(23) Blog Posts Made in December 2013

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All Change!

Tuesday, December 31st 2013

This morning it was wet.

Rain drops on the pond

By lunch time there were beautiful blue skies, but rather cold.

Beautiful blue skies

Within a very short time the wind had strengthened and there were little white horses on the lake!

White horses on the lake

Needless to say the resident Moorhens and Mallard were keeping a very low profile.  However on approaching the feeders Siskin were spotted.  A quick click with the camera, through the moving branches yielded a not brilliant photograph, but the colour and patterns can be seen on this beautiful bird.  A few steps further along the boardwalk to get a better view was just too close for comfort.

Siskin on the feeder

Walking along to the bridge there are two large Holly trees.  There was something different about them.  They were green.

Holly tree by lake

On the 19th December they were covered with red berries.

Holly tree with red berries

It is unlikely that they have all been blown off even in the strong winds that we have had.  Blackbirds,  Fieldfares and Redwings have been having a feast. 

Until the weather settles down there is unlikely to be any ringing to try to catch some of these winter migrants.  Another Brambling was seen on the feeders in a net ride. 

A female Sparrowhawk flew through the back garden and scattered all the smaller birds.  Great Spotted Woodpeckers are feeding from the fat containers and the Long Tailed Tits are also visitors.

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Flowers - Not Winter Ones!

Sunday, December 29th 2013

It is coming up to the end of the month when the flower walk takes place.  We don't think that it will take very long!  Not even sure if we will need a clipboard and paper.  It is also, by this time that we are beginning to need a change from the browns and greys of winter, so let us go back to the height of summer.

The ponds in the Scrapes were full of Greater Spearwort.   They were in flower for much longer than normal.  Recent storms have meant that the last one still in flower has not survived to the December flower list!

Greater Spearwort

As you walk around the reserve you will notice Honeysuckle has burst its buds.  The leaves survive the rain, wind and frosts and slowly increase in size during the spring.  Honeysuckle does not flower until the summer.  It provides nectar for moths and other insects.  Not too many animals enjoy the red fruits.

Honeysuckle

Teasels have grown well this year and provided many insects with food.  Goldfinches have feasted on the seeds and some insects find hibernation sites within the prickly seed heads.

Common Centaury did not flower well this summer.

Common Centaury

Red Bartsia flourished and was found in several places around the reserve.

Red Bartsia

And finally for no other reason than it is a beautiful flower - Grass of Parnassus.

Grass of Parnassus

 

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Data

Saturday, December 28th 2013

Spring sees chicks ringed in nest boxes, then it is the beginning of CES. The visit to Cape Wrath takes place in summer and this is followed by the remaining CES days.  Ringing, dependent on the weather, continues through to winter.  But autumn and winter also see the beginning of inputting all the bird ringing data into IPMR, the data handling programme, used by the BTO.

It was wet and windy today at Foxglove, with the pressure reading 976mb, so it was a good day to stay indoors and input data.  The last of the Meadow Pipit information was was entered.  Strong winds at the Crater meant we did not visit as often as we would have liked.  However we did ring over 800 Meadow Pipits, most of these being new birds.  Few other sites, if any, ring this number of Meadow Pipits.

Meadow Pipit

Cape Wrath data was also inputted and there were two Fulmars aged 16 years and one aged 18 years.  A Guillemot retrapped this year was 13 years old.

Guillemot

The weekly moth data is being entered into the Species Programme and it has highlighted certain moths.  Flounced Rustic was recorded on 18th June 2013, but had not been seen since 31st August 2011. Other moths caught this year but not recorded for some time are Epiblema cynosbatella,  Broken-barred Carpet, Willow Beauty and Small Rivulet.

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A Request and ...

Thursday, December 26th 2013

The results of the 2013 CES season have been published.  (These can be viewed on the BTO web site.)  We have been asked to write an article about the CES record we have at Foxglove Covert.  If you would like to read more about our successes during CES over the last 21 years, it is reported on the blog of 1st September 2013. 

