(24) Blog Posts Made in April 2012

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Ferntastic!

Monday, April 30th 2012

Alongside the banks of Risedale back fronds of ferns are beginning to unravel.  These ancient plants thrive in damp and shady conditions and have been found as fossils in rocks upto 400 million years ago.  The majority of the world's coal is made from these fossilised remains.

Members of the bird ringing team were in this morning making a preliminary check of the small nest boxes.  Most of these were either in the early stages of nest building or with eggs.  This nest is from one of the boxes in the Adopt-a-Box scheme and shows four warm Great Tit eggs nestled in the dry grass and moss lining.

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Another New Species

Sunday, April 29th 2012

The moth trap was set on Friday night as Plan 5 for Eco Club!  Having had reasonable catches over the last few weeks, five moths and two spiders, in the trap was a little disappointing.  They were all identified except one.  We eventually decided that it was a Pale Pinion moth (Lithophane hepatica) but then realised that it could not be as the reference book said it was not in this area.  So it was photographed and this was sent to Dr Charlie Fletcher, the moth recorder for VC65.

Pale Pinion Moth

We received an email from Dr Fletcher this morning confirming the identification.  This moth was first noted in VC65 in 2003 and only 55 adults have been recorded.

The adult feeds on Ivy flowers and overripe Blackberries in autumn and in spring on sallow catkins.  Larvae feed from a variety of trees including Oak, Horse Chestnut, apple, birches, Bramble and Wild Privet.

 

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A Special Eco Club

Sunday, April 29th 2012

Fingers were crossed that the morning rain would stop before Eco Club started and it did, just.  The topic for the morning was nests, but this was rather pushed into the background as we had a special visitor, a Swift returned from Africa.  Eleanor, one of our young bird ringers had found it trapped.  The children were able to watch as the bird was ringed and measured.  Its wing length was 179mm.  Once the bird was checked, it was to be released where it had been found.

Swift being ringed

The next part of the meeting was information about nests and what species actually built and used nests.  Hopes of showing bees and wasps at the nest, and may be even a 3 Spined Stickleback  at his nest, had been dashed by all the cold wet weather.  However we did examine a hole in the ground where a wasp's nest had been!  Lined up along a net ride we also found an ant's nest.

Our second surprise was out on the reserve, so all bundled up off we set.  Smiles and amazement were seen on the children's faces as the owlet was brought from the nest box.  Tony explained that only licensed bird ringers were able to handle and ring birds.  He also talked about the breeding of the Tawny Owls.  This year there are young as well developed as this one but also some owls still sitting on eggs.  It was a very well behaved owlet as children and adults took its photograph before it was returned to its nest box.

Owlet being photographed

Thank you to everyone who helped make this a very special meeting.

In the afternoon Ann and Elizabeth went off to count Early Purple Orchids. They were on a sheltered south facing bank with a sparse canopy.  Ann spotted a butterfly hanging onto a Bluebell flower where it was photographed.  It was a male Orange Tip Butterfly, you can just see the orange through its folded wings.

Orange Tip Butterfly on a Bluebell flower

As the sun came out the temperature increased and several male Orange Tips were suddenly seen flying around; a female was spotted feeding from a Bluebell flower, whilst another was being chased by two males. 

There were 7 orchids amongst the other spring flowers.  Water Avens are just opening and will soon be in profusion along Risedale Beck.

Water Aven

 

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April Showers

Thursday, April 26th 2012

With all the rain over the last few days the weir has once again been transformed from a quiet trickle to a thundering torrent.

Washing over the Weir

The streams have also risen and in places are very close to bursting their banks.

After being cut earlier in the year there are plenty of fresh green shoots now showing and the reedbed is looking fabulous.

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Another Walk

Thursday, April 26th 2012

Ann, Ruth and Elizabeth set off to do the monthly flower walk this morning,  well prepared for the forthcoming heavy rain.  Their walk included the Scrapes, the Bullet Catcher Pond, net ride 52, Risedale Beck and after a warming cup of tea and a thaw in the Field Centre, the route continued to the wetland and across the moor, before returning for lunch and amazingly they remained dry.  The rain not starting to fall until after lunch.

Although concentrating on flowers, this Oak was observed and it was noted that it is coming into leaf before the Ash - in for a soak or a splash?

