(28) Blog Posts Made in March 2015

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Four Seasons in One Day

Tuesday, March 31st 2015

With 50 mile an hour winds forecast today the plan of raking up the cut vegetation from the moor and wetland was quickly revised as we didn’t want any of the volunteers blowing away! The day started in glorious spring sunshine and we re-instated the snake head perch beside the lake.

We then moved into this year’s coppice block to tidy up the site. There was a summery feel to the air, jackets came off as it started to warm up and everyone got stuck into the job.

Any remaining brash in the block was transported to the central fire site and any stumps that had been left were cut down and burnt as well.

Then the fatal words ‘it’s always such nice weather at Foxglove on a Tuesday’ were uttered and the rain came. Jackets went quickly back on but everyone continued working, building log piles over the old fire sites in the coppice block. Slight breaks in the cloud with the sun shining through gave the reserve an autumnal feel.

By lunch time the work in the coppice block was complete with the area looking great. Everyone headed back into the visitors centre for a well-deserved break.  After lunch we completed a number of jobs; building log piles and continuing some of the repair work on the track. We weren’t out long before winter arrived; the snow fell and quickly covered the ground and the hard working volunteers!

We would like to thank everyone who helped out today; you did a really good job in what were at times challenging conditions!
 

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Track Repairs

Monday, March 30th 2015

Repairs to the access track have now been completed to rectify the damage caused by the HGV delivery truck two weeks ago. It has taken more than two full days with a JCB digger with a constant supply of stone to rebuild sections where the track had become destabilised.

Several corners where deep ruts were created as the trailer followed round have taken an unbelievable amount of soil to repair – over 30 tonnes has been delivered to the site to fill in and repair the damage.

The final job was to repair a damaged drainage pipe which had collapsed under the weight of the lorry. The trench was re-dug and soon the new pipe was in place, draining the build-up of surface water.

Please take extra care when you are driving along the track, especially near the areas that have been repaired as they will still take some time to green over and fully recover.

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Catterick Sunday Market

Monday, March 30th 2015

Many of our volunteers spent part of their day yesterday supporting Foxglove for our annual fundraising day at Catterick Sunday Market. We were lucky in the fact that the forecast heavy rain never materialised so waterproofs were needed only for insulation. Our volunteers were fantastic throughout the day, collecting donations while promoting the reserve.

The monies raised have all been counted, with a very respectable total of £206.69 – well done everyone!  Thank you again to everyone who helped here; it is very much appreciated by everyone at Foxglove!

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Larch

Sunday, March 29th 2015

In autumn, under blue skies Larch trees show off their golden hue.

Larch in autumn colours

During the winter flocks of birds feed on the seeds in the cones.

Bird in Larch tree feeding on the seeds

During spring we eagerly await the red flower that we know will give rise to the cones for the winter.

Larch flower

Along with the flowers come the new, bright green needles. A sign of spring!

New Larch needles

Today some of the Foxglove volunteers have been at Catterick Market helping to raise funds for the reserve.  A huge thank you to everybody who helped today.

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Something Different Each Day

Saturday, March 28th 2015

As spring makes its very slow appearance there is something different to see almost everyday.

Early morning shadows stretch across the middle moor.  The darker grass of a 'fairy ring' (where there is a presence of fungi) can still be seen. 

Early morning shadows on the middle moor

This frogspawn has an alien quality to it.

Frogspawn

Lesser Celandine leaves have been recorded along Risedale Beck and on the moor, but not a flower bud has been seen, so it was a lovely surprise when this one one found wide open, in the sunshine on the moor.

Lesser Celandine

Something white caught the eye.  On closer inspection it was found to be a thistle seed head, probably a Spear Thistle, that had not released its seeds.  By now the seeds are unlikely to germinate, for which the volunteers will be really pleased!

Thistle seed head

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Willow Weaving

Friday, March 27th 2015

A small group of ladies visited the reserve this morning to learn the art of willow weaving. We spent time creating decorative dragonflies and Easter wreaths. Each attendee went home very proud of their beautiful creations.

While this was all going on work was underway on the moorland to clear an area of Gorse near to the wildflower meadow. We are intending to manage this area of land as an extension of our existing meadow, so will be implementing a similar grazing and cutting regime.

By lunch the gorse had disappeared and our volunteers now have a job for Tuesday! Raking off and removing these cuttings will to help reduce the available nutrients in the soil to encourage a diverse range of wild flowers to grow. It will be interesting to see what can be found here over the summer months and exciting to watch this area develop over the next few years.

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Again - Water Droplets!

