Waterbirds 2015

MUTE SWAN    Cygnus olor   Common resident breeder. 
Once more the Wharfe at Otley recorded the largest count with 20 birds at the popular boating area on 25th May. During the winter up to 19 birds had been regularly seen at Yeadon Tarn. Altogether 11 double-figure counts were registered, mostly at these two locations, and away from here there were smaller flocks at Park Dam (Low Moor), Harold Park (Wibsey) and Lister Park (Bradford). Birds carrying yellow tags were recorded on these lakes and at Dowley Gap. Their identification numbers were 153, 154, 162, 201, 212 and 900.
Breeding was proved at Otley Wetland, where two pairs were seen with several cygnets, and at a private lake in Wharfedale where two juveniles were noted.

WHOOPER SWAN    Cygnus cygnus   Uncommon but regular passage visitor.
2014 was a record year for the number of sightings of this species, but this year, though limited to just 27 records, was impressive for the spectacular events during March which easily surpassed anything previously witnessed in this area.  
On 12th March, 48 of these majestic birds passed over Caldene Fields and two days later a flock of 42 rested on Warley Moor Reservoir. On the 15th, four birds spent about 24 hours on Ogden Water and two days later at least ten birds were seen over Old Otley Road, Bradford. This was the prelude to a bigger local movement which was well-recorded. On the 21st, 53 birds flew north-west over Thornton Moor but the next day, early in the morning, 244 birds congregated on Mixenden Reservoir, tantalisingly just outside our area. Later in the afternoon the whole flock took to the air and most passed over Oxenhope where observers counted 185 birds flying northwards, comfortably a group record (HC, RP). On the same day, smaller flocks comprised 28 over Keighley Moor, 22 on Warley Moor Reservoir and 10 birds (rising to 12 on the following day) on Lindley Wood Reservoir.  On 5th April, eight birds flew over Tong Park (Baildon), and the following day possibly the same birds were at Lower Barden Reservoir.

PINK-FOOTED GOOSE    Anser brachyrhynchus   Seen regularly overflying on passage, and occasionally as a winter visitor.
Compared to the previous year there was a considerable reduction in the aggregate total number of birds reported. The total of 6800 was under half that of 2014, though that was a record-breaking year. Other figures followed this downward trend, with just 27 day counts of skeins of over 100, down by a third, but more typical of an average year.   A third of the birds were seen in the first part of the year as they generally moved from east to west, the bulk of the passage taking place between 14th January and 11th February. The first of the 100+ was seen in Wharfedale but all the others were watched in Airedale or further south in the Queensbury area.  However, the return passage in autumn consisted of some sizable flocks. At the Oxenhope Watchpoint, during October, day counts of 269 on 13th, 745 on 25th and 310 on the 31st were made. During this same month, at Caldene fields, 164 passed over on the 8th, but a more productive period was during November when 480 were counted on the 8th and a week later skeins of up to 243. The first day of November was a day of general movement, with 500 birds flying down Wharfedale and another 100 went over Haworth.   In March, three birds rested in fields at Low Dam and another was associating with Canada Geese on Keighley Moor. During April, singles were reported at Redcar Tarn, Lower Barden Reservoir and Otley Wetland, whilst two birds were at Ben Rhydding Gravel Pits and another single was on Warley Moor Reservoir during May. During migration watch, a single bird was seen in the fields close to the watchpoint at Oxenhope.

GREYLAG GOOSE    Anser anser   Common resident breeder, and passage visitor.
There were 14 three-figure counts, a considerable increase on the two previous years, all originating from Wharfedale and the Washburn. Lindley Wood, Fewston and Scargill Reservoirs remain the locations with the greatest concentrations. At the end of the breeding season and during early autumn, flocks of up to 500 had gathered at the first site. The other two sites regularly attracted over 300 birds.   Breeding was confirmed at 13 well-spread locations, with adults on nests and with goslings seen at most of them. At Otley Wetland, 30 young birds were counted at the end of May and other successful broods were seen at Burley Moor, Denton Moor, Leeshaw Reservoir, Dowley Gap, Lower Barden Reservoir, Kex Gill, Bradup, Keighley Moor and Warley Moor Reservoir.

