(24) Blog Posts Made in March 2012

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Flower to the People

Friday, March 30th 2012

As we were walking through the woodland yesterday planting the last of the trees we spotted this beautiful clump of Wood Sorrel tucked into a hollow and surrounded by moss on a fallen Ash bough.  As soon as Elizabeth heard about it she was off into the woodland to investigate and take photos.

Wood Sorrel has delicate white flowers with pink veins. In folk medicine the leaves used to be used as a remedy for skin conditions and scurvy, also as an antidote to arsenic and mercury poisoning - though we would recommend that that you go and see your doctor rather than trying your hand at woodland foraging if suffering from any of these conditions!

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Flower Power!

Thursday, March 29th 2012

Several people came to help identify moths yesterday.157 moths of 12 different species were recorded including Twin-spotted Quaker, Common Quaker, Early Grey and Hebrew Character.

Moth identification

Many trees are starting to flower. The Larch flowers are spectacular as can be seen below.

Larch flower

Blackthorn is beginning to flower and this beautiful swathe is down in the area that was cleared on one of the winter worky days.

Blackthorn in flower

The Willows are beginning to bloom too.

Willow

Ash and Hazel are also in flower now. 16 wildflowers are out already including Celandine, Barren Strawberry and Bluebell. Wood Anemone has joined the list in the last few days.

Wood Anemone

Coltsfoot is still going strong!

Coltfoot

Dog Violet is springing up alongside the pathways.

Dog Violet

Thanks to Elizabeth, Ann and Ruth for carrying out a flower walk and taking these beautiful photographs. Thanks also to Tony, Mike and David who planted the last (honestly)! few trees of the Jubilee Wood and removed algae from some of the ponds. 

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Otterly Amazing!

Thursday, March 29th 2012

Finally, the first picture of an Otter has been captured down on Risedale Beck.  Our volunteer Ken has been trying to capture a picture of the species for several weeks now with his remotely activated camera.  Spraint is found regularly and Otters have been seen from time to time - but never before have we had evidence like this.  Many thanks to Ken for his expertise and for sharing it with us all.

The camera also managed to capture this image of a Roe Deer doe and a Fox, but the latter image was not the best.  What is interesting is that they are all crossing the beck at the same place as can be seen from the track on the opposite bank!

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Tadpoles, Trees, Toads and Time out!

Tuesday, March 27th 2012

Due to the unusually warm dry conditions for this time of year, green algae is becoming a problem in watercourses nationwide. The pools through the scrapes are beginning to suffer and barley straw bales have been placed in these areas to help reduce the growth of this unwelcome visitor! This amazing phenomenon was discovered by monks in medieval times (so Adam reckons)!

Algae

The algae doesn't seem to be having any negative affects on the pond life so far and the frog tadpoles have now hatched from the frogspawn and are gathered in large clumps feeding on the remaining jelly.

Hatched tadpoles

The Toads are still active and are extremely inquisitive.

Cheeky Toad

Students from the Dales School enjoyed watching the Toads and looking for the ribbons of toadspawn in the water.

Out Strolling

They also helped to finish planting the last few trees that were donated by the Woodland Trust.

Tree planting

This tiny frog was found amongst the newly planted trees. Too young to breed it seemed to be enjoying the sunshine! Several butterflies were on the wing today including Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock. Working amongst the Larch trees, the cones could be heard splitting open to release their seeds.

Baby frog

Volunteers were hard at work all day in the hot sun planting up the last trees from the Jubilee wildlife pack. At the end of the day the Royal Oak sapling was planted close to the heathland by the access road where everyone will be able to enjoy it and watch it grow to be as tall as the tree in the Royal grounds that its acorn fell from.

Royal Oak Sapling

It even has a red, white and blue ribbon!

Royal Oak

After such a busy day Hugh decided to have a well earned break!

Breaktime

Finally, raffle tickets are available in the Field Centre for this beautifully carved wooden hedgehog made by Jez Kalkowski. Tickets cost only £1 each.

Hedgehog

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Firthmoor Primary Visit

Monday, March 26th 2012

A class of 24 pupils from Firthmoor Primary School in Darlington visited the reserve today.  The morning was spent planting trees along an old track, after a quick demonstration the children were keen to start planting and got the hang of it in no time!

Encouraging the trees to grow!

