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 21 December 2018

10/12/18 - Cannon netting

With the increase in wintering waterfowl over the last week or so (following a rather dry autumn), we’ve finally been able to get our cannon nets back out, and have ringed a sample of our wintering visitors. Although the river levels have been up and down, giving us a few issues, we’ve managed a handful of successful catches in-between, and have ringed over 300 Teal and 10 Wigeon in the last week. Ringing these birds allows us to track known individuals throughout their annual journeys – identifying where and when they use other sites, and helps us to learn more about how they may be changing their migrations and sites in relation to climate change. Cannon netting is also a great opportunity to help train the next generation of researchers, and so this week we have been delighted to be joined by George Day from the University of York, where he is currently studying for a PhD. George has joined us in previous years for duck catches, and has since taken some of that learning back to his group in Filey, and has started to catch and ring ducks over there – helping to increase the numbers and distribution of ringed ducks in the UK.

One of the most stunning of all the duck species to regularly visit the valley is the aptly named Pintail - easily distinguished by its long and pointed tail feathers. Males have a bluish-grey bill, a chestnut-coloured head and a rather long and graceful white neck and grey body, whilst the females are mottled brown with smaller, pointed tails, but the same slender and elongated appearance. Around 30,000 winter in the UK from further north and east in Europe, largely feeding on plant material during the winter, when up to 700+ can be found throughout the flooded Ings.

We had the unique opportunity to study these stunning birds up close and personal last week, when we caught and ringed a small number amongst the usual sample of Teal and Wigeon. Just this week we also received news from the BTO and WWT, of a Pintail that we ringed in the valley in January 2017 – found at Baie d'Authie, Fort-Mahon-Plage, Somme, in France, about 440Km south of the valley. We previously caught one here in March having been ringed further south a couple of months earlier in Cambridgeshire – suggesting our peak in March may involve birds starting to return north on the first leg of their migration back to the breeding grounds. Up to 150 birds are present between Bank Island and Wheldrake at the moment but do let us know of any counts you make when visiting the reserve, thank you.

Thursday 13 December 2018

28/11/18 - Back into the wild

It's always nice to be able to share a good news story – last week the hard-working Jean Thorpe worked her magic on the young cygnet pictured below, after finding it down on the ground and in distress having broken its wing on one of its first flights. It was unclear how this had happened, possibly the result of a crash landing from hitting overhead wires, but following some expert care from the vets at Battle Flatts at Stamford Bridge and Jean, Jean was able to bring it into the reserve for release on Friday last week. 

Having located a non-territorial, non-breeding herd of other Mute Swans on the River Derwent, the cygnet was released to join them, free to use the river as a safe haven to continue her recovery and regain the power of flight. It was wonderful to see her accepted by the flock that almost appeared to come over and meet her, and welcome her to the group as they swam off down the river. Well done once again to everyone involved in her rescue, care and rehabilitation, but especially to Jean for all her efforts week in week out, and for being so dedicated. 

This week Jean also brought a Little Grebe into the base before it was ringed and released onto the River Derwent at Wheldrake. It had been found downed in a garden, but had largely escaped being stalked and grabbed by a cat, with just a few scratches. Upon release onto the river it swam off quite happily, diving and feeding, before, typically, disappearing into emergent vegetation to hide – fantastic to watch and share with Jean. 

Little Grebes (wonderfully known as ‘Tom Puddings’ in the valley at the turn of the 19th Century), are regular and widespread breeding birds on the spring floods – but often build up in numbers on the River Derwent and Pocklington Canal at this time of year. Up to 17 were counted along the river between Wheldrake and Bubwith bridge last week – a notable count and perhaps higher than average as many ponds and other sites are still suffering from low levels. 

Wednesday 5 December 2018

22/11/18 - Greylag movement

Amongst a recent batch of ringing recoveries received from the BTO, via our partners at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, came quite an extraordinary movement of one of our Greylag Geese - relating to a gosling caught with our team of volunteers in the annual round up on the 30th May 2017, pictured below. It was subsequently found on Sanday, on the Scottish Island of Orkney – c604km to the north-east on 8th September 2018. This is by far the furthest one of ‘our’ 1200 Greylags has been reported – most seem to head south towards the Humber estuary and down into Lincolnshire, whilst some move north-west towards the Harrogate and Ripon area. We’ve had two more into Scotland before, to Dumfries and Galloway and to Loch Eye in the Highlands, but not as far as this individual which also made a significant flight across the North Sea. 

From Greylag Geese ringed elsewhere there is also growing evidence that birds from the valley take part in the developing moult migration to Cumbria and the Lake District by Yorkshire birds, whilst we’ve also had several Icelandic birds and three from Sweden seen in the valley – so whilst they may just appear to be a local Greylag Goose, who knows where they may have come from. We still have so much to find about these birds – please let us know if you come across any of the birds wearing colour-rings in and around the area.   

Monday 3 December 2018

18/11/18 - Autumn on the Common

It's been looking rather autumnal on Skipwith Common over recent weeks, with the amazing seasonal colours of the birch and oak trees lining the tracks through this beautiful NNR. The Common is a great place to visit if you fancy a fairly ‘easy’ walk, whilst keeping an eye out for the wildlife that live there, there’s always plenty to look out for. 

Recently whilst we’ve been working on the reserve we’ve come across some weird and wonderful fungi – including the well known Fly Agaric and the aptly named, Orange Peel. Like its name suggests, the orange cups often resemble discarded orange peel strewn on the ground, often on embankments or slightly raised ground, or amongst grass and herbs at the edge of woodland. If you spot one there will probably be more nearby, with it being a species that usually grows in clusters, and although it is widespread in the UK it isn’t a particularly common species – feel free to let us know if you spot any fungi or other wildlife when visiting the Common, either on here or our Twitter account, thank you.

The Common is also a good place to enjoy Jays at this time of year, as they are easier to see now the leaves are thinning and whilst they are busy stock piling acorns for the winter. Winter flocks of tits and Lesser Redpoll can also be seen roaming around the site, usually staying high in the tree tops – listen out for the high pitched and rather nasally calls of these flocks, which may also have something else with them.

Wintering warblers, such as Chiffchaff and Blackcap, sometimes follow the flocks searching for food, with both having been seen recently moving around in tit flocks. In the next few weeks we also expect to see an increase in wintering Woodcock, with these birds coming across from Eastern Europe and Russia, to winter with us on the Common, whilst our scrub clearing team flushed a small Jack Snipe from one of the wet heaths last week. Please keep dogs on leads when visiting the site to reduce disturbance at what is a difficult time of year for many of our wintering wildlife – and to avoid disturbance to the livestock (Hebridean Sheep and Exmoor Ponies) that help graze the reserve.