(21) Blog Posts Made in March 2013

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Birds

Saturday, March 30th 2013

The back garden is still very busy with birds feeding. 

Birds on the feeder

Dunnocks are not agile like the tit family and they have to wait patienly on the ground for pieces of food to fall.

Dunnock

Some of the birds feeding are 'ours', some are passing through.  We received information from the BTO, about a Siskin that was ringed in Foxglove, as a youngster, in July 2011 and was caught elsewhere in a mist net in February 2013.  No surprise that it was caught again in a mist net, but the mist net was 377km NNW of Foxglove!  Not a short journey for a small bird, weighing in at about 13g.

We also heard that summer migrants, including Chiffchaff and Wheatear, have been seen on the south coast.  Chiffchaffs are already two weeks late arriving in Foxglove.  The cold weather will have to release its grip before many of these birds head north.

More worrying is the news of a 'Puffin Wreck' on the east coast.  Bird watchers are reporting dead Puffins washed up on shore.  Many of these birds were in very poor condition with little body fat.  It is suspected that the severe weather has prevented the Puffins, quite a hardy species, from feeding.  What impact this will have on the breeding populations at Cape Wrath will be reported later in the year when the ringers head north.

Visitors new to the reserve, were welcomed into the ringing room and were able to see the birds close up and were amazed at their beauty.  Under supervision they were allowed to release some of the birds and it is an experience they will not forget.

This male Bullfinch sat quietly to be photographed before flying off strongly when released.  You can see the short strong beak that is excellent for nipping off the buds of fruit trees.

Male Bullfinch

Another colourful bird to pass through the ringing room was this Goldfinch.  These birds eat seeds and so their beak is longer and finer.

Goldfinch

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Nestboxes

Friday, March 29th 2013

Garth and Adam spent the morning checking the condition of the nestboxes around the reserve before the breeding season begins.  Several had to be replaced as some of the panels had become rotten over time.  Only a few are still left to check and as soon as the weather breaks birds will be prospecting for nesting sites.

Hutch, one of our regular visitors was lucky enough to get some fantastic pictures of the Kingfisher fishing down on the lake.

Also seen today were Roe Deer, a Fox on the access track and a flock of Crossbills feeding in the conifers by the lake.

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Glad to be Inside

Thursday, March 28th 2013

There is a huge variety of work done here by volunteers, both outdoors and indoors.  Several volunteers came in today to help and were glad of this indoors work to escape the unseasonal weather. 

Tony helped us out by doing his monthly stock check of all the shop items.

Ann, Ruth and Elizabeth spent the day in the classroom preparing activity sheets and displays for children during the Easter Holidays.

Thank you to all of our volunteers who work so hard to keep the place running smoothly!

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Team Tuesday

Wednesday, March 27th 2013

Once again snow was falling as the volunteers arrived at Foxglove. 

Thirteen volunteers turned out in pretty miserable conditions to help clear the felled brash in the new orchard area.  Everyone was glad that there was a good bonfire to help keep us warm.  Preparations for the two orchards are now complete; as soon as there is a break in the weather the fruit trees will be planted.

Brian and John helped to top up the feeders and hoppers this afternoon.  Birds are finding it hard during this prolonged cold snap and were coming into feed before we had even left the feeding stations.  Good numbers of Brambling, Siskin, and Lesser Redpoll were seen in the back garden today, amongst other sightings of Buzzards, Snipe and Marsh Tit from around the reserve.

While it might still be cold and feeling very much like Winter, there are signs of Spring still just visible.  Hazel flowers were seen out along some of the net rides as the feeders were filled.  Let's hope they are here to usher in some warm Spring weather!

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Snow Continues!

Saturday, March 23rd 2013

Snow is loathe to thaw on tree branches and these bracket fungi.

Snow on bracket fungi

 Although a relatively small area to land on, the snow was sticking fast to this lichen.

Lichen with snow

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Snow Fun Anymore!

Saturday, March 23rd 2013

In the lull between the snow volunteers were able to continue with tree planting yesterday.

Tree planting

Although a tedious task it is a rewarding one and in a few years time this patch of woodland will be a valuable resource for the reserve providing both food and a habitat for the wildlife.

Planting Trees

Today however, the weather took a turn for the worse and even the contractors admitted defeat and had to call it a day!

Digger

The frogs had started to breed during the sunny days at the start of the month. Most of their frogspawn has now perished due to frost and this poor frog was seen this morning making its way to a pond. Fingers crossed for some better weather soon.

Poor Frog!

