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 March 2015

11/03/15 - Close encounters

During the last few weeks we've been fortunate to have close encounters with some of the wildlife on the site whilst carrying out the day to day jobs. At the end of the month, whilst putting up some more of the owl boxes around Escrick Park and repairing some of the old ones we were fortunate to come across a pair of Grey Partridge tucked in the long grass at Bank Island - with sightings few and far between it was a real treat to almost stumble upon these two. 

 Grey Partridge, male - Bank Island - 23/02/15
Grey Partridge, female - Bank Island - 23/02/15

Sadly Grey Partridge have undergone a dramatic decline in the UK over the last 30 years, in line with many other farmland bird species. Changing land management practices, intensification and speed of management operations have perhaps contributed to such declines, and possibly the competition from the vast numbers of Red-legged Partridges that are released each year for shooting. Small numbers of Greys still remain around the Lower Derwent Valley with pockets of populations in Thornton, Thorganby, Storwood and North Duffield.


Grey Partridge, male - Bank Island - 23/02/15

Earlier the same week whilst walking the floodbank and repairing parts of the fences that were damaged in the floods last year we came across a number of Redshank, 22 in total along the stretch from North Duffield to East Cottingwith. A small number have been present over the last few months but numbers are starting to increase now as the winter progresses into spring. Some birds move through the site on passage and others arrive to stay and breed on the Ings. These wintering birds tend to favour the riverbank, especially around North Duffield Carrs and Thorganby Ings where these photographs were taken.

 Redshank - Thorganby - 17/02/15

During the 1970’s wintering numbers were rather low (less than a hundred), building up to a peak of around 3-400 during the 1990’s, then reducing once again to fewer than 100 in recent winters. Redshank are medium sized waders with bright red/orange legs, a white rump and white wing panels also help make them distinctive and easy to identify in flight - also listen out for their noisy alarm call!

Redshank taking off - Thorganby - 17/02/15

Last week on Wednesday the team were at North Duffield maintaining the hides and having a general tidy up of the site, whilst there a quick scan down the river was had and we couldn't believe our luck when up bobbed the head of an Otter! For the next half hour we were very fortunate to have good and prolonged views of one of our rarely seen but much sought after species. It seemed oblivious by our presence and carried on feeding, frequently catching eels. Twice it hauled itself out on to the riverbank to eat some of the larger prey items, before eventually slipping its way back into the water and disappearing as suddenly as it had appeared.

Otter - North Duffield - 04/03/15

The Lower Derwent Valley is designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for, amongst other things, Otters. The valley has always supported a reasonable population of Otters and numbers have increased over recent decades. This has not only re-addressed some of the natural balances (the Otters pushing out the Mink which has allowed the populations of some species such as Water Voles and Moorhens to recover), but it has also meant visitors to the NNR and the local area stand a better chance of seeing these elusive animals. They are still hard to see, although their tracks and spraints are regularly found, and their images are captured frequently on camera traps that are set around the reserve - as always please let us know of any sightings of any wildlife seen on the reserve via the log books in the hides.



Otter - North Duffield - 04/03/15

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

24/02/15 - A helping hand for the owls

Last week in conjunction with National Nest Box Week the LDV Team were busy on site erecting owl boxes on the Escrick Park Estate which surrounds Skipwith Common NNR. The estate have various agri-environment schemes across the 8000ha estate and work closely with us on a range of environmental improvements. 

Over the years Natural England staff and volunteers from the LDV along with the help of various groups – TCV, York University Conservation Volunteers, Ad Astra and other community groups have made and erected over 150 Barn Owl boxes, 40 Kestrel boxes and 25 Little Owl boxes around the wider area. In addition 70 Tree Sparrow boxes and 15 Swift boxes have also been placed on local farms and villages. We’ve also donated a number of boxes to ‘kick start’ other projects elsewhere in Yorkshire such as in the Harrogate and Wolds area.




Whilst putting up new boxes around the valley we were also carrying out repairs to some of the existing ones. From three of the five boxes that needed repairing we came across four birds roosting, and no doubt keeping out the strong winds! A pair were found in one box together and a lone male and female in two other boxes. Given the number of chicks ringed in the last year’s bumper breeding season throughout the LDV (c170), it was surprising to find that two of the birds were un-ringed - it may well be that these are young birds from last year from further afield. One of the birds also had a ring on from elsewhere (a control), it’s unusual for us to control a bird so this may give us a clue to where some of the birds have dispersed from. 



1085 Barn Owls had been ringed up to the end of 2014 in a study starting in 1999 – 90% of which have come from boxes provided throughout the area and showing just how important the provision of artificial nest sites can be – especially as old trees fall down and grain stores/farm outbuildings are made pest/vermin proof or converted for other uses. Hopefully the additional boxes will soon become home to breeding owls this year and in subsequent years.

Making, erecting and repairing these boxes takes time but the results are very worthwhile - annual monitoring produces a wealth of useful data, both in terms of our local area but also for the national nest record scheme. Large numbers of birds have been ringed as a result of being able to access these sites, again adding to our knowledge of local bird populations but also allowing us to help train the next generation of nest recorders and ringers. It’s also a great way to engage with the landowners and the wider community around the reserve.


