(20) Blog Posts Made in December 2009

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Bird feeders filled

Wednesday, December 30th 2009

All of the bird feeders were filled yet again today. The birds are really hungry after this prolonged cold spell which seems set to continue for the rest of the week.

Filling the bird feeders

A handful of volunteers came to help with this essential task. It took a while to get into the seed store due to the ice in the locks. You can see from this photo that the lake is still mostly frozen on the surface too. There are all kinds of animal tracks across the ice including Heron and Rabbit!

A dozen Fieldfare were seen in the trees in the garden directly behind the Field Centre. Other birds at the feeders included Brambling, Bullfinch, Chaffinch and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

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Snowy trails

Tuesday, December 29th 2009

It has been another very cold day at Foxglove - so cold that the paving slabs outside the Field Centre have been dislodged as the ground has increasingly frozen beneath them.

The butterfly glade

Nevertheless, the sun shone and the pictures show the butterfly glade and one of the marker posts on the discovery trail. Not too many butterflies today though!

Marker post covered in snow

Grey Herons were in abundance desperately searching for food in the few wet areas where the water remains unfrozen; Fieldfares were eating the Cotoneaster which are always the berries they leave till last! With the ground covered in snow for over a week now food for everything is in short supply (as the hanging seed feeders will confirm), but the cattle received another new bale today and were seen frantically tossing the hay skywards on the ends of their horns. There is more very cold weather to come and with the access road extremely slippery all visitors are advised to take special care and if in doubt to walk in from the square.

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Thawing snow

Monday, December 28th 2009

Today has been slightly warmer and everywhere can be heard the drip, drip of thawing snow.

Thawing snow

The birds have been flocking to the feeders which are dotted about the reserve. Bullfinch, Greenfinch, Brambling, Long-tailed Tit and Blackbirds were all seen in the back garden today.

Up on the moor Fraser was putting his long curved horns to good effect for a good back scratch!

Fraser on the moor

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Peaceful Boxing Day

Sunday, December 27th 2009

Boxing Day was very peaceful at Foxglove. The snow was starting to thaw although the pools on the wetland remain frozen. A strange object seen on the moor from the wetland hide turned out to be a huge snowman!

Frozen wetland

Several Roe Deer were spotted in the plantation and on the middle moor a flock of Fieldfare were feeding on the Holly berries in the ancient hedgeline. You can see some of them in the trees here.

Fieldfare on the moor

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Shortest day

Friday, December 25th 2009

Foxglove was looking picture postcard perfect this morning. The snow fall last night and early this morning was covering everything in a thick blanket. The shortest day has come and gone and today it felt like Nature was asleep under the snow awaiting the coming of Spring. The air was still and so quiet that you could hear every rustle of the birds foraging around in the undergrowth.

Foxglove Covert Reserve covered in snow

You could hardly see the cattle in the thick fog this morning. Thanks to Gillian and Tom they will be kept fed with bales of hay over this festive time. Their shaggy coats are well adapted to this kind of weather. The boys (and Bobbie the sheep) are doing well.

The cattle

However you enjoy your Christmas, - whether inside snug and warm or going out in the snow, whether on your own or as part of a big gathering, have a lovely time. Merry Christmas.

Berries covered in snow

As a PS to the above, from one fortunate enough to know the code to this almost daily journal, it takes only a flick of the mouse to re-wind the entries and peruse/marvel at what has been achieved on our little nature reserve over the past 12 months. It is the result of commitment, hard work, determination and selflessness from a wide range of people without whom it just would not happen. It also reflects the quality and personal contribution of the two ladies who keep the reserve functioning on a daily basis and maintain this record. It is a remarkable collaborative effort, so a huge 'thank you' to you all. I hope you have a happy and peaceful Christmas/New Year period and that 2010 is every bit as rewarding.

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Pre-Christmas volunteer day

Wednesday, December 23rd 2009

In spite of the cold and the snow a large number of volunteers came today to celebrate the last 'workie day' before Christmas. After a morning out in the snow filling bird feeders and checking the mink rafts everyone enjoyed a stroll around the woodland walk. Volunteers always work so hard whilst at Foxglove and rarely get the opportunity to stop and enjoy the surroundings. Today was the chance to share a walk and chat about the past year.

Volunteers working in the snow

Up on the wetland it was interesting to reflect on this time last winter when the groundworks were just completed and how the site has improved since then.

After a lovely lunch (a real treat with Marion's curry puffs, Colin's pickled onions and Sophie's dubious looking - and tasting - pesto and tomato puffs)! Brian played the Northumbrian pipes which was the 'icing on the cake'. Thank you to all the volunteers (we missed those of you who have further to travel and couldn't make it) and we wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Snipe and deer

Tuesday, December 22nd 2009

There is still plenty of snow on the ground at Foxglove. The handful of visitors that have braved the cold over the recent snowy days have been rewarded with good wildlife sightings. A dozen Snipe were seen yesterday on the middle moor and a Roe Deer was spotted today close to the Field Centre.

