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, 24 April 2015

22/04/15 - Skipwith delights

Skipwith Common has been the place to be recently, with Woodlarks singing, Green Woodpeckers ‘yaffling’, Great Spotted Woodpeckers ‘drumming’ and Tawny Owls ‘too-wit too-woo’ing. Adders, Grass Snakes and Common Lizards have also been seen basking in the sunshine on the warm sunny days. Below are a few photographs and information on some of the wildlife that we've been fortunate to come across. 

Early on a morning one of the team has spent the odd hour on the Common to try and ascertain a count of reptiles - this is done early before they disappear off into the undergrowth once they've warmed up enough. We haven't seen any Adders during the last few weeks but we did come across this male sunning itself on the heath at the end of March, along with two others. At this time of year, similar to Grass Snakes, Adders need to soak up the sun’s rays after a winter spent in hibernation. Following the long winter and months without feeding Adders need to warm up their bodies to build up their energy and strength, and to allow their muscles to work properly. Once ready they will go in search of a mate, however before mating male Adders shed their old skin, then once in pristine condition they will do battle with other males for the female’s attention, wrestling in what is known as the ‘dance of the Adders’.

Adder - 30/03

Adders are Britain’s only poisonous snake, and have a sinister reputation due to their ability to subdue their prey using venom, however they are not a threat to people unless disturbed – upon seeing one make sure you observe from a distance - never approach or pick one up! Adders can often be quite difficult to spot amongst the bracken, but if you are fortunate enough to see one please note down any records, along with other wildlife seen on the Common in the boxes provided. 

Grass Snake - 02/04

Common Lizards have been seen more frequently, often on a daily basis. Despite the rather cold day’s last week, full of rain, sleet and strong winds, on the warm days either side we still came across several lizards basking on the boardwalk adjacent to the Bomb Bay loop. We were fortunate to have prolonged views of one individual as it flattened its body against the wood to maximise the amount of heat it could soak up from the sun’s rays. At this time of year lizards are emerging after a winter spent in hibernation, the walls around the Bomb Bay loop and the boardwalk are the best place to look for them on a warm sunny day. Along with several adults, we also came across one of last year’s young (pictured here), we knew this by size, with it only being c7cm, compared with adults which reach c15cm (nose to tail).

Common Lizard - Juvenile - 30/03

Common Lizard - Adult - 02/04

Along with looking for reptiles on the heath we've also been keeping a close eye on the ground too - whilst scouring the heath we spotted this Minotaur Beetle – an impressive ‘beast’ despite its size! Minotaur Beetles are a type of large dung beetle, favouring sandy grassland and heaths. They feed on rabbit droppings and sheep, deer, cattle and horse dung – plenty of which can be found on the Common! Their nests are made up of a series of tunnels, after laying their eggs in the chambers they will then drag dung back to their nest using their strong legs. This individual we spotted will have over-wintered in one of the many burrows, more than likely with its mate, where it will have remained throughout the winter, surfacing on only the really mild days.

 Minotaur Beetle - 17/03

There's plenty of Gorse on the Common which is really bringing colour to the site at the moment, and whilst watching the first few bees of the year looking for nectar on the flowers at the end of March we also came across a number of Gorse Shield Bugs. At this time of year adults emerge during the warm days in spring and can often be found sunning themselves in clusters on Gorse flowers. We came across several ‘groups’, packed tightly amongst the Gorse spikes and piled high on top of each other. Gorse Shield Bugs have two colour forms, at the end of the last year we found and photographed the new generation which started appearing after the summer during August, they were fairly distinctive with their purple/red markings. The individuals which are emerging now are predominately green, at first glance they could be confused with the Green Shield Bug – but the habitat (usually Gorse and Broom), and the red antennae gives them away. 

Gorse Shield Bug - 25/03
 
Lately we've posted about Roe Deer that are seen regularly on a daily basis around the valley, however recently we were fortunate to see this group of Fallow Deer – with at least 26 individuals present. This is the first time we’ve come across so many for quite some time. Fallow Deer are known to be present in the area, largely between Crockey Hill and Wheldrake, along with a number of individuals occasionally seen on the Common. Fallow Deer tend to remain far more elusive than Roe Deer, and can be told apart quite easily due to their tan/fawn colour and white spotting. They also have a white rump patch characterised with the black horse-shoe and fairly long tail. During the winter they lose their summer ‘coat’ and become a lot darker, with the white spots fading. The young when born (June/July) will resemble their parents, being a rich chestnut colour and heavily spotted.

 
 Fallow Deer - 30/03

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