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, 15 June 2017

09/06/17 - Aviva lend a hand

Last week we were pleased to welcome back one of the regular teams from the insurance company Aviva, for another day working at the NNR base as part of their allocated corporate volunteering time. The team did a sterling effort helping make numerous Swift and Barn Owl nest boxes as part of our ongoing project in partnership with local parishes and the farming community. We’ve already got all of our nesting boxes for Swifts up in the surrounding villages for this year, so the boxes made on the day will go towards next year’s season. 

The team also helped extract and process timber from Skipwith Common ready for the autumn/winter, which will help to raise further funds to support the work we undertake on and around the reserves.

So a big thank you to everyone for their hard work and efforts on the day – helping to make a real difference improving the area for both wildlife and people alike.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

04/06/17 - Gathering geese

Last week saw our annual ‘goose round-up’ on the reserve following a morning of preparation with our ever eager and hardworking volunteers. The team were busy repairing and refurbishing the ‘corale’ and catching pen, which has been underwater since last November. 

After lunch back at the NNR base, the team returned in the afternoon for the much anticipated catch. Once the geese had been located it was merely a waiting game until they made their way on to the pool, resulting in a respectable catch of 36 Greylags, (28 goslings, 6 un-ringed adults and 2 re-traps from previous years). All of the birds were fitted with white colour-rings (engraved with three black numbers/letters) as part of a joint project with the WWT and Kane Brides. The darvic rings will hopefully increase the number of sightings of these birds, and help further understand the movement of Yorkshire’s population – some birds have been known to undertake a moult migration to the Lake District each year. 

Many thanks for everyone’s efforts throughout the day and for helping to support our scientific research work, it was also great to welcome several younger ‘trainees’ to get some waterfowl ringing experience as well. As always we couldn’t do it without the team, so a big thank you to everyone who has helped out and contributed to a total of nearly 1000 Greylag Geese ringed on the reserve since 1990, with recoveries from a range of sites in East/North Yorkshire, Cumbria, Scotland and as far away as Iceland.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

02/06/17 - Wonderful waders

The amazing drumming sound of displaying Snipe is one of ‘thee’ sounds of the Lower Derwent Valley in spring. The drumming sound is the result of the vibration of the stiffened outer tail feathers which are held out at right angles to the body, as the birds (having climbed up to a height) suddenly dive towards the ground, causing air to rush over them. Although drumming can be heard throughout the day, it is more commonly encountered at dawn and dusk, we were fortunate last week to watch an individual partake in this display act, before settling into a field full of buttercups, pictured here. We’re pleased to report that it appears to be a good year for Snipe in the valley, with a number of birds regularly being seen and heard displaying from the hides at Wheldrake Ings and North Duffield Carrs. 

Our nationally important hay meadows are not only home to Snipe, but also to a number of pairs of Lapwing. Lapwings, also known locally as Pewits (after the sound of their call), are one of the commoner breeding waders in the meadows of the Lower Derwent Valley, as well as being equally at home on surrounding arable fields. 

To try and help maintain our local population, which are facing a national decline, we’ve been working hard over the last few years clearing scrub from the site to open it up, reducing perches for crows which can take eggs and young chicks, and managing vegetation and water levels to provide suitable conditions for successful breeding. The early results from this year’s survey work suggest this hard work is delivering the results we were hoping, with in the region of 100 pairs breeding on the Ings across the valley – showing that breeding success is higher than in recent years. Whilst we’ve been out and about working in the meadows we’ve been fortunate to come across a number of broods, and have ringed over 20 chicks so far. 

