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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Feb' 19

Lower Derwent Valley NNR - February Sightings

The beginning of the month saw further limited flooding, followed by temporary deeper floods towards the end of February, with un-seasonally high temperatures and spring like conditions. 100 Whooper Swans remained early in the month, but the mild conditions triggered an earlier than usual departure, or at least return legs on migration with 227 moving through the site by month end. Four Bewick’s Swans also moved through on the 25th, resting at Bank Island for 30 minutes before continuing eastwards, whilst 1174 Pink-footed Geese headed north-west back to Lancashire. The conditions led to a rapid clear out of wintering Greylag Geese, with many resident birds back in pairs and holding territories by the 22nd. Extensive flooding, combined with spring passage and returning breeding populations, resulted in an increase in diving ducks with 240 Tufted Duck and 81 Pochard. Little Grebes returned to their breeding sites on the Ings from the 23rd when the first returning Great Crested Grebes also appeared. Following a poor winter so far, Coot numbers increased to 100+ by the 20th


Despite the decrease in large gulls in the roost this winter, a single adult Kumlien’s Gull (possibly the recent returning bird) was present at Wheldrake Ings on the 9th, with upto 10,000 Black-headed and 3000 Common Gulls. Barn Owls continued to show well throughout the site, with daily sightings of two to three birds at Bank Island. A single Little Owl was noted from the Thorganby viewing platform, whilst the first drumming Great-spotted Woodpeckers were heard on Skipwith Common on the 22nd. The NNR base feeders were busy with 50-60 Goldfinch, 40-50 Tree Sparrow and Chaffinch, with odd the Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting moving in during the latter part of the month in search of food. Bramblings remained scattered in low numbers whilst 60 Corn Buntings at the Melbourne roost on the 14th declined quickly thereafter due to the mild conditions, with just 10 remaining by the 22nd.

The warmer conditions resulted in an excepted increase in moth records, with a total of 11 species recorded including: Common Quaker, Satellite, Spring Usher, Dotted Border and Oak Beauty. The first Brimstone of the year was seen on Skipwith Common on the 22nd when a single Buff-tailed Bumblebee was present at the NNR base. A large emergence of 7-spot Ladybirds was noted on the 25th with the first Harlequin seen on the 26th.


Many thanks as always to everyone who has contributed records throughout the month, in particular to members of the YOC, and to Duncan Bye for the use of his photographs (credited DB).


BIRDS: 

Mute Swan – Up to 90 were present throughout the month.

Whooper Swan – 23 north-west over Bank Island on the 18th were followed by five there on the 19th. Following nocturnal passage reported overnight on the 22nd/23rd, 70 flew north over Wheldrake Ings on the 23rd, while another 32 passed over Melbourne on the 24th. A total of 77 flew north over Wheldrake and Bank Island in small herds on the 25th. 26 flew north over Wheldrake on the 26th followed by 14 there on the 27th and 20 on the 28th.  
Bewick’s Swan – Four flew into Bank Island on the 25th - after resting for 30 minutes the flock continued east up the River Derwent (CSR).

Greylag Goose – Numbers declined to c500 by mid-month, with many already in pairs by the 22nd following un-seasonally mild temperatures of 16 degrees.

Pink-footed Goose – 54 flew north over Aughton on the 1st followed by 202 over Bank Island on the 3rd. 450 flew north west over Thorganby on the 12th with 100 over North Duffield Carrs on the same date. 100+ flew in the same direction over Thorganby on the 14th, followed by 100 over Bank Island on the 17th and 90 on the 21st, on the same date 30 flew over Elvington (total of 1174). 48 headed in the same direction over Wheldrake Ings on the 23rd.

Canada Goose – 220 were present at East Cottingwith on the 3rd with just 140 remaining at month end.

Egyptian Goose – One pair at East Cottingwith.

Shelduck – Up to 60 were present throughout the month.

Wigeon – 9200 were present throughout the reserve on the 17th, including 4000+ at Wheldrake Ings.

Teal – Up to 5000 were present early in the month.

Mallard – 1400+ were present throughout the site on the 2nd, with freezing conditions concentrating birds onto the last remaining open water areas in the valley. Many had split into pairs by month end.

Pintail – 200 were still present in the Wheldrake/Bank Island area on the 17th with a total of 141 at Wheldrake on the 23rd.

Gadwall – 150 were present on the remaining unfrozen water at Wheldrake on the 2nd with 130 there on the 3rd and 155 on the 17th – on this date a total of 239 were present throughout the valley.

