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.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

12/02/18 - Plenty to see!

Currently among the huge numbers of wintering geese in the Lower Derwent Valley, there is a flock of eight Barnacle Geese, which can be seen (most of the time) in the Bank Island area with occasional visits to Wheldrake Ings. This rather attractive and dainty little species is more usually found in large numbers around the Solway in Dumfries and Galloway, where 33,000 spend the winter escaping the harsh conditions back on their breeding grounds in Svalbard. 58,000 birds from the Greenland wintering population winter largely in Ireland and the Western Isles of Scotland, whilst around 900 pairs (3000 individuals) have formed a feral population from collection escapes and introductions in the UK. Whilst we don’t know the origin of the birds with us at the moment, birds shot in the valley during the winter of 1990/91 had been ringed in Svalbard earlier in the breeding season, indicating not all of the records in the valley relate to wandering individuals of the free flying flock of 30 or so birds at the University. Regardless of where they’re from, with their black head and neck, creamy white face and blue-grey barring on their back, they are nice for us to enjoy!

It's not just the Barnacle Geese that our visitors have been enjoying lately, the pool at Wheldrake Ings and flooded fields at North Duffield Carrs have really been a sight to enjoy, with thousands of wintering ducks, geese and swans creating a real spectacle. Marsh Harriers regularly hunt over the floodwater, thus causing mayhem among the wildfowl beneath them, with large flocks of ducks twisting and turning over the water, pictured below.

The pool at Wheldrake Ings has also been worth a visit lately, with up to 19 Goldeneye present. The drakes are looking particularly handsome at the moment, and have been seen displaying to the females. When visiting the hides, please be aware that the path has been left incredibly wet and muddy following the river bursting its banks and flooding the path and over into the Ings. All hides are now accessible once again, but please take care on the slippery surfaces and wellies are essential.

Whilst the weather has been decidedly cold lately, there have been a few signs of spring, with the first Lapwing displaying and Curlew singing. Lapwing are a familiar species to many of us, a bird of farmland, wet grassland and estuaries. The name Lapwing comes from their waving and tumbling flight, although they are also affectionately known by the country name of ‘Pewit’, originating from the sounds of their display calls. Lapwings have suffered a dramatic decline with an 80% drop in the population since the 1960’s, which halved between 1987 and 1998. In the Lower Derwent Valley we are fortunate enough to have both good wintering and breeding numbers, helped by our management works – recently several of our team counted an impressive 10,000+ at Wheldrake Ings, where the flocks had concentrated due to the extensive flooding elsewhere in the valley. This year we’ll be hoping for another successful breeding season to help boost the local population, hopefully with a good number of chicks enjoying the new wader scrapes and grips, and the open more landscape as a result of our willow control programme.

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