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

Friday 24 April 2020

20/04/20 - Garden wildlife

With the warm weather appearing, so too are our butterflies – spotting the first Brimstone or Orange Tip of the year can bring a moment of joy and help lift spirits. If you’re lucky enough to have a garden you may have a chance of seeing one, if not keep an eye out whilst out on your daily walk/exercise if you’re in an area where their food plant can be found.

Brimstones are one of the most delightful species to see, and it is thought that the word butterfly originates from the yellow ‘butter’ colour of the males. In comparison, the wings of the female are pale green, and can sometimes almost appear white, meaning that they can occasionally be overlooked amongst the larger white species. Brimstones are one of the earliest species seen on the wing, often coming out during warm sunny days from early March where the caterpillar’s food plant. The individual pictured below was photographed at the NNR Base ‘nectaring’ on the Lavender in our wildlife garden.

Over the last few weeks whilst staying at home, you may have come across one of these individuals in your garden and thought to yourself is it a bee? Or maybe a fly? It is in fact a Bee-fly. Despite their appearance, with large eyes and a long proboscis, they are perfectly harmless and will be more interested in looking for nectar sources than bothering you.

Bee-flies are actually a member of the fly family but are bee ‘mimics’, and are quite easy to spot with their dangly legs and darting flight - a bit like a mini Hummingbird moving from flower to flower in search of nectar, it's also worth listening out for their high-pitched buzzing sound. Upon finding a suitable flower they will use their long proboscis to drink the nectar, before continuing their search, sunny spots in gardens and hedgerows are a good place to look for them basking and feeding. Although we are not able to get out and about on the reserves at the moment, this is one species that you might be lucky enough to come across in your garden or local area.

The first Red-and-black Froghoppers of the year are also likely to be out and about now on warmer days, and with the warm weather set to continue, there may be one brightening up a nettle patch near you. With their vibrant colours they really are unmistakeable, and can be found between April and August in a range of habitats including: grasslands, meadows, gardens and woodland. The adults (which can fly and also have the ability to jump up to 70cm with powerful back legs – hence the name ‘froghopper’), largely feed by sucking juices from grasses, but also from other plants which the nymphs feed on underground on plant roots. Next time you are out in your garden or on your daily walk/exercise, scan the vegetation and you might be lucky enough to spot one.

Tuesday 21 April 2020

14/04/20 - Sand Martin arrival

We're delighted to say that the first Sand Martins were reported from Bank Island last week (6th April), with five individuals seen excavating new holes in our nesting bank. Fortunately, one of the last jobs our team managed to get done before the lockdown was to empty and clean out last year’s nesting chambers, as well as re-filling them and the tunnels with fresh sand.

With thanks to grants and donations received by the Friends of the Lower Derwent Valley, this will be the second year that the bank has been in use, following its installation last April. A total of 20 successful nests were recorded last year, with 79 young ringed (total of 95 including adults) – a great and unexpected result in the first year. In comparison to the other bank (in front of Pool Hide at Wheldrake Ings), birds were seen around the bank but they didn’t ‘move in’ or use any of the tunnels, which is more normally expected in the first year. Unfortunately this year this bank will now be out of action, after it succumbed to the winter floods and is in need of repair. Hopefully once work resumes, we will be able to re-position it later in the year, with plans also in place to install a new bank at North Duffield Carrs – purchased by the Friends. In the meantime, at least we’ll be able to enjoy the comings and goings of the colony at Bank Island, once it is deemed safe for us all to venture out once again.

Tuesday 14 April 2020

11/04/20 - The return of the Cuckoo

We hope that all of our visitors and followers are keeping safe during this unprecedented time, and that everyone is following the government advice on self-isolation and hand washing – like this Brown Hare at North Duffield Carrs – captured on camera by local wildlife photographer Stuart Campbell. Prior to the lockdown, we had been seeing a lot of hare activity around the site, with animals moving back onto the Ings now that the extensive winter flooding is starting to recede - each year during the floods, species like hares, deer, voles and shrews are forced up onto the higher and drier ground surrounding the reserve. This is one of the reasons why we need to view the Lower Derwent Valley NNR as much more than the internationally important designated Ings, and to also consider the wider landscape, including adjacent farmland and the network of other green spaces, local villages and verges. If the recent virus outbreak has taught us anything, it’s how much we value and need access to the natural environment for our own mental health and well-being, which is why we try to work with as many people as possible each year to conserve the valley for the wildlife that call it home, and for the people who love to visit it.

Last week we also had the first Cuckoo of the year calling one early morning at Church Bridge, Melbourne – a sound which we look forward to hearing each spring. 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, people in and around the villages of the area can still look forward to hearing their first returning birds – and we’re asking for your help in logging their return. Last year the first Cuckoo was heard at Melbourne on the 10th, followed by several individuals on the 19th at Elvington, Wheldrake and Skipwith, with the main arrival coming from the 24th onwards. Please do let us know when you hear your first calling birds – and many thanks to local wildlife photographer Mark Hughes for the image below, taken in the Lower Derwent Valley NNR in Melbourne.

Wednesday 8 April 2020

01/04/20 - Springtime

Whilst all of our work is currently on hold during the lockdown, our wildlife is continuing to arrive as spring starts to build momentum. Over the past few weeks (despite the extensive flooding), we’ve seen the return of many of our breeding birds, and with them are some of our most popular and best loved species – the Curlew and Skylark. Whilst both have been largely absent from the Ings over the winter, numbers have been increasing over recent weeks with up to 180 Curlew now present. It’s been great to hear their bubbling display and evocative calls across the site – the real sound of the Ings in spring, and one which we are fortunate to still be able to enjoy, with breeding Curlew in lowland England in a worrying state of decline.

Another favourite sound of the summer time Ings is the constant background song of Skylarks - with 103 singing or displaying birds recently counted along the floodbanks and over the flooded Ings. It’s incredible that they know where to hold their territory, seemingly predicting what the site will be like when the waters finally recede.

Once the lockdown is over our work posts will resume, in the meantime, we’ll post a few species to look out for from your gardens – and please feel free to share your sightings with us. We hope that all of our followers stay safe and well during this unprecedented time, and that everyone adheres to the government guidelines and advice.