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.

Friday, 17 August 2018

30/07/18 - Nestle 'tern' up

Last week it was great to welcome back a small but hardworking team from Nestle in York, for two days of corporate volunteering. Working alongside our own volunteers during the two days, the first day (despite the intense heat), the team got stuck into clearing and coppicing willows at Wheldrake Ings - helping to improve the openness and landscape of the site. Ongoing work like this over the last few years has undoubtedly helped some of our key wildlife, and by reducing the number of crow nesting sites and perches, has also helped our local waders to have such a productive year.  

After a productive first day of scrub clearance the team then made their way to the pool to ring the brood of Common Tern chicks - great way to end the day. This is the second brood to have hatched this year on the NNR, following on from the first brood, also of three, at North Duffield Carrs. Not only have the chicks been metal ringed with rings from the British Trust for Ornithology, but they have also been fitted with black darvics bearing white numbers. The brood at NDC have now fledged so they could be elsewhere in the county, or perhaps further afield.

The second day was spent helping with improvements to Pool Hide, boarding out the hide ready for the new interpretation material this autumn, to help explain the work being undertaken in the valley to help our local (and not so local) wildlife. The team were also able to see some ringing taking place on site (including the capture of only the second French ringed Sedge Warbler to be found on the reserve), as well as being treated to a flock of 25 Black-tailed Godwits fresh in from Iceland - resting and feeding up on their migration to the wintering area further south. Many thanks to all the team for their sterling efforts which makes such a difference to what we can achieve with our declining resources.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

24/07/18 - Good year for ducks

Whilst working with the contractors creating the new wader scrapes recently at Bank Island, we came across a brood of Gadwall ducklings on the small pond. After rallying the troops four of the ducklings were located from the vegetation around the side of the pond, and with all four individuals being a good size for ringing they were fitted with metal BTO rings (allowing us to track their movements if they are to be caught/recovered elsewhere). The Gadwall population in the LDV has increased dramatically over recent decades, with up to 100 pairs thought to have been present throughout the valley this year during the breeding season, including good numbers of broods seen.

Very few Gadwall ducklings are ringed in the UK, however the seasonal water levels in the valley mean that we can occasionally ring broods present on the ditches and small pools around the site, allowing us to find out about the movements of ‘our’ locally bred British birds. Earlier in the year we heard about a duckling that was ringed here in 2012 - now present in breeding habitat in the Netherlands – showing the need for joined up international action for conserving our migratory waterfowl species. Thanks as always to our team for their efforts in helping us to carry out bird ringing activities on the reserve, we couldn’t do it all without them.

Following on from our Gadwall post, we’re also rather fond of another of our key duck species – the fantastic and brilliantly named Shoveler. Not only is it a great looking duck with a fabulous bill for filtering out all those prey items, but the valley holds nationally important breeding and wintering populations. The LDV is just about the only place in the UK where regular numbers of British bred ducklings are caught and ringed, providing valuable data to help our understanding of this population – where they go to, hunting pressure across their range, longevity and other information that can help conservation strategies. We’ve managed to catch and ring five ducklings so far this year, which unfortunately is much lower than normal. Previous recoveries of Shoveler ducklings have come from France in the autumn and Russia in the following breeding season. Hopefully we might hear about this one on his travels!


Tuesday, 7 August 2018

17/07/18 - Kestrels

Although the recent weather of late has been quite simply amazing, some of our wildlife around the valley are still feeling the effects of the 'beast from the east'. This freezing cold snap had a profound effect on some species like our Barn Owls, and to a lesser degree, our local Kestrel population. Some have failed to get back into breeding condition in time to nest this year, whilst others are running a few weeks behind their normal timescales. Those that have bred are rearing smaller broods than we’ve found in recent years, although in the long term this ‘year off’ is likely to have little effect on the overall population.

At this time of year we normally enjoy the antics of newly fledged broods practising their hunting skills on the Ings, flying from bale to bale and following the tractors cutting and turning the hay. However this year it might just be adults to admire, like this fantastic looking male taking advantage of the additional hunting and vantage perches at North Duffield Carrs last week. 

Yesterday on our way to North Duffield for a day of seed harvesting, we visited one of our regular breeding sites near Skipwith village. With not great news so far regarding occupied boxes and clutch sizes, it was great to see a couple of healthy chicks on arrival. It’s a shame that some of our regular pairs haven’t attempted breeding this year following the earlier freezing weather in the spring, but it’s nice to know that at least another couple of young Kestrels will be joining our local population in the next couple of weeks as they wander away from their nest site. Having now ringed them we might hopefully hear about them again in the future. A couple of our local chicks have wandered down into Lincolnshire in previous autumns, and one intrepid explorer made it as far as London!


Monday, 23 July 2018

09/07/18 - Tern raft success

Two months ago, as the floodwater finally receded enough, our team helped us carry the tern raft onto the top pond at North Duffield Carrs (easier said than done), so it was great to return last week with everyone to see the result of their efforts. As we pulled the raft in from the middle of the pond it was fantastic to see three healthy chicks present, with two of them using the little shelters we put out for them last month. This is only the second time Common Terns have bred successfully in the valley following the provision of the two rafts last year thanks to a kind private donation to the ‘Friends of’ group. There is also presently another pair incubating on the reserve at Wheldrake Ings on our second raft, so this could be another record-breaking year. Up to five pairs were present earlier in the spring but our rafts appear a bit on the small side for them to share so we are hoping to install more onto the reserve next year – please help the ‘Friends’ purchase additional rafts, as well as delivering other benefits by supporting their new Go Fund Me campaign - https://www.gofundme.com/conserving-the-lower-derwent-valley.

Three years ago, the Friends of the Lower Derwent Valley set up a trust to help conserve the LDV NNR and have done a fantastic job with their efforts. In just a short space of time they have built up an impressive track record having made financial contributions as match funding to bids by both Natural England and YWT for management and visitor works, and have secured various grants and donations for the Swift project and tern rafts. They have also contributed to the research carried out on our nationally and internationally important bird populations and have recently been successful in securing funding for reed bed creation in the valley, but now they’re asking for additional help.
Following on from the success of those projects, the ‘Friends’ are now looking to increase their funds to help support other projects in the local area – providing Sand Martin nesting banks, purchasing and re-creating traditional floodplain meadows for Corncrake management and further satellite tagging of our migratory bird populations. After the success of the first tern raft last year they would also like to provide another raft. However, they need a bit of help along the way, and following on from a few offers of donations recently, have decided to set up a 'Go Fund Me' page to help generate funding. For anyone interested in wildlife and conservation in the local area please visit their page using the link above, to help them deliver even more great benefits for both local wildlife and people that visit the Lower Derwent Valley, thank you.