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.