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.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

16/02/16 - Signs of spring

Last week whilst working on the Common we came across this 7-spot Ladybird nestled amongst one of the Gorse bushes, which is the first individual to be seen this year, presumably drawn out of hibernation by the mid-day sunshine. Over the winter 7-spot Ladybirds are dormant, hiding in dense vegetation, hollow plant stems and under the bark of trees and logs. Emergence in spring depends on winter temperatures but can be as early as mid-February in mild years.

This species is the most familiar ladybird in the UK, and the one that is most frequently encountered, it can be found in a range of habitats wherever its prey, aphids, are found. Both the adults and larvae are voracious predators, making them a gardener’s best friend – devouring more than 5,000 aphids a year! Like their name suggests, they have seven black spots on the red wing cases – three on each wing and a seventh, just behind the head overlapping both the wing cases. The bright colours are a warning to predators that they taste unpleasant, and when threatened they can ‘play’ dead whilst secreting a rather foul smelling fluid from their leg joints.

 
7-spot Ladybird - Skipwith Common - 10/02

As well as the emergence of ladybirds the first Gorse Shieldbugs had also appeared from hibernation, a total of 21 individuals were counted, presumably also lured out by the brief spell of warm sunshine. This species over winters amongst leaf litter, tucking themselves away from the cold and frost, following hibernation they will then emerge at this time of year and can often be found sunning themselves amongst the Gorse spikes. Gorse Shieldbugs appear in two colour forms, prior to hibernation the adults have distinctive red/purple markings which begin darken as winter approaches, the following year as they begin to mature in spring their colour will then become predominately green. At first glance they could be confused with the Green Shieldbug – but the habitat (usually Gorse and Broom), and the red antennae gives them away.  

 
Gorse Shieldbug - Skipwith Common - 10/02

Thursday, 11 February 2016

10/02/16 - February count

With the water slowly starting to recede, last week the team were able to walk the floodbank (from Bubwith Bridge to East Cottingwith), to assess the flood damage and to try and gauge the number of birds currently present across the site - the last WeBS was unfortunately not possible due to the extreme flooding making the site largely inaccessible. Other than a large raft of Pochard at Bubwith (299), the first part of the walk (Bubwith and North Duffield) was rather quiet. Upon reaching Aughton two rafts of Tufted Ducks were viewable (105), which included a single female Scaup. Two female Smew also present there were the find of the day. 

Redshank

A total of 112 Whooper Swans were present on Ellerton, along with 16 Mutes and 250 Greylags. As we reached Thorganby the first Redshank of the day could be heard, with a total of 33 present on the floodbank, also there were a large number of Shelduck – 151. Throughout the day (including a count over North Duffield Ings and Bank Island), a total of 5720 Wigeon and 6580 Teal were had. As always when visiting the hides on the reserve please leave any counts in the log books provided. 

Golden Plover & Lapwing

Full totals across the site on the 03/02/16:

North Duffield Carrs: 
- 49 Mute Swan
- 2 Greylag Geese
- 4 Canada Geese
- 18 Shelduck
- 6 Tufted Duck
- 100 Wigeon
- 350 Lapwing 
- 1 Great Crested Grebe

Bubwith Ings:
 - 4 Mute Swan
- 289 Pochard
- 22 Tufted Duck
- 250 Wigeon
- 4 Gadwall
- 3 Goldeneye

Aughton Ings:
- 12 Mute Swan
- 8 Greylag Geese
- 1 Pink-footed Goose
- 10 Pochard
- 105 Tufted Duck
- 1600 Wigeon
- 2300 Teal
- 30 Pintail
- 1 Shoveler
- 1 Scaup
- 2 Smew
- 1 Coot

Ellerton Ings:
- 16 Mute Swan
- 112 Whooper Swan
- 250 Greylag Geese
- 7 Barnacle Geese
- 4 Shelduck
- 39 Tufted Duck
- 2410 Wigeon
- 2950 Teal
- 1 Scaup
- 110 Golden Plover
- 10 Dunlin

Thorganby Ings:
-  151 Shelduck
- 530 Wigeon
- 230 Teal
- 2 Shoveler 
- 400 Lapwing
- 20 Dunlin
- 4 Heron

