Welcome to the LDV NNR ringing blog, this blog is designed to share the experiences, findings and tales from a group of dedicated ringers. We specialise in conservation orientated research projects, largely focusing on wildfowl, waders, owls and birds of conservation concern, in and around the Vale of York NNR's.

NB - Whilst the purpose of this blog was initially designed to cover our nationally important wildfowl ringing activities, regular readers may have noticed the increase in posts detailing wildlife found across the valley (ranging from plants, fungi, butterflies, dragonflies & other invertebrates). Ringing posts will hopefully resume over the winter months, and will run alongside wildlife and work posts.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

15/05/18 - Egret abundance

Over the last month we have seen an increasing number of Grey Herons around the reserve as birds in the local heronry are busy feeding hungry broods. We’ve been avoiding any disturbance to the heronry in March and April, following the cold weather in March whilst the adults were incubating (herons can be sensitive to any disturbance at this critical time), but during late April and early May we have been visiting the heronry to survey the number of active nests, as we have done for the BTO’s heronry census for nearly 40 years. This national survey has been running for 90 years and has built up a wealth of data and knowledge on the population trends of our UK Grey Heron population. On our first visit the numbers of herons appear down with just 19 nests so far – whether this is the effect of the cold spell in early March which may have taken its toll, or merely delayed breeding, or the effects of the extensive late spring flooding reducing feeding opportunities, we’ll have to wait and see.

However, this year it isn’t only the herons that we’ve been keeping an eye on, several (and an increasing number) of pairs of Little Egrets are also present – a species which has been abundant in the valley recently, with a high count of 42 of late. Little Egrets are an increasingly familiar sight in the Lower Derwent Valley these days and are now often more regularly encountered than our resident Grey Herons, especially at Bank Island where birds can currently be seen on a daily basis. In particular over the last month they have been recorded far more than herons, with good concentrations at Bank Island, Wheldrake and North Duffield Carrs, with some notable counts also coming from Sutton Ings and the Low Grounds as well as along the Pocklington Canal.

The first recorded sighting in the valley came in 2001 with the first record of breeding occurring several years later in 2009. Last year numbers increased to at least eight pairs, however this year’s figures look set to be a huge increase on that – more details to follow later in the season. Recently another colour-ringed individual was seen at Bank Island (awaiting details), so please remember to look out for any birds with rings on as this helps us to build up a picture of where ‘our’ local birds are coming from and going to.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

10/05/18 - 'Terning' up

Last week during the volunteer work party, as well as repairing the paths and hides at North Duffield Carrs, our team also helped us to get one of the tern rafts back out on site. Hopefully as the water continues to recede and the site dries out, we’ll be able to get the other one out next week too. A pair of Common Terns have been seen this week around Bank Island and Wheldrake Ings, so fingers crossed they’ll stay to breed once again. Last year thanks to the generosity of a private donation, the Friends of the Lower Derwent Valley funded the purchase and installation of the two nesting rafts last spring. The day after installation the newly arrived terns spotted our new raft and stayed over the summer months raising two chicks to fledging – first confirmed breeding success on the reserve. This was great news for the terns themselves, but also for many of our other breeding waterfowl as the terns defended their territory from any predators passing through the patch. It also meant the many visitors to the site were entertained by the antics of the fishing adults and the young learning to fly on the pool at Wheldrake. Fingers crossed for another successful year.

A week on from getting the first raft out, the water levels had receded enough on Wheldrake, allowing us to access the pool, however with plenty of mud in the way it was quite an exercise carrying the raft in from a long way back due, but as we finally made it onto the pool we were met by the excited calling of a pair of Common Terns – no doubt pleased to see their new home being floated into position! We are also pleased to be able to update you that the tern raft we put out at North Duffield Carrs last week has attracted three pairs of Common Terns – just rewards for everyone’s efforts. Many thanks as always to our team for all the extra help and pairs of hands!

