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.

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.

Friday, 20 April 2018

10/04/18 - Spring passage

Recently the LDV has been acting as an important staging and refuelling site for several species of birds migrating between the UK and breeding grounds in Iceland. During March a total of 500 Whooper Swans staged through the valley – and from previously satellite tagged birds we know these are birds that have left the Ouse Washes in Cambridgeshire at dawn, which then arrive in the valley (usually Wheldrake or Bank Island) at around 8-8.30am. These large herds often sleep and loaf for the rest of the day before departing prior to dusk. It’s then a non-stop flight to Iceland, which on favourable winds, can be made the following afternoon. Last week there were still up to 60 birds remaining in the valley although they will be departing any day now, before returning later in the year from mid-October, hopefully with a good number of cygnets in tow. 

Black-tailed Godwits from the Icelandic breeding population have also started moving through the site – up to 40 have been present over the last couple of weeks including a single bird ringed in Iceland several years ago. During April and early May there will be several large flocks (sometimes up to 200-300 birds) staging through the site – often only staying a couple of hours to a day or so – before making the flight to Iceland – in previous years birds leaving the valley have made it onto the breeding grounds in just four days. Finally, the first of our Whimbrel at the Wheldrake Ings nationally important spring passage roost will be arriving in mid-April, before building to a peak in the first day or two in May and tailing off quickly again thereafter. Some of these birds will also be heading to Iceland to breed, whilst in previous years birds have also moved to breeding grounds in Sweden/Finland. It’s fantastic to know our LDV NNR is such an important site in helping these birds on their annual migrations.

Friday, 13 April 2018

04/04/18 - Black-necked Grebes

It's been somewhat of a grebe bonanza in the valley lately, no doubt the extensive, deeper floodwaters of late attracting these diving species into the valley. This has included up to 18 Little Grebes, which can been located by listening out for their loud ‘whinnying’ call, and are usually the most commonly encountered species on the Ings. Several pairs of Great-crested Grebes have also been present on the Ings floodwater, as is typical at this time of year as birds move through the area looking for suitable water bodies on which to breed. The last species seen recently is the rarer Black-necked Grebe. With fewer than 100 pairs in the UK, this small black grebe with golden ear tufts, has bred sporadically in the valley over the decades but not since 2014 when they last reared chicks.  Amazingly, one of the birds seen recently at North Duffield Carrs, had been ringed as a chick there in May 2004, and had been seen again there in April 2005 and 2006. This recent sighting sets a new longevity record from ringing in both the UK and Europe – great to see them back in the valley once again and hopefully this year they might stay and breed.

As mentioned above, the site is extensively flooded at the moment (and has been so on and off for much of the last four weeks), however our team did manage to fit in a bit of a count over the weekend. It may have been Easter but the vast numbers of wintering birds still present made it feel more wintry. 68 Whooper Swans and 117 Mute Swans were still present, along with over 6000 Wigeon and 5000 Teal. Other notable counts included nearly 400 Pintail, 368 Tufted Duck and 250+ Gadwall and Shoveler. However numbers of wintering Pochard had dwindled to just 15 individuals on the flooded Ings. The deep water which has attracted the good numbers of grebe species, has unfortunately forced out most of our breeding waders, with only 50 Lapwing, 51 Redshank, 15 Ruff and a handful of Curlew and Snipe remained on the few areas of exposed meadow. At least one of the 39 Black-tailed Godwits present on Friday took the rising levels as a cue to continue its north-westward migration to Iceland, arriving at Leighton Moss in Lancashire the following morning. As always when visiting the reserve please leave any records in the hide log books provided, thank you.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

22/03/18 - Re-roofing Garganey Hide

Over the last few weeks our intrepid volunteers have reached new heights in their efforts in helping us manage the LDV for both wildlife and people – to the top of Garganey Hide to be precise! This hide (so called as more often than not is a great place to see one of our summer migrants, the Garganey), has, after 23 years, thousands of happy visitors and five or six huge floods that have submerged the hide, was finally beginning to show the signs of wear and tear with numerous holes in the roof. A fairly big job, but fortunately we knew just who to turn to! Our team, eager for a new challenge and armed with new roofing panels, beams, ladders and a whole set of tools, made their way to the hide, and started dismantling the old panels and replacing them with new ones, which will hopefully will keep our visitors warmer and a lot drier! There’s a little more to do so we’ll be back over the coming weeks to finish the job, the hide will remain open but please be aware there may be some limited disturbance whilst the work is carried out. Many thanks once again to our fantastic team of volunteers, allowing us to get a lot more done on the reserve than we’d be able to achieve without them.

Friday, 23 March 2018

15/03/18 - Cold snap

Recently there has been a noticeable increase in Bullfinch around the NNR, with several sizable flocks reported lately including 39 in the Wheldrake/Bank Island area. Several pairs were present in the car park area scrub last week, feeding in trees and bushes above the floodwaters. The valley is always a good place to see these delightful little birds, with strongholds at Wheldrake Ings and Thornton Ellers where the species favours young Willow Carr, taking advantage of both feeding on the buds, the abundant and varied seeds available and the vast insect life that makes up some of the diet when feeding young. Local birder Terry Weston snapped this stunning male feeding on buds and eating snow last week at Hassacarr Nature Reserve, not far from the NNR, in Dunnington – always a treat.

The recent cold snap, which saw temperatures plummet to below zero, coupled with several days of heavy snow, brought with it an influx of thrushes, in particular Fieldfares, along with smaller numbers of Redwing, Blackbird and Mistle Thrushes into the valley and local gardens. Also on the move were steady numbers of Snipe (including a few Jack’s), which arrived into or moved around the valley – whether these are birds on the move more widely, or birds being forced out of smaller, now frozen sites, or a combination, who knows. Large numbers of these Snipe were noted frequenting the very edge of the River Derwent where a few inches of unfrozen ground remained in which to probe. Elsewhere birds were turning up in all sorts of strange places – sat in the snow in the reserve base garden, on the frozen Ings, and in arable fields, whilst one individual was seen walking along the roadside kerb in Thorganby village – taking advantage of the treated roads and melt water by the kerb. Fieldfares and other thrushes were also doing the same in various places around the valley with up to 1000 moving throughout the area. Since the thaw birds have departed once again and will no doubt be feeding up furiously to replace lost reserves and put on fat for the spring migrations. Many thanks to Terry Weston for sending us his superb photographs.