(27) Blog Posts Made in December 2014

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Last Day of the Year

Wednesday, December 31st 2014

A cold frosty start to the day soon turned into a mild day with the temperature all of 5 degrees!  Looking skywards this vapour trail looked as though it had ice droplets!

Vapour trail with ice droplets!

Out on the reserve Roe Deer were seen in the conifer woodland.  A Buzzard was sighted on the moor and the Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard drumming.

On the last day of the year all at Foxglove send best wishes for a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year, to friends and Volunteers.  Raise a dram to the New Year.

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Winter Sun at Foxglove

Tuesday, December 30th 2014

This morning a few of our regular volunteers joined us in the sunshine to get out and work off a bit of Christmas excess. We started by completing some woodland management tasks. We removed a few dead trees and overhanging branches along the green route, where there was the possibility they could obstruct the path. We then completed one of our regular tasks of filling the bird feeders and hoppers around the site.

After lunch we went for a walk around the reserve keeping our eyes peeled for signs of life along the way.

Today we were lucky enough to spot a few Redwings (shown below) on the hedgerows of the middle moor. 

We also spotted three Roe Deer, a Sparrowhawk, a flock of Goldfinches and numerous other birds on the lake and around the reserve.

It was good to look back on some of the jobs that had been completed over the last year and ahead to some that are coming up! We were once again reminded of the amount of hard work that volunteers complete that makes Foxglove the special place it is. We really couldn’t do it without you all. So once again our many thanks for all the hard work from everyone over 2014.
 

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A Cold Start

Monday, December 29th 2014

The thermometer was reading minus two when we opened up this morning but the sun was soon out and starting to bathe the reserve in a warm glow.

Whilst walking around the back of the lake we startled the family of Roe Deer that are resident here at Foxglove.  This one stopped just long enough to get a photo before bounding away to catch up with the rest.

The frost was thick on many of the plants creating interesting ice formations and making the Gorse look particularly spectacular.

The photo below is taken of the same Gorse as the one above, however this one is on the side that faces the sun and the flowers are out!

Finally just a quick reminder that if anybody would like to work off a bit of festive excess we will be holding the usual Tuesday volunteer day tomorrow and everybody is welcome to come and join us!
 

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Water Droplets Yet Again!

Sunday, December 28th 2014

Rain earlier had left water and ice droplets on the vegetation.

Water droplets

Even the low growing mosses had their accompanying water droplets!

Water droplets on moss

Light rain may help to disperse the spores from some fungi.  Candlesnuff fungus can be found on many of the log piles and dead wood throughout the reserve.  When this photograph was examined, tiny white marks can be seen around the fungus.  These are the spores.

Candlesnuff fungus

And finally.  Clouds are fascinating often bringing storms, rain or snow. This one was low over the Scrapes and not at all threatening. It is known as a lenticular cloud. Sometimes several of these lens shaped clouds can form one on top of the other.

A lenticular cloud

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Not a ‘Proper’ Winter!

Saturday, December 27th 2014

According to one of Foxglove's volunteers, it is not a 'proper' winter until there are several inches of snow on the ground!  In fact he puts in his order for snow around the end of summer!  Today it was only frosty!

Looking at ice patterns and any opportunity to take photographs in sun and without a howling gale, this Teasel head was spotted.  Initially it was assumed that it had some pieces of torn leaves attached, but on closer inspection they were tiny seedlings, presumably Teasel seedlings.  It is unlikely that they will survive in the seed head as it will not provide the best of conditions.

Seedlings in Teasel seed head

These Foxglove leaves were covered in frost.  This does not damage the leaves and once spring arrives they will continue to grow.

Frost covered Foxglove leaves

No wind today, meant that there were reflections on any unfrozen water.  Not only are the tall conifer trees reflected in the water but the newly made log pile can also be seen.

Lake reflections

Looking towards the moorland there was a totally different set of reflections.  

looking towards the moor from the weir

Views over the moorland from the wetland hide were equally as impressive, not many colours but with a definite blue sky!

View from the wetland hide

There were many different patterns in the ice covering the ponds.  The pond weed leaves were frozen into the ice and also had ice droplets on them.  Come spring the pond weed leaves will flourish and toads will use these areas to spawn.

