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, regular readers may have noticed the increase in posts detailing wildlife found across the valley (ranging from plants, fungi, butterflies, dragonflies & other invertebrates). Ringing posts will hopefully resume over the winter months, and will run alongside wildlife and work posts.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

20/12/11 - Duff Rewards

Early this morning Mike & Craig headed to Wheldrake, it was completely frozen & the traps were empty. On to Duffield next and one of the poles for the new whoosh net had fallen over! Meaning they couldn’t take a catch which was frustrating as there were lots of Wigeon milling about on the river infront of the area! The Top Pond was frozen but a Wigeon & Mallard had made their way into the duck trap.

Today whilst working down at Duffield we decided to try the new feeding station which was put in place a few weeks ago. Two nets were put up by the feeders whilst we worked nearby, a good catch was had, 34 birds over a couple of hours, the highlights being a Fieldfare & Great Spotted Woodpecker!
 
Fieldfare  

                                            Great Spotted Woodpecker

Total catch:

Blackbird 4
Blue Tit 3
Chaffinch 3
Dunnock 2
Fieldfare 1
Goldfinch 7
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1
Great Tit 1
Greenfinch 8
Reed Bunting 1
Robin 1
Tree Sparrow 2

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

19/12/11 - Teal Fest!

The last few days have seen very few Wigeon caught and instead a good number of Teal, 34 since Thursday! These have been mainly from the duck trap at North Duffield and the whoosh net at Wheldrake. 

 
Today (Monday 19th) Wheldrake & the Top Pond at North Duffield were both frozen again but 5 new Teal were in the duck trap on the Top Pond island. A few photos were taken to show the comparison between the adult and juvenile male birds, although darkness was fast approaching so they’re not the best quality!

Adult male Teal 

The adult male is on the left and the two juvenile birds are middle and right. The adult bird had a very white breast compared to the browny coloured juveniles.


One adult (left) with two young male Teal 

Along with looking at the breast and tails, the feathers on their back (shown below) can separate the adults and juveniles, which still have a lot of brown feathers and are yet to gain their full adult plumage.


Showing the contrast 

There were hundreds of birds on the river so a whoosh net was rigged up this afternoon on the banking, Craig had started to grain it up on Saturday so we hope to get a catch in this week!


At the weekend Mike had a few more birds to add to the totals. Yesterday (Sunday 18th) both Wheldrake & the Top Pond were still frozen over, 3 new Teal were in the duck trap at North Duffield early in the morning, then a check again in the afternoon found another 3 new Teal plus a Mallard & Wigeon.

Saturday (17th) both pools were frozen over so no birds were around although approximately 1500 Wigeon/Teal were on the river. Two more Teal were in the duck trap at North Duffield.
 
On Friday (16th) Craig & Mike checked Wheldrake early am, lots of birds were on the pool but there was nothing in the area to fire on. A visit to the Top Pond at North Duffield found just the one Teal in the duck trap. Late afternoon Mike, Fal & Lucy headed to Wheldrake to try for a catch, there were hundreds of birds on the pool on arrival (around 4pm), mainly Wigeon and Teal, along with a couple of Pintail and Curlew. A flock of Lapwing dropped in low down, gliding over the whoosh net! Nothing was in the area on arrival but after a 45 minute wait a few Teal made their way up to the grain, so it took awhile but the net was eventually fired just as daylight was fading! Had to extract by torchlight! A catch of 15 Teal, well worth the wait!

Thursday (15th) Craig headed to Wheldrake early am, there was nothing in the area but a few birds on the pool. Moving on from Wheldrake a check of the duck trap at North Duffield found 5 new Teal! Late afternoon (just before dark) Craig & Fal headed back to Wheldrake, hundreds of birds were on the pool including 10 Curlew. After a bit of a wait they eventually fired on a few Canada & 4 Mallards. The geese escaped leaving them with just the 4 ducks to ring!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

15/12/11 - December Recoveries

Today we received a couple more recoveries, two Teal, both ringed last year on Skipwith Common.

Teal (EX26592) ringed as a 4F on 02/11/10 on Skipwith Common, recovered on 26/11/11 in Denmark (shot).

