(15) Blog Posts Made in February 2010

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Self guided families

Saturday, February 27th 2010

Yesterday's heavy rain and snow and today's melting snow have left all of the becks at Foxglove completely full of water. This photo taken by Tim shows how even the smallest of becks running down from the moorland are almost overflowing.

Becks running down the moorland

The eco-club meeting was unfortunately cancelled as the forecast had been for heavy snow today. This was a real shame as the weather turned out fine and sunny! The new diary for eco-club will be sent out shortly and it is hoped that the March meeting will take place on the last Saturday of the month as usual.

Eco Club

Several family groups visited Foxglove today and many took advantage of Elizabeth's self guided trail sheets. These are great fun and as you can see some of our younger visitors thoroughly enjoyed themselves earning points from nature spotting. It was so warm that our budding conservationists were wearing tee shirts and shades for some of the time!

Family visiting the reserve

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Badger prints and tree planting

Saturday, February 27th 2010

This week has again been a busy one at Foxglove Covert. In spite of the wintry weather all of our regular groups have visited and helped us out in one way or another. Tuesday was volunteer day and lots of people joined us back in the woodland to brash and tidy fallen branches. This work will continue over the next fortnight or so. The Dales school group enjoyed a winter walk around the reserve on Tuesday too.

These Badger prints were discovered on one of our footpaths on Wednesday. As you can see, they are very large and have the distinctive five toes.

Badger prints

Several students from Askham Bryan College carried out some tree planting today. They planted several Oak and Beech trees along the ancient hedgelines up on the moor. These trees had been donated by visitors including Wendy so thank you for those! The students worked really hard in the driving wind and rain (which later turned to snow) and as ever we are extremely grateful for their help.

Students from Askham Bryan College

The snow is falling right now (Friday afternoon) and the becks are already full of melting snow and rain water. Here in Tim's photo you can see how much water is flowing over the weir.

The weir

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Animal tracks

Monday, February 22nd 2010

Although Foxglove was quiet in terms of people visiting today, the wildlife was really active! As you can see in this photo, there are animal tracks in the snow along the paths that remain untouched by humans! Prints have been left behind by Roe deer, rabbits and birds of all sizes. In other places there are several welly footprints too - large and small and some accompanying dog ones!

Animal tracks

The back garden has been teaming with small birds and the Sparrowhawk was seen again swooping down and stopping for several minutes on top of a post.

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More snow and ice

Monday, February 22nd 2010

Winter hasn't finished with us yet, and once again the lake and ponds are iced over and covered with snow.

The lake covered in ice

There has been a lot of activity at the back garden feeders today with Bluetit, Great Tit, Bullfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Brambling, Blackbird, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Robin all making an appearance.

It's been a very busy week and here, as promised, is a round up of what has been going on.

Snow on the signpost

On Monday Willie came to sort out the huge tarmac pile adjacent to the access road. This was recycled tarmac (as evidenced by the yellow pieces of double line origin!) Under Willie's expertise this has transformed our stone pile into a proper parking area. He also replaced the posts which border the front lawns at the Field Centre.

On Tuesday our ever-willing volunteers installed 5 new finger-posts at key locations. The one pictured here is opposite the front door.

Wednesday was taken up with finishing off preparations for our Royal visit. This Pale Brindled Beauty moth was found whilst cleaning the veranda. It is on the wing between January and March and is quite a common, resident moth.

Pale Brindled Beauty moth

As you will have seen, on Thursday we were lucky enough to have a Royal visitor in the the personage of His Royal Highness Prince Charles.

His Royal Highness Prince Charles

He was in between engagements and came for a guided walk through the reserve over his lunchtime. Tony, Sophie and I showed him around and told him of all the work done by the volunteers and the college students. He was very relaxed and was interested in learning about the future plans for the reserve and asked lots of questions about the flowers and birds we have here. It was altogether a delightful visit.

Gorse

Later in the afternoon we discovered the first open flower this year. As you can see it is the ubiquitous Gorse, which flowers in every month of the year! As an old country saying goes " When Gorse is in flower, kissing is in fashion!" A welcome sight, a spot of gold appearing through the snow.