Ice patterns

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Around the Reserve

Friday, December 26th 2014

On Tuesday volunteers were out doing an early flower walk.  Gorse, Daisy, Herb Robert, Water Figwort and Blackberry were recorded.

Blackberry

Opposite Leaved Golden Saxifrage is one of the early spring flowers to bloom.  The flower buds could be seen but closer inspection from an intrepid volunteer, the only one in wellies, was needed.  Unfortunately even after a close look not a flower was open.  Soon though?

Looking for an open flower

Other volunteers closley examined one of the ponds for signs of life - frogs?  Again we will have to be a little more patient!

looking for signs of life in one of the ponds

 

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Recent Ringing Recoveries

Wednesday, December 24th 2014

The interactive map below shows a selection of the ringing recoveries we have had during December 2014. Red lines represent birds that were ringed elsewhere and then controlled at Foxglove, blue lines represent birds ringed at Foxglove and controlled by another ringing group. You can zoom in on the map; to find out more about each recovery click on a line.

This batch of recoveries includes a number of Storm Petrel recoveries from our expeditions up to Cape Wrath during the summer months, including one from the Faroe Islands. These small pelagic birds spend most of their lives at sea, flying tens of thousands of miles. They only every come to land under the cover of darkness to prospect for nesting sites and to breed. We also received a Meadow Pipit recovery from our autumn ringing at the crater. These recoveries are uncommon, so it is exciting for us to see this.

Recoveries can provide valuable information about birds including migration, longevity, mortality, population growth, site fidelity and feeding behaviour. The data is all collated by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) which is then used for scientific study.
 

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Volunteer Christmas Lunch

Tuesday, December 23rd 2014

Our volunteers again spent the morning in the coppice block. We made good progress and by lunchtime, had finished clearing our way to one of the far corners! We are now almost finished with this massive job, and soon after Christmas we should be able to move on and give our attention to other areas of the reserve.

After the morning’s hard work we all returned for a shared lunch – the spread was fantastic with such a variety of delicious home baked food!

Everyone soon got stuck in and enjoyed the feast that was on offer.

The atmosphere was lovely in the Field Centre during the afternoon; we are so lucky to have such a dedicated, friendly and fun group of volunteers. Thank you for all of your support during 2014; we wish each and every one of you a very Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year.

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A Bit of a Breeze

Monday, December 22nd 2014

Strong winds and rain had buffeted the reserve overnight causing some damage to trees in the woodland and along Risedale Beck. Breaks in the grey skies gave us fantastic views of a rainbow over the heathland.

The day was spent clearing fallen trees from the paths and streams that run through the site. Half of this large forked willow was blown over destroying the roots and leaving the remaining half teetering over the path. During the afternoon this was felled to make it safe.

By the time the light was fading the brash and logs had been cleared from the pond and stacked habitat piles.

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Work and Finds

Sunday, December 21st 2014

Wet, windy weather is not good for bird ringing, however some of the bird ringers were in this morning mending the nets.  Inputting of the Meadow Pipit data into IPMR continued. 

A recovery of one of these Meadow Pipits has been received.  It was ringed at the Crater on the 2nd September 2014 and eight days later it was caught again in a mist net at Billinge Hill, Merseyside, a distance of 115km. (71miles).  Most  birds ringed at the Crater are rarely caught there again.  This year there were at least two.  The first was ringed on 25th July and caught again on the 4th September, whilst the second was initially ringed on the 25th August and caught again on the 2nd September.

The weekly jobs were completed, the final one being to walk through the woodland.  And there were finds to be found!

Firstly the Scarlet Elfcup is just beginning to grow in one of its usual places.

Scarlet Elfcup

Secondly, a rare find, lying on the woodland floor was a Roe Deer antler.  

Roe Deer antler

On closer inspection the tooth marks of mammals could be seen.  Further research is ongoing to try to find out which mammals are responsible. 

Marks on the antler

Thirdly, in a very prickly Gorse shrub were three 7 Spot Ladybirds.

7 Spot Ladybirds

And final find, with no photograph unfortunately, is the Leaf Parachute fungus found growing in another place.

Thank you to everyone who helped in such a wide variety of activities.

