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, 23 March 2018

15/03/18 - Cold snap

Recently there has been a noticeable increase in Bullfinch around the NNR, with several sizable flocks reported lately including 39 in the Wheldrake/Bank Island area. Several pairs were present in the car park area scrub last week, feeding in trees and bushes above the floodwaters. The valley is always a good place to see these delightful little birds, with strongholds at Wheldrake Ings and Thornton Ellers where the species favours young Willow Carr, taking advantage of both feeding on the buds, the abundant and varied seeds available and the vast insect life that makes up some of the diet when feeding young. Local birder Terry Weston snapped this stunning male feeding on buds and eating snow last week at Hassacarr Nature Reserve, not far from the NNR, in Dunnington – always a treat.

The recent cold snap, which saw temperatures plummet to below zero, coupled with several days of heavy snow, brought with it an influx of thrushes, in particular Fieldfares, along with smaller numbers of Redwing, Blackbird and Mistle Thrushes into the valley and local gardens. Also on the move were steady numbers of Snipe (including a few Jack’s), which arrived into or moved around the valley – whether these are birds on the move more widely, or birds being forced out of smaller, now frozen sites, or a combination, who knows. Large numbers of these Snipe were noted frequenting the very edge of the River Derwent where a few inches of unfrozen ground remained in which to probe. Elsewhere birds were turning up in all sorts of strange places – sat in the snow in the reserve base garden, on the frozen Ings, and in arable fields, whilst one individual was seen walking along the roadside kerb in Thorganby village – taking advantage of the treated roads and melt water by the kerb. Fieldfares and other thrushes were also doing the same in various places around the valley with up to 1000 moving throughout the area. Since the thaw birds have departed once again and will no doubt be feeding up furiously to replace lost reserves and put on fat for the spring migrations. Many thanks to Terry Weston for sending us his superb photographs. 

Monday, 19 March 2018

08/03/18 - Whoopers on the move

Last week saw the first herds of Whooper Swans returning northwards, as the first groups of six and four passed north-west over Bank Island. With 140+ wintering birds still present in the valley, these are likely to be birds that have wintered further south around the Ouse Washes, and making the first leg of their return migration back to their breeding grounds in Iceland, perhaps staging at Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserves in the north-west sites - Martin Mere in Lancashire or Caerlaverock in Dumfries and Galloway. Most of these passage birds, which can often pause in the valley for several hours en-route, move through the site in mid-March, and in recent years up to 600-700 birds have been logged on return spring passage. Please keep an eye out for colour-ringed birds in the herds – recently regular valley birder Duncan Bye spotted G5Z at North Duffield Carrs. This was an adult female ringed at this site during the winter of 2013/14, it’s great to see her back again, and with a partner and four cygnets – we’ll be looking forward to welcoming her once again next October, hopefully with another generation of LDV wintering Whoopers in tow.

Monday, 5 March 2018

28/02/18 - Caught in the act

Found throughout the British Isles, the Wood Mouse is our most common and widespread wild rodent, and is usually found on the edges of the reserve. However, it appears that a family at the NNR base have found a way to help them get through the recent cold spells – by making a home in our seed and peanut bin used for topping up the bird feeding station. These four (with a fifth hiding), looked a bit guilty and then perhaps somewhat disappointed, when we released them back on to the reserve – always pleasing to see these little furry friends, and a nice treat for our team of volunteers on what had been a very cold and wet day! Many thanks as always to our team for being such a big help, and for bringing plenty of enthusiasm with them whatever the weather! 

Thursday, 1 March 2018

25/02/18 - Apprentices & awards

Recently our team of staff and volunteers returned for our annual work parties at Grimthorpe Dale – a site on the edge of the Yorkshire Wolds. Much of the valley systems in this area are occupied by un-improved chalk grassland, exhibiting a range of community types on the varying slopes and aspects. Common grassland herbs are widespread, with local abundance of characteristic chalk species such as Dropwort, Lady’s Bedstraw, Bloody Crane’s-bill, Rock-Rose, Burnet Saxifrage, Small Scabious, Devil’s-bit Scabious and Thyme. Whereas the springs in the valley bottom give rise to calcareous marsh communities, containing species such as: Narrow-leaved Water Parsnip, Marsh Marigold, Water Cress and Brooklime. Sites like this also provide great places for many butterfly species including the Marbled White for which the Yorkshire Wolds is an important stronghold. On the day our team were busy helping to remove Hawthorn, Gorse and Bramble scrub to allow these delicate wildflower communities to flourish, and to help access for grazing livestock to keep the more dominant vegetation in check. Yet another great effort by our team, helping to make a real improvement to yet another site over the years – many thanks to all involved. 

