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.

Friday, 17 May 2013

12/05/13 - On foreign soil....

Reading colour-rings in the field has been really valuable in getting to know 'our' Whimbrel, and regular readers of the blog will know from last years posts that these have shown just how site faithful and regular the birds can be and are a good indicator for the length of stay. 

Out of the 101 colour-ringed birds out there by the end of 2012, this had generated a further 400+ colour-ringed sightings, all of them local apart from another movement within Yorkshire last year

Well, that was the case until last week when we heard from across the channel that one of our birds had been spotted in France! On the 3rd May, Gilbert Vimard saw one of our birds in a roost at Manche, Normandy, France. 

This bird (EL99843) was ringed at Wheldrake Ings on the 1st May 2008, with several re-sightings since (shown below). This is an interesting record and suggests that it has changed roost sites during the year – perhaps delayed on spring migration like many of our migrants this year. Many thanks to Gilbert for this diligent observation and sending the sighting on – once again showing the value of colour-rings for allowing wider involvement in these projects.

Whimbrel (EL99843): Red/Lime Red

2008 – Ringed on the 1st May, seen several times afterwards until the 6th May

2010 – Seen back in the valley on the 22nd April (DT)

2011 – Seen back in the valley on the 20th April (PR), present until at least the 24th April (PR)

2013 – Seen in a roost at Manche, Normandy, France on the 3rd May

We’ve been busy over the last few weeks since our initial Whimbrel post, monitoring the numbers of birds in the roost and locating birds in the day time feeding areas along with checking the birds for colour-rings. It’s been a frustrating job as the birds have been more difficult to locate during the day as the relatively dry conditions appear to have forced birds into different feeding areas, thus meaning that we’ve only been able to find a fraction of the birds present on any given day. The slow spring has meant that many of the day time feeding pastures haven’t yet got grazing livestock on them, and whilst the grass growth has been slow it doesn’t take much growth for the colour-rings/legs to be obscured, or indeed for the whole Whimbrel to disappear!


However, our hard work and persistence has paid off with a total of 13 different colour-rings read off since the first ones were seen on the 22nd, the other new ones for the year are listed below:


Whimbrel: Yellow/Yellow – Pink

2010 – Ringed on the 19th April, seen several times until the 24th April (CR)

2012 – Sighted on the 30th April (LM), present until at least the 6th May

2013 – Sighted on the 22nd April


Whimbrel: Yellow/Yellow – Orange

2006 – Ringed on the 23rd April, last seen on the 2nd May (DT)

2009 – Sighted on the 20th April (DT), present until the 25th April (PR)

2010 – Sighted on the 19th April (PR), re-caught on the 20th and then present until the 27th April (PR)

2011 – Sighted on the 20th April, present until the 29th April (PR)

2012 – Sighted on the 20th April (CR), seen multiple times until the last sighting on the 3rd May (CR)

2013 – Sighted on the 25th April


Whimbrel: White/White – Yellow

2009 – Ringed on the 29th April

2010 – Sighted on the 22nd April (PR), last seen on the 30th May (PR)

2011 – Sighted on the 24th April (PR), seen several times by PR until the 29th April

2012 – Sighted on the 30th April (LM), seen again several times until the 3rd May (CR)

2013 – Sighted on the 25th April


Whimbrel: White/Yellow – Yellow

2009 – Ringed on the 29th April

2010 – Sighted back in the valley on the 19th April (PR), re-caught on the 26th April and then seen again on the 27th (PR)

2012 – Sighted on the 26th April (LM)

2013 – Sighted on the 25th April


Whimbrel: Yellow/Orange – Lime

2005 – Ringed on the 2nd May, seen several times by DT until the 10th May

2006 – Sighted back in the valley on the 2nd May (DT)

2007 – Sighted back in the valley on the 30th April (CR), re-caught on the 4th May and then seen again several times until the 8th May (DT)

2012 – Sighted back in the valley on the 28th April (CR)

2013 – Sighted on the 26th April


Whimbrel: Lime/Yellow – Pink

2010 – Ringed on the 2nd May

2013 – Sighted on the 29th April

These are great results and once again we are grateful to the many local birders who have reported day time feeding birds around the LDV area and managed to read off any colour-ringed birds. This is the real value of colour-ringing and where the real hard work begins – catching and ringing the birds is simply the start!

