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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Monday 24 September 2012

22/09/12 - Jack...frost

Last night saw the first frost of the autumn, on the equinox in the Lower Derwent Valley NNR and the same night saw the first Jack Snipe of the autumn appear and find its way into our mist nets.

Large numbers pass through the Lower Derwent Valley/Skipwith Common NNR's each year, mainly in October and November with a smaller return passage in March and April. Last nights bird seemed a little early but on checking the records it is probably about on time. Small, but sometimes significant numbers can occur in late September, with 24 caught in five mist netting sessions at Bank Island between late September and early October in 2002, when as many as 50-60 birds may have been present. However, most birds do occur from mid October to late November depending on water levels and ground conditions, the 14 caught drag netting over a 6 day period in November 2010 being typical of this.

This is the second bird to be caught here this year, following one caught on Skipwith Common earlier in the year. Hopefully we'll be in for another bumper year to add to our total of 83 ringed in the valley as the conditions look perfect for them and there is currently large numbers of Snipe still coming through. We have in the past held public Jack Snipe events if birds are reliable (similar to the public Storm Petrel ringing sessions on the coast) and these have always proved popular, so we would be looking to hold these again if it's a good autumn - more details to come later.

As well as the Jack Snipe, another 2 Common Snipe were caught and ringed along with 2 Teal.

Sunday 23 September 2012

13/09/12 - NNR team visit

On Wednesday the NNR Estates and Procurement Team visited the LDV for a look round Bank Island and to help with a few tasks - whilst here we also put on a ringing demo to give them the opportunity to see a few birds up close, and find out exactly why we ring and what it involves.

Unfortunately soon after their arrival the heavens opened and the rain lashed down, this soon brought the ringing to a halt but we did manage to catch a few birds beforehand! Nets had been opened in the hope of a few Snipe, however the Snipe had other ideas and were nowhere to be seen! Instead we came away with a handful of hirundines - Swallows, Sand Martins & House Martins. There were massive numbers present in the valley on Wednesday, leading us to believe that there was some movement going on.

After the ringing demo everyone (well most of them!) donned the waterproofs and got stuck in, helping us with a variety of tasks, from making nest boxes for Barn Owls and Kestrels to weeding and planting up the Base Garden.


In just the short time that they were here they helped make several nest boxes which will soon be put up around the valley and hopefully next year they will be used by a breeding Barn Owl or Kestrel pair. 

Despite the wet conditions everyone enjoyed themselves and a good time was had (we think!).

Not much else to report from the last week or so....between the 17th and 21st nine Moorhens have been caught, with one or two a day - much slower than it has been in recent weeks. 

Teal numbers continue to build (upto 500 now) with small groups of Wigeon, the odd Pintail and skeins of Pink-footed Geese moving south - winter wildfowl ringing is not far away!

Wednesday 19 September 2012

11/09/12 - Marshy heads back into the wild

Last week Jean received a phonecall telling her of an adult female Marsh Harrier which had been seen in a farmers field, seemingly unable to take off fully from the ground. Jean soon had the bird in her care, and whilst checking her over noticed feather damage in lines on both wings, suspected to have been caused by hitting wires. Whilst not causing any major damage, it had clearly left her bruised and unable to hunt well, and as a result of this she was massively under weight for a bird her age, sex and size, and therefore unable to hunt further. Due to this she was on a downward spiral without help. On arrival Jean weighed her at 400 grams - massively under the actual average weight for an adult female Marsh Harrier - over 700 grams.

Marsh Harrier on arrival at Jean's

Jean soon fed her up on chicks and a week later she weighed 680 grams and was raring to go. Large birds of prey like Marsh Harriers usually make it obvious when they are ready to go and it's a case of going with that before they either damage or stress themselves in care. It was decided that she would be released onto North Duffield Carrs where there is currently a Marsh Harrier roost of atleast 12 birds - more details can be found here on Andy's blog, a regular LDV birder. 

Marked wings from the wires

Ready to go...

Off at speed!

Another great job Jean, well done! This is the second Marsh Harrier that Jean has helped make its way back into the wild. The previous being in 2008 which had also hit wires and was unable to fly and feed.

Over the weekend Snipe numbers seemed to be on the increase and so another session was had in the early hours of Monday (10th) - another 4am start! The first round was quite unbelievable really, with 2 Little Grebes caught! Plus 5 Snipe and 2 Teal. A few rounds later and we were upto 15 Snipe for the morning, with many caught in full light. The duck trap also held three new Moorhen.

Photos (top to bottom) - Little Grebe (this years), Juvenile male and adult male Teal, Adult male Teal showing chestnut brown feathers coming through, Common Snipe - 15th for the day.

Monday 17 September 2012

10/09/12 - Over the Moorhen

During the weekend (8-9th) Mike & Craig managed to keep the ringing going, and with the water level gradually going back down the duck trap kicked in again, on Saturday it held 12 Moorhen (all this years), followed by another 10 on Sunday - all new! 22 Moorhens in just two days, bringing the years total to 62!