Thursday, March 26th 2015

When the rain stopped the reserve was left glistening with droplets of water.  This tiny piece of lichen was almost covered with water.  Its reflection can be seen in the rain drop.

Lichen with its rain drop.

The furry male flowers of the willow were also covered in rain drops, some defying gravity.

Willow flowers

During the flower walk yesterday, twelve flowers, in flower, were recorded but willow was not one of them.  Today looking up instead of down, a large willow near the boundary fence was seen in full bloom.   These are the male flowers.  Whilst photographing them, on the camera's full zoom, a bee was seen feeding.  At this time of year the catkins provide a welcome source of food for many insects.

Willow catkins

The work volunteers do varies, no two days are the same.  Yesterday the flower walk was carried out and the activity sheets were prepared for the holidays.  Today, dams and drains were checked and some volunteers were involved in learning about what activities we carry out on our educational visits.  A huge thank you to every one.

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Wetland Work

Tuesday, March 24th 2015

The wetland became a hive of activity today as our volunteers worked to get this habitat ready for the approaching breeding season. Over the past two weeks Ken and Eddie have spent time cutting coarse rushes and grasses from the bunds and pools. This helps to create a short sward with clear views from ponds which is much preferred by waders and wildfowl.

With the last section receiving a trim, the rest of the team worked to rake the cut stems from the bunds and water. These were then burned on a small fire.

Removing these from the bunds will help to reduce the available nutrients in the soil which helps to create a more diverse ground flora, enabling some of the rarer flowers and plants to flourish. Cattle are also used to help manage the grass sward through the summer months.

We are really starting to see the benefits of the cutting and grazing regime here, with coarse rushes and grasses much less dominant than in previous years.

Thank you and well done to everyone who has helped us improve the habitat here today and over the past few years.

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Spring Cleaning

Monday, March 23rd 2015

Members of the Richmond and District Beekeeping Association kindly gave up their time this afternoon to give our observation hide a much needed clean. The first job was detaching this from the stand and carefully carrying this outside so work could begin.

Once the doors had been opened the delicate job of removing the old frames began, these were placed in a nuc box while the cleaning was done.

The queen was located quite quickly and separated from the worker bees. She was then marked with a blue dot on her back so she can be easily identified in the hive.

The remaining bees were then swept from the frame into the nuc box using soft goose feathers.

The old comb and propolis was scraped from the frames and glass before they were wiped down with water.

Once this was done the new frames could be installed and the bees returned to their home.

The queen was located and put in the hive to encourage all of the workers to return.

The workers were then shaken from the old frames into the clean hive and the doors quickly shut.

The whole hive was then carried back inside and secured in place. Before we had even had a chance to change out of our suits the bees were returning to the hive and making a start on rebuilding the comb.

We are incredibly grateful to the beekeepers for the time they give us to look after this fantastic educational resource. It will be fascinating over the coming months to watch as the hive develops.

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A Lovely Day

Sunday, March 22nd 2015

It was cold but sunny as the bird ringers arrived to raise the nets. There was even some ice on one of the ponds!

Ice on the pond

Looking back towards the Field Centre the early morning sun caught the old reed seed heads making them look almost silver.Reed seed heads in the sun

Whilst the nets were being raised three Chiffchaffs were heard singing. The first of the year. Seven Blackbirds were caught and newly ringed.  Lesser Redpolls, Bullfinches and Robins made an appearance in the ringing room as did this Dunnock.  Although its plumage is dull brown and grey it has a beautiful rich brown eye.

Dunnock

Many visitors enjoyed walking around the reserve and visiting the ringing room during the day.  Thank you to everyone who helped.

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Differences

Saturday, March 21st 2015

The sunny weather has not continued and today there was a bitterly cold wind and only hints of sunshine. However the cycle of the seasons continues, although slowly.  Some of the Larch trees along the Sycamore Avenue have just burst their buds and the soft green needles are showing.  Others in the same area are still brown.

Bursting buds of Larch

Out on the exposed moor, in the ancient hedgeline, Bird Cherry is most certainly in leaf.  Although this photograph is not very close and has barbed wire in the background, you can clearly see all the leaves just waiting to unfurl.

Bird Cherry in leaf just

Another Bird Cherry near to the Grand Fir is not as far on as the one in the open.

Bird Cherry buds

Alder trees along Risedale Beck are still tight in their purple buds.

Purple Alder buds

On the wetland one small tree has opened its bud to reveal the green leaves beneath.

