(22) Blog Posts Made in August 2009

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Water voles at Eco-club

Saturday, August 29th 2009

Water voles were the topic for the Foxglove Eco-Club today. The children learned how to identify signs of these elusive and threatened mammals and some managed to get a glimpse of them too.

Here is the group with the clay pad from one of the mink rafts. It had very clear Water Vole footprints and droppings were seen on the raft. The group also discovered stems that had been eaten by some of our newly released voles up on the wet meadow. They helped by putting out a 'floating latrine' on one of the wetland pools to help the juvenile voles settle into their new habitat!

Eco-club

Caterpillars are always popular with the Eco-Club members and today was no exception! A Grey Dagger moth caterpillar was found and put into a special mesh container with some of its foodplant (Hawthorn leaves). Painted Lady butterfly caterpillars are also being watched carefully by the group members who will hopefully get to see them at all stages of their development and release them when fully grown.

Thanks to Elizabeth and Sue, everyone had a fun morning and went away with Elizabeth's activities to do at home and a 'sensitive' plant to nurture (and not cuddle too much)!

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Water vole activity

Thursday, August 27th 2009

Elizabeth managed to take this photo yesterday of one of the juvenile voles as it swam away from the pen. These young voles were very timid as being captive bred, they have never been in a 'real' pond before!

Juvenile water vole

There are already several signs of vole activity in the areas where the new voles were released. A real tell tale sign of their presence is the number of stems of vegetation that have been cut off at a 45 degree angle. These are now evident in several places up on the wet meadow.

Trainees on the Forest School course

The trainees on the forest school course enjoyed the sunny weather today. They were busy learning how to build shelters and then made use of their newly crafted seats to sit around a small fire and bake bread!

Finally, congratulations to Andrew (the Foxglove apprentice)! who passed his GCSEs today!

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Water Voles ‘soft’ release program

Wednesday, August 26th 2009

The remaining Water Voles on the 'soft' release program were set free today. The Forest School trainees helped with opening the pens. Only two voles were seen leaving them, the others were spotted scuttling around under their bedding! They will no doubt have made their bid for freedom by now.

Releasing water voles

After a rainy night only seven species of moths were trapped in the light trap. Sallow and Small Wainscot making up the bulk of the numbers. A first for this year was an Autumnal Rustic.

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Volunteers feeding the wildlife

Tuesday, August 25th 2009

Ten huge (ton) sacks of bird seed were bagged into smaller sacks and stored away by our team of volunteers today! Here are some of the group having a well earned break!

Volunteers

Volunteers also helped by feeding the Water Voles and carrying out other essential maintenance tasks.

Forest School training course attendeesMeanwhile, people attending the Forest School training course (OCN Level 3), felled some small Silver birch trees and constructed small benches from them.

The remaining voles on the 'soft release program' will be let out of their pens tomorrow (apart from the 7 juvenile voles that escaped over night by gnawing their way out of their pen)!

The last piece of news from the reserve today is that it was also Colin's birthday yesterday (as well as Marion's) and he is pictured below with his birthday cake! Many Happy Returns Colin!

Colin with his birthday cake

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Happy Birthday Marion!

Monday, August 24th 2009

Happy Birthday Marion! We've been told there is a candle for every seven years - are there four or five of them?

Marion with her birthday cake

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The final CES day of the year

Sunday, August 23rd 2009

Today was the final CES (Constant Effort Site) bird ringing day for 2009; around 250 birds were processed in the Field Centre 144 of them new. Here is a Spotted Flycatcher that was caught during the last week.

Spotted Flycatcher

This ringing session brought to a close the 17th CES year at the site totalling 204 ringing days of 10+ hrs without missing any visits at all during that time. It is a significant achievement and thanks are due to all the ringers who tolerate the unsocial hours and turn in at dawn each CES day which in high summer means reveille as early as 2.30am.

A quick glance at the raw results for 2009 shows today has been the best final day over all, with the single exception of 2004, for new birds caught during the twelfth annual CES visit. 144 new birds were caught compared with 179 in 2004. The year has produced the best results for new birds with the single exception of 2007; 1246 birds against 1298 for all catches in that year. This is very good news after the disappointing breeding season in 2008 although there are still some species that have failed to recover for example the Turtle Dove; 2009 was the first year ever this species failed to put in an appearance on the reserve.