Snowy road

Filling the bird feeders at the moment is a full time job in itself as the birds need all of the help they can get to survive this cold snap.

Snowy reserve

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In the snow

Saturday, December 19th 2009

The heavy snow of last night has transformed Foxglove into a snowy wilderness. The air was still and crisp as we walked up to the moor to see the cattle. The newly laid snow showed all the tracks of the deer and rabbits. You could see where a Heron had walked up and down the path to the workshop!

Animal prints in the snow

MacDuff was just out of the shot as Hector and MacGregor were touching noses near the middle gate on the moor. They have been given another bale of hay to tide them over for the next couple of days.

Hector and MacGregor

The morning light was superb and really shone through this dead Oak leaf. Everything was transformed by a covering of snow.

Snow on an oak leaf

As we got to the lake the hide was looking very picturesque in the morning sunshine.

The lake and hide

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Winter wonderland

Friday, December 18th 2009

The first real snow blizzards have turned Foxglove into a magical winter wonderland!

Snow dusted path

You can see that the sheep (Bobby) is still friends with the four Highlanders who now have a large bale of hay to tide them over the next few days.

Bobby the sheep with the cattle

A flock of Long-tailed Tits were seen feeding in the back garden today alongside the Bullfinches, Chaffinches and Robins.

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Mottled Umber and lots of work

Wednesday, December 16th 2009

It's been damp and miserable weather all day today. Our volunteers, who did a variety of tasks, went home early after getting soaked in the lunchtime rain. Before they went they had filled up the seed hoppers, cleaned the peanut feeders, checked the electric fence, filled rabbit holes in the paths and also carried on with Saturday's work of clearing gorse and birch! Whew, that's a lot of work!

Mottled Umber moth

The moth, pictured here, was found outside the field centre this morning. It is a Mottled Umber and is on the wing from December until January. It is quite common in woodland, scrub and hedgerows.

Because the air has been mild and damp today the moth trap has been set tonight in the hopes of attracting some in. It has been a few weeks since we tried trapping as the nights have been so cold. Fingers crossed for a a good catch tomorrow.

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Bird ringers and Reed Bunting

Monday, December 14th 2009

Several bird ringers were at Foxglove Covert today. Birds ringed included Brambling, Lesser Redpoll, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Goldcrest and Siskin. In addition to the days ringing some mist nets were put up in the reed bed at dusk.

Mist nests in the reed bed

Here you can see Elizabeth ringing one of the Reed Buntings that was roosting in the reed bed, closely watched by one of our younger supporters!

Elizabeth ringing a Reed Buntings

This is a male Reed Bunting. Its typically black head is not directly visible at this time of the year but it is there and also a very white collar which is hidden just beneath the surface.

Male Reed Buntings

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1st workday of the season

Sunday, December 13th 2009

Today was the first of our volunteers winter work days, twenty people came to lend a hand clearing the Birch and Gorse from an area in the middle of the reserve that was becoming scrubbed over. Here you can see Brian and Jenny getting stuck in!

Volunteers Brian and Jenny working

After a warm lunch work continued clearing away and burning the brash. The youngsters amongst us were comparing the number of burn holes in their old clothes from the burning ash!

Burning brash

The weather stayed fine and again we were treated to blue skies and a beautiful sunset at the end of the day.

Sunset

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Christmas party

Saturday, December 12th 2009

Last night was the Foxglove Christmas party at Wathgill which was well attended as you can see in the first photo. Over fifty Friends and Volunteers celebrated the seventeenth Christmas since the reserve was first discovered!

Volunteers at the Christmas party

Throughout the night there was lots of fun including several quizes (thank you to Jack for providing these) and a raffle with some amazing prizes (thank you to everyone for donating them and to Stan and Amy for putting together the hampers and selling the tickets).

Christmas cake

A highlight was a musical interlude by Tony who played the electronic bagipes. Thank you to Tony for this and for organising the food and venue too. Thanks must also go to the chefs, waitresses and kitchen staff who all worked so hard to look after us all and provided a fantastic meal.

The only disappointment was the lack of photographs entered in our photography competition. However, the ones entered were of a very high quality. Beryl, Elizabeth and Tom all won a category and Elizabeth was the overall winner and is now the proud owner of Marion's superb Christmas cake. The winning photo was of a view centred on the tree-top hide and was taken only yesterday! The still conditions meant a beautiful reflection of the hide in the water.

Elizabeth with her photo and prize

Here you can see Elizabeth with her photo and prize, well done Elizabeth!

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Beautiful day on the reserve

Saturday, December 12th 2009

What a beautiful day this has been. This morning the moon was high in a cloudless sky as the sun rose onto a glittering world of white. The fields (and the roads!) were covered in frost. Every verge, every blade of grass and branch of tree was also covered. The fog was lying white in all the hollows and, Foxglove was transformed into a magical world of white. The holly looked as if dusted with icing sugar.