However this blog is not about facts and figures.  The article requires photographs and so an enjoyable time was had searching through the many that have been taken over the years.  These are just some of them.

Tawny Owls are calling loudly and will soon be taking up residence in their nest boxes.

This juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker was a late arrival on the scene this year.  Is he one of the three that are frequenting the back garden?  They come to feed on nuts and enjoy the food in the fat containers.  

Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker

Nightjars had been heard calling in July.  We were just a little surprised that it arrived in the ringing room!  We hope that they will return next year.

NIghtjar

Bramblings have been seen on the reserve but none have been caught yet.  Hopefully it will not be too long before we can see these beautiful winter migrants in the ringing room.

Brambling

And finally the Long Tailed Tits.  These tiny birds fly onto the feeders, especially those just outside the kitchen window.  They are always on the move and flitting from feeder to feeder.

Long Tailed Tits feeding

Long Tailed Tits feeding

Many thanks to all the bird ringing volunteers who, at times, arrive at Foxglove at 0400 or some days, stay late ringing and then checking all is well.  Thanks also to Tony, who after each session, has to deal with all the data and ensure it is sent to the BTO.

Habitats have to be looked after, net rides need to be maintained, feeders filled, cups of tea made and cakes baked.  None of this would happen without the reserve managers and the volunteers who work hard throughout the year.

Many thanks to all our volunteers.

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Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24th 2013

In the heavy rain yesterday the access track became flooded in places.  A small group of volunteers came in this morning to lend a hand; the main job was locating and clearing the blocked drainage pipes which was easier said than done. 

The inflow to the Bullet Catcher pond had also become blocked and the team worked to clear this.  With snow falling there was a definite festive feel in the air!

We wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year!

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Sunshine and Showers

Sunday, December 22nd 2013

Dark clouds, heavy showers, very cold strong winds and blue skies were the order of the day.   The reeds were bending in the wind.  Not even the sticklebacks were seen in the pond. The Greater Spearwort flower is still hanging on!

Reed bed

Heavy rain has filled the streams, ponds and lake.  

the lake and weir

Redwings were seen feeding amongst the trees still laden with berries, on the far side of the lake, whilst Mallard, Moorhen and a Heron were seen on the lake.

Trees by the lake

Flocks of Fieldfare were flying around the reserve.  In the back garden, Great Spotted Woodpeckers were having a little difficulty feeding from the containers of fat.  Bullfinches were enjoying the food in the hoppers and Coal Tits were flying onto the seed feeders. 

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Dangerous Trees

Friday, December 20th 2013

After heavy rain Risedale Beck can transform from its usual tranquil state into a very fast flowing stream which can quickly reshape the watercourse.  An area of the bank near to the tank tracks has been particularly affected, undercutting the root systems of three large conifers.  With the proximity of these to the path and a footbridge it was decided to take these down before they could do any damage to people or pathways in the stormy weather that is forecast well into the New Year.

Because of their size each tree had to be felled in sections with tree surgeons climbing to remove the top half first.  Once this had been done and the brash cleared they could start to fell the remainder of the trunks.

The trunks have been logged up and will be used to create habitat piles, while the brash can be used in the construction of woodchip paths.

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Christmas Party!

Thursday, December 19th 2013

Sixty seven volunteers, friends and visitors arrived at Wathgill last night to dine in style at our annual Christmas Dinner.

The food was fantastic as usual, thank you to all the kitchen staff who worked hard all night providing such excellent service.

The Compass Rose ceilidh band was also accompanied by Johanna and her fiddle as well as Tony and his electronic pipes.

Glennis' quizzes kept people entertained as the evening kicked off - thank you Glennis for spending time to put together these fun quizzes for us all.  The raffle with prizes donated by volunteers and visitors over the last few weeks raised a brilliant £180 for the reserve.  Well done to the winners and thank you to all those who donated items for the hampers.

