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

Friday 29 November 2013

07/11/13 - A hive of activity

With the NNR Base Garden now in its second year, this summer saw it really start to produce the goods, particularly in terms of butterflies with (as it stands) 2078 butterfly records gathered just from the garden. Several species of dragonflies were also seen visiting our base pond and new hoverfly species frequented the flowers, whilst the moth trap caught several ‘firsts’ for the reserve.

Only a few years back in 2010 work was started on the new reserve base for the Lower Derwent Valley NNR, with the official opening on World Wetlands day (2nd February) 2011. Obviously sensitive to the local landscape and planning issues, Natural England wanted to deliver a building that, as well as acting as an NNR office and base, demonstrated best green build practice and one that brought additional environmental benefits. As well as several other ‘green features’, the base has a green living roof, planted with sedum and various grasses. Viewed from above by the thousands of returning waterfowl which descend from the high Arctic each winter, it blends the building into the surrounding landscape making it virtually invisible to them. Local groups were also involved in helping us design, plant and manage the building and gardens, making and erecting bird boxes, creating flower rich hay meadows and planting a sensory bee and butterfly garden.

BTCV making bird boxes

The garden was planted with butterflies and bees in mind with species such as Lavender, Buddleia, Devil’s-bit and Field Scabious, Water and Corn Mint, Teasel and Hemp Agrimony. The idea was to try and produce a range of good nectar sources for butterflies and bees throughout the season (June – September).

This year 23 butterfly species were recorded in the whole of the LDV, with 18 of those seen in the NNR Base Garden: Small White, Large White, Green-veined White, Orange Tip, Comma, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Wall Brown, Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Small Skipper, Large Skipper, Small Copper, Gatekeeper, Speckled Wood and Marbled White.

Peacock (Inachis io)
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)

The meadow was also sown to ensure a range of early hay meadow species were out before the garden plants came into flower, such as Buttercup, Red Campion, Sneezewort, Ox-eye Daisy, Ragged Robin, Knapweed and Wild Carrot.

Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi)

It was also decided to keep certain weeds in the adjacent field until after they flowered, such as thistles which this year the Whites in particular made good work of. Nettles and docks were also left as refuges for egg laying and caterpillar food.

Green-veined White (Artogeia napi)

Hoverflies particularly favoured the Fleabane and Scabious, with the nearby Bramble in the hedgerow also pulling in good numbers and a variety of species. Over 26 species of hoverfly have been recorded in the LDV this year, with many of these seen in the NNR Base Garden, species such as Helophilus trivittatus/pendulus were seen in abundance along with many of the Eristalis sp.
Helophilus trivittatus
Episyrphus balteatus
Syrphus sp.
Sphaerophoria scripta

Several species of bee were seen daily, particularly on the Lavender. Buff-tailed, White-tailed, Red-tailed, Common Carder, Garden and Early being the most frequent visitors.

Worker bee Bombus lucorum/terrestris
Early bumblebee (Bombus pratorum)

The small pond was built and stocked with a range of species from the NNR – Purple Loosestrife, Water and Corn Mint, Yellow Flag Iris, Round-leaved Pondweed, Sneezewort, Water Plantain and Great Water Parsnip – again to provide a natural range of Ings marginal water plants for a number of inverts especially dragonflies. A number of dragonflies have been seen on the small pond with species such as Broad-bodied Chaser, Brown Hawker, Ruddy Darter and Common Darter seen regularly.

Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa)

The feeding station which was built in February this year saw plenty of activity as winter came to a close. The feeders were left empty throughout the breeding season but last month in preparation for the winter the feeding station was set up again and has seen a lot of activity already. Tree Sparrows in particular have been making good use of it, along with Willow and Marsh Tits, Brambling, Chaffinches and a Great Spotted Woodpecker often comes down for the peanuts.

Bank Island feeding station

The NNR Base has also become home to several pairs of breeding Tree Sparrows which is especially pleasing for a species which is on the amber list.

Moth trapping in the NNR this year has produced 247 species, many of which were caught at Bank Island, including several firsts for the reserve: Red-sword Grass and Feathered Gothic. The ‘green’ roof has proved popular with a number of wildlife species but one of the highlights has been the discovery of a colony of the Yellow Belle Moth (Semiaspilates ochrearia). This moth has only been recorded from Yorkshire twice before, both as presumed wandering migrants at Spurn Point. It is very much a coastal species found as far north as Lincolnshire although isolated colonies occur in the Suffolk Brecklands, and it is from the latter isolated colonies that the moth is thought to have come from, having been transported on the green roof to the Lower Derwent Valley.

