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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Friday 31 January 2014

27/01/14 - 2013: The Year of Recording

What a year it was! At the start of 2013 we decided to turn our attention, time and effort to recording all species present across the Lower Derwent Valley. The team here is made up of staff and volunteers who have birds as their main strength and who have spent many years studying them and getting to know their habits inside and out, but this year we wanted to test ourselves by trying to record everything! 

The LDV is one of the best areas in the country to see birds, with thousands of wintering ducks, geese and swans returning to the valley each winter and making good use of the (usually) extensively flooded Ings in nationally and internationally important numbers. During the summer months the valley is home to an important population of breeding waders (Snipe, Curlew, Redshank and Lapwing) as well as duck species such as Shoveler - in its key British breeding stronghold. During the summer the site also supports a diverse community of breeding warblers, pipits and buntings, and in some years the sound of Quail, Corncrake and Spotted Crake can be heard in the meadows. However, the valley also supports a significant proportion of remaining MG4 Grassland found in the UK, this grassland community being typical of unimproved floodplain meadows where hay making and aftermath grazing has led to a diverse abundance of wildflowers. Two key species, Meadox Foxtail and Greater Burnet typify this community, and of course in this variety of wildflowers comes a whole world of invertebrates waiting to be explored.........

………and so with such a wonderful and diverse habitat in front of us we took up the challenge of recording as many different species as we could throughout the year whilst we were getting on with the day to day jobs around the valley. Whilst out brush-cutting, chainsawing, hedge trimming, fencing, maintaining the paths, litter picking and so on we would take time to take in what was around us, be it flowers, insects, fungi, trees, fish, butterflies etc.

How many species did we think we would be able to record in a year? Well a target of 1000 was set, bearing in mind how busy work is during the summer months and that time to do it may be at a minimum. Below is just a snippet of how each month un-folded….....

With the January flooding it allowed time to kick start the ‘Pan List’, with the first species on it being a Bewick Swan at Aughton Ings on the 3rd, by the end of the month 90 birds had been recorded with notable highlights being a Little Owl in Elvington, Waxwings in Thorganby, and a Tundra Bean Goose and Scaup at Bank Island. The mammal list got off to a good start, 9 species were recorded, with Stoat, Weasel and Otter being pleasing additions. 18 trees, 27 wildflowers and 4 species of fungi also made the list.

 Whooper Swans - North Duffield - 21/01

 Otter - Wheldrake Ings - 23/01

By the end of February the bird list sat at 102, including three rare gulls – Caspian, Iceland and Glaucous which had frequented the Wheldrake roost throughout the month. White-fronted Goose, Barnacle Goose and Goshawk were also pleasing additions. Mammals increased to a reasonable 15 species including Fallow Deer, Badger, Mink and three of the common small mammalian species. The first reptile got its name on the list, with a Common Lizard seen on Skipwith Common on the 19th- one of the milder days! The moth list got off the ground this month with four species found – March Moth, Dotted Border, Brindled Beauty and Spring Usher.

Badger family - Undisclosed site

Bank Vole - Bank Island - 21/02

March was a fairly quiet month, with just 6 new birds added – however these included a notable species in the form of a Great White Egret which was seen in a ditch in Thorganby on the 15th. A flock of 6 Common Scoter turned up at Bank Island on the 18th which were a surprising and pleasing addition. Hedgehog (scarcely seen in the valley) and Water Shrew were welcome additions to the mammal list. A single moth species - Oak Beauty, two new plants - Sneezewort and Yellow Flag Iris, and the first fish of the year – a single Rudd at Bank Island were the only other additions.

 Pintail pair - North Duffield Carrs - 12/03

 Red Fox - Skipwith Common - 15/03

The list then took off again in April with the arrival of spring migrants which saw the bird list reach 127 with 19 new additions, with two Common Cranes at North Duffield on the 22nd and a Honey Buzzard over Bank Island on the 25th being the stand out species for the month. The first amphibians were seen, a single Common Toad on Skipwith Common and the first Common Frog spawn of the year was recorded on the 15th in the scrape at North Duffield Carrs. Several Smooth Newts found in the small pond on Kind Rudding Lane on the 15th were the first of the newts to grace the list. Many other ‘firsts’ were also had with three butterfly species – Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Brimstone all on the 15th – one of the few warm days! The same date saw the first bees make the grade with Common Carder, Early and Tree Bumblebee being pleasing finds along with a Common Wasp. Four early flower species were added to the ‘pan’ – Wild Onion, Primrose, Cowslip and Wild Daffodil. The moth list gradually increased with another five species seen around the NNR Base at Bank Island, and on the 29th a Pike which had got itself stuck on the clough (presumably after the flooding at North Duffield Carrs) made it on to the fish list. One of the most pleasing and different finds for the month came in the form of a ‘bee mimic’ Eristalis intricarius at Wheldrake Ings on the 26th.

