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 20 December 2021

06/12/21 - Woodcock arrival

During our thermal nocturnal surveys on the Ings and surrounding farmland last month, we noticed a dramatic increase in the number of Woodcock feeding after dark. Their timing couldn’t have been better, occurring on the full moon - the November full moon is often referred to as the ‘Woodcock moon’. Traditionally it was thought that Woodcock would wait for moonlit nights before crossing the North Sea to arrive, sometimes appearing in large numbers along the East Coast before moving onward throughout the country.

Around 100,000 breeding birds in the UK increase to in excess of a million birds wintering here, as birds from Eastern Europe move west in search of milder conditions. These birds spend the nights feeding (largely on earthworms), on farmland, pasture and the Ings grasslands after dark, before then spending the daytime in dense cover in the undergrowth of hedgerows and woodlands. Here their cryptic camouflage comes into its own as they melt away into the leaf litter on the woodland floor. When visiting the reserve keep a look out at dawn and dusk as birds fly on and off the Ings.

Thursday 16 September 2021

10/09/21 - Spotted Crakes

The Lower Derwent Valley NNR is one of only a handful of regular UK sites for breeding Spotted Crakes, with between one and five calling males recorded in most years. More sporadically larger numbers have been recorded, with up to 26 singing males in 1998 and 12 in 1999 and 2000. This represents a significant proportion of the 30-80 singing males recorded annually.  

This year large numbers were experienced again, with up to 31 calling males involved over two main influxes – the first in early May, and the second towards the end of the month/early June. Spotted Crakes are very hard to survey with little known about habitat use on site, or indeed what these birds are doing. After the first influx and gaining the relevant permissions from the BTO, our team caught and ringed three males and radio-tagged two, allowing us to track them around the site over the course of their stay, gaining a better understanding of the species both on site and in the UK. 

With the birds being largely active and vocal between dusk and dawn, it was a great team effort to cover the site and carry out this intensive survey work – many thanks as always to our great team for their efforts.


Thursday 19 August 2021

02/08/21 - Seed harvesting

Over the last month our staff and volunteers have been working on the Ings harvesting the meadows, albeit not in the traditional sense. Prior to the local farmers taking the hay crop, our team have been using a seed harvester to gather seeds from the hay meadows across the site, as well as collecting them by hand. 

Each year we stagger the harvest, allowing us to collect a wide range of grasses and herb species as individual species ripen at different intervals. All of this seed is dried - easy to do this year with the very dry, hot and sunny weather, and is now ready to be used to enhance other meadow restoration sites elsewhere in the local area and occasionally further afield.  

It’s great to be able to use our NNRs in this way – not only does it help create pockets of species rich grassland which can be used as stepping stones through the landscape, but it also provides more sustainable and resilient grassland to withstand seasonal flooding events, and can be used for grazing animals and agricultural production, as well as creating areas for people to enjoy. It’s also a great way to raise a little bit of extra money through donations to help support further conservation efforts in the LDV. 

We’ll be out and about next week across the county helping to spread some of our seed at the recipient sites - if you’d like some for any projects then please feel free to get in touch. 

Wednesday 23 June 2021

19/06/21 - Shot Peregrine released

Hot on the heels of our last raptor post, yesterday we had the privilege of once again working with Jean, when she brought in a rehabilitated Peregrine Falcon to release on the NNR. This bird had disgracefully been shot, and was picked up in the grounds of Selby Abbey unable to fly – and she certainly wouldn’t have travelled far with her injuries. Thankfully she was soon on her way to Jean, who patiently cared for the her, with the help from Mark Naguib at Battle Flatts Vets. After several weeks she was deemed fit and well enough to go back into the wild, and so it was decided she would be released onto the reserve at North Duffield Carrs – not wise to let her go in Selby for obvious reasons, but close enough that she will recognise the local area within her ‘patch’.

The story doesn’t end there though – she was ringed eight years ago as a chick in the nest at Staythorpe, Nottinghamshire - providing us with an insight into the origins of at least one Peregrine that has colonised the area over recent years.

Another great job by Jean and the Battle Flatts team, and a real privilege to be involved in the release. Anyone with any information as to who may have committed such a crime needs to please come forward and report it to the police, thank you.

