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, 12 June 2019

29/05/19 - York Minster Peregrines

At the end of May several of our team had the privilege of accompanying Jean on her visit to York Minster, to ring and colour-ring the Peregrine chicks. To reach the chicks the team, lead by Minster staff, made their way up the 100+ steps inside of one of the towers, before carefully negotiating the roof top and numerous ledges. Following on from our visit last year where we ringed four large healthy chicks, on this occasion we were delighted to find another brood of four healthy chicks. The four chicks were all in really good condition, and going by the size of the individuals it was thought to be two males and two females, all roughly four weeks old. 

Each chick was BTO ringed and then fitted with a unique colour-ring, which will allow the local birders and visitors to the Minster to follow who’s who, as they fledge in the coming weeks, but also in the longer term as they move out to find breeding sites of their own. The ringing process went very swiftly, with the chicks soon back in the nest again, shortly followed by the adults – they’d been keeping a watchful eye on us from a nearby tower whilst the ringing was being undertaken. Many thanks to Jean for organising the visit which allows us to monitor these beautiful birds, and also to the staff from York Minster for allowing access to the nest and accompanying us up the tower. Fingers crossed all four chicks fledge safely this year – we had a few false starts and crash landings last year.

Monday, 10 June 2019

20/05/19 - Reed planting

During the last two weeks our team of staff and volunteers have been busy planting reeds at Bank Island, with the aim of creating a reed bed in the new scrape. This project has been kindly funded by Betty’s and administered by Two Ridings Community Fund – in total £3900 has been given to the Friends of the Lower Derwent Valley for reed bed and scrape creation work at the site. 

This work, alongside the installation of Sand Martin nesting banks is aiming to increase the biodiversity and conservation significance of the site, as well as increasing visitor and public enjoyment. We are also further indebted to the York Ornithological Club, for a grant for scrape and reed bed creation elsewhere within the Lower Derwent Valley – hopefully increasing populations of key reed bed bird species, as well as plants and invertebrates. With thanks to these kind grants and the hard work of our volunteers and students, we will hopefully be enjoying some really positive changes over the next few years – many thanks as always to everyone involved, and to our team for helping to plant some of the 2500 reeds!

Thursday, 23 May 2019

12/05/19 - Cuckoo arrival

Spring brings with it many wildlife delights and things to look out for, but one of the sounds most looked forward to has to be the call of a Cuckoo, usually first occurring in mid-April. Although numbers of this iconic summer visitor have fallen in many parts of the UK, (thought in part to be linked to the changes of abundance and distribution of their prey), numbers in the Lower Derwent Valley are still doing well. Whilst not as common as they once were, good numbers have arrived back following the first of the year recorded at Melbourne on 10th April. From recent survey work around the Ings and Pocklington Canal, 27 singing males have been located so far. The Pocklington Canal area at Melbourne is a favoured haunt of these birds and a good place to listen out for the distinct ‘cuckoo’ call of the male, and the less frequently heard ‘bubbling’ call of the female. The Bank Island/Wheldrake Ings/Storwood area also has at least three calling males, whilst Skipwith Common is another reliable site. Many thanks to local wildlife photographer Mark Hughes for the image below, taken in Melbourne in the Lower Derwent Valley.

Friday, 10 May 2019

05/05/19 - Groppers & Garganey

It's already looking like it’s going to be a good year for Grasshopper Warblers in the valley, with up to three singing or ‘reeling’ males located so far. Like the name suggests Grasshopper Warblers (also known as Groppers), have a high pitched, insect-like reeling song, similar to that of a grasshopper which is the best clue to their presence. They are rather elusive, often singing from the base of dense cover and can be hard to locate - more often than not a view of this bird is brief, often mouse-like, creeping through low dense foliage in reedbeds and adjacent scrub. Last week several of our team were fortunate to have a better view when one of the birds found its way in to one of our mist-nets. 

This is the 21st individual to have been ringed on the reserve, from our ringing recoveries we were notified that an individual ringed in July 2011 was later recovered heading south on migration at Titchfield Haven, Hampshire 345km and just 20 days later. Arriving here from mid-April Groppers are present until late July and August before wintering in western Africa – British ringed birds having been found wintering in Senegal and the Gambia. Although they can occur almost anywhere, Wheldrake Ings and the Pocklington Canal (particularly around Church Bridge near Melbourne) can often be the best chances of hearing one. When visiting the site please feel free to let us know if you come across any.

So far this spring we have already seen good numbers of Garganey - our only summer migrant duck species, which arrive in the UK from their African wintering grounds from mid-March, remaining until late August-early September. The drakes are stunningly colourful, with a beautiful chestnut brown head with prominent white stripe above the eye and distinctive pale blue forewing in flight, however they are a scarce, unobtrusive and quite secretive species, often only their call giving away their presence, much like an old football rattle and hence the old English name of ‘Cricket Teal’.

With around 100-150 pairs in the UK, the Lower Derwent Valley is something of a stronghold for this species in Northern England. A pair which have been present since 6th April have been showing well, and almost daily at Bank Island, with up to three pairs also present at the nearby Wheldrake Ings. As the vegetation grows and the water draws down birds will become harder to see, occasionally appearing in front of the hides like this drake photographed recently by regular valley birder Duncan Bye.  

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

03/05/19 - Skipwith Common NNR fire damage

Recently, on the evening of Monday 15th April, fire crews from Selby, Acomb, Tadcaster, Huntington and York were called to Skipwith Common NNR at 16:58pm, to tackle a fire which had broken out on the main heathland in front of the bomb bay viewing area. The quick and excellent response from the fire services, aided by staff from Escrick Park Estate and our own team, saved the site from extensive damage. 

The fire was fuelled by the tinder dry grass and heather, and further encouraged by strong and gusting winds. In total approximately 40,000 square metres of the most mature heather on site has been lost, with damage also to fencing, stock handling equipment and the easy access viewing platform over-looking the heath. The morning after the fire our team returned to dampen down smouldering hot spots to prevent further flare ups, and have returned over recent weeks to start replacing fence posts, and area and stock pens to make the heath stock proof. 

We’ve also been busy with our volunteers repairing damage to the post and rail fencing by the viewing area, and the burnt section of the viewing platform. Many thanks to everyone involved for their great efforts in responding directly to the fire itself, but also with the tidy up and repairs - a great team effort. Whilst it was sad to see we had lost some snakes, frogs and a Teal’s nest in the blaze, it should hopefully be a relatively short-term loss.