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, 29 November 2013

07/11/13 - A hive of activity

With the NNR Base Garden now in its second year, this summer saw it really start to produce the goods, particularly in terms of butterflies with (as it stands) 2078 butterfly records gathered just from the garden. Several species of dragonflies were also seen visiting our base pond and new hoverfly species frequented the flowers, whilst the moth trap caught several ‘firsts’ for the reserve.

Only a few years back in 2010 work was started on the new reserve base for the Lower Derwent Valley NNR, with the official opening on World Wetlands day (2nd February) 2011. Obviously sensitive to the local landscape and planning issues, Natural England wanted to deliver a building that, as well as acting as an NNR office and base, demonstrated best green build practice and one that brought additional environmental benefits. As well as several other ‘green features’, the base has a green living roof, planted with sedum and various grasses. Viewed from above by the thousands of returning waterfowl which descend from the high Arctic each winter, it blends the building into the surrounding landscape making it virtually invisible to them. Local groups were also involved in helping us design, plant and manage the building and gardens, making and erecting bird boxes, creating flower rich hay meadows and planting a sensory bee and butterfly garden.


BTCV making bird boxes

The garden was planted with butterflies and bees in mind with species such as Lavender, Buddleia, Devil’s-bit and Field Scabious, Water and Corn Mint, Teasel and Hemp Agrimony. The idea was to try and produce a range of good nectar sources for butterflies and bees throughout the season (June – September).

This year 23 butterfly species were recorded in the whole of the LDV, with 18 of those seen in the NNR Base Garden: Small White, Large White, Green-veined White, Orange Tip, Comma, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Wall Brown, Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Small Skipper, Large Skipper, Small Copper, Gatekeeper, Speckled Wood and Marbled White.


Peacock (Inachis io)
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)

The meadow was also sown to ensure a range of early hay meadow species were out before the garden plants came into flower, such as Buttercup, Red Campion, Sneezewort, Ox-eye Daisy, Ragged Robin, Knapweed and Wild Carrot.


Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi)

It was also decided to keep certain weeds in the adjacent field until after they flowered, such as thistles which this year the Whites in particular made good work of. Nettles and docks were also left as refuges for egg laying and caterpillar food.


Green-veined White (Artogeia napi)

Hoverflies particularly favoured the Fleabane and Scabious, with the nearby Bramble in the hedgerow also pulling in good numbers and a variety of species. Over 26 species of hoverfly have been recorded in the LDV this year, with many of these seen in the NNR Base Garden, species such as Helophilus trivittatus/pendulus were seen in abundance along with many of the Eristalis sp.
 
Helophilus trivittatus
Episyrphus balteatus
Syrphus sp.
Sphaerophoria scripta

Several species of bee were seen daily, particularly on the Lavender. Buff-tailed, White-tailed, Red-tailed, Common Carder, Garden and Early being the most frequent visitors.


Worker bee Bombus lucorum/terrestris
Early bumblebee (Bombus pratorum)

The small pond was built and stocked with a range of species from the NNR – Purple Loosestrife, Water and Corn Mint, Yellow Flag Iris, Round-leaved Pondweed, Sneezewort, Water Plantain and Great Water Parsnip – again to provide a natural range of Ings marginal water plants for a number of inverts especially dragonflies. A number of dragonflies have been seen on the small pond with species such as Broad-bodied Chaser, Brown Hawker, Ruddy Darter and Common Darter seen regularly.


Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa)

The feeding station which was built in February this year saw plenty of activity as winter came to a close. The feeders were left empty throughout the breeding season but last month in preparation for the winter the feeding station was set up again and has seen a lot of activity already. Tree Sparrows in particular have been making good use of it, along with Willow and Marsh Tits, Brambling, Chaffinches and a Great Spotted Woodpecker often comes down for the peanuts.


Bank Island feeding station

The NNR Base has also become home to several pairs of breeding Tree Sparrows which is especially pleasing for a species which is on the amber list.

Moth trapping in the NNR this year has produced 247 species, many of which were caught at Bank Island, including several firsts for the reserve: Red-sword Grass and Feathered Gothic. The ‘green’ roof has proved popular with a number of wildlife species but one of the highlights has been the discovery of a colony of the Yellow Belle Moth (Semiaspilates ochrearia). This moth has only been recorded from Yorkshire twice before, both as presumed wandering migrants at Spurn Point. It is very much a coastal species found as far north as Lincolnshire although isolated colonies occur in the Suffolk Brecklands, and it is from the latter isolated colonies that the moth is thought to have come from, having been transported on the green roof to the Lower Derwent Valley.


Yellow Belle Moth (Semiaspilates ochrearia)

Several Long-eared Bats and Pipistrelle Bats have also made the base their home, and artificial House Martin nests and Swift bricks have also been used - albeit by Wrens and Tree Sparrows - maybe next year!

For us whilst it is great to have a reserve base that is fit for purpose and that allows efficient delivery of the NNR management and additional outreach benefits, it is however also a real bonus and asset to Natural England to have a demonstration green build, complete with its new inhabitants, and one that adds to the experience of visitors coming to the NNR. To see how the garden has developed this year has been a rich reward for those involved with developing it, particularly for our volunteers that have helped plant it, weed it and survey the wildlife in it!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

October...

Below is a snippet of how October unfolded on the bird front, however for the full write up and more information on the other wildlife species seen on the NNR and nearby Skipwith Common follow the link here.

October is an exciting time for bird watching, with the change of season and migration in full swing the potential is there for the unexpected to occur. This October certainly didn’t fail to deliver with some of the most notable migration watches taking place between the 5th and the 12th. The fairly dry conditions continued throughout the month - very different from this time last year.

The Wash Dykes drying out - Skipwith Common

The 5th saw a noticeable movement of Skylark through the valley, along with the last sizable departing flocks of Swallows and Martins heading south, alongside incoming Pink-footed Geese on the 5th and 6th. Increasing numbers of Song Thrush and Robins were noted at this time, possibly filtering inland from the coastal influxes seen the previous week. Small numbers of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps moved through the reserve with a Cetti’s Warbler on the 5th and then the star find - the first reserve Yellow-browed Warbler at Bank Island from the 6th.

The next few days provided good raptor watching conditions with Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, Osprey and Hobby leading the cast, whilst the wandering Great White Egret put in yet another very brief appearance at Wheldrake on the 8th. A change in the weather to easterly winds and showers/rain opened the migration flood gates on the 10th with 2200 Redwing, 350 Fieldfare, 16 Brambling and the first 3 returning Whooper Swans being noted. 

Whooper Swans - North Duffield Carrs 
 
The same weather system was responsible for a large displacement of Gannets out of the north sea and into the Humber Estuary. As many as 700 birds may have moved up the Humber, reaching as far as the Humber Bridge which appears to be a huge barrier to them. However, many did pass over and under the bridge and continued inland. This movement brought singles over North Duffield on the 10th with another rescued nearby the following day. What was presumably the same movement may have also accounted for a Great Skua heading east over Bank Island on the 15th – the third record for the reserve following individuals in 1981 and 2007.

Rescued Gannet from a farmer's field near Malton - JT