New Oak leaves

An area where Early Purple Orchids were known to grow was walked and several leaves were seen, some having spots and some not.  The flower spikes were quite small and few flowers were open.

Early Purple Orchid

On the banks of Risedale Beck spring flowers were abundant including some beautiful Early Purple Orchids in full flower.

Early Purple orchid in full flower

Around the reserve Primroses are setting seed, in full flower and some are still in bud.

Primroses

Crosswort was thought to be flowering early but the reference books record it in April

Crosswort

In all 36 plants were recorded in flower (including the Cowslip!) and the total seen during April comes to 39.

How many will be noted during May?

 

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A Walk in the Woods

Tuesday, April 24th 2012

Volunteers worked up in the woodland today and edged a path to make it easier for visitors to find their way around.

Path edging

Old cut logs left after the winter work were used to line a section of footpath.

Path edging 2

Two teams began at opposite ends of a 300m stretch of walkway.

path edging 3

By early afternoon, the teams met in the middle!

path edging 4

Hopefully, the trail will be easier to follow for new visitors and will prevent the woodland flowers from being trampled on.

woodland path

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Colours and Insects!

Monday, April 23rd 2012

Foxglove Covert is turning beautiful shades of green as the trees come into leaf.  Other colours can be spotted through the vegetation, primrose yellow, strawberry white and bluebell blue.  The purple of the Dog Violet lines many of the paths through the reserve.

Dog Violet

All of this vegetation provides food, homes and resting places for many, many bugs and insects.  However there are some that prefer man made structures.  These two insects were found on rails on the bridges.

Insect on bridge

 

Crane fly on bridge

The Field Centre also provides a good resting place, as shown by this moth.

Moth on Field Centre

Whilst insects were sunning themselves between the heavy rain showers this Cowslip was found just breaking its bud.  Not sure if this will make the observation board today as being 'in flower'!

Cowslip just bursting the bud

 

 

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Beavers and (Shield) Bugs

Sunday, April 22nd 2012

The Beaver Scouts left Northallerton in a hailstone storm but arrived at a dry Foxglove Covert.  Due to the cold, wet weather they were warned that they may not see very much - how wrong we were!  On the habitat walk they saw Alderflies, Orange Tip Butterflies, 7 Spot and Kidney Spot Ladybirds, greenfly and shield bugs.  Bug hunting revealed the usual large number of slugs but centipede, millipede, woodlice, earthworms and Ground Beetles were all recorded.  In the ponds tadpoles and 3 Spined Sticklebacks were caught and a newt spotted.

Visitors enjoyed walking around without getting wet, seeing the spring flowers covering the reserve and listening to the bird songs.

Bird Cherry has been in leaf for some time and is being attacked by insects.  In the last few days the flower buds have burst and the white blossom is showing amongst the bright green leaves.

Bird Cherry Flower

The shield bugs are beginning to emerge from hibernation.  Identification appears to be very easy when the reference books are consulted but the photographs that we take somehow do not always look like those in the books!  So this is a shield bug on a Raspberry leaf.  Identification may follow!!

Shiled bug

 

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Down by the Beck

Friday, April 20th 2012

Sadly, the recent rainfall has taken its toll on some of the wildlife such as the nesting Woodcock which lost its eggs during the recent downpour. Many other ground nesting birds such as Lapwing and Curlew will have lost their eggs too but it is hopefully early enough for them to lay a second brood. The water is flowing fast in Risedale Beck and may be having an affect on other birds such as the Dippers.

Risedale Beck

In this dipper nest above the beck, a Wren has taken up residence!

Wren's nest

Further along the path Jackdaws have made their nest in this Tawny Owl box.

Jackdaw nest

Wild Garlic, Primrose and Golden Saxifrage are growing alongside each other all along the banks.

Woodland flowers

Slowly but surely, the bluebells are beginning to flower.

Bluebells

Woodpeckers can be heard drumming and the first Orange-tip and Speckled Wood butterflies were spotted close to the beck today. A welcome sign that summer is on its way at last.

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Wet ‘n’ Wild

Wednesday, April 18th 2012

Pupils from Firthmoor Primary School braved the cold wet weather and visited the reserve today. After pond-dipping and bug hunting they enjoyed building dams with the series of purpose built metal gates in the beck (at least there was plenty of water to play with)!

The water was built up and then allowed to 'whoosh' away again.

