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.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

17/07/17 - One good tern

We are pleased to be able to report that the two young chicks that have been on the tern raft at Wheldrake Ings for the last three weeks have now successfully fledged - the first successful breeding for the Lower Derwent Valley NNR. On Monday we watched from the hide as the four birds, two adults, two young, flew around the pool together, occasionally catching small fish and returning to the raft and tern rails. 

It’s been fantastic to be able to enjoy these delightful birds and watch their antics from the hides with some of our regular visitors – the adults have done a great job of looking after their chicks, constantly mobbing and chasing away predators and bringing in a steady supply of small fish for the youngsters. The family party have also attracted several other Common Terns onto the pool with up to seven adults lingering over recent days – an encouraging sign for next year! It won’t be long before the terns head off to their wintering grounds in southern Africa, so if you haven't been down yet then it's well worth a visit at the moment - always plenty to see! 

Many thanks again to everyone involved in the kind donation of money to the Friends of the Lower Derwent Valley, resulting in the purchase of the two new rafts from Green Future Building. 

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

09/07/17 - Little and large

Over the last two weeks we’ve started to see the first returning autumn passage waders appear in the valley, as they head south from their more northerly breeding grounds. Several Green Sandpipers (often the first to appear), have already been seen, whilst we were fortunate to come across two very confiding Little Ringed Plovers at Thornton Ellers earlier this week. These delightful little birds allowed us to approach and photograph them as they continued to feed unconcerned, seemingly oblivious to our presence. Whilst busy managing the reserve over the last few weeks, we have also been monitoring the water levels on Wheldrake Ings, trying to keep them at a low enough level in order to provide muddy margins to attract and benefit passage waders over the coming weeks – hopefully more of these charming little waders will soon follow.

It's been a great breeding season in the valley this year, with a whole host of species doing well and successfully raising young broods. One of the species which has enjoyed a productive season is our local Mute Swan population - with 10 pairs raising a total of 61 cygnets, including a bumper brood of eight at North Duffield Carrs. Catching and colour-ringing the young (as part of our long term project), will take place during late July/August – a task our volunteers are already looking forward to! The brood of three pictured below, were seen on Wheldrake Ings last week - they’re just a bit too small to ring at the moment (but growing quickly!).

Monday, 10 July 2017

07/07/17 - Blue, blue, electric blue

Last week whilst busy managing water levels at Wheldrake Ings, we were fortunate to be in the right place at the right time to rescue this stunning Kingfisher. It appeared that the bird might have been lured into the chamber of the penstock (the water control structure), in search of fish, and seemed unable to find its way back out. Upon realising the unfortunate predicament and seeing it fly round in circles exhausting itself, occasionally dropping into the water, we knew we needed to act fast. Fortunately we acquired a net fairly quickly and managed reached down, soon bringing it out safely. Once out the bird seemed none the worse for its ordeal, and after a few quick photographs flew off at lightning speed, gone within the blink of an eye, which is the usual view as they zip past! What a truly beautiful bird, and a great feeling to see it fly off.


Friday, 7 July 2017

03/07/17 - Tern update

Instant success! We are pleased to be able to say that our new tern raft that was installed on the pool at Wheldrake Ings in early May, currently has a pair of Common Terns with two chicks. Many thanks to everyone involved in the kind donation, purchase and installation of the rafts, especially the team from Green Future Building, for the brilliant design with the high transparent sides – thus keeping it otter and mink proof. Upon news of the two chicks, we waded out to the raft the next day with a ‘shelter’ – a wooden structure that the chicks can hide under from predatory crows, the heat from the sun, or the heavy rain like that of recent days.

Common Terns appear on spring passage most years, and in recent years have bred on adjacent sites including Elvington Water Treatment works, Allerthorpe Lakeland Park, Raker Lakes and at the University of York Campus. However, this will represent the first successful breeding on the reserve, and will hopefully be the start of an increasing population, which is great news for the terns, as well for our visitors that are able enjoy them.

Friday, 30 June 2017

22/06/17 - Hobby release

Last month Jean received a call from Battleflatts Vets with news of an injured Hobby collected from a site in Withernsea on the East Coast. With the injury being a badly broken wing, it seemed that this beautiful bird was destined for certain death, however with both the expertise of Mark at Battleflatts Vets, and Jean, this bird was definitely in the right hands. After Mark did a great job of pinning and strapping the wing, Jean took over with her amazing care and specialist knowledge. With it being such a bad break, she, an adult female, was confined to a small box in order to let the wing start to heal. However, with the break dangerously close to the joint, it was important not to allow the wing to be strapped for too long as the repairing bone can then cause the joint to become immobile. 
 On the mend - c/o Leanne Hoeness-heather

By the second week of June the bandage came off and she was flying at a low height – things were starting to look promising! Fast forward another week and the hard work, skill and patience paid off on Tuesday morning when the bird was judged by Jean to be ready for release, having spent the last week exercising in a more spacious aviary. Following consultation with several specialists, she was released onto the NNR – the idea being that the valley would offer her plenty of easy feeding opportunities whilst she regained her strength and improved her flying. She’s already missed this year’s opportunity for breeding but at least she'll have plenty of time to continue to improve before heading off to Africa for the winter. 