The afternoon was spent on a bug safari at the outdoor classroom and pond dipping in the scrapes.  The children were fascinated by what they found and even learnt the song of a Chiffchaff as we walked around.

 

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A Misty Start

Monday, March 26th 2012

Several of the bird ringers had interesting journeys this morning as they travelled through varying amounts of fog and mist to arrive for a 7am start.  There was just a hint of mist through the Scrapes where the Moorhens could be heard calling.

Mist in the Scrapes

The Lake was quiet and as there was no wind the reflections were almost perfect.  A woodpecker could be heard drumming in the distance and the Curlew's haunting cry added to the morning's sounds.  Roe Deer were seen walking through the newly planted area.

The Lake

The sun rose and the temperature climbed allowing flowers like this daisy to open fully.

Common Dasiy

Birds processed during the day included 41 new Chaffinch, Lesser Redpolls, Siskin, Greenfinch and some Bullfinches.  A Blue Tit was checking out the nest box with the camera in it - watch the televison screen in the Centre to see if the pair decide that this nest box is just the right one to raise their young. Three Woodcock were seen.

At the end of the day after all the nets were taken down and the last birds processed, everyone joined in the tidying up.  All the bird bags are checked and counted, all surfaces are cleaned and the ringing room is restored to normal.  This rather unique photograph was taken of John who has recently discovered that the brush and steel pipe attached to the electric suction pot is in fact a hoover that removes the feathers and detritus from the floor. The story goes that he was rather taken aback by this novel and fun experience and was last seen as we were driving away happily working on the rest of the Field Centre.

Tidying up

Visitors enjoyed their time in the reserve and many came to see the activities in the ringing room and learn about the process.  Young and not so young enjoyed, under supervision, releasing some of the birds.

 

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Fundraising Day

Sunday, March 25th 2012

Seventeen volunteers turned out to help us with our fundraising efforts at Tescos today.

We were bag packing, bucket shaking and there was a raffle too.

Lesley squashing bread again!

Many thanks to everyone who gave their time to helped us out at this event, we will let everyone know the total raised as soon as it has been counted up.

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Jubilee Wood Planting

Friday, March 23rd 2012

To celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, hundreds of trees were planted today as part of the Richmondshire Eco Week.

Tree Planting

Children from three different local schools came along to lend a hand and some volunteers from the Richmond Rotarians.

Jubilee Wood

By lunchtime, one area was completely planted with a mix of hard and softwoods.

Woodland

Staff from the Defence Infrastructure Organisation geo-spatial and environmental advisory teams joined in too!

DIO team

Down by the beck, Blackthorn is in flower and Chiffchaffs could be heard everywhere singing in the sunshine.

Blackthorn Flower

Our thanks go to Colin and Jez who did lots of the organising and to the different teams who between them planted roughly 700 trees; these  included a Royal Oak which was specially grown and presented to commemorate Her Majesty The Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

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Drying Up

Thursday, March 22nd 2012

With the continuing drought affecting much of the country, there is concern that wildlife reliant on stream and pond habitats is beginning to suffer.  River levels are continuing to fall, and may leave some creatures at risk, such as frogs, toads and newts, also preventing some insects from hatching.

Water vole populations could also suffer as the falling water levels expose their burrows.  The entrances are normally hidden at the water line; as the water level falls there is an increased risk of predation as the burrow entrances are exposed.

Ratty

At Foxglove we have been busy working on the wetland over the past few weeks, ensuring that the dams and sluices are all functional and the water levels are at their optimum for this time of year.  This will help to protect the habitat for the water voles and also provide breeding habitats for waders and wild fowl.

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Tree TLC

Wednesday, March 21st 2012

Trees on the bank close to the entrance had suffered in the winter gales, snapping free from their moorings. These were given some care and attention by the Tuesday team of volunteers who enjoyed the warm sunshine as they worked. Trees that were planted last year were checked and protected from the two main tree browsers Roe Deer and Rabbit!

Tree TLC

More trees were planted on the spoil from the lake. Further saplings will be added to these on Thursday as the area is transformed into a Jubilee Wood to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

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Ladybirds are Back!