Wet n Wild

Volunteers helped with summer maintenance jobs and Crakehall Ladies enjoyed a guided walk around the site.

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Valuable Volunteers

Tuesday, April 17th 2012

So far this year volunteers have contributed an amazing 734 days of work at Foxglove. Although there is no money involved if you multiply this figure by £50 it equates to £36,750 in monetary terms and really does make a huge difference to the reserve benefiting both wildlife and visitors alike.

Well earned break

Tasks carried out today included clearing away storm damage, stone picking to prepare the ground for the wild bird seed crop and removing tree protectors from young trees that had outgrown them. Thank you everyone yet again for helping us to tick off a few more jobs from the ever increasing list!

There are lots of events coming up in the next few weeks and some of them are fully booked already so it is well worth checking out the events section if you would like to take part in any of them. Finally, there are ground breeding birds on the reserve now and in order to protect them it is paramount that dogs are kept on their leads.

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Two Dales Gardening Club

Monday, April 16th 2012

Following a talk in Reeth, the 2 Dales Gardening Club (from Arkengarthdale and Swaledale) visited Foxglove for a guided walk. Many group members hadn't been to the reserve for several years and noticed a great deal of change.

2 Dales

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Early Birds

Monday, April 16th 2012

The Adopt-A-Box team were out early yesterday morning checking a few nest boxes to see how the season was shaping up and got a real surprise!  For Blue and Great Tits the nesting season starts with a one to two week period of nest building.  The nest platform is usually constructed out of moss and perhaps some dry grass and once a depth of a couple of inches is reached then the nest cup is shaped into the moss.  The nest cup is then lined with wool, feathers or hair to give a cosy lining before a random mix of similar material is spread across the top of the nest.  Eggs are laid at the rate of one a day and incubation does not start until the the clutch is almost complete.  For titmice at Foxglove egg laying usually takes from 6 to 10 days and in mid April it would be usual to find birds actively building nests and perhaps a few nests that were reaching the lined stage ready for eggs.  So imagine our surprise when we looked into one box and after carefully moving the top cover counted 5 eggs and in three more found 4 eggs!  This means that  these birds started laying on the 10th or 11th April and this is a good 4 or 5 days earlier than we have recorded in the recent past!

So what does this mean?  Well the season has got off to a really really early start and it remains to see whether the rest of the nesting pairs start egg laying quite soon or this develops into a very protracted egg laying season.  It also means that for those who have not signed up to Adopt-A-Box, time is running out for this year, so please contact the Reserve Managers to book your box!

 

...............and here are two nests I photographed earlier showing the covered and then the uncovered:

 

 

 

 

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A Beautiful Cold Day

Monday, April 16th 2012

A beautiful clear blue sky greeted the bird ringers this morning.

Blue sky and Blackthorn

Wearing coats, hats, scarves and gloves they hurried around the frosty reserve putting up the mist nets.

Frosted Nettle

During the day over 100 birds were processed including Chaffinches that were over 4 years old and a Bullfinch that was at least 6 years old.  Willow Warblers had been heard on the reserve for a week and the first ones were caught and ringed today, along with 8 birds returning to Foxglove from Africa which were ringed here in previous years.

The bird ringers also worked on some of the net rides in preparation for the beginning of CES. 

Thankfully the flowers and the trees have not been damaged too much by the frost.  Primroses, Wood Anemones, Blackthorn and the cherry blossom provide nectar and pollen for insects on the wing. Some flowers, like this Dog Violet, have honey guides to direct the insect to the nectary, and in doing so ensure the insect becomes covered in pollen.  When the insect visits another flower of the same species pollination is brought about and in time a seed will form.

Dog Violet showing honey guides

Many trees rely on wind pollination and have separate male and female flowers.  These catkins on the Silver Birch will soon be releasing their pollen.

Male catkins on Birch

You can see the sticky stigmas of the female flower (of the Birch) in the photograph below.  These catch the pollen and so by the end of the summer the seeds will be dispersed all over the reserve!

Female Silver Birch flower

The reserve was very busy with many new families and visitors, and it was nice to see the Woodcock still sitting tight while people passed by, oblivious, only a few metres from the nest.

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An Almost Winter Day!

Sunday, April 15th 2012

There were some beautiful skies to be seen during the day as the rain, sleet and hail showers past over the reserve.

