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 31 July 2019

25/07/19 - Marvellous moths

The moth trap has been a joy to check recently, despite the very early starts due to the overly warm weather. Large numbers of moths have been recorded, counted and released, including a record catch of 814 individuals. Several notable species and ‘firsts’ for the year are now also appearing, however, the undoubted star of the show was an incredibly impressive and beautiful Privet Hawk-moth. This species is the UK's largest resident Hawk-moth, and is unmistakeable with its pink and black striped abdomen and hindwings. Adults feed on nectar from highly-scented flowers such as those found in the NNR base garden, and fly at night, hence finding its way into our (perfectly harmless) trap. The Privet Hawk-moths equally impressive bright green caterpillar has white and purple stripes and a black curved tail, and feeds on Wild and Garden Privet as its name would suggest (along with Lilac, Ash, Honeysuckle and Snowberry) before overwintering as pupa, sometimes 30cm or more underground. This is the first individual to be recorded from the reserve, and away from the far south-east of the county remains a scarce moth in Yorkshire. 

Several days after trapping the Privet Hawk-moth (above), we were then delighted to find a Pine Hawk-moth in the trap early one morning (pictured below) - a new species for the reserve this year, and one which isn't always annual.

As well as many species appearing in good numbers over recent weeks, we have also recorded several scarcer species for the reserve. During recent years we have recorded just singles of the rather stunning Oak Eggar moth, which is attracted to our light trap at Bank Island. However, this year we have already recorded six of these large and impressive moths. The Oak Eggar, surprisingly given its name, does not feed on Oak, but instead actually got its name from the fact that its cocoon is acorn-like in appearance. The food plants of the caterpillar are mainly Heather and Bilberry but also include Bramble, Willow and Hawthorn – the latter three of which are found around the NNR base at Bank Island.

Sunday 28 July 2019

18/07/19 - Little Egrets

Over the last few weeks we have taken a number of successful cannon net catches as part of a new project to colour-ring a sample of our Little Egrets. Over several catches we have managed to ring and colour-ring 9 Little Egrets, as well as an adult and immature Grey Heron, 10 Mallard, 2 Teal, a single Wigeon and 2 Green Sandpiper. We were especially pleased to get the three Little Egrets colour-ringed - the first to be marked in the valley, in order to help us understand the movements and use of the site by a species which has expanded quickly over the last few years. 

After our first catch, the following day we were amazed to receive our first re-sighting – H6 was photographed by Pete Short at Blacktoft Sands RSPB reserve, further showing the links between the two reserves. When visiting the site please do let us know of any colour-ringed birds you see, or if you see any of our blue colour-ringed birds elsewhere – either by messaging us on here, via our Twitter account or by using the log books provided in the hides.

Friday 12 July 2019

02/07/19 - Common Tern success

Last week after a busy day working on the reserve, our small team of staff and ever-increasing band of volunteers headed down to the tern rafts at Wheldrake Ings and North Duffield Carrs. Following the rafts being put back into place in April, along with a few repairs and top-up of gravel, both rafts were soon home to a pair. For the third consecutive year, we are delighted to say that we have had successful breeding on the reserve, with two pairs hatching five chicks which are now a good size and ready to fledge – joining the six fledged birds raised from two broods in 2018 and a brood of two from a single pair in 2017, when the ‘Friends Of’ first purchased the rafts thanks to a kind private donation. It’s fantastic to have these birds as an addition to the reserves breeding bird community, and great entertainment for our visitors – best seen from Pool Hide at Wheldrake Ings. The terns are likely to be around until the end of the month, so if you haven’t seen them yet you still have time. 

On the day that we ringed the chicks, we also received some exciting news...

Last year we colour-ringed all six chicks hoping we might get a sighting from somewhere in the UK next year, when the birds first return to the country having spent their first summer and two winters in Africa – although from six chicks the odds were rather low. However, not only did we receive news that one of our birds had been reported, but that it had unusually already made it back to the UK in its first summer. Along with a report of the sighting, we were delighted to receive an image of the bird, taken at Seaforth Nature Reserve in Merseyside. It will be interesting to see if it appears there next year when it will be at breeding age – perhaps it has already found a breeding colony to join after its next trip to Africa. Many thanks to Gavin Thomas for sending in his record and image, and to everyone involved in managing the rafts and raising funds. We’d like to install further rafts next year, if you would like to help please follow the link to our Go Fund Me page, thank you -https://www.gofundme.com/conserving-the-lower-derwent-valley

Monday 1 July 2019

20/06/19 - National Volunteering Week

Recently as part of #NationalVolunteeringWeek, we were delighted to host three different teams of Aviva staff from the York branch. During the week (4-7th), we were joined by Helen and her team on the Tuesday - after an introduction to the site, followed by a chance to watch a bird ringing demonstration and the opportunity to explore the contents of the moth trap, the team set about the task of continuing with the planting of reed at Bank Island, with the aim of establishing a small reedbed behind the scrape. Everyone got stuck in and soon made light work of planting several hundred reeds. Whilst there we also removed some redundant fencing, helping us achieve our aim of trying to remove perches used by crows, in an attempt to help reduce breeding wader predation. Many thanks to Betty’s 'trees for life' for a kind grant which supplied the reed, and to Helen and her team of staff for trying something new and helping to make a difference, and of course to our regular Tuesday group for their continual effort week in week out. 

We were then joined by Joe and his colleagues, and on another good weather day with warm sunshine making for a pleasant day on the reserve. Meeting at the NNR base at Bank Island, the team were able to join in with checking the moth trap, before watching a bird ringing demonstration take place. Another good catch in the moth trap was had, with the stunning Elephant and Poplar Hawk-moths being the highlight, along with a Buff-Tip which, once seen is rarely forgotten – with it resembling a broken birch twig. The morning was then spent planting the remainder of the reeds at Bank Island. Once the reeds were planted and the scrape filled with water, the team headed to Skipwith Common NNR, to help out Escrick Park Estate by making more progress tidying the leftover brash felled during the winter. Another great day was had by all, many thanks to Joe and his team, and also to our weekly Thursday group for their efforts throughout the day – improving the site for both people and wildlife. 

Then last week we were delighted to welcome a third group, with Sarah and her team of staff enjoying a day working on the reserve. This is the fourth day in recent months that we have been fortunate to be joined by a new team of Aviva staff, with another two groups to follow in July. With limited resources and a vast site to manage, any help either via corporate groups or individual volunteering is so incredibly valuable, so many thanks to everyone who has helped out so far this year. Sarah and her team were fortunate to be blessed with glorious warm weather, making it a delightful day to be spent working on the NNR. After a bird ringing demonstration and checking the moth trap, the team headed to Skipwith Common NNR to continue making progress building reptile hibernacula and wildlife corridors, using the brash leftover from the winter felling works. Following a spot of lunch back in the NNR base wildlife garden, the team then spent the afternoon working in the garden, and helped us check some of our nest boxes for tits and sparrows. Many thanks as always to everyone for their efforts, and to our regular group of Thursday volunteers for welcoming Aviva and helping us run the task.