(28) Blog Posts Made in September 2015

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Art in the Environment

Wednesday, September 30th 2015

Today we had a visit from Kirkby Fleetham Primary School, the theme for their visit was ‘Art in the Environment’. We split into three groups to complete activities around the reserve. Some of us headed off to complete some natural art work in the woodland.

For the second activity we headed down to the scrapes to do some pond dipping.

We found lots of life in the ponds including Pond Skaters, Leeches, Snails, Damselfly Larva, Whirligig Beetles and lots of Sticklebacks.

The third activity took place in our indoor classroom where the children created art works of some of the animals that inhabit Foxglove.

Thanks to our helpers today, your input was greatly appreciated.

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A Fond Farewell

Tuesday, September 29th 2015

It was another beautiful day and the volunteers and canine companions got stuck into lopping and pruning back trees and shrubs on the one of the net rides.  

We need to keep a clear line of sight along these rides so that the birds can pass through and fly into the mist nets.

We enjoyed a special lunch today as sadly tomorrow we say goodbye to Stacey, who will be ‘migrating’ south for the winter to work for the British Antarctic Survey.   We look forward to her return journey to work at Foxglove in the Spring.

After lunch we all enjoyed a short presentation by Stacey on the work she does on Signy Island working with Adelie, Chinstrap and Gentoo penguins.  There were some amazing photographs of icebergs.

A big thank you to everyone who helped out today both in the field and in providing a lovely lunch.

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New Arrivals

Monday, September 28th 2015

Over the weekend we had some new arrivals at Foxglove. Our local farmer delivered a small flock of sheep that will graze our wild flower meadows over the coming months. They will help trample flower seeds into the soil and keep the meadow vegetation short.

Volunteers and staff joined Naomi and Anne from the Freshwater Habitats Trust for a Mud Snail training session this morning. In the classroom we learnt why Mud Pond Snails are important and where we might find them.

We then learnt about the different pond snails we might come across, before heading out for a practical session on the wetland where we learnt how to survey them. We are pleased to report that a number were found, in more than one of our ponds.  In the future we hope to survey all of our ponds to see exactly where this little creature lives. 

We would like to thank both Anne and Naomi for taking the time to come and teach us about snails today, and for the volunteers who came to learn how to survey them.

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Last Day at the Crater

Sunday, September 27th 2015

The bird  ringers were back at the Crater this morning.  Net rounds returned with birds including some juvenile Goldfinch.  As we watched, there were flocks flying around and descending onto the stands of thistles to feed.  These groups of Goldfinches can be called a charm, a chirm, a drum or a troubling of Goldfinches.

A charm of Goldfinches

Reed Buntings have been scarce both at the Crater and at Foxglove, so it was good to ring two juvenile males today.

Male juvenile Reed Bunting

Over 50 Mipits were caught. Many less than a week ago.  We decided that the Mipit migration south, over the Crater was almost at an end.  A huge thank you to everyone who has contributed this season.  

The sun rose, so too did the temperature. Butterflies became active.  Red Admiral, Peacock, Small Heath and Small Tortoiseshell were recorded.

Small Tortoiseshell

At this time of year we see many Fox Moth caterpillars at the Crater.  Their food plants include Heathers, Bilberry and Creeping Willow on moors and heaths, Bramble and Meadowsweet in wet habitats and Salad Burnet on downland.

The caterpillars can be seen from July to April, with fully grown ones being up to 7cm in length. They have long brown hairs on the sides of the body and shorter dark orange hairs on the upper surface.  Although they hibernate, on warm sunny days in April they can emerge to sunbathe before pupating.  Adults are on the wing during May and June.

Fox Moth caterpillar

Not sure which is the head end and which the tail!

Fox Moth caterpillar

As we prepared to leave, a flock of Pink-footed Geese flew over arriving from their breeding grounds in Spitsbergen, Iceland and Greenland, to spend the winter here.  In the distance six Buzzards could be seen circling on the thermals.

