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)

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Tuesday 26 March 2013

February - work on the NNR

It's been a busy month with the flooding in the valley allowing us to spend more time working on other sites, especially Skipwith Common. We have ongoing woodland management of the NNR, along with working alongside the Friends of Skipwith Common (FOSC) on a variety of tasks from willow clearance, pond management and fencing to maintenance of the boardwalks. Steve also led the annual deer walk which was a morning well spent with good views of a single Fallow Deer and several Roe Deer. Skipwith is home to c15-20 Fallow Deer so if you're lucky enough you may see one! 

The new feeding station was finished at Bank Island and work continued on the one at North Duffield Carrs, hopefully it will soon be finished allowing close views of our small feathered friends, including both Marsh and Willow Tits. We also managed to spare a couple of days to help out our colleagues at Saltfleetby & Theddlethorpe Dunes NNR in Lincolnshire with dune management and the control of Sea Buckthorn. Several days were also had over near South Cave at Drewton Lane Pits SSSI, helping with management of the ponds for their Great Crested Newt populations.

Towards the end of the month flood repairs were able to start, initially on Bank Island, and once the water is low enough work on North Duffield Carrs will be started, especially with the much needed clean up of Garganey Hide which has been submerged since November.

We've also been working alongside the TCV and the Green Gym, organising tasks in conjunction with World Wetlands Day (2nd February) and National Nest Box Week (14th-21st February). These resulted in several duck traps and nest boxes built by their volunteers which will hopefully soon be in use around the valley. 

Several of the LDV staff assisted the WWT (Wildfowl and Wetland Trust) in the annual duck and swan catch at Martin Mere, Lancashire. 120 ducks and 70 swans were caught that day which was a great result, and hopefully a lot of data will be generated from the colour-rings and more will be learnt about these wintering visitors.

Work also continued at Forge Valley NNR with the Duke of Edinburgh group based in Scarborough, they've been helping us to put in a new boardwalk and steps to improve access to this popular site whilst reducing the impact on sensitive ground flora and fauna in the process.

It's been a month of collecting data with the small mammal trapping starting again at Bank Island, plus camera traps at various locations around the valley and the monthly WeBS count and provision of records to local recorders and clubs.

Waterfowl monitoring and ringing started again at the beginning of the month but was quickly halted by the weather and lack of birds in the trapping areas due to the wide expanse of water, providing the birds with ample other areas to frequent. We managed to fit in a couple of days nest boxing though, which resulted in several new Barn Owl, Kestrel and Little Owl boxes at various sites within the LDV. We also managed to catch one adult which was one of last year’s breeders.


Tuesday 19 March 2013

February - flooding, geese, rare gulls & returning waders

We've nothing to report on the ringing front again - it's becoming something of the 'norm' now, so instead here's a summary of the birds and other wildlife that graced the flooded Lower Derwent Valley throughout February, for 2012's February summary it was a different story.... A full report of the monthly sightings can be found on the tab on the home page, below is just a snippet of how the month unfolded.

February unfortunately ended on a very sad note for many of us, with the passing of Russell Slack, some of whom read this blog will know him, but if you weren't fortunate enough to meet Russ then read this tribute on birdguides or birding frontiers and read here why and how he was such a big part of the Lower Derwent Valley. 

As per the last few months, February started with extensive flooding, once again resulting in yet more restricted access to the valley, North Duffield Carrs sat under six metres of water, with all the extra water from the River Derwent that burst over the flood bank again at the end of January. Wheldrake Ings was accessible some weeks but only as far as Tower Hide. As it now stands the water isn't a problem but the sheer force of it has lifted the boardwalk to Swantail Hide off the ground with half of it now in the reedbed and in need of complete repair. 