Dark clouds

The cold weather did not prevent visitors enjoying walking around.  A group from the RSPB Conference in York, led by their Vice President Professor Sir John Lawton, had guided walks through the reserve and finished at the Field Centre for a welcome cup of tea.  Thank you to everyone who helped make this an enjoyable visit.

Warmth and sun are in short supply but the flowers are still in bloom and the trees are bursting their buds.  Around the reserve the white flowers of the cherry trees can be seen.  Their blossom is short lived and soon the petals will fall.

Cherry blossom

Some of the catkins on the willow trees suffered badly in the snow last week, but there are some just starting to flower.  If you look closely at this flower you can see the pollen on the stamens.  When it is warm both the hive bees and the bumble bees collect this pollen.

Willow flower

 

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Richmond Coffee Morning

Thursday, April 12th 2012

This morning was the first of two coffee mornings we hold each year at Richmond Town Hall to help raise funds for Foxglove.  Volunteers arrived at 8am to help set up the various stalls and prepare the coffee.

Jean and John Gabriel

Jean and John again ran the tombola for us and raised over £50.  A cake stall creaking under the weight of home baked goods raised us over £55, and sales of bird seed and second hand books raised us nearly £40.  Adding in the money raised from the coffee and raffle a total of £282 was raised.

This represents a fantastic effort from all those who helped us today; baking cakes, running stalls and encouraging people in from the market square.  Thank you again to all those involved, your help is greatly appreciated!

 

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Team Tuesday

Wednesday, April 11th 2012

Our dedicated team of volunteers turned out as usual this morning to help with tasks around the reserve.  Clearing and burning brash after the storms last week was first on the agenda.

 

The tree nursery also needed moving from the 'skid pan' in readiness for this area to be ploughed and sown with a winter bird seed mix.  This is an exciting project and will hopefully draw many birds into the reserve over the winter months (and maybe even some new species!)

The ground was much easier to dig in the new location and soon all the remaining trees were heeled into trenches, keeping them safe for planting at a later date.

John Andrews also spotted this Woodcock from a path, and with his long lens captured this brilliant image of an elusive species.

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Easter Trail and Dippers!

Monday, April 9th 2012

Families came and walked around the Easter Trail, answering questions, idenitfying plants and counting the Easter Eggs and rabbits hung on the trees around the trail.  These children found them all and received a little prize.

Child after completing the Easter Trail


Brothers after completing the Easter Trail

Elsewhere on the reserve the first Willow Warblers of the year were heard, a song that will become very familiar again over the summer months.  Down on Risedale Beck a pair of Grey Wagtails were seen and Buzzards were observed displaying over the conifer woodland.

The flowers have recovered from their coating of snow and Primrose, Wood Anemone, Dog Violet and Celandine continue to show their beautiful colours.

Rowan, Holly and Hawthorn flowers are all in bud whilst the Ash trees are in flower, as can be seen below.

Ash tree flowers

Each day there are more insects and bugs to be spotted, including juvenile harvestmen, spiders and a whole range of insects large and small.  Under the logs at the outdoor classroom were many, many slugs (22 under one log!!) and some very young and tiny woodlice.

Meanwhile the bird ringers were out and about locally ringing Dippers.  These birds have already built their nest and are rearing chicks.  The nest below had four young birds and with luck the adults will lay a second clutch.

Nest of Dippers

 

Dipper

This is the adult female from the nest above: in all 6 birds were ringed.

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Storm Damage

Friday, April 6th 2012

Although the wintery weather seems to have been replaced with blue skies, the stormy weather has left its mark on the reserve. Many sections of path were completely blocked this morning by the branches that were broken from trees during Tuesday night's storm. The damage was widespread and affected many different trees from small Hawthorn and Birch to large Willow and Scots Pine.

Tidy Up

Some of the branches were small enough to be removed with bow saws and loppers. However, most had to be cut with a chainsaw.

Clearing up storm damage

Thanks to Graham, Bethany, Brian and Tony who all gave up their spare time to clear away the damage, the paths are all passable once again.

Post storm tidy up

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What a Difference a Day Makes!

Wednesday, April 4th 2012

Some of the scenes that were pictured on yesterday's blog looked very different today. Last night heavy snowfall transformed the reserve once again into a winter wonderland. The paths that were repaired by volunteers were barely visible this morning.

