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.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

20/09/17 - Rhodo removal

Last week our team of volunteers once again visited Forge Valley Woods NNR, with Reserve Manager Fallon Mahon to start removing Rhododendron. This is a partnership project that has been funded via external grants secured by the Raincliffe Woods Community Enterprise and the Woodland Trust, with the aim of helping to remove this non-native species from the woodland. Whilst arguably attractive, Rhododendron can form dense areas of cover where native flora is suppressed, and due to the plant containing toxins it can further eliminate surrounding vegetation growth such as the carpets of Bluebells, Wild Garlic, Dog's Mercury, Sanicle, and various ferns to name but a few that carpet the woodland floor. More clearance will be happening across the woodlands at Forge Valley and Raincliffe Woods during the coming winter, so hopefully by next spring we’ll see a real difference as a result of the work.  Many thanks to everyone once again for their efforts.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

17/09/17 - Flailing the day away

It's that time of year again when we’ve been out and about on the tractor carrying out further land management throughout the valley. We’ve been busy flailing the edges of the meadows and ditch sides to stop invasive, more dominant species from creeping out into the edges of the flower rich meadows – such as Himalayan Balsam, Creeping Thistle and Common Stinging Nettle. Flailing also helps maintain the areas that the local farmers can cut for hay, furthering maintaining the amount of valuable habitat. It also prevents such areas being taken over by willows or hawthorn scrub, and helps maintain suitable spots for small mammals, hunting owls and other predators, whilst also providing early and late season cover for species such as Corncrakes and Quail. 

Last week we were joined by our own flock of Swallows feeding on the insects we disturbed on the vegetation as we went round the ditches on Wheldrake Ings. Whilst on the tractor we’ve also been fortunate to be able to enjoy a raptor spectacle, with a Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, Buzzards, Kestrels and Hobbies all hunting over the freshly cut grass.  

Whilst working in the meadows over the last few weeks we’ve also been seeing numerous frogs and toads – particularly young ones. At this time of year as autumn approaches our frogs and toads are busy feeding up on insects, slugs and spiders in preparation for the coming winter. Later in the season with the cold weather fast approaching they will then start to seek out a suitable spot to spend the next few months in, such as a log pile or compost heap, some individuals also might choose to over winter at the bottom of a pond, burying themselves underneath the silt. Frogs don’t hibernate all winter like some creatures do, any mild patches of weather will usually bring them out in search of food. This individual was photographed in the NNR base garden as it made its way over the wildflower meadow, fortunately escaping the clutches of the allen scythe!

Saturday, 16 September 2017

15/09/17 - Manxies driven inland

Yesterday three Manx Shearwaters were picked up in the wider area surrounding the LDV – with singles at Barmby Moor, Howden and the outskirts of York – all found in gardens. These black and white seabirds spend most of their time out to sea, only coming ashore to breed in colonies in the UK, usually on offshore islands where they are safe from rats and other ground predators. Young birds start to leave their nest sites in July and August to migrate to the coast of South America, where they spend the winter, returning in late February and March. These three individuals, all young birds, may well have been ‘wrecked’ inland due to recent storms on the West Coast, which has seen the rescue of over 150 grounded birds in Pembrokeshire, Wales. All three birds were rehabilitated, ringed and returned to the coast by Jean Thorpe and the RSPCA, representing the 2nd, 3rd & 4th individuals to be ringed in the area, and only the 6th-8th records - all of which have been picked up exhausted having been storm driven in autumn (last year Jean had three birds in, also on the 14th September). Many thanks to Jean for returning them back to where they belong.

Friday, 15 September 2017

08/09/17 - Teal to Finland

With the weather feeling a little more autumnal of late we are now seeing the first build up in returning waterfowl back on the NNR. Numbers of Teal have risen over the last week to 190 and have brought with them the first two returning Wigeon of the season – only another 25,000 of these two species to go to reaching our annual peak counts! Other birds will undoubtedly already be on their way or starting out on their epic migrations from their breeding grounds in Iceland and across Northern Europe and into Russia. Today we’ve received a new ringing recovery from the BTO - a Teal ringed on the reserve at North Duffield Carrs in January 2015, has just been recovered in Veteli, Vaasa, Finland – 1780 Km to the north east of the valley on the 31st August. Numbers here should start to increase quickly from now on, by the end of the month there could 500-1000 using the pool at Wheldrake Ings - as always when visiting the reserve please leave any records in the hide log books provided, thank you.