This was a great evening, enjoyed by all those who attended.  Finally, we wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Christmas Opening

Wednesday, December 18th 2013

The Field Centre will be open 9.30am - 4pm on weekdays (27th, 30th and 31st) and 10am - 4pm on Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th over the festive period, apart from Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day when the Field Centre is closed.

As the reserve is open on Christmas Eve we will still be running a volunteer morning.  This will be the last volunteer day until the new year when service will resume as normal.

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Volunteer Christmas Lunch

Tuesday, December 17th 2013

Volunteers worked up an appetite this morning re-surfacing and building woodchip paths at various locations across the reserve.  Everyone worked fantastically hard moving almost 6 tonnes of woodchip!  Thank you all for your efforts this morning, the pathways are looking brilliant.

Our Christmas trail was also put up around the Red Route this morning; make sure to visit the Field Centre to collect the sheet and complete the trail to find the hidden message.  Our other school holiday activities are now available in the classroom.

Once the work had been completed everybody headed back to the Field Centre for our annual volunteers Christmas Lunch.

As usual at these events everyone brought along a little something to share and there was a delicious variety of dishes.  Soon everyone was tucking in and enjoying themselves.

Thank you to all of the Foxglove volunteers for your support throughout 2013.  We will be having a volunteer morning next Tuesday (Christmas Eve), after this there will be no further volunteer days until the New Year.  Our next winter worky day is on Saturday 4th January; why not help out your local nature reserve as well as burning off some of the Christmas excess!  Details and booking forms can be found on the events page.

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Dog Lichen

Monday, December 16th 2013

While planting Oak trees last week this beautiful dog lichen was found growing amongst damp moss in the woodland clearing.

This has since been identified as Peltigera hymenina, yet another new species for the reserve!  Dog lichens are relatively common and can be found growing on moss, trees and rocks, though are most frequently seen growing on bare soil.  The irregular spreading thallus can reach 20 cm in diameter, but typically grows within the range of 10 cm to 15 cm.  The thin papery lobes develop to about 1.5 cm to 2 cm in width and 2 cm to 6 cm in length.

The apothecia (sexual reproductive structures) are distinct with a dark red-brown colour.  Spores are released from these, representing only the fungal part of the lichen.  In order to reproduce the spores must chance upon an algal partner.  A benefit of reproduction using spores is the lichen can spread over a large distance.  Dog lichens can also reproduce using soredia, genetically identical to the parent these clusters of algal cells surrounded by fungal hyphae travel only a short distance from the original lichen.

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Flowers in Winter

Saturday, December 14th 2013

Each month we have recorded the flowers around the reserve and most have read the books and flower when they should.  However we have been amazed that one stalk of Greater Spearwort is still in flower, in the Scrapes at the beginning of winter!  Will it make it into the New Year?  For the record the book says that it is in flower from June to August.

Greater Spearwort

There are some flowers that do blossom late into winter, Ivy being one of them.  The flowers provide food for insects and later the fruits are eaten by thrushes and Wood Pigeons.

Ivy flower

Although Ivy leaves look waxy and tough the larvae of Angles Shades, Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing and Swallow-tailed Moth feed on them.

There is one small area of the path along Risedale Beack that always has a patch of Daisies in flower, no matter what the season.

Common Daisy

Unusually Gorse was not recorded in flower at this time last year but this year, presumably because the weather has been mild and there have been few frosts, Gorse is in bloom, especially across the moor. 

Gorse

Last week some new leaves of Primrose were seen - a bit early to say that spring is on its way!

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Christmas Willow Weaving

Friday, December 13th 2013

Nineteen ladies arrived at the Field Centre this morning for our annual Christmas Willow Weaving event.  After a short demonstration the frames were constructed using the willow whips collected yesterday.

Once made, they were decorated using natural materials from the reserve and Caroline’s garden!

Several willow hearts were also made and decorated during the morning.  Below you can see everyone proudly displaying their beautiful creations.

