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

Monday 18 June 2018

30/05/18 - York Minster Peregrines

This morning we had the privilege of joining Jean on her visit to York Minster to ring this year’s brood of four healthy Peregrine chicks. Having been checked in by security and the Minsters own Police, and armed with our risk assessments and rings, we climbed the 130 steps up the spiral staircase inside the bell tower before moving over various ledges above the city streets below, where we had an amazing birds eye (Peregrines eye) view over the city. We quickly set about ringing the four chicks (two males and two females), and most importantly added darvics (orange colour-rings with three black letters), whilst the adults flew overhead keeping a beady eye on us. 

Hopefully these colour-rings will allow local birdwatchers and visitors alike to find about more about these amazing birds – how long they live, where they will disperse to and where they may set up a territory of their own. Great scientific data but also great to be able to further engage the Peregrines story with more visitors to York and the Minster. We are extremely lucky here in York to have world class-built heritage, such as the Minster and the Roman Walls, but also the internationally important Lower Derwent Valley which partly falls within the city boundaries at Wheldrake. What other city can boast such a claim, something we are working hard at to make these links and their benefits, more widely acknowledged. Many thanks as always to Jean for all her great work and for the help, interest and enthusiasm from the Minster staff.

Wednesday 6 June 2018

22/05/18 - Invertebrate bonanza

Recently on Skipwith Common NNR, we have been treated to great views of Green Tigers Beetles, a species which inhabits the open heaths on the Common, usually appearing in April/May. They are a shiny little beetle, with iridescent green colouring and yellow spots making them fairly distinctive, however on closer inspection their large eyes and mandibles reveal a fearsome predator. Rather cunningly they make burrows which act as pitfall traps, where they lie in wait as other insects such as spiders and ants drop in. Look out for them on warm, sunny sites often with bare ground and little vegetation, the old walls around the bomb bay loop and the bare peat of the sheep tracks weaving through the heather can be good sites to spot them. 

Along with the Green Tiger Beetles, Skipwith Common has also been a good site for spotting other invertebrates lately. Last week the first Hawthorn Shield Bug of the year was seen, and rather unusually in flight, as it buzzed passed us on our way round the bomb bay loop, before crash landing onto the path. This species is one of the larger shield bugs, and could be confused by the similar Birch Shield Bug, however the latter being much smaller. After over-wintering, the adults emerge and mate in spring, with the larvae later appearing between May – October. As their name may suggest, the larvae feed primarily on hawthorn berries, however they can also be found on oak, hazel and birch trees. Always a pleasure to spot one. 

The first of our larger dragonflies has been on the wing over recent weeks – the Four-spotted Chaser, with a number of individuals reported from Skipwith Common NNR and around the pool at Wheldrake Ings. They are rather ‘bulky’ and medium sized with four dark spots on the wings - giving the species its name. They are often found on most still waters, preferring well vegetated margins where males will perch on vegetation spikes overlooking the water. They can be found throughout the valley, with individuals even seen on our small reserve base pond where they rest on the Yellow Flag Iris. They can also be very numerous on more acidic lakes and waterbodies and can be found around most of the ponds on Skipwith Common NNR, usually between late April to mid-September.  Now is a great time to start getting out and looking for them as they will soon be at their most numerous (June/July), and particularly fresh having just emerged from larvae that has been developing under the water’s surface.

As well as dragonflies last week we noticed a large emergence of butterflies in the fine weather, with a number of species recorded including several firsts for the year - a single Holly Blue, and several Large Whites and Speckled Woods, like the one pictured below, photographed recently on Skipwith Common NNR. This species has expanded its range in the local area dramatically over the last 20 years, having previously been quite a scarce and rather local butterfly in the area. Trends like these are picked up by the Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, of which we undertake a weekly transect around the reserve base and riverside path between Bank Island and Wheldrake. Our team started with the first visits at the beginning of the month and recorded 24 butterflies of six species. 

Lastly, whilst putting up the remainder of the breeding bird signs, we came across the first Red-and-black Froghoppers of the year, brightening up a nettle patch in Ellerton, shortly followed by one in the NNR base garden – pictured below, with their vibrant colours they really are unmistakeable. They can be seen between April and August and are found in a range of habitats including grasslands, meadows, gardens and woodland. The adults (which can fly and also have the ability to jump up to 70cm with powerful back legs – hence the name ‘froghopper’) largely feed by sucking juices from grasses. As always when visiting the NNR please let us know of any wildlife you come across by using the log books provided, thank you.