On a lighter note, the back garden is still full of birds who were waiting for the feeders to be filled this morning.  Brambling are still here fattening up before heading back to their breeding grounds and are a real delight to watch feeding alongside the Chaffinch, Siskin and Lesser Redpoll.

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Playing in the Mud!

Thursday, March 21st 2013

With the ground saturated, we are finding several old drains that have become filled in over time.  This leads to localised flooding on some of the paths and to avoid damage to these we have to routinely clear the network of drains and pipes.

Clearing these can sometimes result in floods in other areas as water makes its way across the ground.  On Monday the contractors cleared a pipe and drain near the new orchard area.  Unfortunately this sent the water into one of the net rides which by Tuesday lunchtime was underwater!

A series of drains and new pipes were put in to divert the water into one of the existing ponds.  We are hoping that this will also improve the area where the fruit trees are going to be planted.

By the end of the day this work was complete and there was already an improvement in the net ride.

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Tree Planting

Wednesday, March 20th 2013

With the felling work along the Sycamore block now finished the re-planting has finally begun! Twelve volunteers started the day by carrying the 340 trees, stakes and tubes up into the woodland.

The area is being replanted with a mix of native trees, including Sessile Oak, Alder Buckthorn and Bird Cherry.

The recent bad weather has put us behind schedule with the planting work; inspite of the snow, the ground underneath was not frozen so we could start getting the trees in.

Students from the Dales School came up at lunchtime to work with our volunteers and plant their own tree.

Everyone worked flat out, altogether over 250 trees were planted during the day.  This hard work has allowed us to catch up a bit and the end of the winter work is now in sight!

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Buzzards

Tuesday, March 19th 2013

Two adult Buzzards, a male and a female, were caught and ringed here today.  This was a rare and exciting opportunity to see and handle these birds as adults as they are most commonly ringed as chicks while still in the nest.

The pair have been regularly seen soaring in the sky above Foxglove, a sign that they could be using the reserve as their nesting territory.

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Men at Work!

Saturday, March 16th 2013

Staff from J W Bainbridge have now completed the work on the bridges around the easy access route. This trail is now fully open again.

Bridge Builders

The new bridges are already blending into the surroundings.

New Bridge

Final adjustments were made to the pond dipping platforms by staff from Playscheme Ltd in preparation for the busy summer school term.

Pond dipping platform

Colin's new peanut feeder was installed close to the lake and along with the other bird feeders was filled up to provide the best chance of seeing wild birds from the hides over the coming weekend.

New Bird Feeder

Students from local schools helped to clear one of the proposed orchard areas too. All of this work both paid and voluntary is hugely appreciated.

The back garden is still teeming with Chaffinch, Brambling, Blackbird, Lesser Redpoll and Siskin to name but a few. Frogs were back in the ponds during the sunny spells making up for lost time over the recent wintery days!

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Winter Continues

Thursday, March 14th 2013

Last year at this time, warm temperatures were recorded, today they struggled to reach six and when the hail arrived the temperature dropped! In this cold weather it is important that birds feed well and judging by the way the feeders are emptying they are doing just that. Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Reed Bunting, Goldfinch, Blackbird, Greenfinch and Brambling were amongst those seen in the back garden feeding. 

Just as importantly, is keeping plumage in pristine condition. This Blue Tit stopped feeding to preen. During cold nights, air trapped between their feathers acts as insulation, so helping to prevent them losing body heat.

Preening Blue Tit

Where the warmth of the sun had reached the ground, snow had melted but there were plenty places that were still white.

Snow in the woodland

Snow had also remained firmly attached to tree trunks!

Snow on Ash tree trunk

Flowers are in short supply, or perhaps we are just being very impatient for Spring to arrive properly!  However lichens are thriving and producing their fruiting bodies, despite the cold.

Lichens with fruiting bodies

Lichens with fruiting bodies

 

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Winter Work Continues

Tuesday, March 12th 2013

Snow blizzards hampered some of the work outside on the reserve yesterday.

Blizzard

Contractors worked out in the harsh conditions to repair and replace old damaged bridges on the easy access trail. In between the wintery showers they were able to make good progress.

Sawing Wood

So far two bridges have been completed and a third is well underway.

Contractors

Please take care if you are visiting as some sections may be difficult to pass.

Repair work

Below you can see one of the finished bridges.

New Bridge

Sitting out in the bitter cold wind this Pheasant seemed rather envious of the warm conditions inside the office!

Pheasant

In sharp contrast to yesterday's weather, the sky was bright blue today. The task for the mid-week volunteers was to clear an area of scrub so that it can be planted up as an orchard with apple, plum and pear trees.