On Friday there were a lot of visitors enjoying the last day of the half term holidays.

Volunteers working

On Saturday our Volunteers' Work day was luckily in fine weather. After a chilly start the air was clear and warm. Thank you to everyone who gave their time. This beautiful silhouetted photo of Tony and Meg shows how bright the sun was on the afternoon.

Today the snow has covered up the ground again. Let's hope that the newly emerging leaves and shoots survive this second cold snap.

A Huge Thank You to everyone who helped in preparing for our visitor and for the work day. Especially the cleaning staff who worked hard to make the Field Centre as bright as a new pin. To Elizabeth for all sorts of help throughout the week. To Ann and Pat for giving us cover on Friday whilst we were off. To Colin, for working on an old blackboard and making it good as new to stand outside for notices. To everyone out there who helps in any way, thanks to you all. We appreciate it.

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February workday

Sunday, February 21st 2010

Our February workday took place in beautiful sunshine today. We were all centred on the woodland walk clearing up brash after the winter. The heavy snows had brought a lot of dead wood down from the tops of the larch and the whole area needed some TLC.

Everyone worked really hard and made a huge difference to the general appearance of the woodland floor. Wood Sorrel and Herb Robert could just be seen poking their delicate stems through the layers of pine needles.

Dot taking wood to the fire

Dot got some healthy exercise walking to and fro to the fire. It was nice to meet new people and for the different volunteers (bird ringers and Tuesday volunteers) to be working together.

Volunteers Ann and Dot working

Ann and Dot are pictured here clearing one of the worst areas.

It has been a busy week for us all and unfortunately the blog has been slightly neglected.

Tune in tomorrow to see a round-up of what has been happening on your favorite nature reserve over the past few days!!

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HRH The Prince of Wales

Friday, February 19th 2010

As you can see Foxglove had a very special visitor today. His Royal Highness, Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales came to spend some time relaxing in between his busy schedule. He was most interested to learn about all the work which is carried out by the staff, volunteers and the college students.

His Royal Highness, Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales

After a cup of tea and a look around the Field Centre he was presented with some Foxglove honey and a gilet for him to wear whilst gardening at Highgrove!

Hopefully he will come back to visit during the summer when the weather is more clement and the flowers are blooming.

Thanks to Whitfield for taking the photos as a record of a special day.

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Sun and shadows

Monday, February 15th 2010

Elizabeth took these photographs early this morning whilst the bird ringers were busy putting up mist nets. The low sun made these fantastic long shadows across the moor.

Shadows across the moor

Tree shadows across the moor

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Marie on the path

Sunday, February 14th 2010

Another spring-like day and Marie was here again to continue work upgrading one of our stony paths. This involved wooden edges, weed suppressing membrane, large stone and then smaller 'dust' being put on top. This whole thing was then treated to 'good vibrations' with the whacker plate.

Marie upgrading the stony paths

Working on the paths

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Willie and Marie

Saturday, February 13th 2010

Although we have had a couple of wintery showers, today has had a spring-like feel to it. The sun was shining from a blue sky and there has been a definite air of anticipation in the flurry of birds at the feeding stations. Even the bees in the observation hive realised it was warming up and were buzzing around.

Willie repairing the road

Willie and Marie, who have a long association with Foxglove, were here today repairing the access road which had suffered in the prolonged icy weather.

Marie was in charge of the tractor and filling in all the potholes whilst Willie came along behind with the roller!

Marie with the tractor

What a difference they have made. A lovely compacted surface for you all to drive in on.

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Catkins and volunteers

Wednesday, February 10th 2010

Even though the snow keeps falling and the winter seems set to continue, there are signs of spring around if you care to look. Along the beck the Hazel catkins are starting to lengthen and the buds are swelling on the trees and bushes.

Hazel catkins

We are eagerly awaiting the first flowers. Last year the Coltsfoot made the grade as the first plant in flower and was already out by now. The heavy, prolonged snow this time round has made a difference and as the days grow longer there will be a race to catch up. Rest assured we will be here with the news as soon as we find anything daring to open!

