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

Wednesday 30 November 2016

24/11/16 - Birch removal

Since the start of November our staff and volunteers have been hard at work on Skipwith Common NNR, removing birch saplings from the heath. Silver Birch is the dominant scrub/tree species on the Common and without control it would completely take over, resulting in the loss of the open wet and dry heath areas with their specialised plants, birds, invertebrates and reptiles. The open heathland and ponds on the Common are important for a whole range of species but include specialists such as Woodlarks, Cotton Grass, Marsh Gentian, Black Darters and Adders. 

However we won’t be clearing all of it as many species also thrive in the young scrubby habitat that the birch provides. Many thanks to our team for all the hard work put in so far, loppering the saplings and spraying them is hard going - especially in the wet and windy days of late - and with so much birch to tackle we’ll be busy working on here until the end of March – by then the team will no doubt be ready for a change of scenery – although there are definitely worst places to work! 

Wednesday 23 November 2016

16/11/16 - Recent works

Over the last two weeks our keen band of volunteers have been working hard helping us with a variety of tasks, including fencing repairs and burning willow scrub at North Duffield Carrs, as well as putting the finishing touches to the decoy and spraying pirri-pirri on Skipwith Common NNR. With the river fairly high and the valley now starting to flood we’re busy trying to finish all the jobs which could soon be underwater until after the New Year! However there’s no danger of us running out of jobs to do when it floods – each year when the Ings goes under we switch our attention to Skipwith Common and Forge Valley Woods NNR near Scarborough – which will definitely suit our East Coast based volunteers and save them the 80 mile round trip! Thanks as always to the team for their efforts of late.

On Tuesday this week, the team were hard at work on Wheldrake Ings, busy finishing the last of the scrub clearance before the site floods. With the main work already done due to many days spent on there in August/September, there were just a few small areas left to finish. The ditches at the back of Pool Hide are now willow-free, and all the cuttings were burnt. Whilst the fire did a great job of getting rid of all the newly cut willows, it also kept everyone warm and took care of lunch for the team – although one of the potatoes had seen better days! Thanks as always to the team for their hard work and good humour.

We're not the only ones who have been busy on the Ings lately, over the last few weeks the local birders may have noticed the heavy machinery working on the Ings as the annual ditching programme is undertaken. Ditch clearance is carried out on a rotational basis in order to keep the extensive network functioning (i.e moving water on and off the Ings as river levels fluctuate, whilst helping to maintain the valley’s wildlife interest as well as maximising the natural flood management role of the site (the storage of water during the winter floods). Keeping the ditches open and free from a build-up of silt and vegetation also helps maintain their suitability for some of our breeding ducks, small mammals (Water Voles), dragonflies and other invertebrates and scarce plants such as Greater Water Parsnip. The work has been taking place on North Duffield Carrs, Thornton, Aughton, Wheldrake Ings and Bank Island, at the latter site we have also been busy carrying out improvements to the scrapes making the site look better than ever.

Friday 18 November 2016

10/11/16 - Changing of the seasons

With the nights drawing in and the weather turning a little more autumnal we’ve seen a steady increase in the number of returning wintering waterfowl of late. Following the hard work over recent months managing the scrub and pool side vegetation at Wheldrake Ings, the first returning Teal found the improved conditions to their liking and built up quickly to a fine September total of 800+. Numbers since then have further increased to around 1800, with many now scattered throughout the valley and also on nearby Skipwith Common NNR. With relatively stable water levels so far we’ve also managed to catch and ring over 270 since they arrived back this autumn – a great result and significant total of the annual UK total. Arriving in and amongst them in mid-September were also the first 150 Wigeon, back from their breeding grounds in Iceland and Eastern Europe, although over recent days numbers have quickly soared to over 2000 at Bank Island, along with the first returning Shelduck, Pintail, Goldeneye and Goosander. However there is still a long way to go before we see the return of our peak numbers, when Teal and Wigeon can number up to 10,000 and 15,000 respectively, usually in January and February.

Over the last couple of weeks we have also seen the first of our ‘resident’ Whooper Swans arrive back in the valley. Numbers slowly built up with 25 by the end of October, and up to 41 over recent days, with the herd returning to their favoured fields at the north end of North Duffield Carrs. Birds have also been seen visiting the pool at Wheldrake Ings where local birder, Duncan Bye, managed to see and photograph a colour-ringed bird ‘G5F’. This bird, an adult male, was caught and ringed at North Duffield Carrs in our last cannon net catch on the 28th November 2013, as part of a partnership project with the WWT. After the catch G5F remained with us throughout the winter, however the following year he didn’t return here, choosing to winter in the Lothian area of Scotland instead, and again possibly in 2015 as he was re-sighted at Caerlaverock WWT reserve, Dumfries on the 5th March 2016. It’s great to see him back in the LDV this winter, and hopefully he’ll be the first of a few colour-ringed birds to arrive over the coming weeks as the herd builds up to the usual number of 100+ individuals. If you’re visiting the reserve please let us know of any colour-ringed birds you come across thank you.

Following a relatively dry summer and autumn so far (which has provided great conditions for the team to catch up on all the land management jobs around the valley), the heavy rain on the coast and moors last weekend caused the River Derwent to rise and start some localised flooding. So it’s been a race against time this last week to finish the flailing on Bank Island as the first water of the autumn poured over the ditches and onto the site – fortunately we managed to finish it just in the nick of time on Tuesday, as by Wednesday morning the newly cut areas were all under water. The site now looks great and is set to attract both wintering wildfowl and waders over the coming weeks and months – over 1000 Wigeon were present this morning. 

