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 28 October 2019

16/10/19 - Nightjar/Kestrel release

The fantastic, dedicated and expert work of Jean will be well known to many of our regular readers – with numerous stories posted on here of rescued swans and owls, rehabilitated raptors and hand-rearing nestlings, hedgehogs, orphaned otters and so much more. It’s a privilege for us to work with Jean, and helping to release some of these amazing creatures onto the NNR as part of the final piece of their rehabilitation back into the wild. However, each individual comes with a tale, which often involves miles of travelling, late nights, early mornings, nightly feeds and such amazing dedication by Jean and her support network at Battle Flatts Vets. 

Last month, Jean brought a Kestrel into the valley to be released in safe, prime feeding habitat, and in area which is home to many other Kestrels. This unfortunate individual fell from a nest in an aircraft hangar, and with it being very high up it was unable to go back into the nest, leaving Jean no option but to rear it until it was ready for fledging. Upon release at the NNR base it flew a short distance onto one of our new way marker posts, where it sat, preened and took in its new surroundings. 

Over the following days we were able to watch it hunting, hovering and catching food in the surround fields at Bank Island, occasionally coming back to sit on the post. Many thanks to Jean for her tireless efforts, which results in so many wild animals back out there living a truly wild life. For those that have been in contact recently wanting to support Jean, the link can be found here - https://www.gofundme.com/f/ldjuu8 - for her Go Fund Me page. 

Following on from the Kestrel release, we were also fortunate to see a young Nightjar which had been in Jean's care - seemingly only just fledged it was picked up exhausted and in unsuitable habitat by a concerned dog walker, presumably having run into difficulties when starting to disperse on its first migration to its wintering grounds in Africa. Weighing just 50 grams when it arrived, over the course of a few weeks with Jean’s expert care by slowly re-warming, re-hydrating and gentle feeding, it soon put on weight reaching over 70 grams and was ready to be off.  

At this time of year birds are heading off on their autumn migrations so it was released in prime habitat on Skipwith Common NNR – where it flew well landing in the undergrowth in the shade of a Silver Birch tree. 

After a couple of minutes, it flew again, a short distance, flicking itself over a fence and onto one of the main heaths before landing and scampering into the cover of heather. Hopefully thanks to Jean’s helping hand, this bird will be able to feed up further on the local moth population before making its way south, perhaps returning to Yorkshire in future years. 

Thursday 24 October 2019

10/10/19 - Otter release

This time last year Jean ended up with a little female Otter kit in her care, expertly looking after it and bringing it back from the edge of starvation having been left orphaned. When rivers start to rise, Otters seem reluctant to swim underneath bridges, preferring to walk along the bank or edges of the structure, often leaving the river to cross over the bridge where they can then become victims of road traffic accidents. The young Otters, left tired and hungry can sometimes be found as they start calling for their missing Mother, with their high-pitched whistles. The Derwent catchment is a great area for Otters, and there have been several sightings from Wheldrake to Bubwith Bridge this winter, although their presence is more often given away by tracks in the riverside mud or by their sweet-smelling spraints. Fortunately for this little one, it has now been wild-reared by the RSPCA at one of their special Otter sites, and last week was returned home to Yorkshire.

On a rather wet Saturday morning our great team met up with Jean and her family, and the RSPCA team, to construct a large pen on the reserve where the pair of Otters have spent the last week getting used to the sites and smells of the reserve, and enjoying their daily dinner of fresh trout. The pen is on a quiet part of the reserve next to a network of ditches, and is surrounded by tall grasses and tangled willow scrub, and has a pond for the Otters to play in. We are now in the process of slowly removing the fence so the Otters are free to come and go as they like, slowly re-introducing them back into the wild in Yorkshire. 

Another great job by all involved, with huge thanks to Jean, and Rob from the RSPCA for their fantastic work.

Friday 11 October 2019

30/09/19 - Spotted Crakes

At the end of September, Wheldrake Ings was treated to a couple of unusual visitors when two Spotted Crakes were found by the LDV Senior Reserve Manager whilst working late one evening, fortunately it wasn’t a case of one day wonder, both birds took up residence on the scrape in front of the new hide at Swantail, and at times, showed well for visiting birdwatchers. Spotted Crakes tend to skulk in thick cover much like their close relatives, the Water Rail, but these birds did at times come out to the edges of the vegetation and showed in the open. 

Crakes walk with their body close to the ground and tail flicking, feeding on insects, snails, worms and also small fish and plants. They also swim with a jerky action like that of the Moorhen and if surprised in the open, they run for cover or jump up and flutter away with legs dangling, which one photographer even managed to capture. These individuals are likely to be on passage from their breeding grounds, with another eight recorded at sites in the UK during the week. The Lower Derwent Valley is one of a handful of UK breeding sites for these birds, supporting up to 5 singing males of the 30 or so recorded annually in the country, although these are usually only detected by the repetitive nocturnal calling and rarely seen, making this sighting a real treat for the local birders. 

Tuesday 8 October 2019

28/09/19 - Harrier release

Recently, we were fortunate to be present when Jean brought an immature Marsh Harrier in to be released  on the NNR after weeks of successful rehabilitation. Not only did it go off superbly, but it has since settled in the valley with the other Marsh Harriers present. However, what is even more remarkable is the story around this bird – found shot in North Yorkshire, with its main wing bone shattered in two places and the shot still lodged in the break. Unfortunately, North Yorkshire has a terrible record of bird of prey persecution, but thanks to the expertise of Mark Naguib at Battle Flatts Vets, followed by four weeks of expert care with Jean, this bird remarkably healed and regained the power of flight. It obviously couldn’t be released back to where it was found (to risk a similar fate), and so the decision was made to release it in the LDV where it would be safe from persecution and in prime feeding territory to help with its ongoing recovery. 

Over the last few weeks we’ve been able to watch it hunting and flying around the reserve, and going into roost with two or three other birds during the evenings – providing pleasure to a number of local and visiting birdwatchers, who have been able to watch and photograph this bird, which weeks earlier would have been condemned to a slow and painful death if it hadn’t been found in time. A huge well done to Mark and Jean for their amazing work and tireless efforts.