So a big thank you to all who have helped with this work, from making boxes and inspecting them during the breeding season, to ringing broods and also to those who let us have access onto their land to undertake this work.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

22/02/15 - A few beans

Whilst out on site last Tuesday we were fortunate to find and photograph this flock of four Tundra Bean Geese along with two Pink-feet mixed in with the local (or perhaps not so local) Greylags at Bank Island.


 

There are two races of Bean Geese which visit the UK – the Taiga Bean Goose which breeds on forest bogs in the sub-arctic region and the Tundra Bean Goose which breeds on wet tundra in remote sites in north-western Siberia. The majority of these birds winter in southern Sweden and continental Europe. A total of 400 Taiga Bean Geese winter at two sites in the UK – the Yare Valley in Norfolk and the Avon Valley in Scotland, whilst fewer than 300 Tundra Beans can be found spread across the country.




Bean Geese are similar to the much commoner Pink-footed Goose – differing by having orange, not pink legs and orange patches on the bill, and a darker, almost browny-grey upperwing rather than the light grey upperwing seen on Pink-footed Geese. The Lower Derwent Valley is one of the most favoured sites in the county turning up a small number of birds most years.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

16/02/15 - A foreigner at Duffield

On Tuesday evening last week a great whoosh net catch of 45 birds was had at North Duffield Carrs, which included the first Dutch ringed Teal we have controlled here. It may take a few weeks to get the information of when and where this bird was originally ringed but it will be the first Teal interchange between the Netherlands and the LDV. Another bird re-trapped during a whoosh net catch at Duffield last week had originally been ringed at Skipwith Common NNR in September 2010, indicating that some Teal return to the area in subsequent winters.

 

The LDV NNR is one of only a handful of key waterfowl ringing stations in the UK and is supported by our friends at the WWT. As well as ringing nationally significant numbers of ducklings during the summer months, important numbers of certain wintering species such as Wigeon and Teal can also be caught on the reserve. In some years we can catch up to 50% of the annual British Teal total and 30% of the Wigeon caught in the UK.


Following a rather poor year in 2014 for catching wintering ducks, this year has so far proved particularly successful for catching Teal in our whoosh nets. 220 Teal have been ringed so far in 2015 with three catches accounting for an impressive 140 birds. This has taken the number ringed in the valley to a total of 2330 since waterfowl ringing started in the late 1980’s. This has in turn resulted in 62 movements away from the local area including 29 recoveries overseas to 10 countries, with seven to Russia, six to Finland and four to Denmark. Four birds (two to each) have also been recorded in Portugal and France. We’ll post the details of the Dutch Teal on here when we hear back from the BTO.


Friday, 13 February 2015

11/02/15 - The return of old 'friends'

Last month whilst undertaking the January WeBS count we mentioned that we’d come across five of our darvic’d Shelduck from previous years. These birds were stood with 130 others on the ice, thus providing a great opportunity to scan all their legs for rings. 


We’ve since gone back through the data and have some very pleasing records from these birds – ‘BV’ & ‘BC’ were both ringed in February 2000, and were already at least two years old then making them now at least 17! We last saw ‘BV’ at North Duffield in 2005 and ‘BC’ in 2006 and 2008. How fantastic that they have both returned this year! ‘KV’ & ‘SH’ were also seen with them, these two birds were initially ringed in March 2006 and have since been seen on the reserve in 2007, 2011 & 2012. The last of the five birds ‘UH’, was ringed just a few years ago in 2011 and this is the first known appearance back in the valley. Five other metal ringed only birds were also present – again showing the value of colour-ringing.

 

The Shelduck colour-ringing project was started in 2000 by Natural England, the Huddleston and Jackson Ringing Partnership and the WWT. This was partly in response to falling numbers ringed nationally and also in an attempt to find out about the large inland breeding ‘colony’ that the valley supports. Over 474 have been ringed on the reserve, of which 350 have had darvic’s fitted – a single black plastic ring on the left leg with two white engraved letters on, which can be read with a telescope at up to 100m - this has increased the number of sightings we’ve had back from our ringed Shelduck. Please keep an eye out for any ringed birds and note any sightings in the hide log book.

 

It’s not just Shelduck that we’ve been fortunate enough to spot recently with rings on, last month we also managed to pick out five darvic’d Whooper Swans at North Duffield during the WeBS. It was pleasing to come across ‘C3S’, a bird that was ringed in 2007 at North Duffield which since then has wintered each year in the valley, and ‘Z5T’ – initially ringed at Caerlaverock WWT in 2010 and was last seen in the valley last winter. Also present were ‘G5F’, ‘G5J’ & ‘G5Z’ – all ringed in 2013, earlier in the winter ‘G5K’ arrived at Duffield and we heard from our friends at the WWT that ‘G5X’ was with them at Martin Mere. Out of the 12 birds that were ringed during the 2013 catch we have now had data back on 6 of them - makes it all worthwhile!


Staff, volunteers and local birdwatchers have been reading colour-rings from Whooper and Bewick's Swans seen in the valley since the mid 1980's, which has helped increase our knowledge about how the birds use the valley and has also contributed to the national project run by the WWT. For the last ten years, since 2004, we have been working alongside our partners at the WWT to catch and colour-ring Whoopers in the valley as part of this wider research. This has involved several whoosh net and more recently, cannon net catches - the latter being the first time this method had been used to catch Whooper Swans in the UK. Unfortunately this year, largely due to the weather and the birds frequenting an inaccessible area we were unable to get a catch, but hopefully we’ll have better luck at the end of the year when the birds return once more for the winter.