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 23 May 2019

12/05/19 - Cuckoo arrival

Spring brings with it many wildlife delights and things to look out for, but one of the sounds most looked forward to has to be the call of a Cuckoo, usually first occurring in mid-April. Although numbers of this iconic summer visitor have fallen in many parts of the UK, (thought in part to be linked to the changes of abundance and distribution of their prey), numbers in the Lower Derwent Valley are still doing well. Whilst not as common as they once were, good numbers have arrived back following the first of the year recorded at Melbourne on 10th April. From recent survey work around the Ings and Pocklington Canal, 27 singing males have been located so far. The Pocklington Canal area at Melbourne is a favoured haunt of these birds and a good place to listen out for the distinct ‘cuckoo’ call of the male, and the less frequently heard ‘bubbling’ call of the female. The Bank Island/Wheldrake Ings/Storwood area also has at least three calling males, whilst Skipwith Common is another reliable site. Many thanks to local wildlife photographer Mark Hughes for the image below, taken in Melbourne in the Lower Derwent Valley.

Friday 10 May 2019

05/05/19 - Groppers & Garganey

It's already looking like it’s going to be a good year for Grasshopper Warblers in the valley, with up to three singing or ‘reeling’ males located so far. Like the name suggests Grasshopper Warblers (also known as Groppers), have a high pitched, insect-like reeling song, similar to that of a grasshopper which is the best clue to their presence. They are rather elusive, often singing from the base of dense cover and can be hard to locate - more often than not a view of this bird is brief, often mouse-like, creeping through low dense foliage in reedbeds and adjacent scrub. Last week several of our team were fortunate to have a better view when one of the birds found its way in to one of our mist-nets. 

This is the 21st individual to have been ringed on the reserve, from our ringing recoveries we were notified that an individual ringed in July 2011 was later recovered heading south on migration at Titchfield Haven, Hampshire 345km and just 20 days later. Arriving here from mid-April Groppers are present until late July and August before wintering in western Africa – British ringed birds having been found wintering in Senegal and the Gambia. Although they can occur almost anywhere, Wheldrake Ings and the Pocklington Canal (particularly around Church Bridge near Melbourne) can often be the best chances of hearing one. When visiting the site please feel free to let us know if you come across any.

So far this spring we have already seen good numbers of Garganey - our only summer migrant duck species, which arrive in the UK from their African wintering grounds from mid-March, remaining until late August-early September. The drakes are stunningly colourful, with a beautiful chestnut brown head with prominent white stripe above the eye and distinctive pale blue forewing in flight, however they are a scarce, unobtrusive and quite secretive species, often only their call giving away their presence, much like an old football rattle and hence the old English name of ‘Cricket Teal’.

With around 100-150 pairs in the UK, the Lower Derwent Valley is something of a stronghold for this species in Northern England. A pair which have been present since 6th April have been showing well, and almost daily at Bank Island, with up to three pairs also present at the nearby Wheldrake Ings. As the vegetation grows and the water draws down birds will become harder to see, occasionally appearing in front of the hides like this drake photographed recently by regular valley birder Duncan Bye.  

Wednesday 8 May 2019

03/05/19 - Skipwith Common NNR fire damage

Recently, on the evening of Monday 15th April, fire crews from Selby, Acomb, Tadcaster, Huntington and York were called to Skipwith Common NNR at 16:58pm, to tackle a fire which had broken out on the main heathland in front of the bomb bay viewing area. The quick and excellent response from the fire services, aided by staff from Escrick Park Estate and our own team, saved the site from extensive damage. 

The fire was fuelled by the tinder dry grass and heather, and further encouraged by strong and gusting winds. In total approximately 40,000 square metres of the most mature heather on site has been lost, with damage also to fencing, stock handling equipment and the easy access viewing platform over-looking the heath. The morning after the fire our team returned to dampen down smouldering hot spots to prevent further flare ups, and have returned over recent weeks to start replacing fence posts, and area and stock pens to make the heath stock proof. 

We’ve also been busy with our volunteers repairing damage to the post and rail fencing by the viewing area, and the burnt section of the viewing platform. Many thanks to everyone involved for their great efforts in responding directly to the fire itself, but also with the tidy up and repairs - a great team effort. Whilst it was sad to see we had lost some snakes, frogs and a Teal’s nest in the blaze, it should hopefully be a relatively short-term loss.


Wednesday 1 May 2019

01/05/19 - Sand Martin banks and Tern rafts

With thanks to support via logs, cards and calendar purchases, and kind donations, last week the Friends of the Lower Derwent Valley took delivery and installation of two new Sand Martin nesting banks. Sand Martins are the smallest of our hirundines and agile fliers, feeding mainly over water – look out for the new banks by Pool Hide at Wheldrake Ings, and near the new scrape on Bank Island. 

Wintering largely in the Sahel area of Africa, Sand Martins are one of the first summer migrants to appear from mid-March. They are highly gregarious and breed in colonies where they excavate tunnels in sandy banks, small colonies are present in and around the valley, but hopefully these artificial banks will provide additional nesting locations - they will also be less prone to be flooded out and safe from predators. Many thanks to Green Future Building for the great job building and installing the banks, and thanks to our great team of dedicated volunteers for filling them with sand – making them ready for the birds to ‘move in’.

Last week, as well as preparing the new Sand Martin banks, the team also managed to find time to launch our two tern rafts back onto the water. Following a bit of general maintenance and new gravel, the two rafts were re-floated back into place on the pool at Wheldrake Ings and the top pond at North Duffield Carrs.

Due to a kind private donation three years ago the Friends of the Lower Derwent Valley purchased the two rafts from John and his team at Green Future Building. Both rafts have been used successfully in the last two years – a single pair fledged two young in 2017 with two pairs fledging six young in 2018. Our Common Terns should be arriving back any day now, hopefully visitors to the reserve will be able to enjoy watching them fishing on the river, ponds and pools throughout the area. We may also see the first young fledged in 2017 returning from their African wintering areas where they will have remained during the first year – these birds have been colour-ringed so please keep an eye open for them. If you’d like to support the work of the Friends, then please visit their Go Fund Me page (https://www.gofundme.com/conserving-the-lower-derwent-valley) helping to deliver more positive conservation projects on and around the reserve.