Tuesday 26 March 2024

Icelandic Travellers

With the nights drawing out, it was my first chance for a quick post-work dash to Wheldrake this evening. 32 Whooper Swans were resting on the ings at Wheldrake, just outside Tower Hide - a fine sight. About 6.30pm they got pretty excited, necks erect and calling constantly; a fantastic sound. A family party headed off, but realising the rest hadn't joined them, they circled back round and joined the flock; well, almost. One of the youngsters didn't notice and headed off south towards the refuge and out of sight. Strange! Ten minutes later, it still hadn't returned and the herd decided it was time to go and they headed off into the dusk to the north. 

The impressive flock of Black-tailed Godwits had been feeding in the shallows; I had counted over 500 when they were flushed - there was clearly a lot more - probably well over 800, as was counted the other day- a new record for the LDV. I checked the wings as best as I could, looking for the black underwings of a Hudsonian - maybe a little optimistic - or the plain upperwings of a Bar-tailed - maybe more likely. I found neither, but the spectacle was amazing to watch. 

A horde of Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits, swirling over their Whooper Swan neighbours. 

I headed down to Swantail with Duncan, and shortly after arrival the lost young Whooper Swan flew back towards the main flood, clearly a little distressed at losing its family. I felt for the young bird, as its family were now long-gone to the north. I hoped that another herd would come through and it could join up with them and a little later, to our relief, that happened and 52 birds came north low over the ings collecting the lost youngster. I have always wondered how sociable birds get split up from the flock and then become vagrants - perhaps this event demonstrates how this can happen so easily. 

This young Whooper was lucky. I guess some birds get split up and then latch on to the next nearest species, leading them to end up travelling with them, perhaps out of the usual range. 

Migrating Whooper Swans; one of the finest spring wildlife spectacles

Having checked through the hordes of ducks for a Garganey - to no avail - we headed home, enjoying five Sand Martins hawking over the reedbed and at least three Water Rails causing a commotion in the ditches next to the boardwalk.


I arrived home to the good news that the insurance company are going to pay out for my smashed binoculars - what a relief! Now the big decision about what to get....

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