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

Wednesday 27 March 2019

22/03/19 - Return of the hawk

Last week local wildlife photographer Terry Weston sent us images of a Sparrowhawk taken by Dave Wilson in his garden in Dunnington. Not only are they great photographs, but they have also revealed the history of the bird after we were able to partly read the metal BTO ring. 

After doing some research we found out this bird is DE60850, a young male ringed on the 8th August 2013 at the NNR base at Bank Island - but the story doesn’t end there - this was actually one of two rehabilitated Sparrowhawks ringed and released at the NNR base that day by the fantastic Jean Thorpe.

The bird in question having been found on Bootham Stray allotments in York, with a damaged wing. After a few days of expert care by Jean it was back out in the wild - great to hear that five and a half years later it’s still going strong and looking in great condition, and still nearby in the local area. Another great job by Jean – and thanks to Terry and Dave for sharing the images and helping us to trace the bird.

Monday 25 March 2019

19/03/19 - Skipwith Redpolls

Lesser Redpolls are delightful and charming little finches with small delicate bills - adapted for extracting fine seeds such as those from their favoured trees (birch and alder). A flock of up to 120 have been present on Skipwith Common in recent weeks, with similar numbers present throughout the winter – try looking in the birch trees around the bomb bay loop or along the tracks across the Common – listen out for their chattering calls coming from the tree tops. 

Only a small handful of pairs stay locally to breed, with most heading further north to Northern England or Scotland to breed, before heading south throughout England for the winter. Ringing on Skipwith has revealed a similar pattern – an individual caught on the Common in late November had been ringed 223km to the north at Selkirk in the borders 80 days earlier, whilst another, ringed on the Common in late November had moved 30km to the south, to Humberhead Peatlands NNR, by late December. This species has also been increasing in gardens where it has taken to the supplies of niger seed favoured by Goldfinch. 

Interested in contributing your records? Then why not supply your garden records to the BTO’s Garden Birdwatch Survey to help them monitor the population and trends of this delightful little bird.

Monday 18 March 2019

11/03/19 - Sights of spring

With the warm weather of recent weeks, it has felt a bit more spring like, reinforced by the sights and sounds echoing over the Ings. One of our favourites is the haunting, bubbling calls of displaying Curlew which have been heard recently, and which will build up in numbers as more birds return to their breeding sites. We’ll be looking forward to seeing the results of our hard work on the Ings since last summer, and the positive impacts this could have on their breeding success.

We’ve also heard the first ‘chipping’ displays from Snipe – this is a vocal call given in the breeding season, which is followed by the drumming noise made by their stiffened tail feathers as they vibrate in the air, as the birds rise and fall in their display flights. If you’re planning a visit over the coming months then make sure you visit the hides at Bank Island, Wheldrake and North Duffield Carrs towards dawn or dusk to enjoy the experience.

During the warm weather we have also enjoyed seeing our first Common Lizards of the year on Skipwith Common NNR. Lizards can often be found sunning themselves on the walls of the old bomb bays, or along the various sections of boardwalk around the site. They can also be heard scurrying through the dried bracken and heather – so keep your eyes and ears open when visiting. Adults emerge from hibernation in spring, with mating occurring during April and May, followed by three to eleven young appearing in July. If threatened by a predator, lizards can shed its still-moving tail in order to distract its attacker, and make a quick getaway. This leaves a scar behind, but it can regrow its tail, although it is usually shorter than the original. If you get good views of them on the Common you can often see individuals which have new, slightly different, coloured tails where this has occurred – something to look out for!


Wednesday 13 March 2019

04/03/19 - Nightjar Brewery

Last week we were delighted to welcome staff from Nightjar Brewery to join our team of staff and volunteers for a day working on Skipwith Common NNR. Matt & Sam were keen to help out with our recent efforts on the NNR, undertaking work to help improve the habitat of their name sake – the Nightjar. Nightjars have a long history on the Common, and still maintain a toehold on the site, with recent work aimed at helping to boost numbers and breeding attempts. The team did a great job on the day, helping to create more scalloped woodland edges and glades for hunting Nightjars, as well as other heathland wildlife.

