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

Thursday 9 January 2014

09/01/14 - MBE mi'lady

As the New Year's Honours list was announced last week with it came the wonderful news that Jean Thorpe – a wildlife rescuer and the founder of Ryedale Wildlife Rehabilitation had been awarded the honour of an MBE – click here to read the BBC News article. Jean has been involved with Natural England/English Nature in the Lower Derwent Valley since 1993, often bringing in wildlife to release and ring after she has nursed them back to health. Jean has dedicated her life to this cause, and works tirelessly for wildlife and wildlife issues – often at her own expense, and holidays/days off are something of a mystery to Jean, with her always being available any time of day or night to attend incidents and injured wildlife. The photograph below was taken in the summer, each year the Mute Swans that breed near the River Derwent attempt to cross the very busy road once the cygnets are old enough - an accident waiting to happen - and so Jean managed to round up the two adults and nine cygnets - quickly transporting the eleven swans in her car to the river!

 11 swans in a car.....just a normal day for Jean!

Jean, working under Ryedale Wildlife Rehabilitation has helped, nurse and return hundreds of animals back into the wild which would otherwise have been sentenced to certain death. One such example of a bird which looked like it was unfortunately going to meet this fate is a Barn Owl which had been shot with an air rifle near the Lower Derwent Valley. The bird had a broken wing and therefore would have been unable to hunt. Although it was thought that the bird wouldn’t make a full recovery, Jean gave it a chance along with the local vet and nursed it back to flying fitness. Members of the LDV Team attended the release and ringed the bird – to see it flying strong and knowing it would be able to hunt in the evening was a fantastic feeling enjoyed by all.

Four years later this bird was re-caught as a breeding female in a box 7 miles away. From the ringing data we know that this bird has now reared 35 young since its release – none of which would have been there without Jean’s help and as such, there would be fewer people enjoying sightings of Barn Owls in this and other areas of the country.

Jean with a breeding adult Barn Owl

This story is similar for so many more species – Red Kites, Peregrines and Mute Swans to name a few, which have often been shot, poisoned or have flown into overheard wires, but thanks to Jean are now back in the wild and in some cases that we know of, like the above, are breeding. Jean has become something of a raptor rehabilitation expert and has a real knack with Sparrowhawks in particular. 

Other species she has nursed back to health and released on the NNR include a recent Marsh Harrier and Red Kite. The Red Kite was found poisoned and half dead in the pouring rain, it was thought to be hours from death and given that hypothermia kills most poisoned birds before organ failure or starvation, it would likely to have been dead in the morning had it not been at Jean's under a heat lamp, the prognosis wasn't good but with Jean's track record hope remained. Amazingly the Kite started to fair well, and put on 150 grams during its two week stay with Jean. It soon let her know it was ready to go! Rest of the story can be read here. The Marsh Harrier was found in a farmer's field, unable to take off fully from the ground, Jean was soon on the scene and after a check over she noticed feather damage on both wings, suspected to have been caused by hitting overhead wires. Whilst clearly not causing any major damage it had been left bruised and unable to hunt, as a result of this she was massively underweight for a bird her age, sex and size, on arrival Jean weighed her at 400 grams - massively under the actual average weight for an adult female - over 700 grams - more on this story can be read here.

Marsh Harrier that had hit overhead power lines 

Jean not only works with birds, but has also cared for many species of animals, and has been involved with the rescue of several young orphaned otters from the Derwent catchment, as well as further afield in Yorkshire. Jean's rescues are followed by a period of critical and expert care before she drives them hundreds of miles to Somerset where they spend a length of time being cared for in specialised surroundings. After the year and a half long process a return trip by Jean brings them back to the local river catchments before a careful and delicate soft release programme which sees the whole process reach a successful conclusion. This was the case of two young otter cubs that were inadvertently disturbed in their holt at Wheldrake Ings by contractors working on the riverside trees. These two were successfully released by Jean at North Duffield Carrs following the year and a half long process in Somerset. The fact that these Otters have had a chance to join the local populations and breed to further boost the population is a real benefit to the population, but once again touches the lives of those people who have been fortunate to see Otters in the local area.

Otter cub recovering at Jean's

Jean also gives up her time campaigning – making sure as many people who need to know, know. This includes the local police, EA, RSPB, RSPCA, NE, YWT etc etc – not only does she let people know but she is tireless in pursuit of action through the constant chasing of people and organisations to do something. Regular articles in the press, radio and TV have probably done un-measurable good in the widest sense, in alerting the general public to issues, raising awareness and putting off those who may undertake such crimes, to increasing interest in the general public and an interest in wildlife in the young. Jean also acts as an expert witness for a range of organisations attending scenes, collecting evidence and standing up in court, all helping to lead to successful prosecutions. Sadly often the crime against wildlife may not be possible to solve or lead to convictions which is frustrating especially for Jean, but at least for the birds and animals that Jean saves from poisoning, badger baiting etc the actions of such are reversed.

 Badger - saved by Jean after being brought in with fight wounds

The fact that Jean is well respected by both conservationists/naturalists and also amongst the game keeping/farming fraternity, as well as having many informants who feel able to trust and confide in her, is a testament to her character and determination. This ability to talk the talk, tell it how it is and to show that actions do speak louder than words is one such reason why Jean is able to do so much good work.

Jean's enthusiasm and passion for wildlife, natural history and ringing is infectious and she always finds time to encourage, help and share her knowledge with others - particularly all the volunteers who pass through the valley and who have the pleasure of working alongside Jean - and getting to see up close some of the stunning creatures that find their way into her care.

Helping one of our volunteers ring a Barn Owl

Lastly...it'd be fair to say it's been quite a good month for Jean as this isn't the only thing she's been awarded recently - after training with the LDV Team for a number of years Jean has now successfully qualified for her C-Permit for bird ringing from the BTO. Once again it's well deserved and a reward for all those early mornings passerine ringing in the reedbed with Mike, the hard work splodging around ditches catching ducks and the late night's wader netting on the Ings. Being able to ring all the rehabilitated birds as part of a special BTO project will be a real bonus in ringing some less well studied species and in understanding how successful rehabilitation can be.

Delight with a Whooper Swan at last year's catch  

If ever such an award was well deserved, it is by Jean, for such commitment, determination, and sheer hard work and at the same time, gentle, caring and infectious enthusiasm which drives others. It really is a pleasure for the team in the Lower Derwent Valley to have Jean on board.

Congratulations Jean from everyone in the LDV!


  1. Thankyou............................x

  2. What a fantastic story, well done Jean and thankyou for all that you do for our wonderful wildlife, long may it continue!

  3. HUGE congratulations and well deserved Jean! You're an inspiration to us all. Nick x

  4. Jean...hearty congratulations on your award.
    Peter R.

  5. Jean, what a fantastic person you are. A very well deserved award.

  6. Congratulations Jean. Well deserved .... you still have to carry mist net poles and get wet n muddy though !!!

  7. Thank you Jean.