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 how we manage the NNR for both wildlife and people.

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Tuesday 31 January 2012

29/01/12 - 'Catching up'

Well it's been a better week after last weeks frustrations – in that the cold weather and at sometimes freezing conditions appeared to help this week as the duck trap at North Duffield was set and produced a steady number of new birds.

It was set on Thursday (26th) and despite there being very few ducks using the Top Pond during the day, it caught several new Teal, Wigeon and Mallard the next morning, and has been steadily catching since with just under 30 birds by month end including the first Moorhen and Coot of the year.

The whoosh nets at Bank Island also produced during the week, 5 catches resulting in nearly 40 new Teal, one catch of six birds coinciding with a party of students visiting the reserve as part of our outreach programme. They all got some first hand experience of ringing, seeing Teal in the hand, and helping to let them go – maybe inspired the next generation of ringers in there.

All in all a good duck catching month with totals reaching 156 new birds – including a January record 88 Teal and another 45 Wigeon. In fact this is the second best January total we’ve had – probably due to the mild conditions and lack of flood water throughout the valley, both concentrating birds and allowing us to get to them. 

The reason of course we do all this is not to catch birds and ring them – it’s to get the data back on what they do to help build our knowledge of certain species and aid our conservation management of them. We received a few bits of news this week concerning birds we’ve ringed or controlled in the valley.

Firstly, the Shelduck we controlled in the cannon net catch (GN63293) on 10th Jan 2012  was originally ringed at Martin Mere WWT on 22/11/05. We’ve had two of our birds ringed in the valley move to Martin Mere WWT in recent years (as well as one to Ireland) so a bit of a east-west movement going on.

The next was initial details on another colour-ringed Ruff being reported in Lancashire – but still awaiting full details.

Monday 23 January 2012

22/01/12 - Minus temperatures = frustrating times!

Well it’s been a pretty frustrating time due to the cold weather we’ve been experiencing again lately, everywhere has been frozen apart from the river at Duffield for the majority of the week.

After seeing several hundred birds on the river at Duffield a suitable area was baited and in 24 hours all the grain had gone, so on Wednesday (18th) a new whoosh net was set up. Craig & Mike returned on Thursday at dawn with high hopes...however by Thursday the weather had become a lot milder and so the several hundred Wigeon that were on the river only came up onto the banks to graze the grass and totally ignored the grain! That has pretty much been the situation since with birds on the river and on the banks but none that were catchable. 

The position at Bank Island has been somewhat different, much of the water was frozen at the beginning of the week and the birds were more inclined to feed on the grain. Mike & Craig took a catch of 2 Teal and 5 Mallard on Wednesday morning (18th), and then on Thursday Craig had a catch of 20 Teal, most pleasing!

So all in all a frustrating week but we’re edging towards 90 non-passerines for the month so far! :)

Sunday 15 January 2012

15/01/12 - A week of Ducks, Buntings & Snipe!

It's been a great week ringing within the LDV - a cannon net catch, whoosh netting ducks, mist netting Snipe and a Corn Bunting roost have really built up the totals already for January!

Monday 9th - Craig headed off early to check the duck traps (both were empty) and to have a look at the cannon netted area, 10 Pintail, 150 Wigeon and 100 Greylags were in the catching area! Typical...! We considered a late afternoon catch but because most of the grain had already been hoovered up we were unsure as to whether the birds would venture back into the area, the decision was taken to leave it until tomorrow. We headed to Swantail Hide late afternoon to try a Reed Bunting roost, two nets were positioned along the boardwalk, ofcourse not long after the still afternoon turned windy...only two birds were caught, a Dunnock and Reed Bunting! As light was fading we waded out to re-grain the area with the view of hopefully taking a catch tomorrow. It was definitely the right decision not to go with the catch this afternoon because as predicted not many birds ventured into the area, just a handful of ducks searching for remains of the grain.

Tuesday 10th - We met at half 8 this morning at the base and headed off shortly after with the hope of a big catch! On arrival there weren’t all that many birds in the area just like Sunday but there were atleast a few milling about in the water, mainly Teal with a few Wigeon mixed in. Eventually a few birds made their way onto the grain and then 6 Shelduck paddled into the zone which clinched the decision to fire (around half past 11).

