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 28 July 2016

20/07/16 - New addition

As part of a national NNR project, earlier in the year we were fortunate to be able to take on a three month survey and monitoring trainee. Cameron started working with us in April, and since then he has been getting involved with the monitoring work that takes place on and around the NNR, including carrying out grassland surveys, monitoring newts on Skipwith Common, running trail cams for otters in the Lower Derwent Valley, carrying out butterfly transects and helping to run the moth trap at the NNR base. Cameron has also been working on a project to promote the conservation of Swifts throughout the local villages surrounding the NNR’s, which has involved making nest boxes with Ad Astra and Aviva, whilst also running workshops in local schools. Last week he also joined us out on site as we started to check a few Barn Owl sites as part of our long term project – so there has definitely been plenty to keep him busy and engaged. In the short time that he’s been with us, Cameron has been a real asset to the team – so many thanks for all your hard work Cameron – and for being prepared to muck in with any job – even the ragwort!

Wednesday 20 July 2016

15/07/16 - Kestrel success

Last summer, following a kind invitation from the landowner, we were able to access a new Kestrel site in Bubwith. The owner made contact after a single chick had fallen from the box, on inspection the box was found to be rotten, with holes appearing, as well as being full to bursting with old nesting material, pellets and general detritus following many years of use – however six large and almost fledged young were somehow squeezed in – pictured below.


Earlier this spring prior to the breeding season, and as promised last year, we arrived with a replacement box with the other one unlikely to be fit for another season. We took down the existing box and replaced it with a slightly bigger and ‘roomier’ one. We also transferred a little bit of the old nesting material out of the original box into the new one to make the Kestrels feel more at home straight away. Other than initially having to fend off a pair of interested Jackdaws, everything worked out brilliantly for the pair of Kestrels, with them soon making themselves at home. On our visit recently we arrived to find a healthy brood of four tucked away in the back of the box - and in no danger of falling out - a brilliant result and many thanks again to the owners for keeping a close eye on this pair.

Monday 18 July 2016

13/07/16 - Pulling

At this time of year our team of staff, volunteers and contractors have been working hard out in the meadows hand pulling Marsh Ragwort once again. Although ragwort is a natural component of the unimproved and seasonally flooded hay meadow communities, it is poisonous to livestock when included in the hay cut. As a result, the team have been removing it in order to keep the cutting of the meadows for hay (the main underpinning management of the site), as viable as possible for our tenants and the local farming community. On a warm sunny day the meadows are a fantastic place to be - brimming with Greater Burnet, Pepper Saxifrage, Yellow Rattle and Ragged Robin, whilst singing Curlews and drumming Snipe are heard over head, although the work is incredibly hard! Especially on the cold and wet days like we've experienced recently when time goes very slowly! So a big thank you to our team for getting stuck in to the job whatever the weather, especially our new volunteers.

Following the rather delayed start to the breeding wader season as a result of the prolonged and lingering winter floods, there are still several late broods of Lapwing chicks around the reserve at the moment, including newly hatched young at Thornton Ellers and North Duffield Carrs. At the latter site a single pair made a scrape and laid four eggs on the bund in front of Garganey Hide, with the eggs only hatching recently having been laid quite late. Last week whilst out checking ditches and managing water levels on the Carrs we spotted one chick feeding in the long grass, as we approached it sat down tucking itself amongst the vegetation. It was well camouflaged against the ground with its dark grey/brown mottled coat, pictured below.

Friday 15 July 2016

10/07/16 - Shovelers & Gadwall

Following the hard work of our volunteers helping to repair the swan pipe at North Duffield recently, whilst out on the site with the Environment Agency last week, we were fortunate to find this delightful brood of three Shoveler ducklings feeding in it.

This season is proving to be a good one for ducks so far – as predicted earlier in the year due to the wet spring and late winter flooding. The high water levels restricted access to their chosen nest sites by predators, whilst at the same time encouraging many pairs to linger and remain to breed. The shallow flooding later in the spring then provided great feeding opportunities for the young broods. Over the last few weeks we’ve seen two broods of Garganey (confirming successful breeding), and several broods of Shoveler, whilst up to 50 Gadwall ducklings have been crèched together on the pool at Wheldrake Ings.

So far this season a total of 10 Gadwall ducklings have been caught – taking the total ringed in the valley to over 300, and adding significantly to the knowledge of our British bred birds and their movements. So far these have generated two recoveries to Ireland and a single to France, as well as several within England. We’ll hopefully be adding a few more to this year’s total over the next two/three weeks until the young fledge and start to disperse away from the site.

Monday 11 July 2016

05/07/16 - Geese release

Over the course of the last few months we have been in talks with York University, to try and find an effective way of dealing with their geese ‘situation’. After an ongoing problem the University applied for a licence to control the birds on site due to a public health concern, and a health and safety issue. Natural England were keen to find a novel approach to helping the University which involved catching them and releasing them onto the Ings. With the Uni being so close to the reserve in the Lower Derwent Valley, which is also an SPA, we needed to find a way to manage the population at the University without affecting the population on the Ings as we know birds move between both sites. Last week we received a call to say that the first group were ready to be collected, with c40 waiting, with another 40 ready a couple of days later - most of the first group were the young birds, with the adults following in the second catch. Both groups of birds were ringed and later released on to the River Derwent at North Duffield Carrs.

Aside from an hour spent transporting, ringing and releasing the geese, the rest of the day we were busy catching up on jobs with our fantastic band of volunteers from the East Coast. The morning involved carrying out repairs and improvements to the swan pipe at North Duffield following the damage caused to it by the winter floods. Coincidentally we also received news in the morning of a Wigeon ringed at the site in 2010, which was found in May this year, in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, over 2250 km away – recoveries and information like this is exactly why we do this type of work. The afternoon was then spent strimming, hedge trimming and allen scything paths and over hanging bushes around Bank Island. At the end of the day we also managed to squeeze in ringing a brood of Kestrels at Bank Island – a feisty brood of five. Many thanks to the team for all their hard work, effort and enthusiasm. 

Friday 1 July 2016

26/06/16 - Swiftly does it

Following their first visit last month, a second team from the insurance company Aviva visited the base recently as part of their corporate volunteering time. After a quick introduction to the reserve, the team set about making Barn Owl boxes which are to be installed around the site as part of our long running project. As well as owl boxes, the team also helped construct a number of Swift boxes as part of a new project that we have recently started, involving the local communities and schools. Everyone worked hard cutting out the templates and constructing boxes – so much that we even had to go and collect more timber to keep up with them! In total, 13 Barn Owl boxes and 12 Swift boxes were made – making for an enjoyable day as well as making a real contribution to the local populations. At the end of the afternoon we also checked one of our local Barn Owl boxes with the group, which allowed them to see an adult and chick at close range – a great end to a fantastic day – many thanks again to the group for their hard work and enthusiasm.