 The last goodbye

Well done to Jean and Mark for their efforts, not only in saving this birds life, but for all they and what they manage to achieve.

Off she goes!

Thursday, 29 June 2017

14/06/17 - Springwatch Peregrines

As many of our regular followers will know, local wildlife rehabber and LDV volunteer Jean Thorpe, spends her time helping sick and injured wildlife back into the wild, with this week being no different – other than involving the BBC Springwatch film crew. Last week Jean received a call from the RSPB Investigation Team with the news of three juvenile Peregrine chicks lifted from a nest in Ludlow, Shropshire, after both parents had been found dead nearby, presumably illegally killed. 

Dead Peregrine - c/o Tim Jones

After a short stint with Jean, keeping warm and feeding up, the chicks, two females and a male, were soon to be on their way to foster nests. 

Peregrine chick - c/o Tim Jones

With much consideration taken over choosing the nests, depending on the number of chicks already present and accessibility, it was decided that the two females would be placed in a quarry nest in the Peak District, whilst the small male would go to Salisbury Catherdral where he will join another single male chick. Hopefully a sad story will now have a happy ending - well done Jean and all involved at the RSPB. If you missed it on Springwatch then you can watch the episode (07/06) on the BBC iplayer.

Jean ringing the chicks before release

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

11/06/17 - National Volunteer Week

This week has been National Volunteer Week – an annual celebration of the fantastic contribution millions of volunteers make across the UK, which leaves us thinking where we would be without our team… more than likely sinking under an ever increasing backlog of jobs! Over the last few weeks our small, but fantastic group of volunteers, have been busy helping us undertake a number of tasks on the reserve and surrounding area, from weed wiping, spraying, nest box making, extracting and processing timber, surveying, fencing, trimming paths, painting hides, goose gathering, litter picking, gardening, helping with corporate work days/events and finally ragwort pulling. We honestly couldn’t have got it all done without the extra help, so a big thank you to our team for giving up their time and getting stuck in to whatever task they face, and always arriving with a smile – even in the winter when it’s freezing cold, raining and blowing a gale! If any of the above appeals and you fancy doing your bit for the environment (whilst also making new friends and helping your own health and well-being), then please feel free to get in touch.

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.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

06/05/17 - Tern arrival

This week saw the arrival of two new custom made tern rafts from GFB (Green Future Builds), which, with the help of our volunteers, were swiftly moved into position on the pool at Wheldrake Ings and at Bank Island. These rafts were purchased by the Friends of the Lower Derwent Valley, following a private donation, which was very gratefully received, along with funds raised from the cards, calendars and logs which have all helped to make this possible. 

After several years of having ‘homemade’ rafts, it’s fantastic to have the ‘real deal’ now, fingers crossed the local Common Terns who have started to colonise the wider area will take advantage of these new rafts and add to the valley’s breeding birds. It’s looking promising already - two days after the rafts were put in place a pair were seen copulating on them - watch this space... Many thanks to the great efforts of our team of volunteers for helping to get them into place, and also to the fantastic work done by the Friends of the LDV in delivering such projects, and all of those who have helped support them in generating funds - more news to follow soon on their great work. 

Thanks also to Green Future Builds for designing such high quality rafts, GFB is a not for profit social enterprise, that works in partnership with other trusts, charities and social enterprises. Projects are aimed at creating opportunities for people and communities to develop skills, continue training and generate employment in the nature conservation and green build sector. Thanks once again to all those involved. 

Friday, 28 April 2017

17/04/17 - Heat wave

With the recent spell of warm weather there has been a distinctive Mediterranean feel around the valley during the temperatures of 20 degrees last weekend. The much needed spell of warm weather brought out a range of butterflies and reptiles, whilst the bird life has been a little on the exotic side - recent sightings include three Common Cranes and two Great White Egrets, as well as up to sixteen Little Egrets, two Avocets, an adult Little Gull, a singing Cetti’s Warbler, the first returning Whimbrel and 34 Black-tailed Godwits. Our resident breeding Mute Swans have also starting laying clutches around the valley and we’ve just seen the first brood of eight Mallard ducklings at North Duffield Carrs.

Barn Owls are one of the favourite visitors to the Lower Derwent Valley, with the local birders fortunate to enjoy regular sightings, particularly during the summer months. We haven’t seen that many so far this year which is probably a good sign – hopefully meaning they have been finding enough food to survive the winter, which will help get them into good breeding condition for the forthcoming season. With the days now drawing out, we are likely to see more birds appearing on the wing at dusk in order to start hunting – Bank Island and North Duffield Carrs are often the best sites to view them, whilst the Pocklington Canal area is another good location. Later in the year we’ll be checking the progress of our local population, hopefully it’ll be a good season for them – the last couple being rather poor and linked to a dip in the vole cycle on which they depend. However, we have recently heard about one of the few young birds we ringed in the summer of 2015, from a nest box on North Duffield Carrs. This individual had wandered all the way down into Norfolk where it was found in November 2016, unfortunately having been hit by a car – hopefully we’ll receive more controls from the birds ringed that year – and with a happier outcome.