2017 Bird Report

Bird report 2017
by Sonia Elsey

2017 started with numerous sightings of Waxwing (the bird every birder hopes to see). These winter visitors don't come in big numbers to the UK every year but 2016/2017 was a 'waxwing winter', probably due to shortage of food in Scandinavia. A solitary waxwing was in a Leyburn garden as late as April 13. A Mistle Thrush was singing from the top of the tall trees near my garden throughout January and, by the end of the month, Song Thrush were singing all around Leyburn. Good numbers of Lapwing and Curlew were seen on most of our wetlands, together with Teal, Widgeon, Shelduck, Shoveler, Coot, Moorhen and Snipe. A Greater-spotted Woodpecker and a Tree Creeper were recorded in a Leyburn garden. Buzzard and Kestrel were regularly seen throughout the dale all year.

In February a Goldcrest was seen at Akebar, and a Skylark was singing at Finghall on the 15th. A Dipper was seen at Surrender Bridge, and 50+ Oystercatcher were on the fields at Bolton Hall. In mid-February Woodcock and Snipe were at Locker Tarn, also Fieldfare and Golden Plover. A Water Rail was seen at Harmby, and the first Sand Martin were flying over the Ure by the end of the month.

March brought the first signs of spring with 7 nests in the heronry near Wensley, though there was only a single nest above Sorrelsykes. The first Chiffchaff was calling at Harmby on first of March. During a visit to Nosterfield quarry a flock of 13 Whooper Swan landed on one of the pools. Good numbers of water-fowl were present including Golden-eye, Little and Greater-crested Grebe, and a pair of Common Sandpiper. A Little Owl watched us from a tree. Green Woodpecker were heard several times above Preston under Scar, and there were sightings of Kingfisher on the Ure and Swale.

In April the migrants continued to arrive with several Willow Warbler and a Blackcap singing near Jervaux. A large flock of Golden Plover was at Redmire during the first week of April. Juvenile Dunnock were in my garden. The first Swallow was seen at Cover Bridge on 14th, and House Martin were at Castle Bolton on 24th. On 22ndpril a Redstart and 3 Wheatear were seen in Arkengarthdale. A Ring Ousel was reported above West Witton on 29th April. On May 2 Dunlin were seen on Gt Shunner Fell and, during early May, Cuckoo were calling in several places including Bellerby, Muker and Castle Bolton. Several Mandarin Duck were on the Ure at Lord’s Bridge, where also a Dipper was thought to be nesting. The first swifts arrived 7th May near Leyburn station and at Castle Bolton. By late May a Song Thrush was feeding a juvenile on my lawn. Red Kite were recorded in various locations. A Redstart visited a bird feeder in Finghall. House Martin were nesting at Aysgarth station. Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were singing everywhere.

June, July and August tend to be quiet months for birding, as the birds stop singing and the leaves make it more difficult to see them. However a flock of 80+curlews was on a field near Leyburn Show-field in July. Dipper, Kingfisher, Goosander and Little Egret continued to be seen along the rivers. Nuthatch were heard but not seen in tall trees at Aysgarth church and at Langthwaite. A Sparrowhawk visited a Bellerby garden. Perhaps the most unusual sighting was a Great White Egret at Skeeby (there have been local press-reports of other recent sightings in North Yorkshire).

September brought records of Avocet and Buzzard from Nosterfield, as well as a large flock of Curlew resting on the muddy margins of the pool. A late Wheatear was seen at Harmby on 15th, and a late swift at Castle Bolton on the 16th.
In October large numbers of Lapwing were at Scorton Quarry, together with Pochard, Little and Great-crested Grebe, Widgeon, Teal, Coot, and Moorhen. Skeins of geese were flying over Leyburn, probably Greylag, but too high to be sure. Barn Owl was seen at Castle Bolton, and at Redmire

In November 3 Dipper were on the Ure at Aysgarth. A Redwing and 2 Bullfinch were in a Leyburn garden.
December set in winter and a Nuthatch visited my bird feeders, and my neighbour's. A Merlin was seen near Snape by a cyclist as it flew along the hedgerow. Sadly no Waxwing has been reported yet, but there seem to be good numbers of Fieldfares and Redwing about.

Once again, this is only a glimpse of the bird life in our area sent to me by members. We are lucky to live in a place were we see good numbers of the more common birds, but space constrains my making a complete list. Thanks to S. Simms, R. Hall, J. Helm, J. Elsey, S. Gardner, J. Nuttall, D. Millward, and J. White for their reports.

Reports of unusual sightings can be sent to: soniaelsey@btinternet.com

Our 2018 Bird report is published in our 2019 Bulletin, distributed to members.