 Common Lizard - Skipwith Common - 15/04

Wheatear - North Duffield Carrs - 26/04

By May the 'pan' started to hot up with a number of our summer visitors arriving – Woodlark, Garganey, Common Tern and Hobby, increasing the bird list to 136 species, this also included a Spotted Crake at Wheldrake Ings on the 6th and a Purple Heron over Bank Island on the 23rd. The first day of the month saw warm sunshine bring out two reptile species on to the Common with a single Grass Snake and Adder found across the heath. At this stage in the year many of our flower species are usually out soaking up the sun, and so during our travels around the valley we managed to record 38 new species bringing us to 73 for the year, along with 3 trees and 4 grasses. Red-tailed Bumblebee and a Hornet were new Hymenoptera for the month and the butterfly list increased to 10, starting with Orange Tip on the 2nd and finishing with a Speckled Wood on the 31st. The first dragonflies for the year were recorded at North Duffield – with Common Blue, Azure, Blue-tailed and Banded Demoiselle all seen over the course of the last three days of the month. Other monthly additions were two new moths – Angle Shades and White Ermine were found at Bank Island, a Green Tiger Beetle was seen running across the heath on the Common and four species of fish – Minnow, Gudgeon, Carp and Common Eel were added.

Adder - Skipwith Common - 01/05

Orange Tip - Pocklington Canal - 08/05

June was a poor month weather wise but we still managed to record a good number of species, particularly on the flower front with the list up to 127 by month end, with Mousetail, Broad-leaved Helleborine and Musk Thistle being notable finds. We managed to separate some of the grass species that had previously been unfamiliar and added 21 new species and 1 tree - a single Aspen was found growing in the orchid field in East Cottingwith. The moth trapping got off to a good start at Bank Island and Wheldrake Ings, with 24 new species. 6 new butterfly species were recorded, including Purple Hairstreak which was a pleasing find, a species which often remains high in the oak tree tops on the Common. Other invertebrates were tackled with a spot of pond dipping at Bank Island which saw a number of freshwater species added along with a Wasp Beetle Clytus arietis found in the meadow at Bank Island on the 25th. The bird list remained fairly similar with just three species added – Garden Warbler, Avocet and Mandarin. The first bats also made it on to the list with Noctule, Daubenton’s, Soprano and Common Pipistrelle over Wheldrake on the 26th.

 Meadow Foxtail - Bank Island - 26/06

 Tufted Vetch - Bank Island - 26/06

 Musk Thistle - Thornton Ellers - 26/06

July had to be one of the best recording months with the moth list reaching 159 and the flower total resting at a very impressive 238 by the 31st. Adders-tongue Fern, Green-winged Orchid, Sand Leek, Bog Pimpernel, Meadow Thistle and Welted Thistle were species of note out of the 111 new found throughout the month! 10 new grasses and a single tree (Wild Cherry) were also added. Only a handful of new bird species were seen – with the first Kingfisher, Tree Pipit, Linnet and Ringed Plover taking us to 143 for the year. Great Crested Newts were the last of the reptiles for the year to make it on to the 'pan', with several individuals found in the small pond off Kind Rudding Lane, Skipwith on the 3rd. By the end of the month we’d discovered our 10th bee species, with White-tailed, Buff-tailed and Garden Bumblebee found in the NNR Base Garden. Looking for other invertebrate species such as beetles, bugs, flies etc proved a challenge on the I.D front, we did however manage a total of 67 by month end including a number of hoverflies, leafhoppers, froghoppers, ladybirds, grasshoppers and longhorn beetles. On the 9th a trip down the Pocklington Canal found three new fish species – Dace, Roach and Brown Trout followed by Perch at Wheldrake Ings on the 13th bringing us to 10 species for the year.

 Round-leaved Sundew - Skipwith Common - 03/07

 Early Bumblebee - Bank Island - 24/07

 Longhorn Beetle Leptura quadrifasciata - Skipwith - 31/07

August saw the birds take a back seat again with just three new species added – Common Sandpiper, Lesser Whitethroat and Yellow-legged Gull. A number of Whiskered Bats over Wheldrake Ings on the 27th saw the mammal list hit 22 species and a single (and last for the year) butterfly species made the list when a Common Blue was seen flying across the meadow at Bank Island on the 9th. Two dragonfly species were also ‘firsts’ for the year – Black Darter and Migrant Hawker, and the moth list hit 212 with majority trapped around the NNR Base. The hunt for new wildflower species continued with yet 17 more species found, bringing the total up to a staggering 255, with particular highlights being: Marsh Gentian, Scarlet Pimpernel, Nodding Bur-marigold, Red Bartsia and Bristly Oxtongue. Toad Rush and Deer Grass were pleasing to find one morning whilst out walking the Common and Horse Chestnut was the only new tree for the month. A number of new hoverflies, sawflies, wasp mimics and bee mimics were new species for the list and new to most of the team!