Frost covered Holly

The low morning sun turned the plantation into a land of long shadows.

Shadows on the plantation

Tim and the Askham Bryan students fed the cattle and then did some sterling repair work on the boardwalks at the heathland.

Tim and the Askham Bryan students

Up on the Wetland the ponds stayed frozen over all day for the first time this year.

As an addendum to Sophie's post about the Christmas dinner yesterday the raffle made us £135. Thanks to everyone who generously donated the gifts or bought a ticket.

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Hector on the Wetland - The final chapter

Wednesday, December 9th 2009

It's been a busy volunteer day today. Firstly we have the final chapter of 'Hector on the Wetland'

Here he is for the last time on his own with his friend the sheep. The volunteers were raring to go when they heard we had to do a spot of cattle herding!

Hector with his friend the sheep

The electric fence was taken down to allow Hector to walk back onto his proper side. It was a communal task to tension the wire again after Hector was herded through the gap. After much shouting and waving of arms (and with the lure of a forkful of hay) he eventually went through to join his companions.

Volunteers taking down the electric fence

As you can see the sheep followed! We just have to find the rest of her flock now and let her re-join them. Happy cattle and happy sheep!

Hector joining his cattle companions

After all that excitement we adjourned for an early lunch, after which John enjoyed taking young spruce trees down with a bow saw. This shows him with the latest in a long line of trees.

John taking young spruce trees down with a bow saw

Everyone worked really hard and had some good fun along the way. Thanks very much everyone.

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Hector on the Wetland - Part 2

Tuesday, December 8th 2009

Today has been a bit of a dismal, grey day. There's nothing much to report - other than of course 'Hector on the Wetland' part 2!

As you can see he's still there. I think he's wanting to be up in the hide to look for MacDuff and the others.

Hector next to the hide

He's not used to being alone. I'm pleased he's got his sheep friend still around (although the sheep is a stray also!). They're keeping each other company.

Hector with his sheep friend

Tomorrow is the day we'll be trying to get him back on the other side of the fence to join his brothers. At the moment he's doing a good job of testing the bunds and paths on the wetland.

Hector on the boardwalk

In the last photo he looks like he's waiting to sell tickets to the sheep. "It's a toll boardwalk, you know!"

More tomorrow as the saga continues.

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Hector on the Wetland

Monday, December 7th 2009

They say that every picture tells a story. Well, here you can see Hector up on the new wetland with a sheep for a friend!

Hector and the sheep on the wetland

How Hector has got in there I don't know as the electric fence is intact. Perhaps he jumped over! Fraser, McGregor and McDuff were keeping him company from their side of the fence.

He has had a good explore around as his hoof prints were all over right up to the hide.

Hector on the wetland

Keep watching for a 'Hector on the wetland' news update tomorrow.

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Willow workshop

Sunday, December 6th 2009

It's been a very busy week with meetings here, hence this is the first blog post in a few days.

Today was the Willow Wreath Workshop and 15 people, (ladies AND gentlemen), turned up to make decorations for Christmas.

Sophie and I had gathered in the willow on Thursday. There was plenty to choose from as most of the net rides here are pollarded willow. Having been cut earlier this year the long first year growth we were looking for was everywhere. A bit of judicious pruning and we had plenty of working material!

Willow workshop

Then, yesterday, Anne and Sophie gathered greenery from around the reserve to make the decorations. Together with stuff from the garden there was plenty to choose from.

Willow workshop

The first two photos show work in progress. As you can see we needed plenty of space for the springy willow wands.

A group photo at the end shows the beautiful creations which we ended up with. Although some people were skeptical about how they would manage, everybody was happy with the finished result. They were all amazing!

Willow workshop

Thanks to everyone for coming along and to those who helped, whether at gathering, washing up or clearing up at the end.

We hope you come along again next year.

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Cold and frosty morning

Wednesday, December 2nd 2009

The cold and frosty morning didn't stop our volunteers from turning out to lend a hand today. Gorse and Silver Birch were removed from an area adjacent to the Heathland.

Volunteers on the heathland

The pupils from the Dales school joined in and carried previously cut Birch to the bonfire. Meanwhile the area around the Field Centre received some TLC.

Pupils from the Dales school

After lunch, our attention turned to the inside of the Heligoland where Brian did some extreme pruning!

Brian pruning in the Heligoland

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Winter in the air

Tuesday, December 1st 2009

The cattle feeding

There was a definite 'wintry nip' in the air today at Foxglove and several wintry showers too. The cattle needed cheering up after spending another night in the rain.

Here they are enjoying some supplementary cattle feed. There was a real stampede when they saw the sack!

The trees that were planted last winter (to replace the area of conifer plantation that was felled) are doing well. Most of them are out of their protective tree tubes now as you can see here.

Trees

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