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Lichens

Saturday, December 20th 2014

Lichens are not the easiest of organisms to identify or take photographs of.  At this time of year however, with little vegetation and damper conditions they do stand out.  A Hawthorn tree on one of the net ride paths is covered with lichens and its red berries, make a very colourful photograph.

Hawthorn with berries and lichens

An old Gorse shrub is covered with lichens of a different sort. 

Lichens on an old Gorse shrub

If conditions are just right then the water droplets caught in the cups can make beautiful subjects to photograph.  These ones had some water but not quite enough.

Lichens with small water droplets

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Voley Ponds

Friday, December 19th 2014

This afternoon the dam at the Voley ponds was repaired, over time water had worked its way under and cut around the structure. New posts were driven into the clay to hold the dam in place and additional clay tightly packed around the wood. Hopefully this will be enough to hold back the water though more major repairs could be needed at the start of next week!

This area has been totally transformed over the last week. Volunteers were hard at work again yesterday clearing and coppicing the tangle of Blackthorn and Willow that surrounds one side of the ponds. Views have now been opened up towards the scrapes. The additional light here will benefit wildlife, encouraging wildflowers to grow alongside the paths and ponds, in turn providing food for insects and other animals.

Thank you to all the volunteers who have worked on this; the end of coppicing this area is finally in sight! Next Tuesday we are having our Volunteer Christmas Lunch, everyone is welcome to join us in the Field Centre at 1300, please remember to bring a tasty dish to share!

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Christmas Dinner

Thursday, December 18th 2014

Sixty seven friends and volunteers joined us at Wathgill last night for the annual Foxglove Christmas Dinner. The evening was started with an enjoyable but challenging quiz, filled with dingbats and Christmas themed general knowledge questions. As dinner progressed eyes kept going back to the sheets as people tried to work out the elusive answers – there were groans as Glennis revealed them!

Our Christmas raffle raised over £200 this year, one of the best amounts ever! Thank you to Linda who spent time selling and folding tickets through the early part of the evening. Of course we must say well done to Ken, who, to cries of ‘it’s a fix’ won three of the prizes!

The dinner, as always, was delicious. We were served a three course feast, followed by cheese, mince pies and coffee.

Martin, one of our younger volunteers, played and sang two songs on his guitar. He performed brilliantly and I’m sure will play for us again at events in the future.

Before long the dinner was finished and the Compass Rose Ceilidh Band got us up on our feet for a couple of dances to draw the night to a close.

Thank you to everyone who helped to make the night such a success. We wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year!
 

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Team Tuesday

Tuesday, December 16th 2014

Seventeen volunteers joined us today to help out with jobs around the reserve. First on the list was repairing the potholes that have developed over the past few weeks.

Stone was shovelled into the holes before John took our compactor down the track to firm them up and create a good surface.

The rest of the gang worked hard in the coppice block clearing a section of tangled Blackthorn.

By mid-afternoon we had broken through to the far side of the area, drastically changing the views around the Voley ponds.

Two rehabilitated Tawny Owls were brought into the Field Centre during the afternoon to be ringed before being released. One had been found with a broken wing and the other with a damaged eye. Both have now made a good enough recovery to be released back into the wild and Raye has told us already that one has successfully flown away and will keep us updated on the other.

As always, many thanks for all of your help today!

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Views around the Reserve

Monday, December 15th 2014

Mike and Ian have been coming every Monday morning to enjoy the wildlife and scenery that can be found here at Foxglove. They are both avid photographers having already provided some of the images for this year's calendar. Mike shared some of his landscape photographs with us today.

Winter sun on the Moorland

Down to the Lake

Woodland Walk

The Scrapes at Dawn

Thank you for sharing these beautiful images so we can all enjoy them!

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Mallards

Sunday, December 14th 2014

Mallards are regularly seen on the lake.  It is a mixed group of colourful males and the duller brown females.  Most of these birds will be paired.  The correct name for a group of mallards is a sute or sord.

Mallard on the lake

They feed using their broad flattened bill, which is adapted to filter a wide range of tiny plant and animal matter from the surface of the lake.  Grass, seeds and fruit can also be eaten.  Hopefully these ducks will appreciate our new duck field. 

Loud quacks can often be heard as you appraoch the lake.  It is the females that make most of the noise!

Their plumage must be kept in pristine condition to ensure that it remains waterproof.  Bathing and then preeening is essential.

