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.

March '17

Lower Derwent Valley NNR - March Sightings 

March is always an exciting month, and full of promise with an overlap of wintering birds, incoming migrants and overland spring passage – along with the emergence of our hibernating reptiles, amphibians and insects.

Among the birds, the now annual large passage of Whooper Swans dominated the month, with an incredible 648 moving through or pausing on site on the first leg of their journey back to their Icelandic breeding grounds. In contrast, the movement of Pink-footed Geese was limited, although 11 Tundra Bean Geese and 22 Barnacles remained early in the month, with two pairs of Egyptian Geese also present. Duck numbers peaked as wintering populations were augmented by passage birds, including impressive counts of 12,500 Wigeon, 10,000+ Teal, 473 Pintail, 400 Tufted Duck, 366 Gadwall, 340 Shoveler and 145 Pochard. Other notable records included a pair of Red-crested Pochard at Aughton Ings on the 13th, the appearance of a Common Scoter at Wheldrake Ings on the 17th and 18th (a now annual occurrence of spring passage), four or five lingering Scaup and the first returning Garganey on the 22nd. Up to eight Little Egrets had returned by month end and were joined by a Great White Egret on the 30th (now also a seemingly annual and increasing occurrence).

Raptors were well represented, with the highlight being a female Hen Harrier over Thorganby on the 22nd followed by a male over the Low Grounds on the 25th – now doubt returning passage birds. Numbers of wintering waders fell sharply, down from 5100 Lapwing and 4000 Golden Plover early in the month to 1500 and 500 respectively by month end. Up to 50 Ruff remained from February along with 32 Black-tailed Godwits, whilst a Grey Plover at North Duffield Carrs on the 25th and 26th was a notable find. Three different Glaucous and two Iceland Gulls were still present, whilst increasing numbers of Lesser Black-backed Gulls were noted around the valley as spring passage commenced.

Other highlights included a Long-eared Owl near Melbourne on the 29th, a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker at Elvington on the 15th, and up to eight territorial Woodlarks on Skipwith Common. Several Waxwing lingered and re-appeared during the month whilst the first spring migrants were located – Wheatear (9th), Sand Martin (13th), Blackcap and Swallow (28th) and Willow Warbler (29th).

On Skipwith Common the first Adder was present on the 7th (with up to four thereafter), with Grass Snake and Common Lizard from the 9th, whilst Smooth Newts were first noted in the NNR base pond from the 27th. Warm sunny days during the month also produced the first good run of butterfly, moth and bee records for the year.

As always, many thanks to the local birders and members of the YOC for their contribution of records throughout the month, particularly to Duncan Bye and for the use of his photographs.

BIRDS: 

Mute Swan – A monthly maximum of 84 recorded on the 28th. 

Whooper Swan – Up to 70 wintering birds were recorded early in the month, with 67 still present on the 18th and 72 on the 19th, however numbers as expected, were down to only 22 by month end.

In addition to the above wintering birds, a passage flock of 22 flew north over Bank Island on the 1st followed by 17 north over the valley on the 5th. A flock of 27 further returning spring migrants later passed northwards through the valley on the 11th. A large movement then took place on the 13th, with herds of 156 at Aughton and 123 at North Duffield Ings, whilst at least 50 moved north over East Cottingwith in the morning – a minimum of 329 birds moving through the valley on that day in addition to the 70 ‘resident birds’ present at Derwent Farm. 110 flew north over Wheldrake and Bank Island on the 16th when a further 51 were present on site at Wheldrake Ings, followed by 39 there on the 18th and 19th, when four individuals were also present at Aughton. 11 were present at Bank Island on the 20th, followed by two herds, of 36 and 47, north over the valley on the 22nd, the latter group u-turning over the University before heading back to Bank Island and north east along the River Derwent. A final 21 flew north on the 27th making a total of 648 passage birds through the valley during the month. 

Whooper Swan - Aughton - 13/03

Greylag Goose – Numbers decreased as expected in the month, with 800+ on the 4th down to around 370 by month end. 