Wednesday 16 June 2021

10/06/21 - Buzzard chick

Last year whilst working at Thornton Ellers we found a Common Buzzard chick on the ground beneath a nest high up in trees - fortunately it was OK, and after a couple of days in care with Jean, it was successfully returned to its nest. This year a similar thing happened, with another young chick found on the ground again, however this time the nest could not be located, and so Jean soon found herself in the care of the Buzzard chick – unbeknown to Jean, we had just been out surveying on the NNR, and had checked last years nest to see if it had been reused, and had been pleased to see two chicks peering over the side of the nest.

Several hours later Jean contacted us to say she had just received the Buzzard chick which needed a new home - and although Jean could have reared the young chick on for release, it is obviously better for the bird to be ‘wild’ reared, so we hatched a plan to adopt it into our nest on the reserve. This has been done before with other species with good success, so it seemed like the best option. With a tree climber having just become part of our team, the young chick was soon placed into the nest, where it joined two other similar sized birds. Watching from a safe distance, we were then delighted to see the adults return shortly afterwards with food, with all three being fed. We’ll carefully monitor the nest over the coming weeks to check all is well, and with each of the three young being colour-ringed we’ll be able to monitor their long-term progress. Many thanks to Jean and our team for their efforts.

Friday 14 May 2021

10/05/21 - Returning Common Terns

We're delighted to announce that the first pair of Common Terns have returned to the Lower Derwent Valley for another year – arriving during the last weekend in April. Common Terns used to be a regular spring passage migrant to the reserve with occasional, but unsuccessful breeding attempts, however, thanks to a generous private donation to the Friends of the Lower Derwent Valley in 2017, two tern rafts were provided which resulted in the first successful breeding attempt for the site, with a single pair raising two young. Since then, and with an additional two tern rafts being provided, a total of 15 young have been reared and ringed on the reserve. 

From these colour-ringed birds we have had two subsequent re-sightings – a bird returning in its first summer to Lancashire, with the other seen during its first winter off the coast of The Gambia, Western Africa (pictured below) - amazing to think these birds cover such huge distances during the year and return every spring back to the rafts in the Lower Derwent – fingers crossed for another successful year.

Tuesday 13 April 2021

08/04/21 - Sand Martins

We are pleased to be able to say that our first Sand Martins have returned to the Lower Derwent Valley NNR after their long spring migration. Wintering largely in the Sahel area of Africa, Sand Martins are one of the first summer migrants to appear from mid-March, and are highly gregarious, breeding in colonies where they excavate tunnels in sandy banks. Sadly, natural nesting colonies in riverbanks are prone to summer flooding, however, with thanks to your support via log sales, cards and calendar purchases, and kind donations, the Friends of the Lower Derwent Valley have installed several Sand Martin nesting ‘hotels’ on the reserve over the last few years.

These, like the one at Bank Island pictured below (images from a previous year), will provide additional nesting locations and will also be less prone to be flooded out and safe from predators. Over the last couple of years this ‘hotel’ has proved popular with returning adults, and has resulted in over 140 chicks successfully fledging. We’ll be filling them with sand this week with the hope that this year’s cohort will soon move in, and then we'll turn our attentions to repairing the bank at Wheldrake Ings which became damaged during the winter floods.

Thursday 1 April 2021

25/03/21 - Migrating Scoters

Over the last week there has been a nocturnal movement of Common Scoters through the Lower Derwent Valley NNR, with late March/early April being the prime time to find the odd passage Scoter on the Ings as they move across country.

This flurry of records is thanks to noc-mig, which really took off last year when everyone was largely confined to their gardens, resulting in many local birdwatchers taking the opportunity to record nocturnal movements via sound recording, with many reporting a widespread movement of these largely sea-ducks moving in early April, no doubt being easier to hear than previously with reduced background noise resulting from the first complete lockdown. At least a couple of hundred birds were involved in the movement last year – compared to the one or two recorded annually over recent years (site records). It’s also not unusual for one to end up in Jean’s care – over the last few years we’ve had the privilege of handling a few of these lost or exhausted maritime ducks, after being been found in gardens or other unusual locations. After a night or two with Jean, they have all been safely released into the North Sea. 

It is thought that these flocks involve birds that had wintered in the Irish Sea, before moving inland over the Mersey and Wirral area, and onward across the Peak District to the Humber and Vale of York, then over to the North Sea off the Yorkshire Coast. Please do let us know if you venture out into your gardens after dark, and what you hear. The best times for Common Scoter (https://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Melanitta-nigra) appear  to be between 2000hrs and 2230 hrs.

