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 resume over the winter months, and will run alongside wildlife and work posts.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

20/11/14 - Returning wildfowl

Flocks of Teal and Wigeon are starting to build up in the valley now, with approximately 4000+ Teal and 5000+ Wigeon present throughout the valley last week. Numbers on Wheldrake Ings have been in the range of up to 1000 Teal and 500 Wigeon – compared with almost double that at this time last year. During the autumn/winter numbers of Teal can typically peak between 6000 – 10,000 birds – so there’s still a lot more to come. Whilst we haven’t really got going yet the with annual autumn/winter duck ringing, we did however have a small catch of five Teal recently, including this stunning male, and with the recent flooding these might be the last ducks ringed for quite some time......

Male Teal - Wheldrake Ings - 03/11/14

Teal, the males in particular, are a rather striking bird with their chestnut/orange head, bright green eye-patch, speckled breast and a black-edged yellow tail. Teal are the smallest duck in Britain and also the most widespread. They spend the winter in the valley are likely to come from their breeding grounds in Eastern Europe right across into Eastern Russia, migrating back to the UK during the autumn before returning again in mid-March/April. Teal, more than most ducks, show low site fidelity, moving west during the winter to avoid cold weather and freezing conditions.

Since waterfowl ringing started in the valley in 1990, 2150 Teal have been ringed here although large numbers (c300 per year) have been ringed over the last three years. Ringing wildfowl in the valley has generated valuable information about where our birds go and come from. Just from ringing Teal, 23 international recoveries have been produced from 10 countries, involving - Denmark (5), Russia (4), N.Ireland (3), Portugal (2), France (2), Ireland (2), Finland (2) and singles from Sweden, Norway, and Germany

Several recoveries are listed here, with the first one showing the breeding grounds of a bird which then went on to winter in the valley:

M491478 - Ringed as a 6F on the 31/07/05 in Kandalakshskiy NR, Telachiy Island, U.S.S.R, was then shot on the 25/01/06 near Pocklington, East Yorkshire (2306Km).

The two recoveries below highlight a rather rapid westerly movement during the cold weather:

EX75554 - Ringed as a 3F on the 09/09/12 at Bank Island, was then shot on the 30/11/12 at Lytham Moss, Lancashire (136 Km)

EX35485 - Ringed as a 6M on the 01/12/12 at Bank Island, was then shot on the 16/12/12 at Scarisbrick, Lancashire (136Km).

Finally, the last recovery shows that at least some birds use the valley in subsequent years:

EK82986 - Ringed as a 3M on the 24/10/97 in the LDV, was then re-caught in the valley on the 20/10/99.

In a recent batch of ringing recoveries from the BTO we also found out that one of our Mallards had gone to the Netherlands - this bird had been ringed on the 10th February 2006 as a first winter male (having been ‘hatched’ in 2005). It was subsequently caught by Dutch ringers at Bakhuizen, Gaasterlan-Sleat, Friesland, Netherlands on the 25th August 2014. This is our third Mallard recovery to the Netherlands from the LDV, with other birds moving between the reserve here and sites in France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland. Most of the ducks that we get to hear about have usually been shot and the ring numbers reported – so it’s nice to hear that this one is still alive and well, and perhaps on its way back to spend the winter with us again. So contrary to popular belief not all the Mallards you see on the reserve and surrounding area are local birds!

Male Mallard - Bank Island - 08/01/14

Last month several family parties of Whooper Swans passed through the LDV, whilst birds also returned to the wintering site at North Duffield Carrs where each year we have a 'resident herd'. So far two birds have been seen with darvic rings, both from last year’s cannon net catch at North Duffield Carrs, when a total of 13 birds were caught. 

Whooper Swan - North Duffield Carrs - 28/11/13

G5H & G5K were both ringed as adults last year, so it was pleasing to see that this year G5K was paired up and had returned with two cygnets. The peak count in the valley this autumn so far has been 23 birds of which 12 have been cygnets – although this is obviously a small sample size, early indications are of a successful breeding season and young birds usually comprise a maximum of 20% of the herd. This is only just the start of the Whooper season, so there will hopefully be more returning birds to come, and possibly Icelandic ringed birds along with birds ringed from the WWT centres or elsewhere across the country. 

Over the years we’ve had 23 different birds that were all initially ringed in Iceland appear in the valley, and two years ago in 2012 one of our birds was seen in Norway – a bird that was originally ringed at Duffield in 2008. Most of the Whooper Swans wintering in the UK are either ringed in Iceland or at a handful of WWT reserves, the Lower Derwent Valley NNR is the only other regular site where birds are caught and ringed annually, to date we have ringed 58 on the reserve – which is particularly valuable as it gives a wider picture to what these majestic birds are doing away from the WWT centres where they are attracted in large numbers with supplementary food.

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