Tundra Bean Goose – Following an influx last month, up to 11 remained at Bank Island on the 1st – 4th. 

Pink-footed Goose – 115 flew north over Bank Island on the 3rd. A single was present at Wheldrake on the 12th with possibly the same bird seen at North Duffield Carrs on the 13th. 16 flew north-west over Bank Island on the 25th with a further three on the deck at North Duffield Carrs on the same date. 

Canada Goose – Up to 200 remained early in the month with 112 on the 28th. 

Barnacle Goose – Last month’s flock of 22 remained at Bank Island for just a handful of days until the 4th. 

Egyptian Goose – The resident pair remained at East Cottingwith throughout the month with two additional birds seen at North Duffield Carrs on the 18th, followed by a single there on the 25th and a pair on the top pond on the 28th to month end. 

Egyptian Goose - East Cottingwith - 25/03 - DB

Shelduck – Up to 70 birds remained throughout – a lower total than in previous years. 

Wigeon – Up to 12,500 were recorded early in the month, with good numbers present until month – c9000+. 

Teal – 10,000 were present early in the month with 2500 remaining at month end. 

Pintail – 70 were recorded at Wheldrake Ings on the 12th followed by 113 at Aughton Ings on the 13th, on the same date 80+ were present at Ellerton Ings and 30+ at North Duffield Ings. A full count of the valley on the 18th revealed a total of 473. Numbers remained high during mid-month but started to decline towards month end with 250+ present. 

Garganey – The first returning birds were present at Bank Island on the 22nd. 

Mallard – Up to 1000 birds remained throughout the month with numerous pairs seen mating and searching for suitable nesting locations. 

Gadwall – An impressive 226 were counted at Wheldrake Ings on the 11th when an estimated 310 were counted throughout the whole site. 215 were still present at Wheldrake Ings by the 18th, with a total of 366 throughout the site on the 26th. 

Shoveler – 190 were present throughout the site on the 11th, including 120 at Wheldrake Ings. 131 were present again there on the 18th (total of 230 throughout the whole site). Numbers increased further with spring passage/incoming breeders – a total of 340+ were recorded by month end. 

Shoveler - North Duffield Carrs - 25/03 - DB
 
Tufted Duck – A small group of 55 were present at Bank Island on the 7th. 194 were later counted at Wheldrake Ings on the 11th followed by 238 there on the 12th. On the 13th, 56 were recorded again at Bank Island along with 88 at Aughton Ings – making an estimated total of 400 present throughout the site. Several days later 87 were at Bank Island on the 15th followed by 174 at Wheldrake on the 18th - with a full count of 358 on that date. 250+ remained at month end. 

Scaup – The adult drake remained in the Wheldrake Ings refuge area from the 1st – 11th, with four drakes later seen there on the 12th (DB). The four birds lingered there until the 19th and were present again on the 25th – on the same day they were joined by a first winter drake to month end. 

Common Scoter – Now an annual visitor on spring passage, a single female was present at Wheldrake Ings on the typical dates of the 17th and 18th March (DB). 

Pochard – 145 were still present at Aughton on the 5th followed by 103 on the 13th, on the same date six were recorded at Wheldrake. 

Red-crested Pochard – A pair were present at Aughton on the 13th (CSR). 

Goldeneye – Evidence of some spring passage as numbers increased during the month with 22 present at Wheldrake on the 11th and 12th with 20 still there on the 18th. Up to 16 lingered to month end. 

Goldeneye - Wheldrake Ings - 26/03 - DB

Goosander – Two were present at Bank Island on the 11th and 12th. 

Mandarin – Four drakes were present at Bank Island on the 27th followed by five drakes and two females on the 31st – an unusual and unexpected record count which may reflect increasing numbers at other sites in the county and locally (Castle Howard). 

Grey Heron – Numbers increased during the month as birds returned to the local heronry, whilst increased local feeding was observed. 