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

17/05/17 - Deer delight

Throughout the last few weeks we have been fortunate to see large numbers of Roe Deer across the reserve – with the bucks looking rather splendid like the one pictured below, with their antlers covered in soft velvet. It won’t be long before we start to see the newly born young in the meadows, with them usually appearing between May and June. The young are often left hidden by the females for periods of the day, so don’t be alarmed if you come across one alone, the female won’t be far away - please don’t approach one, or attempt to pick one up, the mother will return once you’ve departed to a safe distance. Spotting a deer is always a pleasure, especially a stunning male like this one – many thanks to local wildlife photographer Terry Weston for the use of his superb image from a close encounter he had recently in the valley – they don’t get much better than this! 

Friday, 19 May 2017

14/05/17 - Spring

With the breeding season well underway we are now starting to see various broods appearing around the reserve. Some of the early nesters such as Grey Herons, have quite large young which should be fledging any day, before heading on the Ings to practice their feeding techniques. It appears to be a productive year for Tawny Owls with good clutch sizes reported – a total of five pairs are present around Skipwith Common NNR with other pairs in the local area now feeding young, and we’ve seen several sizeable broods of Mallard ducklings on site. Last week Jean brought in the first of her hand reared orphaned ducklings to be released on the reserve – no doubt the first of many that will get such a helping hand. The local Greylag Goose population has enjoyed a successful start to the season with up to 50 goslings already present in the crèche at Wheldrake Ings, whilst the boxes at the reserve base are a hive of activity with nesting Tree Sparrows. 

The pair of Kestrels at the NNR base have also been quite vocal lately as they re-strengthen their bond after returning to their nest site following a winter elsewhere. Over the next few weeks they will be actively defending ‘their’ box from other birds prospecting for suitable holes and other nesting sites in which to breed. The female will then start to lay a clutch of eggs, usually between 4-6, with the first young hatching in late May or early June. By mid-June we’ll think about starting our next box checks, hopefully discovering that it has been a successful season for one of our favourite birds of prey. We are always interested to hear about local breeding pairs in order to monitor the population and plan our nest box scheme to best effect to benefit these and other species. Many thanks to local wildlife photographer Terry Weston for his superb image taken recently near the valley. 

Whilst we’ve been keeping busy lately managing the reserves, we’ve also managed to squeeze in a bit of monitoring and research work with several dawn catches of wildfowl. Although most of the wintering ducks have now departed back to the breeding areas in Iceland and Western Europe, many of our local breeding ducks remain. Last week Dan and George joined us from the East Coast to gain more whoosh netting and waterfowl ringing experience which can then be applied at other sites, thus helping us to understand more about the movements of birds either breeding or passing through the region. The Lower Derwent Valley supports a large inland breeding Shelduck population, with the females possibly now incubating clutches in local hay/straw stacks, tree cavities and rabbit holes on surrounding farmland, whilst the males hold feeding territories on the Ings. The broods then appear briefly on the Ings before being taken down the River Derwent and crèched on the Upper Humber. Hopefully they will have another successful year and raise more broods like this one photographed at Thornton Ellers last year.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

06/05/17 - Tern arrival

This week saw the arrival of two new custom made tern rafts from GFB (Green Future Builds), which, with the help of our volunteers, were swiftly moved into position on the pool at Wheldrake Ings and at Bank Island. These rafts were purchased by the Friends of the Lower Derwent Valley, following a private donation, which was very gratefully received, along with funds raised from the cards, calendars and logs which have all helped to make this possible. 

After several years of having ‘homemade’ rafts, it’s fantastic to have the ‘real deal’ now, fingers crossed the local Common Terns who have started to colonise the wider area will take advantage of these new rafts and add to the valley’s breeding birds. It’s looking promising already - two days after the rafts were put in place a pair were seen copulating on them - watch this space... Many thanks to the great efforts of our team of volunteers for helping to get them into place, and also to the fantastic work done by the Friends of the LDV in delivering such projects, and all of those who have helped support them in generating funds - more news to follow soon on their great work. 

Thanks also to Green Future Builds for designing such high quality rafts, GFB is a not for profit social enterprise, that works in partnership with other trusts, charities and social enterprises. Projects are aimed at creating opportunities for people and communities to develop skills, continue training and generate employment in the nature conservation and green build sector. Thanks once again to all those involved. 

