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.

For daily sightings please visit our Twitter account: https://twitter.com/ldv_nnr (@LDV_NNR)

For details of events, volunteer tasks and wildlife images please visit our Facebook account: https://www.facebook.com/Lower-Derwent-Valley-Skipwith-Common-NNR

Tuesday 26 June 2012

20/06/12 - Highlight of the year?!

Well, it may be a little early in the year to make such a statement seeing as we are only half way through, but this one is going to be hard to beat - and it doesn’t even involve catching or ringing anything (well not this week!).

We’ve ringed a total of 13 Black-necked Grebes in the Lower Derwent Valley NNR since 1993 - a total of 11 young caught by hand in various ditches on the reserve and two breeding males. In 2004 (the last year in which we caught them) we colour-ringed two adults and two chicks, since then these birds have gone on to further our understanding of this species and its rather erratic use of sites. 

With several birds present again this year, Craig managed to get a good viewing of one of them a couple of weeks ago (27/05/12), the bird was sporting the colour-rings of Lime/Lime (FP70696). This bird was ringed as a chick in 2004 and hasn’t been seen in the valley since 2006. The history of this bird is listed below which also represents a new longevity record for the species (8 years and 2 days) the previous being just under two years (the bird in question). Again, this shows the value in colour-ringing such a species as all the metal ringed birds previously have failed to provide any data.

Two Black-necked Grebe chicks - 2001

History of FP70696 (Lime/Lime):

2004 - Ringed as a 1 (chick) on 25th May at North Duffield Carrs
2005 - Re-sighted on 5th April at North Duffield Carrs
2006 - Re-sighted on 10th April at North Duffield Carrs
2012 - Re-sighted on 27th May at North Duffield Carrs

Another adult colour-ringed in the valley on the same day as FP70696 has subsequently been seen on several occasions elsewhere:

History of FP70695 (Orange/Orange):

2004 - Ringed as an adult male on 25th May at North Duffield Carrs
2004 - Re-sighted on 2nd June at Farnham Gravel Pits, Knaresborough
2005 - Re-sighted on 4th April at Wheldrake Ings

Adult male Black-necked Grebe

Released back on to North Duffield Carrs

Orange colour-ring on show

Sunday 10 June 2012

07/06/12 - Busy busy

It’s been another busy week in the LDV, and with the two bank holidays it left little time to get everything done! So we spent one of the bank holidays doing a few more nest boxes, it was another successful day, starting with the brood of Kestrels we'd come across two weeks ago - in the box we found 3 small chicks ready to ring.  

Kestrel chick - c 3 weeks old

Cosy in there!

It looks like it's going to be a good year for Kestrels - Dave already has over 10 active nests to the west of our area which in addition to other boxes and sites means a  potential 50 - 60 chicks to ring. Within the LDV we've found just three sites so far, but hopefully there'll be more to come - it's just a matter of getting out there and finding them!

At a farm which has been used for many years, two new boxes had been put up - the owner was most pleased that we found a female Kestrel with 4 newly hatched chicks, plus a pair of Barn Owls (we managed to catch them both in the box) which had 4 eggs and a newly hatched chick. We look forward to going back and ringing them with her - it’s nice to be able to share it with the landowners especially when they’ve gone to the trouble of putting their own boxes up.

Barn Owl - lightly spotted female

Barn Owl - light coloured male

A Jackdaw which was almost ready to fly was caught in a box in the afternoon, plus a new adult Barn Owl and a re-trap, a few other eggs and newly hatched chicks were also found. Disappointingly a few of the sites we’d marked down that have had Barn Owls breeding in the past had been taken over by Feral Pigeons - much to the frustration of the landowners! 

On Thursday we were joined by two short-term contractors for the summer (Sam & Marie - who are going to be helping out with the ragwort this year). After studying for three years doing a Marine Biology and Ecology degree between them they’re now both looking for jobs in conservation. We took them on a quick tour of the valley so that they could get their bearings and we checked a couple of boxes on the way - and much to their delight we found two broods of Barn Owl chicks (both with 4 - the biggest clutches yet).

Craig showing Sam & Marie the Barn Owl chicks


At a few of the other sites we: re-trapped a female from a previous year, found an un-ringed adult female with 6 eggs, another with 4 eggs and a newly hatched chick, plus 3 Jackdaws almost ready for fledging!

 Sam & Lucy ringing an adult female

A family of four

A Jackdaw each

Young Jackdaw - stunning blue eye

Back at the office the brood of 8 Great Tits were ready for ringing so we did those before heading off to check the duck trap, there we managed to catch 4 Mallard ducklings. Together with the ones that Craig & Mike had already done over the last few days that takes us to 25 for the month so far!

Friday 8 June 2012

31/05/12 - May summary

Well it’s not been a great month for the target species on the floodplain due to the flooding - it’s been a combination of either the birds not being present as a result of the flooding and/or us not being able to get to them. But we’ve had some good quality birds following a refocusing of efforts - helping us understand how other birds use the NNR’s, the Lower Derwent Valley, Skipwith Common and surrounding areas too.

