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

Friday, 8 November 2019

26/10/19 - Otter update

Following our two recent posts concerning the soft release of two Otters on the reserve, we can now share the news that they have been successfully released back into the wild. After a week exploring the large pen that we had built for them on the reserve, the surrounding fencing was partially removed, giving the two animals free range to come and go. Using a trail camera, we were able to follow their movements, which told us they left the pen during the day, but returned on a night for the first week or so, and could be seen enjoying the supplementary fish provided to ease their transition. 

After those first few days their return visits to the release area became less frequent, but supplementary fish provided at key Otter locations around the wider site were still taken. Eventually they stopped returning to the pen, presumably having dispersed further afield having now fully adjusted to the wild and finding food of their own. A week later we received records of two individuals seen in the river at North Duffield, with another observed from Ellerton Landing. Many thanks to all involved for their efforts in what has been another successful re-introduction back to the wild, and particularly to Jean and Rob, and the team from the RSPCA.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

24/10/19 - Corporate tasks

It's been a busy few months on the NNR with our corporate tasks (regular readers of our page will know that each year we host numerous corporate volunteering groups), with companies and organisations such as Nestle, Aviva, HSBC, Lloyds, Barclays, Amey, HSE and Defra all supporting their staff to take two or three volunteering days a year as part of their staff development. This represents a huge boost to the amount of work we can undertake on the reserve for the benefit of our wildlife and visitors a like – whether that’s scrub clearance, weed control, hide maintenance, footpath and hibernacula construction, planting reeds, fencing or chopping logs to help generate income for our charitable trust - the Friends of the Lower Derwent Valley.  

At the end of the summer we were delighted to welcome our partners from the Environment Agency, who came to the LDV armed with a large team and made a huge impact in helping to clear willow scrub from the Wheldrake reed beds – not only making it better for a host of wildlife and helping to maintain the large wide open views and landscape, but also helping to increase the flood water storage and gradual release capability of the site – which for the flood risk team helped bring some of their work to life as well as highlighting some of the natural environment benefits to be had. 

During lunch we also checked the contents of the moth trap and caught a few birds during a ringing demonstration at the base, including a Goldcrest, Treecreeper and several Blackcaps. Many thanks to everyone involved for their efforts during the task and supporting the work we do. 

Following help from the Environment Agency staff, we were then delighted to welcome two teams from TSYS, who spent the day helping us to process timber for our winter log supply, along with helping to clear scrub on Skipwith Common NNR. Many thanks to Phill and his colleagues for really getting stuck in - looking forward to welcoming you back to the reserve for another day next year.

Natural England and Defra then both brought two teams to the NNR for task days in October - with staff helping towards the scrub clearance habitat management programme on Wheldrake Ings and Skipwith Common NNR. Many thanks to John and his colleagues for their efforts. If you work for a company that offers corporate volunteering and would like to get involved on the NNR then please feel free to get in touch.  

Monday, 28 October 2019

16/10/19 - Nightjar/Kestrel release

The fantastic, dedicated and expert work of Jean will be well known to many of our regular readers – with numerous stories posted on here of rescued swans and owls, rehabilitated raptors and hand-rearing nestlings, hedgehogs, orphaned otters and so much more. It’s a privilege for us to work with Jean, and helping to release some of these amazing creatures onto the NNR as part of the final piece of their rehabilitation back into the wild. However, each individual comes with a tale, which often involves miles of travelling, late nights, early mornings, nightly feeds and such amazing dedication by Jean and her support network at Battle Flatts Vets. 

Last month, Jean brought a Kestrel into the valley to be released in safe, prime feeding habitat, and in area which is home to many other Kestrels. This unfortunate individual fell from a nest in an aircraft hangar, and with it being very high up it was unable to go back into the nest, leaving Jean no option but to rear it until it was ready for fledging. Upon release at the NNR base it flew a short distance onto one of our new way marker posts, where it sat, preened and took in its new surroundings. 

