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.

Friday, 29 April 2016

28/04/16 - Herons, Whimbrel & Wheatears

Last week the team visited the local heronry to undertake the first series of nest counts and to check on breeding success. A total of 24 active nests were counted, which is a little down on recent years, although it appears to be a rather late season so there is time yet. Whilst checking the nests we managed to take a few quick photographs from the tree tops – pictured here is a very young heron chick, and a clutch of four eggs. We had been expecting to be able to ring some of the young but it soon became clear that most of the chicks were too small – with some just hatching and several adults still incubating clutches. After a quick check of a sample of nests we departed to allow the adults to get back to incubating and brooding – fingers crossed the cold nights, and snow and hail won’t have caused them too many problems during the last few days – hopefully the weather will take a turn for the better soon...

Along with monitoring the heron population, we're also on the look out for any of our colour-ringed Whimbrel. The first returning birds touched down in the Lower Derwent Valley on Saturday 16th April, with three individuals seen flying over Bank Island late evening. A brief stop at the fields in Storwood on Monday revealed another two birds (neither with colour-rings). Each year we look forward to seeing these remarkable birds passing through the reserve which they use as a spring staging site. 

Over 100 birds have been colour-ringed at the Wheldrake roost since 2004, and since then 75% of these birds have been re-sighted in subsequent years around the valley. Last year new recovery details came in for two birds, with one individual seen on autumn passage on the Ythan Estuary, Aberdeenshire, for the third year (pictured below), followed by a second individual that had been photographed wintering off the Senegal coast. Please let us know if you come across any colour-ringed birds in and around the valley (or elsewhere), and feel free to get in touch if you think that a group that you’re part of might like to hear a talk on our Whimbrel or any other wildlife from the LDV.

With the (brief spell) of warm sunshine last week it finally felt like spring had arrived, our returning summer migrants – Swallows and House Martins, filled the skies above the local villages whilst Willow Warblers, Whitethroats and Blackcaps sang from the willow scrub around the reserve. At this time of year Wheatears also pass through the area on the way to their breeding sites in Northern England and Scotland, and onwards to Iceland. They often favour the flood banks of the River Derwent, tilled arable fields and muck heaps which provide plenty of flies and grubs for them to refuel with. This male was photographed with plenty of prey buzzing around it, near Thornton Ellers last week.

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