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, 16 November 2017

10/11/17 - Welcome help

Our fantastic team of dedicated volunteers have once again been busy helping us with a variety of jobs recently, the main jobs being birch removal and timber extraction, but they’ve also found time to help maintain the hides, repair signage around the site, top up the bird feeding stations, organise the workshop and collect Wigeon droppings for a study on seed dispersal by waterfowl - whilst having fun along the way. Whilst working on the reserve we also try and find time to enjoy some of our amazing wildlife too – the team carried out a survey for Jack Snipe at Bank Island (ringing four at the same time) and helped out with another cannon net catch of Wigeon last week – great to have the extra pairs of hands to speed up the operation, and a chance for everyone to admire their beautiful plumage up close – as always many thanks to all involved.

Monday, 13 November 2017

07/11/17 - Icelandic arrival

Each year we look forward to the return of ‘our’ Icelandic Whooper Swans, with a resident flock wintering at North Duffield Carrs most years. On Friday last week numbers were up to 26, so there are a lot more to come yet! Last year numbers peaked at 150, whilst other flocks also pass through the valley to wintering sites further south in the Ouse Washes and at WWT Welney, before returning and passing through our local patch in March and early April. When visiting the reserve please keep an eye out for any colour-ringed Whoopers, and as the year progresses we’ll also be looking out for the rather similar looking Bewick’s Swan, a handful of which can occur with our Whooper Swan herd.

Friday, 10 November 2017

05/11/17 - Skipwith sightings

On Friday last week whilst working on the Common we were fortunate to come across a couple of late Adders enjoying the last of the autumn sunshine. It’s been a great year on Skipwith for Adders, with some good counts in the early spring, then after a quiet spell in the autumn it was pleasing to find one of this year’s young last week – confirming successful breeding. Curled up beside the small young was also a large adult, with them both basking on a favoured bank amongst the bracken.  There probably won’t be too many more days left with suitable temperatures from now on, which means the snakes will head deeper into the hibernacula for the winter. Once they go into hibernation, we’ll then look forward to spotting them again on nice sunny days from mid-March. 

Aside from our reptile species it’s a great time of year at the moment to enjoy Skipwith Common NNR, and experience the sights, sounds and colours of autumn. It’s been a busy time for us too, working on the site controlling the birch scrub, helping the shepherd manage the grazing livestock, repairing boardwalks and managing the birch woodland. Among it all we’ve been able to enjoy its wildlife – we've been watching Jays busily (and nosily) stock piling and burying acorns for later in the winter, listening to Green Woodpeckers yaffling, and spotting the last of Common Darter dragonflies buzzing around the pond margins. We were also fortunate to spot this beautiful Comma basking in the sunshine on the bark of a Silver Birch tree, whilst Ruby Tiger caterpillars and Gorse Shieldbugs were hiding among the spines of the gorse scrub. 

As always when visiting the reserves please leave any sightings in the log books provided, thank you.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

03/11/17 - Wigeon return

With waterfowl numbers now building up in the valley following the first returning flood water, and Wigeon returning from the breeding grounds in Iceland and Eastern Europe, numbers have already reached 3000+. Wigeon are our most numerous wintering bird in the valley, with numbers peaking between January and March (depending on flooding), at around 15,000 birds in recent years. Unlike some of our duck species, Wigeon like to feed on the grasses and herbs of the short sheep-grazed aftermath around the edges of the flooded Ings, where they can fly back to the safety of the open water if disturbed, before quickly swimming back to graze once again. At this time of year the birds will readily come to grain, and so we have been baiting a couple of areas to catch a sample in order to ring them. 233 were caught and ringed at Bank Island last week, which will hopefully help us understand their breeding grounds, migration routes, longevity and site faithfulness, as well as an opportunity to monitor breeding success and the percentage of young in the catches. Many thanks to all the volunteers who make this research and monitoring possible, and to Agrii UK for the kind donation of grain.

Friday, 3 November 2017

30/10/17 - Team work

Over the course of the last few weeks our team of volunteers have been hard at work on the NNR, helping our small team of staff continue with the ongoing management of the reserves, including scrub clearance throughout the site, cutting the Thornton Ellers hay meadow, delivering seed to various sites, and ongoing timber collection from Skipwith Common NNR. Thanks to the efforts from our team, parts of the reserve now have less willows which keep the open landscape for our wintering and breeding birds, whilst improving the views for visiting birders. It was also great to have a helping hand from some members of the York Ornithological Club, with a small team getting stuck into coppicing willows at Wheldrake Ings – many thanks to all involved. 

