(21) Blog Posts Made in February 2013

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Flower Walk

Thursday, February 28th 2013

Early Spring sun greeted all those who visited Foxglove today and was a welcome respite from the recent wintery conditions.  The wind was also low - perfect conditions for the ‘Flower Fairies’ monthly flower walk.

They spent the morning combing the reserve looking for any plant in flower.  Today Gorse, Hazel, Primrose and Daisy were all seen. 

This is half the number found at the same time last year; most likely due to the recent cold and snowy weather.

The contractors have been hard at work and have almost completed the path work on the moorland.  Felling of Silver Birch has also continued along the heathland edge, this is being done to help manage the heathland and control the invasive species volunteers spend time weeding out.

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The Green Gym

Wednesday, February 27th 2013

The top of the new plantation was the site for today's conservation task. Windblown trees that were recently felled were tidied away and new habitat piles were made with the logs. The fresh brash was burned on a fire whilst the old rotten wood from earlier forestry work and brambles were left as important wildlife refuges.

Wildlife habitat work

One volunteer carried a GPS with him and it calculated that throughout the day he covered no less than 5 miles. This goes to show that volunteering at Foxglove is a fantastic form of exercise. That is unless you eat too many cakes and biscuits! As you can see, Adam's chocolate cake was very popular! Thanks to Anne too for providing delicious spicy crisp biscuits.

Chocolate cake

Students from the Dales School helped out by feeding apple slices to the Water Voles on their walk through one of the wetland areas. These secretive mammals don't hibernate but they do keep a low profile during the winter months and are grateful of some extra food. Old apples are always in demand on the reserve for the Blackbirds and Water Voles so if you have any spare please bring them in and leave them in the kitchen.

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Diggers and Dumpers

Tuesday, February 26th 2013

Many of the footpaths have been severely damaged in the frequent storms and floods this winter with large sections continuously being washed out.  Volunteers have spent many days repairing these by barrowing in fresh stone and compacting it, only to find a couple of weeks later the same section had once again been gouged out.

Storm Damage

To try and address this problem more permanently contractors J. Bainbridge have been brought in to dig some new ditches and modify some of the pathways and bridges.  The new ditches will hopefully channel any flood water away from the paths minimising any damage.

New stone is being brought in so surfaces can be raised and re-laid, and also a few of the bridges replaced with more sturdy designs to better withstand the high flood water.

Hopefully the work will be finished quickly with minimal disruption to the reserve; if you are visiting please be aware of machinery operating along some of the pathways.

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A Day Full of Variety

Monday, February 25th 2013

An early morning walk through the Scrapes, head down looking for footprints to see who had been around during the night and of course not forgetting to check the ponds for frogs, a look up to ensure no tripping over steps and a flash of red was noticed, a Fox!  A very long distance photo shows that he was fully aware of our presence and possibly a little annoyed that he had been disturbed, hunting the pair of Mallard that flew up from the ponds near where he was standing.

Fox

The Foxglove Bodgers were in today and worked on a variety of tasks in the workshop.

Otley and York Dales Branch of the Dry Stone Walling Association were given a guided walk through parts of the reserve and were told about the history, flora and fauna of Foxglove.   The varied work of the volunteers was also mentioned.

Bluebell bank on the moor

A warm cup of tea awaited their return to the Field Centre.  They visited the ringing room and were told about the process and the importance of the data.  Goldfinches, Greenfinches and many Coal Tits along with Siskin and Lesser Redpoll were able to be seen close up.  This photograph shows a male Lesser Redpoll coming into its breeding plumage.

Male Lesser Redpoll

There have been several Brambling feeding in the back garden amongst the Chaffinches and this beautiful male was caught later in the afternoon.  They will soon be returning to their breeding grounds further north.

Brambling

All the birds that come through the ringing room are special, but sometimes one arrives that has a wow factor and so it was with the Kingfisher.  Adam's (I'Anson) name was drawn from the hat.  This bird had been ringed for the first time last year.  As it flew off the brilliant blue of its feathers were seen.

Kingfisher

By the end of the day 134 birds had been processed from just three nets which included 68 new birds.  Thank you to everyone who helped in the variety of activities today.

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Winter RETURNS AGAIN!

Sunday, February 24th 2013

A few days ago the question was posed 'Does the bank at the voley pond count as a hedge back?'  The answer is yes it does, as today there was yet more snow.  Foxglove was once again a winter wonderland.

