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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Tuesday, 3 February 2015

02/02/15 - January WeBS

Several weeks ago the team carried out the January WeBS count (Wetland Bird Survey) across the valley. WeBS is the monitoring scheme for non-breeding waterbirds in the UK, which aims to provide the principal data for the conservation of their populations and wetland habitats. It was previously known as the National Wildfowl Count, before changing to the Wildfowl and Wader Count and now the Wetland Bird Survey – which includes gulls, terns, kingfishers, herons and cormorants etc. Continuing a tradition begun in 1947, around 3,000 volunteer counters undertake monthly counts at around 2000 wetlands of all habitat types throughout the year, but mainly during the winter period of September to March. This allows bird populations to be monitored on a national and international level, but also picks up more local trends at the site level or changes with regards to climate change.


For example, the survey has become extremely well placed to contribute valuable information on the potential spread and context of Avian Influenza arriving or spreading in the UK. It has also shown that the international population of Bewick’s Swans has decreased, but that further decreases in the UK (and the LDV) can be contributed to the birds ‘short-stopping’ in the low countries in Europe. 

The LDV has seen WeBS counts or predecessors undertaken since the 1970’s so there is a run of 40+ years of data on wetland bird populations across the site – changes have included the incredible rise in numbers of Greylag Geese from only a handful in the 1970’s to over 2500+ in recent years, and the crash in the population of Bewick’s Swans has dropped from 300+ in the 1970’s to a mere one or two returning in recent winters.

Following the freezing conditions and minus temperatures on the morning of the count the majority of the site was found to be frozen, thus concentrating all the remaining birds on to the few open pools of water. Wheldrake Ings and North Duffield Carrs held the majority of the birds, with a few extras seen on the river. 

North Duffield held an impressive number of wildfowl, with c2500 Teal, c3000 Wigeon, c300 Mallard, 134 Shelduck, 10 Pintail, 7 Mute Swans and 65 Whooper Swans. Wheldrake Ings, largely around Swantail Hide, also held good numbers of birds, however they were all packed in tightly in one area thus making counting difficult, resulting in the counts presumably not representing the full amount present. At least 5500 Wigeon and 2250 Teal were counted, along with 97 Pintail, 15 Shelduck, 2 Shoveler, 27 Gadwall, 1134 Mallard, 11 Coot, 360 Greylag Geese, 100 Canada Geese, 51 Mute Swans and 3 Whooper Swans. 

In contrast to the wildfowl, the freezing conditions caused a mass clear-out of wintering waders, with just 3 Dunlin, 5 Common Snipe and a single Redshank remaining from the previous week’s high numbers. The rest, we presume, may have moved down to the upper Humber on to softer areas in which to probe for food - where they are likely to stay until the site here begins to thaw.

A variety of raptors were also a pleasing addition to the days sightings, with a Peregrine no doubt being the highlight as it soared over the water at Duffield, immediately flushing all the ducks in to the air creating quite a spectacle. Four Buzzards at Wheldrake along with a single Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Red Kite were also seen. 

A few mammals also made it on to the day list including a Red Fox crossing the ice at Wheldrake and two female Roe Deer by the hide.

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