Monday, March 19th 2012

Last year the Kidney Spot Ladybirds spent several months on the Ash trees at Kidney Spot Corner.  We watched the larvae develop and the new ladybirds hatch.  Then they went 'walkabout' onto other trees around the reserve. Whilst we kept a check during the winter on the hibernating 7 and 16 Spot Ladybirds, we rarely found any of the smaller Kidney Spots.  However during the last week their numbers back at Kidney Spot Corner are increasing.  They have also been spotted along Risedale Beck and the Sycamore Avenue.

Kidney Spot Ladybird

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Spring Colour

Saturday, March 17th 2012

The bees, who are just beginning to emerge and fly around in the sunshine, will benefit from the food provided by the willow flowers.  This tree is near the entrance and makes a lovely splash of colour as you travel along the access road.

Willow Flowers

The Common Toads are still calling.  If you look carefully in the water you may see some of the long strands of toadspawn.

toadspawn

 

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Spring Sunshine

Friday, March 16th 2012

The wetland has been thoroughly checked over the last fortnight in anticipation of the arrival of breeding waders such as Curlew, Redshank and Lapwing. The water is now flowing correctly across the seven different levels which are once again optimum for the target species. The first Sand Martin was sighted flying across these pools this afternoon.

wetland in spring

Several organised groups enjoyed the spring sunshine. Students from Breckenbrough School came to find out all about the wildlife and habitats.

Breckenbrough

Whilst pond dipping the children found a Caddisfly larva, Water Boatmen and various pond snails amongst the Toads.

Pond dipping

Then it was time to get in the water and learn how to alter the flow.

Playing in the dams

After lunch there were trees to plant. Jake was able to show the other students what he had learned during his work experience in the past few weeks.

Planting trees

In the tree planting area, a Smooth Newt was discovered.

Newt

Askham Bryan students continued to tidy the brash left behind by the tree surgeons.

Askham Bryan

Members from Open Country in Harrogate also explored the reserve today. Mike and Tony finished repairing steps in the woodland and moved a huge amount of woodchips to a muddy net ride (for which the bird ringers are extremely grateful). Thank you everyone for all of your support.

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Moth Mayhem!

Thursday, March 15th 2012

Eighty moths of twelve different species were found amongst the eggboxes in the moth trap first thing this morning. Amongst these were good numbers of Hebrew Character, Clouded Drab and Mottled Grey. There were some interesting specimens too such as this male Oak Beauty with its splendid feathered antennae.

Oak Beauty

Two Yellow Horned moths were easy to identify by their distinctive orange antennae. This resident and common moth is at home at Foxglove as its favourite habitats include woodland, heathland, moorland and Birch scrub.

Yellow Horned 1

The forewing is grey with white frosting as can be seen below.

Yellow Horned 2

More and more birds are being seen by the day. Lapwing are wheeling over the wetland and Woodcock have been observed on the moorland. The back garden is teaming with Bullfinch, Siskin, Reed Bunting, Lesser Redpoll to name but a few. Toads are still very active and can be heard calling around the pond areas.

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Toads on the Road

Tuesday, March 13th 2012

The warm weather over the last few days has driven Common Toads out of hibernation.  They can now be seen all over the reserve making their way back to pools and ponds to breed.  These two were spotted out on the wetland as we checked the water levels.

Happy Toads

The female toad (<13cm) is much larger than the male (<8cm).  Their skin is much drier and bumpier than Common Frogs and they move by walking or hopping rather than jumping.  Another sure sign to know if you are looking at a toad, is the striking copper coloured eye.

Please take extra care if you are driving on up to the Field Centre as the track has now become a toad highway!

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Bird and Butterflies!

Monday, March 12th 2012

It was a beautiful spring morning as the bird ringers arrived at 07.30. Curlew were calling and the Greylag Geese were making lots of noise on the lake.  As the temperature rose croaking Frogs  - and the slightly higher call of the Toads - accompanied the ringers on the net rounds.  At least three Comma butterflies were seen and one Peacock. These sightings have been added to the observation board in the Field Centre.

Nuthatch, Lesser Redpoll, and Reed Bunting were amongst the 77 new birds processed today.  The last net round included seven new Siskin. Then quite a surprise as the first Chiffchaff, all 7.9g of him, was removed from a bag  This small bird has just completed its long journey back from the Mediterranean region and today (Mar 11) is the earliest date ever recorded at Foxglove for the return of this, our first, summer migrant.  The previous earliest record was 14 Mar 1993!  Another noteworthy record today was the ringing of the 2500th Robin on the reserve!

