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 1 December 2022

28/11/22 - Motus Starling movement

We're delighted to confirm two recent hits on the #LDV Motus Tracking Station. Two Starlings originating from the Netherlands made the journey across the North Sea - with the first individual passing the #LDV station on the 28th October, before backtracking to the Netherlands on the 2nd November, where it is still present.

The second individual was also ringed in the Netherlands, by the Wageningen University & Research team - on the same date as the first bird (28th October). This individual remained in the Wageningen area until the 12th November, when it then made the journey across the North Sea, 'pinging' our #LDV Motus tower the following day on the 13th.

It's fantastic to be able to track these birds without re-catching them and to follow their journeys as they move around the world. Many thanks to those who helped fund this project, with special thanks to the private donors and York Bird Club for helping to sponsor our station on behalf of the Friends of the #LDV.

Thursday 20 October 2022

15/10/22 - Corporate volunteering

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been delighted to welcome a number of groups to the NNR, as part of their corporate volunteering allowance. Staff from HSE, TSYS, Aviva, Defra and Virgin Media have all had a break from their day-to-day jobs and experienced a day working with our reserve team.

With our ever-growing job list, having so many extra pairs of hands makes a huge difference to what we can achieve on the reserve each year, as well as to the wildlife that lives here and the people who visit the site – and with our team hard at work at the moment trying to get all the scrub clearance finished before the reserve floods later in the year, the extra help recently has been much appreciated.

Recent groups have been helping with the ongoing management work at the Hollow Swang reedbed at Skipwith Common NNR, and the annual task of managing willows in the Lower Derwent Valley. Managing the willows helps to retain the wide-open landscape and decreases the number of nesting or perching areas for crows, whilst also improving sight lines from the hides, with low-lying willows retained/managed for use by breeding birds and invertebrates.

If you work for an organisation that allows staff to undertake volunteering days throughout the year, please do get in touch.

Wednesday 13 July 2022

10/07/22 - Departing Cuckoo's

Whilst it’s only two and half months since the first Cuckoo’s arrived back in the LDV from their wintering grounds in Africa, many of the adults will now already be on their way south again, or shortly setting off on their epic migration.

Over the last couple of weeks, we may have not heard any calling birds, but we are still seeing the occasional adult, along with several fledged young - being fed by their ‘adoptive parents’. These young birds often don’t leave us until well into August or even early September, by which time the adults will already be back in central Africa. If you have any recent sightings of any adults that are still around, or any juveniles then please do let us know, thank you. The stunning adult female below is one of several individuals that spent its spring/summer around the Pocklington Canal in Melbourne – with it showing in perfect light one morning for our team, who were up before dawn to enjoy a close view of this fascinating species – making the 4am start worthwhile!

Friday 13 May 2022

05/05/22 - Whimbrel roost

Following the departure of the Iceland bound Black-tailed Godwits, the last few weeks have all been about our passage Whimbrel as they move through the reserve, with the peak count occurring around the 1st May each year. 

We’ve been counting the roost since the mid 1980’s, and have been studying the birds in more depth since 2004 - since then our team have ringed over 130 individuals as well as radio and satellite tracking a small sample. On average most individuals stay in the LDV for around eight days, feeding on worms and leather jackets (cranefly larvae), in order to almost double their body weight for their onward migration to Iceland and northern Europe.

Whilst it was good to ring a new sample this year, it was also pleasing to catch an old friend – an individual originally ringed back in 2008 (already at least two years old at the time of ringing), meaning it will have now clocked up over 220,000 km of air miles between the LDV, Iceland and the wintering grounds in Guinea since that time.

Friday 22 April 2022

16/04/22 - Godwit passage

Visitors to the reserve have been treated to record numbers of Black-tailed Godwits in the LDV over recent weeks, with the previous record count (flock of 391 in 2001), beaten by this year’s total with 561 counted on the 27th March - an impressive sight as they twist and turn in the air in a mix of red, white and black from their summer breeding plumage. 

These birds belong to the Islandic breeding population which has undergone a dramatic increase in numbers over the last 40 years - a trend which has been mirrored in the LDV. Back in the 1980’s, only a handful of these birds moved through the site (often for only a day or two), in late April/early May, increasing to flocks of around 100 during the 1990’s. Over the last decade these birds have now started to appear during January, building up to sizable flocks (up to 200) during March and early April, with further birds following through to early May – a welcome addition to spring birding around the NNR.

During the last few weeks our ringing team have managed to ring 19 of these birds to date, which will hopefully bring a recovery or two. From previous studies we already know Godwits can make the journey from the LDV to Iceland in 48 hours, and have found out recently that some of the newly arrived birds weigh as little as 165 grams, whilst those that have fed up for longer can leave weighing as much as 371 grams in order to fuel their migration. Many thanks as always to our great team for their efforts.

