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.

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Monday, 4 February 2013

02/02/13 - Breaking the duck

It's been a quiet old month on the ringing front again but here's a quick summary of January - shouldn't take long.... The month opened with extensive flooding (remaining from late November 2012) causing birds to be dispersed widely throughout the valley and often tucked in at the edges of the site making observations and counts difficult. This led to lower wader counts during the month and the flooding effected some species of dabbling ducks, most notably Shoveler and Gadwall, which were virtually absent during the month and around 200-300 birds lower than typical January counts. Diving ducks fared better as expected under these conditions with numbers of both Tufted Duck and Pochard better than in recent winters, but still way short of the 2000-5000 recorded up to the early 1990's as birds 'short-stop' in Europe. Numbers of various species started to increase as water levels started to fall during the second half of the month, before a heavy snowfall and a rapid melt saw extensive flooding again from the 28th. The good run of Scaup, Hen Harrier and Waxwing records continued into the month, whilst particular good counts included 10,000+ Wigeon, 7000+ Teal and 4000+ Mallard. More notable species recorded include a Green-winged Teal and up to four Tundra Bean Geese.

 The river meets the carrs - 31/01/13

However perhaps the most significant records concerned the positive numbers of farmland birds throughout the area, and the occurrence of a cold weather movement of Skylarks associated with snowfall with up to 2000 birds involved from the 20th, with smaller numbers of Corn Buntings. Overall throughout January a total of 96 bird species were recorded throughout the valley - many thanks to everyone who has contributed.

In contrast to last January & February which was largely all about our successful wildfowl catching, this January (and this winter) has indeed been very poor to say the least. It's been a fair while since we last blogged about ringing...simply because there hasn't been anything to share with you all! Never before have we had such a quiet spell, with some members of our team left wondering what to do on a weekend now! We seem to have been up against the extensive flooding for months now, which was followed by the big freeze, and along with being busy with other work it has resulted in few opportunities.

The big freeze - North Duff Carrs - 21/01/13

Local ringer Chris Wright managed to catch 14 of the 24 Waxwings that had been around his garden near Thorganby for a couple of days over the 6-7th, taking the total number of Waxwings ringed around the valley to 37. Photo below from November, when we successfully caught a number of these spectacular visitors.

Waxwings - York - 13/11/12

We followed this by catching another Tawny Owl from a regular roost site at Thornton Ellers on 10th January, yet another new bird from this site - an adult male - maybe the mate of the female we caught there in November. It will be interesting to see just how many different birds use a single roosting site such as this.

Tawny Owl - Thornton Ellers - 10/01/13

Then on the weekend of 26-27th, the water had finally been showing signs of falling, and with duck withdrawal the guys could take it no longer, off to Duffield they headed, to locate the duck trap and see how many birds were present and if they were catchable. They set off armed with various tools and equipment to repair the trap and get it operational again if possible, however on arrival they were pleasantly surprised to find it firstly - looking in pretty good shape, and secondly - with birds in, despite there being no food in there for months! The trap had been left un-set and so the door and funnels were fastened open allowing birds to move in and out as they pleased. A quick dash through the snow saw all eight birds caught - 7 new Mallards and one re-trap (a bird initially ringed in the trap in March 2012). Maybe it was this bird that had a memory of finding food in the trap in the harsh weather, that had led the others in under false hopes! Either way we were finally off the mark with the first ducks of 2013 ringed. A few repairs and moderations were needed and the trap was ready to be set for the next day, however....success was to be short lived! On return on Sunday morning (27th), the 10cm of snow that had fallen had very quickly started to melt and with two inches of rain it meant that the trap had to be left open for the predicted flooding. Just a single new Mallard was in the trap making that eight for the year (who knows when the next will come!).

Normal service is resumed - NDC - 26/01/13

Our recent WeBS counts have shown that despite there being very few Mallards present on the 9th & 10th January, over 4000 were present on the 24th - a significant national count for this declining winter visitor. Thus ringing birds such as Mallards which may be considered 'common', could yet reveal valuable data.

Ducks aplenty - Wheldrake - 22/01/13

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