Opened Alder bud

The obvious reasons for differences in the development of the buds does not seem to fit the ones mentioned above as the more exposed trees are further in leaf than those in more sheltered situations.  However the Blackthorn along Risedale Beck, which is more sheltered but does not have as much sun yet, has flower buds more developed than those on the Blackthorn Avenue.  Nature is amazing and always sets questions which are not easy to answer, but the discussions are interesting and fun, although probably not conclusive!

From bursting buds to open flowers.  Gorse is showing dark golden yellow flowers in many areas of the reserve.

Gorse

Primroses are appearing in their usual haunts and their pale lemon yellow flowers make a change to the dull browns of the dead grasses.

Primrose

Coltsfoot is one flower we look for early in the year and usually fail to find it.  This year it is flowering in many places.  The photograph shows one flower in bud but others, almost like a nest of eggs waiting to hatch.

Buds of Coltsfoot flowers

Coltsfoot is in flower before the leaves which are shaped like a colt's foot, hence its name.  Some information says that the leaf can be eaten by the Cinnabar moth if the Ragwort is eaten, as it contains the same poisonous alkaloids as Ragwort.  Another point for lively discussion as we think that the Coltsfoot leaves are over by the time the moths have eaten all the Ragwort.  A check will be kept on both plants!

Coltsfoot

Night temperatures have been very low over the last few weeks so the moth trap has not been set.  Nor have there been any moths on the Field Centre.  This morning there were three, Oak Beauty, Early Grey and this Yellow Horned moth.

Yellow Horned Moth

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Eclipse

Friday, March 20th 2015

Several of our volunteers gathered here early in the morning to enjoy watching the partial solar eclipse and a bacon sandwich. We were lucky enough to get good views of the event through several breaks in the cloud. Pinhole cameras, solar glasses and visors were all put to good use as we lined up in the back garden to enjoy the spectacle.

Through the cloud we were even lucky enough to get some clear shots of the eclipse!

Thank you to everyone who helped with cooking the bacon, buttering the bread and clearing up afterwards!

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The Sun Shines on Foxglove

Thursday, March 19th 2015

After a misty start the sun made a welcomed appearance today bringing a spring feeling to the reserve. We had our first school visit of the year with forty children from Michael Syddal Church of England Primary School learning about nature and having fun on the reserve. The activities were led by staff and volunteers and we would really like to thank everyone who helped with the visit.

Away from the hustle and bustle of the school visit the Thursday volunteers set to work upgrading the duck raft in hope that it will be used during the imminent breeding season. After some careful measurements were taken they set to work building a new shallower sloped entry ramp.

The ramp was then attached to the raft and a new layer of woodchip was applied creating a much more welcoming place for the ducks to nest in safety. Mike and Tony made a really good job of the ramp so from us and the ducks, thank you.

Whilst the duck ramp construction was taking place John painstakingly cleaned, oiled and tightened a lot of the tools that we use on the reserve everyday. This is a really important job as it means the tools are in better working order and it prolongs the life span of them, so thank you very much John.


 

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Not A Normal Delivery

Wednesday, March 18th 2015

The reserve is slowly starting to recover after the damage caused by an articulated lorry on Friday. The driver managed to work his way along the track knocking into every single large stone that can be found along the edge, as well as causing major damage to the track.

The lorry became bogged down after he tried to reverse and drove of the side of the track leaving ruts alongside the Field Centre at least 2 feet deep and destroying the stability of the track.

Recovery vehicles were called in and it was necessary to fell several of the old Willow and Hawthorn trees around the centre to manoeuvre this into a position where it was able to pull the lorry out.

Once back on the track we still had the issue of turning the 50 foot lorry around so it could be on its way, needless to say this was no easy feat and necessitated the removal of several more trees around the workshop as well as causing damage to the infrastructure of our paths and signage. Almost eight hours after his arrival we were able to get him off the site.

Severe damage was caused to sections of the track and work started yesterday to make this safe and put right the mess that was left behind. So far, ten tonnes of new stone has been used to rebuild the worst affected sections of track with more needed to finish repairs to the remaining damage. From the workshop to just past the Field Centre 18 tonnes of top soil was needed to fill in and repair the ruts.

Students from the Dales School were fascinated as the contractors worked hard to put right the damage. While the track is now safe and access to the reserve is as usual, there is still much work to be done, including re-surfacing sections of road, re-laying part of the front lawn, and repairing collapsed drains alongside the track.

 

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Finishing Off

Tuesday, March 17th 2015

Volunteers have had a busy day finishing off some of the jobs that have been started over the past couple of weeks.