Yellow Belle Moth (Semiaspilates ochrearia)

Several Long-eared Bats and Pipistrelle Bats have also made the base their home, and artificial House Martin nests and Swift bricks have also been used - albeit by Wrens and Tree Sparrows - maybe next year!

For us whilst it is great to have a reserve base that is fit for purpose and that allows efficient delivery of the NNR management and additional outreach benefits, it is however also a real bonus and asset to Natural England to have a demonstration green build, complete with its new inhabitants, and one that adds to the experience of visitors coming to the NNR. To see how the garden has developed this year has been a rich reward for those involved with developing it, particularly for our volunteers that have helped plant it, weed it and survey the wildlife in it!

Thursday 7 November 2013


Below is a snippet of how October unfolded on the bird front, however for the full write up and more information on the other wildlife species seen on the NNR and nearby Skipwith Common follow the link here.

October is an exciting time for bird watching, with the change of season and migration in full swing the potential is there for the unexpected to occur. This October certainly didn’t fail to deliver with some of the most notable migration watches taking place between the 5th and the 12th. The fairly dry conditions continued throughout the month - very different from this time last year.

The Wash Dykes drying out - Skipwith Common

The 5th saw a noticeable movement of Skylark through the valley, along with the last sizable departing flocks of Swallows and Martins heading south, alongside incoming Pink-footed Geese on the 5th and 6th. Increasing numbers of Song Thrush and Robins were noted at this time, possibly filtering inland from the coastal influxes seen the previous week. Small numbers of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps moved through the reserve with a Cetti’s Warbler on the 5th and then the star find - the first reserve Yellow-browed Warbler at Bank Island from the 6th.

The next few days provided good raptor watching conditions with Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, Osprey and Hobby leading the cast, whilst the wandering Great White Egret put in yet another very brief appearance at Wheldrake on the 8th. A change in the weather to easterly winds and showers/rain opened the migration flood gates on the 10th with 2200 Redwing, 350 Fieldfare, 16 Brambling and the first 3 returning Whooper Swans being noted. 

Whooper Swans - North Duffield Carrs 
The same weather system was responsible for a large displacement of Gannets out of the north sea and into the Humber Estuary. As many as 700 birds may have moved up the Humber, reaching as far as the Humber Bridge which appears to be a huge barrier to them. However, many did pass over and under the bridge and continued inland. This movement brought singles over North Duffield on the 10th with another rescued nearby the following day. What was presumably the same movement may have also accounted for a Great Skua heading east over Bank Island on the 15th – the third record for the reserve following individuals in 1981 and 2007.

Rescued Gannet from a farmer's field near Malton - JT

Tuesday 1 October 2013

05/09/13 - It's all about the flora these days (& a bit of fauna)

After the very useful and enjoyable days spent with Judith in June and July finishing the vegetation quadrats for Long Term Monitoring Network, we went on to spend a morning together on Wheldrake Ings followed by an afternoon at Thornton Ellers searching for new plant species, adding many new grasses, sedges and rushes to the list.

With it being the end of August many butterflies were still out on Wheldrake as we made our way through the Purple Loosestrife towards the ditch-side where we started our search, passing along the way a number of species (figures are day totals) - Peacock (22), Small Tortoiseshell (202), Red Admiral (1), Small Copper (2), Comma (2), Small White (230), Green-veined White (20), Speckled Wood (7).

 Peaock (Inachis io) & Comma (Polygonum c-album)

 Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

Here we came across: Water Stitchwort, Lesser Water Plantain, Celery-leaved Buttercup, Nodding Bur-marigold, Pink Water Speedwell, Water Pepper, Toad Rush, Common Winter-cress, and Many-seeded Goosefoot to name a few.

 Celery-leaved Buttercup (Ranunculus scleratus)

 Toad Rush (Juncus bufonius)

 Nodding Bur-marigold (Bidens cernua)

Pink Water Speedwell (Veronica catenata) 

Not only were the butterflies out in good numbers, but also many species of hoverfly, particularly the Helophilus genus, with H.trivittatus in abundance. We also came across a 'wasp mimic' which was new for the year - Sericomyia silentis.