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

28/10/17 - Aviva Community Awards

Exciting news - The Friends of the Lower Derwent Valley (FoLDV) have been short listed in the Aviva Community Awards, in a bid to provide scientific equipment to help study the international bird populations of the valley, through ringing and radio/satellite tracking. Not only will this help us to provide suitable management and conditions, but it will also help us delve into the international wanderings and conservation needs on a wider global scale, such as our recent work on Whimbrel, which lead to the production of the children’s book, Winston’s Journey. Not only that, the project is also aimed at engaging local communities, taking the results into schools and working alongside local groups to collect the data – a real community driven project. Having got through the initial rounds, we now need your votes to help secure the funding. Voting is fairly straight forward and only takes a couple of minutes, please click on the link below, register your e-mail address and then add your votes (you’re allowed 10) – all 10 to our project would be fantastic! Please do take the time to vote and please share, forward, retweet and generally spread the word and encourage others to do so – thank you and fingers crossed for a win! https://community-fund.aviva.co.uk/voting/project/view/17-1914

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

22/10/17 - Helping hand from Agrii

Over the last few weeks we’ve started to get our winter feeding stations up and running around the reserve, to help give our feathered friends a boost as natural food starts to become scarce and the weather begins to turn a little colder. Visitors to the reserve can enjoy the feeding station at Bank Island which is already hosting around 40 Tree Sparrows from our large breeding population in the boxes around the NNR base. There are also good numbers of Goldfinch at the moment – although a flock (or ‘charm’) of 300 are currently present on Wheldrake Ings, feeding on Autumn Hawkbit seed heads, so numbers may increase yet. This year’s grain for both our winter feeding stations and our waterfowl ringing programme has been kindly donated to the Friends of the Lower Derwent Valley by Agrii-UK, based in Pocklington – this will be a huge assistance in supporting the work we do and for which we are most grateful – many thanks to all involved.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

19/10/17 - Shieldbug spotting

Last week whilst working on Skipwith Common NNR, we were pleased to still see some of our shieldbug species enjoying the last of the autumn sunshine. A number of Green Shieldbugs were recorded on the birch scrub (first/second photographs), whilst c25 Gorse Shieldbugs were also recorded, along with a single Birch and Spiked on bramble. A quick stop off at North Duffield Carrs on the way back also produced another 6 Spiked Shieldbugs (third photograph) in a small patch of nettles by the Geoff Smith Hide. At the weekend with temperatures soaring to 20 degrees, no doubt many more were out enjoying the warm weather - so keep your eyes peeled on warm sunny days! However on a day like today, they will no doubt have sought refuge somewhere dry!

Monday, 23 October 2017

16/10/17 - SEO

Not only do our logs keep you warm in the winter, whilst helping generate funds to support some of the conservation projects in the valley (along with saving you money!), but they are also well used by some of the wildlife so expertly cared for by Jean Thorpe at Ryedale Rehabilitation. Pictured below is a stunning Short-eared Owl, making good use of one of the larger logs whilst in Jean’s care. This bird is currently recovering from a dislocated wing, fractured collar bone and broken air sacks, having been picked up at Flamborough Head, possibly having just arrived here from the continent. Fingers crossed this beautiful bird makes a full recovery and is soon back in the wild. Many thanks as always to Jean for her expert care and dedication to our wildlife. 

Monday, 16 October 2017

11/10/17 - Redwing return

Over the last few days we’ve seen, and heard, the arrival of the first of our winter thrushes, with Redwings being the first to appear, arriving in small numbers from Scandinavia. Their high pitched calls can be heard overhead during the hours of darkness as they migrate westwards, and tired and hungry flocks can often be seen chattering as they search hedgerows for berry laden bushes on which they feed. There are only a small number of birds around at the moment, but as the weather turns colder and the supply of fruit and berries becomes depleted, larger numbers will return once again to the Ings to feed on the edge of the damp meadows, taking advantage of the high numbers of earthworms and other invertebrate prey. They will then return to their breeding grounds further east from mid-March so there is plenty of time yet to see them - as always when visiting the NNR please leave any records in the log books provided, thank you. 

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

09/10/17 - Beardies & Greys

At the weekend two Bearded Tits were seen going into roost at Wheldrake Ings – the first sighting there this autumn. Bearded Tits are resident in the UK throughout the year and disperse from their breeding sites during the autumn, sometimes undertaking regular ‘eruptions’ - these are marked by flocks of birds rising out of their breeding reed beds and taking high, towering flights with lots of excited calling, small groups then peel off and disperse. It is these birds that can turn up at this time of year away from their usual haunts, making it a good time to look out for them in suitable habitat within our area. Over the next month areas with reed beds or reed fringes are worth checking for these amazing little birds, often noticed first by their distinctive ‘pinging’ calls, the small reed beds at Wheldrake Ings have been a local ‘hotspot’ in previous years. Many thanks to local birder Duncan Bye for sending in his super photograph of a stunning male taken at Wheldrake Ings this time last year.