February flooding


Some of the dabbling ducks were affected by the continuous flooding, most notably Shoveler and Gadwall which continued to be present in low numbers. Mallard numbers have been highly variable so far during the year, and the 4000+ present in early February couldn’t be relocated during the second half of the month with c2000 present from the 21st. Up to 90 Shelduck remained in the Thorganby area early in the month with 120+ at Thorganby Ings on the 16th and 96 were feeding on nearby shooting ponds on the 20th/21st when 112 were recorded on a full count. Further extensive flooding forced a large number of Pintail to new areas and 160+ on Seavy Carr on the 5th and 240 there on the 15th /16th were record counts for this particular location within the valley. 119 were also present at Wheldrake Ings on the 16th giving a minimum count of 359 on that date. 


The extensive flooding was unsurprisingly favoured by the diving ducks with a peak count of 496 Tufted Ducks. 201 were present between Bank Island and Wheldrake on the 16th whilst 341 were present at Wheldrake Ings on the 22nd. Last month's run of Scaup records continued with a female at Ellerton Ings on the 5th and a new drake on the river at Duffield on the 7th-9th. A single drake was then present with Tufted Ducks at Wheldrake Ings on the 16th with a drake at North Duffield Carrs on the 17th, on the same date a single female was also present at Bank Island, remaining there on the 18th. A single drake was again present on the 21st at Aughton Ings, with two different drakes at Wheldrake Ings on the 22nd and all three being present on the 23rd.

Numbers of Pochard increased with repeated flooding early in the month with 225 at Bubwith Ings on the 2nd-9th and further to a minimum of 321 on the 16th, including 251 on Bubwith Ings. This is one of the highest counts in recent years. 132 were still present throughout the valley on the 22nd with 184 on the 23rd. Goldeneye were present in average numbers with 14 at Wheldrake Ings on the 9th, plus 5 at North Duffield Carrs and a single bird at Bank Island. 12 were still present at Wheldrake Ings on the 16th. A full count on the 22nd revealed 24 present in the valley, 22 of those at Wheldrake Ings. Two Goosander flew over Bank Island on the 3rd and a single drake was at North Duffield Carrs on the 17th. Five were present on fishing ponds near Elvington on the 25th-26th. 

Goosander - Andy Kisby


Five Pink-footed Geese flew north over North Duffield Carrs early in the morning on the 5th before being relocated near Melbourne later the same day with 150 Greylags, which were present there again on the 9th. A single was present at Ellerton Ings on 12th-21st. Five European White-fronted Geese were present at Derwent Farm on the 10th-12th before moving to Ellerton Ings on the 13th-15th and again on the 21st. 14 were present at Thorganby Ings on the 17th. Two Tundra Bean Geese were photographed at Ellerton Ings on the 1st and presumably the same two birds were present on Bubwith Ings on the 9th before flying north and disappearing once again. Possibly the same lingering and rather elusive birds were present at North Duffield Carrs on the 27th January. 1700+ Greylag Geese which were present at the start of February started to decrease as the month progressed, presumably as local breeders dispersed and any ‘wild’ component started to return northwards leaving 870 throughout the site on the 22nd, by which time local birds were present in pairs. A single Barnacle Goose flew south over Thorganby Ings with Canada Geese on the 10th. One of the largest movements to ever have occurred in the Lower Derwent Valley took place on the 17th, when large numbers were also present past Spurn. Presumably some of these birds entered the Humber and then headed up the Derwent past Menthorpe before dropping in the Ellerton and Aughton area with a minimum of 68 and possibly up to 79 birds involved in 2 or 3 flocks, the largest being 53. A flock of 53 early in the morning of the same date flew south at Spurn Point before u-turning. It seems likely the same birds are involved. 60 were seen flying north-west over Rufforth on the 18th, presumably re-orientating northwards. Two Egyptian Geese were present with Greylags at Derwent Farm on the 7th and then flew south over North Duffield Carrs on the 9th, remaining at Derwent Farm with mixed geese from the 10th-17th and again at Bubwith Bridge on the 23rd. 

