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.

Friday, 13 January 2017

10/01/17 - Flashback

This time last year we were completely flooded out in the valley, with our main three sites - Bank Island, Wheldrake and North Duffield Carrs all under several feet of water. North Duffield Carrs was the worst hit, with the water reaching the roof of the hide (pictured below), resulting in an ongoing repair job to both the hide and path throughout the spring. The hides at Bank Island were out of bounds by us (but fortunately also out of reach from the water), however the Wheldrake boardwalk took a hammering after the river burst over the banks, flooding the track down to the hides, leaving only Tower Hide accessible – Reserve Manager Fallon Mahon is pictured here making his way down to do the monthly WeBS count. 

This year? Well it’s relatively dry, but that could soon change of course, whilst all the sites and hides remain accessible why not come down and see the wildlife that the valley has to offer – Wheldrake and North Duffield Carrs currently have vast flocks of Wigeon and Teal, along with Shoveler, Pintail, Goldeneye, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Scaup, Shelduck, Gadwall, Whooper Swans and many more. As always when visiting the reserve please let us know of any wildlife you see by using the log books provided in the hides – thank you.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

30/11/16 - Gulls galore

Another successful gull catch at Harewood Whin landfill site at Rufforth last month resulted in 347 large gulls being cannon netted and colour-ringed as part of an ongoing project. The totals for the day included 344 Herring Gulls, 1 Greater Black-backed Gull and 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls - bringing the overall totals of gulls colour-ringed since March 2015 to just under 1600. A total of 400 sightings have been sent in so far, involving nearly 200 individuals, with sightings stretching all the way along the East Coast and as far west as Bristol and south to Cornwall. 

A few highlights are listed below:

- Lesser Black-backed Gulls have been sighted in France, Spain, Portugal and Morocco.

- Herring Gulls have been reported from France, Jersey, the Netherlands, Belgium and Norway, and several have been noted interchanging between here and landfill sites down in Essex by the North Thames Gull group.

- A single Greater Black-backed Gull was caught with a Norwegian ring on, and one of our ringed GBB was spotted in Cornwall. 

The collection of this data is certainly adding to our knowledge of ‘local’ birds that join the nationally important LDV roost sites and feed on the landfill site during the day – and will hopefully tell us what these birds might end up doing after this site, like many landfill sites, start to close next year. Please send any sightings in of any colour-ringed birds seen whilst visiting the reserve or elsewhere – thank you. Many thanks to the team for their efforts and an extra thank you to the staff at Yorwaste, without whose help and cooperation this would not have been possible.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

24/11/16 - Birch removal

Since the start of November our staff and volunteers have been hard at work on Skipwith Common NNR, removing birch saplings from the heath. Silver Birch is the dominant scrub/tree species on the Common and without control it would completely take over, resulting in the loss of the open wet and dry heath areas with their specialised plants, birds, invertebrates and reptiles. The open heathland and ponds on the Common are important for a whole range of species but include specialists such as Woodlarks, Cotton Grass, Marsh Gentian, Black Darters and Adders. 

However we won’t be clearing all of it as many species also thrive in the young scrubby habitat that the birch provides. Many thanks to our team for all the hard work put in so far, loppering the saplings and spraying them is hard going - especially in the wet and windy days of late - and with so much birch to tackle we’ll be busy working on here until the end of March – by then the team will no doubt be ready for a change of scenery – although there are definitely worst places to work! 

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

16/11/16 - Recent works

Over the last two weeks our keen band of volunteers have been working hard helping us with a variety of tasks, including fencing repairs and burning willow scrub at North Duffield Carrs, as well as putting the finishing touches to the decoy and spraying pirri-pirri on Skipwith Common NNR. With the river fairly high and the valley now starting to flood we’re busy trying to finish all the jobs which could soon be underwater until after the New Year! However there’s no danger of us running out of jobs to do when it floods – each year when the Ings goes under we switch our attention to Skipwith Common and Forge Valley Woods NNR near Scarborough – which will definitely suit our East Coast based volunteers and save them the 80 mile round trip! Thanks as always to the team for their efforts of late.

On Tuesday this week, the team were hard at work on Wheldrake Ings, busy finishing the last of the scrub clearance before the site floods. With the main work already done due to many days spent on there in August/September, there were just a few small areas left to finish. The ditches at the back of Pool Hide are now willow-free, and all the cuttings were burnt. Whilst the fire did a great job of getting rid of all the newly cut willows, it also kept everyone warm and took care of lunch for the team – although one of the potatoes had seen better days! Thanks as always to the team for their hard work and good humour.