Thank you to everyone who has helped out to make this event such a success!

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Preparations

Friday, December 13th 2013

Volunteers spent yesterday morning collecting whips of willow for the Christmas Willow Weaving event this morning.  Over 500 stems were cut so hopefully there will be enough!  Holly, Ivy, and other foliage has also been collected to decorate the wreaths once they are constructed.

Eight Sessile Oak trees have been donated to the reserve and arrived earlier this week.  Volunteers planted them in two areas; around the outdoor classroom and in a clearing near to the wetland.  These trees once mature can support a huge variety of invertebrate life as well as diverse communities of lichens, mosses, fungi and flowers so are a valuable addition to the reserve.

 

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Up in the Woods

Tuesday, December 10th 2013

Work continued in the woodland today finishing off from the Winter Worky Day last weekend.  The areas of Blackthorn have now been cleared, and the brash cleared from the fallen trees along the beck.  New vistas down to the beck have been opened up and it is looking great – well worth a walk if you are visiting Foxglove.

Volunteers enjoyed their coffee break and lunch outside in the unseasonably warm temperatures with the sun streaming through the Larch trees.

Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard to improve the habitats here over the past few days.

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Storm Damage

Monday, December 9th 2013

While Foxglove missed the worst of the stormy weather last week several trees around the reserve have been damaged or blown over.  This large Ash bough fell from a tree at the side of the lake smashing though the handrails on the boardwalk below.  Five trees were cleared and made safe this morning, with more still to work on later in the week.

The contractors were back on site again today; upgrades to the paths have now been completed and they have started to build the new pond dipping platform in the scrapes.  It is hoped that this will be finished by the end of the day tomorrow.

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Species Old and New

Sunday, December 8th 2013

Last night as volunteers left Foxglove in the dark, there were a pair of Tawny Owls calling loudly.  Owls nest early and they will soon be guarding their territories in preparation for breeding.  Unfortunately we did not know exactly where they were, so this is a photograph taken earlier in the year.

Tawny Owl

Tawny Owls have been recorded on the reserve since 1992.  

We are continuing to set the moth trap on a Tuesday evening.  Although there are many moths around, judging by those caught in car headlights, not too many are visiting our trap.  However on Tuesday, moths were recorded, along with a caddis fly and another insect.  This insect having so many white marks on it, was thought to be easily identified. Unfortunately this was not so.

Achaius oratorius

A photograph was sent to one of our experts and the reply was as follows -

'It is an ichneumon called Achaius oratorius, a lepidoptera parasite which is reasonably common in Yorkshire but this is the first record from VC65.'

According to information it likes to live in hedges and copses.  The larvae feed on butterfly and moth caterpillars.  The interesting part of the information says that the best time to see this insect is between June to September!

This is another new species for the reserve.

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December Winter Worky Day

Saturday, December 7th 2013

Thirty five volunteers turned up this morning to help with habitat maintenance in the woodland.  Areas that had grown thick with Blackthorn were cleared allowing more light to reach the woodland floor.  This will be beneficial to the ground flora which had become sparse under the dense Blackthorn canopy.

Volunteers soon got stuck into the job, trying to avoid the thorns as they cut and cleared their way through the area.  Some people were even seen swinging from the cut stems as they tried to dislodge them from the surrounding trees, unfortunately no cameras were out at the time!

A small team were working along Risedale Beck clearing trees that had fallen over the stream after a landslide last winter.  This has opened a flyway along the beck, encouraging birds such as Dippers, Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail into this habitat.

Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard today to improve the habitats in the woodland and along the beck.

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Green Works Update

Friday, December 6th 2013

Contractors have been back on site today to continue upgrading sections of the footpath network within the reserve.  A final top dressing of dust and chippings has been applied to these sections and compacted to bind the surface to give a good, solid finish.

The timber for the new pond dipping platform has also been delivered; this is to be installed once the path work is completed early next week.

