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

Friday 29 April 2016

28/04/16 - Herons, Whimbrel & Wheatears

Last week the team visited the local heronry to undertake the first series of nest counts and to check on breeding success. A total of 24 active nests were counted, which is a little down on recent years, although it appears to be a rather late season so there is time yet. Whilst checking the nests we managed to take a few quick photographs from the tree tops – pictured here is a very young heron chick, and a clutch of four eggs. We had been expecting to be able to ring some of the young but it soon became clear that most of the chicks were too small – with some just hatching and several adults still incubating clutches. After a quick check of a sample of nests we departed to allow the adults to get back to incubating and brooding – fingers crossed the cold nights, and snow and hail won’t have caused them too many problems during the last few days – hopefully the weather will take a turn for the better soon...

Along with monitoring the heron population, we're also on the look out for any of our colour-ringed Whimbrel. The first returning birds touched down in the Lower Derwent Valley on Saturday 16th April, with three individuals seen flying over Bank Island late evening. A brief stop at the fields in Storwood on Monday revealed another two birds (neither with colour-rings). Each year we look forward to seeing these remarkable birds passing through the reserve which they use as a spring staging site. 

Over 100 birds have been colour-ringed at the Wheldrake roost since 2004, and since then 75% of these birds have been re-sighted in subsequent years around the valley. Last year new recovery details came in for two birds, with one individual seen on autumn passage on the Ythan Estuary, Aberdeenshire, for the third year (pictured below), followed by a second individual that had been photographed wintering off the Senegal coast. Please let us know if you come across any colour-ringed birds in and around the valley (or elsewhere), and feel free to get in touch if you think that a group that you’re part of might like to hear a talk on our Whimbrel or any other wildlife from the LDV.

With the (brief spell) of warm sunshine last week it finally felt like spring had arrived, our returning summer migrants – Swallows and House Martins, filled the skies above the local villages whilst Willow Warblers, Whitethroats and Blackcaps sang from the willow scrub around the reserve. At this time of year Wheatears also pass through the area on the way to their breeding sites in Northern England and Scotland, and onwards to Iceland. They often favour the flood banks of the River Derwent, tilled arable fields and muck heaps which provide plenty of flies and grubs for them to refuel with. This male was photographed with plenty of prey buzzing around it, near Thornton Ellers last week.

Thursday 28 April 2016

26/04/16 - Pilmoor SSSI

Recently our staff and volunteers have once again been helping out managing other sites in Yorkshire, this time returning to Pilmoor near Easingwold in the Vale of York. Pilmoor is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), designated for its extent and quality of fen vegetation. The site also clearly demonstrates the sequence of habitats in relation to wetness, with succession from open water to fen, and wet heath to woodland. Our team have been helping to clear areas of invasive Rhododendron, by chopping down and strimming some of the larger growth, hand pulling some of the seedlings and treating stumps with chemical. Hopefully this will help to maintain and restore some of the wet heath communities. Many thanks to everyone for their hard work!

Wednesday 20 April 2016

19/04/16 - Skipwith delights

Following another recent ‘cool’ spell our Grass Snakes haven’t been seen since the first record on the 14th March. However the warm sunshine today brought Skipwith to life - two Grass Snakes, two Adders and nine Common Lizards were seen on the Common, along with the first Orange Tips of the year and six Peacock butterflies. The first Common Carder Bees were also noted around the Gorse, while an emergence of Green Tiger Beetles flew over the heather. Woodlarks, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs sang from the Silver Birch trees, whilst Green Woodpeckers ‘yaffled’ their way over the heath and a pair of Tawny Owls called to each other.

Tuesday 19 April 2016

16/04/16 - Adders

The warm spells of sunshine at the end of last week brought out some of our Adder population on Skipwith Common – with a total of six different individuals recorded on the heath. This is the most we have recorded before in one day. It was pleasing to see so many, including two of last year’s young, along with two adult males and two adult females. All the snakes were found amongst the bracken and heather, soaking up the sun’s rays, along with several Common Lizards. 

Picture below is one of yesterday’s individuals showing the cloudy eye, which means it won’t be long before it will shed its skin. Prior to shedding, the skin of a snake becomes duller and its eye will change and become cloudy or opaque, which is caused by a milky fluid which the snakes secrete between the old skin and new skin. Snakes shed their skin in one long piece, which we occasionally find left on the heath. If you are fortunate enough to come across a sighting of an Adder or Grass Snake then please watch from a distance, and leave your record in the log book provided.

Friday 15 April 2016

12/04/16 - Sprucing up

Last week the car parks at Bank Island and North Duffield Carrs were given a spruce up, with them both being re-leveled and the pot holes filled in, followed by a new top dressing of gravel - making both sites more user friendly. 

The team have also been busy working in our wildlife garden at the NNR base at Bank Island, weeding, planting and pruning ready for the butterfly and bee season. If you haven’t visited recently then why not plan a visit soon and send us any sightings or counts you make from around the reserve. 

Recently there has been a number of interesting sightings including several Common Scoter, a pair of Cranes and a large movement of Little Gulls. Over the last few days there has also been a steady arrival of summer migrants including good numbers of Willow Warblers and Blackcaps, along with a steady build-up of House Martins and the first few Yellow Wagtails. All hides are now accessible once again – although wellies are still needed!

Friday 8 April 2016

06/04/16 - Yaffling

Skipwith Common has long been one of the best places in the Vale of York for Green Woodpeckers, with their ‘yaffling’ call being a characteristic sound associated with Skipwith Commons heathland and birch woodland. Their distinctive call is one of the best ways to locate these birds, with good views usually being hard to obtain as they move through the trees, fly across the heaths or spend time on the ground feeding on their favourite food – ants. Two or three pairs breed on or adjacent to the Common and are particularly vocal at the moment as they set up and defend territories and try to attract mates. Many thanks to Richard Willison for this stunning image, taken on the Common last week. 

Green Woodpeckers - Skipwith Common - 31/03/16