Tuesday 23 March 2021

18/03/21 - Pintail on the increase

Recently, several of the team carried out the monthly WeBS count of the LDV’s waterfowl, as part of the national ‘Wetland Bird Survey’. These surveys have taken place on the reserve here since the 1960’s, and with the use of standard methodology, allow trends in wildfowl and wader populations to be studied, both at a site level and across the county. 

Of the 25,500 birds counted in the Lower Derwent, it included a record breaking 871 Pintail - breaking the previous record of 823 set in January this year. Looking at previous years WeBS data, we can see that the ten year averages for winter peak counts, showed that numbers were typically in the range of 54-70 during the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s. Numbers then increased to an average of 186 during the 1990’s, and more dramatically to 468 during the 2000’s. Peak counts during the 2000’s passed 600 birds in four winter periods, with the largest count of that decade of 674 in 2007/08, being surpassed by a count of 716 ten years later in the 2017/18 winter period, before these two counts of 800+ more recently. It’s great to see the value of these long-term monitoring schemes, and to see Pintail, such a beautiful and eloquent duck (shown well below in the feather detail photographs), doing so well here. Many thanks to all our counters who have helped contribute to this data set over the years.

Wednesday 3 March 2021

01/03/21 - Egyptian Goose to the Netherlands

Introduced to Britain in the later part of the 17th Century, Egyptian Geese are a relatively recent colonist of the Lower Derwent Valley NNR, following the first record here in 1979. Further records occurred in May 1990 and March 1991, with the species then recorded annually since 2001. It has since gone on to become established as a breeding species, with up to five pairs present in recent years - largely confined to several farm ponds in the East Cottingwith and Melbourne area. 

Although Egyptian Geese appear largely sedentary in the UK, making only relatively short journeys, little is known about the movements of the species across the country. We have only ringed four in the area, including a brood of three at East Cottingwith in October 2019. 

With so few individuals ringed on the reserve, we were incredibly surprised to receive a ringing recovery of one of the three goslings, that had been found in Den Hoorn, Texel, The Netherlands, 328 km south east of the LDV, in January 2021 - the first such movement of the species outside of the UK and the longest movement on record.

Friday 12 February 2021

08/02/21 - LDV NNR extension

As part of the World Wetlands Day celebrations last week, we were pleased to announce that Natural England has declared a further 22 parcels of land in the Lower Derwent Valley, as National Nature Reserve - increasing the NNR by almost one third from 466 hectares to 602 ha. This includes a total of 47.20 ha managed by Natural England and 96.30 ha managed by Carstairs Countryside Trust. This further safeguards the ownership and management of key areas for their special wildlife, from flower filled hay meadows, breeding waders and waterfowl, to the vast flocks of wintering swans, ducks, geese and wading birds that use the reserve each year. It also helps provide areas of quiet sanctuary against the effects of disturbance and increasing pressure, whilst allowing greater engagement, appreciation and appropriate access at other areas around the reserve. 

World Wetlands Day is celebrated annually on the 2nd February, with the aim of raising global awareness about the vital role of wetlands for people and the planet. The day also marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on 2nd February 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea, and is the reason the LDV is now a Ramsar site. The day celebrates all the benefits wetlands bring – from biodiversity, flood storage and reduction, food and jobs, clean water and access to health environments for recreation. 

Following on from this exciting news, we are also delighted to inform our followers that The Friends of the LDV have also been successful in purchasing another parcel of hay meadow at Ellerton Ings, which follows an initial purchase of land at North Duffield Carrs last January, and brings the total now owned and managed by The Friends, to just over 11 acres. We are grateful to everybody who has supported The Friends in being able to make this a reality – whether it’s been via buying our cards, calendars or supporting our log sales, or by requesting walks and talks, fundraising and through kind individual donations. Although these parcels of land are now in conservation ownership for perpetuity, The Friends are now looking to build their land acquisition reserves back up, in order to respond quickly to any further opportunities. If you would like to contribute then please follow the link below to their Go Fund Me page in order to help with future acquisitions, thank you - Fundraiser by Lower Derwent Valley NNR : The Lower Derwent Valley NNR