Gadwall - Wheldrake - 03/02 - DB
Shoveler –Wheldrake Ings held 137 on the 17th and 134 on the 23rd - smaller numbers were noted elsewhere. Monthly maximum of 198 on the 23rd.

Tufted Duck – With the onset of deeper flooding 6 arrived at Bank Island on the 8th, followed by 50 across Bank Island and Wheldrake on the 10th. Numbers increased dramatically with 240 between Bank Island and Wheldrake on the 17th, followed by 207 at Bank Island the following day. 199 were present between Wheldrake and Bank Island on the 23rd.

Tufted Duck/Pochard - Wheldrake - 17/02 - DB

Pochard – Following the increase in flooding, a group of 19 (15 drakes) arrived at Wheldrake on the 10th - soon increasing in numbers, with 81 present in the valley on the 17th.  Numbers then fell with receding water levels, just four remained on the 23rd.

Goldeneye – 15 were recorded on Wheldrake and Bank Island on the 17th, with 11 there on the 23rd. Displaying was noted from mid-month with a pair also seen copulating at Bank Island on the 22nd.

Cormorant – Up to 30 were present at the Wheldrake roost.

Little Egret – Two were seen feeding in ditches by Skipwith Common NNR on the 2nd, before flying over the Common. Two were present at Bank Island on the 13th along with one at Wheldrake Ings on the 18th. Two were present again at Bank Island on the 19th and regularly thereafter, with a single at Breighton Meadows on the 28th.

Little Grebe – Four had returned to their breeding site at Wheldrake Ings by the 23rd.

Great Crested Grebe – The first four returning birds were recorded at Wheldrake on the 23rd.  

Marsh Harrier – Up to four, an adult female and three immatures were present in the valley on the 3rd, followed by an adult and two immatures at North Duffield Carrs on the 13th. Daily sightings recorded throughout the month.

Peregrine - Up to four were present throughout the valley on the 3rd and regular thereafter.

Red Kite An increase in sightings as birds started to spread from the winter roosts. A single was present in the Storwood area on the 3rd with two over Dunnington on the 10th and a single over Skipwith Common on the 17th. Another single was at Wheldrake Ings on the 23rd.

Buzzard – Up to eight were present in the Storwood area from Wheldrake on the 3rd with a further 17 recorded around the valley during the day.

Kestrel – 21 were counted around the valley on the 3rd.

Grey Partridge – Two or three birds were heard calling after dark on several nights opposite the reserve base at Bank Island.

Water Rail – Up to three were present in the Church Bridge area of the Pocklington Canal during the month, with up to four at Wheldrake Ings and scattered individuals elsewhere.

Coot – A poor winter so far with just a single recorded in January. Numbers started to increase with 12 at Wheldrake on the 2nd followed by 97 on the 17th and five at Bank Island on the 18th.                                              

Oystercatcher – Three present throughout the site on the 10th were followed by two at North Duffield Carrs on the 13th and three at Wheldrake on the 17th.

Golden Plover – 500+ were back at Wheldrake on the 10th with 800+ at East Cottingwith on 11th - smaller numbers remained thereafter.

Lapwing – Following the 8000+ present throughout much of January, freezing conditions late in the month caused a large clear out with only a handful of birds remaining at the start of February. Following the thaw and re-flooding, 2000 re-appeared at Wheldrake on the 10th with 2500 there on the 12th. 4200 were present throughout the whole site on the 18th.

Common Snipe – Birds were widely scattered throughout with an estimated wintering population of about 500. 150+ were counted on several dates at Wheldrake Ings. 

Common Snipe - Wheldrake - 24/02 - DB

Jack Snipe – A single was recorded from the Low Grounds on the 10th.

Woodcock – Four were flushed on Skipwith Common on the 22nd. Numbers feeding on the Ings grasslands after dark declined towards the end of the month, with three at Wheldrake after dark on the 27th.

Dunlin – 50+ had returned to Ellerton Ings on the 11th with 90 there on the 18th and 50 on the Low Grounds on the 23rd.

Ruff – Up to 50 were scattered throughout the valley on most dates, with higher concentrations of 20 on the Low Grounds on the 25th and 43 at Bank Island on the 27th.

Black-tailed Godwit – Numbers increased as the month progressed with 15 present on the 23rd, with Wheldrake Ings being the usual stronghold for sightings.

Curlew – 62 were present between Wheldrake and Bank Island on the 23rd, with an estimated 90+ present throughout the site by month end. 

Curlew - Wheldrake - 17/02 - DB

Redshank – Up to 30 remained throughout the month.

