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 26 January 2018

22/01/17 - Drewton Lane Pits

This week our team of staff and volunteers returned once again to Drewton Lane Pits SSSI for the annual visit to this important site, situated near South Cave. With the site designated for its amphibian interest, we’ve been working with the Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Trust, and the site advisor and owners to help improve the habitat and management of the site over the last five years. Everyone, as always, got stuck into the list of jobs which included the removal of regenerating birch and willow around the ponds, and trimming back overhanging branches to reduce shading and leaf fall. 

The team also helped rake out some of the more silted up ponds, and spent time constructing hibernacula for the newts, frogs and toads, along with making egg mops ready for this seasons monitoring work. Many thanks to the whole team for their great efforts, this year and the previous – it's great to now see the improvements to the site with our involvement over the last five years. 

Wednesday 24 January 2018

17/01/18 - Winter wildfowl

With extensive flooding around the reserve at the moment it has been difficult to access the whole site in order to undertake our monthly monitoring counts. However, the team made it onto Wheldrake Ings earlier in the week due to a temporary fall in water levels – waders are no longer needed but wellies are essential. Large flocks of ducks were present including c4000 Wigeon, 4950 Teal, an impressive 370 Pintail, 170 Shoveler, 143 Gadwall, 126 Tufted Duck and 67 Pochard.  

As well as carrying out an age assessment of our wintering swans, we’ve also been recording the sex of our wintering ducks as part of a new project looking at wintering areas, with many duck populations undergoing rapid changes in distribution and/or numbers. The sex ratio counts also revealed the following (male) totals – Pochard as expected showed the greatest variation with 86% males, with the other diving duck species, Tufted Duck, having 69% males. Other sample counts included Pintail (65%), Shoveler (61%), Gadwall (59%) and Wigeon/Teal showing 52% and 55% bias respectively. Thanks to our team for doing their bit and adding data from the valley to the international waterbird census.

Friday 19 January 2018

11/01/18 - Lone Bewick's

Within our herd of 163 wintering Whooper Swans there has once again been an old friend – a single returning Bewick’s Swan - best looked for with the herd from the hides at North Duffield Carrs. During the 1970’s and 80’s numbers of wintering Bewick’s Swans regularly numbered between 100-250 (occasionally 300+), spending the winter in our relatively mild conditions compared to those on the breeding grounds on the Russian tundra. However, since the 1990’s numbers have fallen sharply with only a mere handful of birds recorded most winters over the last decade or so – the reasons however are likely to lie outside of the valley. The population of Bewick’s Swans have experienced a large decline across their range, with birds now wintering in the Low Countries in Europe, possibly in response to climate change - there is no longer the need to fly all the way from Russia to the LDV if you can spend the winter feeding on enough food in, for example, the Netherlands. However, maintaining good conditions for them is always important should a cold snap on the continent force herds back across the North Sea.

Family party - December 2014

Thursday 11 January 2018

01/01/18 - HNY

Happy New Year to our staff, volunteers, supporters and visitors! 

2017 was an exceptional year in the valley, in terms of what we managed to achieve on the ground, which is down to the fantastic team of volunteers who support us each week, helping to maintain the paths and hides for our visitors, and adding extra pairs of hands for repairing gates/fences after the winter flooding, cutting the hay meadows in the summer, taking out scrub during the autumn and winter, and so much more. So a big thank you to our team for helping us achieve our goal, which is maintaining the LDV (and wider sites), both for people and wildlife. If you fancy coming along, joining in and taking part, then new volunteers are always welcome, and if week days don't suit then don't worry, we may have an alternative - we are currently in the process of setting up a weekend task day each month. Please feel free to get in touch if you think you might like to help out.

The last week before the festive break our team of staff and volunteers were busy carrying out a variety of jobs, several of the team helped the Dunnington Conservation volunteers erect a replacement Barn Owl box at Hassacarr Local Nature Reserve, much to the delight of Terry Weston and the rest of the Hassacarr team. Earlier in the week, following on from the work we recently carried out revitalising the pond and wildlife area at Long Marston School, Reserve Manager Fallon Mahon returned to attend a thank you assembly. Fallon and the team were presented with a booklet of thank you notes written by the pupils, and Ruby the piper dog, was awarded a little bag of treats – she was obviously a hit with the children!

The remainder of the week was made up of spraying Pirri-pirri-bur on Skipwith Common NNR, as well as extracting and logging up timber for next year, and getting the last few log deliveries out to the local area. Either side of the working day, several dawn and dusk cannon net catches also took place, with a sample of 160 Teal caught and ringed from the 10,000+ present in the valley at the moment. Many thanks to everyone involved – your help is much appreciated as always.

Wednesday 3 January 2018

22/12/17 - Sightings/Access

Whilst working at North Duffield Carrs recently we came across this family of Mute Swans on the River Derwent, two adults and eight cygnets – presumably the pair that reared the large brood at the ‘top pond’ over the summer. When the river floods the swans often move between the pond which can be prone to freezing over in prolonged cold spells and the open, unfrozen water of the River Derwent. After rearing cygnets over the summer some pairs chase off their young from the breeding territory once they’re old enough to look after themselves. However this pair appear a bit more relaxed and often allow the young to remain until early February, although come spring, when the male’s thoughts turn to breeding, he’ll start to ‘chase away’ the young – if they refuse to leave things can certainly get a bit aggressive!

Along with the Mute Swan family, this beautiful Pied Wagtail also caught our eye, as it scampered across the ice in search of food. Often when the valley floods numbers of wagtails seemingly increases as birds are concentrated and take advantage of suitable feeding opportunities - recently whilst working on Wheldrake Ings we noticed a group of c40 feeding on insects along the water’s edge. However you don’t have to visit the NNR to enjoy these birds – if you were Christmas shopping in York you may have seen the large wagtail roost in the trees in Parliament Street – several hundred roost there each year above the Christmas Market – lighting up the trees like little baubles!


When visiting the reserve please be aware of the new wintering bird signs that can be found along the floodbank from Bubwith to East Cottingwith, and at North Duffield Carrs/Ings, indicating the end of public rights of way and where access is not permissible. With thousands of wintering duck presently concentrated on the river, birdwatchers, walkers and dogs present on the flood banks have recently been causing considerable disturbance throughout the day, regularly flushing the birds and stopping them from feeding. Please refrain from accessing the site beyond these signs and enjoy the fantastic spectacle the valley has to offer from the various hides around the reserve.