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.

Monday, 22 August 2016

20/08/16 - Little Egret invasion

Over the last few weeks we’ve seen a rapid increase in the number of Little Egrets throughout the valley, including up to 17 on the pool at Wheldrake Ings. The bird pictured here, ‘J9’, was spotted on the pool at Wheldrake, along with ‘B9’. The BTO have since been in touch with the ringing details, we now know that ‘J9’ was ringed last year by the Mid-Lincolnshire Ringing Group as a nestling on the 20th May at North Cotes. However, ‘B9’ was ringed back in 2009 at Penrhyn Castle in Bangor, North Wales, also as a nestling, on the 5th July. Information like this helps us to learn more about the recent colonisation of egrets in the valley, and we now know that this year six pairs bred across the site. A recent peak count of 32 birds was a record count, and in contrast to August last year, the monthly peak was of just four individuals, showing a rapid increase. When visiting the site please let us know of any records of colour-ringed birds by leaving a note in the logbooks provided. Many thanks to local birder Duncan Bye for sending in his super photograph and for providing us with the information from the BTO.


Friday, 19 August 2016

16/08/16 - Eye eye

Local birder and wildlife photographer Terry Weston recently sent us this superb photograph of a male Kestrel that he took near to the valley on an adjacent farm. As can be clearly seen in the photo, this particular bird only has one eye – presumably having somehow damaged it whilst fighting off a predator or perhaps a territorial male. This is the second year that Terry has been watching this male, and despite his injury he managed to pair up with an interested female and raised a brood last year. Much to Terry’s delight he re-found the male again this year, and watched as he successfully bred with another female, perhaps the same…and raised three chicks to fledging. It’s fantastic to know that not only is the male managing to survive and hunt, but also that he’s raised another brood successfully - albeit with a helping hand from the kind landowner.


Pictured below is Terry's photograph of the brood of three chicks, which are one of many on the reserve this year. Several newly fledged family parties have been seen lately – perhaps the broods that were ringed in our boxes around the reserve in mid-June. Each year whilst the farmers are hard at work in the meadows, we see an increase in Kestrels on the Ings as they follow the cutting tractors, no doubt picking up a few voles, frogs and toads and any other food items exposed as a result. Some of the youngsters have also been seen sitting on the bales watching the adults teaching them to hunt, it’s certainly nice to see these birds doing so well, and to see the next generation learning the skills required to survive. Many thanks to Terry for sharing his photographs with us.


Wednesday, 17 August 2016

14/08/16 - Swifts & schools

As mentioned in an earlier post, Cameron has been working hard on a new project involving the local communities, in particular school children, to celebrate the arrival of Swifts each summer, whilst giving them a helping hand along the way. The aim of the project is to get as many people as possible within Wheldrake to put up Swift boxes, due a recent decline in numbers as a result of a lack of nesting sites.

Following a successful meeting with the headmaster of the local school in Wheldrake, Cameron, assisted by Beki, spent a day at the school, starting with an assembly where the children were introduced to Natural England and the LDV. Following the assembly each year group took a turn in a variety of activities involving Swifts, Year 6 were given a selection of flags of countries that Swifts visit in the summer, the children then chose their favourite and copied the pattern on to a Swift-shaped piece of card which will be used to create a wall display. Year 5 had a go at painting boxes that had been specially built at the NNR base, and enjoyed cutting out and colouring in Swift templates. Year 4 designed flags which will be put out next year to celebrate the arrival of our returning birds, and Year 3 spent time bug hunting and learning about what Swifts feed on. Each session finished with a Swift quiz which proved very popular amongst the children.




 

The day was a fantastic success, and since then many parents have been in touch to ask for a nest box – so a massive thank you to Cameron for organising such a brilliant day for the children and really helping to engage them with nature. We are fortunate to work in such a diverse and unique habitat, so it really is important that people in the village enjoy it, and that the local children spend time connecting with nature.

Monday, 15 August 2016

11/08/16 - Aviva return

Following two visits earlier in the year which included helping to construct a boardwalk at Skipwith Common NNR and more recently building nest boxes at the NNR base, staff from Aviva returned once again as part of their corporate volunteering time. 16 members from the York branch spent a day at Thornton Ellers helping us to continue with the hay cut – whilst the sun shone! The fen vegetation was cut around the Alder Carr woodland and raked into valuable habitat piles, whilst some of the team also helped clear the wood of the invasive Himalayan Balsam, which will help the natural ground flora to recover and flourish.

It was hard work trying to keep up with cutting enough vegetation for all the busy ‘rakers’ who did a fantastic job. We were amazed with how much the team managed to achieve during the day, whilst the NNR team also fitted in a bird ringing demonstration which included two young Treecreepers. Many thanks to the team for their efforts throughout the day and special thanks to local birder, Duncan Bye, for arranging the volunteering time from Aviva.





Earlier in the week our team of volunteers had also been hard at work at the Ellers, strimming balsam and helping out with the annual hay cut in the meadow. Each year we cut this area using our allen scythe and then rake it by hand as the ground is too soft and delicate for larger machinery to travel over. By cutting and removing the vegetation it helps the site maintain the diversity of flowers and grasses, which once again will be used as a green seed source for the grassland restoration project at Leven Carrs – more to follow on this soon. Many thanks to the team for all their efforts on the day.




Thursday, 28 July 2016

20/07/16 - New addition

As part of a national NNR project, earlier in the year we were fortunate to be able to take on a three month survey and monitoring trainee. Cameron started working with us in April, and since then he has been getting involved with the monitoring work that takes place on and around the NNR, including carrying out grassland surveys, monitoring newts on Skipwith Common, running trail cams for otters in the Lower Derwent Valley, carrying out butterfly transects and helping to run the moth trap at the NNR base. Cameron has also been working on a project to promote the conservation of Swifts throughout the local villages surrounding the NNR’s, which has involved making nest boxes with Ad Astra and Aviva, whilst also running workshops in local schools. Last week he also joined us out on site as we started to check a few Barn Owl sites as part of our long term project – so there has definitely been plenty to keep him busy and engaged. In the short time that he’s been with us, Cameron has been a real asset to the team – so many thanks for all your hard work Cameron – and for being prepared to muck in with any job – even the ragwort!