Sunday, 3 December 2017

"By Jove! It's a Glossy Ibis!"

News came through from Adam Firth that he had found a drake American Wigeon on Bank Island yesterday afternoon. I was up to my knees in snow on the North York Moors, sledging with the kids. Hopefully it would be there tomorrow morning...

Dawn broke, and with England's attack wavering against a determined Aussie test batting side, I decided it wasn't worth staying in to listen to and headed out to the LDV. A little while later I arrived to find LDV stalwart Duncan Bye on the platform along with Adam, trying to refind yesterday's Yank. There was plenty of water and plenty of Wigeon, but the murky half light, with mist hanging over the floods was not helping. After a bit, I exclaimed I was going to head round to Wheldrake to see if the site was beginning to flood. Dunc and Adam came along and we soon discovered that it certainly was flooding and was covered in birds. The car park was already inundated, so I parked up the lane and we waded through the floods, with the water only an inch or so below welly top level.

We headed round the riverside path to Tower Hide, which was a little sketchy as the Derwent was spilling over heavily on to the meadows.

The light still wasn't great, due to the sun's position, but as time went on, things improved. A quartet of Roe Deer were mooching about at the back, and two Marsh Harriers stirred things up. Two Stonechats fed along the banktop and thousands of Teal, Wigeon, Pintail, Shoveler, Mallard and Gadwall were spread across the flooding ings. A thousand Lapwings rested along the edge of the water and were soon joined by 300+ Golden Plover and five Ruff. Classic Wheldrake scenes.

Duncan suddenly muttered something about a Glossy Ibis, and then shouted "By jove! It is a Glossy Ibis!" or the equivalent Rotherham expletives to that effect! We scanned right and to our utter amazement there, flapping in over the 'Cormorant trees' was a Glossy Ibis! No way! A York first!  The bird flew along the back of the flood flushing all the Teal and Lapwings. It looped round towards us, giving good views through the scope. It then went back over Swantail Ings and off towards the refuge. I managed a bit of video through the scope, but the less said about that the better. And within a minute it was all over. We were elated, high fives and big grins all round - well done Duncan!

To our delight, five minutes later, Adam picked it up returning. It flew past much closer and we all shouted at it to land, and it did, on the flooded main meadow to the north of the Tower Hide.

We got the news out again as it would be viewable now from the Bailey Bridge. It fed here along the edge of the flood for the next 20 minutes. Despite looking fairly sizeable in flight, the bird was actually quite small, being similar in size to the Jackdaw and Lapwings nearby.


A Peregrine flew past flushing all the waders but the ibis was not bothered. After a bit, we decided the rapidly rising water levels were in danger of cutting us off, so we headed back. We paused to look at the ibis again, but shortly afterwards the whole site was disturbed by three low-flying planes and in the ensuing melee, we lost the ibis.

We headed back along the flooding path, just making it back out of the car park, with millimetres to spare!

A very happy Mr Bye, with Adam Firth in the background. Wading out of the car park!

We headed back up to Bank Island where the light was a bit better. After a little while, Adam performed an incredible feat of observation and picked  up the sleeping American Wigeon out on the flood. This really as impressive as it wasn't obvious in the dull light. A smart bird nevertheless!

Yank Wigeon, under the red dot. Honest!

This was proving to be an awesome day locally. Only my third York area American Wigeon, nevermind the first Glossy Ibis for York! Dunc was dead chuffed as the Ibis was a British tick for him. We decided to splash out so we drove down to the Costcutter in Wheldrake and bought Doubledeckers and pop. Happy days!

On down the valley. Thorganby was part-flooded but quiet although a Little Owl roosting in a Hawthorn was very nice.

North Duffield was still dry so we went up the bank at Bubwith. 69 Whooper Swans were the highlight here, looking majestic in the early afternoon sunshine.

Icelandic guests. Nice to see these guys back here for the winter. Plenty of juveniles too, so perhaps a good breeding season up north.

On to East Cottingwith, where another 15 Whoopers were on the Wheldrake refuge, plus three Pochards. No sign of the Ibis sadly, but the water looked too deep. Dunc checked the Low Grounds later on to no avail. Let's hope it hangs around a bit to gie other local birders the chance to see it.

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