The bird ringing team

Here is the bird ringing team from today celebrating the end of the last CES day (another 12 hour shift that started at 5am)! Well done everyone!

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Forty new Water Voles

Saturday, August 22nd 2009

Forty new Water Voles arrived at Foxglove today. These were supplied by Derek Gow Consultancy Ltd, a professional team of ecological consultants who are dedicated to the conservation of native British wildlife. Some of the voles were released immediately as they were adults who are able to fend for themselves. Others (juveniles) are part of a 'soft' release program, which means that they will remain in their 'pens' until they are ready to be released.

Water vole

The release was successful and the voles that were 'hard' released seemed to be very content in their new habitat; as soon as they were in the water they swam away to find cover.

Releasing the water voles

Twenty-five voles will eventually be released up on the new wetland. The others were taken to various locations around the reserve. Thank you to everyone who helped out today photographing the voles and assisting with the release.

Releasing the water voles

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Grass of Parnassus in flower

Wednesday, August 19th 2009

Here is Elizabeth's photo of the Grass of Parnassus. This is now flowering on the moorland. This hairless perennial is locally common only in Northern Britain and Ireland and grows on damp, peaty grassland, marshes and moors.

Grass of Parnassus in flower

Water Voles were seen swimming around at the head of the lake today. 40 new Water Voles will be arriving on Saturday at 9.30am! These will be captive bred and will be released all around the site. It is hoped that they will thrive on the new wetland where there are pool banks that have been created specifically for the voles.

If you are interested in helping out with the Water Vole release or would like to come along to see them on Saturday please get in touch with us on 07754 270980 (mobile) or 01748 831113 (office).

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The Million Ponds Project

Tuesday, August 18th 2009

Attendees of the pond creation training dayA pond creation training day was held at Foxglove Covert today. The training was provided by The Million Ponds Project, a 50 year initiative to create a network of clean water ponds for freshwater wildlife. Defence Estates is a major partner in this project.

The day included a visit to the new wetland habitat where stoneworts were found to be growing and the scrapes area where a brief pond-dipping session turned up Water Boatmen, damselfly larvae and a sink full of other beetles and bugs!

Foxglove volunteersSome of the Foxglove volunteers benefited from the training course as well as land managers and wildlife enthusiasts from East Anglia to Galloway.

Meanwhile other volunteers helped with various tasks including mowing, strimming and general reserve maintenance.

A group of children from Le Cateau Out of School Club came to visit and enjoyed a pond-dipping session.

The Grass of Parnassus is now flowering on the raised bog on the moorland.

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Bee microscopy course

Saturday, August 15th 2009

Foxglove Covert field centre was the venue for a bee microscopy course today, run by the National Bee Unit.

Bee microscopy course

Nineteen students learned about bee disease recognition and the resistance of the Varoa mite to current treatments.

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Moth trapping at Marne Barracks

Saturday, August 15th 2009

Several moth traps were set out last night at Marne Barracks in preparation for the third moth event on this undisturbed site.

Setting moth traps at Marne Barracks

Here you can see Charlie Fletcher and Jill Warwick putting out one of the Robinson light traps. These have a mercury vapour lamp which attracts a wide variety of moth and invertebrate species.

Early this morning a keen group of 'mothers' gathered to identify the contents of the traps.

Identifying moths

Initial results indicate another substantial catch with perhaps as many as a hundred and forty species depending on Charlie's micro identification.

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Fungi all around

Friday, August 14th 2009

Today Andrew and Raymond filled the hoppers around the site and then did some strimming on the woodland walk. Harry was here again to continue on the workshop. With any luck it will be finished by the end of the week.

Puffballs

If you have a walk around the woodland trail you will see that there are lots of fungi around. We saw Puffballs, pictured above, just coming through the pine needle litter.

Fly Agaric

This Fly Agaric is one of the most easily identifiable of our toadstools. It is deadly poisonous but looked beautiful injecting some bright colour into the muted browns of the plantation floor.