Chiffchaff

Many visitors were in enjoying the beautiful weather and the exceptional condition of the reserve after all the effort made during the winter period.

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The Last Winter Worky Day

Sunday, March 11th 2012

Yesterday, 45 volunteers turned out to help us complete vital habitat work on the reserve before spring arrives and the breeding season begins. 

The Treecreepers

Richard, Tony, David and Andrew formed the Treecreeper team and rebuilt a set of steps along the woodland walk.

The Grey Squirrels

The scouts were out in force as the Grey Squirrels.  They worked clearing brash from along Risedale Beck where tree surgeons had been working to make safe some old Ash trees.

They were in their element building up a rather large bonfire and one was even heard saying 'This is the best day in the scouts ever!'

The Badgers

The Badgers could be found up in the top end of the woodland, clearing an area of diseased Sycamore in preparation for replanting as a Jubilee Wood with local school children later this month.  Even Noil the Lion, from Masham Primary School, came along to lend a hand.

Louis found this frog as we walked along a path, and was fascinated by the frogspawn in the nearby ponds.  We even spotted the first Small Tortoiseshell butterfly of the year as we walked back for lunch.

The Pied Flycatchers

The Pied Flycatchers found themselves coppicing, pollarding and clearing an area of the woodland.

And no Worky Day blog would be complete without a picture of Colin!

We must extend a massive thank you to everyone who has given up their time to help us out today to complete such a terrific amount of work.

If you are visiting Foxglove please take care on the access track as the Toads are out of hibernation and making their way back to the ponds.

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Preparation for ‘Worky Day’

Saturday, March 10th 2012

Today preparations continued for tomorrow's 'Worky Day'.  Jake made some signs.  Tools were allocated to the wheelbarrows.  Tea bags and coffee, spoons and sugar, juice and drinking chocloate were amongst some things taken to the porta-cabin. 

There are many Sycamores in the woodland that have been badly damaged by the squirrels.  The sap is very sweet and they peel back the bark to have a good feed.  This makes the trees susceptible to disease.

A 'before' the work starts photo.  An 'after' the work has finished will be on tomorrow's blog.

The woodland

Adam, Sophie and Tony, armed with chainsaws, cut down the trees ready for everyone to clear and burn tomorrow.

Chainsawing

Added to this there are areas where there is a lot of brash that needs clearing.  Some of the larger logs will be made into log piles and these encourage invertebrates to take up residence.  They may also provide good places for the growth of moss and fungi.

Although the woodland is not yet showing much new growth there were a few eye catching green leaves of Wood Sorrel, Foxglove and this beautiful moss.

Moss

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More Volunteering

Thursday, March 8th 2012

Volunteering can involve many different tasks.  Yesterday the volunteers were busy tidying up an area of woodland, today they were checking flowers and invertebrates.  Ann, Ruth and Elizabeth waited until the rain stopped before heading out into the reserve to record the the plants in flower.  Primrose, Germander Speedwell, Hazel, Barren Strawberry and Gorse were seen.  There are certain areas of the reserve where Coltsfoot can be found very early in the Spring. 

Coltsfoot

Several of these places were examined and eventually, Ann and Ruth located it on an island in Risedale Beck.

Ann and Ruth looking for Coltsfoot

A detour was made to view some of the smaller ponds and although it was cold, some Smooth Newts were sunbathing in the water.

Smooth Newt

Also seen were Pond Skater instars.  These young individuals will eat voraciously, and will moult five times before taking on the adult form. 

In the afternoon, Brian and Elizabeth set off to record the invertebrates.  By then the sun was out but the wind was blowing and it was extremely cold!  Consequently the only invertebrates found were the ladybirds huddled together continuing their hibernation.  On return to the Field Centre the recording continued when a Zebra Spider was found inside in the warm!

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Start of Spring Cleaning!

Wednesday, March 7th 2012

Bannock, twister dough (cooked on Willow sticks) and hot potatoes were on the lunchtime menu today. The Tuesday team of volunteers worked hard to tidy an area of plantation and cooked up a feast on the bonfire to celebrate the end of the winter work season.

Bonfire Feast

Students from the Dales School re-surfaced a footpath with the woodchips from the coppiced Hazel.