Friday, 28 April 2017

17/04/17 - Heat wave

With the recent spell of warm weather there has been a distinctive Mediterranean feel around the valley during the temperatures of 20 degrees last weekend. The much needed spell of warm weather brought out a range of butterflies and reptiles, whilst the bird life has been a little on the exotic side - recent sightings include three Common Cranes and two Great White Egrets, as well as up to sixteen Little Egrets, two Avocets, an adult Little Gull, a singing Cetti’s Warbler, the first returning Whimbrel and 34 Black-tailed Godwits. Our resident breeding Mute Swans have also starting laying clutches around the valley and we’ve just seen the first brood of eight Mallard ducklings at North Duffield Carrs.

Barn Owls are one of the favourite visitors to the Lower Derwent Valley, with the local birders fortunate to enjoy regular sightings, particularly during the summer months. We haven’t seen that many so far this year which is probably a good sign – hopefully meaning they have been finding enough food to survive the winter, which will help get them into good breeding condition for the forthcoming season. With the days now drawing out, we are likely to see more birds appearing on the wing at dusk in order to start hunting – Bank Island and North Duffield Carrs are often the best sites to view them, whilst the Pocklington Canal area is another good location. Later in the year we’ll be checking the progress of our local population, hopefully it’ll be a good season for them – the last couple being rather poor and linked to a dip in the vole cycle on which they depend. However, we have recently heard about one of the few young birds we ringed in the summer of 2015, from a nest box on North Duffield Carrs. This individual had wandered all the way down into Norfolk where it was found in November 2016, unfortunately having been hit by a car – hopefully we’ll receive more controls from the birds ringed that year – and with a happier outcome.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

15/04/17 - Snakes in the grass

Last week ahead of the busy Easter weekend our fantastic team of volunteers, working alongside the staff team, have been undertaking a range of tasks around the reserve to get it into tip top condition. Last week the team were busy cutting our network of footpaths around the reserve with the allen scythe, before trimming up the paths with strimmers. The hides were also cleaned and tidied, the notice boards updated and the car parks litter picked. This week our volunteers have been busy once again, helping us in the reserve bee and butterfly garden, by weeding, pruning and planting up with additional nectar rich species. In the morning we also managed to spend a few hours helping out our YWT partners, by tidying up some of the post and wire fencing through the reed bed near Swantail Hide – making it better for visitors to access but also to help protect the reed bed itself. At the end of another productive day a quick look was then had in the meadow to admire the newly emerged Snake’s-head Fritillaries. Many thanks to everyone involved in helping making the valley such a great place to visit.

As well as spotting the Common Frogs, spawn and Smooth Newts present in the base pond, we also came across this Common Toad, tucked away under one of our logs piles. At this time of year, some of our toads may still be travelling to ponds in order to spawn, as they often mate a couple of weeks later than frogs. Their spawn can be easily identified as toad spawn, as it appears laid down in long double strings rather than a mass like that of the Common Frog. After spawning the toads will then disperse away from the ponds and seek out dark, damp and sheltered spots to spend the summer, whilst feeding on a range of insects and slugs. Toads and frogs can do a great job of helping gardeners keep on top of troublesome slug populations – providing a small pond, compost heap and log pile is a great way to encourage them.

Not only have our team being doing a great job at Bank Island, they've also been hard at work carrying out a spring clean at our visitor facilities at North Duffield Carrs, ahead of what will hopefully be another active spring season and a popular visitor time. As well as litter picking the car parks, painting the hides, strimming and spraying the paths, the team also helped repair the boardwalk, replacing a small section which had collapsed due to the constant wetting and drying out over the last few years. Hopefully all this hard work will add to our visitor’s enjoyment when visiting the reserve over the next few months, many thanks as always to our team for another productive day.