Bathing Mallard

When the wind howls down the lake many of the birds take shelter in the reeds and along the edges of the lake.  Some sit bravely out on the water, head into the wind.

Mallard braving the wind

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Interactive Touchscreen

Friday, December 12th 2014

Our new interactive touchscreen in proving popular with visitors since its unveiling by Colonel Mike Butterwick last Saturday. Visitors have been impressed by the quality of images and information available about many of the species that reside here on the reserve. The quiz is particularly popular with visitors old and young enjoying the challenge and learning new facts about the natural world.

Read more about this in today's article in the Northern Echo.

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Large Willow Aphids

Thursday, December 11th 2014

There was excitement as volunteers worked clearing the lakeside bank just over a week ago as unusual looking creatures were discovered clumped together on a willow stem. These have since been identified as Large Willow Aphids (Tuberolachnus salignus), a new species for the reserve. This species is the largest of the aphids found in Britain with adults measuring between 5mm and 6mm in length.  Adults have been recorded in two forms; winged and wingless. It is thought that temperature determines whether wings develop or not.

They are commonly seen in dense colonies on willow trees, and are frequently seen to be very active during cold, frosty weather, when they can be found walking along the ground, over rocks and along the handrails of foot-bridges. No males have been found in this species, possibly because none exist. Females are able to give birth to live young that are genetically identical to themselves.

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Lakeside Transformation

Wednesday, December 10th 2014

The right hand side of the lake, formerly a rough scrubby area, has been transformed this week as Willie has worked hard to clear stumps, and level the ground.

A ramp has been dug into the side of the lake to allow access to this newly created area for water birds.

This will provide an area for ducks and geese to move out of the water to feed amongst the short grass sward which will develop. It is hoped that the new feeding area will attract a wider variety of birds onto the lake.

We are also planning to create an area along the top of this bank where visitors will be able to feed ducks and geese, with food that will be able to be purchased in the Field Centre.

This exciting project should reap rewards in the spring - we are all very excited to see how it develops!

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A Good Day to be Beside the Fire

Tuesday, December 9th 2014

Despite the cold and awful weather forecast we had another great turnout of willing volunteers to help at Foxglove today. We spilt into two groups to complete a couple of different tasks around the reserve. The first group spent the day finishing off the job of pollarding and coppicing around net ride 29. They worked hard clearing up the trees that had been felled on Saturday and another, that Brian called “little”, Silver Birch that Matt felled today.

The second group got stuck into the ongoing task of this year’s coppice block. Great progress was made again today and in places you can now see through to the ponds on the far side of the block.

Whilst some of the volunteers took a well-deserved lunch break the children from the Dales school came out to join us. They made a really useful contribution, chopping up and burning off the trees that had been felled by the volunteers.

Everyone has been working so hard on this task over the last couple of months we really are making amazing progress. A big thank you to everyone who came down today it really is appreciated!
 

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Unrelated Bits and Pieces

Sunday, December 7th 2014

Yesterday's blog mentioned Ann's home baking, which was not only enjoyed in the morning but also after the worky day.  It was a sight to behold, all laid out on the table.

Ann's homebaking

 During the late summer and early autumn we spent many mornings catching and ringing Meadow Pipits at the Crater.  Not many of these birds are caught again, but we are awaiting details of four birds that have been found elsewhere.  When we were ringing, some birds were feeding near the cars.  This one was showing off its new ring.

A ringed Meadow Pipit

Winter tends not to be very colourful, but sometimes you may just catch sight of leaves still in their Autumn colours.

Autumn colours

Trying to take a good photograph of the Little Grebe, in the late afternoon, proved difficult.  However better luck was had photographing the rings it made, as it dived!

Rings after the dabchick had dived

At times there can be large rings on the surface of the lake.  These are not all caused by the Dabchick and other birds, but by fish.  Judging by the size of the rings some appear to be quite large, like this one?

A large fish?

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Interactive Touchscreen and Worky Day

Saturday, December 6th 2014

Foxglove was a hive of activity today with the unveiling of our new interactive touchscreen and the December Worky Day. Volunteers and Friends assembled in the Field Centre as Colonel Mike Butterwick, Deputy Commander 4th Infantry Brigade, cut the ribbon and opened the touchscreen for public use.

