Bempton Cliffs and Little Things

Sunday, July 22nd 2018

 

Some of the bird ringers have been involved over the weekend fitting trackers to Gannets at Bempton Cliffs. The trackers will record the movements of the adult birds and this year are much more refined with special cameras set into the cliff tops recording the movement of the adults as they come and go to feed their chicks.  The cameras can identify the birds individually once the trackers are fitted.

It requires a great deal of organisation for this to be carried out.  However one thing is similar to our CES at Foxglove, they had to be up at dawn!  A familiar face can be seen below but as you can see from the t shirt , she has, temporarily we hope, gone over to the dark side!

The cliffs at dawn

Two new problems presented themselves this year, one was the number of Gannets that now breed on the cliffs at Bempton - which are far in excess of what they were when the earlier studies were conducted between 2010 - 2012.  The second was the damage 'the Beast from the East' had caused to the cliffs themselves making them much more unstable and difficult to move on without dislodging lumps of stone.  Both had to be given serious consideration by the climbers and necessitated an earlier than planned halt to this year's activities.

Cliffs and birds

Stacey on the top of the  cliff - well roped on!

From large birds to tiny weevils.  Water Figwort grows through the Scrapes and it must be admitted that it is not the most beautiful of flowers.  It does have its own weevil, the Figwort Weevil.  Several were found on stems.

Figwort Weevil

Another interesting fact is that only Wasps pollinate these flowers.  I have tried for several years to take a decent photograph showing a Wasp on the flower.  Success at last.

Wasp on Water Figwort

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Moths, Dragons and Damsels

Saturday, July 21st 2018

Moths are not a favourite of some people, but they are a delightful group of creatures.  Amazingly they sat still for photos, instead of disappearing.

Barred Straw is often one that takes flight.  The larvae feed on bedstraws, of which there are plenty across the reserve.

Barred Straw

Some moths never vary in colour or pattern, but Common Rustic does.   This one had me searching through the book initially. 

Common Rustic

Who could not love this furry fellow - Iron Prominent?

Iron Prominent

Mother of Pearl is a beautiful moth.  Its larvae feed in a rolled up leaf of Nettle. 

Mother of Pearl

We have had several notable 'Dragon and Damsel' walks with Keith and June.  One had temperatures of 11 degrees, another the wind was blowing so strongly we were almost blown over and yet another was very, very wet!  Today was not ideal but it was warm, dry and no wind, the only thing lacking was sunshine.  However we were able to see a surprising amount.

The orchard is an excellent place for dragons and damsels to hunt.  The first caught was an Emerald Damselfly, which Keith showed to everyone, informing them of the colour changes that take place between emerging and maturity.

looking at a damselfly

The wetland provided us with sightings of Common and Azure Damselflies and a Black Darter.  Unfortunately the only photo I managed to take was in the hand, this being the correct way to release them. 

Black Darter

In the Scrapes a large dragonfly was spotted.  It was hunting around the small pond so those with nets set out to see if it could be caught.  Nets nil, dragonfly one!

Nets nil, dragonfly one

We followed it through various parts of the Scrapes to no avail, but it was probably the Golden-ringed Dragonfly that I had spotted earlier in the day.  So often these insects come to have a good look at you, decide you are too big to tackle and fly off, leaving you with not even a splodge!  This one sat absolutely still on Purple Loosestrife.  It was definitely being in the right place at the right time.

Golden-ringed Dragonfly

Keith and June gave much information about the various dragons and damsels we saw.  Everyone enjoyed the walk and the discussions.  Many thanks to Keith and June for leading this walk.

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A Good Morning for Peacocks

Friday, July 20th 2018

The warm weather continued this morning, so the first thing would have been a check on the ponies to see how they had settled in their new compartment on the Heathland but this had to wait as work was going on to repair the Access Gate.  Once this was working, it was time for Lark and Taurus who were both sufficiently absorbed in the plentiful supply of grass to just raise their heads to see what was going on before returning to grazing.