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Mipits Again

Saturday, September 26th 2015

Ringers arrived at 0630 at The Crater.  There was a beautiful sunrise. 

Sunrise at the Crater

Unfortunately the cloud cover did not break but the consolation was that it was not too cold. 

The Mipit season is coming to a close as they all continue their move south.  It was noticeable that many of the birds were beginning to build up their fat store ready for their long journey.  Fat scores on the birds can be recorded to be entered into IMPR.  Tony took the opportunity to explain to the ringers, where the fat was laid down and how to record it.

Recording Fat Scores

For many years the stone outside the Crater has been of great value to those people whose legs are less than long.  Joy of joys today, the gate was opened!

An open gate

In the spring and summer the Crater has a great variety of species, from Great Crested Newts to Primroses, Cinnabar Moth caterpillars and Common Blue Butterflies.  At this time of year Peacock Butterflies are finding suitable places to spend the winter after making the most of the food provided by the late flowering thistles and Ragwort.  This butterfly was found in the grass close to a path, so to save it from being trodden on it was placed on a tree leaf.

Butterfly on leaf

There is a transformation when it opens its wings to show itself as a Peacock butterfly.

Peacock Butterfly

Over 60 Meadow Pipits were ringed along with some young Goldfinch.  Many thanks to everyone who helped today.

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Make Hay While the Sun Shines

Thursday, September 24th 2015

Today was a beautiful autumn day, a good day for our new Reserve Manager - Lisa to start on. Lisa has been working in Dumfries & Galloway for the last 7 years but has returned to her native Yorkshire and is looking forward to working with Matt and the volunteers in maintaining Foxglove as the fantastic reserve it is.

Problems with the live feed cameras that display in the visitor centre involved a bit of detective work for Matt, John and Mike, tracing and checking cables and swapping /replacing batteries.

Last week the volunteers cut the meadows, so they needed raking and the sward removing to keep the nutrient levels low in order to keep it botanically rich. Stacey and Lisa were joined by volunteers and members of the Youth Justice Service.

I think everyone enjoyed being out in the sunshine.

Thanks to all who helped today, their skills and enthusiasm are much appreciated. 

 


 

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A date for your Diaries

Wednesday, September 23rd 2015

Tickets for this event are now on sale at Foxglove Covert. Come along and support us, whilst enjoying an evening of wonderful photography set to music, and a buffet supper.   

 

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A Busy Tuesday

Tuesday, September 22nd 2015

The volunteers were hard at it again today completing a number of jobs around the reserve. Some set out with strimmers and started cutting some of our smaller meadows. Although the tractor was used for the big meadow, it is too large to get into the smaller areas so these need to be done by hand.

Meanwhile, other volunteers headed up into the woodlands to cut down all the Sycamore shoots that have grown up over the last year and are shading the sunlight from plants on the woodland floor. The Dales School came to help out for a while before lunch.

Matt spent some time checking the trees in the area and felled a few that were starting to look unstable.

Thanks to everyone who helped out today.

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East Cowton School Visit

Monday, September 21st 2015

Today East Cowton Primary School visited Foxglove. Upon arrival the heavens opened and everyone got rather wet whilst walking through the reserve to the field centre. However, they were all well dressed with wellies and waterproofs so were soon ready to start activities.

The topic for the day was “Art in the Environment” One group headed off to the woodland to learn about changing seasons and create some woodland art masterpieces from items found on the woodland floor.

Another group went pond dipping to see what they could find lurking in the depths of the ponds.

The final group had a wildlife related art session, creating colourful butterflies for our wall collection and making arty string birds.

By the end of the day the sun was shining and despite the rain, everyone had a nice day out.

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Summer/Autumn Flowers

Sunday, September 20th 2015

There are times of the year that we associate with certain flowers.  In the spring we eagerly await the pale yellow Primroses and June sees the Dog Roses in bloom.  Late summer it is Fleabane, Hemp Agrimony, Sneezewort and even some Dandelions.  The flowers that show their colours in late summer can last well into autumn, depending on the weather, of course.