Ready to ring
Comparing Teal
Male Teal

Clearing up
A long walk back!

The total catch was 37 birds, made up of 6 Shelduck, 9 Wigeon and 22 Teal. Even though we didn't get the 300+ we'd aimed for it was worth the wait! Catching the Shelduck was particularly pleasing as two of them already had darvics on, CL and XB, and another had a single BTO ring. After the catch we looked back over the database and found that CL was ringed on 16/04/11 at Wheldrake and XB was ringed on 22/03/11 at Thorganby ponds. We’re still waiting to track down where the other Shelduck has come from as it's not one from the valley, we'll post the details when we get them. Out of the 9 Wigeon caught today we had 8 new birds and one re-trap which was ringed in the valley in 2009.

Also today, Dave ringed (and colour ringed) the first Snipe of the year on Skipwith, 6 Common and 1 Jack.

Thursday 12th - This afternoon we headed down to Swantail to set the new dummy net and cannons with the view of taking a cannon net or whoosh net catch there next week. Later whilst down at Thorganby and measuring up for the new fence line we found a dead Wigeon on the river bank (probably shot) - FH42237 originally ringed on 25/10/11 at the Top Pond Duffield.

Friday 13th - After a morning spent at Duncombe Park we came back to the office to find 30+ Teal in the whoosh net area on Bank Island. This led to a quick sprint to the hide to fire the net but unfortunately only one half of the net fired due to only one pin coming out....leaving us with a catch of 2 Teal and a single Wigeon. Once the ducks were processed and back on the water we headed to Melbourne for the Corn Bunting roost. A few birds were on the wires when we arrived and an hour or so later the highest count had reached 70 just before they dropped into the reed bed. Three walks through the reeds resulted in 28 birds being caught - 20 Corn Buntings (17 new, 3 re-traps), and 8 Reed Buntings (6 new, 2 re-traps).

Tonight’s catch of Corn Bunts has equalled the best ever catch and the biggest one for quite a few years and it is particularly pleasing to catch three re-traps! All the birds caught tonight were fitted with colour rings, the three re-traps had colour rings on already, leading us to believe they were birds we’d ringed before on this site. Once we looked back through the database it was found that the re-traps were originally ringed in March 2010, January 2011 and November 2011. In addition to the Corn Bunt re-traps we also had a Reed Bunting control, possibly from a ringing site at Allerthorpe gravel pits, just over 5km from Melbourne.

Craig helping Jean fit the colour rings
Each ring was glued to prevent them getting caught/falling off
 Showing off his new colour rings!
Male Corn Bunting

Thanks to everyone who helped with the roost tonight, it’ll be left now until mid February to minimise disturbance to the birds.

Saturday 14th - Mike was up early doors this morning to release the Corn Buntings and Reed Buntings after roosting them overnight. Bank Island was frozen this morning but the pool at Wheldrake was still open, there he found a new Teal in the duck trap plus a re-trap male Mute Swan!

Monday 9 January 2012

08/01/12 - All for nothing!

Saturday afternoon Mike, Craig, Robin, Jean and Dave headed down to Wheldrake to set the net for tomorrows planned cannon net catch. On arrival there were 7000+ Wigeon and 2500+ Teal on the water plus Shoveler, Gadwall, Pintail and Shelduck.

Setting the net
Robin & Craig checking the firing line 

It was an early start this Sunday morning, 7.30am meet at the office so that we could be on Wheldrake before first light. On arrival there weren’t all that many ducks present but thousands of gulls. Not long after the gulls started to move off and the ducks arrived, however not in the right place! Thousands of Wigeon were present but they were all infront of Swantail Hide, nowhere near the firing area...we watched in frustration as a large group of Teal dropped in but again not where we needed them to be. The hours ticked by and nothing was happening, then a Peregrine arrived on the scene flushing all the Lapwing (2000+) and managing to take one out but it lost its grip and the bird tumbled downwards. The Peregrine didn’t give up and continued to stay around for the next hour, constantly flushing the Lapwing and Teal. The Wigeon didn’t seem all that bothered but were making no movement towards the grain. Then just when we were thinking it was looking more promising as a group of Teal were swimming in the direction of the area, a large group of Greylags dropped in but then straight back out again & unsettled the Teal causing all the birds to take off!

