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, it now also features wildlife and work posts, explaining we how manage the NNR for both wildlife and people.

For daily sightings please visit our Twitter account: https://twitter.com/ldv_nnr (@LDV_NNR)

For details of events, volunteer tasks and wildlife images please visit our Facebook account: https://www.facebook.com/Lower-Derwent-Valley-Skipwith-Common-NNR

Friday, 11 December 2020

02/12/20 - Thermal Imaging

Modern and more affordable technology has opened up new and exciting areas for researching our important bird populations over recent years. The use of thermal imaging cameras have helped us gain a further understanding of how birds move around and utilise the reserve after the cover of darkness – unveiling new important feeding and roosting areas, as well as observing new behaviours - all of which are important in helping us manage and conserve the reserve and its special interest.

However, it has also helped in the capture and ringing of several more nocturnal species that have been poorly studied in the past – birds are first located on the Ings with the thermal imager, before a torch is used to dazzle them into a hand net. Recently our team have been out after dark and have caught the first returning Woodcock back on the Ings grasslands, as well as Golden Plover and Jack Snipe in their night time feeding areas. A number of other farmland bird species have also been caught recently, with Fieldfares, Skylarks and Yellowhammers all recorded. The thermal imager is also proving to be a useful tool in monitoring our local mammals populations after dark. Many thanks to our team of volunteers for their efforts lately helping us to collect this valuable data.

Thursday, 3 December 2020

25/11/20 - Mallard to Germany

Perhaps often overlooked and under-appreciated due to their relative abundance and widespread distribution, the drake Mallard is nevertheless a rather attractive duck and a child favourite - hand feeding them at a local park probably sparked a life-long interest in many duck enthusiasts.

Recently, we received a ringing recovery of an adult male, ringed at Wheldrake Ings on 28th April 2011, with only its ring and leg found (presumably left behind by a predator), at Adolfskooger-Sielzug, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, in September 2020. Whilst we’ve had 12 international movements from the 5000+ Mallards ringed to date in the Lower Derwent Valley over the last 30 years, this is the first since 2013, and our first to Germany since 2003.

Numbers of Mallards wintering in the UK have fallen sharply over recent decades, in part thought to be linked to climate change, with birds from further east in Europe now wintering in the Low Countries, rather than continuing into the UK in response to milder winters. Our fall in ringing exchanges between the reserve and the rest of Europe no doubt also supports that shift in winter range, but also demonstrates that there may be more than the eye can see in relationship to our ‘local resident’ Mallard.


Tuesday, 17 November 2020

10/11/20 - Pink-feet arrival

Over recent days we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of geese using the Lower Derwent Valley, especially at Bank Island where large flocks have been roosting - flying in at dusk and then leaving at first light. This has involved around 3000 of our more familiar Greylag Geese, although given the numbers involved (and previous ringing recoveries), not all of these will be of local origin, with birds from Iceland and Northern Europe known to have wintered on the reserve in previous years. There has also been a large number of Pink-footed Geese recorded in the area. This species often flies in larger, more compact skeins, with their high pitched musical calls being very distinctive as they pass overhead. These smaller geese - visitors from Iceland and Greenland during the winter, are a dark chocolate brown with pink legs and a small pink patch on their bill. Up to 2000 have been seen at North Duffield Carrs recently – thanks local patch birder Duncan Bye for the use of his image taken recently in North Duffield, and thanks also to those who shared videos and images on social media.

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

01/11/20 - Norfolk Marsh Harriers

The story of the Marsh Harrier is a real conservation success - once very rare and confined to a handful of pairs in East Anglia, and now, over recent decades, it has spread from its stronghold to other parts of the country where its preferred reedbed habitat can be found. Now resident in the LDV throughout the year, up to 10 birds have been present on the reserve in recent weeks, with individuals roosting at Bank Island, Wheldrake, Aughton and North Duffield Carrs – at least four of these birds have been marked elsewhere, with wing tags allowing their movements to be tracked. At least two of the four have been ringed as chicks in the nest in Norfolk – one from a brood at Holkham NNR on the North Norfolk coast - many thanks to the ringing team for sending us the images below of the birds being ringed.

Similar in size to a Common Buzzard, Marsh Harriers are longer winged and often fly with their wings held in a shallow ‘V’. Females and juvenile birds are a dark chocolate brown with a cream coloured head and shoulders, whilst the males are a mix of ginger brown and grey. Please do let us know if you see any and if you manage to record any of the wing tagged individuals, thank you. Thanks also to Matt Gowney and Joel Ireland for the use of their images, taken recently at Wheldrake Ings.

Friday, 30 October 2020

20/10/20 - Jack Snipe

Recently we have seen a small arrival of one of our favourite wading birds – the Jack Snipe. Jack Snipe are about half the size of a Common Snipe, and arrive into the UK from early October (from their Eastern European breeding grounds), and stay as late as the end of March-early April. Numbers arriving and recorded in the valley can vary depending upon water levels and survey input. Being quite small, and cryptically plumaged, Jack Snipe can be hard to spot hiding in the sward, and unlike other wading species which are easily flushed and take flight, Jack Snipe choose to rely on their camouflage and sit tight - characteristically flushing at the last minute from right underneath your feet, and even then, only flying a short distance away. 

Up to 14 have been seen and subsequently caught and ringed at Bank Island recently, with thanks to our team of volunteers and a thermal camera used to locate the birds. Once a bird has been located a large net is dragged over the ground, with the birds jumping up when the net passes over the top of them. With such a difficult bird to survey by other methods, this technique helps generate accurate counts and information of a species which is still quite poorly understood.