It has also been pleasing to see an increase in the numbers of Grey Partridge around the valley this year, last month two large groups (coveys) were recorded, with 19 present at Melbourne Ings on the 10th and a covey of eight (presumably a family party), on Bubwith Ings on the 16th. 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 remain around the LDV with pockets of populations in Thornton, Thorganby, Storwood and North Duffield - the recent increase in sightings is a welcome change of fortune for the species locally.

Monday, 9 October 2017

05/10/17 - Recoveries

Migration is very much in evidence in the LDV at present as the first of the incoming winter visitors start to arrive. Our ringing studies have already shown a link between the valley and 25 other countries as well as information on movements within the UK. Recent recoveries include a young Reed Warbler that was ringed at Wheldrake Ings on the 5th August, moving 381 Km to the south to Fleet, Dorset in just 11 days on the first leg of its migration. A Lesser Redpoll ringed near Melbourne in November 2015 was re-trapped by ringers in Scotland, at Carluke, South Lanarkshire, 277 Km to the north just a couple of weeks ago. 

We’ve also just heard that one of the Herring Gulls colour-ringed at the local landfill site in February this year, was re-sighted off a trawler in the Barents Sea, Arctic Ocean, 2500 Km away, showing that our ‘local’ birds aren’t quite as local as we might think. 

We’ve been fortunate over the last 20 years to ring 40 Ruff, the results of which have revealed much about their complex lifestyles and movements, and this week we received another such movement. An adult male, ringed in January 2015 as part of the resident wintering population at North Duffield Carrs, was unfortunately found dead on the breeding grounds at Tranøya, Senja, Tranøy, Troms, Norway, 1950 Km to the north-east of the valley. This is the eighth international exchange we’ve recorded, and our second movement between Norway, with a single bird from Sweden and five exchanges between the Netherlands also recorded, showing just how international our ‘local’ birds are. Up to 27 individuals are back in the valley now with numbers often peaking around January and February with over 100 birds.

Please let us know if you come across any colour-ringed birds in the valley on here or by leaving sightings in the hide log books provided, thank you.

Monday, 2 October 2017

01/10/17 - Lloyds get stuck in

Last week we were pleased to welcome a team from Lloyds Bank to the reserve for a day of their corporate volunteering time – and on a day which felt more like the middle of summer! With so many extra pairs of hands, along with our small team of volunteers, we split into small groups and tackled various jobs. Firstly undertaking some replacement fencing at Bank Island, to help maintain a stock proof perimeter to allow grazing to take place across the site. Other members of the team enjoyed sawing and loppering willow scrub on Wheldrake Ings to help out the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust - now allowing local birders to see properly from Tower Hide. Whilst a third team spent time collecting timber for the winter log supply – all in all a fun and very productive day - many thanks to everyone involved. 

Friday, 29 September 2017

26/09/17 - 2018 LDV Calendar

Hot off the press! The new 2018 LDV calendar is now available at £6.99 – available from the NNR base or can be posted (no extra cost). As per the last two years, this calendar has been produced by the Friends of the Lower Derwent Valley (FoLDV), with proceeds from the sales going towards conservation projects across the reserve. With thanks to the sales from the previous year’s calendars, along with log and card sales, and a kind donation, two new tern rafts were purchased earlier in the year from Green Future Building, in time for the breeding season. Only a day after being in situ, a pair of Common Terns had already found them, checking out both the one at Bank Island and the one on the pool at Wheldrake, before choosing the latter. The pair went on to raise two chicks, whilst a second pair also laid eggs – encouraging signs for colonisation of the site. Many thanks to everyone who has supported the ‘Friends’ and helped make this possible through generous donations. Please get in touch with us on here or via our Facebook page if you'd like to purchase one - thank you.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

21/09/17 - Aviva lend a hand

Another great day this week working with a team from the York branch of Aviva - as part of their allocated volunteering days. Helping out and working alongside our Reserve Manager Fallon Mahon and volunteers, Nick and Sandra, the team got stuck into various jobs on the reserve. Splitting into smaller teams a number of jobs were tackled in the morning – path clearance, gate repairs and gardening at the NNR base, the afternoon was then spent collecting felled timber and splitting/stacking logs into the wood shed for next winter – ensuring an ongoing supply throughout this year and into next. The work we get done on days such as this really is invaluable in helping out our small team in managing the reserves, so a big thank you to everyone involved. If you work for a company that offers corporate volunteering days and fancy joining our team for the day then please don't hesitate to get in touch.  