Hardhead's purple flowers are attractive to bees.

Bee on Hardhead

When carrying out the monthly flower walk Mint can only be recorded as 'Mint' species.  There is more than one type and they hybridise!  When trodden on the leaves release that wondeful minty aroma.

Mint sp

Wood Cranesbill is on our species list.  It only grows in three places on the reserve.  This plant is growing in the Scrapes and it was assumed, when the photograph was taken, to be Wood Cranesbill.  But on examining the photograph carefully this may not be so.  A trip through the undergrowth and several of the ladies who carry out the flower walk, plus flower books will be needed to confirm ID!

Possible Wood Cranesbill

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Our Patch

Saturday, September 19th 2015

Walking around the reserve there is always something to see or notice or reflect on.  Over the last three or four years the Harebells have been found growing in different places and there are more of them.  This is good news.

Harebells

Sightings of Brimstone Butterflies have increased over the last two years.  Following their erratic flight as they move quickly from one plant to another can be quite difficult - especially if you are inclined to photograph them.  This one actually sat still feeding, for at least a minute, allowing some photographs to be taken.

A suggestion is that the veins on the wings are similar to those on an Ivy leaf.  It is in Ivy that this butterfly hibernates.  Buckthorn trees that have been planted around the reserve, are the food plant of the caterpillar.

Brimstone Butterfly feeding on thistle flower

Robin's Pincushion Galls have featured on the blog, but this one caught the eye as it was so big.  There will be many chambers inside this gall.

A large Robin's Pincushion Gall

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Friday

Friday, September 18th 2015

Fridays are often quiet days at work with not many visitors. The large groups of volunteers are not here, and neither are school groups. Fridays are a day for completing outstanding tasks and getting the reserve ready for the weekend. Today this involved emptying the bins and filling up the bird feeders.

It involved removing all evidence of yesterday’s bonfire on the track.

It involved cleaning grubby finger prints off the windows and generally making sure the Reserve looked presentable.

By the end of the day it was raining hard so I’m glad I managed to get the outside tasks done first!    

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Back on the Heath

Thursday, September 17th 2015

Today our volunteers were once again back on the Heath. Although this task must seem endless to some, we really are making good progress and most of the area now looks more like a Heath and less like scrubby Woodland. This picture shows what an area looks like before it has been cleared:

And this one shows one that has been cleared:

It has been good to see lots of the shrubs being dug out by the roots this year instead of just being cut off as this should mean they do not return next year. It was calm enough today to have another fire and we managed to burn everything we had cut today, as well as the pile that was left over from Tuesday.

Many thanks to everyone who helped out today.

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Mipits, Dabchicks and Insects

Wednesday, September 16th 2015

Ideal conditons to be back at the Crater this morning.  Some of our bird ringers have visited Teeside to ring birds in amongst the heavy industry there.  A real contrast to Foxglove Covert.

Teesside

The sunrise was different, but still spectacular.

Sunrise

Tony sent out this email

'We started at 0615 and closed at 1100. Brilliant weather!

Totals were Mipits X 213, Lesre X 2, Siski X 1, Goldf x 9. Two raptors got away! That is about 650 Mipits we have done now.

Thanks to all those who helped, and to Brian for baby sitting FGC. Much appreciated!'

Thanks also to Tony for organising the morning and bringing the considerable amount of 'kit' needed which includes nets and poles, speaker systems, rings, recording sheets and the many other oddments that just might be needed. 

At Foxglove the Little Grebe parents were feeding their chicks.  Yet again the camera pushed to its limit, (we must get the birds to come closer to the hide windows!) the adult had just fed this chick. With a  bit of imagination you can see the fish in the chick's beak.  It had struggled to get through the pond weed to reach its parent and was actually walking on the vegetation.  When it found clear water it moved very quickly!

Adult Little Grebe and chick

This photograph was taken from the Wildfowl Platform and not only shows the Dabchick adult, probably the male? but also how clear the water in the lake is.