Whilst the birds are the main attraction around the Lower Derwent Valley, nearby Skipwith Common is home to a world of fungi. Whilst working on there last week the team came across a rather vivid species pictured below - as you might expect with a name like Orange Peel, this species resembles just that! One of the brightest and easily recognisable fungi, Orange Peel can be seen from late summer into early winter, usually on bare ground or grass in disturbed areas. Look down the well walked tracks on Skipwith Common NNR and you might just come across it, particularly on the path which runs alongside ‘Adder Heath’.

Initially starting out as a concave orange ‘cup’, the fungus then becomes convex, and can vary in colour from pale orange to a deep orange-red inside. Generally cup fungi are inedible, with most being highly poisonous, however Orange Peel is one of the very few edible species. Despite its appealing look and name, Orange Peel is considered to be quite bland and tasteless, resulting in it usually being put in salads for decoration rather than for enjoyment! Please let us know of any fungi you come across when visiting the Common by using the log books provided.

Monday 14 November 2016

06/11/16 - For sale: logs & calendars

For the second year running the Friends of the Lower Derwent Valley (FoLDV), have produced a calendar using images taken throughout the valley, with the aim of raising money to go towards work on the NNR. The calendar can be purchased from the NNR Base at Bank Island, for a small fee of £7.99, or if you can’t make it to the base then feel free to leave us a message on here and we can arrange collection or post one out to you. The Friends of the Lower Derwent Valley is a small charitable trust, recently set up to help further the conservation work, research and promotion of the importance of the area. Working with Natural England and our reserve team, the ‘friends’ have taken on a fund raising role to support some of these activities, and have produced this calendar to try and raise funds to further the aims of the group. Please feel free to get in touch if you’d like to purchase one, calendars are one of the Christmas presents that everyone buys, and by purchasing one of ours your money will go straight back into furthering the conservation work undertaken throughout the area. 

As a result of the continued reductions in reserve budgets, the 'friends' are constantly looking for new and novel ways to help us generate income and support the work we do here on the NNR, such as the calendar and greetings cards. Well after many hours spent by our volunteers collecting timber from the NNR, logging it up on site and stacking it to dry it out, we are now pleased to be able to offer seasoned, air dried timber for sale – just as the cooler autumnal weather starts to turn our thoughts to the winter heating bill! This hardwood timber has come from our NNR’s, and is the by-product of the management work we undertake on the reserve to improve habitats, landscape and the wildlife value of them. Logs can be collected from the NNR base by prior agreement or they can be delivered in the local area – at the amazing knock down price of £50 per cubic metre. If you’re interested in purchasing some of our logs then please message us on here to place your order, and please share with others to help us raise income to support our NNR’s and the work that we do. 

Friday 11 November 2016

02/11/16 - Full steam ahead

Further to our recent posts and work parties helping to restore the Escrick Duck Decoy, the team returned last week to help finish off the new viewing hide. The hide will allow public viewing of the pond and the restored pipe during open days, and the ability to watch ringing demonstrations and visiting wildlife. Many thanks as always to our great team who spent the day hard at work erecting the roof, attaching the sides and finishing off the decking floor, as well as digging in the last interpretation panel on the history of the decoy. With such a productive day we’re now nearly at the end of the project, so we’ll keep you posted on here with any updates of planned open days.

The previous two weeks the team were hard at work constructing the catching pen, finishing off the screens, strimming the vegetation around the pond, fine tuning the pipes and erecting the new interpretation panels. 

It will be fantastic to see the site fully restored and operational again for the first time in 150 years, just as the usual autumn build-up of waterfowl picks up the pace in the valley. Up to 1300 Teal and 600 Wigeon have now arrived from their breeding grounds in Eastern Europe – with a lot more to come.

Wednesday 2 November 2016

30/10/16 - Marshy fights back

Regular followers of this blog will be aware of the fantastic work carried out by Jean Thorpe in rehabilitating wildlife and championing action against wildlife crime, it’s a real privilege for us to work alongside Jean and enjoy the great results of all her hard work and dedication, recently we had the pleasure of witnessing the fantastic release of an adult female Marsh Harrier from the NNR base at Bank Island. This unfortunate bird had been shot three weeks previously on the Yorkshire Wolds, breaking its wing bone and sentencing it to certain death had it not found its way into Jean’s care with the support of Battle Flatts Vets. 

Unfortunately North Yorkshire has a terrible record of bird of prey persecution and wildlife crime, but with Jean on the case North Yorkshire police are now following up this incident – whilst the case is investigated at least this individual is now back out in the wild. What a wonderful sight to see it soar off over Bank Island, and to watch it hunting near Elvington later in the day and Wheldrake the following morning.

All of the work Jean carries out is funded by Jean herself, alongside kind donations, so when we found out Jean needed help knocking down her old aviaries our eager team of volunteers jumped at the chance to help out. With many pairs of hands the work was completed over the course of two days, with the team hard at work demolishing the old aviaries which have hosted numerous Barn, Tawny and Little Owls, and Buzzards, Red Kites, Marsh Harriers, Kestrels and Sparrowhawks, along with many other species over the last 25 years. Posts were sawn and chicken mesh torn away, but not until the team had battled their way through the huge Russian Vine covering the pens. 

Everyone worked amazingly hard, filling two skips in the process whilst enjoying the arrival of two Hedgehogs in need of Jean’s care. It’s a real pleasure for us and the team to be able to help Jean out, and in some small way pay her back for all the amazing work she’s been involved with in the LDV. With the old aviaries now gone, new ones are soon to be built courtesy of Charlie Heap from the NCPB (National Centre for Birds of Prey) at Duncombe Park NNR. Many thanks as always to everyone for their effort.