Snow at Foxglove

Snow at Foxglove

It was the first meeting of Eco Club this year and we were looking at nest boxes.  The duck raft was examined and then we went through the Scrapes (still checking the ponds for frog activity as this is the day they return!) to the lake to see where it was going to be placed.  Yet more snow scenes could be viewed from the hide.  Mallard and Moorhen were seen.

On our way back to the workshop a new method of clearing the snow from the paths was carried out.

Clearing the paths!

Back at the workshop, the children set about putting together their nest boxes.  They worked really hard and learnt new skills along the way.  A huge thank you to Colin who made and prepared all the boxes. 

making the nest box

making the nest box

Thank you to everyone who helped today.

And finally, somewhere under the snow, there are still flowers of Blackthorn!

Blackthorn flower buds under the snow

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Another Cold Day

Saturday, February 23rd 2013

The temperature was hovering around zero this morning and there was a coating of ice on some of the ponds.  These are the ponds where the frogs can be heard and seen first. Instructions to search all the ponds for the first frog were followed, to no avail! 

ice on the pond

Plants are showing signs that Spring may be on its way.  In amongst all the lichens the tiny flower buds can be seen on the Blackthorn.

Blackthorn flower buds in amongst the lichens

This bud on the willow has just broken enough to show the furry catkin.

Pussy willow catkin

The race is on to see who will find the first frog - wonder if this tiny newt will count?  It is, after all an amphibian!  It was found under a log and after a quick photograph was placed back there.  This tiny creature will not return to the ponds to breed for a few years, as it is not yet one year old.

A tiny newt

Also found under a log was this beautiful nest belonging to a mouse or vole.

Mouse or vole nest

About 4pm all was quiet in the back garden and by the kitchen window, when suddenly there was a flurry of activity as seven Long Tailed Tits dropped in to feed from the newly filled feeders. They fluttered, flew, hopped and jumped between the nuts, seed and fat, staying for just a few minutes before disappearing!

Long Tailed Tits feeding

The day had been dark and bitterly cold with a suspicion of snow at times, but by late afternoon there was some blue sky! (It was still bitterly cold!)

Blue Sky

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Ready for Launch!

Friday, February 22nd 2013

The Thursday Team spent the day in the workshop finishing off building the new duck raft for the lake.  A design was finally agreed and empty barrels were bolted onto the bottom of the structure to aid boyancy.

By the middle of the afternoon all nine were fixed in place.  A small ramp onto the raft was also built so birds can easily access the platform from the water.

With construction now completed the launch date has been set for next Thursday!

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Preparing for Spring

Wednesday, February 20th 2013

Flowers are once again starting to appear on the reserve as we get closer to Spring.  Primroses have been seen down by the lake, Gorse flowers are out on the moor, and Daisies along Risedale Beck.  Coltsfoot should soon be seen here too.  Bright pink Hazel flowers are now bursting from their buds and can be seen all around Foxglove.

Adam spent the day strimming the Sedge Warbler patch to remove the invasive willow.  The orchid banks will also be cut tomorrow to remove the coarse grasses and allow the flowers to flourish.

Elizabeth snapped this picture of a male Great Spotted Woodpecker perched high up in the branches; these have been heard drumming over the past couple of days.  Once again the cold weather has brought many of the birds back to the feeders so it is a good time to come and watch them from the hides or Field Centre.

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A Day in the Woods

Wednesday, February 20th 2013

Seventeen volunteers headed up into the woodland this morning to continue clearing out diseased Sycamore and thining under an area of conifer.

Everyone worked hard and enjoyed being out in the early Spring sunshine. 

Much of the timber was put to good use marking out a section of trail to help guide visitors around the woodland.

Thanks again to everyone who helped out and to Ann who baked some delicious flap jacks!

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Another Sunny Day!

Monday, February 18th 2013

During  their walk to complete the weekly jobs Michaela and Brian spotted a Hazel tree in the sunshine, covered in catkins.  On closer inspection they found the tiny red female flowers also out.  Another tree covered in catkins is this Alder tree.  We know it is not "our" Alder species.  It has been checked, examined and compared to books various, whilst in bud and leaf and the best identification we can achieve is that it may be Italian Alder.   Watch this space if we can get a positive ID.

Possibly Italian Alder

The male catkins are obvious.  The female flowers are the tiny brown structures behind the catkins.

Whilst surfing the net for help with ID, information was gleaned that Alders are able to fix nitrogen from the air in their root nodules.  These nodules can be quite large, unlike those of the family Fabaceae (Pea Family - including vetches and clovers) which are small.  The ability to fix nitrogen, enriches the soil so providing extra nutrients for other plants.