Little Egret – Two were present on a daily basis in the Bank Island/Wheldrake Ings area from the 1st, with a single also seen daily in the Hagg Bridge area from the 2nd followed by three there on the 5th when another single was present at East Cottingwith. Two were present at East Cottingwith on the 7th – 9th with four in the area on the 10th.  Two were present at North Duffield Carrs on the 13th while six were present throughout the site on the 18th. Eight were then present throughout the site on the 29th. 

Great White Egret – A single was present at North Duffield Carrs on the 29th with two at the southern end of the valley on the 30th 

Cormorant – Up to 26 remained at the Wheldrake Ings roost throughout the month with smaller numbers seen scattered throughout the rest of the valley. 

Little Grebe – A single was present at Aughton Ings on the 5th and Wheldrake Ings from the 11th. A single returned to the Escrick Duck Decoy on the 22nd. 

Great-crested Grebe – Up to three remained at Wheldrake Ings early in the month, with two also appearing at North Duffield Carrs on the 13th and four at Bank Island on the 14th.

A single bird was rescued from fishing line from a roadside near Copmanthorpe before being ringed and released at Bank Island on the 3rd (JT). 

Jean releasing the grebe - 03/03

Goshawk – A single pair was reported throughout the month. 

Red Kite – A single was present over Bank Island on the 9th followed by one in the Allerthorpe area on the 12th when another was seen at Wheldrake Ings. A single was seen over Thorganby on the 13th with another at Wheldrake Ings on the 18th. Two were present over Bank Island on the 24th followed by one there on the 25th until month end. 

Marsh Harrier – Up to two cream-crowns continued to winter throughout the valley with an adult female and two immatures present late in the month. 

Hen Harrier – A single ringtail flew north at Thorganby on the 22nd (CSR) while an adult male flew east over Wheldrake Ings and the Low Grounds on the 25th (DB). 

Peregrine – Up to five birds were present during the month, showing particularly well at both Wheldrake Ings and North Duffield Carrs. 

Merlin – A single female at Ellerton on the 24th. 

Coot – Numbers increased to a maximum of 511 on the 24th. 

Water Rail – Up to four singing birds were present at Wheldrake Ings throughout the month, along with three at Bank Island and singles at North Duffield Carrs and Aughton Ings on the 18th. 

Grey Partridge – Two were seen by the Geoff Smith at North Duffield Carrs on the 2nd whilst two were at Skipwith Common on the 7th. Two at Wheldrake Ings on the 11th were a notable record. 

Oystercatcher – Numbers increased quickly during the month with up to 18 on the 5th and 33 on the 18th. 

Oystercatchers - North Duffield - 02/03

Lapwing – 5100 lingered early in the month following large counts during February.  Numbers then declined quite rapidly as birds departed for the breeding areas, with 1500 still present on the 25th by which time local birds were holding territories and displaying. 

Golden Plover – 4000 remained from the previous month during the first week of March with numbers falling to around 500 during the last week of the month. 

Grey Plover – A single bird in winter plumage was present at North Duffield Carrs on the 25th and 26th (DB). 

Ruff – Wintering numbers remained fairly low during the month with up to 53 recorded. 

Black-tailed Godwit – Last month’s flock of 23 remained at Wheldrake Ings from the 1st - 5th, increasing to 31 by the 11th (including a single colour-ringed bird). 32 were present there on the 18th when a further single was also seen at North Duffield Carrs. 31 lingered at Wheldrake Ings to month end. 

Jack Snipe – A single was recorded at Bank Island on the 3rd and North Duffield Carrs on the 30th. 

Common Snipe – Wintering birds were scattered throughout the site with up to 100 at Seavy Carr being the most noticeable concentration. Small groups were increasingly encountered throughout the site later in the month – possibly incoming breeding birds or signs of spring passage. 31 were at Bank Island on the 30th. 

Woodcock – A single was flushed from the hedge at Bank Island on the 12th. 

