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 29 April 2019

19/04/19 - Aviva Corporate Task

Last week our team of staff and volunteers were once again joined by staff from our friends at Aviva York, taking advantage of their volunteering allowance. With an increased team of 27 motivated and enthusiastic people, we had a great day and achieved a huge amount of work across the LDV and Skipwith Common NNR. 

On the Common the team helped remove brash from the recent winter works, making small dead hedges and habitat piles into reptile hibernacula, serenaded by singing Woodlark over the heath. 

Other members helped install a ‘false’ gate post in front of one of the hides at Bank Island for Barn Owls and Kestrels to perch on, whilst others helped the team from Green Future Building move the new Sand Martin banks into situ prior to being assembled. 

Rotating tasks throughout the day the team also managed to spilt and stack some of the leftover timber from our recent felling work on Wheldrake Ings, adding over 10 cubic metres to our woodshed. Finally, we even had time to finish and tidy up our willow coppicing work around the car park area for the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust at Wheldrake Ings. Huge thanks to the team for everyone’s amazing efforts, which really does make a great difference in what we can achieve on the reserve – looking forward to welcoming the team back for another day in the autumn.

Friday 26 April 2019

14/04/19 - Oak Beauty

Until the cold snap returned, we were enjoying running the moth trap during the mild and dry weather, allowing us to monitor the early season species on the wing. Our catches tend to be fairly small at this time of year with 20-30 moths expected on the average night – but over the last few weeks we’ve been seeing catches of up to 150-200 moths. One species we have enjoyed seeing recently is the Oak Beauty - a rather large, thick bodied and attractive species, with alternate bands of chestnut and white with black speckles. They are reasonably common throughout England and Wales, flying in March and April and frequenting deciduous woodland and suburban habitats. The caterpillars feed on a number of deciduous tree species and are not, like their name would suggest, restricted to Oak trees.

As well as helping with the moth recording, over the last two weeks our team of staff and volunteers have been busy on the reserve starting the first of our annual weed control. This involves spot spraying docks on the riverbanks to help the local farmers manage these areas more effectively, and to deliver the ideal sward for breeding waders and wintering waterfowl. It’s great to see the improvements and how much difference has resulted from the teams’ efforts last year, and we’re crossing our fingers that the favourable weather continues to get the rest of the programme completed over the coming weeks. We’ve also been spot spraying docks on Wheldrake Ings, where the team has enjoyed seeing the Snake’s-head Fritillaries in flower. When visiting the site please don’t trespass out into the meadows as this causes considerable disturbance to the breeding birds and to those enjoying the views from the hides - please respect the information provided on the signs around the site, thank you. 

Wednesday 10 April 2019

02/04/19 - Work on the NNR

Our dedicated band of volunteers give their time freely each week to help around the NNR, and are no strangers to a bit of habitat management and tree felling, so it was a nice change last week to be planting some instead! Following a successful grant application by the Friends of the Lower Derwent Valley to the Environment Agency, the team made a start planting several hundred Crab Apple trees in the hedges surrounding the reserve. These trees will be a great addition to the landscape surrounding the valley, especially at North Duffield Carrs and Bank Island in a few years’ time, providing plenty of additional food and habitat for a wide range of species including wintering thrushes, finches, small mammals and numerous invertebrates and in turn, increasing the enjoyment of our visitors. The team also managed to spread and sow the wildflower seeds in the meadow next to the NNR base, to add to the diversity and attractiveness of this field, as well as a range of other tasks.

Recently our staff and volunteers have also been busy working between Wheldrake Ings and Skipwith Common, with the last of the scrub management work now completed for the breeding season. Over the last couple of months contractors have been clearing birch scrub from the Common for use on horse jumps, and in doing so have provided excellent flight lines and feeding opportunities for heathland species such as Nightjars and Woodlarks, as well as sunny glades and sheltered spots for basking Adders, Grass Snakes and Common Lizards. The diverse structure and varied woodland edge will prove more suitable for moths and other invertebrates, as well as increasing the ground flora. Our team have been helping the site’s owners, Escrick Park Estate, tidy the brash resulting from the work (building hibernacula and brash piles for the reptiles found on the Common), providing cover and micro-habitats for them to move along. Many thanks as always to our team for doing such a great job on the NNR, giving up their free time to help improve the site for both wildlife and people.

The nice weather of last week was not only enjoyed by our staff and volunteers, but also by our local Adder population, with the warm sunshine luring them out of hibernation. Whilst carrying out habitat management work on Skipwith Common NNR, our team checked some of the favoured spots during their lunch break, and were pleased to spot an Adder coiled up among the bracken and heather, along with several Common Lizards and the first Grass Snakes of the year. After a long winter spent in hibernation and months without feeding, Adders need to use the sun's rays to warm up their bodies to build up their energy and strength, and to allow their muscles to work properly. Adders are Britain’s only venomous snake - they subdue their prey (frogs, toads, nestlings and small mammals) using venom, however they are not a threat to people unless disturbed – if you are fortunate enough to come across a sighting of an Adder (or Grass Snake), then please watch from a distance and try not disturb them, thank you.