Teal (EW65175) ringed as a 4M on 17/10/10 on Skipwith Common, recovered on 14/11/11 near Petworth, West Sussex (found dead).

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

13/12/11 - Patience needed...!

Yesterday morning saw an early start at the base, we met at half 7 to allow enough time to get down to Duffield & into position before the majority of the Whooper Swans arrived. The birds started coming in early, by 07.50 the first 10 were on the grain so it was looking good, but gradually went downhill....! As more birds started to arrive they seemed to unsettle each other. They were very flighty and kept taking off in threes and fours, circling the fields and then landing again. Two birds with different darvic rings were spotted, meaning new birds had arrived over night. We believe that the new birds had unsettled the flock which had been there over the last couple of weeks. Also the strong winds meant that instead of feeding on the grain the majority of birds that were in the field had their heads down instead and were sheltering.

We waited patiently until around half past 12 before trying anything, during this time the birds had been to’ing and fro’ing & had been nowhere near the catching area. Also the count had reached 77!

It was decided that we’d have to try something or accept that we might be going home empty handed, and so one of the Landrovers was sent along the edge of the field behind where the birds were. Creeping along slowly resulted in the whole flock taking off and landing back in the field where the net was. Not long after the birds seemed to become more active and found their way onto the grain. Atlast!

When it was believed that approximately 20 birds were in the catching area the decision was taken to fire (around 2pm), however as the day had gone on the wind had increased in speed & so it had become very windy indeed! With the net facing into the wind as it fired it lifted high up into the air and came down so slowly allowing plenty of time for the majority of birds to take off! We caught 5 in the net but 1 escaped leaving us with just 4 birds to ring. Better than no birds though!

                       Chris & Chris with their hands full!


All birds caught were adults and each one was fitted with a darvic ring, in sequence – G5A, G5B, G5C and G5D. Let’s hope these birds make their way back and return again next year! A photograph of each bird was taken with the darvic ring before it was fitted to assist in a study of Whooper Swans which is looking at if they can be identified by individual beak patterns like Bewick Swans. 

                       Whooper Swan G5C

Many thanks to Mark & Robin for providing their expertise & all the gear which allowed the catch to go ahead. The LDV team were also joined by Chris & Eric from the Tees Ringing Group & Chris Blakeley from the EYRG - ringing a Whooper Swan was a new bird for all 3 making it extra special for them!

                                  Chris - very pleased with his new bird! 

After the catch we took the guys on a quick tour of the valley and checked the duck traps, there was a re-trap Wigeon, Mallard & Coot at Duffield and nothing at Wheldrake but hundreds of Wigeon & Teal on the pool. 

A worthwhile day in the end!


Tuesday, 13 December 2011

12/12/11 - Start of the freeze...

Saturday morning (10th) Mike headed down to Wheldrake with the hope of a catch only to find it completely frozen! The same was found at the Top Pond at North Duffield so there wasn’t a bird in sight other than 5 new Mallard, 1 Wigeon and 2 new male Pintail(!) in the duck trap, the only bit of water which hadn’t frozen. 25 Whoopers were counted feeding on the grain. 
Male Pintail

Sunday morning (11th) both pools of water were still frozen and the only bird in the duck trap on Wheldrake was a surprise Fieldfare! Mike went down with a couple of buckets to grain up the area for Whoopers and counted 61!

Today (Monday 12th) no birds were in either whoosh net area early in the morning or late afternoon, however 4 Moorhen were in the duck trap on Wheldrake, only one new bird though and 3 re-traps.  

The count of Whoopers reached 69 this afternoon, all were spotted feeding on the grain. We waited until they headed off to roost (around half past 4) and then set the net in the dark! Fingers crossed tomorrow comes off!

Friday, 9 December 2011

09/12/11 - A Week's Summary

On Tuesday (6th) we headed down to North Duffield to check on the Whoopers and see if they were feeding on the grain. They were indeed and the flock had increased to 57 birds, including 18 juveniles. There was one bird still present with a darvic but we couldn’t get in the right position to be able to read the full number, various tussocks of grass and ditches were in the way! At the end of the day we drove up to the Top Pond to check the whoosh net area, about 500 Wigeon were present but most of them were on the banking sheltering from the strong winds. We sat it out for a while, a Barn Owl (already ringed) dropped into the area followed by 4 Carrion Crows! The Wigeon milled about in the water infront of the net, gradually coming up in ones and twos. Then with very little daylight left we finally fired on 5 when it looked like no more were going to come!

