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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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