As well as these we also saw Plums and Custard which is purplish-red on top and yellow beneath and grows on old conifer stumps.

This is the picture I've been trying to get since last week. It is of the little blue-green Froghopper called Cicadella viridis.

Cicadella viridis

There were quite a few of them hopping around in the middle field. After a few dud photos of various grass stems, snapped too late because he had already hopped away, I was lucky enough to get this picture showing his gorgeous colours.

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Chinese Character moth

Thursday, August 13th 2009

There were 74 moths in the trap this morning of 26 species. Among those caught were Riband Wave, Antler Moth, Dunbar, Flame Carpet and this Chinese Character. The latter overwinters as a cocoon and the caterpillar feeds mainly on Blackthorn, Hawthorn and Crab Apple. It is resident and quite widely distributed.

Chinese Character moth

Andrew, Raymond, Bethany and Chris all came to volunteer today. They variously bonfired off some old wood, strimmed paths, pulled some birch and cleared out an inlet pipe to one of our ponds.

We had lots of visitors including 15 people from a walking group who had a picnic outside in the afternoon sunshine.

There is a large beautiful specimen of Fly Agaric on the path at the top of the woodland walk.

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Our second ringed Common Snipe

Wednesday, August 12th 2009

This first year Common Snipe was trapped and ringed at Foxglove on 8 Aug, the last day of the 2009 ringing course.

Common Snipe

Although the species is seen almost daily on the reserve it is only the second one ever to be ringed the previous one being caught on 8 Feb 1996. It was a welcome addition to the list of birds seen in the hand during the weekend.

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Maintenance on the reserve

Tuesday, August 11th 2009

It has been volunteers day today. Nine people turned up to help with the maintenance work keeping the reserve looking welcoming and attractive. In the photograph you can see Andrew, Val and Chris finishing off a replaced boardwalk in the scrapes area.

Volunteers working on the reserve

This afternoon we surveyed the beck for signs of Otter. Unfortunately we didn't find any but we did notice Badger claw prints, lots of Roe Deer slots and some beautiful bracket fungi on pieces of dead wood.

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Slime mould and wall brown butterfly

Monday, August 10th 2009

The picture here is of a slime mould. This has been found on the grasses at various locations this week. Elizabeth at last managed to identify it as Mucilago crustacea. It was extremely soft and gelatinous and has since dried up considerably and is almost powdery in consistency. As you can imagine we have added this to our species list!

Slime mould

This morning Elizabeth and I measured out on the wet meadows for new bridges and boardwalks. Whilst there we saw this butterfly which is a Wall Brown. It was basking on the bare ground.

Wall brown butterfly

We also spotted Common Darter dragonflies which were laying eggs, Water Boatmen, which were everywhere in the ponds and the blue Froghopper which we now know is Cicadella viridis, but we still have no good photo to show you.

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Autumn is just around the corner

Sunday, August 9th 2009

The gorgeous weather of summer has been with us today, but as you can see from the photo - autumn is just around the corner. The Rowan berries are turning colour, the Raspberries are hanging jewel-like from their stems and the grasses, which have been wonderful all summer, are turning gold and fawn with their ripe seed heads. All around seeds are ripening. The thistles are turning from purple to tufts of downy white and the sloes have formed on the Blackthorn.

Rowan berries

There were 350 birds trapped yesterday on the ringing course, which is a record for this site. Today has been another exceptional day. 2 Tufted Duck were ringed on the wet meadows area. They have bred here for the first time. Also among the catch were 2 Kingfishers and 1 Snipe.

Members of Durham Wildlife Trust Photography group came for a visit today. They were to be seen all around the site, cameras and large lens in hand as they snapped everything from the birds and the ringers to flowers and insects.

John from Rushcliffe Country Park and his friend Jim came for a visit on their way to Teesdale. They had a lovely walk around in the summer sunshine. The volunteers from Rushcliffe came earlier in the year and had recommended them to come for a visit. John is a volunteer at his site which is on an old army factory base.

