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

Sunday 30 July 2017

20/07/17 - Ducklings & decoys

Our invaluable team of hardy volunteers have been busy helping out with all sorts of jobs at Wheldrake Ings recently – even in the miserable and very wet weather of last week – a bit of rain obviously doesn’t faze our hardy crew! Along with clearing glades, managing water levels, maintaining paths and removing balsam, the team have also helped in pushing the corale and running the swan pipe to catch and ring some of our locally bred ducklings. It’s been a particularly good year for Gadwall with over 60 ducklings in various broods still present on the pool – out of those we’ve managed to catch 17 so far – a significant proportion of the national annual total. This will give us valuable information of this expanding population and where some of our ‘local’ ducks go to. We’ve had several Gadwall ducklings to France, two to Ireland and even one to Russia. 

We are also pleased to announce that we’ve just secured a £15,000 grant from Defra to carry out such further tracking work using newer technology on some of these birds – more to come shortly but exciting times ahead and more great work for our volunteers to be part of. Many thanks again to our great team for another productive day – and fantastic to welcome new volunteer Jo to the group.

Not only have we been busy working on the reserve lately, but we've also been putting the finishing touches to the Escrick Duck Decoy - last week our team of staff and volunteers were busy undertaking ongoing maintenance of this restored site. In very hot temperatures (stark contrast to last week’s rain!), the team spent the day working hard strimming back the pool side vegetation, cleaning out the pipes, treating the hide, and putting in way marked posts. Another fantastic effort from our super team, many thanks to all involved. 


Duck decoys were originally introduced from the Netherlands as a way of catching ducks for the local markets, with hundreds once in operation throughout England, however only a handful remain today. The Escrick site is the only remaining and restored site in Yorkshire, and will soon be operated to catch and ring ducks to further our knowledge of their movements. We have an ‘official’ opening event planned for early September, followed by an Open Day on the 9th September – watch this space for more details. Many thanks again to everyone for their efforts in helping to get this site up and running.

Wednesday 26 July 2017

17/07/17 - One good tern

We are pleased to be able to report that the two young chicks that have been on the tern raft at Wheldrake Ings for the last three weeks have now successfully fledged - the first successful breeding for the Lower Derwent Valley NNR. On Monday we watched from the hide as the four birds, two adults, two young, flew around the pool together, occasionally catching small fish and returning to the raft and tern rails. 

It’s been fantastic to be able to enjoy these delightful birds and watch their antics from the hides with some of our regular visitors – the adults have done a great job of looking after their chicks, constantly mobbing and chasing away predators and bringing in a steady supply of small fish for the youngsters. The family party have also attracted several other Common Terns onto the pool with up to seven adults lingering over recent days – an encouraging sign for next year! It won’t be long before the terns head off to their wintering grounds in southern Africa, so if you haven't been down yet then it's well worth a visit at the moment - always plenty to see! 

Many thanks again to everyone involved in the kind donation of money to the Friends of the Lower Derwent Valley, resulting in the purchase of the two new rafts from Green Future Building. 

Wednesday 12 July 2017

09/07/17 - Little and large

Over the last two weeks we’ve started to see the first returning autumn passage waders appear in the valley, as they head south from their more northerly breeding grounds. Several Green Sandpipers (often the first to appear), have already been seen, whilst we were fortunate to come across two very confiding Little Ringed Plovers at Thornton Ellers earlier this week. These delightful little birds allowed us to approach and photograph them as they continued to feed unconcerned, seemingly oblivious to our presence. Whilst busy managing the reserve over the last few weeks, we have also been monitoring the water levels on Wheldrake Ings, trying to keep them at a low enough level in order to provide muddy margins to attract and benefit passage waders over the coming weeks – hopefully more of these charming little waders will soon follow.

It's been a great breeding season in the valley this year, with a whole host of species doing well and successfully raising young broods. One of the species which has enjoyed a productive season is our local Mute Swan population - with 10 pairs raising a total of 61 cygnets, including a bumper brood of eight at North Duffield Carrs. Catching and colour-ringing the young (as part of our long term project), will take place during late July/August – a task our volunteers are already looking forward to! The brood of three pictured below, were seen on Wheldrake Ings last week - they’re just a bit too small to ring at the moment (but growing quickly!).

Monday 10 July 2017

07/07/17 - Blue, blue, electric blue

Last week whilst busy managing water levels at Wheldrake Ings, we were fortunate to be in the right place at the right time to rescue this stunning Kingfisher. It appeared that the bird might have been lured into the chamber of the penstock (the water control structure), in search of fish, and seemed unable to find its way back out. Upon realising the unfortunate predicament and seeing it fly round in circles exhausting itself, occasionally dropping into the water, we knew we needed to act fast. Fortunately we acquired a net fairly quickly and managed reached down, soon bringing it out safely. Once out the bird seemed none the worse for its ordeal, and after a few quick photographs flew off at lightning speed, gone within the blink of an eye, which is the usual view as they zip past! What a truly beautiful bird, and a great feeling to see it fly off.


Friday 7 July 2017

03/07/17 - Tern update

Instant success! We are pleased to be able to say that our new tern raft that was installed on the pool at Wheldrake Ings in early May, currently has a pair of Common Terns with two chicks. Many thanks to everyone involved in the kind donation, purchase and installation of the rafts, especially the team from Green Future Building, for the brilliant design with the high transparent sides – thus keeping it otter and mink proof. Upon news of the two chicks, we waded out to the raft the next day with a ‘shelter’ – a wooden structure that the chicks can hide under from predatory crows, the heat from the sun, or the heavy rain like that of recent days.

Common Terns appear on spring passage most years, and in recent years have bred on adjacent sites including Elvington Water Treatment works, Allerthorpe Lakeland Park, Raker Lakes and at the University of York Campus. However, this will represent the first successful breeding on the reserve, and will hopefully be the start of an increasing population, which is great news for the terns, as well for our visitors that are able enjoy them.