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 24 January 2019

15/01/19 - Short-eared Owl

Our Reserve Manager was delighted to come across a Short-eared Owl at Wheldrake Ings just before the turn of the year – no doubt a continental visitor from further east in Europe, having successfully made the north-sea crossing during October or November, and now enjoying the relatively warmer and easier hunting conditions of a Yorkshire winter. Less commoner than they once were in the valley, they are a real delight on a winter days birdwatching on any grassland or wetland site. Along with the SEO, there have been plenty of other birds of prey in action in the valley recently as the rapidly increasing wildfowl and wader numbers attract various species. Two or three Marsh Harriers are still lingering and have been spending their time ‘spooking’ Teal off the Ings and along the river, whilst three Peregrines have been terrorising the flocks of Lapwings and Wigeon and throughout the reserve. Buzzards are still common and widespread throughout the surrounding area and good numbers of Kestrels have been present at the edge of the now flooded Ings – no doubt hunting the concentrated and displaced small mammals. When visiting the reserve please do let us know what you’ve seen either on here or by using the log books provided, thank you.

Our amazing team of volunteers have been continuing the hard work of late, finishing off the last of the fence removal and scrub clearance on North Duffield Carrs, just in time for the winter floods.  The team have done an astounding job throughout the year, helping us week in week out, in freezing temperatures, gale force winds, driving rain and in the baking heat of the summer months. The dry autumn has meant we’ve been able not only to complete more essential work than in previous years, but to also move onto the long list of ‘extras’ as well. We wouldn’t know what to do without our fantastic time of helpers, and were pleased to welcome new team member Kath to the group as our latest recruit. Amongst our other jobs we’ve also been busy collecting and splitting more timber and logs for the new year – we are out of seasoned wood for now as we just can’t keep up with demand. However, we should have some more ready by March and are busy filling the sheds for next autumn. Many thanks to all our customers who have supported us and helped finance great work and projects on the reserve.

Thursday 17 January 2019

11/01/19 - Winter visitors

Our wintering population of Whooper Swans has increased recently with up to 97 birds counted in the wintering herd over the last week or two, including 34 young, suggesting a relatively successful breeding season in Iceland. It’s always nice to welcome them back each winter, and this year we’ve been fortunate to spot two old friends – C3S and G5F – both ringed here in 2007. However, unfortunately, we have recently picked up four sick and dying immature birds, which as part of our contribution to the Avian Flu monitoring scheme have been tested, but as of yet, have come back clear. Last week we sadly picked up another sick youngster which unfortunately died on the way to the vets. However, Mark and the fantastic team at Battle Flatts Vets at Stamford Bridge very kindly, and at no cost, x-rayed the bird for us, revealing the cause for its demise. As can be seen from the x-ray, the bird has over 70 pieces of lead shot in its gizzard – picked up with grit in order help grind up and digest its food. Lead shot has been banned in England since 1999 for the shooting of waterfowl and over wetlands – so this lead may have recently been illegally used, or it may be locked in the sediment at the bottom of ponds, the river or other areas – we’ll be investigating in the valley and trying to take action to address old deposits if we can locate them. Many thanks to Jean Thorpe and Battle Flatts for their expert help and advice.

If you fancy a real life ‘wild goose chase’ then why not get yourself down to the valley and see what you can find? The flocks of familiar Greylags and Canada Geese are often joined by scarcer relatives, and so careful searching of these flocks is essential to unearth one of these globe-trotting visitors. Pink-feet, Bean, Barnacle and Brent can all occur (along with the odd Egyptian Goose which breed near-by), and at present we have a flock of European White-fronted Geese present at Bank Island. The White-fronted Goose is most easily distinguished from other geese by the white flash on its forehead and around its bill, the dark stripes on its belly and its rather bright orange legs, being somewhat darker and smaller than our similar Greylags. White-fronted Geese are another of our winter visitors, coming to the UK from Greenland and Siberia, for the ‘warmer’ climate. Birds that breed in Greenland winter in Ireland and the west coast of Scotland, whilst birds from northern Europe and Siberia winter in southern England. We are on the very western edge of the population’s wintering range hence only small numbers occur in the country; though numbers can vary considerably particularly in relation to severity of winter weather. It’s likely that the present influx which has also seen several flocks along the north east coast is in response to birds moving out of these countries.

Thursday 10 January 2019

07/01/19 - Breeding season success

Over recent weeks we’ve been busy compiling all of our bird records from the year to send to local and county recorders, along with writing up the rare breeding birds panel (RBBP) that monitor rarer species, and our own records from other breeding birds. It’s been a nice reminder of a successful season with favourable weather and stable water levels, and great to see the results of the teams hard work and efforts over recent years. Some of the highlights include our 10 singing male Corncrakes, 17 Garganey ducklings and a pair of Pintail that fledged five young. 

13 pairs of Little Egrets produced 35 young, while Great White Egrets and Common Cranes continued to summer and increase in frequency and number. 18 territorial Water Rail were located (with a minimum of 16 young seen) with 3 calling Spotted Crakes and Quail. Curlew also had a great year off the back of measures put in place for the Corncrakes, with at least 60 pairs present and 46 chicks seen throughout June and July. 

Kingfishers enjoyed a good year without rising river levels flooding their bank side nests, and Willow Tits continued to maintain a stronghold in the Wheldrake and Melbourne area. Many thanks to everyone who has submitted records and helped with survey work during the year, and the great efforts of all those who helped us with practical management on the reserve – the results above are down to your efforts on the land, so thank you and well done.

Thursday 3 January 2019

03/01/19 - HNY

Following the busy festive season and the end of 2018, we’d just like to wish all our followers, visitors and wide-ranging supporters a happy, healthy and wildlife-filled 2019. Whether you have ‘liked’ us on here, re-tweeted on our Twitter account, volunteered with us, attended a corporate work party or one of our talks and events, bought cards, calendars or logs, made donations to our Go Fund Me page, sent in sightings, records and photographs, or simply enjoyed visiting one of our reserves – we’d like to thank you for all your help and support during the year. It’s been a great year on our reserves with fantastic counts, sightings and breeding success recorded. We’ve also been able to start work on several exciting improvements and projects around the reserve, all made possible by your support - we’re looking forward to seeing what we can all deliver together in 2019. We hope you found time to visit us over the festive break, or perhaps you had a walk closer to home – getting out into nature is a great way to start the New Year, and no matter what the season is there’s always something to see! And don’t forget – if you fancy volunteering, or have a corporate work day or talk that you’d like to organise, feel free to make contact on here and we’d be happy to accommodate you. Finally, a massive thank you to our amazing band of volunteers who we just couldn't manage without.

Whilst we’ve been busy working out on site lately, finishing off our management work with our amazing team of volunteers before the ground conditions get too soft or we get flooded out, we’ve also been busy in the office with reports, finance bids and other end of year works that require completion. One of the jobs is to compile the wealth of records we, our volunteers and visitors to the reserve have collected over the year, in order to send them in to the various monitoring schemes, clubs and county recorders for annual reports. Like many naturalists on these cold dark winter nights we’ve been busy compiling our butterfly transect data, our moth record and mammal sightings to send off – and we’ve also been getting our bird records pulled together for the York Ornithological Club and Rare Breeding Birds Panel. Looking back over the data we’ve collected has been a nice reminder of the warm summer months – so we thought we’d share some warmer, sunnier photographs on this rather chilly winter’s day!