Before

The group set to work and by mid morning most of the brash had been piled up ready for the bonfire.

During

Here is the same area at the end of the day. Watch this space as over the next few weeks it is re-planted with native fruit trees to benefit the wildlife.

After

As usual a great deal of effort was put into the day and everyone enjoyed a well earned break before going home (some more than others)!

Sleepy Volunteer!

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Records

Sunday, March 10th 2013

Comparing photographs taken this week with those from around this time last year illustrates well how our weather is never the same two years running.  Last year Primroses were visible on many areas of the reserve but this week they could only be seen near the lake with one flower in a very sheltered spot on the moor.  Coltsfoot was also much in evidence by early March.

2011 saw this Red Dead Nettle in flower

Red Dead Nettle

Frogs are back and spawning furiously but as yet no sign of the toads.  The photograph below was taken on the 11th March 2012.  In 2011 the first photograph of a toad was taken on the 16th March.

Toad

Feeders are still attracting many birds to the back garden and yesterday a Yellowhammer dropped in.  It is 15 years since the last one was recorded.  When the winter seed crop was planted it was hoped that these birds would feed more regularly on the reserve but unfortunately Roe Deer got to the crop first! 

Last week Fieldfare and Redwing were seen in the stubble but it is unlikely they would find much food.  Perhaps they were already heading north!.

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Thursday Bodgers

Saturday, March 9th 2013

The 'Thursday Bodgers' from Richmond have spent several afternoons over the past month building a rustic gate under guidance from Chris.

The group has learned many new skills and have had a lot of fun!  Yesterday the final nails were put in place and the gate completed - it will soon be going to its new home in the woodland.

The group also spent time planting a Bird Cherry sapling in memory of their colleague Sharon.

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From Fog to Frog

Thursday, March 7th 2013

The lake was shrouded in mist this morning and as you can see the Mallard have been prospecting the duck raft!

Fog

The number of birds on the lake is slowly increasing as the vegetation returns after the re-profiling work that was carried out two years ago as part of the Higher Level Stewardship scheme.

Mallard

The final (honest)! pollarding along the net rides was completed and Silver Birch and willow were cut back to encourage new growth. The fire needed a few magic puffs of dragon breath to get it going!

Dragon Breath!

The fire was soon roaring and the smoke billowed away.

Fire

Over the winter months routine pond maintenance was carried out and a new pond was created close to the main path.

New pond

The work party didn't disturb the frog population who were competing with the chainsaw in terms of noise!

Frogs and Fire

As you can see below there is already a lot of frog spawn.

Frogspawn

The frogs were very inquisitive and popped their heads up to see who was taking their photographs!

Frogs

Several of them were very brightly coloured. They are Common Frogs but just happen to be red!

Red Frog

Something else unusual was spotted today, four men in the kitchen doing the washing up!

Rare Sighting

 

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A Typical Day

Wednesday, March 6th 2013

One of the most frequently asked questions of the Reserve Managers is "What is a typical day"? The answer is there is no such thing! Planning the week's work at Foxglove is extremely difficult as there are so many different influencing factors including the weather and the amount of help to hand. Here is a glimpse of 'a day in the life' at the reserve! The main task for the day was postponed as the weather was bitterly cold in sharp contrast to the spring sunshine reported on the last blog post. Instead of completing tasks on the exposed wetland, the hedge at the front of the Field Centre was worked on. This involved harvesting willow stems and carrying them back to the centre.

willow harvest

Adam then wove them into the hedge.

Weaving

The handywork was admired by the students from the Dales School as they set off on their springtime stroll to look out for frogs in the scrapes area.

Winter walk

Colin also inspected the new structure as he called by to collect some wire to use in the construction of some new large peanut feeders.

Collecting wire

Meanwhile, Adam was multi tasking down near the lake! He was tidying the coppiced willow stools and checking the duck trap to see if there were any ducks to be ringed!

Stumping up

Back in the warmth of the Field Centre, Elizabeth and Ruth were hard at work creating bright new displays for visitors to enjoy.

Flower Fairies

2000 new reeds were delivered and stored ready to be planted on the wetland next week and contractors continued to work on the bridges on the wheelchair friendly trail. Just another 'quiet' day at the Local Nature Reserve!

And finally, later this afternoon Adam's 'fedge' was finished.  It looks so good!

Adam's fedge

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Mission Accomplished!

Wednesday, March 6th 2013

The felling of diseased Sycamore along the top of the woodland was completed today in glorious Spring sunshine.