Whilst we waited patiently in the Landrovers along with having stunning views of the Peregrine hunting (which we could have done without though!), there was also a Marsh Harrier and Sparrowhawk around. After almost 5 hours of waiting and with it not looking promising in the slightest the decision was made to call it a day and try again tomorrow or later in the week.......

Friday 6 January 2012

06/01/12 - Happy New Year, Happy New Grebe!

Well 2012 has got off to a good start in the valley with 16 birds caught in the first few days, including a Little Grebe!

Sunday 1st - Mike & Craig took the first whoosh net catch at Bank Island this morning and caught 8 Teal! Afterwards they identified and grained up a potential area on Wheldrake for a cannon net catch next week.

Tuesday 3rd - This morning Mike had 2 Mallard in the Wheldrake duck trap and Dave caught another 3 Mallard on Skipwith Common. After finishing clearing up the trees which had come down in the wind on Skipwith we headed to Wheldrake to re-grain the cannon net area and put in dummy cannons and a net to get the birds used to them before the weekend. It was quite hard work carrying over the buckets of grain, wooden stakes, dummy cannons etc in the gale force winds the LDV and the rest of Yorkshire experienced today!

Wednesday 4th - Mike & Craig had just the one Mallard in the Wheldrake duck trap this morning. The water levels are rising rapidly with all the heavy rain from the last few days, which has resulted in a lot of water coming on to Bank Island and with it a Little Grebe appeared there this morning. Mike & Craig attempted catching it using the same technique that we’d used on the Pocklington Canal, the Little Grebe did go in the net but managed to get out...will try again another day, can’t win them all!

Thursday 5th - Mike & Craig headed to Wheldrake early this morning, nothing was in the whoosh net area or in the duck trap. After spotting the Little Grebe at Bank Island again we set the net and crossed our fingers! Not long after another one appeared, we waited patiently as they both swam and fed around the net. They even swam over it and dived several times but to our amazement didn’t get caught up in the net! After a bit of a wait eventually one of them did but the other promptly swam off! Once in the hand the bird was identified as a young bird, it was ringed and also fitted with a yellow colour ring. Out of the two we did on 01/12/11 the bird sporting the pink colour ring has since been seen again on the Pocklington Canal.  

Mike showing Ian how to shape the ring

                                   Craig & Ian ageing the Little Grebe

During the afternoon we headed down to Wheldrake to check the area for Sunday, the water level is still high but we’re hopeful it’s going to be able to go ahead. It was much harder work today wading through mud/deep water to get to the area whilst carrying the buckets of grain in the strong winds again! We adjusted the net slightly and took out the wooden stakes which seemed to be putting some of the birds off. Hopefully Sunday will come off and it’ll have been worth it! 

Friday 6th - Plenty of birds were around today but none in the catching area of the whoosh nets and just the one Mallard in the duck trap on Wheldrake.

Monday 2 January 2012

2011 - Year Summary

Well, where to start, it’s been a fantastic year ringing wise on the LDV for many species of birds. 2010 saw a record 3500 new birds caught, and this year the provisional total at the minute is looking in the region of over 7000! This includes the LDV itself, Skipwith Common and ringing on nearby sites in the adjacent wider LDV area such as Allerthorpe and Thorganby.

We’ve had the second best ever year for wildfowl – 1125 for the year, 2004 is the best on record with 1250. A target of 2000 has been set for 2012....watch this space...!

However, we’ve not had such a good year for waders (62), compared to 98 last year. Although we have colour ringed good numbers  of Snipe, Curlew, Redshank and Lapwing.

It’s been a bumper year for migrants/warblers/buntings – 428 Willow Warblers, 337 Chiffchaffs, 374 Sedge Warblers, 231 Reed Warblers, 508 Reed Buntings and 110 Whitethroats.