Many thanks to everyone involved for their efforts, with many pairs of hands we were able to clear and improve a large area of potential habitat, which will also benefit other species and visitor enjoyment of the site. We were also blessed with favourable weather, spending the day under clear blues skies and unseasonally warm sunshine. We’re looking forward to Matt & Sam returning again later in the year for another corporate task, in the meantime the brewery is hoping to produce a special Nightjar ale to supply to local outlets, with a percentage of sales funding further conservation projects on the site. We’ll keep you real ale drinkers posted on this, and are grateful for the kind help and support offered by Matt and his team.

Friday 8 March 2019

27/02/19 - Yellowhammer

Our bird feeding station at the NNR base at Bank Island has been very busy over recent weeks – with large flocks of Tree Sparrows and Goldfinch present. We also had a couple of Brambling visiting in January, and more recently the regulars have been joined by two Yellowhammers and a Reed Bunting (more normally found out in the surrounding farmland). 

Although it’s obvious that birds need our help during the cold weather with additional food put out by many of us, it’s not so obvious in the milder weather we are enjoying at the moment, but they do still need our help at this time of year. Natural food such as seeds have been used and depleted throughout the winter, whilst the spring hasn’t got going yet to provide a new bounty. Our Barn Owls are equally struggling as vole numbers are at a seasonal low following winter mortality, and before breeding gets underway to boost the population. Recently they have been showing on a daily basis as they hunt for extended periods at Bank Island looking for small mammals in the meadows. Many thanks to everyone who provides for our feathered friends during the winter months.

Monday 4 March 2019

25/02/19 - Barmby Barrage

Last week our band of volunteers headed south to the mouth of the River Derwent, to the Environment Agency owned Barmby Barrage (where the Derwent joins the Ouse). The barrage prevents brackish water entering the Derwent, allowing the abstraction of fresh water for drinking supplies by Yorkshire Water at Loftsome Bridge. The purpose of our visit was to help the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust manage a small nature reserve established at the mouth of the Derwent. The site is being cleared of scrub to make it more open and attractive for breeding and passage waterfowl, before hopefully additional and improved scrapes are created along with other habitat improvements. The site does have a bird hide, however it’s closed at present, and in need of some TLC – but hopefully in the years to come there will be a thriving nature reserve that will benefit both wildlife and people. Many thanks to our fantastic team for a great start to the improvements, we couldn’t do it without you.

Friday 1 March 2019

20/02/19 - Willow Tits/Habitat Management

Last week we met with our partners the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, and staff from the ‘Back from the Brink’ project, discussing the plight of Willow Tits in the area. The Willow Tit is the UK’s most threatened resident bird having suffered a 94% decline since the 1970’s, and is now extinct in most of its former haunts in the south and south-east of England.

The LDV still supports a reasonable population, but we’re looking at how we can give them a helping hand in the area – this will be done by ensuring there is enough suitable habitat for them and to provide a more connected landscape helping them move between sites. Last week we made a start with our team, modifying some of our existing projects to gain extra benefits - whilst coppicing and felling some of the willows along the Wheldrake riverside track, we took the opportunity to leave high stumps, whilst also wiring up some of the felled stumps, to provide extra rotting timber that the Willow Tits can use to excavate nest holes, as well as providing new coppice regrowth of willow and blackthorn. We are looking for help in carrying out a survey of the wider area (please get in touch if you’d like to contribute), and we hope to colour-ring some of our local birds as part of the project to help us understand how they are using the wider area. 

Recently our team of staff and volunteers have also been busy repairing and reinstalling the screening by Pool and Swantail Hides. Despite the rather cold conditions and bracing wind the team managed to get the old screening back up and secured, as well as raising the height of the existing screening on the approach to Swantail Hide. This should mean that there won’t be any undue disturbance to the vast flocks of wintering waterfowl on the approach to the hides now – of benefit to both the birds and birdwatchers alike. It was also a case of great timing – with the reserve flooding the day after the work was finished! If you haven’t visited the reserve recently then why not plan a visit when the water starts to recede, to enjoy the improved facilities, new interpretation panels and wildlife spectacle for yourself. Numbers of wintering waterfowl often build up to their peaks in late February/March as our own wintering populations are joined by the first returning north and eastward bound migrants. Thanks as always to our fantastic team for doing such a great job helping us to maintain the reserve.