Dunlin – Numbers decreased quickly early on in the month. 147 were still present at Wheldrake Ings on the 12th with 100+ still present throughout the valley on the 24th. 48 remained on the 28th. 

Curlew – Monthly maximum of 130+ present throughout the site on the 24th. 
 
 
Curlew - North Duffield Carrs - 13/03

Redshank – Up to 70 birds were present with individuals moving back onto breeding territories later in the month. Six displaying birds were recorded at Bank Island on the 29th and 30th. 

Lesser Black-backed Gull – Small single figure counts came from the Wheldrake roost early in the month with up to 25 at North Duffield Carrs from the 20th to month end with the onset of spring passage. 

Great Black-backed Gull - Large flocks present at North Duffield Carrs throughout the beginning of the month.

Great Black-backed Gulls - North Duffield - 06/03

Glaucous Gull – Two first winters were present at North Duffield Carrs on the 1st with a single first winter at Bank Island on the same date, followed by two there on the 2nd and a single again on the 4th. A first and third winter were present in fields by Bank Island on the 6th with a third winter there on the 7th. A first winter was present at the Wheldrake roost on the 12th and at North Duffield Carrs on the 13th. 

Iceland Gull – A first winter bird was present in a loafing flock at Bank Island on the 6th with two at roost there on the 7th and another there on the 19th. 

Barn Owl – Following a quiet winter (hopefully a good sign and resulting from birds finding sufficient prey as not to have to hunt during daylight hours), the number of sightings increased during the month, with birds showing well at Bank Island and North Duffield Carrs on nice evenings. 

Long-eared Owl – A single flew over the road by Melbourne Hall after dark on the 29th. 

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker – A single was drumming in Elvington on the 15th (MW). 

Kingfisher – Two were at Wheldrake Ings on the 11th with regular sightings of territorial birds from there, Bank Island and the Melbourne area throughout the month. 

Skylark – Birds were singing throughout the reserve during the month with the build-up of breeding pairs seen as the month progressed. 

Skylark - North Duffield Carrs - 02/03

Woodlark – A single was singing at Skipwith Common on the 1st with three there on the 2nd and four on the 15th, whilst eight singing males/territories were established by the 22nd. 

Grey Wagtail – Up to four birds continued to roost at the Bank Island water treatment works with five there on the 9th. 

Waxwing – 17 were present in Escrick on the 10th and a single re-appeared yet again in Wheldrake village on the 11th. 

Wheatear – An early arrival, a male, was present near Sutton-upon-Derwent on the 9th – the earliest returning bird on record. It was followed by another early but more typical bird near Bubwith on the 22nd followed by three at Aughton Ings on the 23rd and two on nearby arable on the 25th. 

Sand Martin – Two were present over the River Derwent at Bubwith Bridge on the 13th – the first returning birds (CSR), followed by five at Bank Island on the 28th (DB), and up to 25 were there the following day. A single was present at North Duffield Carrs and Bubwith on the 30th. 

Swallow – The first returning bird was present at Ellerton village on the 28th with 13 between Bank Island and Wheldrake Ings on the 29th. 

Chiffchaff – Singles at Wheldrake Ings, Skipwith Common and North Duffield Carrs were the first returning birds of the year on the 11th with a further scattering of birds noted the following day, including four at Wheldrake Ings on the 12th. Six were present at Wheldrake on the 18th. 

Willow Warbler – The first singing birds were present at Bank Island and Wheldrake Ings on the 29th followed by four there on the 30th. 

Blackcap – The first singing bird was present at Bank Island on the 28th followed by one at Wheldrake Ings the next day and three there by the 30th. 

Willow Tit – Up to six singing birds were present between Bank Island and Wheldrake during the month. 

Brambling – 15 were present near Allerthorpe on the 12th. 

Bullfinch – Present in good numbers at the Bank Island feeding station and along the riverside track at Wheldrake Ings. 

Bullfinch - Wheldrake Ings - 18/03 - DB

Lesser Redpoll – Up to 75 were present at Skipwith Common on the 1st. 