We’re now on 759 wildfowl for the year, but just 27 from this month - 25 Mallard (all pulli) and 2 breeding Wigeon. Along with the Barn Owls and Tawny Owls that we’ve done ourselves, Dave has been busy on Skipwith Common and surrounding areas, so between us we’ve managed 40 Barn Owls (38 of those were chicks), 9 Tawny Owls (8 chicks, 1 adult) and Dave ringed the first broods of Kestrels last week (5 chicks).

A few other noteable species for the month - 27 Swifts, 2 Cuckoos, 2 Wheatears, 8 Jackdaws and 1 Woodlark.

One of 27 flicked Swifts

Two of the 38 Barn Owl chicks ringed this month

It’s definitely been a month for quality, and it's been especially good for birds from the nest - along with the usual Blue Tits, Great Tits and Tree Sparrows that we’ve done from the small boxes, we also found a nest of Wrens in one of the artificial House Martin nests. We ringed 5 chicks from a clutch of 6 (one dead). Only 160 pulli Wren were ringed in the UK during 2011 so it was a most pleasing find. Below is a table summarising the main species ringed within the LDV this month and the running years total.

                                              May             Year

Grey Heron 0
Mute Swan 0
Greylag Goose 0
Brent Goose 0
Shelduck 0
Wigeon 2
Teal 0
Mallard     25 (pulli)
Pintail 0
Gadwall 0
Moorhen 0
Coot 0
Little Grebe 0


Whimbrel 0
Snipe 0
Jack Snipe 0
Ruff 0
Redshank 0
Lapwing 2
Oystercatcher 1


Red Kite 0
Tawny Owl 9
Little Owl 0
Barn Owl 40 (+2 RT)
Kestrel       5 (pulli)


Skylark 0
Woodlark 1
Corn Bunting 0
Wheatear 2
Jackdaw  8
Mistle Thrush  1
Wren       5 (pulli)


Swift 27
Cuckoo 2
Stock Dove 1


Monday 4 June 2012

30/05/12 - Round Three!

It’s been a rather busy week work wise and with a few out of work commitments we managed just one session with the nest boxes. With extra help and the good weather that came on Wednesday, it resulted in a late finish at work which allowed us to get another good number of boxes checked. 

The Wren chicks that we came across last week in one of the artificial House Martin nests were ready today, 5 out of 6 chicks (one dead) were ringed. Very nice to see - and a first for all of us and the first Wren pulli ringed on the reserve!

Checking the Wren's nest

Fal & Jean ringing the chicks

One very neat nest!

We then headed over to the Nunnery to check three of the boxes there. We found nothing in the Little Owl box and out of the two Barn Owl boxes were 3 small chicks in one and 3 of a ring-able size in the other. The chicks were big enough to measure the longest primary out of pin - this helps age the chicks to hatching date and something we have been doing for several years.

Craig measuring the 7th primary

Three more chicks!

Next on the map was Thorganby with 2 sites to check - 3 newly hatched Barn Owl chicks were in one box plus a hatching egg and in the other box were 3 Barn Owl chicks of a ring-able size, plus an un-ringed adult female. She was aged due to the presence of 3 generations of primary feathers, and sexed due to her rather dark grey back and a few black spots on the breast (although not the most marked example we've ever seen), she obviously had a rather extensive brood patch as well!!

Female Barn Owl - rather dark grey back

Female Barn Owl - showing a few spots

From there we stopped off at Elvington and checked both of the water towers that have been used by Barn Owls for many years. We re-trapped the adult female in one, she had one newly hatched chick plus an egg. The other tower was most interesting....in very close proximity we found 3 Jackdaw chicks and 3 Barn Owl chicks! Obviously not too bothered about sharing the same space! All 6 chicks were of a ring-able size.

Three Jackdaw chicks

 Jackdaw chick - approximately 3 weeks old

The Motley Crew!

We finished off at Bank Island, in the box that we were expecting to find a brood of Kestrels was nothing......but just below the box in a hole in the tree were 2 small Tawny Owl chicks - presumably why the Kestrel box hasn’t been used this year! Just one of the chicks was ringed, the other was too small - one to come back to.

Tawny Owl chicks in the nest

 The chick on the right was just too small for ringing

We then had a look in the Ash tree that the Jackdaws are in, we found one chick in the nest hole that’d had 3 eggs in last week, and a quick nosey in the bottom hole that had the two original chicks plus the 2 we put in of Jean’s, found all the chicks doing well - great to know that it worked!

Jean's Jackdaw - 2 weeks on and ready to go

The last tree to be checked was the big Ash tree behind the office - to reach the box it was a fairly long walk through waist high nettles plus a rather difficult tree to climb - all for nothing - the Jackdaw’s had already fledged! Nevermind can’t win them all!