Representatives of the council, who generously helped to fund this project and our Patron, Lord Zetland, also attended and enjoyed seeing Grace demonstrate the features of this fantastic educational resource. We are so grateful to everyone who has contributed to this project over the past year; Simon and Jeff who have designed and written the software and content, Ruth and Elizabeth who have spent countless hours proof reading and developing the material, as well as the many volunteers who have contributed to the amazing library of pictures (not forgetting Ann who provided a splendid array of delicious homemade cakes).

Volunteers headed out to work after the excitement. A small group worked pollarding an overgrown net ride. This ride used to be one of the best on the reserve for catching Goldcrest; hopefully the ringers will see the benefits of the hard work over the coming months.

A second team continued in the coppice block clearing a large area and almost breaking through to the far side - the end of this massive task is almost in sight!

Invasive Silver Birch and Gorse were removed from an overgrown glade which should help ground flora to flourish during the spring.

Willow was coppiced and pollarded by the volunteers and many knowledgeable people have commented on how good the area is now looking and the consistent high standard of the work.  Well done everyone, you should all be very proud of the effort you put in and the difference you make to the reserve.

As always there was a fantastically jovial atmosphere – thank you everyone for making today such a success.

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Festive Willow Weaving

Friday, December 5th 2014

Twenty four visitors joined us this morning for our annual Festive Willow Weaving Course. Over 1,000 whips of willow had been cut in preparation along with a variety of festive greenery for everyone to use to create their wreaths.

Guidance was given on how to create the basic structure of the wreath using cut willow before a brilliant range of decorative designs emerged, from minimalist using just ribbon through to a traditional mix of Spruce, Holly and Ivy.

Thank you to everyone who helped out and we hope that those who attended enjoyed themselves.


 

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Great Grey Shrike

Thursday, December 4th 2014

There was excitement on the reserve this afternoon as three of our volunteers spotted a Great Grey Shrike in the tree tops just above the lake - a very lucky sighting! This is the first record of this species on the reserve, although they have been seen in previous years on and around the training area.

Small numbers of Great Grey Shrikes overwinter in the UK each year, migrating from their breeding grounds at higher latitudes. They feed on small vertebrates and large invertebrates, hunting over open ground such as the re-planted area of trees just above the lake.  Once caught, their prey is often impaled on a thorn and stored for later, or for larger catches to help them tear off pieces of meat and feed.

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Sundog

Wednesday, December 3rd 2014

Yesterday, a parhelion or sundog was seen in the sky as we made our way back to the Field Centre for lunch. Parhelia are halo phenomena created when light interacts with ice crystals in the atmosphere. They typically appear as one or two bright and coloured patches of light 22⁰ from the sun and at the same elevation.

The sundog can be seen in the left of the sun in this photograph with the halo arcing above it in the sky.

They can be seen throughout the world at any time of year but are more common when the sun is low in the sky.

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Preparations

Tuesday, December 2nd 2014

Our Tuesday volunteers enjoyed a break from coppicing today, instead clearing Brambles, Willow and Gorse from the bank on the right hand side of the lake. This area is going to be re-profiled over the next few days to create a grassy bank for ducks and other birds to feed on. A ramp will also be dug so the birds can easily walk out from the water.

Everyone soon got stuck in, cutting their way through a dense tangle of vegetation.

It was hard work clearing the cut vegetation from the rough uneven ground, but by lunchtime we had finished and the site was ready for work to commence tomorrow.

Thank you everyone for your hard work today. We will keep you updated as this project progresses through the week.

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Terraced Pools Update

Monday, December 1st 2014

The terraced pools that were dug above the lake earlier this year have taken well. Vegetation grew around them.  Invertebrates were abundant during the summer months both in the water and on the land.   Dippers and Grey Wagtails have been seen feeding along the edges of the ponds, whilst Kingfishers have also been spotted.

Time was spent today strimming off rushes that have grown where the ground was disturbed. These invasive species can produce up to 20,000 seeds from one plant, and can cause a problem around new water bodies. Cutting back the rushes and grasses helps to control their growth as well as reducing the cover of dominant species, encouraging a more diverse ground flora to develop.

They have certainly come on well since they were created in March!

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