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.