Newly emerged Peacock butterflies (Aglais io) have been on the wing.  Those seen previously this year were the ones that had over-wintered in hibernation, with many looking bedraggled and with faded colours.  Not so those today which are resplendent in bright colours and eye spots.   Having spent the early Summer as caterpillars feeding on Common Nettle (Urtica dioica) followed by the last few weeks as a chrysalis, they join the Brimstones and Red Admirals seen this week.

The dry weather also meant that Colin could finish the tunnels on two of the Mink rafts.  We have designed these with hinged lids which will make it easier to see the clay cartridges in the tunnels and look for footprints of Mink (and Water Voles).  He completed the second and third new raft, so we still have more to make and refurbish a couple of the old ones.

Colin then spent the afternoon filling the bird feeders, which meant it was time for me to make up one of the clay cartidges to fit the new rafts.  These come as a kit with a shaped basket, a floristry reservoir, clay and sand.

As the basket sits in the water, the reservoir has to be shaped to fill the basket to just under 10 mm below the basket top.  This will remain wet when on the raft which will them also keep the clay mix damp enough to take footprints.  Having mixed the clay and sand with water, this was spread out over the top of the basket and smoothed ready for use in the raft on the Scrapes.  Hopefully, we'll get some results in the next few days.

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Good Housekeeping

Thursday, July 19th 2018

With no schools or goups booked in for today, it was a good opportunity to catch up on a number of jobs.  The boot brushes at the entrance to the Field Centre have seen sterling service but have gradually become worn down, so all four brushes were replaced this morning.

While it is unlikely that they will be put to use in the next few days, this is a small addition to the welcome for visitors to the Centre. The sunny weather has meant that we have had quite a few visitors today who have called in at the Centre and one was very pleased to be able to use the mobility scooter to explore the reserve. 

The small group of volunteers have been working on the platforms and buoyancy for the final two of the four Mink rafts that are being made.  These should be finished tomorrow with a couple of them going out on to the reserve to replace the older ones.  The main task has been to attach the wire mesh at either end of the platforms to hold the floats and to give purchase for animals climbing onto them from the water.

There was also a short break to help Taurus and Lark move from the Heathland compartment they have been grazing for the last week to start work on the grass in the next compartment.  They didn't need much persuading and quickly made the move once the gates had been opened for them.

Judging by the mouthfuls of grass they had already eaten in the first five minutes, they will quickly make an impact in here.  A picture from around the same spot in a week to ten days' time should show how good a job they are making of it.

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A Busy Species Day

Wednesday, July 18th 2018

The moth-ers identified the moths collected from the trap.  Some were easy to ID, some proved a little more difficult, so the books were out and everyone voiced their opinion until the correct ID was arrived at.

The moth team

The moth team

Next, photographing those that we wanted, which usually means moths 7 photographers 2, as they fly off.  We were lucky that we had caught five Scalloped Oak moths so we felt that  we would be able to photograph at least one.  The first one out of its container sat perfectly.

Scalloped Oak Moth

The next one just showed off, hanging onto a leaf with only one leg.

Scalloped Oak Moth hanging on by one leg

Our work was not done.  The Rivers 2U bus is coming to visit next week (see events page for more details) so we set off to explore what we could find in Risedale Beck, which is not a frequent activity.  As usual when we go 'walkabout' we were soon waylaid by droppings.  After consideration we decided that they were Otter spraint, but a final test was needed, a good sniff!  If it smelt of citrus then it was Otter, which it did.

Checking the scent of Otter spraint

'Pond dipping' in the beck caught many mayfly species and

Mayfly species

caddis larvae.  The caddis species found in the beck are different from those in the ponds.  This one had used quite large pebbles for its case, fixed to a small rock.

Caddis larva

Back to dry land, a Dark Green Fritillary sat on a Knapweed to feed.

Dark Green Fritillary

Later in the day a white butterfly was seen that had  a patterned underwing so a closer look was carried out and with reference to a butterfly book we confirmed that it was a Green Veined White.

Green Veined White

Whilst looking at the butterflies we realised that we were surrounded by Cicadella viridis, delightful little frog hoppers who were certainly living up to their name.

Cicadella viridis

 Many thanks to the volunteers who helped find species, ID species and enter data into the Species Programme.

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