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, 22 September 2016

17/09/16 - Green Hay

Over the last few weeks our volunteers have been busy helping us to cut the meadow at Thornton Ellers - and in incredibly hot temperatures! After the team had cut the hay with the allen scythe and raked it into piles, it was forked on to the trailer. 

The first load was then taken over to Leven Carrs near Beverley, where the hay is being used as a green seed source. Leven is just one of a number of grassland recreation sites in the county involved in this type of project, and over the next few weeks further loads will be heading off to help one of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserves. 

Throughout the day our volunteers also helped to bale some of the meadow using the mini-baler – the bales made will be used for habitat piles, duck traps, animal feed and starting some of our bonfires to get rid of all that excess scrub. 

During lunch the team enjoyed watching the butterflies and bees feeding on the Devil’s-bit Scabious in the meadow – with a Painted Lady and Small Copper being the highlight. As always many thanks to the team for their efforts.

Monday, 19 September 2016

12/09/16 - Team work at NDC

Despite the hot temperatures recently our team have managed to make a further dint in the ever growing job list, with a number of days spent working across the site. Fantastic progress has been made at North Duffield Carrs, with several days spent strimming and spraying the path down to the hides, trimming back the hedges, and clearing the willows from in front of the hides for the benefit of our visitors. Willow scrub was also cleared from the Ings meadows which unfortunately provides perches and nesting sites for predators – notably Carrion Crows.

One of the other big jobs was to 'top' the Hawthorns along the river bank fence line, to keep them small and compact for our breeding birds such as Reed Buntings and Linnets, and again to prevent Crows using them for nesting/perching. 

Another big task was then tackled, which saw several of the team wade across the water to strim the island at the ‘top pond’. Each year we clear the vegetation off the island to keep the water an open and attractive place for the first returning waterfowl, which also like to loaf in the safety of the island once it’s been cut. With glorious blue skies and sunshine all day we were fortunate to see plenty of wildlife whilst busy working, Brown Hawkers and Ruddy Darters zipped over the island, whilst Peacocks fed on the Water Mint and thistles, and this year’s toads and frogs battled their way through the cut vegetation.

Finally, the team have also been busy helping repair the damage to our swan pipes caused by the winter floods, as well as the more regular and ongoing tasks such as replacing worn mesh, servicing the doors and strimming out the vegetation. Due to the recent hard work, over the last few weeks we have been able to start our autumn waterfowl ringing in style, with two catches in the North Duffield pipe accounting for a total of 45 Mallards, 4 Gadwall and 2 Shoveler – making it one of our better years for catching our two key target species (Gadwall and Shoveler), with totals of 35 and 18 respectively.

Friday, 16 September 2016

10/09/16 - Field Voles & flailing

Now that the farmers have just about finished their work in the valleys meadows, it’s that time of year when the team take their turn behind the wheel of our tractor. Each year following the hay cut, during August/September we spend time flailing the wetter and ranker vegetation that has been left around the scrapes such as the sedges, rushes and Glyceria, and the Meadowsweet and docks left along the fence lines. By cutting the rank vegetation it will help to prevent the area becoming a mono-culture dominated by just one or two species, and hopefully halt any further spread from the edges of the meadows into the botanically rich areas. Flailing the ditch sides and bunds also improves them for nesting, and feeding/loafing areas by many species of birds, whilst providing a mosaic of habitat structure for invertebrates as well as maintaining view lines for visitors using the hides. 

Last week whilst heading back to the base after a morning spent flailing, we heard the squeaking of a small mammal coming from the grass beneath us. On closer inspection - and within a few feet from the tractors wheels – we discovered a small pile of grass containing the nest of a Field Vole with four small young in it. Field Voles often nest under grassy tussocks, or occasionally in underground burrows, and have on average six litters a year, varying between 3-7 young.

Field Voles are prolific breeders, with populations in favourable habitat often increasing to thousands, in what is known as a ‘vole plague’. When this happens, competition for space, food and increased aggression leads to less successful breeding, with the result being a population decline. Due to the fluctuations in the population, it can then impact on the predators that feed on them, such as our Barn Owls – with Field Voles forming 90% of their diet – fortunately we haven’t noticed a shortage this year, with a number of extra voles found in the boxes during our checks. 

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

06/09/16 - Hard work and a farewell

Last week our team of volunteers returned for another days hard graft – after checking the moth trap a number of jobs were tackled: the allen scythe was used to cut the remainder of the hay meadow, the hedges around the car park and viewing platform were trimmed, the vegetation around the pond was strimmed, the grass was cut and the paths to the hides and along the riverbank trail were cut and trimmed – phew – what a great day with a lot achieved. Today was also unfortunately Connor’s last day before he heads to Durham to get ready for the start of his masters degree – needless to say we’ll all miss his help, good humour and company, but we wish him well in his studies to further his conservation career. Whilst Connor has been with us he’s gained plenty of experience using a variety of tools to carry out habitat management, but he has also had some fun along the way, taking part in our annual goose roundup, nest box checks and plant I.D course. It’s been an absolute pleasure having Connor on board and we wish him all the best with his MSc.

Monday, 12 September 2016

04/09/16 - Open Day

Many thanks to everyone who came along to the LDV open day, making the day such a success with over 100 visitors attending, including many families and young children. Jean gave visitors the opportunity to see a Barn Owl - a species which is so iconic to the Lower Derwent Valley, as well as the chance to meet some of the Mallard ducklings she has reared this summer, along with two of the hedgehogs that she’s currently caring for until they’re ready to be released back into the wild. With the rain not coming until after lunch it didn’t spoil the morning’s bird ringing, which proved popular with 36 birds caught and ringed including several Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and a Willow Warbler, along with a number of Wrens, Robins and a Greenfinch. The pond dipping also proved interesting for many visitors, especially the discovery of several young Smooth Newts. Once the rain set in the arts and crafts took over! So all in all, a great day, which has hopefully sparked an interest in some of the young visitors.