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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Thursday, 28 August 2014

24/08/14 - Eyes down, hand lenses at the ready

Earlier in August expert botanist Judith returned once more to the valley, after initially joining us throughout the Long Term Monitoring Network last summer and then later returning for several training days. The aim of the day was for us to build on what we learned last year, refresh our ID skills and to look for new species – it also provided the opportunity for Hannah to join in – our newest member of the team – currently studying at Askham Bryan College and volunteering for us one day a week throughout her course.

Armed with our hand lenses and books we headed down to Thornton Ellers first off where we decided to spend the morning, and searched for the species that we found there last year – and came across new ones along the way. Thornton Ellers is a diverse site - an Alder Carr woodland with a peat based fen and meadow, and adjacent post glacial sand dune - an interesting range of habitats together.

Twenty three new grasses, sedges and rushes for the year were found such as Sharp-flowered Rush, Velvet Bent, Heath Wood-rush, Purple Small-reed and Brown Bent. Many of the commoner and more easily recognisable species were still present although not many in flower, such as Yorkshire Fog, Soft Rush, Sweet Vernal Grass, Tufted Hair Grass and Toad Rush to name but a few.

 Sharp-flowered Rush Juncus acutiflorus
Yorkshire Fog Holcus lanatus

Plenty of wildflower species were scattered throughout the wet meadow however the large patch of Devil’s-bit Scabious had the greatest variety with many species growing amongst it such as Marsh Violet, Fen Bedstraw, Lesser Spearwort and Marsh Cinquefoil.

Devil's-bit Scabious Succisa pratensis

Following the woodland edge and leaving the wet meadow behind we came across species such as Yellow Loosestrife, Greater Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Common Hemp-nettle, Purple Loosestrife, Water Pepper and Marsh Woundwort.

 Water Pepper Persicaria hydropiper
 Common Hemp-nettle Galeopsis tetrahit
 Purple Loosestrife Lythrum salicaria

Along with the wildflowers and grasses there were also plenty of insects to have a good look at, Common Darters and Brown Hawkers buzzed along the hedgerow, Small Skippers, Meadow Browns and Peacocks were making good use of the Devil’s-bit Scabious and Gatekeepers were feeding on the few remaining Bramble flowers.

 Common Darter Sympetrum striolatum
Small Skipper Thymelicus sylvestris

Many of the Helophilus hoverflies were also feeding on the Scabious, largely Helophilus pendulus, amongst them we also spotted one of the wasp mimics – Chrystotoxum bicinctum. A 22-spot Ladybird and Sloe/Hairy Shield Bug were found on the walk back along with at least 10 Red-breasted Carrion Beetles which were feeding on an old Partridge egg.

 Wasp mimic Chrystotoxum bicinctum
 22-spot Ladybird Psyllobora 22-punctata
 Field Grasshopper Chorthippus brunneus
Sloe/Hairy Shield Bug Dolycoris baccarum

After several hours well spent in the meadow we headed off and stopped by the Pocklington Canal for lunch, and revision on all the grass species we had found throughout the morning!

On the way to the next location we stopped off at Aughton to ring a brood of Barn Owl chicks that we knew should be ready to ring - seven weeks ago when checking for second broods we found six eggs from a pair that had already produced five young. Five chicks were present in the box, all of a ring-able size bar one.

From there we headed to Wheldrake Ings where we spent an hour in the meadow near Swantail Ings, here we came across a number of grasses and wildflowers such as Bladder Sedge, Slender Tufted Sedge, Marsh Speedwell, Water Dock and Trifid Bur-marigold - some which were new for the year and taking us to a day total of 127 species from the two sites.

Trifid Bur-marigold Bidens tripartita

We also came across two ladybirds which were new for the year, the Harlequin Ladybird (form H.spectabilis) and the common 2-spot Ladybird. Many of the Helophilus and Sphaerophoria hoverflies were making the most of the Water Mint, Purple Loosestrife and Trifid Bur-marigold which are all now in flower across the Ings.

 Harlequin Ladybird Harmonia axyridis spectabilis
Hoverfly - Helophilus trivittatus

Overall a very enjoyable day with a great deal learned about a whole range of species. We look forward to Judith's next visit which will cover the plants of Skipwith Common.

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