CANADA GOOSE    Branta canadensis   Common resident breeder.
The 19 three-figure counts were very much in line with the previous year, the biggest concentrations being at 11 locations, with Warley Moor Reservoir attracting a site record number of over 400 birds in July. When conditions were right, large wintering flocks seemed to move between Cullingworth and Cononley Ings, where numbers peaked at 270 at the end of November. Scargill Reservoir attracted 185 birds in January and in the south of the area, Park Dam saw sizable flocks of up to 150 in October.  Pairs of adults with goslings were seen at nine sites and a sitting bird with six eggs was noted at another. A pair successfully raised four young in a field by the traffic lights on Bingley Road, Bradford and the pairs at Keighley Moor Reservoir were seen to engage their broods in flying lessons, encouraging them to fly the length of the water and back! The 400 at Warley Moor Reservoir in July included many young birds.

BARNACLE GOOSE    Branta leucopsis   Probable escapee and uncommon passage/winter visitor.
A single bird, often associating with Canada Geese, was again reported from the south of the area during the first half of the year. It was assumed to be the probable escaped bird, featured in last year’s Report, and could well have been the one that flew into Stockbridge Nature Reserve on 30th August and seen at Lindley Wood Reservoir on 9th September.
Great Crested Grebe with chicks and Gadwall.                                                                                                                photos: Nigel Priestley
SHELDUCK    Tadorna tadorna   Passage/winter visitor and occasional breeder.
The 16 records concerned 43 birds, slightly better than the two previous years. During the first winter period, the water meadows of Cononley and Silsden Ings attracted up to four birds at various times when conditions were conducive. Three birds visited Warley Moor Reservoir on 19th April and single birds were recorded at Soil Hill and Doe Park, Ogden and Thornton Moor Reservoirs during these early months.   A juvenile bird was on Lower Laithe Reservoir on 5th August and four birds were watched on Ogden Reservoir on 10th September. During November four birds flew over Queensbury and others were again recorded at Cononley Ings.

MANDARIN DUCK    Aix galericulata   Increasingly common winter visitor and breeder.
On the Wharfe between Bolton Abbey and Barden Bridge there was a dramatic decline to levels more associated with five years ago. During February, a survey of the river revealed only 30 birds, which showed a marked decline from the 163 recorded just four months before in November 2014. This figure only rose to a maximum of 44 at the end of the breeding season in October.   Although there was a drop in numbers along this stretch of the Wharfe, the species’ territory appears to be widening as there were records from nine other sites. Elsewhere on the Wharfe at Knotford Nook in spring, pairs were seen and at a private lake, a pair flew from the top of a dead stump where they were in the process of establishing a nest site. There were also sightings along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal from Riddlesden to Esholt, with three pairs seen on 23rd April in the vicinity of Buck Wood.   Although pairing, displaying and bonding were evident at most of these locations, only at Knotford Nook and near Barden Bridge were more adults and juveniles seen.

WIGEON    Anas penelope   Regular passage migrant and winter visitor.
2015 was another remarkable year in which record numbers were recorded at Cononley Ings during December, eclipsing the previous high figure of 470 seen here on 1st February 2014. Numbers had been rising steadily from 30th October until the record count of 535 was reached on 19th December after a sustained period of heavy rain (KM).  
Other numbers were:
30 Oct    20 Nov    24 Nov    27 Nov    8 Dec    17 Dec    31 Dec
                       150       150          360         320          390        520          270
The numbers recorded here during the first winter period were as follows:
                     3 Jan     5 Jan      2 Mar     3 Mar     6 Mar
                       210        230        230         300        180
Elsewhere, the only other three-figure totals were a respectable 196 at Lindley Wood Reservoir on 8th February and 146 at Otley Wetland on 6th February and 115 on 19th January. Twelve birds appeared on Lower Laithe Reservoir on 16th January and 30 at Knotford Nook a week later. These were the only other significant records, with occasional birds seen in small flocks at Warley Moor Reservoir, Silsden Reservoir, Park Dam, Fewston Reservoir and Denton Hall.