Woodchips

Everyone worked extremely hard and moved a huge pile of woodchips. What a great team effort!

Resurfacing the footpath

The Hazel area down by the beck is looking lively already and catkins are adding a welcome splash of colour.

Hazel Catkins

Behind the Tower hide, Simon landscaped the spoil that was removed from the lake re-profiling project this time last year. This patch is now ready for re-planting with trees such as Hazel, Oak and Hawthorn.

Landscaping

This is one of the first places that visitors see when they walk in from the parade square and is now looking really smart.

Digger

This is the view from the top of the bank.

Landscaping 2

And from the path at the bottom.

Landscaping 3

The whole reserve is starting to take shape and Elizabeth took this beautiful picture of the moorland today.

Moorland

 

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One Year On

Tuesday, March 6th 2012

It was this time last year that the work was being carried out extending the lake.  The site looked a mess while the work was carried out, though now in early spring birds are returning and vegetation is starting to poke through the bare soil.  In a matter of weeks the area will have 'greened up' and look fantastic.  Preparations are underway on the last area of lake spoil to make ready for the planting of a Jubilee Wood with local school children.

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A Wet Weekend

Sunday, March 4th 2012

Although it has been a wet weekend, the feeders around Foxglove have been very active.  One of the visitors managed to get this fleeting image of the first of two Marsh Tits on the lakeside feeders. Today, Sunday, saw a Marsh Tit on the feeders outside the  Field Centre kitchen.

On the main feeders at the centre there has been much activity all day; both male and female Great Spotted Woodpeckers, around 30 Lesser Redpoll, as many Chaffinches, and around a dozen Siskin.  There were also Greenfinches, a single Brambling, Bullfinches and several other species including Reed Bunting. 

marsh tit

During yesterday's sunny spells the frogs could be heard croaking quite loudly as they spawned. Today there were  two pairs of Greylag Geese on the lake. One pair were aggressively defending the feeders from the new arrivals. 

greylags at the lake feeders

Thanks to one of our visitors for these photographs.

Some of the ringing team, taking advantage of the poor weather which had prevented ringing taking place, had an 'away day' at Leighton Moss.  Among 60 or so species seen were Little Egret, Spotted Redshank, Marsh Harrier, Snow Geese, Glossy Ibis and Bittern.  Water Rail were heard calling loudly - but, alas, never seen!  It was a fun and informative day - and lots of food for thought!

 

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Post Rammers, Spanners and Hammers

Friday, March 2nd 2012

With Curlew and Lapwing recently heard it is really important to ensure that all of the dams are working on the wetland to prepare this habitat for the breeding season. Tony and Mike checked the water levels this morning and devised a cunning plan! They have altered some of the overflows and we will wait until next week to see if their plan works.

Wetland work

At the opposite end of the reserve, staff and volunteers worked on building a tree nursery. A rotavator was hired to plough the soil and students from Askham Bryan College built an enclosure to create a protected space. This may come in handy at the end of the planting season if there are any extra saplings. Tim explained the importance of ground preparation to all of the students and gave a superb demonstration!

Rotorvator

By the end of the day, the pen was ready for trees!

Tree Nursery

This task, at the furthest corner of the reserve from the workshop, involved just about every tool from strimmers and post rammers to hammers, spanners and screwdrivers. The quad bike and trailer were indispensable as was the site push bike which has also received some TLC today from Tony who repaired the brakes!

Home time

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Vole Holes!

Thursday, March 1st 2012

Several moths were trapped overnight. Satellite, Clouded Drab, Early Moth and March Moth were amongst the species identified. Out on the reserve the frogs were still very active. The reedbed pond with the cut stems has already been filled with frogspawn!

Frogs in the reed bed

Adam and Jake worked hard on the wetland to repair the damage caused by the Water Voles.

Voley Holes

Whilst working there they found Otter footprints in the mud and this beautiful Smooth Newt.

Newt

Amongst other jobs, Hilde cleared out the back garden pond which was choked with vegetation. Ruth, Elizabeth and Sally kept on top of the indoor jobs.

Back garden pond

If you look carefully at the photo below, you should be able to spot one of the foresters carrying out tree surgery! This is now complete.

Spot the man!

A group from Open Country in Harrogate enjoyed a walk around today and were delighted to spot many birds including Brambling - and a Water Vole!

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