East Cottingwith: 
- 6 Mute Swan
- 650 Wigeon
- 150 Teal
- 2000 Lapwing
- 1000 Golden Plover
- 100 Dunlin
- 10 Ruff
- 2 Redshank

North Duffield Ings:
- 650 Wigeon
- 600 Teal
- 20 Pintail
- 650 Lapwing
- 200 Golden Plover
- 5 Dunlin
- 6 Ruff
- 1 Redshank

Bank Island:
- 14 Mute Swan
- 4 Shelduck
- 11 Tufted Duck
- 410 Wigeon
- 200 Teal
- 2 Scaup
- 70 Mallard
- 1 Heron 

Now that the flood water is gradually beginning to recede we are starting to see to what extent the damage is, and how much of a clean-up operation is going to be needed. Upon visiting North Duffield Carrs last week, we found that half of Garganey Hide has now re-appeared, with the remaining half still under water, thus entry to the hide is still not possible – even in wellies! From a distance it appears that the windows are damaged and others are missing, the hide itself will also be left saturated and presumably covered in flood debris. All the noticeboards will need to be removed and re-done, and new seats will need to be made, so unfortunately this hide will remain closed to the public until further notice. The path which leads down to the hide has also been affected, with the wooden boards ripped out of the ground and the substrate washed away. Some sections of the path have unfortunately been left inaccessible for pushchairs and wheelchairs – plans are in place to get it back in use as soon as possible.





Tuesday, 9 February 2016

08/02/16 - Bonxie

With the vast expanse of water in the valley at the moment, combined with the recent high winds whipping up waves, you could be forgiven for mistaking the Ings for the North Sea. However, a bird which is more at home on the coast – a Great Skua – turned up unexpectedly at Wheldrake Ings on Thursday morning, and was still present over the weekend. Birdwatchers in the UK will be more familiar with this species as it migrates passed our shores in late summer and early autumn.

Great Skua’s are rarely found inland, instead we would expect to see them at sea, often harassing other sea birds to try and get them to disgorge or drop their food in order steal a free meal. They will challenge birds as large as a Gannet and predate on small birds like Puffins – this aggressive behaviour has given them the nickname the pirate of the skies, however regular birdwatchers will also know them more fondly as a ‘bonxie’. They also show little fear of humans and will dive-bomb anyone who may dare to approach their nest site. This is the fourth individual to have been recorded in the LDV – the present bird may have been driven inland or across country by the recent gales and storm ‘Henry’ that we have been experiencing lately. Many thanks to local birder Trevor Walton for dropping into the NNR office to notify us about the skua, and also for sending us the images below. 




Monday, 1 February 2016

31/01/16 - Buzzard release

Once again Jean has been doing more of her fantastic work, appearing at the NNR base bright and early last Monday morning with a fine looking Common Buzzard ready to be off. The unfortunate bird had somehow managed to end up in one of the tanks at Elvington Water Treatment works, on the northern edge of the reserve. Fortunately it was spotted by a concerned worker who could see the state of distress the bird was in, with it being too wet and cold to take off he immediately took it to Battle Flatts Vets at Stamford Bridge. On arrival Mark, the vet, dried and warmed the bird before it arrived at Jean’s for some of her expert TLC. Having not fed for a number of days Jean kept it warm and helped build up its strength, with the aim of releasing it back into the wild as soon as possible. Pleasingly the bird fared well and was soon ready to go, per the golden rule of rehab, it was released back in Elvington - fantastic to see it take off and soar above us before drifting off over the nearby woodland. Many thanks to everyone involved in the rescue, care and release of this individual.




Several days after the release of Jean's bird, local wildlife photographer Terry Weston sent us this fantastic image of a bird he photographed on the reserve, at a site fairly nearby, in Kexby. 


Common Buzzards have shown a dramatic population increase in the area (following a large range expansion in the UK) over the last 20 years or so. Buzzard sightings were a real ‘red letter day’ for local birdwatchers in the valley in the late 1980’s and early 90’s, with only 5-10 sightings a year during this period. This number of sightings are now regularly reported on a daily basis and an estimated 12-15 pairs bred throughout the area in 2015.