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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Friday, 1 February 2013

28/01/13 - It's all snow'ver

Over the course of the weekend the LDV was blanketed in another covering of snow, however this time it went as quickly as it came, come Sunday the rain that had fallen through the night saw most of the snow wash away, with the river then rapidly rising, resulting in Wheldrake and Bank Island flooding again. However whilst the snow was here it provided us with a great opportunity to gather records, and so we headed out to the snow covered paths and fields in search of prints.

We expected to come across prints from animals such as deer, hares, rabbits, squirrels and even the smaller mammals such as weasels and stoats, however we were after one inparticular - the otter. Otters are very elusive animals, and so alternative techniques of surveying them are required, such as checking for tracks and spraints. We were successful in our finds and came across several spraints on stones under bridges, and prints in the snow at North Duffield, Wheldrake and Ellerton. Below are a few photographs we took whilst out searching for signs of these elusive creatures, can you tell which animal/bird made them??


Along with looking for prints we then decided to go one step further and set cameras with the hope of catching the animals in the act. Using camera traps allows us to find out the what, where, when and how. Over the course of the last few weeks the cameras have been set at various locations within the valley, in the hope of picking up a variety of mammals but inparticular, otters. The Lower Derwent Valley has been designated as a European Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for otters, and subsequently it is important to monitor the population, habitat and food availability. The camera traps have been used in order to gather data on the distribution of the species, and hopefully to record images of otters. We were successful in our quest, and have gathered a variety of sightings including this one below - checking out an existing spraint.

Otters have a long history in the Lower Derwent Valley, and a small population remained here when the national population reached its low ebb in the 1980's. In the early 1990's English Nature and the Vincent Wildlife Trust had a reinforcement project in the valley when several rehabilitated animals were soft released at both Wheldrake Ings and Thornton Ellers, as part of a wider River Derwent project. Since then the otter population has gone from strength to strength in the valley with an estimated three or four breeding females in the catchment now. Clearly a success in its own right, and the positive results have been more wide ranging, in that since the otter population has increased, the local mink population has dramatically decreased over the same period. Otters tend to push mink out of their territories and are believed to kill them if the opportunity arises. As a result of the declining population of mink, the area has also seen an increase in the number of water voles and species like Moorhen and Coot which breed on ditch sides and river banks. 

Over the course of the month there has been a few records for otters - on the 15th a lucky visitor to the Geoff Smith Hide at North Duffield Carrs watched a single animal swimming in the River Derwent. Fresh spraints were found by the bailey bridge at Wheldrake Ings on the 22nd, with tracks also found in the snow near the windpump. More tracks of a female and two cubs were found at Bank Island on the 23rd. Many tracks were found in the snow along the floodbank at North Duffield Carrs and Ellerton on the 24th, a single otter was also caught on the camera at Wheldrake bridge. One or two injured orphaned cubs have also been rehabilitated and released back into the Derwent catchment over the last few years due to Jean Thorpe's excellent and dedicated hard work. 

It's not just otters that have appeared on our cameras.....we've had a variety of wildlife caught in the act including a number of bird species - the most exciting being the exquisite Jay, followed by Robins, Redwings, Blackbirds, Red-legged Partridges, Crows, a Heron & ofcourse numerous inquisitive Pheasants! We've racked up a list of mammals too - numerous Badgers (a family from the nearby set), several Foxes, a family of Roe Deer, a female Otter with two cubs, a Brown Hare, Rabbit, Squirrels, Wood Mouse and a Stoat! Below are a sample from the 3000+ photos that were taken!



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