In other news tickets for the Christmas Raffle are now on sale in the Field Centre - see Adam or one of the volunteers to get yours!  The draw will be made at the Christmas Party on Wednesday 18th December.

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A Day at the Lake

Wednesday, December 4th 2013

Several new features have been planned to improve the lake, both for wildlife and birdwatchers alike.  The first of these involves a fallen tree laid out across the water to act as a perch for water birds.  A nearby tree was selected and felled this morning.

Once carefully wheeled along the boardwalk, Adam, Tony and Adam dragged the tree to the shore ready for it to be manoeuvred into place next week.  Repairs were also made to the Duck Raft which had broken loose from one of its moorings earlier this month.

During the afternoon Tony and Adam donned wellies and waders as they installed a group of three posts into the top section of the lake.  Tony helped by lining things up and keeping a firm hold of the safety rope – the silt at the bottom is at least a few feet deep in places!

By the time the sun was setting the last of the posts were in place and all were glad to be returning to terra firma.  It is hoped that these will improve the experience for visitors at the lake by providing birds with a range of perches easily seen from the hides.

First post going in!

Thank you everyone who has helped out today both outside and inside where displays have been changed and moths identified.

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Welcome to the Team!

Tuesday, December 3rd 2013

Interviews for the post of Reserve Manager were held last Friday; nine candidates in total were shown around the reserve and interviewed over the course of the day.  Lizzie Lemon will be starting as the second Reserve Manager in mid-January, congratulations on your new post and welcome to the team!

Lizzie is currently working at Donna Nook Nature Reserve on the Lincolnshire coast where she is running teams of volunteer wardens and managing the large numbers of visitors to the site.  Prior to this she has worked at Rutland Water Nature Reserve, firstly as a Trainee Reserve Officer and then as part of the team running the Rutland Osprey Project.

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Glades

Tuesday, December 3rd 2013

Volunteers were kept busy today clearing Gorse and Silver Birch saplings from an overgrown glade near to the heathland.

Many different types of fungi were seen as we worked through the day including some beautiful displays of Candle Snuff.  It is black at the base and white at the tips; just like a snuffed candle wick.  This is quite a strong and rubbery fungus which will bend easily without breaking.

In the afternoon work continued opposite the heathland.  Several Juniper and Yew trees were uncovered as the Gorse was cut out.

These areas are looking fantastic and it will be exciting to see which flowers are in bloom here in the spring.  Thank you to everyone today for you hard work!

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Bird Ringing

Monday, December 2nd 2013

Early morning at Foxglove saw the sun rising over the reed bed.

Sun rising behind the reed bed

Sun rising behind the reed bed

The low sun caught the tops of the trees behind the newly coppiced willow in the scrapes. 

Sun catching the trees

The  nets were raised and we were hopeful of catching Redwing and possibly Fieldfare, however they all decided to leave the reserve and feed on the moor!  Some Blackbirds were caught and their measurements indicated that they may be winter migrants.

 

Balckbird

Long Tailed Tits have been seen in the tops of the trees around the reserve, but not many have found their way to the ringing room.  A small flock was seen on the feeders outside the kitchen early this morning.  The last net round returned several of these tiny birds who weigh in at around 8g.  Some of them were ringed but one retrapped Long Tailed Tit was four year old, an amazing age for such a tiny bird added to that the harshness of the last two winters.

When taking a photograph of a bird in the hand the welfare of the bird is paramount.  This 'Lotti' sat beautifully so that the whole bird could be photograph, illustrating its long tail - hence its name!

Long Tailed Tit

As another photograph was taken it turned its head and it is very difficult not to be anthropomorphic. Don't I look so cute?

Long Tailed Tit

Other birds caught included Marsh Tits, Robins and several Goldcrests.  Surprisingly after flocks of 50 or so Chaffinches were recorded in the back garden this week, only two were caught today. 

Many thanks go to everyone who made the day successful.

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