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Sunshine!

Sunday, February 17th 2013

Sunshine, blue sky and slightly higher temperatures over the last two days have made it feel like Spring is on its way!  A Primrose was seen nearly open, Moorhens were feeding in the wetland ponds and a pair of Mallard on the Lake.  The Kingfisher was seen too.  The Great Spotted Woodpeckers were drumming.

The back garden is still full of birds taking advantage of the food, including Lesser Redpoll, Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Brambling.  Pieces of apple have been put out for the Blackbirds and they were seen carrying them off.

Washing up is a pleasure when Reed Bunting, Long Tailed Tits, Greenfinch, Dunnock and Robin can all be viewed through the window.

Robin

When it is sunny and slightly warmer walk through the Scrapes and stop at the pond dipping platforms and rails. Look in the ponds and a hidden world can be revealed.  Sticklebacks are swimming, whilst pond snails and caddis larvae can be seen moving across the mud.  Whirligig Beetles are beginning to venture out and can be seen moving very quickly across the surface of the ponds.  They breath by collecting a bubble of air at the end of their abdomen.  Although this photo is not very clear you can see the air bubble.

Whirigig beetle with air bubble.

The saying goes that when snow is left in the hedge backs more is to come. Does this area around the voley ponds count as a hedge back?

Snow at Voley ponds

 

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New Reed Bed

Thursday, February 14th 2013

Team Thursday began  the day by varnishing parts of the duck raft.

Duck raft

The group then headed down to the lake to plant some reeds.

Heading out

It was soon realised that the volunteers were not the only animals to have travelled this route since the last fall of snow!

Badger footprints

Badger tracks were followed for quite a way. The prints were very clear and seemed to be from two different animals, a large one and a smaller one!

Badger prints

Once at the water, the areas to be planted with Phragmites were measured out.

Measuring up

The group worked in pairs to plant four rows of reeds along the sections of the bank.

Planting Reeds

The plant plugs were heeled in well to prevent them from floating away! The new reed beds will provide some shelter for the water birds over the coming summer months when they start to grow tall and spread along the shore.

Reed Planting

In total 1000 reed plugs were planted!

Reed planting

In amongst them was this striking raft spider. Dolomedes fimbriatus, is a European spider of the family Pisauridae. It is one of the two largest spiders in the United Kingdom. Like other Dolomedes spiders it hunts by running on the surface of water, and can submerge altogether to hide from predators.

Raft spider

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More Snow!

Thursday, February 14th 2013

Once again Foxglove has been transformed into a winter wonderland.

Snow has fallen throughout the day, in places several inches now cover the ground.  The dead hedge built yesterday by the volunteers was shown off to its best, dusted white with heavy snowflakes.

This however, did not stop the work.  Chainsaws burst into life as we continued pollarding along net rides bordering the coppice block that has been cleared over the winter months.

Net rides are managed in this way to keep vegetation at a similar height to the mist nets used for bird ringing, allowing for more birds to be caught.

While the area may look very bare now, in only a few months the warm spring sun will be shining, and the willows alive with new growth.

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Fedging Your Bets!

Tuesday, February 12th 2013

Brash left over from forestry work was put to good use rather than put on the bonfire. The Tuesday volunteers used it to improve a nearby dead hedge or 'fedge'!

Winter Work

The Silver Birch branches lend themselves beautifully to these structures and some cut Hazel from previous work was used as stakes.

Hazel brash

Not only does this make a stunning feature, it will also provide a perfect habitat for some of the woodland birds such as Robin and Wren.

Dead Hedging

At coffee time, a 'Great Brownie Bake Off' took place as the volunteers judged Sophie and Adam's homemade chocolate brownies!

Brownie Competition

The volunteers were very diplomatic and declared 'eachy peachy' as the results although Anne's famous chocolate whisky cake was also a winner!

Brownie Bake off

Thank you to all involved today and watch this space for next week's bake off (what have we started)? which is going to be a 'flapjack competition'!

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A Soggy Day!

Monday, February 11th 2013

Although the weather is so cold and wet and snowy things are stirring.  Honeysuckle buds have burst and the first leaves are showing bright green.  Most usually have accompanying droplets of water!

Honeysuckle buds

Flower buds can be seen on the male Holly trees.

Flower buds are the male Holly tree.

The bird ringers were in this morning and over 100 birds were processed from just two nets in the back garden.   This reflects the number of birds coming to the reserve to feed during the bad weather.  There were over 40 new birds ringed, including Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Brambling, Coal Tits, Blue Tits and Great Tits. 

