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 25 February 2019

15/02/19 - Gulls, Rufforth Tip

Regular followers to our page may remember our gull ringing project on Harewood Whin landfill site, on the outskirts of York near Rufforth. During a three-year project nearly 2500 large gulls were cannon netted between March 2015 and March 2018, when the landfill site finally closed. This was in part to explore the effects of the closure of the site on the nationally important roost (of up to 40-50,000 gulls) at Wheldrake Ings, as well as establishing where ‘our’ gulls were coming and going to. 

Whilst it’s still early days, the number of Herring Gulls last month at the Wheldrake roost has been very low – with just a couple of hundred recorded compared to the 10-20,000 counted in previous winters. We’ve also had fewer re-sightings of our colour-ringed birds in Yorkshire, but a slight increase in sightings from landfill sites in Derbyshire and Leicestershire – suggesting some of the birds have been displaced. We’ve also heard of birds in Norway right down to Morocco – a 5000km radius of York, whilst one of our Lesser Black-backed Gulls has been seen again, back in Malaga Harbour for its third winter.

Many thanks to everyone who has sent in records of colour-ringed birds over the last few years - summary of the results so far to follow soon.

Monday 18 February 2019

11/02/18 - Leven Carrs

Last week our team of staff and volunteers headed out of the valley and over to Leven Carrs (just outside Beverley), to help undertake some more work on this wetland re-creation scheme with land owners, Albanwise. This is a fantastic project covering a huge area and is a site we’ve been involved in helping to restore and enhance for a number of years – having brought over green hay and seeds harvested from the valley to help boost the grassland restoration project. This time the team were helping to fence off the water control structures on the site, to prevent cattle from trampling, blocking or damaging the structures designed to retain and raise water levels on the site. The management of the water levels certainly seems to be working, whilst there the team were treated to views of wintering ducks, herons, egrets and an impressive 150 Mute Swans. Barn Owls, Peregrines and Marsh Harriers were also seen hunting over the site whilst wintering Stonechats flitted along the fence lines. 

Following on from our first visit, we returned again on our last two Thursday volunteer tasks, with the aim of constructing amphibian ladders/ramps in the sluice chambers, to help frogs, toads and newts escape upon falling in to the chamber. Another great job by the team – many thanks to everyone for making the extra-long journey to help out. 

Wednesday 13 February 2019

08/02/19 - Wintery weather

Although the relatively dry conditions of this winter seem set to continue, it’s certainly felt somewhat more wintery and colder of late. Armed with the correct footwear and clothing to keep out that winter chill, the LDV is a fantastic place to visit at this time of year. The local Barn Owls have been out in force and showing well at Bank Island, as the cold conditions have forced them to hunt throughout the day to maintain their body condition. As well as at the NNR Base, a number of individuals have also been seen throughout the wider area – Wheldrake Ings, North Duffield Carrs, Ellerton churchyard and the Pocklington Canal towpath around Melbourne are great places to look out for these birds. 

The same freezing conditions have caused a mass departure of the valley’s wintering waders, with the 8000+ strong Lapwing flocks present throughout much of January having been displaced to find easier feeding opportunities – perhaps on the Humber Estuary, whilst many of our ducks have taken refuge away from the frozen Ings to the sanctuary and open water of the river. Please respect the signs around the valley concerning access and the need to reduce disturbance, especially at this difficult time when the birds need to conserve as much energy as possible – thank you.

Monday 11 February 2019

01/02/19 - Work on the NNR

Over recent weeks with the continuation of the dry weather, our team of staff and volunteers have been busy on Wheldrake Ings - helping out the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust with their winter work programme. The team have been burning some of the last brash piles remaining from the autumns scrub management programme, whilst retaining some of the older, rotten stumps and limbs for Willow Tits to nest in, as well as being an important habitat for a range of invertebrate species. Whilst on site we also continued installing fence posts and roping off the paths between Pool Hide and the new hide at Swantail, with aim of helping to hold back the reeds and vegetation during the summer months. There has also been a few odd repairs to the hides as part of the ongoing maintenance – and if you haven’t visited the site recently, then please take time to read and look at the new YWT/Wren funded interpretation panels, (completed with thanks to match funding from the Friends of the LDV, and for all the talk donations, and log/cards/calendar sales as well as kind donations to our Go Fund Me page). As always when visiting the site please let us know of any wildlife you see by using the log books provided, thank you. 