This work has been ongoing for the last few months and it is good to finally cross it off the to-do list!

The area is now ready to be replanted with a mix of native species such as Rowan, Hazel and Crab Apple.  Some of the volunteers also finished pegging down the logs lining the path.

The contractors are also making good progress; all of the work on the moorland is now finished and the first of the new bridges on the red route is now under construction.

From the kitchen window visitors have enjoyed watching a huge variety of bird species frequenting the feeders.  If you are interested in learning how to identify some of these garden birds why not join us during the Easter holidays for one of our birdwatching sessions.  All the details are on the events page.

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Another Busy Day

Monday, March 4th 2013

A walk around the reserve first thing this morning revealed a hidden corner of Foxglove Covert.

A hidden corner of Foxglove

Birds were singing and the Great Spotted Woodpeckers were drumming.  Having only caught one or two of these birds over the last few sessions, today there were several. Tony explained how they would be coming back in to the reserve to set up their territories ready for breeding.  A Green Woodpecker was also heard calling loudly.

The bird ringers were kept busy extracting birds from the nets.

Bird ringers taking birds from the nets

We had an early insight into the breeding season, as these Blue Tits showed off their nest!

Cake with Blue Tit nest!

Happy Birthday Eleanor!  The cake was delicious!

Eleanor cutting her cake

Visitors often ask why we ring birds.  One of the reasons is to find out about the birds longevity.  Today there were several birds over three years old.  However the 'winner' was a Coal Tit, weighing in at less than 10g, who was hatched in spring 2005, making it nearly eight years old.

A five year old Willow Tit was also caught.  These birds are in serious decline due to loss of habitat.  They like to live in willow carr and nest in cracks in the bark of older trees.  No young were ringed at Foxglove last summer.

Willow Tit

Many visitors, young and not quite so young, experienced the birds close up and under supervision were allowed to release them.  Over 200 birds were processed today including many Brambling, Siskin and Lesser Redpoll - a very respectable total for 9 trainees! 

Thank you very much to everyone who worked so hard today.

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Final Winter Worky Day of the Season

Sunday, March 3rd 2013

With nesting time just around the corner the winter worky days are coming to an end. A record number of volunteers attended the final Saturday session of the season and set to work clearing the brash from the felled Sycamores.

Before Photo

Volunteers used bow saws and loppers to cut up the brash into smaller pieces to feed the fire.

Clearing Brash

The perimeter fence was cleared of branches too.

Clearing along the fence

This Seven Spot Ladybird was found amongst some of the mossy branches in the log pile.

Ladybird

Adam attacked some of the larger logs with the chainsaw.

Woodland Work

The team worked hard to grade the brash. Smaller branches were taken to the fire.....

Bonfire

whilst larger pieces of timber were used to line the edges of the woodland path.

Path edging

Pegs were made from the medium sized branches and used to hold the 'rustic' edges in place.

Hammer Time!

The younger members of the work party enjoyed knocking the pegs into place with hammers.

Fixing the pegs

By the end of the day the path looked fantastic.

After

The photo below is the same view that was shown on yesterday's blog post. What a difference!

Mission Complete

Thank you so much to all of the volunteers who have given up several of their winter Saturdays. Your efforts will directly benefit wildlife and visitors alike over the coming summer months.

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Tomorrow’s Task

Friday, March 1st 2013

Worky Day Preparation

In preparation for the last weekend winter worky day, Adam and Sophie felled more diseased Sycamore trees at the top of the woodland. The volunteers who are due in tomorrow will be able to help complete this woodland management task.

Worky Day Jobs

Fingers crossed for another sunny day!

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Duck Raft Day

Friday, March 1st 2013

Final adjustments were made to bolts, and the ramp attached once the duck raft was lifted onto the trailer to begin its journey down to the lake.

Final Preperations

Volunteers followed behind helping to support the raft up and down the steep inclines as it was slowly driven down to the water's edge.

The anchors were attached before lowering it off the trailer.

Once on the ground the raft was slid down the slope where it was gingerly placed into the water.

Much to everyone’s relief it floated!

It Floats!

Wood chippings were added to the base to provide a surface to nest on.

The raft was then guided along the bank through the thin covering of ice (several bad Titanic jokes were made) to the rough position we had planned for it.

The anchor was then lowered to the bottom of the lake, which had to be done from the raft itself! Final adjustments were then made to its position and it was secured to the side.

The duck raft looks great sitting in the water and can be seen easily from the hides.

Thank you to everyone who has helped with this project, fingers crossed the ducks will like it and build their nest here.

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