Over the years it has become apparant that during August and early September there is a large movement of juvenile birds, followed in late September and October by adult birds. From November onwards some of the birds caught are extremely big with wing lengths sometimes pushing or even exceeding 200mm (the size of a small Coot). It is assumed that some of these longer winged birds might be of a continental origin.

We are still yet to have a colour-ringed Moorhen sighted outside of the valley, once caught and ringed it's not unusual to see them here for a few days but then they disappear...keep your eyes peeled for our coloured feathered friends, these birds must be going somewhere....but who knows where? 

Adult female & young male Moorhen

Also in the early hours of Sunday morning as Craig was setting the nets for a planned catch (in the evening/early hours) a flock of birds whooshed in - 7 Teal, 4 Snipe, Lapwing, Dunlin, Tufted Duck and a Pochard! This is only the 6th Pochard to be ringed in the valley, they are unusual at any other time of year than during periods of extensive winter floods, however upto 6 pairs have been present this summer due to the wet conditions and this is probably one of the females that attempted to breed.

Friday 14 September 2012

07/09/12 - Slow start

Well we were on abit of a roll with good numbers and good birds being caught during the last few days of August, but the first few days of September were on the quiet side with no birds caught until Tuesday (5th). With the water back to a better level for attracting waders we opened the nets in the early hours of Tuesday, with slight disappointment of a Woodpigeon in return for the early start! However as the morning went on we did eventually catch one Snipe! This went down a treat with the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust volunteers who were busy working on Wheldrake Ings, taking apart the recently vandalised bridge to Pool Hide.

It was really nice to be able to share it with them, and they marvelled at the distance this bird might have travelled - it's thought to have headed here from more northerly and north easterly locations - Iceland, Scandinavia and across into Russia. Some birds might winter here but many probably continue west and south - but hopefully re-sightings from colour-rings will tell us more.

Jean also came in today with a few of her birds, some of which were ready to go, a Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Barn Owl and Tawny Owl. The Tawny Owl and Sparrowhawk were both ready to be released, the Tawny was left until the evening to be released back into the wild but the Sparrowhawk went off from Bank Island - at speed!

After reading several blogs lately about Barn Owls doing well with second broods, we decided to check a few of ours that had failed earlier in the season. Several boxes later and we hadn't been successful in our finds, however we did catch a new pair that were roosting together.

Thursday 13 September 2012

01/09/12 - August summary (one to remember!)

Well it has to be said that August will be a month that we will remember for quite some time! As the new month arrived all the excess water started to disappear from the meadows and with that out came all the ducklings that we hadn't been able to see. Suddenly the pools and ditches were full of Shoveler, Gadwall and Tufted Duck ducklings. Several attempts in the ditches and regular goes pushing the corale and checking the duck trap produced the goods with large numbers of Shoveler, Gadwall, Tufted Ducks and Mallard ducklings caught.

 24 Shoveler caught (23 ducklings)

15 Tufted Ducks caught (all ducklings)

17 Gadwall caught (16 ducklings)

The following week three broods of Mute Swans and a pair of non-breeders were ringed, followed by the first swan round up in the valley, with 18 moulting adult birds caught.

39 Mute Swans caught (11 cygnets)

Towards the middle of the month it started to go quiet on the duck front, with just the odd one or two keeping the totals going. Then during the last 10 days of the month it suddenly became all about hand catching wildfowl and mist netting waders! As the water started to drain away Bank Island changed from a pool of water for ducks to a muddy area just right for waders. The catches were far and beyond what we'd hoped for...a new bird for the LDV was caught - a Spotted Redshank, plus only the 3rd and 4th ever Greenshanks, 4 new Common Sandpipers and 5 Green Sandpipers to name a few. More importantly though, 8 Ruff were caught in a single catch and all were colour-ringed, along with 30 Snipe.

30 Snipe caught (all colour-ringed)

Several more attempts at hand catching worked well with 41 Coot caught and 21 Moorhens, bringing the monthly total of wildfowl to 205 (a new August record), which is also our second best month so far this year, with February still holding top spot with 408 caught during the freeze!

41 Coot caught (33 pulli)

Below are the totals for this month plus the years total so far:

                                           August           Year

Grey Heron 0
Mute Swan 39
Greylag Goose 1
Brent Goose 0
Shelduck 0
Wigeon 0
Teal 2
Mallard 44
Garganey 0
Shoveler 24
Tufted Duck 15
Pintail 0
Gadwall 17
Moorhen 21
Coot 41
Little Grebe 1


Whimbrel 0
Snipe 30
Jack Snipe 0
Ruff 8
Redshank 0
Lapwing 3
Oystercatcher 0
Ringed Plover 4
Dunlin 2
Spotted Redshank 1
Greenshank 2
Green Sandpiper 5
Common Sandpiper 4


Red Kite 0
Tawny Owl 1
Little Owl 1
Barn Owl 54
Kestrel 1


Black-headed Gull 1

Monday 10 September 2012

31/08/12 - On a roll!

