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

Tuesday 29 August 2017

25/08/17 - Nestle lend a hand

At the beginning of the week we were delighted to welcome back a team of corporate volunteers from the York branch of Nestle, for a day helping out with scrub clearance on Wheldrake Ings. After teas/coffees and a meet and greet at the NNR base, the team headed out onto the reserve to undertake willow management. However before the hard work began, we stopped off on the way to see Mike and Chris who very kindly put on a bird ringing demonstration for the team, giving everyone the opportunity to see birds in the hand, and to find out about migration and how some species use the reserve for refuelling on their long journey. The team then made a start clearing willows from some wetter areas on the site, with the aim of helping to maintain the open views across the Ings. Many thanks to everyone involved for a really productive and enjoyable day.

Friday 25 August 2017

20/08/17 - Team work

Last week our team of eager volunteers were hard at work once again, helping us make great progress with scrub clearance at North Duffield Carrs on Tuesday, and North Duffield Ings on Thursday – willows were lopped, hawthorns were topped and a good day was had by all! 

Working in glorious sunshine (complete contrast to the drenching everyone experienced the previous week!), the team did a great job of continuing to lower the height of the hawthorns – thus reducing the number of perching posts for crows, whilst maintaining close and dense bushes for breeding buntings and warblers. Throughout the day more willows were also removed, with the cuttings added to last week’s pile, ready for burning next week.

We can’t stress enough how invaluable our volunteers really are – so a big thank you to the team from last week for getting stuck in and doing such a great job.

Monday 21 August 2017

14/08/17 - Corncrakes

We are pleased to be able to announce that Corncrakes have once again had an excellent year in the Lower Derwent Valley at their only regularly English breeding site away from the Ouse and Nene Washes re-introduction sites. Corncrakes have been almost annual visitors to the valley over the last three or four decades, but over the last six or seven years have shown a real trend of being established once again as a regular breeding species, which follows the introduction of several conservation measures by NE in partnership with local farmers and landowners. 

This year a total of eight calling males have been present, and behaviour of those present suggest at least five pairs may have bred and attempted second broods in the valley this year – many people have been able to enjoy listening to the birds in front of the hides at Wheldrake Ings and North Duffield Carrs, with one or two lucky visitors also enjoying sightings. Recently fledged young have been seen at North Duffield. Many thanks to everyone involved in this fantastic success story – and if you’d like to know more about what lengths some of the local farmers have gone to in order to protect this important species, by trialling 'Corncrake friendly mowing' - as pictured below - then please visit the Facebook page of our friends at Rosewood Farm.

Friday 11 August 2017

03/08/17 - Working and 'swanning'

This week our fantastic team of volunteers have been hard at work once again, this time helping us to manage the hedges, riverbank hawthorns and scattered willows at North Duffield Carrs, and with so many extra pairs of hands several of the team were also busy strimming vegetation at the ‘top pond’, whilst two eager souls waded across to the island to rake and burn the remaining cut vegetation. Throughout the course of the day we also flailed the edge of the meadows, bunds and ditch sides, in order to help maintain the open landscape that has been well appreciated by our breeding waders this year (following similar management work last summer and autumn). 

At the end of another very productive day, we then finished off by catching one of the resident broods of Mute Swans – a pair with five cygnets, in order to ring and colour-ring them as part of our long running population study. Many thanks as always to the team for all their hard work.

Wednesday 9 August 2017

01/08/17 - Minster Peregrines

Over the last few weeks Jean has been up to her usual amazing and heroic efforts in rescuing and safe guarding our special wildlife, particularly birds of prey. Some of our regular followers might remember that earlier in the year Jean was involved in successfully looking after several juvenile Peregrines, and releasing them back into the wild - including the young bird that was featured on Springwatch, following the illegal persecution of its parents. Three of the other chicks fledged from their foster nests, whilst a fourth bird was returned to another site near Ferrybridge having crash landed on an early flight. That bird wasn’t to be the last Peregrine Jean would see this year though – as last week one of the York Minster chicks ended up on the ground on its maiden flight. Jean was soon in action and safely returned the chick to the nesting ledge to keep it out of harm’s way until it gets a little bit more strength in those flight muscles. After a few years of attempting to breed on this site this is the first time they have been successful.

After an absence until the 1980's, Peregrines have since become regular winter visitors to the area, with four or five birds seen on an almost daily basis around the reserve. The first breeding pair was recorded six years ago in the adjacent area, and now it’s great to see them back in the heart of the city – well done to all involved and well done once again Jean for all the great work you do.

Sunday 6 August 2017

26/07/17 - Making hay

With a break in the weather last week the valley has been a hub of activity with the local farming community busy making hay. This traditional practice of mid-summer hay making has been taking place for centuries, which, followed by aftermath grazing and the mix of summer grazing pastures around the valley, has shaped both the flowers and bird communities (and other wildlife), we enjoy on our doorstep here. Hay making can take place after the end of the bird breeding season and once the seeds have started to drop from the various wildflowers and grasses. The cutting of the grass also helps keep in check the more vigorous and dominant species of vegetation, and helps the finer grasses and more delicate herbs to flourish. This in turn helps maintain not only the meadows in good conditions for the flowers, but in providing suitable feeding conditions for our wintering waterfowl and breeding waders in subsequent seasons – all part of the rich seasonality of the Ings. 

Wednesday 2 August 2017

22/07/17 - Kestrel success

At the end of last week we returned to our new Kestrel site, three weeks after finding five tiny newly hatched young. On arrival at the site, a natural tree hole in a large Ash, we were greeted by two large chicks peering down on us. Hoping the other chicks were at the back of the hole, we climbed up to unfortunately find just the two of them. Both of the chicks were quite well feathered and likely to survive, and being so advanced enabled us to sex them by looking at the colour of their tail feathers (grey for males, brown for females). 

This brood aside, on the whole it’s been good news, Kestrels seem to have had a very successful breeding season around the valley this year with a good number of birds being seen across the site - just this last week we've started to see fledged broods at Wheldrake and North Duffield Carrs - with six recently fledged chicks at both sites.