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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Wednesday, 22 July 2015
Thursday, 16 July 2015
Recently we ran a successful Barn Owl event at the NNR Base, in conjunction with the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. Despite the heavy rain early on, plenty of visitors and locals arrived at the base and took part in various activities - quizzes, arts and crafts, pellet dissection, bird ringing, moth trapping and pond dipping. Jean also brought in a Barn Owl for the children to get a close view of, along with an orphaned Little Owl chick which was on its way back in to the wild. Once the rain cleared more people came out to play, along with one of the local Barn Owls which hunted over Bank Island throughout the afternoon.
Fortunately for this little chap he was picked up by a kind passer-by and spent a couple days at Jean’s recovering and feeding up. On the day of release back into the wild, Jean brought him to the base with her in the morning to show some of the children for our ‘owl weekend’ and then took him to a site in Thixendale to be re-homed – where he was safely put into another nest of a Little Owl family (where the chicks were at the same stage). The nest is monitored by cameras, and so we already know that the adults have taken to their newest addition and have started to feed it along with their brood. This is a great result and another job well done, thanks for sharing it with us Jean and also for allowing some of the children to experience one close up before you returned it to the wild.
Lately we’ve also been continuing our work alongside Ad Astra at the NNR base, helping to engage and train a new generation of naturalists. The young 'lads' have been working with Phil (our NNR apprentice), and have got stuck into checking the moth trap, bird monitoring and recording the invertebrate life in our garden pond along with a bit of pond dipping. This is part of a larger project to record the diversity of our wildlife garden and to help build and install a ‘bug hotel’. The group are also working with Phil to help interpret our work in the garden for the enjoyment and education of other visitors to the base.
The bug 'hotel' contains plenty of dead wood of various sizes, for use by some of the invertebrates that use the garden, such as the Long-horned Beetles we’ve mentioned lately. Sections have also been packed with hollow stems and wood with drilled holes to provide suitable locations for Mining Bees and other hole-loving insects.
One of the highlights for the guys was finding Smooth Newts and a number of adult Great Diving Beetles, pictured below. Many thanks to everyone for their enthusiasm and for doing such a good job!
Tuesday, 14 July 2015
Ducks also seem to be having a poor season in the valley, with just three broods of Gadwall and one brood of Shoveler and Tufted Duck seen so far this year. Waders on the other hand seem to have fared better, with a number of young Curlews, Redshank and Lapwing chicks seen in the meadows. Snipe also breed in the meadows but are rarely seen, however last week whilst the team were out hand pulling Marsh Ragwort, this little newly hatched Snipe chick was found. Whilst it isn’t unusual for the teams out in the meadows to come across wader chicks or other breeding birds, nests or young, in recent times Snipe chicks have been quite scarce. Numbers have sadly declined over the last 20 years, much in line with the national population, and probably made worse locally by several summers with unseasonal flooding. However, numbers have increased again this year with up to 40 drumming males or pairs. This little chick was quickly ringed and returned to the meadow – wader chicks are largely independent, leaving the nest and feeding themselves as soon as they hatch. Hopefully this one will go on to fledge successfully and further add to the local breeding population in future years.
No ducklings from the Ings have been ringed so far this year due to it being such a poor year, however a brood were ringed and released on the reserve last month after nesting in one of the local gardens! The owners had watched as the female laid her eggs, incubated them and the ducklings hatch, and had been looking after them for five weeks - doing a great job in providing them with food and access to plenty of water via two of their children’s paddling pools! But due to a change in circumstances and a worry that they might be at risk from predators, they needed to be moved out of the garden, and with no easy access out of the small enclosed courtyard garden they were unable to get out themselves. After a successful round-up of all 10 of them, they were ringed at the office before being released on to Bank Island, where they took to the ditches and joined up with some of the other broods. There is a real mix of ages present at the moment across the site, ranging from the small ‘bumblebees’ as they are affectionately named, to some that are almost already fledged.
As mentioned above, Barn Owls and Kestrels don't appear to be doing well this year, there are several theories as to why this has happened, our regular followers on here may remember at the beginning of the year (throughout February and into spring), that day time hunting Barn Owls were a daily occurrence on the Ings – something which you wouldn’t expect to see usually. It was believed that the owls were struggling to find enough food through darkness, with them resorting to hunting during the day.
Last year we know the vole cycle crashed during the winter, as they can do periodically, being very cyclical, and although we didn’t have a particularly harsh winter and the birds were able to hunt, it did mean unfortunately that they were struggling to find food, and we sadly picked up half a dozen starving or dead individuals – most birds however did survive the winter but weren’t able to obtain good enough body condition in order to breed. Putting energy into producing eggs, incubating them for four to five weeks, brooding chicks for another three, and feeding them for another six or seven is quite a big energetic expense on the females. Whilst the vole cycle is now likely to be recovering gradually, it is interesting to note that the few pairs we have heard about locally as rearing broods have, all bar one, been supplementary fed – with kind farmers and landowners providing additional small mammals and dead day old chicks.