And so the projects continues......

The Bank Holiday Monday saw some of the LDV ringers gather once again for an attempt to catch and colour-ring Whimbrel at the Wheldrake spring staging site as they came into roost. Although many aspects of the LDV Whimbrel project are now complete, it is important to monitor this nationally important spring staging site. We also decided it would be useful to keep a marked sample of known individuals in the population on a rolling programme, by marking individuals on a single catch per year. We decided to do this after the peak count of birds after the 1st May as to limit any possible disturbance to the roost. So in the baking afternoon sunshine (and 20 degrees heat!), 1200ft of net was erected in time for the birds returning at dusk for the roost. Long walks in chest waders after dark and through waist high vegetation/water/mud was undoubtedly hard and hot work but produced a catch of six new Whimbrel - all of which were colour-ringed (one of the new birds can be seen below - Yellow/White - Blue).


The weights of these birds were interesting in that they were quite low suggesting they had either been late arriving during the spring and had not yet fed up and weren’t ready to go, or, had been struggling to feed and put on weight with the dry conditions out in the fields. The Whimbrel seem to arrive here weighing about 350grams and leave between 550-600 grams: most birds caught were around the 400 mark although one sizable female was over 530 grams and perhaps getting ready to make the onward migration to Iceland or Sweden perhaps.

Hopefully these birds will be seen back here next year or somewhere else on their travels. 

Other birds caught included two breeding Redshank and a Little Grebe (our 43rd to be ringed in the valley) all of which were also colour-ringed as part of ongoing projects.

Friday, 10 May 2013

09/05/13 - Bowled over by return of 'Cricket Teal'

‘Cricket Teal’ is the old local name for Garganey of which the Lower Derwent Valley has always been regarded as somewhat of a stronghold for this beautiful migratory duck and summer visitor. This name probably comes from the strange cricket like call of the drake, often likened to the sound of an old football rattle. 

This year has so far proved to be a particularly good one for the species, and for local and visiting birders hoping to catch up with one of the individuals on the reserve. Up to six drakes and at least two females have been present throughout the site, with Bank Island, Wheldrake Ings and North Duffield Carrs being the best sites to try and see them (see our monthly sightings for more details).  

Over the years, we’ve caught and ringed 16 Garganey in the Lower Derwent Valley, which includes a moulting adult drake last year (see here). Out of the 16 ringed in the valley only one other recovery has been produced, until now.......

Whilst watching a drake at Bank Island on the 28th April this year we were most fortunate when it chose to walk out of the water onto a muddy bank, promptly showing off its colour-rings...! Nine months later and he’s back! A great record and nice to know he’s made it to southern Europe or Africa and back avoiding the guns – to our knowledge this is the first time a drake Garganey has been shown returning to a breeding site in the UK in a subsequent year. 

EX75514 ringed as a 6M (adult male) on the 30/07/12 at Wheldrake Ings, re-sighted on the 28/04/13 at Bank Island, Wheldrake.


Top photo - Teal (left) drake Garganey (right), bottom - drake Garganey (photos - Russell Slack).

Hopefully with the numbers of birds around already this year we may be able to colour-ring further birds this summer.

The only other previous recovery is listed below:

EK82959 ringed as a 1 (duckling) on the 22/07/97 at Wheldrake Ings, recovered on the 04/08/97 in Boulogne-sur-mer, Pas-de-calais, France (shot) distance travelled 438 Km. 

This was a rapid southerly post breeding dispersal movement especially as this bird was probably a week off fledging when ringed.  


Only a handful of birds are ringed in the UK each year at best so our knowledge of UK Garganey is limited. With this in mind, the colour-ringing scheme was set up last year for this species in order to try and increase the chances of getting some information back.

With the departure of the wintering ducks and the end of the winter duck ringing season (albeit a short one!) here’s a quick review of the ringing totals....despite the poor start to the year and the limitations created by the flooding we managed to pull back a wintering sample of 224 new Mallard, 39 new and 15 re-trap/control Shelduck, 5 Wigeon, 2 Mute Swan, a Moorhen and a single Greylag (272 birds). Further to our spring post detailing the newly ringed Grey Herons we’ve made another visit to the heronry and have now colour-ringed 17 of this year’s chicks. 