We're not the only ones who have been busy on the Ings lately, over the last few weeks the local birders may have noticed the heavy machinery working on the Ings as the annual ditching programme is undertaken. Ditch clearance is carried out on a rotational basis in order to keep the extensive network functioning (i.e moving water on and off the Ings as river levels fluctuate, whilst helping to maintain the valley’s wildlife interest as well as maximising the natural flood management role of the site (the storage of water during the winter floods). Keeping the ditches open and free from a build-up of silt and vegetation also helps maintain their suitability for some of our breeding ducks, small mammals (Water Voles), dragonflies and other invertebrates and scarce plants such as Greater Water Parsnip. The work has been taking place on North Duffield Carrs, Thornton, Aughton, Wheldrake Ings and Bank Island, at the latter site we have also been busy carrying out improvements to the scrapes making the site look better than ever.

Friday, 18 November 2016

10/11/16 - Changing of the seasons

With the nights drawing in and the weather turning a little more autumnal we’ve seen a steady increase in the number of returning wintering waterfowl of late. Following the hard work over recent months managing the scrub and pool side vegetation at Wheldrake Ings, the first returning Teal found the improved conditions to their liking and built up quickly to a fine September total of 800+. Numbers since then have further increased to around 1800, with many now scattered throughout the valley and also on nearby Skipwith Common NNR. With relatively stable water levels so far we’ve also managed to catch and ring over 270 since they arrived back this autumn – a great result and significant total of the annual UK total. Arriving in and amongst them in mid-September were also the first 150 Wigeon, back from their breeding grounds in Iceland and Eastern Europe, although over recent days numbers have quickly soared to over 2000 at Bank Island, along with the first returning Shelduck, Pintail, Goldeneye and Goosander. However there is still a long way to go before we see the return of our peak numbers, when Teal and Wigeon can number up to 10,000 and 15,000 respectively, usually in January and February.

Over the last couple of weeks we have also seen the first of our ‘resident’ Whooper Swans arrive back in the valley. Numbers slowly built up with 25 by the end of October, and up to 41 over recent days, with the herd returning to their favoured fields at the north end of North Duffield Carrs. Birds have also been seen visiting the pool at Wheldrake Ings where local birder, Duncan Bye, managed to see and photograph a colour-ringed bird ‘G5F’. This bird, an adult male, was caught and ringed at North Duffield Carrs in our last cannon net catch on the 28th November 2013, as part of a partnership project with the WWT. After the catch G5F remained with us throughout the winter, however the following year he didn’t return here, choosing to winter in the Lothian area of Scotland instead, and again possibly in 2015 as he was re-sighted at Caerlaverock WWT reserve, Dumfries on the 5th March 2016. It’s great to see him back in the LDV this winter, and hopefully he’ll be the first of a few colour-ringed birds to arrive over the coming weeks as the herd builds up to the usual number of 100+ individuals. If you’re visiting the reserve please let us know of any colour-ringed birds you come across thank you.

Following a relatively dry summer and autumn so far (which has provided great conditions for the team to catch up on all the land management jobs around the valley), the heavy rain on the coast and moors last weekend caused the River Derwent to rise and start some localised flooding. So it’s been a race against time this last week to finish the flailing on Bank Island as the first water of the autumn poured over the ditches and onto the site – fortunately we managed to finish it just in the nick of time on Tuesday, as by Wednesday morning the newly cut areas were all under water. The site now looks great and is set to attract both wintering wildfowl and waders over the coming weeks and months – over 1000 Wigeon were present this morning. 

Whilst the birds are the main attraction around the Lower Derwent Valley, nearby Skipwith Common is home to a world of fungi. Whilst working on there last week the team came across a rather vivid species pictured below - as you might expect with a name like Orange Peel, this species resembles just that! One of the brightest and easily recognisable fungi, Orange Peel can be seen from late summer into early winter, usually on bare ground or grass in disturbed areas. Look down the well walked tracks on Skipwith Common NNR and you might just come across it, particularly on the path which runs alongside ‘Adder Heath’.

Initially starting out as a concave orange ‘cup’, the fungus then becomes convex, and can vary in colour from pale orange to a deep orange-red inside. Generally cup fungi are inedible, with most being highly poisonous, however Orange Peel is one of the very few edible species. Despite its appealing look and name, Orange Peel is considered to be quite bland and tasteless, resulting in it usually being put in salads for decoration rather than for enjoyment! Please let us know of any fungi you come across when visiting the Common by using the log books provided.