Voley ponds in snow

The bonfire from the work party was well and truly out as you can see below!

Winter Scene

Every branch was cloaked with wet snow.

ASh in snow

It is too early to tell what effects this cold snap has had on the wildlife but it can't have been good for the frogspawn and toadspawn.

Scrapes in Snow

Whilst the conditions have made some beautiful sights...

Catkins in ice

they have also caused significant damage and sadly many trees have been lost to the stormy weather. This has created yet more work across the whole site as several trails are affected. Please take care when you visit whilst we endeavour to clear away the damage.

Storm damage

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Ladybird’s Eye View

Tuesday, April 3rd 2012

The light drizzle was appreciated by some of the wildlife today. Including this 7-Spot Ladybird...

Ladybird's eye view

and this Common Frog.

frog

The hollow Ash tree provided an opportunity for some creative photography.

Ash tree

Here is the Ladybird's eye view from the inside.

Inside the tree!

Volunteers were hard at work in the harsh weather conditions which deteriorated throughout the day (Snow began to fall late afternoon)!

Brash

Tasks completed include burning the last of the brash from the tree surgery, pruning back Blackthorn, re-filling the clay pads in the Mink rafts, footpath repair work and grant seeking. Thank you everyone!

 

Path work

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Birds and Flowers

Monday, April 2nd 2012

There was frost on the ground but the sun was shinning as the bird ringers put up the mist nets this morning.

Putting up the mist nets

The warmth during the day encouraged the bees to be active amongst the willow flowers.  Some Peacock butterflies were seen, whilst on the ponds Whirlygig Beetles were spinning around!  Frogspawn and toadspawn are now hatching and the adults no longer frequent the ponds.

Dog Violets are opening along the edges of the paths whilst in some of the more sheltered areas of the reserve Primrose and Wood Anemone grow in the same habitat but not often as close together as this.

Primrose and Wood Anemone

The Blackthorn near the middle moor path is just beginning to flower and soon the lichen encrusted branches will be hidden from view.

Blackthorn flower against lichen

Birds processed today included Reed Bunting, Song Thrush, Nuthatch, Chiffchaff and Lesser Redpoll, but as yet no Willow Warblers.  Some well-developed brood patches were evident on the early-breeding females indicating that egg laying had started in earnest.

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Strip The Willow!

Sunday, April 1st 2012

Members of the Compass Rose Ceilidh band tried their hand at stripping a different kind of willow today! Along with fifteen others they did some willow weaving and made Easter decorations from willow harvested at Foxglove.

Strip the willow

Not only was this a new event for Foxglove but it was the first time that children have taken part in this craft activity too and with some fantastic results. 

Willowtastic

One budding sculpturess was very young!

Helping hand

After a tea break and once everyone had made an Easter wreath, Adam gave a demonstration on how to make a willow dragonfly.

Dragonfly demo

In no time at all dragonflies began to decorate the classroom!

Willow Weaving

As well as wreaths and dragonflies, spheres, fish and even an obelisk were made!  Rosie got the prize for good attendance.

Easter Willow Weaving

All in all, a friendly fun afternoon. Thanks to everyone for your support and thanks to all who helped out with harvesting willow, making teas, washing up and clearing away at the end of the day.

Group Picture

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Eco Club Goes Hunting

Sunday, April 1st 2012

After the warm sunny weather of the last week or so, today's colder temperature didn't encourage many insects to be on the wing.   However there were plenty of bugs for Dr Key to hoover up from the depths of the heather and grass on the heathland, and around one of the pools suffering from the lack of recent rain.

Dr Key hoovering inssects from the heather

We returned to the classroom, and the contents of the hoovering was released into a large plastic paddling pool-like container.  The children were shown how to use pooters to collect all the tiny insects.  Those that could fly were caught first!

Pootering

Once several had been caught Dr Key identified them and added extra details.  A woodlouse that has a 'go faster' stipe, springtails that can spring away from danger, crab spiders who walk in a crab-like way and silverfish that are an insect and not quite an insect!

Checking the catch

After refreshments we went outside and were shown how to use a sweep net.  The children examined their catches.

Examining the catch

When all the hard work was finished there was a surprise for the children - hunt the Easter Egg organised by Shirley!

Easter Eggs found

It was a very enjoyable morning.  Thank you to Dr Key for organising this and thanks to everyone who helped.

 

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