MAMMALS: 

Roe Deer – Common throughout the month around the valley, particularly around Bank Island with five there on the 5th, two on the 11th, six on the 12th, two on the 18th, three on the 19th, five on the 24th and 25th and two on the 28th. A number of records also came from Wheldrake Ings including three on the 18th, two on the 19th and a single on the 26th. Two were also at Bubwith on the 5th. 

Red Fox – A single was present at Bank Island on the 9th. 

Brown Hare - Two at North Duffield Carrs on the 2nd and one at Bank Island on the 5th, were followed by two on farmland near Wheldrake village on the 6th and singles at Bank Island on the 11th and North Duffield Ings on the 13th. On the 18th two at Bank Island and one at East Cottingwith were followed by singles at Bank Island on the 19th, 24th and 25th. Singles were seen at Skipwith Common and North Duffield Carrs on the 24th and 25th, followed by one at Bank Island on the 30th.

Wood Mouse – Recorded frequently at NNR base. 

Wood Mouse - NNR base - 13/03

Stoat – A single was present near Thornton on the 18th, trying to feed on road kill between passing traffic.


REPTILES/AMPHIBIANS: 

Adder – A single at Skipwith Common on the 7th (first of the year) was followed by two on the 9th and three on the 13th, 14th and 24th – at least four individuals were involved. 

 Adder - Skipwith Common - 24/03

Grass Snake – A single, the first of the year, was present at Skipwith Common on the 9th. 

Common Lizard – Five were present on Skipwith Common on the 9th – the first record for the year, followed by a single on the 13th and 15th and two there on the 24th. 

Common Frog – A single present in the base pond at Bank Island on the 6th and 7th was followed by seven there on the 18th along with the first spawn of the year. Several were present on Skipwith Common on the 30th. 

Common Frog - NNR base - 06/03

Common Toad – A single was found in the base garden on the 30th. 

Smooth Newt – The first of the year was present in the reserve base pond at Bank Island on the 27th with four there on the 28th and 12+ on the 30th.


MOTHS: 

Oak Beauty – A single was caught at light at the reserve base on the 28th. 

Early Thorn – Two were caught on the 28th at the reserve base followed by four there on the 30th. 

Early Grey – A single at the reserve base light trap on the 30th.

Other species from a successful nights trapping on the 28th (a total catch of 72 moths), included Hebrew Character, Common Quaker, Small Quaker and Clouded Drab, followed by 50 individuals on the 30th including three Chestnuts. 


BUTTERFLIES: 

Small Tortoiseshell – A total of two at Bank Island and singles at Skipwith Common and North Duffield Carrs were present on the 24th. Two were seen at Bank Island on the 30th when singles were also reported from Sutton and Ellerton. 

Peacock – Singles were present at Bank Island and North Duffield Carrs along with three at Skipwith Common on the 24th. Three were recorded at Bank Island and two at Skipwith on the 30th when a single was also present at North Duffield Carrs. 

Brimstone – Singles at Bank Island and Skipwith Common on the 15th were the first two of the year and were followed by others at Skipwith on the 24th with three also there on the 25th.  A single was noted at East Cottingwith on the 28th.  Four were seen at Crock Moor, Thorganby on the 30th along with singles in the villages of North Duffield and Wheldrake. 

Comma – A single at Skipwith Common on the 15th was the first of the year.


OTHERS: 

Honey Bee – The first of the year was present at Bank Island on the 7th. 

White-tailed Bumblebee – A single at Skipwith Common on the 13th. 

Red-tailed Bumble Bee – The first of the year were five at Skipwith Common and three at Bank Island on the 24th. 

Tree Bee – Two caught in the moth trap overnight at the reserve base on the 27th/28th were the first of the year, followed by five at the base the next day. 

Green Shieldbug - Single at the NNR base on the 14th.

Harlequin Ladybird – A single was found at North Duffield Carrs on the 13th. 

Common Carder Bee – The first of the year were five seen around the bomb bay loop at Skipwith Common on the 24th

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