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, 22 January 2020

17/01/20 - Bewick's Swan 702

During the 1960’s and 70’s, herds of up to 250-300 Bewick’s Swans were regular in the valley during the winter months. Numbers then started to decline through the 1980’s and 90’s, to around 30 birds each winter, yet now we're down to just one lone pair which have been returning to the valley since 2009. The female (702) was ringed as a first year on the wintering grounds in the Netherlands in November 2007, and has wintered in the valley each year since 2009, except the 2011/12 winter when she and her partner remained in Denmark. 

The Bewick's Swan population seems to be struggling on the Russian breeding grounds with low productivity, and with warmer winter conditions across Europe, many birds are now wintering there rather than continuing another 400 kilometres to the UK. Since returning once again at the end of December, the two Bewick's have been moving between the flooded Ings at Ellerton and Bubwith, but largely keeping their distance from the 180+ Icelandic Whooper Swans wintering in the same area. Bewick’s Swans are slightly smaller and more delicate than Whoopers, and have less yellow on their bill (not extending below their nostrils). When visiting the reserve please let us know if you're lucky enough to spot these two scarce winter visitors.

Monday, 13 January 2020

11/01/20 - New year, new projects

After a well-earned Christmas break, our hardworking and dedicated band of volunteers returned to the LDV last week, to continue delivering some of the grants the Friends have been successful in securing recently. These include grants from the Spaldington Community Windfarm Benefit Fund, and the East Riding of Yorkshire Councils Year of Green Action Fund, both of which have helped sponsor our winter farmland bird feeding stations, as well as providing timber to make Tree Sparrow nest boxes. 

With over 70 boxes made before Christmas, last week we spent time with our volunteers putting up the first 30 at Thornton Ellers – a key site for Tree Sparrows. We’re looking forward to monitoring these boxes in the spring and summer, which will hopefully help to boost our local population. Whilst there we also started our tree and hedge planting project - this will improve the edges of the reserve for a host of wildlife with a range of tree species planted, which will provide various nectar, fruit and nut resources. Many thanks as always to our team for their efforts.

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.