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

Tuesday 1 August 2023

20/07/23 - Garganey

The Lower Derwent Valley NNR is one of the key sites in the UK for this species as well as being a great site for visitors to have the opportunity to see them early in the season. 

Garganey are Britian’s only migratory summer visitor duck species, wintering in southern Africa before heading northwards to breed, with perhaps 100-300 pairs in Britain most years. There have been several individuals present on the reserve this year, with Bank Island being a great place to see them (up to four drakes and three ducks on occasions over the last couple of months). We know at least one pair have bred with a single brood of nine hatching off and eight young successfully fledging, with two ringed. Several other ducklings have been caught here over the years (as well as the occasional adult male), and from our ringing studies we know these young birds often disperse quickly south into France after fledging, however, we would expect the odd sighting of one or two until mid-September when the last few birds can often be found lurking amongst the building autumn Teal flocks.

Wednesday 12 July 2023

02/07/23 - LRP breeding success

Little Ringed Plovers are now annual visitors to the Lower Derwent Valley NNR and surrounding areas, having first nested in the UK in 1938. Numbers have since increased to around 1000 pairs throughout the country, with birds often favouring gravel pits, waste ground and reservoirs. Although this species does sporadically nest on the Ings, their favoured choice of more artificial and unnatural habitats means they are more often encountered in the wider area and often at sites where they are at risk to disturbance or trampling. 

Earlier this year a pair began nesting on a part flooded and part harvested turf field, however, working with Escrick Park Estate, Rolawn and local birders, we were able to delay the planned operations with the pair going on to successfully raise and fledge three young. A month later we were informed of another pair nesting in a working sand and gravel quarry, fortunately, thanks to local birders and understanding site managers, this pair were also given the space to nest and rear three young successfully. Working in partnership in this way and delivering successful outcomes is incredibly rewarding, so many thanks to those involved for helping to make it happen. 

Tuesday 6 June 2023

04/06/23 - Squacco Heron

Last week we had a rather special and rare visitor to the Lower Derwent Valley NNR in the form of a Squacco Heron. Squacco Herons are small brown herons, weighing in at just 270-390g (compared with 1020-2073g for a Grey Heron), and are smaller than our now regularly encountered Little Egrets. They are stunning looking birds with a mix of peach, buff and cinnamon coloured plumage, with white wings when seen in flight and long black-edged plumes on their head.

Squacco Herons are usually found breeding in wetlands in southern Europe and western, eastern and southern Africa, with them being a rare visitor to the UK with less than 300 national records, and an even scarcer visitor to Yorkshire with little more than a dozen county occurrences. This individual is presumably the same bird seen last week at Filey Dams and in the Upper Derwent Catchment around Potter Brompton, before it headed further downstream along the River Derwent. After a couple of hours at Bank Island the bird then relocated to North Duffield Carrs where it is still present today. This is the first record of this species for the reserve and has drawn a steady crowd of admirers - thanks to eagle-eyed #LDV volunteer Mal Richardson for spotting it, and to local patch birder Duncan Bye for the image below.

Thursday 4 May 2023

02/05/23 - Whimbrel to Senegal

Recently we received a report of one of our #LDV colour-ringed Whimbrel in Senegal - photographed there (image below) on the 4th February – this individual (white ‘28’), was originally ringed at the Wheldrake Ings roost last year on the 2nd May. This is our fourth Whimbrel to Senegal, with two to Mauritania, two to Guinea Bissau & one to Guinea. We’ve also had two on breeding grounds in Iceland & one breeding in Sweden, with passage birds seen in France & Spain.

Since receiving the record above, and our Whimbrel returning on spring passage, we are delighted to say that ‘white 28’ is now back on the reserve – great to know it has completed the first section of its journey before continuing on to Iceland.

Each year during mid-April, we look forward to the arrival of Whimbrel at the nationally important spring passage site at Wheldrake Ings – these birds use the reserve for a few weeks as a place to rest and feed during migration to their breeding grounds in Iceland, Sweden and Finland. Numbers often peak around 100+ at the end of April and the first few days in May, with the peak count occurring around the 1st/2nd May each year, with numbers quickly tailing off thereafter. We have been busy radio-tracking a recently tagged individual, with details of its movements to follow.

Tuesday 18 April 2023

10/04/23 - Common Cranes

Common Cranes were lost as a breeding species in the UK around 400 years ago, before a population became established in the Norfolk Broads in the 1970’s. Slowly the population has since increased, thanks to conservation management/habitat creation, coupled with a reintroduction scheme on the Somerset Levels, which has seen the population increase (record 64 pairs in 2020) – and a total UK population of 200 individuals. 


Thanks to the increase in the UK population, we have also seen an increase in the #LDV in the number of birds seen on the reserve. March, April and early May is a great period to encounter these majestic birds, with a group of five seen over Wheldrake Ings on the 2nd followed by four over Thorganby on the 12th.

Image: Duncan Bye 02/04/23

Friday 24 March 2023

20/03/23 - Project Penelope

In November 2021, we teamed up with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation to help out with #ProjectPenelope - a study which aims to map the species flyway of Wigeon with fieldwork carried out across the UK, Denmark and Finland recording winter movements, flight paths and breeding sites from colour-ring re-sightings.

