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 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.