Over 440 Black-tailed Godwits (487 apparently when they revealed themselves later) were an amazing sight on the refuge at Wheldrake Ings this morning. I'd cycled over under sunny skies and into a keen east wind, making my eyes water as I searched the passing fields for birds. Several Corn Buntings sang, a few Grey Partridges skittered along the verges and a distant Mistle Thrush added melancholy to a joyous morning. Up the Wheldrake road, the large finch flock was still buzzing around the stubble field. As I passed, some of the flock settled in roadside trees and I smiled at up to 20 Bramblings. They'll be heading back north soon. A few of the males looked splendid, in their dark-headed finery.
After a quick stop for snacks at the shop in the village, I rolled down the lane to Wheldrake. Chiffchaffs were greeting the day and a Great Spotted Woodpecker added percussion from the wood. I made haste round to Swantail as I was keen to see the Black-tailed Godwits. They were still hanging out on the refuge, but the bright light wasn't helping. It wasn't easy to count the birds with some hidden behind nearby Hawthorns, but after a couple of attempts, I felt 440 was a pretty good figure. Blackwits are a feature of Wheldrake in March-April as they stage before heading up to Iceland, but this number is a record. A hunting Marsh Harrier put them into flight and they swirled across the flood, yickering loudly and flashing piebald wingstripes and tails. Truly magical!
Plenty of ducks were still out on the flood, though numbers seemed to have dropped. 20 Golden Plovers flew past and a single Dunlin was with a Lapwing flock. As I walked back along the riverbank, a smart Willow Tit was checking the Willow flowers for insects overhead and a Little Egret flew past, glowing in the sunshine.
With the east wind at my back, the cycle ride back to Bishopthorpe was a joy for once!