In the meantime the work on the reserve goes on and we had 13 volunteers here who worked in the heavy snow this morning. We cleared straggly gorse from one of the net rides and continued on with work on the heathland. You can hardly see Ann through the undergrowth in this picture of first thing this morning. The Dales School students joined in at lunchtime for an hour as well.

Volunteers working on the reserve

Also our new map was delivered and installed on the outside of the field centre this morning. This now has the Wetland path and hide as well as the Moorland Trail marked on it. With new photographs as well, it has made a colourful replacement for our outside wall.

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Colour ringing scheme

Monday, February 8th 2010

This Bullfinch was ringed today as part of the new colour ringing scheme at Foxglove. We hope that he might be sighted by visitors to the reserve using their binoculars.

Bullfinch

We are running two schemes one for Blackbirds and one for Bullfinches and the colour combinations are the same for both species. If you look carefully you can see that the rings on this bird match those on 'Bossy Blackbird' (see the last post) as they were both the second birds to be ringed on their scheme! They both have a red plastic ring over a metal BTO ring on their left legs and a plastic red ring over a plastic green one on their right legs. Below is a beautiful male Siskin that was also ringed today with a metal BTO ring.

male Siskin

A major bird ringing threshold was crossed by the end of the afternoon as the number of birds banded on the reserve passed the 40,000 mark. This really is a remarkable achievement and a very substantial number spread over 75 species. The top five species ringed in order of priority are 1st: Chaffinch at 6048, 2nd: Greenfinch at 4089, 3rd: Willow Warbler at 3857, 4th: Blue Tit at 3423 and 5th: Great Tit at 2681. Numbers and species have fluctuated over the years but there are relatively few serious changes with the expansion of Coal Tit, Lesser Repoll and Reed Bunting numbers recently the most noticeable development.

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Blackbird and Brambling

Thursday, February 4th 2010

'Bossy Blackbird' or BB for short (one of our colour ringed Blackbirds) was back in the Field Centre garden yesterday. He was captured on camera by Paul who also took this stunning photo of a Brambling.

Blackbird

Brambling

A group in the Wetland hide had a great view of a Stoat today. It was busy looking for food amongst the frozen pools and ventured across the ice several times.

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Access road cleared

Wednesday, February 3rd 2010

Today our volunteers braved the cold, snowy weather to cut back some willow along the access road.

Richard used the chainsaw to good effect taking out the large trunks of three old willows to allow a better view around a particularly sharp corner of the road. These coppiced willows will grow back eventually.

Volunteer Richard using the chainsaw

Whilst this was going on the rest of the volunteers ferried the cut brash to the stone pile where it was burned.
You can see from this photo that there was quite a lot of pruned material to remove.

Volunteers burning brash

After all the smaller brash was taken away, the mossy willow trunks which were left over were cut up and made into habitat piles for smaller creatures to use.

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Lichen-covered branch

Tuesday, February 2nd 2010

As a relief from all the snowy pictures of late, here's a wonderful lichen-covered branch. The colours of these lichens really stood out along the beck now that the snow has all but melted.

Lichen-covered branch

Lichens are usually 2 lifeforms, one of which is a fungus, living together in harmony. They are important to any woodland eco-system, being food and shelter to many micro-organisms, from mites to tiny spiders and snails. Small birds, such as Long-tailed Tits, use lichens to camouflage their nests.

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Icicles and bird ringers

Monday, February 1st 2010

Today has been very bright and cold. Amazingly there are still pockets of snow around.

This picture of rounded icicles was taken up on the moor where the edges of a little ditch were covered in these frozen sculptures.

Rounded icicles

Meanwhile, the bird ringers were out on the training area re-newing and repairing owl boxes. Here you can see Tom, Chris, John and Stuart in the process of putting a box up. A 4-man effort indeed!

Volunteers putting up a box

John was enjoying himself up a tree with a hammer!

John putting up a box

This is all part of the vital work which goes on behind the scenes.

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