 Barnacle Geese - Andy Walker


The two wintering Bewick's Swans (including the colour-ringed bird 702) remained into the month, present at Derwent Farm on the 5th-14th, on the 12th they were joined by two additional birds which didn't linger for more than a day but the two initial wintering birds remained until month end. A total of 104 Whooper Swans were present in the valley on the 5th with the colour-ringed bird C3S present amongst 18 birds at Derwent Farm. 89 remained on the 12th with 104 again present throughout the site on the 15th, including the colour-ringed birds - AUZ, C3S and Z5T. They were still present on the 21st with a flock of 96 birds. Numbers of Mute Swans continued to increase during the month with a new record count for the reserve on the 21st when 180+ were present, including herds of 97 at Thorganby, 42 at North Duffield Carrs, and 16 at Derwent Farm. A total count on the 22nd revealed a true record breaking total of 217 present. 

 Whooper Swan - Andy Kisby


Gull watchers were treated to a build up of white-winged gulls commuting between Rufforth tip near York and the Wheldrake Ings roost, which held up to 10,000 large gulls. An up-turn in records for Iceland Gulls started with a first winter, second winter and adult at the Wheldrake roost on the 9th whilst an adult was present at North Duffield Carrs on the 12th. A first winter bird was present at Wheldrake Ings at dusk again on the 16th and 20th. A single large first winter Glaucous Gull was present at the Wheldrake roost on the 9th with another different first winter bird on the 10th and two present on the 14th. The large first winter bird was present again on the 16th with two first-winter birds on the 17th and another single on the 26th. Two first winter Caspian Gulls were present at the Wheldrake roost on the 16th, one from Poland (yellow darvic) and one from Eastern Germany (green darvic). These are the second and third records for the valley following another yellow colour-ringed first-winter in early 2012.

Over 6000+ Herring Gulls were present on the 9th with 4000 on the 16th, compared with 4000+ Greater Black-backed Gulls on the 9th and 2000 on the 16th. A single Lesser Black-backed Gull was present at the Wheldrake roost on the 9th and two on the 16th. 1000 Common Gulls at the Wheldrake roost on the 16th was the highest count of the winter so far but well below the usual recent counts. Over 4000 Black-headed Gulls were present at Wheldrake Ings on the 16th - a very low winter count. On the 3rd a single first winter Mediterranean Gull was present at North Duffield Carrs.


Warmer and more spring like days from the middle of the month saw the first two returning Oystercatchers present at Wheldrake Ings on the 15th - the latest return for over 20 years. Pairs were then present at Wheldrake and Ellerton on the 16th. Numbers increased quickly thereafter with singles at Bubwith, North Duffield Carrs and 10 at Thorganby on the 21st. 2000+ Lapwing were present between Bubwith and Ellerton Ings on the 15th indicating a return, with several ‘pairs’ showing signs of display during nice spring-like weather on that date. 1500+ were present in the North Duffield Carrs area on the 23rd. 300+ Dunlin at Bubwith on the 12th showed signs of an influx and numbers increased further to 400+ by the 23rd. Numbers of Redshank increased from 36 on the 1st to 53 by the 22nd presumably as returning breeders and passage birds moved back into the valley. 50+ Ruff in the Bubwith area on the 12th represented the largest count of the winter so far, increasing to 61 on the 21st (including 3 white-headed birds). Numbers of Curlew increased early in the month with incoming breeding birds, with 21 at Wheldrake Ings on the 9th when up to five were also present in the Bubwith/North Duffield Carrs area. 18 were present in the Aughton area on the 15th when the first bird was heard singing. Numbers increased thereafter with a total of 39 present in the valley on the 16th and 70+ on the 21st. 1250+ Golden Plover were present in the southern half of the valley on the 15th showing a small return despite extensive flooding, with 1840 present throughout the valley on the 22nd, a single Grey Plover was also present on the 14th. The first two returning Black-tailed Godwits were typical in their arrival, both in terms of date and location, with two present at Bubwith Ings on the 15th-17th with another pair at Wheldrake on the latter date. Four were again present at North Duffield Ings on the 21st-24th.