The first fledged juvenile has already been seen at Wheldrake Ings so we are expecting to see some of our ringed birds starting to appear locally and hopefully any day now before they start to disperse further afield. A recent ringing recovery of one of last year’s chicks (see here) suggests a rapid post breeding dispersal. 

1297501 ringed as a 1 (chick) on the 30/04/12 in Thorganby, recovered on the 29/06/12 at Easton Moor, Guisborough, Cleveland (found dead), distance travelled 76 Km.

Hopefully the colour-rings will provide additional re-sightings to help identify their movements. 

We are now looking forward and planning for the start of the breeding season and this year’s waterfowl duckling/gosling season. As always, the ringing totals and recoveries we get are just the tip of the iceberg with lots of behind the scenes hard work preparing, moving and baiting the traps, survey work, monitoring and planning. This week the team have been carrying out a refurbishment to our corale trap in which we attempt to trap moulting adults and flightless young waterfowl. In a couple of weeks we will be hoping to round up the Greylag crèches (presently about 20 adults and 50 young) to ring a sample of them – after missing out completely in 2012 due to the flooding. This is also the main way in which we catch Shoveler and Gadwall ducklings in June and July and how we will hopefully catch some more Garganey in 2013. The first Lapwing chick was also ringed on the reserve on the 8th, hopefully 2013 will be a better year for waders after getting virtually flooded off the entire site last year.




Top - bottom: One of the many Greylag broods that have appeared on the reserve this year, photographed at Storwood on the 3rd May - The first Lapwing chick of the year ringed on site on the 8th - A Shoveler nest found tucked away in the long grass whilst working at North Duffield.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

29/04/13 - A welcome arrival

It did seem to take its time this year but by the middle of the month spring finally kicked off - returning migrants started filtering in, the first butterflies started to emerge, snakes and lizards were basking in the very welcome April sunshine whilst frogs and toads were busy spawning.

By the beginning of the month breeding was well underway with Egyptian Geese goslings from the 6th - a first for the reserve (C.Beale), Mallard broods from the 7th and Greylag goslings from the 13th. Good numbers of Grey Herons (39 adults) were counted from the heronry on the 16th with the first young heard on the 2nd. Breeding appeared widely staggered as usual from un-hatched clutches to well grown young - several were ringed and darvic'd (yellow with black numbers) so look closely the next time you come across a newly fledged Heron! 

One of last year's youngsters (30/04/12)

Towards the middle of the month there was a big wintering clear out with the departure of Wigeon, Teal and Pintail being rather rapid and noticeable from around the 12th, whilst incoming Garganey were present from the 13th - a rather late record in line with most migrants. Two pairs were present on Wheldrake on the 28th including one of our colour-ringed birds - the first record for the valley - more details to come soon.

Little Ringed Plovers made several appearances to flooded arable fields around the reserve from the 12th, whilst incoming waders included 2 Greenshank on the 13th, 2 Avocets on the 16th (T.Jones), an influx of Common Sandpiper from the 17th and 3 Ringed Plover on the 18th prior to the build up of spring passage Whimbrel on the 20th. A single first summer Little Gull on the 17th and Arctic Terns on the 19th/20th (O.Metcalf) were also indications of wider arrivals and movement.

The second week of the month saw a big clear out/movement of thrushes (12th) - the same time as the wintering wildfowl left and migrants started coming in. This included over 1500 Fieldfare through the valley between the 12th - 14th, along with 350 Redwings at North Duffield Carrs on the 12th, 250 at South Duffield and 125 near Dunnington - many of these birds were very vocal with high pitched chattering and some in full song, heavy nocturnal passage was then heard overnight. 100+ Blackbirds were also thought to be involved in this rather spectacular spring movement - one of the largest ever to be seen in the area - and much more typical of autumn than the usual small and largely un-noticeable spring period.

Ospreys were present either in or over the valley on the 2nd, 14th and 21st whilst the first returning Hobby was at Bank Island on the 23rd (C.Harris). Several Osprey platforms have been erected around the valley during the last few weeks as numbers of passage birds continue to increase year after year, with nine recorded in the spring of 2012. Birds are also showing a tendency to linger during the summer and early autumn so hopefully the platforms may just tempt one of the birds to have a go!