Monday, 4 September 2017

01/09/17 - Return to Forge

On Tuesday this week the team were working at Forge Valley Woods NNR (a great example of a valley side of mixed deciduous woodland), and located near Scarborough meant shorter commute for our East Coast volunteers, although a long trip for our West Yorkshire based volunteer Emily – dedication as always! The day was spent strimming and raking off the area of limestone grassland above the quarries where species like Rock Rose, Quaking Grass, Wild Thyme and Primrose flourish, whilst providing a valuable nectar source for many of our dead wood invertebrates. After a successful and hard morning on the slopes, lunch was had lunch by the river, and whilst there we caught and ringed a Dipper - it’s always a real treat to see one at such close range and to be able to share it with our hard working team was fantastic. 

Some of the team then joined up with local botanist Chris Wilson and successfully relocated the Royal Ferns that were re-introduced onto the site four years ago – great to know they are still flourishing and adding to visitor’s enjoyment of this fabulous place. Many thanks once again to our team for all their efforts


Tuesday, 29 August 2017

25/08/17 - Nestle lend a hand

At the beginning of the week we were delighted to welcome back a team of corporate volunteers from the York branch of Nestle, for a day helping out with scrub clearance on Wheldrake Ings. After teas/coffees and a meet and greet at the NNR base, the team headed out onto the reserve to undertake willow management. However before the hard work began, we stopped off on the way to see Mike and Chris who very kindly put on a bird ringing demonstration for the team, giving everyone the opportunity to see birds in the hand, and to find out about migration and how some species use the reserve for refuelling on their long journey. The team then made a start clearing willows from some wetter areas on the site, with the aim of helping to maintain the open views across the Ings. Many thanks to everyone involved for a really productive and enjoyable day.

Friday, 25 August 2017

20/08/17 - Team work

Last week our team of eager volunteers were hard at work once again, helping us make great progress with scrub clearance at North Duffield Carrs on Tuesday, and North Duffield Ings on Thursday – willows were lopped, hawthorns were topped and a good day was had by all! 

Working in glorious sunshine (complete contrast to the drenching everyone experienced the previous week!), the team did a great job of continuing to lower the height of the hawthorns – thus reducing the number of perching posts for crows, whilst maintaining close and dense bushes for breeding buntings and warblers. Throughout the day more willows were also removed, with the cuttings added to last week’s pile, ready for burning next week.

We can’t stress enough how invaluable our volunteers really are – so a big thank you to the team from last week for getting stuck in and doing such a great job.

Monday, 21 August 2017

14/08/17 - Corncrakes

We are pleased to be able to announce that Corncrakes have once again had an excellent year in the Lower Derwent Valley at their only regularly English breeding site away from the Ouse and Nene Washes re-introduction sites. Corncrakes have been almost annual visitors to the valley over the last three or four decades, but over the last six or seven years have shown a real trend of being established once again as a regular breeding species, which follows the introduction of several conservation measures by NE in partnership with local farmers and landowners. 

This year a total of eight calling males have been present, and behaviour of those present suggest at least five pairs may have bred and attempted second broods in the valley this year – many people have been able to enjoy listening to the birds in front of the hides at Wheldrake Ings and North Duffield Carrs, with one or two lucky visitors also enjoying sightings. Recently fledged young have been seen at North Duffield. Many thanks to everyone involved in this fantastic success story – and if you’d like to know more about what lengths some of the local farmers have gone to in order to protect this important species, by trialling 'Corncrake friendly mowing' - as pictured below - then please visit the Facebook page of our friends at Rosewood Farm.

Friday, 11 August 2017

03/08/17 - Working and 'swanning'

This week our fantastic team of volunteers have been hard at work once again, this time helping us to manage the hedges, riverbank hawthorns and scattered willows at North Duffield Carrs, and with so many extra pairs of hands several of the team were also busy strimming vegetation at the ‘top pond’, whilst two eager souls waded across to the island to rake and burn the remaining cut vegetation. Throughout the course of the day we also flailed the edge of the meadows, bunds and ditch sides, in order to help maintain the open landscape that has been well appreciated by our breeding waders this year (following similar management work last summer and autumn). 