Visitors to Skipwith Common NNR lately will be aware of recent conservation work happening on site - contractors working with Escrick Park Estate, supported by our own volunteer team have been thinning out and managing some of the more mature woodland and scrub areas. This is to further increase the structure and diversity of the ground flora in the woodland areas, helping reduce the amount of scrub encroaching onto the more open heathland area for which the site is internationally important. The contractors are clearing birch scrub from the heathland and wetter parts of the sites, which will go on to be used for horse racing jumps around the country. Access routes are also being created into some of the denser areas – creating sunny glades for invertebrates and reptiles which will enjoy basking in the sheltered spots. Increased light will also benefit the ground flora, such as Common Spotted Orchids, Twayblades and Broad-leaved Helleborines found around the bomb bay loop. At present the work may look a bit harsh and stark, however come the spring we’re looking forward to seeing the benefits. 


Friday 8 February 2019

30/01/19 - Wildfowl ringing

We've been enjoying some great success in catching Teal to ring over the last two months. There are around 5500 in the valley at the moment, and since the first catch on the 30th November last year, we’ve caught and ringed over 1000 taking the total number ringed in the valley to over 4650 (around 4% of those ringed in the UK). 

This has generated a number of recoveries with Teal ringed in the valley being reported from Sweden, Finland, Norway, Russia, the Netherlands, France and Portugal, but there has also been some interesting re-traps from within the valley. Three birds caught at Bank Island last week had all been caught and ringed together in the same catch, at Bank Island, almost exactly four years earlier, leaving us wondering if they had stayed together and just how many air miles they might have clocked up since we initially encountered them. It has also revealed the degree and turnover of Teal using the valley – our peak count has recently been reaching around 10,000 but just how many individuals pass through the reserve over the year? Two birds ringed on 18th November last year had already made it to the Manchester area and southern France by the New Year, whilst another, ringed on 12th December was found in Lampeter, Wales, just 10 days later. Many thanks to our staff and volunteers for putting all the extra hours in recently to carry out these catches which are largely at dawn or dusk.

The eloquent looking Pintail is one of our favourite ducks seen on the reserve at this time of year – with numbers currently continuing to increase with over 250 now present throughout the reserve.  We’ve caught and ringed 18 so far this year in and amongst our cannon net catches of Teal and Wigeon, as part of our long running studies with the BTO and WWT. We’ve also received two interesting ringing recoveries back from birds ringed in the valley in previous winters - both were ringed at Bank Island in January 2017 with the first being found at Baie d’authie, Fort-Mahon-Plage, Somme, France, 440km to the south last November. The other was found at Wexford Harbour in Ireland, some 400km west of the valley last December. It’s interesting to know where our birds have been, but it’s also useful in looking at how and when birds use the site in terms of understanding large landscape scale movements.

Mallards are a widespread and familiar species across our urban and rural landscapes, with the feeding of bread to local populations perhaps being the first engagement we had with birds and the natural environment. Although the UK breeding population (estimated between 61,000-146,000 pairs) has been increasing since the 1960’s - although also assisted by the vast numbers released by shooting parties, wintering numbers of c700,000 individuals have shown a decline since the late 1980’s. This is thought to be linked to a decrease in birds coming from Europe in a response to milder winters. 

The Lower Derwent Valley NNR remains a key site in the UK for wintering birds, with up to 3000 present most winters. Recently we were pleased to catch and ring a sample of over 40 Mallards, which also saw us pass a milestone of the 5000th individual to be ringed on the reserve over the last 30 years. Our ringing recoveries have shown birds moving to and from Norway, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany and France, although the number of continental birds has reduced over recent years in line with the national trends. It is important that the monitoring of this species, and all species continues, with this work helping to shape future conservation strategies.