Over the following days we were able to watch it hunting, hovering and catching food in the surround fields at Bank Island, occasionally coming back to sit on the post. Many thanks to Jean for her tireless efforts, which results in so many wild animals back out there living a truly wild life. For those that have been in contact recently wanting to support Jean, the link can be found here - https://www.gofundme.com/f/ldjuu8 - for her Go Fund Me page. 

Following on from the Kestrel release, we were also fortunate to see a young Nightjar which had been in Jean's care - seemingly only just fledged it was picked up exhausted and in unsuitable habitat by a concerned dog walker, presumably having run into difficulties when starting to disperse on its first migration to its wintering grounds in Africa. Weighing just 50 grams when it arrived, over the course of a few weeks with Jean’s expert care by slowly re-warming, re-hydrating and gentle feeding, it soon put on weight reaching over 70 grams and was ready to be off.  

At this time of year birds are heading off on their autumn migrations so it was released in prime habitat on Skipwith Common NNR – where it flew well landing in the undergrowth in the shade of a Silver Birch tree. 

After a couple of minutes, it flew again, a short distance, flicking itself over a fence and onto one of the main heaths before landing and scampering into the cover of heather. Hopefully thanks to Jean’s helping hand, this bird will be able to feed up further on the local moth population before making its way south, perhaps returning to Yorkshire in future years. 

Thursday, 24 October 2019

10/10/19 - Otter release

This time last year Jean ended up with a little female Otter kit in her care, expertly looking after it and bringing it back from the edge of starvation having been left orphaned. When rivers start to rise, Otters seem reluctant to swim underneath bridges, preferring to walk along the bank or edges of the structure, often leaving the river to cross over the bridge where they can then become victims of road traffic accidents. The young Otters, left tired and hungry can sometimes be found as they start calling for their missing Mother, with their high-pitched whistles. The Derwent catchment is a great area for Otters, and there have been several sightings from Wheldrake to Bubwith Bridge this winter, although their presence is more often given away by tracks in the riverside mud or by their sweet-smelling spraints. Fortunately for this little one, it has now been wild-reared by the RSPCA at one of their special Otter sites, and last week was returned home to Yorkshire.

On a rather wet Saturday morning our great team met up with Jean and her family, and the RSPCA team, to construct a large pen on the reserve where the pair of Otters have spent the last week getting used to the sites and smells of the reserve, and enjoying their daily dinner of fresh trout. The pen is on a quiet part of the reserve next to a network of ditches, and is surrounded by tall grasses and tangled willow scrub, and has a pond for the Otters to play in. We are now in the process of slowly removing the fence so the Otters are free to come and go as they like, slowly re-introducing them back into the wild in Yorkshire. 

Another great job by all involved, with huge thanks to Jean, and Rob from the RSPCA for their fantastic work.

Friday, 11 October 2019

30/09/19 - Spotted Crakes

At the end of September, Wheldrake Ings was treated to a couple of unusual visitors when two Spotted Crakes were found by the LDV Senior Reserve Manager whilst working late one evening, fortunately it wasn’t a case of one day wonder, both birds took up residence on the scrape in front of the new hide at Swantail, and at times, showed well for visiting birdwatchers. Spotted Crakes tend to skulk in thick cover much like their close relatives, the Water Rail, but these birds did at times come out to the edges of the vegetation and showed in the open. 

Crakes walk with their body close to the ground and tail flicking, feeding on insects, snails, worms and also small fish and plants. They also swim with a jerky action like that of the Moorhen and if surprised in the open, they run for cover or jump up and flutter away with legs dangling, which one photographer even managed to capture. These individuals are likely to be on passage from their breeding grounds, with another eight recorded at sites in the UK during the week. The Lower Derwent Valley is one of a handful of UK breeding sites for these birds, supporting up to 5 singing males of the 30 or so recorded annually in the country, although these are usually only detected by the repetitive nocturnal calling and rarely seen, making this sighting a real treat for the local birders.