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 26 April 2018

18/04/18 - Reptile emergence

Last week the first Common Lizard of the year was seen on Skipwith Common NNR - pictured here taking advantage of the warm sunshine. Lizards are usually found sitting in the small cracks and crevices along the old bomb bay walls, often venturing out to soak up the sunshine, then darting back in if they sense someone/something approaching. Fortunately we were able to get close views of this one, seemingly oblivious to our presence and more intent on enjoying the much needed warm weather.

The warm weather has also brought some of our Adder population out of hibernation, with a clear blue sky and warm sunny day last week our team checked some of the heath after a day spent working on the Common, and were pleased to spot four Adders coiled up among the bracken and heather. At this time of year, similar to Grass Snakes, Adders need to soak up the sun’s rays after a winter spent in hibernation. Following the long winter and months without feeding Adders need to warm up their bodies to build up their energy and strength, to allow their muscles to work properly. Adders are Britain’s only venomous snake, and have a sinister reputation due to their ability to subdue their prey using venom, however they are not a threat to people unless disturbed – if you are fortunate enough to come across a sighting of an Adder or Grass Snake then please watch from a distance, and leave your record in the log book provided, or let us know on here, our Facebook page or via our new Twitter account, thank you. 

It wasn't just the lizards enjoying the warm weather last week, our team of volunteers were hard at work once again, spending another two days replacing the last of the old roofing panels on Garganey Hide at North Duffield Carrs. 

Many thanks as always to our team for doing such a good job & being so enthusiastic whatever the task & whatever the weather!

Monday 23 April 2018

16/04/18 - Drone trial on the Ings

Recently we were pleased to have the opportunity to work with local photographer and drone specialist David Hopley, in exploring the use of drones in supporting some of the work we do in the valley. The use of drones offers us a different perspective on the reserves we manage – both in interpreting the landscape and the role of the reserves in the wider area, but also in how using a drone could offer a useful tool in helping us with our monitoring and research work, and in the hands of such a skilled operator, without any disturbance to our wintering waterfowl. Here are some ‘birds-eye views’ of the NNR base and the area around Bank Island, the Low Grounds and the northern end of Wheldrake Ings. If you’d like to know more then have a look at David’s work on his website (found by searching ‘drawswithlight’), which includes some stunning images from Skipwith Common NNR in the recent frost and snow along with other award winning shots.

Friday 20 April 2018

10/04/18 - Spring passage

Recently the LDV has been acting as an important staging and refuelling site for several species of birds migrating between the UK and breeding grounds in Iceland. During March a total of 500 Whooper Swans staged through the valley – and from previously satellite tagged birds we know these are birds that have left the Ouse Washes in Cambridgeshire at dawn, which then arrive in the valley (usually Wheldrake or Bank Island) at around 8-8.30am. These large herds often sleep and loaf for the rest of the day before departing prior to dusk. It’s then a non-stop flight to Iceland, which on favourable winds, can be made the following afternoon. Last week there were still up to 60 birds remaining in the valley although they will be departing any day now, before returning later in the year from mid-October, hopefully with a good number of cygnets in tow. 

Black-tailed Godwits from the Icelandic breeding population have also started moving through the site – up to 40 have been present over the last couple of weeks including a single bird ringed in Iceland several years ago. During April and early May there will be several large flocks (sometimes up to 200-300 birds) staging through the site – often only staying a couple of hours to a day or so – before making the flight to Iceland – in previous years birds leaving the valley have made it onto the breeding grounds in just four days. Finally, the first of our Whimbrel at the Wheldrake Ings nationally important spring passage roost will be arriving in mid-April, before building to a peak in the first day or two in May and tailing off quickly again thereafter. Some of these birds will also be heading to Iceland to breed, whilst in previous years birds have also moved to breeding grounds in Sweden/Finland. It’s fantastic to know our LDV NNR is such an important site in helping these birds on their annual migrations.

Friday 13 April 2018

04/04/18 - Black-necked Grebes

It's been somewhat of a grebe bonanza in the valley lately, no doubt the extensive, deeper floodwaters of late attracting these diving species into the valley. This has included up to 18 Little Grebes, which can been located by listening out for their loud ‘whinnying’ call, and are usually the most commonly encountered species on the Ings. Several pairs of Great-crested Grebes have also been present on the Ings floodwater, as is typical at this time of year as birds move through the area looking for suitable water bodies on which to breed. The last species seen recently is the rarer Black-necked Grebe. With fewer than 100 pairs in the UK, this small black grebe with golden ear tufts, has bred sporadically in the valley over the decades but not since 2014 when they last reared chicks.  Amazingly, one of the birds seen recently at North Duffield Carrs, had been ringed as a chick there in May 2004, and had been seen again there in April 2005 and 2006. This recent sighting sets a new longevity record from ringing in both the UK and Europe – great to see them back in the valley once again and hopefully this year they might stay and breed.

As mentioned above, the site is extensively flooded at the moment (and has been so on and off for much of the last four weeks), however our team did manage to fit in a bit of a count over the weekend. It may have been Easter but the vast numbers of wintering birds still present made it feel more wintry. 68 Whooper Swans and 117 Mute Swans were still present, along with over 6000 Wigeon and 5000 Teal. Other notable counts included nearly 400 Pintail, 368 Tufted Duck and 250+ Gadwall and Shoveler. However numbers of wintering Pochard had dwindled to just 15 individuals on the flooded Ings. The deep water which has attracted the good numbers of grebe species, has unfortunately forced out most of our breeding waders, with only 50 Lapwing, 51 Redshank, 15 Ruff and a handful of Curlew and Snipe remained on the few areas of exposed meadow. At least one of the 39 Black-tailed Godwits present on Friday took the rising levels as a cue to continue its north-westward migration to Iceland, arriving at Leighton Moss in Lancashire the following morning. As always when visiting the reserve please leave any records in the hide log books provided, thank you.