It feels like we're on abit of a roll at the moment and so on Wednesday morning (29th) Craig got up in the early hours again and opened the nets at 4am...a few early rounds produced 2 Teal, a Shoveler and 2 Snipe. A spring trap placed near the nets also caught another Common Sandpiper (4th in the last few days). Upto last week only 4 Common Sands had previously been caught in the valley since 1989, one in 2004 and three in one week in 2010. Usually on wader passage the odd one drops in and so unless you go for them specifically its unlikely any will be caught, but with 4 seen recently it was decided that it was too good an opportunity to miss!


The Snipe caught today now brings us to 30 for the month and 52 for the year. If you'd said two weeks ago we'd catch 29 Snipe in 10 days it would have been hard to believe! It really makes up for last year which was a poor year because it was so dry, with only 8 caught throughout the whole 12 months. With all the colour-ringed Snipe now out there we hope to hear about some sightings soon so that we can learn more about their movements.

Last week on Tuesday saw the first Teal return to the LDV for the autumn, and from now on numbers will gradually start to build as we head towards the end of the year. Last year the number of Teal present in the LDV peaked at around 8000 in February. Autumn and winter are the best time for catching Teal due to the large numbers present and the opportunity to catch them in whoosh nets. These are the first two Teal in the valley and the UK to be colour-ringed as part of our colour-ringing project with the WWT. Both birds were recently fledged ducklings, a male (first & second photos - more green on the wing) and female (third photo - fewer green feathers).

On closure of the nets we then found another 3 Snipe plus a Swallow! Last year we caught many Swallows and a few Sand Martins during the evening roosts, but due to the flooding this summer it's not allowed us to access the reed beds and has affected the numbers present.

After another day working on Skipwith we tried our luck again at hand catching ducks on the pool, it was abit harder today in the rain which came on really heavy as we entered the area, but we still managed to catch another Shoveler duckling and pulli Coot. The duck trap also held two young Moorhen, one with unusual white feathers across its wings!

Tuesday 4 September 2012

29/08/12 - A white Snipe & ducks aplenty!

Well, everyone was on abit of a high after last weeks’ successful attempts at catching ducks and waders in the LDV, with 47 waders, 20 ducks and 27 swans caught in just 5 days. This encouraged Dave to carry it on into the weekend, he had a go in the early hours of Saturday morning, opening the nets at 4am before waiting for the birds to start moving. His efforts and time produced just two birds, one Dunlin and a Snipe. An interesting one though! It had 7 white greater coverts on each wing, plus a single white feather either side of the stripe on its head. Given the tens of thousands of Snipe seen in the valley over the last twenty years very few aberrant individuals have been recorded, with just one single leucistic and one melanistic bird reported. You can imagine that this bird flying in quickly past one of the hides could cause a moment or two of excitement/confusion!


Due to the spells of heavy rain over the weekend and into the Bank Holiday it put paid to anymore wader sessions in the current location, due to Bank Island soon resembling a pool of water instead of the thick mud of last week that had brought in all the waders. Numbers of waders quickly dropped over the weekend, with the majority of them moving onto Wheldrake but the numbers weren’t quite as high, leading us to believe that some had decided to move on. 


The rain kept falling and the waters were still rising by Tuesday, however we did find one small area which was home to a good number of Snipe, and so early in the morning whilst setting the nets for the evening/dawn catch we managed to catch one Snipe, plus spring trap a Common Sandpiper (3rd in the last 7 days).

After a long day working on Skipwith Common doing scrub clearance everyone was beat but upon return to Bank Island a brood of Shoveler and a number of Coot were present on one of the small pools. Quick change of plan, instead of heading home we donned the waders and tried our luck, it paid off with 5 Coot (2 adults, 3 pulli), a Shoveler duckling and Moorhen hand caught!

Monday 3 September 2012

27/08/12 - A first for the LDV

Last week we carried out the first ever swan round up in the Lower Derwent Valley, this was created as a result of the summer flooding which caused the non-breeding Mute Swans to stay in the LDV and then moult on site for the first time - usually they depart to other sites to moult including the Humber, Hornsea Mere, Lincoln and Berwick-upon-Tweed, this is usually in April/May as the water recedes. 

Therefore this was the first ever swan round up on the site and it was expertly done - the plan was to guide the birds up a steep sided dead end ditch, and once they reached the end a wooden board was placed behind them creating a pen to keep them in until each one was safely lifted out of the water.

Most of the Mute Swans were first and second year birds as expected. A total of 18 swans were caught which included 2 re-traps and a control. The re-traps were two of Jean’s birds which were released on site during July. Jean had cared for them after they were brought to her with burns on their necks from flying into over head wires. It was great to see them doing well, and to see that the burns on their necks are now undetectable, nice also for Jean to see them and to know that all her hard work, knowledge, skill and sheer dedication has paid off - well done Jean.

Jean also brought with her a young female Kestrel and a House Martin which were ready to be ringed and released. The Kestrel was brought to Jean after being found on the roadside, she was thin, bruised and her feet were scuffed. A few weeks on she's in fine form and flew off like a good 'un, nice one Jean.