Wetland and Water Voles

Tuesday, May 22nd 2018

There were two priorities for work with the volunteers at Foxglove today.  Having cut back the soft rush on the wetland last month, it has regrown rapidly so needed strimming again along the edges of the ponds, particularly the ones nearest to the hide.  This has also given us a chance to monitor how well wildlife has been doing here and it was great to see three Water Voles while doing this work.

Apart from keeping an eye out for Water Voles and nesting birds, the wetland flora is starting to develop and the Adder's Tongue Fern is now showing in several places.  These have been carefully avoided within the strimming regime as they also coincide with the first leaves of Common Spotted Orchids.

The work of the volunteers is an important part of managing the reserve.  We are in the process of updating the leaflets about Foxglove and the opportunities for volunteering here, so we took advantage of breaks in work to get photos of the volunteers to feature in the new leaflets.  Removal of an old section of boardwalk also provided a photo opportunity.

Work wasn't just confined to the wetland and another group have been busy on the heath.  Although the volunteers have worked their way across these areas removing growth of invading trees several times in the last few months, with many now having leaves on it shows how much is still left.  Willow, Birch, Hawthorn and Gorse saplings have all been pulled up with the aid of the tree poppers.  Again, the area was carefully checked for nesting birds with a solitary Common Frog being found.

Thirteen people have been out volunteering today, and they have made significant impacts on both habitats.  Their work is very much appreciated.

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South Durham University of the Third Age

Monday, May 21st 2018

To prove that there is always something new to find at Foxglove, today we had a return visit from the South Durham branch of the University of the Third Age (U3A), who had last visited 2 years ago.  After tea and coffee in the Field Centre and a short talk on the management and development of the reserve, we headed off out to the Middle Moor hay meadow and the moorland before moving into the shade of the Larch plantation and on to the Lake Head

 Speckled Wood

Before we started some of the U3A members were trying to identify a butterfly that they had seen at Roseberry Topping last week.  Going round we saw both male and female Orange Tips, male Brimstones and Speckled Wood in the glades among the trees.  This helped eliminate some of the suggestions and we ended up with a probable identification of a Small Tortoiseshell.

 U3A group

The group really enjoyed themselves and have even suggested a further visit, although this time in autumn or winter when they may be able to see more with less foliage on the trees.

 Net ride 20

Two volunteers were in today, and we welcome Ian as it was his first day today.  Work continued on cutting the net rides with a further ten being cut to keep the grass growth down. 

 Cutting net ride 20

Out near Plover's Pool, Lark and Taurus continue to do the same, but Lark did take several minutes this morning to use one of the tree shelters to scratch a number of itches starting with his nose and ending with leaning his hind quarters into one post of the shelter and moving from side to side.  I don't think that's what it was put there for, but it seemed to do the trick!

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Where to Start?

Sunday, May 20th 2018

The sun and warmth are bringing everything out and it is a joy to see the reserve turning colourful after what, to me, has been a long winter of white, grey, black and wet. A flash of red or blue are the damselfies flitting amongst the vegetation and over the ponds.

Large Red Damselfly

Blue damselflies are not the easiest to identify so I will play safe and say this is one of the blue damsels!

A species of blue damselfly

Speckled Wood butterflies appreciate the sunny glades that can be found around the reserve and enjoy the warmth of the sun.

Speckled Wood butterfly

Mainly flying at night most moths remain unseen.  Lights on the Field Centre can attract them to the walls.  I transferred this White Ermine from there to the Privet hedge for a photograph.

White Ermine moth

The hive bees kept us on our toes yesterday as most of them left the hive to fly around the back garden, probably to cool down.  We were a little concerned that they were going to swarm but we could not find a queen cell in the hive, a trigger for swarming.  So we waited and listened to their loud buzzing until they decided to return.  There was then a 'bee-jam' at the entrance as they waited to reach the opening to their hive.

Bees waiting to return into their hive

Whilst some flowers are just flowering others have set seed like this Coltsfoot, to be found in the rocks in the stream leading from the weir, at the lake.

Coltsfoot seed heads

This Welsh Poppy was not open on Thursday but was on Saturday.

Welsh Poppy

There are Bluebells across the reserve, continuing to grow in more areas than ever.  There is even one on the heath!  i must admit that the best display is around the Stone Circle and that was captured by Adam.

The Stone Circle and Bluebells

Lark and Taurus are enjoying the new growth of grass around Plover's Pool.

Lark and Taurus

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Working Together

Saturday, May 19th 2018

Careful organisation and everyone working together we were able to hold our Birdsong Breakfast and complete CES 2 today.  Huge thanks to everyone involved, your help and support is really appreciated.

Starting with the BSB, two groups set off around the reserve to listen to the Dawn Chorus.  Cuckoo, Garden Warbler, Blackbird, Chiffchaff and Song Thrush were amongst some heard.  One group stopped at the pond dipping platform to listen for Willow Warblers.

Bird Song Breakfast

After walking around Foxglove they all set off to head to the training area to see what was about.  Mark took this fantastic photograph of a Curlew in flight.

Curlew in flight

People were able to see two Curlew chicks ringed and also see at first hand how difficult it can be to find them, as once released into the vegetation they almost totally disappeared from sight.

Hunt the Curlew Chicks

The convoy continued to cross the training area before heading to Wathgill for breakfast.   Thanks to the chefs for yet another excellent spread.  Everybody thoroughly enjoyed this event.

The Convoy

Meanwhile back at Foxglove the nets were raised.  It was not a busy day as is often the case with CES 2, as most of the females are still sitting on nests.  We did catch two juvenile Robins.  A beautiful Sedge Warbler was also processed,

Sedge Warbler

and a female Blackcap.

Female Backcap

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Birds and Birders

Friday, May 18th 2018

Picking up from Wednesday's blog, we were waiting for the group of Guides from Leyburn to visit the reserve that evening.  Ten Guides and two helpers spent two hours pond-dipping and looking at how bird ringing is carried out in the Field Centre.  All were very pleased with their visit, and there was an impressive number of Sticklebacks caught, as well as tadpoles, Whirligig Beetles and a Water Scorpion.

Today we have had visitors from slightly further afield with 26 members of the South Leicester Birdwatchers group calling in as part of their weekend trip to Yorkshire and the North East.  They spent 5 hours and managed to see a wide range of birds, butterflies and flowers while they were here.  These included Swallows, Lapwing, Sand Martin, and they were all taken with the Little Grebe and their two chicks on the lake.  They have now headed off to stay overnight in Northumberland before sailing over to the Farne Islands tomorrow morning and then to the RSPB's Saltholme reserve on their return leg.

They started with a short talk on the history of Foxglove, but it's fair to say that their attention did wander every time any birds arrived on the feeders outside the Field Centre.  

Colin has again been in filling the feeders and the hoppers so that they are ready for the weekend which will include both ringing and the Bird Song Breakfast event.  This will mean an early start for all involved.

Whereas Ian and Tony headed out in the late afternoon in search of an ever elusive Kestrel in nearby Stonecutters' Wood. She was not at home, leaving her clutch of five eggs for us to find in the nest box.

These birds really do have a tremendous sense of hearing, picking up the slightest rustle of leaves as you brush past in the undergrowth; one snap of a twig and you've had it!

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