Tuesday 22 March 2022

20/03/22 - New recoveries

The first returning Sand Martin was seen over Bank Island last week (13/03) - a day after we received a recovery of an individual from last summer: ringed here as a juvenile on the 01/08/21 - re-caught 28 days later at Sandouville, Seine-Maritime, France - 497 km to the south. Hopefully it's now on its way north, possibly back to the LDV, where our Sand Martin bank is ready and waiting for occupants. 

We've also had a flurry of Shelduck recoveries recently, including an individual ringed at Bank Island in February 2018, which was then re-sighted in February 2021 at Zierikzee Zuidoek in The Netherlands  - 412 km east of the LDV. This is our third foreign movement (two to the Netherlands and one to Germany). Many thanks to our great team for all the hours put in helping to collect this valuable data, which is now producing a wealth of information on the ecology and movements of this species.

Whilst our breeding birds are starting to return, some of our wintering visitors are lingering, including the flock of Whooper Swans at Derwent Farm in North Duffield, where a colour-ringed individual was spotted recently. ZXI was ringed at Caerlaverock in Dumfries and Galloway on the 19/02/10, where it then subsequently returned each year from 2010 until 2019 (bar 2015). After three years of not being sighted anywhere, it then appeared at Adlingfleet in East Yorkshire, on the 03/02/22, before joining the Whooper Swan flock in the LDV, where it was spotted by our team on the 13/03/22. It's unlikely to be here for much longer, with the remainder of the flock soon heading back to Iceland for the breeding season, with just 40 individuals present during the recent WeBS count. 


Thursday 3 February 2022

18/01/22 - Gull roost

One of the most spectacular winter scenes in the LDV, (although often under-rated), is the immense gull roost at Wheldrake Ings. This roost is nationally important, regularly supporting in excess of 20,000 birds, largely comprising of Black-headed and Common Gulls in recent years, as birds move from their day-time feeding sites in the wider area and Yorkshire Wolds, to roost on the flooded Ings. Numbers of the larger gulls (Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls), have declined following the closure of landfill operations at Harwood Whin near Rufforth, where the gulls would spend the day scavenging for scraps. The ringing of the birds at Rufforth have shown that the same individuals roosting at Wheldrake have come from/go as far as the Bering Sea in the Arctic Circle, Scandinavia and eastwards towards Russia, as well as southwards into southern Europe and North Africa – a range of 5000km from the Ings.

If you'd like to see the roost then best to aim for 3pm onwards, when birds start to come into roost an hour or so before dusk - gathering on the water in front of Swantail Hide where a passing Peregrine can panic the flock into a scene not dis-similar to a snow globe - well worth a visit. Thanks to local birder Duncan Bye for the image.

Wednesday 19 January 2022

08/01/22 - Smew influx

Over the last couple of weeks it has been pleasing to see several Smew on the NNR and surrounding water bodies. Smew are winter visitors to the UK, with most birds not arriving until at least December -leaving again by the middle of March, before spending the summer in the taiga forests of northern Scandinavia and Russia, where they nest around lakes, ponds, rivers and other water-logged places - ideally with plenty of trees where they nest in holes and cavities.

The number of Smew reaching the UK each winter has decreased dramatically in recent decades, with them now being considered a scarce visitor (over recent years not many more than 100 individuals have wintered in the whole of Britain). This decrease has been attributed to the effects of climate change, with warmer winters reducing the distance they have to travel from their breeding grounds to escape freezing conditions. Up to six females (red heads) and a stunning drake (White Nun), have been seen recently, with Wheldrake Ings the best location to see them. It would appear cold conditions in continental Europe have forced these birds (with small numbers of White-fronted Geese and Bewick’s Swans) into the country. Thanks to local and regular patch birder Duncan Bye for the image.

Friday 14 January 2022

02/01/22 - Bewick's Swans

During the festive season we were delighted to locate a family party of five Bewick’s Swans on the NNR – something of a scarcity in recent years. During the 1970’s and 80’s, numbers of wintering Bewick’s Swans were regularly between 100-250 (occasionally 300+), happily spending the winter in our relatively mild conditions, compared to those on their breeding grounds on the Russian tundra. However, since the 1990’s numbers have fallen sharply, with a mere handful of birds recorded most winters over the last decade or so – the reasons however are likely to lie outside of the reserve.

The population of Bewick’s Swans have experienced a large decline across their range, with birds now wintering in the Low Countries in Europe, possibly in response to climate change - for example there is no longer the need to fly all the way from Russia to York if they can spend the winter feeding on enough food, for example, in the Netherlands. However, maintaining good conditions for them is always important should a cold snap on the continent force herds back across the North Sea, as may be the case here – their arrival coinciding with an arrival of Smew and White-fronted Geese onto the NNR.