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

Monday, 19 August 2019

15/08/19 - Garganey

The Lower Derwent valley has long been known as an important site for breeding Garganey – a migratory duck which comes to the UK for the summer to breed, before returning to its wintering grounds in Africa. Not only is the LDV important for numbers of this rare breeding duck, but also in some years it can often provide birders one of the best chances to have a close encounter with this beautiful species. This year has been good on both counts – with up to seven drakes and four females showing well throughout the spring and summer, with almost daily sightings coming from Bank Island, Wheldrake and North Duffield Carrs early in the season. We know that four pairs have been successful in rearing 21 young this year – and we’ve even managed to catch and colour-ring one of those, a young male. 

This is actually the first Garganey to be ringed in the UK since 2012 (when we last ringed one here), so we’re hoping that an eagle-eyed birder may spot it on passage somewhere. If you haven’t seen a Garganey yet this year you haven’t got long left – they often leave in August, however at the moment one is still present on the pool at Wheldrake.

Monday, 12 August 2019

02/08/19 - Hawk Eye

Each year whilst carrying out our bird ringing and monitoring of small bird populations around the NNR, we are usually lucky enough to catch one or two Sparrowhawks. It’s always a privilege to see these magnificent aerial hunters up close, as well as an opportunity to study their movements and collect data. Recently whilst catching Reed Buntings coming out of their overnight roost we found one in our net, keeping the buntings company - it’s likely we were there for the same reason... 

The Sparrowhawk was a second-year male – moulting from its juvenile brown plumage and acquiring its fresh new grey adult feathers - good to know it survived that all important first hard winter. We have had a few recoveries of local Sparrowhawks, including one ringed in October 1977 in Dumfries and Galloway - found in Wheldrake in February the following year – a distance of 203km. It’s certainly been a good breeding season for many of our small passerine birds, so it’s safe to say that our Sparrowhawks will no doubt be enjoying a good year too with plenty of prey available.

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

25/07/19 - Marvellous moths

The moth trap has been a joy to check recently, despite the very early starts due to the overly warm weather. Large numbers of moths have been recorded, counted and released, including a record catch of 814 individuals. Several notable species and ‘firsts’ for the year are now also appearing, however, the undoubted star of the show was an incredibly impressive and beautiful Privet Hawk-moth. This species is the UK's largest resident Hawk-moth, and is unmistakeable with its pink and black striped abdomen and hindwings. Adults feed on nectar from highly-scented flowers such as those found in the NNR base garden, and fly at night, hence finding its way into our (perfectly harmless) trap. The Privet Hawk-moths equally impressive bright green caterpillar has white and purple stripes and a black curved tail, and feeds on Wild and Garden Privet as its name would suggest (along with Lilac, Ash, Honeysuckle and Snowberry) before overwintering as pupa, sometimes 30cm or more underground. This is the first individual to be recorded from the reserve, and away from the far south-east of the county remains a scarce moth in Yorkshire. 

Several days after trapping the Privet Hawk-moth (above), we were then delighted to find a Pine Hawk-moth in the trap early one morning (pictured below) - a new species for the reserve this year, and one which isn't always annual.

As well as many species appearing in good numbers over recent weeks, we have also recorded several scarcer species for the reserve. During recent years we have recorded just singles of the rather stunning Oak Eggar moth, which is attracted to our light trap at Bank Island. However, this year we have already recorded six of these large and impressive moths. The Oak Eggar, surprisingly given its name, does not feed on Oak, but instead actually got its name from the fact that its cocoon is acorn-like in appearance. The food plants of the caterpillar are mainly Heather and Bilberry but also include Bramble, Willow and Hawthorn – the latter three of which are found around the NNR base at Bank Island.

Sunday, 28 July 2019

18/07/19 - Little Egrets

Over the last few weeks we have taken a number of successful cannon net catches as part of a new project to colour-ring a sample of our Little Egrets. Over several catches we have managed to ring and colour-ring 9 Little Egrets, as well as an adult and immature Grey Heron, 10 Mallard, 2 Teal, a single Wigeon and 2 Green Sandpiper. We were especially pleased to get the three Little Egrets colour-ringed - the first to be marked in the valley, in order to help us understand the movements and use of the site by a species which has expanded quickly over the last few years. 

After our first catch, the following day we were amazed to receive our first re-sighting – H6 was photographed by Pete Short at Blacktoft Sands RSPB reserve, further showing the links between the two reserves. When visiting the site please do let us know of any colour-ringed birds you see, or if you see any of our blue colour-ringed birds elsewhere – either by messaging us on here, via our Twitter account or by using the log books provided in the hides.

Friday, 12 July 2019

02/07/19 - Common Tern success

Last week after a busy day working on the reserve, our small team of staff and ever-increasing band of volunteers headed down to the tern rafts at Wheldrake Ings and North Duffield Carrs. Following the rafts being put back into place in April, along with a few repairs and top-up of gravel, both rafts were soon home to a pair. For the third consecutive year, we are delighted to say that we have had successful breeding on the reserve, with two pairs hatching five chicks which are now a good size and ready to fledge – joining the six fledged birds raised from two broods in 2018 and a brood of two from a single pair in 2017, when the ‘Friends Of’ first purchased the rafts thanks to a kind private donation. It’s fantastic to have these birds as an addition to the reserves breeding bird community, and great entertainment for our visitors – best seen from Pool Hide at Wheldrake Ings. The terns are likely to be around until the end of the month, so if you haven’t seen them yet you still have time. 

On the day that we ringed the chicks, we also received some exciting news...

Last year we colour-ringed all six chicks hoping we might get a sighting from somewhere in the UK next year, when the birds first return to the country having spent their first summer and two winters in Africa – although from six chicks the odds were rather low. However, not only did we receive news that one of our birds had been reported, but that it had unusually already made it back to the UK in its first summer. Along with a report of the sighting, we were delighted to receive an image of the bird, taken at Seaforth Nature Reserve in Merseyside. It will be interesting to see if it appears there next year when it will be at breeding age – perhaps it has already found a breeding colony to join after its next trip to Africa. Many thanks to Gavin Thomas for sending in his record and image, and to everyone involved in managing the rafts and raising funds. We’d like to install further rafts next year, if you would like to help please follow the link to our Go Fund Me page, thank you -https://www.gofundme.com/conserving-the-lower-derwent-valley