At the end of another very productive day, we then finished off by catching one of the resident broods of Mute Swans – a pair with five cygnets, in order to ring and colour-ring them as part of our long running population study. Many thanks as always to the team for all their hard work.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

01/08/17 - Minster Peregrines

Over the last few weeks Jean has been up to her usual amazing and heroic efforts in rescuing and safe guarding our special wildlife, particularly birds of prey. Some of our regular followers might remember that earlier in the year Jean was involved in successfully looking after several juvenile Peregrines, and releasing them back into the wild - including the young bird that was featured on Springwatch, following the illegal persecution of its parents. Three of the other chicks fledged from their foster nests, whilst a fourth bird was returned to another site near Ferrybridge having crash landed on an early flight. That bird wasn’t to be the last Peregrine Jean would see this year though – as last week one of the York Minster chicks ended up on the ground on its maiden flight. Jean was soon in action and safely returned the chick to the nesting ledge to keep it out of harm’s way until it gets a little bit more strength in those flight muscles. After a few years of attempting to breed on this site this is the first time they have been successful.

After an absence until the 1980's, Peregrines have since become regular winter visitors to the area, with four or five birds seen on an almost daily basis around the reserve. The first breeding pair was recorded six years ago in the adjacent area, and now it’s great to see them back in the heart of the city – well done to all involved and well done once again Jean for all the great work you do.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

26/07/17 - Making hay

With a break in the weather last week the valley has been a hub of activity with the local farming community busy making hay. This traditional practice of mid-summer hay making has been taking place for centuries, which, followed by aftermath grazing and the mix of summer grazing pastures around the valley, has shaped both the flowers and bird communities (and other wildlife), we enjoy on our doorstep here. Hay making can take place after the end of the bird breeding season and once the seeds have started to drop from the various wildflowers and grasses. The cutting of the grass also helps keep in check the more vigorous and dominant species of vegetation, and helps the finer grasses and more delicate herbs to flourish. This in turn helps maintain not only the meadows in good conditions for the flowers, but in providing suitable feeding conditions for our wintering waterfowl and breeding waders in subsequent seasons – all part of the rich seasonality of the Ings. 

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

22/07/17 - Kestrel success

At the end of last week we returned to our new Kestrel site, three weeks after finding five tiny newly hatched young. On arrival at the site, a natural tree hole in a large Ash, we were greeted by two large chicks peering down on us. Hoping the other chicks were at the back of the hole, we climbed up to unfortunately find just the two of them. Both of the chicks were quite well feathered and likely to survive, and being so advanced enabled us to sex them by looking at the colour of their tail feathers (grey for males, brown for females). 

This brood aside, on the whole it’s been good news, Kestrels seem to have had a very successful breeding season around the valley this year with a good number of birds being seen across the site - just this last week we've started to see fledged broods at Wheldrake and North Duffield Carrs - with six recently fledged chicks at both sites. 

Sunday, 30 July 2017

20/07/17 - Ducklings & decoys

Our invaluable team of hardy volunteers have been busy helping out with all sorts of jobs at Wheldrake Ings recently – even in the miserable and very wet weather of last week – a bit of rain obviously doesn’t faze our hardy crew! Along with clearing glades, managing water levels, maintaining paths and removing balsam, the team have also helped in pushing the corale and running the swan pipe to catch and ring some of our locally bred ducklings. It’s been a particularly good year for Gadwall with over 60 ducklings in various broods still present on the pool – out of those we’ve managed to catch 17 so far – a significant proportion of the national annual total. This will give us valuable information of this expanding population and where some of our ‘local’ ducks go to. We’ve had several Gadwall ducklings to France, two to Ireland and even one to Russia. 

We are also pleased to announce that we’ve just secured a £15,000 grant from Defra to carry out such further tracking work using newer technology on some of these birds – more to come shortly but exciting times ahead and more great work for our volunteers to be part of. Many thanks again to our great team for another productive day – and fantastic to welcome new volunteer Jo to the group.

Not only have we been busy working on the reserve lately, but we've also been putting the finishing touches to the Escrick Duck Decoy - last week our team of staff and volunteers were busy undertaking ongoing maintenance of this restored site. In very hot temperatures (stark contrast to last week’s rain!), the team spent the day working hard strimming back the pool side vegetation, cleaning out the pipes, treating the hide, and putting in way marked posts. Another fantastic effort from our super team, many thanks to all involved. 


Duck decoys were originally introduced from the Netherlands as a way of catching ducks for the local markets, with hundreds once in operation throughout England, however only a handful remain today. The Escrick site is the only remaining and restored site in Yorkshire, and will soon be operated to catch and ring ducks to further our knowledge of their movements. We have an ‘official’ opening event planned for early September, followed by an Open Day on the 9th September – watch this space for more details. Many thanks again to everyone for their efforts in helping to get this site up and running.