On Wednesday (7th) Mike went down to North Duffield early in the morning, no birds were in the catching area, but 2 new Teal were in the duck trap. Later the same day Mike returned to try his luck again, about 40 birds were present but with it being so windy they were sheltering on the bank again. There were 30 Whoopers in the field again today so hopefully the planned catch next week will come off!

The net was open at Bank Island for an hour this morning, it was abit blowy but there were lots of Blackbirds and a few Redwing around the car park, we caught 2 Blacki’s which had been feeding on the apples by the net.

Early Thursday morning (8th) saw a catch finally come off at Wheldrake! Despite the net being well trodden into the ground it fired well, catching 11 Wigeon, bringing that to 1000 ducks for the year! There was also 1 Mallard in the duck trap at Duffield.

Craig & Mike headed off before first light for a catch this morning (9th) but there were no ducks on the pond, instead they moved the whoosh net at Wheldrake to a better position - and to where it's less muddy! In the afternoon they had a catch of 8 Wigeon at North Duffield, plus a Teal in the duck trap at Wheldrake.

Monday, 5 December 2011

04/12/11 - Ageing Wigeon

On Saturday (3rd) there were no ducks on the pond (again), but 2 Mallard and a Wigeon were in the trap on the island at North Duffield, only a day after re-setting!

Yesterday morning (Sunday 4th) Mike fired on 2 Wigeon at North Duffield, but one took off, leaving just the one in the net! After lunch Craig headed down to see if numbers had built up, none were in the area when he arrived but not long after a few made their way up and he ended up firing on 11 and catching 11!

Here's a few photographs showing how we’re ageing/sexing the birds.

These two birds are both adult females, notice the big broad black tips to the greater coverts and well defined tertials.
                                          
Adult female Wigeon


This bird is a juvenile female, notice there's no black tips to the greater coverts, the lesser & medians have buff tips compared to white tips on an adult, and the tertials are diffuse with buff edges.
                                                    
Juvenile female Wigeon

This is the wing of a juvenile male bird, notice the grey on the inner web of the greater coverts, white on the outer web and there's a lot more white in the wing.

Juvenile male Wigeon

This last photo is from a juvenile bird, notice the notches in some of the tail feathers, the others have already been replaced, once the whole tail is done we will have to rely on the wing to age the bird.

Juvenile tail
 

Thursday, 1 December 2011

01/12/11 - A Grebe? Yes please!

Early this morning we headed back down to Wheldrake to try for Jack Snipe again now we know where they are. We swept the net up & down the field but it wasn’t to be, a few Common got up but not as many as yesterday.

Before lunch we zipped down to Church Bridge, Melbourne after being notified of a pair of Little Grebes that had been frequently seen over the past couple of weeks. On arrival just the one was spotted but after we’d set the net we counted 5! To catch the Little Grebe’s we used a technique Mike had tried on the Isle of Arran to catch Red Throated Divers, it involves attaching a wader net to two poles, then turning it on its side and floating it on to the waters’ surface. We did this & then backed off and watched from the bridge as the Little Grebe’s came back out from the reeds, they were feeding right by our net & sure enough not long after two of them swam over the net & then dived straight into it! Resulting in a very quick sprint down the canal! By the time we got there they were back on the surface sitting in the net, result!!
   
Extracting the Little Grebe’s by the canal

We caught one adult and one juvenile which was really good to see the difference, both birds were colour ringed (just one colour on each bird - cyan on the juvenile and blue on the adult).

Colour ringing the adult bird

 
The birds were aged by looking at the wing and body colour, the juvenile had gingery brown tips to the coverts and the body feathers generally had a warmer brown tone. In comparison the adult had no gingery brown tips to its coverts and had more grey on the body feathers. The crown on the adult was more defined compared with the juvenile which was quite diffuse and had warmer tones. 

                                  Juvenile on the left, adult on the right

Juvenile Little Grebe
   
Almost ready to go!

& they're off!