During the week the team also had the pleasure of being joined once again by Cameron who undertook a short-term apprentice role with us last year. We were delighted when Cameron then secured a job working for an Environmental Consultancy in the Midlands last autumn, but even more pleased that he wanted to use up his end of year leave by coming back to see us and spending a few days volunteering. It was great to have the whole team re-united during the week, helping to undertake the management works at Grimthorpe Dale among a range of tasks in the valley. We’ve had some great placements and apprentices over the years, and it’s always great to hear that many have gone on to work in the environmental sector – gaining jobs with the City of York Council, RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts and Natural England – hopefully taking a bit of the LDV and what they learnt here with them. We are pleased to be recruiting again for our next apprentice and look forward to welcoming another LDV team member soon.

Recently we were also delighted to hear that one of the LDV team members, @LucyMurg, who’s photographs will be familiar to our regular followers on Twitter and Facebook, was awarded a ‘highly commended’ in the ‘attention to detail’ category of the Bird Photographer of the Year Awards. This is a great achievement, with being up against thousands of other entries, and follows on from Lucy being shortlisted at the BWPA (British Wildlife Photography Awards) last year. A keen eye for something different produced these wonderful close ups of the Kingfishers plumage, which really showcases the wonder of the natural world, and not something that many people get to see in such detail. Not only is this an achievement at a personal level, but also great to get the LDV ‘on the map’. Monitoring our special wildlife and photographing them as we go about our day to day work is a big part of what we do here, and allows us bring the valley to life on the pages of our Facebook, blog and Twitter accounts. With river levels being high at the moment our local Kingfishers (perhaps including this one) will have been forced to the margins of the site to find calmer, shallower water in which to fish – regular sightings are still being logged along the Pocklington Canal, especially between Church Bridge and Melbourne Arm.  As always when visiting the valley please leave any sightings and counts in the log books provided, thank you. 

Sunday, 25 February 2018

18/02/18 - Wonderful Wigeon

When visiting the valley at the moment, one of the species which is likely to outnumber most other species present, is the whistling Wigeon, pictured below. Wigeon are one of our commonest ducks throughout the winter period in the valley, and can reach in the region of 14-15,000 birds, with numbers usually starting to peak between now and mid-March. It’s thought that this build up in numbers is the result of birds wintering further south and west in the UK, starting to head northwards and staging through the valley, refueling as they do.  Ringing recoveries for Wigeon (and a host of other waterfowl species), show birds ringed in the Trent Valley in Nottinghamshire in February, arrive in the valley in March supporting this theory. Although our peak count may be around 14-15,000 (with the usual wintering population level being around 12,000), it is likely the true number of birds using the valley over the course of a winter may be considerably higher, perhaps tens of thousands. A pair, ringed at North Duffield Carrs on the 19th December last year were both shot, together, on the south coast in Kent several days later, again suggesting a degree of turn-over in the ‘local’ flocks.

The next most numerous species currently present, is the delightful Teal, a close second behind Wigeon, and numbering 11,000+ over recent weeks. Teal numbers build from 500 in late September to 10,000+ peak count by January/February, then gradually falling to 300 by late April, and 60-100 pairs then remain to summer around the valley. The large flocks also tend to (annually) attract a Green-winged Teal, coming from the other side of the Atlantic, however they do take a bit of searching for among the masses!

Whilst admiring the large flocks of Wigeon and Teal, it's also worth looking out for our Shelduck, with birds present in the region of 114. When observing the flocks, please also keep an eye out for any colour-ringed birds. There may be 'old' birds present wearing our black and white darvics, however there may also be newly ringed birds among the flock, wearing new red and yellow darvics (with white letters), as part of a new joint project with the WWT. When visiting the reserve please leave any records and counts in the hide log books provided, or submit them directly to us via our Twitter and Facebook page, thank you.