 Emerald Damselfly - Skipwith Common - 01/08

 Wasp mimic Sericomyia silentis - Wheldrake Ings - 23/08

 Painted Lady - Wheldrake Ings - 23/08

September saw the last of the flower species for the year recorded (19 new) with the list sitting pretty at 274. 11 new tree species were added bringing it to 36 for the year, with Turkey Oak being a particular good find including a number of the rather tricky to I.D Salix variety across Wheldrake Ings. September was also a highlight on the grass front with 38 species found making it 77 for the year – with this being a tricky species category a total of this size was particularly pleasing! The last mammal species were added with a Mole spotted crossing the road in Thorganby early on the morning of the 10th and a Brown Long-eared Bat at Bank Island on the 23rd. The last new dragonfly species to be added for the year was a Southern Hawker first seen over North Duffield Carrs on the 2nd. With the start of the autumn months our attention turned to fungi with the species list soon up to 19 by month end, with Fly Agaric kicking off the month on the 2nd, along with pleasing finds such as Egghead Mottlegill and Spiny Puffball. The ‘other inverts’ list continued to increase gradually, with several Ichneumon Wasps found on Skipwith Common on the 2nd, followed by leafhoppers, grasshoppers, ladybirds, shield bugs and ground beetles found in the meadow at Thornton Ellers on the 5th. The 110th and last addition for the month to the inverts list came in the form of a Devil’s Coach-horse seen on the decking outside the office on the 23rd.

 Marsh Gentian - Skipwith Common - 01/09

22-spot Ladybird - Thornton Ellers - 03/09

Black Darter - North Duffield Carrs - 12/09

With the onset of migration in October hopes were high for new species, it didn’t disappoint with 6 species found including a reserve first in the form a Yellow-browed Warbler on the 5th, the same day that a Cetti’s Warbler was added to the list. The other new species are all worthy of a mention with an Osprey on the 10th, Merlin on the 13th, Great Skua on the 15th and a Montagu’s Harrier following the river at Wheldrake on the 16th. Moth trapping continued at Bank Island with 7 species added bringing the list to 247, with species such as Blair’s Shoulder-knot, Dark Chestnut, Dowdy Plume and Pale Mottled Willow. The fungi list reached 35 with species such as Honey Fungus, Orange Bonnet, Purple Swamp Brittlegill and Woolly Milkcap.

 Candlesnuff Fungus - Skipwith Common - 29/10

 Yellowbrain - Skipwith Common - 29/10

November was predictably quiet, with just a single new bird species - a Ring Ouzel over Bank Island on the 20th. A Green Shield Bug – surprisingly absent from this until now, was finally found on Skipwith Common on the 1st whilst out felling. The fungi list continued to increase, with a pleasing 38 new species found throughout the month with highlights being Purple Jellydisc, Aniseed Funnel, Orange Peel, Jelly Rot, Shaggy Parasol and Yellow Stagshorn.

 Yellow Stagshorn - 01/11 - Skipwith Common

 Orange Peel Fungus - Skipwith Common - 06/11

December was, as you would suspect, the quietest month for new species, with one new bird, a Nuthatch heard calling on Skipwith Common on the 4th, a Winter Moth at Bank Island on the 3rd and two new species of fungi also found on the same date – Green Elf Cup and Beefsteak Fungus.

 Green Elf Cup 'staining' - Skipwith Common - 03/12

 Purple Jellydisc - Skipwith Common - 03/12

So, what a year it has been and what a wealth of information we have learnt about a whole range of species groups we had previously not made time to explore. Obviously there were some omissions, largely on the bird front, with no Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Black-necked Grebe, Grasshopper Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Redstart, Wood Sandpiper, Short-eared Owl and Firecrest – just to name a few of the species recorded by others this year in the valley that we missed!

Before this year how many of us knew just how many hoverflies there were, let alone identify them, now we can separate our Scaeva from Sphaerophoria and the tricky Eristalis that we look forward to finding again this year. The wealth of flowers in the valley surprised us all – especially how many we were able to identify, but thanks must go to Judith – for helping with much of the grass I.D! Hopefully this year we will be able to remember some of what she taught us! Moth trapping didn’t really get going until half way through the year and so this year we aim to start earlier to pick up some of the early flyers. Butterflies and dragonflies were species easily recorded by all – with the only omission being that of Red-eyed Damselfly which has previously been recorded on the Pocklington Canal – one to aim for in 2014. The ‘other inverts’ category is 'the big one' and one to aim at breaking into with hundreds more species to add to the list.

Listed below are the final totals for each category with the entirety of them making a total of 1065 species – a target that we aim to not only reach again but also break throughout 2014…..

Mammals – 24
Birds – 154
Reptiles/Amphibians – 7
Trees – 36
Wildflowers – 274
Grasses – 77
Bees/Wasps – 10
Butterflies – 23
Dragonflies – 17
Moths – 248
Other Inverts – 112
Fungi – 73
Fish – 10

Many thanks to our staff and volunteers for really getting behind the 'pan' - and for all the hours spent pouring over I.D guides!


  1. Wonderful list, wonderful place, wonderful people !

  2. Brilliant Jean! Great effort and hugely impressive. Doing a viva at college today on LDV hope I can remember all the species! Charlotte