The net ride maintenance along the ‘Dog Leg’ was finished this morning, with the willow being pollarded at a height of six foot. Cutting at this height keeps the vegetation at optimum height for bird ringing.

Ken and Eddie continued strimming on the wetland. Cutting of the vegetation will be completed over the next week so the area is ready for the breeding season.

During the afternoon we spent time clearing invasive Silver Birch from a clearing in a section of conifer woodland. Removing these trees will allow more light to reach the ground encouraging natural regeneration as well as promoting the development of a more diverse ground flora.

Volunteers were also hard at work in the Field Centre spring cleaning and completing the monthly stock check. Thank you to everyone who has helped us with these jobs today.

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Coming Along Nicely

Monday, March 16th 2015

Recently we put up some bird feeders just outside the wetland gate to improve the views from the hide. The feeding station was constructed and put in place by some of our dedicated volunteers.

Well it has taken a little time for the birds to find them but we are now happy to report that they are now being used by a variety of birds including Nuthatch, Blackbirds and Chaffinch (as pictured below).

We have also been keeping an eye on the willow spiling that was completed recently and are glad to report that it is still standing following a recent period of snow melt and heavy rain.

Even more excitingly some of the willow withies have started to bud. This is a great sign that the willow is living and will hopefully be setting root and stabilising our bank for years to come.

Thank you to everyone who helped on these projects your hard work is really starting to pay dividends.

 

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Bird Ringing

Sunday, March 15th 2015

After rain and wind it was good to have a day that was more settled so that the bird ringers could put some nets up. Birds were identified, and wing length and weight recorded.  67 birds of 11 species were processed by lunchtime, Bullfinch continuing to lead the field.

Processing the birds

This beautiful male Bullfinch was newly ringed.  It is only when you get close to these birds that you can see the tiny reddish coloured feather on the wing.  You can also see in this photograph that it has been feeding and so has a dirty beak!

Male Bullfinch

Thank you to everyone who helped today.

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Still Winter Colours

Saturday, March 14th 2015

By this time of year we are hoping that there will be some colour around the reserve.  Adam tried to convince us that Foxglove looked greener, not sure if he succeeded.  The reed bed is brown.

Reed bed

 This lichen has its fruiting bodies, but they too are brown.

Lichen with brown fruiting bodies

Italian Alder is in flower and with some imagination there could be a hint of red and orange.

After rain the sun comes out and highlights the green of the moss.

Moss in the sunshine

A pool was uncovered as the Gorse was cleared on the moor and it is red.  These sphagnum filled ponds have their own unique flora and fauna.

Sphagnum moss

However all is not lost, there is some colour, Gorse is flowering!

Gorse

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Bird Boxes

Wednesday, March 11th 2015

This morning we headed out onto the training area to replace some of the nest boxes that we maintain. The damaged boxes where identified after the nesting season last year and have been replaced with new ones just in time for the birds to put them to good use.

The boxes will be visited by the bird ringers during the breeding season. We attempt to catch the adult as well as recording and ringing any chicks that are found. All of this data is then sent to the British Trust for Ornithology and used for conservation work and population monitoring studies.

Don’t forget that there are over 100 bird boxes at Foxglove which you could sponsor through our Adopt-A-Box scheme. On joining the scheme, you will receive a certificate with a picture of your box and a map marking its location. We will then contact you during the autumn with a report on successes of the breeding season here on the reserve. 

 

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Team Tuesday

Tuesday, March 10th 2015

Work began on the wetland today cutting back rushes and Gorse in preparation for the breeding season. Ken and Eddie have made a fantastic start here and over the next week the rest of the wetland will be cut. This work helps to reduce the dominance of rushes through the ground flora, as well as providing good views across the water from the hide.

The rest of the Tuesday volunteers continued clearing Gorse from the moorland in beautiful spring sunshine.

John made the most of the fine weather finding a comfortable hideaway for lunch.

By early afternoon this had been completed and we focused our efforts on a patch of nearby woodland, where invasive Silver Birch saplings were removed and Holly trees thinned out, allowing the trees more space and light to grow as they mature.

Thank you to everyone who has volunteered and helped us to improve these habitats today!

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Frogspawn

Monday, March 9th 2015

Despite the weather, signs of spring can now be found across the reserve. Frogs have recently been seen migrating over the land and can now be found spawning in many of the pools through the scrapes, on the wetland and in the ponds alongside Risedale Beck.

Frogspawn can be seen floating on or near the surface, and in a matter of weeks tadpoles will be delighting children as they peer into the ponds during their Easter Holidays.

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First Toad!