GADWALL    Anas strepera   Increasingly regular passage migrant and winter visitor.
Of the 43 reports, many concerned birds in the east and south-eastern parts of the area, but there were also significant numbers in the north-west. During February, a record nine birds were seen at Apperley Bridge, and at the end of the month eight were seen a short distance further west at Esholt. In the south at Park Dam, there were regular sightings of a single bird in winter and a pair in autumn, but the only Wharfedale record was a pair at Otley Wetland on 15th March. The optimum conditions at Cononley Ings attracted pairs on 24th and 25th November, and 6th and 19th December, and a noteworthy five birds on the 18th.
Pairs of Goosander and Mandarin Ducks.

photos by Nigel Priestley and Roger Nelson
TEAL    Anas crecca   Common passage and winter visitor and occasional breeder.
Once more the flooded fields of Cononley Ings attracted high numbers, particularly during a very wet period from 30th October until the end of the year with a record count of 490 on 19th December.  
Other totals were:
                       30 Oct     8 Nov     20 Nov     24 Nov     27 Nov     18 Dec     31 Dec
                          150        170         150           370          375           460          190
During the year, at various times, respectable double-figure counts of between 20 and 30 were seen at Fewston Reservoir, John o’Gaunt’s Reservoir, Warley Moor Reservoir and a smaller group of 14 at Intake Farm, Menston. There were also single-figure counts at a wide variety of locations including Kex Gill, Askwith and Denton Moor in the north, and Keighley Moor, Ogden Reservoir, Stockbridge and Soil Hill in the south of the area.

MALLARD    Anas platyrhynchos   Common resident breeder; passage/winter visitor.
Records indicated healthy populations at a number of sites, particularly Yeadon Tarn, Redcar Tarn, Strid Wood, Ogden Reservoir, Riddlesden, Lister Park and Harold Park where, in the winter months, flocks regularly touched three-figures. Both Redcar and Yeadon Tarns reached over 200 during January and February.   Ducklings were seen at most of the above locations and at Heights Lane, Bingley, where a female had used a cattle wallow to breed her clutch. Nine ducklings were with their parents at Norwood Bottom, five were seen at Leeming Reservoir and a female was seen moving her brood near Buck Wood. Ten ducklings were produced from a breeding pair in an Otley garden and other sizable broods were at Swinsty Reservoir and Lindley Wood Reservoir. In the Menston area four pairs of Mallards produced 28 young birds.

PINTAIL Anas acuta   Regular passage and occasional winter visitor, usually in small numbers.
There were 10 records concerning 19 birds, a much better haul than the low totals of the previous years. During January, a pair was located at Cononley Ings and two pairs were on the water at Lower Laithe Reservoir, a site which has seen the return of this species for the second consecutive year after a long absence. Perhaps, given this improving picture, it came as no surprise when a single female was there in January and another on 4th October. The other records were almost all from Cononley Ings, with two birds on 27th November, four on 8th December (increasing to five on the following day), two males on the 17th and one on the 30th. The remaining record was of a single bird that flew south westwards over Caldene Fields on 2nd September.

SHOVELER    Anas clypeata   Passage/winter visitor in small numbers; has bred.
Of the four sites featured in the reports, Cononley Ings captured most of the attention. The very wet conditions throughout November and December attracted up to six birds at a time, mainly females and sub-adults at first, but towards the year end full adult males were seen. In total 31 birds were recorded here. Elsewhere pairs were seen on Ogden Reservoir on 13th March and Redcar Tarn on 3rd April, with a single male at the former site on 2nd November and a couple of females for at least two days on Silsden Ings a week later.

POCHARD    Aythya ferina   Increasingly uncommon winter visitor.
Reports once more showed that Yeadon Tarn and Otley Wetland Nature Reserve were the two main locations where this species can reliably be seen during the winter months. Up to ten birds, eight of them males, had congregated at Yeadon during March, and in January seven others frequented Otley Wetland, whilst a pair were seen feeding on the lake at Denton Hall. During November, single birds were seen at Redcar Tarn, Knotford Nook and John O’Gaunt’s.   Birds first appear in November and gradually increase in number until they depart in the middle of March. It was, therefore, a major surprise for a male bird to be seen and photographed on Ogden Reservoir on 4th July.