Mediterranean Gull – A single winter plumaged adult was present in the Wheldrake Ings roost on the 17th (DB).

Black-headed Gull – A monthly maximum of 10,000 were at the Wheldrake roost on the 17th.

Common Gull – 3000 were present at the Wheldrake roost on the 17th.

Great Black-backed Gull – Up to 400 roosted in the valley during the month.

Lesser Black-backed Gull – Three at Bank Island pre-roost on the 26th.

Kumlien’s Gull – An adult was present at the Wheldrake roost on the 9th (JL), before being flushed by a Peregrine and flying south.

Herring Gull – Up to 1000 roosted in the valley early in the month.

Barn Owl – Freezing conditions in late January and early February resulted in a glut of sightings as birds were forced to hunt in daylight hours. 12 were recorded around the valley on the 1st with six recorded on the 2nd. Up to three showed daily at Bank Island. 

Barn Owl - Bank Island - 23/02 - DB

Little Owl – A single was present from the Thorganby viewing platform on the 10th.

Great Spotted Woodpecker – The first drumming bird was present at Skipwith Common on the 22nd.

Kingfisher – Birds were seen regularly around the Pocklington Canal near Melbourne during the month.

Stonechat – The pair at Wheldrake survived the freezing conditions early on, and were still present late in the month with another pair also remaining at North Duffield Carrs.

Raven – A single near Spaldington was seen flying towards Breighton Meadows on the 27th (CG) - the fourth record this winter of this expanding species.

Woodlark – The first returning bird was at Skipwith Common on the 12th with two there on the 22nd and a single on the 26th.

Skylark – Birds arrived back in large numbers with several pairs heard singing in warm weather late in the month.

Marsh Tit – A pair were present on Skipwith Common on the 22nd.

Lesser Redpoll – 40 were present at Skipwith Common on the 17th with 80 there on the 22nd and 100+ on the 26th. Up to 40 also frequented canal side Alders near Melbourne.

Common Redpoll – At least one was present with the Lesser Redpoll flock on Skipwith on the 26th.

Tree Sparrow – 40 to 50 remained at the NNR base feeders throughout the month.

Brambling – One in Elvington on the 1st, with four near Thornton Ellers on the 4th and two caught and ringed near Thorganby on the 12th. A single was present near Melbourne on the 13th. Two were seen near Skipwith Common on the 26th.

Yellowhammer – 35 were present with mixed finches near Thornton Ellers on the 4th, whilst a single caught and ringed at the NNR base feeders at Bank Island on the 13th was more unexpected, and rather surprisingly was followed by another on the 19th.

Reed Bunting – Numbers at the Melbourne roost fell to around 40 by month end.

Corn Bunting – 40 were present near Thornton Ellers on the 4th with 60 there on the 14th.  Mild weather towards month end resulted in birds quickly moving on.


MAMMALS:

Brown Hare – 13 were present on a frozen and snow dusted North Duffield Carrs on the 2nd.

Roe Deer – Common throughout the site with up to six daily at Bank Island.

Fallow Deer – 28 hinds were present near Thorganby village on the 14th (SW).

Pipistrelle Bat – A single was seen in Wheldrake village on the 22nd with two at the NNR base on the 27th.


REPTILES/AMPHIBIANS:

Smooth Newt – Two in the NNR base pond on the 26th.

Common Lizard – Three on Skipwith Common on the 26th with another there on the 27th

Common Lizard - Skipwith - 27/02


MOTHS:

Eleven species were recorded throughout the month including:  

Chestnut 
Clouded Drab
Common Quaker
Dotted Border
Grey Shoulder-knot
Hebrew Character
March Moth 
Oak Beauty
Pale Brindled Beauty
Satellite
Spring Usher



BUTTERFLIES:

Brimstone – A single at Skipwith Common on the 22nd (first of the year), was followed by five there on the 26th.

Comma – Five were present at Wheldrake Ings on the 25th with four at Skipwith Common on the 27th.

Comma - Skipwith - 25/02


Small Tortoiseshell – One at Wheldrake Ings on the 25th with one at Skipwith Common on the 27th.

Red Admiral – Three at Wheldrake Ings on the 25th.



OTHERS:

7-spot Ladybird – Up to 25 were recorded at Bank Island on the 25th in the first large emergence of the year, with 70+ in a small patch of Gorse on Skipwith Common on the 27th.

7-spot Ladybirds - Skipwith - 27/02


Gorse Shieldbug – Three at Skipwith Common on the 26th with 10+ there the next day.

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