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, 1 February 2016

31/01/16 - Buzzard release

Once again Jean has been doing more of her fantastic work, appearing at the NNR base bright and early last Monday morning with a fine looking Common Buzzard ready to be off. The unfortunate bird had somehow managed to end up in one of the tanks at Elvington Water Treatment works, on the northern edge of the reserve. Fortunately it was spotted by a concerned worker who could see the state of distress the bird was in, with it being too wet and cold to take off he immediately took it to Battle Flatts Vets at Stamford Bridge. On arrival Mark, the vet, dried and warmed the bird before it arrived at Jean’s for some of her expert TLC. Having not fed for a number of days Jean kept it warm and helped build up its strength, with the aim of releasing it back into the wild as soon as possible. Pleasingly the bird fared well and was soon ready to go, per the golden rule of rehab, it was released back in Elvington - fantastic to see it take off and soar above us before drifting off over the nearby woodland. Many thanks to everyone involved in the rescue, care and release of this individual.

Several days after the release of Jean's bird, local wildlife photographer Terry Weston sent us this fantastic image of a bird he photographed on the reserve, at a site fairly nearby, in Kexby. 

Common Buzzards have shown a dramatic population increase in the area (following a large range expansion in the UK) over the last 20 years or so. Buzzard sightings were a real ‘red letter day’ for local birdwatchers in the valley in the late 1980’s and early 90’s, with only 5-10 sightings a year during this period. This number of sightings are now regularly reported on a daily basis and an estimated 12-15 pairs bred throughout the area in 2015.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

25/01/16 - GCG

Last week whilst working with us at the NNR Base (on her 64th birthday – what a trooper!), Jean received a call about a grebe which had been brought into care at Minster Vets in York. With it being an unusual bird for the vets to deal with, they phoned Jean for her advice and expertise.

The grebe (a great crest), had been found in a field on the outskirts of York unable to stand or walk, with the presumption that it had been stranded in the field once the flood water had receded. Jean went straight off to collect the grebe with the inkling that nothing would be wrong with it - knowing that grebes are excellently adapted for life on the water with their legs and feet placed so far back on their bodies, thus not ideal for land. As Jean had suspected, on arrival there appeared to be little wrong with the grebe, soon returning at the base with a beautiful immature Great Crested Grebe in the passenger seat. Jean had checked over the bird at the vets, other than a few scuffs from being in confinement – it was in good condition, and was a good weight and rather feisty. Following the check over, the bird was ringed (aged as a first winter due to the buff colouration on the greater coverts), and sexed as a female on bill length.  

The grebe was taken down on to Bank Island to be released, as soon as it could see the flooded Ings it wanted to be off, with plenty of loud calling as we walked with it towards the water’s edge. As we placed it on the flood water behind the base it paddled off quite happily, drinking, preening and diving like nothing had happened – a happy ending for a beautiful bird.

Monday, 18 January 2016

17/01/16 - SEO

Recently a Short-eared Owl has taken up residence at North Duffield Carrs, showing well and hunting at close range in the field behind the car park - one of the few dry grassy areas left above the floodline. The local small mammal population has been concentrated into the few remaining areas, so it was no surprise that the owl appeared to be hunting quite successfully. At the weekend an individual was also found at Thornton, roosting in a large Oak tree. Short-eared Owls are a medium sized largely brown owl, although they appear to be quite long winged as they quarter their hunting sites with a rather buoyant flight – seen well they appear stunning with their bright yellow eyes and piercing gaze, as pictured here

Large numbers of SEO’s can reach the UK in autumn as birds move out of Iceland and Europe to avoid the colder weather, many were seen last autumn arriving on the Yorkshire coast at Spurn Point, Flamborough and Filey during October. Many of these birds will now have moved further inland to winter before heading back again to their breeding sites in spring. Many thanks to local photographer Stephen Jones who supplied us with following images of the NDC bird hunting over the field adjacent to the car park.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

06/01/16 - High waters & a winter warmer

With much of the north of England, including Yorkshire, currently experiencing a considerable amount of flooding, it will come as no surprise that the LDV is presently underwater. Rising water levels since just before Christmas saw the river banks at North Duffield Carrs finally overtopped on the 27th, by the 29th the site had all but disappeared – leaving just the odd fence posts, gates and bushes only just visible around the vast sheets of water, (along with the roof top of Garganey Hide). Access onto the NNR is currently restricted to views from Bank Island, Thorganby Village Hall viewing platform, the Geoff Smith Hide at North Duffield Carrs and Ellerton churchyard. The wintering waterfowl (including 8000+ Wigeon, 6000 Teal and 2000 Greylags) are well scattered throughout the vast flooded landscape, however not all of the wildlife on the NNR will be finding the conditions so easy – including the mole which swam past the hide at North Duffield Carrs last week – a sight you don’t see every day… 

 Bank Island
 Footpath to Wheldrake Ings 

Getting out and about on our NNR’s is a great way of having some fresh air, exercise and a chance to see some of the special wildlife which shares our local area. If this appeals then why not join Natural England’s NNR Reserve Manager Fallon Mahon for a New Year’s ‘Winter Warmer’ walk on Skipwith Common NNR this Sunday (10th January), starting at 11 am from the King Rudding Lane car park (off the A19). The event, arranged by the Friends of Skipwith Common is free (with donations welcome), and will last approximately an hour and a half, starting with a warming drink of Mulled Wine. Come along and find out about the management of the site, the recent works that have taken place over the last few months and the grazing livestock, whilst looking out for Green Woodpeckers, Woodcock, Jays and other wildlife, such as this Roe Deer which was photographed on the Common.

 Roe Deer

Monday, 16 November 2015

14/11/15 - Cetti surprise

Regular and long-term followers may remember that this time last year one of our volunteer bird ringers, Mike Jackson, caught and ringed a Cetti’s Warbler at Wheldrake Ings. This was the 12th record of the species in the valley and the 5th individual to be ringed on the reserve. Amazingly Mike has again come up trumps once again – catching not one but two Cetti’s Warblers recently, and just days apart (31st October and 3rd November). Local birder Duncan Bye also heard a probable calling in the reed bed at Wheldrake Ings on the 1st November. Winter records (late October to March/April) seem to be the norm and the species has now been annual in the valley during the last five years, with Wheldrake Ings being a particularly favoured location – accounting for 11 of the 14 records so far. 

Cetti's Warbler - Wheldrake Ings - 31/10/15

Cetti’s Warbler are best described as a skulking bird that inhabits dense/overgrown vegetation near water, and can often prove very difficult to see. They usually make their presence known with loud bursts of song and explosive metallic clanging notes. The first glimpse will probably be of a dark, rather stocky warbler diving for cover, with short wings and a full, rounded tail. They are likely to be benefitting from the mild weather we are experiencing at the moment, so one to look for (or at least listen out for!) this autumn/winter.