Recently built Osprey platform

Chiffchaffs were back in small numbers from the 1st, followed by a larger and more widespread arrival on the 10th. The first returning Willow Warblers were back and in song on the 13th, with a large arrival then on the 23rd. The first record of a Sedge Warbler was at Wheldrake Ings and North Duffield Carrs on the 23rd (A.Walker), with numbers up to 6 by the 24th. The only record of a Reed Warbler was a single bird heard singing during the Whimbrel roost on the 26th at Wheldrake Ings.

A single Grasshopper Warbler (first for the month) was heard reeling near North Duffield village (A.Walker) on the 16th, with another record then from North Duffield Carrs on the 24th. Two Yellow Wagtails at Wheldrake Ings on the 15th were the first recorded birds back, numbers had built by the 20th with 50+ roosting on Wheldrake Ings and 30+ at North Duffield Carrs on the 22nd. By the 28th the roost had grown to at least 216 birds. This influx seemed to be in line with what appeared to have been a large arrival across the country resulting in the presumption that large numbers of birds had been held up in Europe by the bad weather, before overshooting into the UK. A single Blue-headed Wagtail was at North Duffield Carrs on the 27th followed by two together on the 28th, these were present along with two Channel Wagtails on the 27th/28th (A.Walker), and again many Blue-headed birds have been seen recently in the UK suggesting the overshooting of European birds.

A large count of Wheatears was had across the York area during the 15th/16th with the first valley bird recorded at East Cottingwith on the 15th. On the 17th a single appeared on the floodbank at North Duffield Carrs and was seen for the remainder of the month. The first Whinchat was seen at North Duffield Carrs on the 25th (A.Walker).

Wheatear - NDC - 26/04/13

The first Blackcaps were reported from Bubwith village on the 15th, by the 20th the first returning Whitethroat was at East Cottingwith, followed by a single at Storwood and Bank Island on the 21st. By the 25th six pairs were recorded at North Duffield Carrs (A.Walker). On the 22nd the first Lesser Whitethroats for the year appeared as singles at Bank Island, Wheldrake and North Duffield Carrs, with three birds there by the 25th. Three seemingly early Spotted Flycatchers were seen fly-catching from Willows nearby Wheldrake car park on the 22nd (C.Harris). Whilst these are early they are well within the range of dates recorded in recent years and an encouraging start to the year - more this year already than in the whole of 2012!

Sand Martins beat the rest of the hirundines back to the valley, with two arriving at Wheldrake on the 10th (rather late arrival on previous years), the first two Swallows then made their appearance over Wheldrake on the 12th, followed by the first two House Martins on the 13th. The 17th saw a greater arrival of all species, with over 1000 SM, 100 HM and 400 SW over Bank Island. The first single Swifts were seen over Wheldrake and North Duffield on the 25th with at least 12 then present over Wheldrake by the 26th.

Then last but not least the first Cuckoo was heard on the 25th around Storwood, with another bird present on Wheldrake on the 26th along with a single at Melbourne and Sutton. Several of the BTO ringed and satellite tagged Cuckoos have also arrived back in the UK and others are on their way - for more information on these fascinating birds and their migration journeys follow this link to the BTO website.

The first butterflies of the month were 4 Small Tortoiseshells around Ellerton/Aughton and a single Brimstone near Skipwith Common. The 15th saw a large emergence of Peacocks at various sites around the valley, followed by the first Commas (8), Red Admirals (6) and Orange Tips (4) on the 22nd at Wheldrake (C.Harris).

Peacock - Wheldrake 15/04/13

A single Common Toad was found under tins on Skipwith Common on the 6th, with 40 (including mating pairs) in the scrape at North Duffield Carrs on the 15th, along with the first Common Frog spawn. Up to 20 Smooth Newts were present in ponds on Skipwith Common on the 15th. Four Adders and six Common Lizards on the 4th were the first to be recorded on Skipwith Common, followed by a single Grass Snake by the Bomb Bays on the 13th, with another towards the old orchard end on the 16th.

Common Lizard - Skipwith Common 15/04/13

Thanks to everyone who's contributed records again this month, check back on the blog soon for a full April species report of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, butterflies and the rest!