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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Saturday 9 February 2013

08/02/13 - Going Dutch (well not quite)

It's been another week of reaping the rewards from all the hard work and effort that has gone into setting up, and maintaining colour-ringing schemes in the valley over the years (which comes hot on the heels of last weeks old girl).

First off, we were sent details of a darvic'd Mute Swan that has been seen on the Humber - its the first sighting of one of our birds caught during the first ever swan round-up last year in the LDV.

Red 597 (X6128) was ringed as a first year male at Bank Island last year on the 20th August (one of 18 caught that day - photos below), and was still present in the valley on the 12th September. We've been sent details of his whereabouts thanks to Russel Hayes, who came across 597 in New Holland, Lincolnshire, on the Humber Estuary on the 28th January 2013. 

New Holland is a site where we have had a number of movements over the years concerning our ringed birds from the LDV, it is a small port where boats bring in grain and animal food, and it is thought that the swans (including a small number of wintering Whoopers) feed on the spilled grain. Most of the birds which have been seen here have either also been seen at (or subsequently) turn up at Hornsea Mere (usually in the summer for the moult) so it will be interesting to see if 597 also follows this route. 

It's also interesting that this swan was from the first group of moulting birds ever to use the LDV - presumably staying due to the very wet conditions last summer. It provides an insight into this behaviour should this trend continue, and shows the turnover of birds in and around the LDV. Despite the valley holding up to 130 Mute Swans at the moment, some of our summer herd birds like this one have clearly moved out whilst others have settled locally, and presumably other birds from elsewhere have since arrived. Many thanks to Russ for the record and above photo.

Sticking with the Mute theme...last week we came across another two darvic'd Mute Swans in the valley, both were mixed in with the Whooper flock at North Duffield Carrs. Red 356 & 357 were both ringed as pullus males from the same brood at Melbourne in 1999. Whilst colour-ringing provides some great insights as to what our birds get up to and where they go on their travels, it does also raise a few questions...Where have these two been hiding for the last 13 years? Have they just returned to the valley after a long absence? Or have they been here all the time and just gone un-noticed? & why are they still together?

Also last week - whilst at Castle Howard Andy Walker came across one of our colour-ringed Coots from last summer. It was ringed as an adult at Bank Island on 28th August 2012. This is the first sighting of it since ringing, and follows three Tufted Duck ducklings that were ringed at Wheldrake in August and also moved to Castle Howard last autumn. The 28th August was a good day indeed - not just for Coots (5 caught), we also caught a Shoveler and Moorhen on the scrape behind Bank Island, before earlier in the day spring trapping a Common Sandpiper and mist netting Snipe. We had several goes at hand catching ducks last August - with great success...

Catching these birds by hand involves walking the edges, in particular keeping a look out for Coots as they dive and hide amongst the weed - instead of coming all the way back up they have a habit of just pushing their beak through the weed to breath - it takes a beady old eye to see them... On spotting them the best thing to do is to try and get behind them if possible, then just lean down and pick them up - sounds far easier than it actually is.....

There's not much else to report from the valley this week - unsurprisingly the water levels are still high.... which has caused the ducks to disperse and North Duffield Carrs to be fairly quiet most days.

However, on Wednesday we did come across this rather nice find at Hagg Bridge - 5 Pink-footed Geese mixed in with a flock of 141 Greylags (photos below). Last month there was the usual large movement of Pinks north-west in early January as birds start to head north (from the Humber and North Norfolk coast) across to Lancashire before the final leg to Iceland later in the spring. Passage skeins will contine to follow over the next month or two, but usually only small groups like this stop on the deck for any length of time. Longer staying small groups and singles also become more of a significant feature in April and early May, and perhaps reflect less fit, unwell or 'pricked' (shot/wounded) individuals uncapable of making the long flight home again and fall short of their comrades.

It's always nice to come across a Pink or two, but lately the local birders have been after a similar species - the Tundra Bean Goose. Several frustrating attempts have been had to try and catch up with two birds that have been present in the valley recently but have appeared (or not in this case) difficult to find.


Then to top the day off we came across this beauty - a case of right place right time - two minutes later he disappeared inbetween the bales - must have been keeping warm in there and out of the 40mph gusty winds sweeping the valley!

There's been quite a few Barn Owls showing lately throughout the valley, particularly day flying on nice calm days. Bank Island, Thorganby viewing platform and North Duffield Carrs provide good opportunities to see them (occasionally with photographic opportunities), and along the Pocklington Canal and Melbourne are regular haunts.

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