Golden Plover - Tim Ward


Good numbers Barn Owls were seen throughout the month with regular sightings from North Duffield Carrs, Thorganby viewing platform, Wheldrake Ings, Bank Island, Ellerton, Aughton and Melbourne Ings. A single
Little Owl was heard at Wheldrake Ings car park lane on the 9th. A single Red Kite was seen near Elvington on the 24th and a single female Goshawk was hunting Teal at Wheldrake Ings on the 16th. Atleast two cream-crowned Marsh Harriers remained in the valley throughout the month, with another two regularly seen over Skipwith Common, and a male Hen Harrier was seen at North Duffield Carrs on the 28th. Upto four Peregrines remained in the valley during the month with two males hunting over Derwent Farm on the 10th and a pair there on the 17th. Buzzards have been common and widespread throughout the valley, with increasing activity on the warmer days from the middle of the month. A kettle of seven were at Thorganby on the 17th, with five present around Bank Island and two at Ellerton - with three other singles elsewhere, giving a days count of 17.

Barn Owl - Andy Walker

Numbers of Cormorants increased early in the month with 23 roosting at the Wheldrake colony on the 9th and 26 on the 16th. Seven Grey Herons flew over Wheldrake Ings towards dusk on the 16th to roost in the heronry, suggesting a return of breeding birds and an onset of breeding activity. Three Little Grebes back at North Duffield Carrs suggested a return to prospective breeding areas, these were also followed by a single at Wheldrake Ings on the 22nd. A single Great Crested Grebe at North Duffield Carrs on the 17th was thought to be a 'fresh in' spring migrant, and a pair also at NDC on the 18th were seen displaying. Another bird was present at Wheldrake Ings on the 22nd. A single Water Rail was calling at Thornton Ellers on the 8th with another near Melbourne on the 9th when two calling birds were also present in the car park lane at Wheldrake Ings. Two were still present in the Wheldrake car park area on the 16th with a single seen well by the wind pump there on the 22nd. Seven Grey Partridge were present near Wheldrake on the 9th and a pair were present off Intake Lane at Bubwith on the 15th. A single was at Benji Lane Wheldrake on the 17th. A single Green Woodpecker flew over North Duffield Ings on the 17th. The first Grey Wagtail for the year was recorded on the 22nd as it flew over the water treatment works at Bank Island.
Skylarks were heard singing from the 9th during the nicer spring-like days. Five Waxwings were in North Duffield village on the 9th with two also reported in Bubwith on the 12th. 

Grey Partridge - Lucy Murgatroyd

Small mammal trapping started again this month, producing 12 Bank Voles, 4 Wood Mice and 2 Common Shrews. A Stoat was seen at Bank Island on the 9th and a Weasel on the 20th. Mink tracks of one individual were found at Wheldrake Ings on the 22nd. A single adult Otter was reported from the river at Wheldrake on the 17th, two sets of tracks were also in freshly exposed mud, whilst a single animal was photographed on a camera trap at the bailey bridge there on the 23rd. Brown Hares have been a fairly regular sight through the valley over the course of the month, two were present at Derwent Farm on the 15th, with 10 in fields adjacent to Skipwith Common NNR on the 16th, several were chasing each other round and showing signs of ‘boxing’. Three were present on arable adjacent to Bank Island on the 16th with four near Newton on Derwent on the same date and one at Thorganby on the 17th. Two at Derwent Farm on the 21st and a single at North Duffield Carrs on the 26th. Two species of deer were recorded during February with a single Fallow Deer on Skipwith Common NNR on the 16th, Roe Deer on the other hand were far more frequent with two at Wheldrake Ings on the 9th, a single on Skipwith Common NNR on the 15th and four on the 16th. Two were seen at Derwent Farm on the 21st, a single at Wheldrake on the 22nd and two near North Duffield Carrs on the 26th. A single Red Fox was reported on Thorganby Ings on the 17th, followed by two Badgers on the 19th seen via the camera trap. Unfortunately there have been double figures of the rather unpopular Brown Rat at both Bank Island and North Duffield Carrs feeding stations.

Brown Hare - Tim Ward