TUFTED DUCK    Aythya fuligula   Passage/winter visitor and increasing breeding resident.
This is our commonest diving duck, with over 200 reports spread across 31 different locations, though figures suggest that flock sizes are declining. The largest congregations were at Otley Wetland Nature Reserve with 42 birds in February, and Lister Park in Bradford where 40 birds had gathered in January. Redcar Tarn and Park Dam attracted over 30 birds in February and Silsden Reservoir, John O’Gaunt’s Reservoir and Yeadon Tarn regularly had over 20 during the winter months. On 7th February, 90% of Redcar Tarn was frozen, but the 32 Tufted Ducks which were present were operating in what little water was free of ice.   Breeding was confirmed at Kex Gill, where six young birds were seen in June. There was also a report, in the the following month of 21 birds on a stretch of water in Girlington, Bradford.

EGYPTIAN GOOSE    Alopochen aegyptiacus   Scarce visitor/possible escapee
There were just two records. A bird was seen amongst Greylag Geese at Keighley Moor Reservoir on 10th June and a second bird was on the fishing lake at Otley Wetland on 18th April. The latter may well have been the bird which has been seen in the Ilkley area and reported in 2012 and 2013 but considered to be an escapee.

SCAUP    Aythya marila   Uncommon passage/winter visitor
A female was seen on the fishing lake at Otley Wetland on 14th January and an immature bird was also recorded there on 1st and 2nd April. This was the second consecutive year that this species has been recorded.

GARGANEY    Anas querquedula   Scarce passage visitor
An eclipse drake was found at Redcar Tarn on 12th June, and stayed until the 14th. This was the first record since September 2013. 
COMMON SCOTER    Melanitta nigra   Uncommon, but regular passage visitor.

An average year with five sightings, all single birds from four different locations. An immature bird was on Yeadon Tarn on 24th March and a male visited Ogden Reservoir on 14th April. A sub-adult male was reported on Lower Laithe Reservoir on 21st July and a week later, a drake dropped onto Keighley Moor Reservoir. It was this moorland location that had the final bird, another male, which flew in and immediately went to sleep on 1st October. It was present the next day and provided excellent opportunities for close-ups.
Photo: Ian Hargreaves
GOLDENEYE    Bucephala clangula   Common winter visitor.
Once more it is noticeable that there has been a significant drop in the size of flocks seen in this area. In 2013 we reported that a maximum of 46 birds was found at Otley Wetland and 43 at Knotford Nook, compared with this year’s maxima of 24 at Otley Wetland on 6th February and 14 at Knotford on 25th January. Birds were seen in ones and twos at ten other locations; exceptions being three birds on Silsden Ings in November and Silsden Reservoir in January. However, perhaps the most interesting record was of seven birds on the swollen River Wharfe near Pool on 31st December when the floods were at their most severe.

RED-BREASTED MERGANSER    Mergus serrator   Scarce passage visitor
A bird was seen heading south west from the Oxenhope Watchpoint on 26th September. This was the second consecutive year that this species has been recorded.

GOOSANDER    Mergus merganser   Common resident breeder and winter visitor.
The 185 records came from across the region but, as with some other species, there appears to be a significant drop in the size of the flocks which are registered, particularly at roosts. Whilst there were no records submitted of any roosts at Thornton Moor (usually a reliable source of good numbers), those from other parts indicated smaller flocks. Up to 20 birds regularly used Yeadon Tarn in January, but otherwise a dozen birds roosting at Stockbridge in December and 22 birds at Redcar Tarn on 10th May were the highest counts.  

Pairing, bonding and displaying were well recorded during February and March and from the middle of April creches containing a female and brood were seen, particularly in Wharfedale and the Washburn. The first was a cavalcade of 11 chicks led by a female at Norwood Bottom followed four days later by a similar display on the Wharfe, but this time there were 20 young birds in tow. Other breeding evidence came from Ben Rhydding Gravel Pits, near Pool and at Askwith, where 14 Goosander eggs were found in a Barn Owl box.
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