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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Friday, 10 May 2019

05/05/19 - Groppers & Garganey

It's already looking like it’s going to be a good year for Grasshopper Warblers in the valley, with up to three singing or ‘reeling’ males located so far. Like the name suggests Grasshopper Warblers (also known as Groppers), have a high pitched, insect-like reeling song, similar to that of a grasshopper which is the best clue to their presence. They are rather elusive, often singing from the base of dense cover and can be hard to locate - more often than not a view of this bird is brief, often mouse-like, creeping through low dense foliage in reedbeds and adjacent scrub. Last week several of our team were fortunate to have a better view when one of the birds found its way in to one of our mist-nets. 

This is the 21st individual to have been ringed on the reserve, from our ringing recoveries we were notified that an individual ringed in July 2011 was later recovered heading south on migration at Titchfield Haven, Hampshire 345km and just 20 days later. Arriving here from mid-April Groppers are present until late July and August before wintering in western Africa – British ringed birds having been found wintering in Senegal and the Gambia. Although they can occur almost anywhere, Wheldrake Ings and the Pocklington Canal (particularly around Church Bridge near Melbourne) can often be the best chances of hearing one. When visiting the site please feel free to let us know if you come across any.

So far this spring we have already seen good numbers of Garganey - our only summer migrant duck species, which arrive in the UK from their African wintering grounds from mid-March, remaining until late August-early September. The drakes are stunningly colourful, with a beautiful chestnut brown head with prominent white stripe above the eye and distinctive pale blue forewing in flight, however they are a scarce, unobtrusive and quite secretive species, often only their call giving away their presence, much like an old football rattle and hence the old English name of ‘Cricket Teal’.

With around 100-150 pairs in the UK, the Lower Derwent Valley is something of a stronghold for this species in Northern England. A pair which have been present since 6th April have been showing well, and almost daily at Bank Island, with up to three pairs also present at the nearby Wheldrake Ings. As the vegetation grows and the water draws down birds will become harder to see, occasionally appearing in front of the hides like this drake photographed recently by regular valley birder Duncan Bye.  

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