Hoverfly (Helophilus trivittatus)

Wasp mimic (Sericomyia silentis) 

From there we headed over to Thornton Ellers and in just a few hours we found 17 new grasses/sedges/rushes bringing our list to 56 for the year. Thornton Ellers is best described as an acidic fen surrounding alder woodland, here we came across species such as: Star Sedge, Bladder Sedge, Carnation Sedge, Pill Sedge, Velvet Bent, Brown Bent, Creeping Soft Grass and Purple Small-reed.

 Star Sedge (Carex echinata)

Aptly named - Hairy Sedge (Carex hirta) 

Even though it was late in the season many plant species could still be found such as - Enchanter's-nightshade, Harebell, Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil, Fen Bedstraw, Small Nettle, Common Stork's-bill, Climbing Corydalis and Field Pansy to name a few, however we also managed 7 new ones – some from the meadow and some from along the arable edges: Sun Spurge, Fiddleneck, Corn Spurrey, Heath Groundsel, Wall Speedwell, Parsley Piert and Marsh Cinquefoil.

Heath Groundsel (Senecio sylvaticus)

Fiddleneck (Amsinckia micrantha)

 Small Nettle (Urtica urens)

Judith with - Purple Small-reed (Calamagrostis canescens)

The weather was kind to us throughout the whole day with the sun bringing many butterflies to the Devil’s-bit Scabious which was out (one of the later flowering plants) and was humming with a variety of species: Small Copper (7), Small Tortoiseshell (29), Peacock (1), Red Admiral (1), Painted Lady (1), Brimstone (1), Common Blue (1), Wall Brown (1), Small White (11), Green-veined White (7), and 6 Speckled Wood on the nearby brambles.

Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)

 Green-veined White (Pieris napi)

Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) 

Many invertebrates were also found including several new ones for the year: Oieceoptoma thoracicum (Red-breasted Carrion Beetle), Chorthippus albomarginatus (Lesser Marsh Grasshopper), Piezodorus lituratus (Gorse Shield Bug), Psyllobora 22-punctata (22-spot Ladybird), Evacanthus interruptus (Yellow & black Leaf Hopper), Philaenus spumarius (Common Leaf Hopper), Poecilus versicolor (Ground Beetle) and Platycheirus granditarsus (Hoverfly).

 Lesser Marsh Grasshopper (Chorthippus albomarginatus)

Common Green Grasshopper (Omocestus viridulus)

22-spot Ladybird (Psyllobora 22-punctata)

Common Flesh Fly (Sarcophaga carnaria) 

Gorse Shield Bug (Piezodorus lituratus)

Thursday 12 September 2013


Just a quick summary of how the month has un-folded (or for a full breakdown of all species recorded click here). The dry conditions remained into August allowing the continued recovery of the site following last year’s flooding. Increasing numbers of sheep and cattle were present in the meadows, grazing the re-growth and hopefully helping to keep the coarser grasses, sedges and rushes in check, as well as producing good swards for the returning wintering waterfowl. The first such returning waterfowl included a build up of up to 145 Teal by the end of the month, and the first five returning Wigeon arrived back at Wheldrake Ings on the 24th. A Goosander on 14th represented an unusual mid-summer record.

View from Pool Hide, Wheldrake Ings

Large numbers of Grey Herons were feeding on the pool at Wheldrake Ings throughout the month, attracting the company of up to two Little Egrets and yet another Great White Egret (the third of the year and the sixth for the reserve). It proved a popular attraction for local birders, drawing a steady crowd of early morning admirers during its visits to the pool between the 14th-22nd and again on the 26th/27th. The resulting increased observations over this period produced some good coverage during the wader passage which was largely concentrated to the same site given the lack of water elsewhere. Green Sandpipers were, as to be expected, the commonest wader with up to 14 birds present in the valley, but a noticeable and concentrated passage of Common Sandpipers brought at least 12 into the valley from the 25th-28th. A flyover Grey Plover at North Duffield on the 24th was a good autumn record, whilst small numbers of Golden Plover started moving from the 25th - rather more typical. 

Great White Egret - Wheldrake - Robert Dawson

Up to four Marsh Harriers were present in the valley most days, with regular sightings of Hobby's around the site. The first returning Osprey of the autumn passed over Wheldrake and Bank Island on the 19th.  A single passage Tree Pipit was at Wheldrake Ings on the 17th, a late Cuckoo was on Skipwith Common on the 22nd, and a Wood Warbler with a mixed warbler and tit flock was at Wheldrake on the 24th. 