Since then, our team have colour-ringed around 300 birds to date, which have produced a number of re-sightings - both of birds back on the reserve in subsequent winters, but also along their migration routes to their breeding grounds in Russia. This data set includes two individuals to the Netherlands, as well as singles to Moscow, Russia and the Cherven District in Belarus. Please do keep an eye open for colour-ringed Wigeon when visiting the reserve (and other sites), to help build up greater information to help conserve our populations, thank you.

Monday 13 March 2023

10/03/23 - Corporate Volunteering

We've got a really busy month ahead with a number of corporate days booked in March with groups from the NHS, Network Rail, Vistry Homes, Amey, Carter Jonas Estate Agents and Aviva. We’re really grateful for this extra support on the reserve and are looking forward to showcasing the LDV NNR and all it has to offer. 

Whilst the practical task is the main focus of the day, we do like to provide groups with an opportunity to experience some of our local wildlife at close range, with moth trapping and a bird ringing demonstration planned if weather conditions allow. 

Last year some of our groups were fortunate to see a Goldcrest and Kingfisher in the hand, with the very beautiful Hawk-moths delighting the invertebrate enthusiasts – not a bad way to start a working day! 

If you work for a company that offers corporate volunteering days, or if you’d just like to come along on your own then we have a friendly group that come in each week – please do get in touch if this an opportunity that you’d like to explore further, thank you. 

Monday 20 February 2023

20/02/23 - WeBS UK February

Great WeBS count in the LDV yesterday, with a total of 50,055 birds counted inc. 20, 207 wildfowl, 9682 waders and 20,168 gulls - nice to have a mix of wintering visitors with the start of spring passage and returning breeding birds. 

Wildfowl totals inc. 144 Whooper Swans, 301 Pink-footed Geese, 9152 Wigeon and 7717 Teal, with notable counts of 657 Pintail, 495 Gadwall and 248 Shoveler. 

Counts of 7018 Lapwing, 276 Dunlin and 27 Ruff were also had, with signs of spring including 7 returning Oystercatchers, 41 Black-tailed Godwits, a Green Sandpiper and up to 69 returning Curlew.

Other birds present around the LDV this weekend inc. the long staying juvenile Hen Harrier, two redhead Smew, Great White Egret, seven Marsh Harrier, four Peregrine, a single Mediterranean Gull & four Barn Owls - the latter showing well at Bank Island at dawn/dusk recently.

Thursday 16 February 2023

13/02/23 - Peregrine success story

Birdwatchers visiting the #LDV recently have been able to enjoy good numbers of birds of prey, attracted by the thousands of wintering waterfowl - amongst them up to five wintering Peregrines have been showing well at both Wheldrake and North Duffield Carrs. 

Peregrine - Wheldrake Ings - 11/02/23 - DB

However, one individual seen recently (photographed at the weekend by local birder Duncan Bye), proved to be rather special. It was a young bird from 2021, that had fractured its collarbone – leaving it grounded and unable to fly. Fortunately, the wounded individual ended up in the expert care of Jean Thorpe, who, alongside Mark and the team at Battle Flatts Vets, were able to ensure the bone healed in the correct position. Once the bone had healed, the bird was then transferred to the National Birds of Prey Centre at Duncombe Park, where Charlie and the team flew it to help it gain its strength and fine-tuned its hunting instinct – very important for a young bird which hadn’t been fledged long, and which depends on speed and agility to survive. Once the bird was declared fit for release back into the wild, Jean brought it over to the reserve, where it was released in October 2021 - nearly three months after it was first picked up.

Peregrine release - NDC - 08/10/21

So, imagine everyone’s delight to see it at the weekend on Wheldrake Ings – not only having survived but looking so well. A huge thank you to everyone involved for their time, expertise, and hard work, in ensuring such a fantastic outcome for this bird – and adding to the enjoyment of so many who will have been able to watch and admire it hunting around the reserve.

Wednesday 11 January 2023

10/01/23 - Winter birding

There has been some great winter birdwatching in and around the NNR recently, with waterfowl providing the ever-present spectacle - over 4000 Pink-footed Geese are currently roosting and feeding on the northern end of the reserve, whilst 150 Whooper Swans and two family parties of Bewick’s have been reported, with three Smew and a single female Scaup adding additional interest.

Smew - East Cottingwith - Adam Firth

Two, or possibly three Hen Harriers have been recorded in the area, with up to 9 Marsh Harriers and 5 Peregrines. Waders have included up to 7000 Lapwing and a lone wintering Green Sandpiper.

Whilst there is a great deal to see on the reserve, can visitors please be aware that the NNR remains extensively flooded at the moment. There is limited access to the hides and paths at Bank Island, with access also limited at Wheldrake Ings (Tower Hide can be reached in wellies - water levels permitting), with no further access to the other two hides on Wheldrake, however both the hides at North Duffield Carrs remain accessible. Please take care when visiting the reserve and let us know what you see, either on our Facebook page or via our Twitter account @LDV_NNR - thank you.

Wheldrake Ings - Stuart Rapson