Friday, 4 May 2018

25/04/18 - Aviva/HSBC lend a hand

On Tuesday this week along with being joined by our regular team of volunteers, we also hosted a corporate work day for the staff from the Aviva branch in York. With an additional 20 willing pairs of hands, along with our team, the groups got stuck into a range of tasks around the reserve. Some of the team helped with track repairs on the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserve at Wheldrake Ings - carrying out improvements (following the prolonged spring flooding), for the many visitors that frequent the site. Other team members helped with the ongoing construction of bird boxes as part of a joint project with the Canal and Rivers Trust and Ad Astra (more information can be found on the CTR website with upcoming events along the Pocklington Canal). Further help in collecting and processing this year’s logs supplies was also gratefully received, helping us raise much needed financial assistance for forth coming projects on the reserve this autumn. Many thanks to everyone for their efforts on the day, especially when the weather turned against us! Hopefully see you all again back in the valley for another day later in the year – and for anyone else who might be interested in coming along with their company/or just as an individual then please feel free to get in touch.

The following day we were also delighted to host a corporate work day for staff from HSBC, travelling from different areas right across North Yorkshire, to join us for a day at the NNR base. Blessed with a lovely sunny morning, the day was started with a bird ringing demonstration, which was much enjoyed by everyone – several Goldfinch & Long-tailed Tits were particular crowd pleasers. As the sun beamed down, everyone soon worked up a sweat finishing the track repairs on Wheldrake Ings, processing timber and constructing the last of the bird boxes, and with so many extra pairs of hands we also managed to cut the paths and enhance the reserve base garden at Bank Island. Many thanks to everyone who attended on the day, and we’ll look forward to seeing you again in the autumn.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

18/04/18 - Reptile emergence

Last week the first Common Lizard of the year was seen on Skipwith Common NNR - pictured here taking advantage of the warm sunshine. Lizards are usually found sitting in the small cracks and crevices along the old bomb bay walls, often venturing out to soak up the sunshine, then darting back in if they sense someone/something approaching. Fortunately we were able to get close views of this one, seemingly oblivious to our presence and more intent on enjoying the much needed warm weather.

The warm weather has also brought some of our Adder population out of hibernation, with a clear blue sky and warm sunny day last week our team checked some of the heath after a day spent working on the Common, and were pleased to spot four Adders coiled up among the bracken and heather. At this time of year, similar to Grass Snakes, Adders need to soak up the sun’s rays after a winter spent in hibernation. Following the long winter and months without feeding Adders need to warm up their bodies to build up their energy and strength, to allow their muscles to work properly. Adders are Britain’s only venomous snake, and have a sinister reputation due to their ability to subdue their prey using venom, however they are not a threat to people unless disturbed – if you are fortunate enough to come across a sighting of an Adder or Grass Snake then please watch from a distance, and leave your record in the log book provided, or let us know on here, our Facebook page or via our new Twitter account, thank you. 

It wasn't just the lizards enjoying the warm weather last week, our team of volunteers were hard at work once again, spending another two days replacing the last of the old roofing panels on Garganey Hide at North Duffield Carrs. 

Many thanks as always to our team for doing such a good job & being so enthusiastic whatever the task & whatever the weather!

Monday, 23 April 2018

16/04/18 - Drone trial on the Ings

Recently we were pleased to have the opportunity to work with local photographer and drone specialist David Hopley, in exploring the use of drones in supporting some of the work we do in the valley. The use of drones offers us a different perspective on the reserves we manage – both in interpreting the landscape and the role of the reserves in the wider area, but also in how using a drone could offer a useful tool in helping us with our monitoring and research work, and in the hands of such a skilled operator, without any disturbance to our wintering waterfowl. Here are some ‘birds-eye views’ of the NNR base and the area around Bank Island, the Low Grounds and the northern end of Wheldrake Ings. If you’d like to know more then have a look at David’s work on his website (found by searching ‘drawswithlight’), which includes some stunning images from Skipwith Common NNR in the recent frost and snow along with other award winning shots.