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 31 May 2018

20/05/18 - Corncrakes, Hobbies & Garganey

We were delighted to hear the first returning Corncrake of the year recently at North Duffield Carrs – calling from right in front of the first hide. Given its location in front of the hide we are releasing the news so local people, birdwatchers and visitors alike have the chance to hear these amazing birds at the only, non-introduced, regular English breeding site. We are also delighted as yet another year with returning Corncrakes again supports the fact that they have been breeding successfully in previous years, as a result of the efforts from the team here and our partners (our volunteers in finding and monitoring locations of calling birds, providing early and late season cover for the birds, working with the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, landowners and local farmers to delay the hay cuts within the birds territories, and with our friends at Rosewood Farm to introduce Corncrake friendly mowing). It’s great to know our collective efforts are helping bring back this iconic species to the Yorkshire Ings.

Over the last few weeks we’ve also been treated to spectacular views of Hobbies, (on Wheldrake Ings), with up to eight individuals present in the air over and perhaps as many as 13 in the wider LDV area. These birds really are aerial masters, expertly catching dragonflies (and even mayflies and other insects) in their talons before passing them to their beaks to eat on the wing as they continue to feed over the pool. Pool and Swantail Hide are the best places to view them at present, particularly during the afternoon, with birds often coming lower and closer towards dusk as their insect prey descends. Hobbies are the only falcon in Britain that spend the winter months in North Africa, coming to the UK from mid-April and staying until late September and early October, so enjoy them whilst you can! Many thanks to local birder David Gilfillan for the use of his superb photograph taken recently from Swantail Hide, Wheldrake.

In the LDV this spring we have also seen good numbers of Garganey (our only summer migrant duck species) - birds arrive in this country from their African wintering grounds from mid-March, remaining until late August-early September. The drakes are stunningly colourful, with a beautiful chestnut brown head with prominent white stripe above the eye, and distinctive pale blue forewing in flight. However they are a scarce, un-obtrusive and quite secretive species, often only their call giving away their presence, much like an old football rattle and hence its old English name of ‘Cricket Teal’. With only around 100-150 pairs in the UK, the Lower Derwent Valley is something of a stronghold for the species in Northern England – and this year probably offers one of the best chances to encounter the species. With up to 13 birds around the valley, including nine drakes, it’s a great time to search them out before the grass grows further and they seemingly ‘disappear’. The pool at Wheldrake Ings, the hides at North Duffield Carrs (especially the appropriately named ‘Garganey Hide’ are the best places to look for them. Many thanks to local birder Duncan Bye for the use of his photograph, taken recently from Wheldrake Ings.

Thursday 24 May 2018

15/05/18 - Egret abundance

Over the last month we have seen an increasing number of Grey Herons around the reserve as birds in the local heronry are busy feeding hungry broods. We’ve been avoiding any disturbance to the heronry in March and April, following the cold weather in March whilst the adults were incubating (herons can be sensitive to any disturbance at this critical time), but during late April and early May we have been visiting the heronry to survey the number of active nests, as we have done for the BTO’s heronry census for nearly 40 years. This national survey has been running for 90 years and has built up a wealth of data and knowledge on the population trends of our UK Grey Heron population. On our first visit the numbers of herons appear down with just 19 nests so far – whether this is the effect of the cold spell in early March which may have taken its toll, or merely delayed breeding, or the effects of the extensive late spring flooding reducing feeding opportunities, we’ll have to wait and see.

However, this year it isn’t only the herons that we’ve been keeping an eye on, several (and an increasing number) of pairs of Little Egrets are also present – a species which has been abundant in the valley recently, with a high count of 42 of late. Little Egrets are an increasingly familiar sight in the Lower Derwent Valley these days and are now often more regularly encountered than our resident Grey Herons, especially at Bank Island where birds can currently be seen on a daily basis. In particular over the last month they have been recorded far more than herons, with good concentrations at Bank Island, Wheldrake and North Duffield Carrs, with some notable counts also coming from Sutton Ings and the Low Grounds as well as along the Pocklington Canal.

The first recorded sighting in the valley came in 2001 with the first record of breeding occurring several years later in 2009. Last year numbers increased to at least eight pairs, however this year’s figures look set to be a huge increase on that – more details to follow later in the season. Recently another colour-ringed individual was seen at Bank Island (awaiting details), so please remember to look out for any birds with rings on as this helps us to build up a picture of where ‘our’ local birds are coming from and going to.

Wednesday 23 May 2018

10/05/18 - 'Terning' up

Last week during the volunteer work party, as well as repairing the paths and hides at North Duffield Carrs, our team also helped us to get one of the tern rafts back out on site. Hopefully as the water continues to recede and the site dries out, we’ll be able to get the other one out next week too. A pair of Common Terns have been seen this week around Bank Island and Wheldrake Ings, so fingers crossed they’ll stay to breed once again. Last year thanks to the generosity of a private donation, the Friends of the Lower Derwent Valley funded the purchase and installation of the two nesting rafts last spring. The day after installation the newly arrived terns spotted our new raft and stayed over the summer months raising two chicks to fledging – first confirmed breeding success on the reserve. This was great news for the terns themselves, but also for many of our other breeding waterfowl as the terns defended their territory from any predators passing through the patch. It also meant the many visitors to the site were entertained by the antics of the fishing adults and the young learning to fly on the pool at Wheldrake. Fingers crossed for another successful year.

A week on from getting the first raft out, the water levels had receded enough on Wheldrake, allowing us to access the pool, however with plenty of mud in the way it was quite an exercise carrying the raft in from a long way back due, but as we finally made it onto the pool we were met by the excited calling of a pair of Common Terns – no doubt pleased to see their new home being floated into position! We are also pleased to be able to update you that the tern raft we put out at North Duffield Carrs last week has attracted three pairs of Common Terns – just rewards for everyone’s efforts. Many thanks as always to our team for all the extra help and pairs of hands!

Friday 4 May 2018

25/04/18 - Aviva/HSBC lend a hand

On Tuesday this week along with being joined by our regular team of volunteers, we also hosted a corporate work day for the staff from the Aviva branch in York. With an additional 20 willing pairs of hands, along with our team, the groups got stuck into a range of tasks around the reserve. Some of the team helped with track repairs on the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserve at Wheldrake Ings - carrying out improvements (following the prolonged spring flooding), for the many visitors that frequent the site. Other team members helped with the ongoing construction of bird boxes as part of a joint project with the Canal and Rivers Trust and Ad Astra (more information can be found on the CTR website with upcoming events along the Pocklington Canal). Further help in collecting and processing this year’s logs supplies was also gratefully received, helping us raise much needed financial assistance for forth coming projects on the reserve this autumn. Many thanks to everyone for their efforts on the day, especially when the weather turned against us! Hopefully see you all again back in the valley for another day later in the year – and for anyone else who might be interested in coming along with their company/or just as an individual then please feel free to get in touch.

The following day we were also delighted to host a corporate work day for staff from HSBC, travelling from different areas right across North Yorkshire, to join us for a day at the NNR base. Blessed with a lovely sunny morning, the day was started with a bird ringing demonstration, which was much enjoyed by everyone – several Goldfinch & Long-tailed Tits were particular crowd pleasers. As the sun beamed down, everyone soon worked up a sweat finishing the track repairs on Wheldrake Ings, processing timber and constructing the last of the bird boxes, and with so many extra pairs of hands we also managed to cut the paths and enhance the reserve base garden at Bank Island. Many thanks to everyone who attended on the day, and we’ll look forward to seeing you again in the autumn.