Sunday, 24 September 2017

20/09/17 - Rhodo removal

Last week our team of volunteers once again visited Forge Valley Woods NNR, with Reserve Manager Fallon Mahon to start removing Rhododendron. This is a partnership project that has been funded via external grants secured by the Raincliffe Woods Community Enterprise and the Woodland Trust, with the aim of helping to remove this non-native species from the woodland. Whilst arguably attractive, Rhododendron can form dense areas of cover where native flora is suppressed, and due to the plant containing toxins it can further eliminate surrounding vegetation growth such as the carpets of Bluebells, Wild Garlic, Dog's Mercury, Sanicle, and various ferns to name but a few that carpet the woodland floor. More clearance will be happening across the woodlands at Forge Valley and Raincliffe Woods during the coming winter, so hopefully by next spring we’ll see a real difference as a result of the work.  Many thanks to everyone once again for their efforts.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

17/09/17 - Flailing the day away

It's that time of year again when we’ve been out and about on the tractor carrying out further land management throughout the valley. We’ve been busy flailing the edges of the meadows and ditch sides to stop invasive, more dominant species from creeping out into the edges of the flower rich meadows – such as Himalayan Balsam, Creeping Thistle and Common Stinging Nettle. Flailing also helps maintain the areas that the local farmers can cut for hay, furthering maintaining the amount of valuable habitat. It also prevents such areas being taken over by willows or hawthorn scrub, and helps maintain suitable spots for small mammals, hunting owls and other predators, whilst also providing early and late season cover for species such as Corncrakes and Quail. 

Last week we were joined by our own flock of Swallows feeding on the insects we disturbed on the vegetation as we went round the ditches on Wheldrake Ings. Whilst on the tractor we’ve also been fortunate to be able to enjoy a raptor spectacle, with a Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, Buzzards, Kestrels and Hobbies all hunting over the freshly cut grass.  

Whilst working in the meadows over the last few weeks we’ve also been seeing numerous frogs and toads – particularly young ones. At this time of year as autumn approaches our frogs and toads are busy feeding up on insects, slugs and spiders in preparation for the coming winter. Later in the season with the cold weather fast approaching they will then start to seek out a suitable spot to spend the next few months in, such as a log pile or compost heap, some individuals also might choose to over winter at the bottom of a pond, burying themselves underneath the silt. Frogs don’t hibernate all winter like some creatures do, any mild patches of weather will usually bring them out in search of food. This individual was photographed in the NNR base garden as it made its way over the wildflower meadow, fortunately escaping the clutches of the allen scythe!

Saturday, 16 September 2017

15/09/17 - Manxies driven inland

Yesterday three Manx Shearwaters were picked up in the wider area surrounding the LDV – with singles at Barmby Moor, Howden and the outskirts of York – all found in gardens. These black and white seabirds spend most of their time out to sea, only coming ashore to breed in colonies in the UK, usually on offshore islands where they are safe from rats and other ground predators. Young birds start to leave their nest sites in July and August to migrate to the coast of South America, where they spend the winter, returning in late February and March. These three individuals, all young birds, may well have been ‘wrecked’ inland due to recent storms on the West Coast, which has seen the rescue of over 150 grounded birds in Pembrokeshire, Wales. All three birds were rehabilitated, ringed and returned to the coast by Jean Thorpe and the RSPCA, representing the 2nd, 3rd & 4th individuals to be ringed in the area, and only the 6th-8th records - all of which have been picked up exhausted having been storm driven in autumn (last year Jean had three birds in, also on the 14th September). Many thanks to Jean for returning them back to where they belong.

Friday, 15 September 2017

08/09/17 - Teal to Finland

With the weather feeling a little more autumnal of late we are now seeing the first build up in returning waterfowl back on the NNR. Numbers of Teal have risen over the last week to 190 and have brought with them the first two returning Wigeon of the season – only another 25,000 of these two species to go to reaching our annual peak counts! Other birds will undoubtedly already be on their way or starting out on their epic migrations from their breeding grounds in Iceland and across Northern Europe and into Russia. Today we’ve received a new ringing recovery from the BTO - a Teal ringed on the reserve at North Duffield Carrs in January 2015, has just been recovered in Veteli, Vaasa, Finland – 1780 Km to the north east of the valley on the 31st August. Numbers here should start to increase quickly from now on, by the end of the month there could 500-1000 using the pool at Wheldrake Ings - as always when visiting the reserve please leave any records in the hide log books provided, thank you.