We’ll put an updated list on the blog with the final totals as soon as we’ve collected all the data from the various places/ringers!

So a big thank you goes out to everyone who’s helped contribute to ringing in the valley this year – the massive end total is fantastic but it doesn’t really relay the sheer effort of numerous early mornings, late nights, wet and muddy evenings, moving traps, setting nets, baiting traps, ferrying grain to and from sites etc etc!!

Without the ringers we have on site none of this would have been possible so a big thank you goes out to everyone who makes up the LDV Team. Also thanks to Robin Ward and Mark Fletcher for helping with the cannon netting sessions, and to visiting ringers - Chris Blakeley, Chris Brown and Eric Wood who were also involved.

Thank you to Ian Nicholson and Paul Thorpe for all the ringing they’ve done this year and to volunteers John Cahill and Ernie & Kath who have helped with habitat management, moving nets, baiting traps etc. Thanks goes to Jean Thorpe for the all the hard work and countless hours she’s put in this year rehabilitating so many birds and other wildlife of which many have been successfully released within the LDV.  

Also thank you to Steve Huddleston of www.wheatear.biz for support and provision of traps and equipment, and thanks to Pete Reid for his excellent whoosh nets which have added so many waterfowl onto the totals.

Additional thanks must also go to the landowners CCT, YWT and Escrick Park Estate and other private individuals who’ve allowed access and permission to their land.


Here’s hoping 2012 is an even better year for the Lower Derwent Valley!

Sunday 1 January 2012

December - Summary

The total number of wildfowl caught within the LDV this month = 116

Little Grebe 2
Mallard 19
Moorhen 5
Pintail 2
Teal 37
Whooper Swan 4
Wigeon 47

31/12/11 - Last few for 2011!

During the last two weeks of December Mike & Craig managed to keep the duck ringing going right through the festive period, adding another 16 birds to the monthly totals, bringing it to 116 for December. The heavy rain during the last two weeks meant that the water levels rose which saw a lot of the birds move from the river and Top Pond at North Duffield and on to Wheldrake which has started to flood.

Here’s a brief summary of the catches from the last two weeks.

Wednesday 21st - Craig & Mike headed down to Duffield before dawn, and watched as the Wigeon moved around the catching area without ever actually going in it! After a long and frustrating wait they finally fired on two Moorhens. Most of the ice has melted from the Top Pond now, leaving the duck trap much easier to access! 2 Mallards and a Wigeon were in today.

Thursday 22nd - Mike went down to Wheldrake before dawn, there were lots of birds on the pool, plenty of ducks and 60 Whoopers. The Wigeon were being very wary and not coming up to the grain, after waiting over an hour and no birds coming into the area Mike packed up and headed to North Duffield. There were very few birds on the river and just the one Wigeon in the duck trap.

Friday 23rd - Mike headed down to Wheldrake this morning in the dark, again lots of birds were on the pool but not coming up to the grain. After another long wait he eventually managed a catch of 3 Wigeon, all young males. The river was starting to come up so the whoosh net may need moving sooner rather than later! 2 new Wigeon in the duck trap at Duffield.

Tuesday 27th - Today Jean brought in a Mute Swan for Mike to ring and release on the reserve, whilst down at Wheldrake they found a single Mallard in the duck trap. Since last Friday Mike has not managed a catch, possibly due to the water levels changing. A lot more water coming is now coming on to Wheldrake which has brought thousands of ducks (7000+ Wigeon) on to the area between the scrape and the Cormorant trees. There are equally many birds on Bank Island however there are no birds on the river at North Duffield or on the Top Pond. The pool at Wheldrake is also relatively quiet at the moment.  

Friday 30th - Another quiet few days catch wise, however today Mike had 2 new Moorhens in the duck trap on Wheldrake.

Saturday 31st - This morning no birds could be caught in the whoosh net but there were two new Mallard in the duck trap on Wheldrake and so the year didn’t end on a blank! After leaving Wheldrake Mike & Craig headed to North Duffield and spent a couple of hours un-setting the whoosh net there and then re-setting it at Bank Island with the hope of catching there from now on as the Top Pond and North Duffield are both virtually bird-less at the moment!