Sunday, March 8th 2015

Yesterday the first toad was spotted in a damp drainage ditch on the moor.

Common Toad

The frogs have not yet returned to the Scrapes to spawn and it is usually about two weeks later that toads arrive.

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March Worky Day

Saturday, March 7th 2015

Thirty volunteers joined us on the reserve today for the last of this season’s Winter Worky Days. Matt headed off first thing with the younger group to plant out the last of the Larch saplings through the woodland.

The rest of us headed to the moorland to clear an area of old growth Gorse. Below is the ‘before’ photo.

Old Gorse provides little value to wildlife as nesting sites and dramatically reduces the ground flora where it is found. Removing the Gorse found here will allow for a more diverse species mix to develop on this patch of moorland.

Volunteers got stuck in with their usual gusto and soon the fire was burning well to clear a never-ending pile of cuttings!

As usual, we all enjoyed a chicken curry for lunch followed by a delicious selection of homemade cakes.

All fuelled up after a good lunch we headed out again to finish off the job.

By the close of play we had cleared this section and made a real improvement to the habitat here.

We must say a massive thank you to everyone who has given up their weekend to help us over the winter months on these worky days. We have been amazed at the amount and quality of the work done and will soon be able to enjoy the fruits of our labour as the seasons change and the reserve once again becomes full of life.

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Tree Planting

Thursday, March 5th 2015

During the stormy weather over the winter months we have lost over 50 trees around the reserve. Volunteers spent most of the day planting young Larch saplings to replace these. We under planted areas of woodland and added some to our new woodland blocks near to the lake and outdoor classroom.

This work will help to increase the species diversity, as well as creating a varied age structure in our woodland areas, providing habitat for a wide variety of wildlife as these grow and mature. As always, thank you to everyone who has helped us out today.

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Signs of Spring

Wednesday, March 4th 2015

Despite the small patches of snow still lying in many of the shadier areas of the reserve, signs of the approaching spring can be found across Foxglove.

More and more spring flowers are being seen as volunteers and visitors walk around, this Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage can be seen growing in dark, damp patches along watercourses.

Leaves of Greater Spearwort can be spotted emerging from many of the ponds through the scrapes, in only a few months we will be able to enjoy their beautiful yellow flowers and the reserve will once again be teeming with life.

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Net Ride Maintenance

Tuesday, March 3rd 2015

Now work in the coppice block is complete we can concentrate on other jobs around the reserve. Vegetation along net rides is managed by pollarding; this involves cutting the willow that lines the rides at six foot. This ensures that the vegetation is at a similar height to the mist nets, allowing for them to be most effective.

Volunteers have already worked along several net rides this winter so quickly got stuck into the task.

Several large Silver Birch trees were felled close by. These trees were removed as they set thousands of seeds each year, creating a thick, dense covering of fast growing saplings. These young trees then shade any ground flora and many other trees reducing the diversity of plants found in these areas.

By the end of the day a huge amount had been achieved. The bird ringers will all be grateful for the hard work and effort that has been put in to improve these net rides.

Thank you to everyone who has helped us with this task today.

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Dates for your Diary

Monday, March 2nd 2015

Visitors have, once again, been enjoying winter views across the reserve. There have been sightings of Mallard, Teal, Moorhen and Snipe on the wetland, as well as several species of birds seen utilising the new feeding station that has been recently installed here by our volunteers.

The last of this season’s Winter Worky Days is this Saturday, if you would like to come and help improve habitats on your favourite nature reserve please let Adam or Matt know so we can organise lunch.

Also, on Sunday 29th March we have a fundraising day at Catterick Market; this is a fantastic opportunity to help raise funds for conservation work on the reserve as well as increase the Foxglove’s profile in the local area. If you are able to help at all, please get in touch with Adam or Matt.
 

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First Day of Spring!

Sunday, March 1st 2015

Rumours of frogspawn had volunteers out hunting.  This morning in the sunshine, this can be seen by the bright strip at the top of the photograph, Catherine captured these frogs on their way to a pond.  Judging by the sunflower seed case on the frog's leg, these two have been near the bird feeders.

Frogs

Later in the afternoon, frogspawn was spotted in two ponds, in the pouring rain.  This can be seen by the large rings on the water and if you look closely there is frogspawn in amongst the vegetation.

Frogspawn in the rain

By late afternoon it was snowing!

Snow!

It was almost a white out over the heathland!

Snow over the heathland

Strong winds this morning settled to a calm afternoon.  All in all a typical first day of spring.  Perhaps we should wait for the equinox on the 21st.

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