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Foxglove’s annual bird-ringing course

Friday, August 7th 2009

Foxglove's annual bird-ringing course started today. 23 students are ringing on four different sites over the next four days. The eight students and the trainers who are working with them at Foxglove have ringed 190 birds with more still to be processed in the ringing room. These included Jay, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Nuthatch, Reed Bunting, Sedge Warber, Restart, Spotted Flycatcher and Bullfinch. You can see from the happy, smiling faces that they are having a good time.

Students on the bird ringing course

A Common Snipe was ringed, only the second one in 10 or more years, and the first two Tufted Ducks for the site were also ringed having been trapped by the ringing course members using a floating net. The results of the course will be published over the next week but initial indications are that an interesting variety of birds have been caught.

Also on site today were 16 young people from the Gloucestshire Army Cadet Force. Tony gave then an introduction to MoD conservation policy and then they had a walk around the site. They all wanted to get up close to the cattle! McDuff was the only one to get in the picture though!

Gloucestshire Army Cadet Force

Out on the wet meadows there are still Lapwing chicks about. The parents were seen swooping and calling this afternoon.
Elizabeth, Andrew and Marion spotted two very fresh and vibrant Painted Lady butterflies, a pale blue Froghopper (unfortunately not a good enough photo to post, but I'll try and get another) and a baby newt which was only about 1 1/2 inches long. There were Blue

Damselflies around the ponds and Green-veined Whites fluttering among the rushes.

Lots of visitors were around enjoying the sun.

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Moth identification

Thursday, August 6th 2009

With last nights' damp weather the moth trap was full this morning. Elizabeth, Chris and Andrew helped to identify over 100 moths in 39 different species. We had 4 Scalloped Oak, pictured here, 1 Yellow Tail, 10 Chevron and 6 Brimstone moths amongst the many others.

Scalloped Oak moth

Chris really enjoyed identifying the moths and successfully ID'd a female Small Dotted Buff which we hadn't seen before. He is sure we've caught something very rare! Some of the photos have been sent to Charlie to confirm (or deny!) our identifications. Watch this space to find out if Chris is right.

The workshopElsewhere on the reserve Andrew cut the lawns and did some strimming.

We collected some wood in preparation for making new boardwalks and we had lots of visitors in the sunny weather.

Harry continued his work on the workshop which now boasts 2 back doors and 1 set of double doors at the front. It's starting to feel like a proper workshop now. We can't wait to start using it.

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Workshop news!

Wednesday, August 5th 2009

It has been a warm overcast and slightly rainy day here today. Nine volunteers turned up to do various tasks such as strimming, mowing, pruning, tidying, surveying and filling bird feeders.

The workshop news is that at last the windows are installed. You can see Harry working on the last one. The doors have arrived and are waiting to go in. Watch this space for more news!

Installing windows in the workshop

Andy and Jamie, the electricians also came to carry on in the workshop. Despite a power cut they managed to install all the sockets.

Andy and Jamie, the electricians

Ann surveyed the plants on site and found at least 79 plants in flower as of today. These include Marsh Cinquefoil, Hedge Bedstraw, Fairy Flax and Eyebright.

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Flowers around the reserve

Sunday, August 2nd 2009

Despite the early heavy rain the day has been warm but overcast. Even so there have still been visitors here enjoying a walk and finding things to see.

Heather

The heathland is gradually turning purple as the tiny heather flowers open up. Along the verges through the reserve there are purple swathes of Betony and patches of Hedge Parsley with their pink-tinged white flowers. Angelica is opening up with large heads of creamy white and through it all the Tormentil, which started to flower early in May is still going strong.

The 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers seen yesterday were once again sparring in the back garden over the peanut feeders.

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Danielle’s Kingfisher

Saturday, August 1st 2009

Danielle has sent us this lovely picture of a young Kingfisher which was ringed on Saturday. It has probably only been out of the nest for a week or two. It is too early to tell whether it is a male or female as the beak colour won't develop for a few months.

Kingfisher

The cattle were having a lazy time chewing the cud when this photo was taken of Hector at lunchtime.

Hector

Elsewhere on the reserve the electricians were here to install the sockets into the workshop. No windows yet, though. We are hopeful for them on Monday.

Two Great Spotted Woodpeckers were fighting on the peanut feeders in the back garden and put on a great aerial display.

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