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

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

02/04/19 - Work on the NNR

Our dedicated band of volunteers give their time freely each week to help around the NNR, and are no strangers to a bit of habitat management and tree felling, so it was a nice change last week to be planting some instead! Following a successful grant application by the Friends of the Lower Derwent Valley to the Environment Agency, the team made a start planting several hundred Crab Apple trees in the hedges surrounding the reserve. These trees will be a great addition to the landscape surrounding the valley, especially at North Duffield Carrs and Bank Island in a few years’ time, providing plenty of additional food and habitat for a wide range of species including wintering thrushes, finches, small mammals and numerous invertebrates and in turn, increasing the enjoyment of our visitors. The team also managed to spread and sow the wildflower seeds in the meadow next to the NNR base, to add to the diversity and attractiveness of this field, as well as a range of other tasks.

Recently our staff and volunteers have also been busy working between Wheldrake Ings and Skipwith Common, with the last of the scrub management work now completed for the breeding season. Over the last couple of months contractors have been clearing birch scrub from the Common for use on horse jumps, and in doing so have provided excellent flight lines and feeding opportunities for heathland species such as Nightjars and Woodlarks, as well as sunny glades and sheltered spots for basking Adders, Grass Snakes and Common Lizards. The diverse structure and varied woodland edge will prove more suitable for moths and other invertebrates, as well as increasing the ground flora. Our team have been helping the site’s owners, Escrick Park Estate, tidy the brash resulting from the work (building hibernacula and brash piles for the reptiles found on the Common), providing cover and micro-habitats for them to move along. Many thanks as always to our team for doing such a great job on the NNR, giving up their free time to help improve the site for both wildlife and people.

The nice weather of last week was not only enjoyed by our staff and volunteers, but also by our local Adder population, with the warm sunshine luring them out of hibernation. Whilst carrying out habitat management work on Skipwith Common NNR, our team checked some of the favoured spots during their lunch break, and were pleased to spot an Adder coiled up among the bracken and heather, along with several Common Lizards and the first Grass Snakes of the year. After a long winter spent in hibernation and months without feeding, Adders need to use the sun's rays to warm up their bodies to build up their energy and strength, and to allow their muscles to work properly. Adders are Britain’s only venomous snake - they subdue their prey (frogs, toads, nestlings and small mammals) using venom, however they are not a threat to people unless disturbed – if you are fortunate enough to come across a sighting of an Adder (or Grass Snake), then please watch from a distance and try not disturb them, thank you. 

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

22/03/19 - Return of the hawk

Last week local wildlife photographer Terry Weston sent us images of a Sparrowhawk taken by Dave Wilson in his garden in Dunnington. Not only are they great photographs, but they have also revealed the history of the bird after we were able to partly read the metal BTO ring. 

After doing some research we found out this bird is DE60850, a young male ringed on the 8th August 2013 at the NNR base at Bank Island - but the story doesn’t end there - this was actually one of two rehabilitated Sparrowhawks ringed and released at the NNR base that day by the fantastic Jean Thorpe.

The bird in question having been found on Bootham Stray allotments in York, with a damaged wing. After a few days of expert care by Jean it was back out in the wild - great to hear that five and a half years later it’s still going strong and looking in great condition, and still nearby in the local area. Another great job by Jean – and thanks to Terry and Dave for sharing the images and helping us to trace the bird.

Monday, 25 March 2019

19/03/19 - Skipwith Redpolls

Lesser Redpolls are delightful and charming little finches with small delicate bills - adapted for extracting fine seeds such as those from their favoured trees (birch and alder). A flock of up to 120 have been present on Skipwith Common in recent weeks, with similar numbers present throughout the winter – try looking in the birch trees around the bomb bay loop or along the tracks across the Common – listen out for their chattering calls coming from the tree tops. 

Only a small handful of pairs stay locally to breed, with most heading further north to Northern England or Scotland to breed, before heading south throughout England for the winter. Ringing on Skipwith has revealed a similar pattern – an individual caught on the Common in late November had been ringed 223km to the north at Selkirk in the borders 80 days earlier, whilst another, ringed on the Common in late November had moved 30km to the south, to Humberhead Peatlands NNR, by late December. This species has also been increasing in gardens where it has taken to the supplies of niger seed favoured by Goldfinch. 

Interested in contributing your records? Then why not supply your garden records to the BTO’s Garden Birdwatch Survey to help them monitor the population and trends of this delightful little bird.

Monday, 18 March 2019

11/03/19 - Sights of spring

With the warm weather of recent weeks, it has felt a bit more spring like, reinforced by the sights and sounds echoing over the Ings. One of our favourites is the haunting, bubbling calls of displaying Curlew which have been heard recently, and which will build up in numbers as more birds return to their breeding sites. We’ll be looking forward to seeing the results of our hard work on the Ings since last summer, and the positive impacts this could have on their breeding success.

We’ve also heard the first ‘chipping’ displays from Snipe – this is a vocal call given in the breeding season, which is followed by the drumming noise made by their stiffened tail feathers as they vibrate in the air, as the birds rise and fall in their display flights. If you’re planning a visit over the coming months then make sure you visit the hides at Bank Island, Wheldrake and North Duffield Carrs towards dawn or dusk to enjoy the experience.

During the warm weather we have also enjoyed seeing our first Common Lizards of the year on Skipwith Common NNR. Lizards can often be found sunning themselves on the walls of the old bomb bays, or along the various sections of boardwalk around the site. They can also be heard scurrying through the dried bracken and heather – so keep your eyes and ears open when visiting. Adults emerge from hibernation in spring, with mating occurring during April and May, followed by three to eleven young appearing in July. If threatened by a predator, lizards can shed its still-moving tail in order to distract its attacker, and make a quick getaway. This leaves a scar behind, but it can regrow its tail, although it is usually shorter than the original. If you get good views of them on the Common you can often see individuals which have new, slightly different, coloured tails where this has occurred – something to look out for!


Wednesday, 13 March 2019

04/03/19 - Nightjar Brewery

Last week we were delighted to welcome staff from Nightjar Brewery to join our team of staff and volunteers for a day working on Skipwith Common NNR. Matt & Sam were keen to help out with our recent efforts on the NNR, undertaking work to help improve the habitat of their name sake – the Nightjar. Nightjars have a long history on the Common, and still maintain a toehold on the site, with recent work aimed at helping to boost numbers and breeding attempts. The team did a great job on the day, helping to create more scalloped woodland edges and glades for hunting Nightjars, as well as other heathland wildlife.

Many thanks to everyone involved for their efforts, with many pairs of hands we were able to clear and improve a large area of potential habitat, which will also benefit other species and visitor enjoyment of the site. We were also blessed with favourable weather, spending the day under clear blues skies and unseasonally warm sunshine. We’re looking forward to Matt & Sam returning again later in the year for another corporate task, in the meantime the brewery is hoping to produce a special Nightjar ale to supply to local outlets, with a percentage of sales funding further conservation projects on the site. We’ll keep you real ale drinkers posted on this, and are grateful for the kind help and support offered by Matt and his team.