2013 is proving to be a real bumper year for butterflies, and August continued this welcome upturn in numbers. One of the highlights was a small yet obvious influx of Painted Ladys (from the 22nd) and yet another three Marbled Whites (1st, 3rd and 19th) making 2013 a record breaking year. It was however the sheer number of common species appearing in and around the NNR Base Garden at Bank Island throughout that stole the show with large numbers of Small Tortoiseshells, Peacocks and Whites. On the reserve itself large stands of flowering Purple Loosestrife attracted high numbers of Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells early in the month, this being eclipsed by the huge numbers attracted later in the month to the flowering Corn and Water Mint. These areas attracted counts of 251 Peacocks and 725 Small Tortoiseshells on the 27th. 

Peacocks & Small Tortoiseshells out in force - Wheldrake

For the full breakdown of the main wildlife species recorded throughout the month go to the August tab on the homepage, which includes the birds, mammals, butterflies, moths, dragonflies, reptiles and plants recorded. Many thanks again to those who have contributed records throughout August and sent photographs.

Monday 2 September 2013

19/08/13 - Still ringing....? Just!

Long term followers of our blog will be aware that the summer months tend to be the time when we try to ring some of our locally bred ducklings. The Lower Derwent Valley NNR is one of the few places in the country where regular numbers of such ducklings are caught and ringed, and the totals from here make up a significant proportion, and in the case of Shoveler, virtually all those ringed in the UK. Last year proved to be one of our most successful seasons in this respect with both a successful breeding season and the late summer floods which further provided ideal catching opportunities. This year however, it appears to have been a rather poor breeding season across the board, presumably as a result of the prolonged cold winter and late spring preventing many species getting into good breeding conditions. This has affected the waterfowl, waders, the local owl population and many of our resident passerines. Furthermore, the much needed drier conditions throughout the late spring and summer which have been great in getting the hay meadows cut, and allowing us to catch up on management works, have also limited the success for breeding waterfowl. 

That said, the success of this type of ringing depends on dogged determination and persistence, so despite many early starts and failed attempts, dedicated members of the LDV Team kept pushing the corale trap at Wheldrake Ings (which was so successful in rounding up our geese in May). Low numbers of moulting drake Mallards were caught and despite continuous blank sessions throughout the majority of July the spirit of never giving up finally paid off with a brood of four Shoveler and two Gadwall ducklings caught on the last day of the month. 
 Shoveler brood - Wheldrake - 31/07/13
Gadwall duckling - Wheldrake - 31/07/13

Various broods of Gadwall, Shoveler and a crèche of 14 Tufted Ducks on the top pond at North Duffield Carrs also meant several hard, hot and tiring sessions in chest waders in the searing heat fighting against the bulrush’s to drive the birds towards the nets. A lot of effort per bird but very successful in adding six Gadwall and four Tufted Ducks to the annual totals in three short sessions during the first week of August.

 Tufted Duck brood - North Duffield - 07/08/13
 Gadwall ducklings - North Duffield - 01/08/13
Gadwall duckling - North Duffield - 01/08/13

Whilst there we also took the opportunity to catch the only cygnet the Mute Swan pair on the top pond raised this year - again reflecting the small clutch sizes and subsequent brood sizes we have seen this year.  
Mute Swan cygnet - North Duffield Carrs - 01/08/13 

We have also just received news of one of our Grey Herons (yellow darvic 28) that was colour-ringed on the 17th May this year at the local heronry - 1 of a brood of two. It is presently residing at Nosterfield Nature Reserve near Ripon and again (following our other two recoveries) suggests a fairly rapid post breeding dispersal to the north. Many thanks to Jill Warwick from the East Dales Ringing Group for passing on the information and sending us the following photograph.

Grey Heron '28' - Nosterfield NR

Surprisingly given the large numbers of young Grey Herons we’ve had on the reserve this year (and checked for rings) we’ve not had any local re-sightings and so it’s maybe that the young Grey Herons that are now present in the valley have dispersed from elsewhere and are not the previously assumed local population. We’ve certainly had one visitor with the herons that’s come from a more southerly location. Many thanks to Robert Dawson for allowing us to reproduce his photographs taken below from Pool Hide, Wheldrake Ings on the 16th August.

Great White Egret - Wheldrake Ings - 16/08/13