The ringing room

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Second Snow Bunting Session

Saturday, February 9th 2013

A second training opportunity to catch and ring Snow Bunting was offered to the Foxgove bird ringers by the Tees Ringing Group.

Cheeky Snobu

Pictured here is a juvenile female. There are two races of this species and this one is an Icelandic bird (insulae), this is evident by the slightly darker plumage and darker primary-coverts. Thank you to the members of the Tees Ringing Group for sharing this wonderful training opportunity.

Glennis and Pat have been hard at work once again and made a Grand Easter Cryptic Word Quiz! Quiz sheets are available from the Field Centre for £1 each. The answers are all moth and butterfly names. The closing date for entries is Friday March 29th. Answers will be posted here one week later (April 5th). Entries can be returned to the Field Centre in person or sent by post or email to the addresses on the sheet. There is a prize for the most correct answers. In the event of more than one winner, all the successful names will be put into a hat and one winner will be drawn for the prize. Good luck, may the best puzzle-solving lepidopterist win!

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Winter Wetland Work

Friday, February 8th 2013

As the wind had dropped since yesterday we decided that it was a good idea to finish the work up on the Wetland.  Gorse was strimmed, raked and burned during the day.  It is important to remove this invasive plant from the bunds as the roots can create holes and leaks between pools.

It was no surprise that a leak was found between two of the ponds, some time was spent this afternoon fixing this problem.  The final winter job here is to check the dams and make sure they are repaired where necessary to ensure the water levels are maintained at the optimum levels for wildlife. 

With all this complete, the Wetland is now ready for wading birds to return in the spring.  Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard on this important habitat.

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Managing the Mosaic

Wednesday, February 6th 2013

Foxglove Covert is well known for it's mosaic of habitats. These are very labour intensive and far more difficult to manage than one large habitat of woodland for example. This makes for varied work! Yesterday the team was up in the woodland, today it was out on the wetland! Gorse and rushes were cut with a brushcutter to make the pond margins more welcoming to wading birds.

Strimming the Gorse

The bitter northerly winds provided a challenging environment for raking up cut vegetation!

Raking about

The wetland is a complicated system with seven different water levels. These are managed by a series of inflow pipes and dams which also require maintenance work. Pipes were unblocked and dams checked to ensure that the water levels are optimum for the wildlife.

Wetland

Spring is on the way and before we know it Snipe will be heard drumming over these pools!

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Winter Woodland Work

Wednesday, February 6th 2013

Wintery showers didn't deter the Foxglove mid-week volunteers who helped out with important woodland management. More of the diseased Sycamore trees were felled to open up an area ready for re-planting.

Cheeky Squirrels

A bonfire was welcome to keep spirits up in the freezing conditions!

Winter work

Students from the Dales School assisted by dragging brash in the blizzards!

DRagging brash

Thanks to all involved (and to Janet for providing entertainment)! and a quick reminder that the AGM is on Saturday at 12.45pm in the Field Centre, please book a place if you would like to attend. We hope to see you there!

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February Work Day

Sunday, February 3rd 2013

Fifty eight eager volunteers turned out this morning to help with conservation work on the reserve.  They were split into three teams - The Squirrels were working in the woodland clearing out Sycamore trees.

The Squirrels

The trees here have been damaged by Grey Squirrels and are going to be replaced with native hardwoods.

The Goldcrests found themselves at the top of the conifer plantation clearing brash from wind-blown Sitka Spruce.

Soon the fire was roaring and some impressive habitat piles were constructed out of the larger logs.

Ann cleared out a pond that had been filled with brash, and has obviously been taking tips from Tom Daley!

A group of cadets from the Yarm Detachment of the Cleveland Army Cadet Force were also here to help out, and with some of our regular vounteers made up the Mudsnail Team.

They spent the day coppicing Hazel along the bank above Risedale Beck.

Thank you to everyone who came in to lend a hand, you must have worked harder than normal as for the first time ever all of the curry at lunch was finished!

 

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Many Hands Make Light Work

Friday, February 1st 2013

A group of five soliders from the Queen's Division at the Infantry Training Centre came along to lend a hand in the woodland.  They spent the day helping to remove some diseased Sycamore trees in preparation for the area to be replanted later this year.

The regular Thursday volunteers were hard at work in the workshop building a duck nesting raft.  We are hoping that this will be finished and then floated out onto the lake next week.

Pond maintenance work along Risedale Beck and through the Scrapes is being carried out tomorrow so please be aware of this if you are visiting.

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