.
A little later, at 3.45pm I was busy looking through the gulls and Trevor casually said that he thought he had an egret flying along in the distance. I swung my scope round, expecting to see one of the local Little Egrets, but was amazed to see a large egret with a big yellow sabre of a bill, long black legs with black feet - a Great White Egret! Fab. It slowly flapped along, over the top of Swantail Hide, across the reedbed and the Pool and towards Thorganby where we lost it behind the trees. Brilliant, only my second GWE at Wheldrake and a fine start to 2017. There has been a bird in the Stillingfleet Beck recently, so this could well be the same bird.
After putting the news out, I returned to the gulls. A few moments later and I latched on to a rather smart adult Iceland Gull. Nothing exceptional there, but as white-wingers have been very thin on the ground so far this winter this was a nice surprise. The bird appeared to be quite grey on the primary edges but I couldn't discern any grey on the primary tips. To my surprise, as I was watching, the bird swam past another Iceland Gull! This bird seemed to be an adult too, but more advanced with a whiter head.
Feeling very pleased, I walked back in the gathering dusk