Dabchick

Although the air was cool, the sun was warm and some butterflies, like this Small Tortoiseshell, were enjoying feeding.  Hemp Agrimony is still in flower and bees, hoverflies and butterflies all enjoy the food.  Thistles provide food for birds like the Goldfinch.

Small Tortoiseshell on Hemp Agrimony with thistle seeds in the background

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Back on the Heathland

Tuesday, September 15th 2015

Today our volunteers once again spent the day out on the Heath, where they continued the seemingly endless task of clearing small shrubs from the area.

Despite the rain at first, it soon brightened up and by mid-afternoon it was warm and sunny.

Once the rain had eased we were able to have a small fire and burn everything we had cut down.

The Dales School also visited, having returned from their summer holiday break, and spent some time re-acquainting themselves with the reserve.

Thanks to everyone for their hard work today.

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Seeds

Monday, September 14th 2015

Today started fairly brightly but got increasingly darker as the day went on. By mid-afternoon the skies were heavy and the rain had set in. This makes finding pretty insects and birds to photograph for the blog rather tricky. Plants however cannot hide from the rain so here are a few of the more eye catching seeds and berries around the reserve at present.

The Rowan (Mountain Ash) berries are currently very red. 

The Spindle tree seeds have formed and are currently an off-white colour.  Later in the year the seed cases will turn bright pink, then split open to reveal the equally-as-bright orange seeds inside. 

The Blackthorn bushes are covered in purple sloes that are ripening rapidly.

Finally, autumn is a good time of year to spot fungi.  Some are very small and delicate and often go unnoticed.  These tiny ones (species unknown- we will have to ask our fungi expert!) were only about the size of a large pea.

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Layers On Layers Off

Sunday, September 13th 2015

Our email to say that we were ringing at the Crater on Sunday at 0615 did state that we needed wellies and layers.  It was cold.  Everyone was well wrapped up and wellies were definitely needed after yesterday's rain.

Raising the nets

It has been some time since there has been a sunrise on the blog, but it was dramatic today.

Sunrise

Once the nets were raised, the 'ringing center' was organised.  Tables, chairs, scales, somewhere to hang the bird bags and of course the biscuits!  Notice the layers!

Ringing Center

By the time 'meals on wheels' arrived, courtesy of Glennis and Joan, some of the layers had been removed as it was still, warm and sunny.

Elevenses

Some young Goldfinches were caught, still in juvenile plumage.  You can just see some red feathers showing on this bird's head.

Juvenile Goldfinch

The majority of the birds caught were Mipits.  They have completed their post juvenile moult but have not yet started to build their fat layers ready for migration. Not only do they come to this part of the training area to feed but the large pools provide them with water.

Mipits by the pools

By lunchtime the clouds had built, the wind had increased and the layers were back on!  There were fewer birds coming to the nets so there was some time to look around and view Foxglove's moorland from a different place.

Foxglove's moorland

As the nets came down 298 new birds had been ringed and only one retrap.  An excellent day!  A huge thank you to everyone who helped.  Now we have to wait for the weather for a return visit.

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Great Sighting!

Saturday, September 12th 2015

Sometimes you can walk to the lake hides and all is quiet and calm.  Nothing stirs on the water.  Not a sound is heard.  Then there are those magical moments when you see 'something'!  A pair of Little Grebes have been reported on the lake for some weeks.  This week two chicks were seen and although pushing the camera to its limits some photographs were taken.

The male is catching the food and if you look closely you can see he has a fish in his beak.  This one he gave to his mate.

Litte Grebe with fish

He did not stay on the surface for long.  We followed his journey underwater by the wake that he made.

Wake from Little Grebe underwater

Watching carefully through binoculars the conversation ran along the lines 'There is a chick.'  'It has gone.'  Where?'  Dad's off again' 'There he isn't, he's just dived.' 'Mam's off the nest.'  'She has just added some more nesting material.' And finally 'There are two chicks!'  (Unfortunately cameras could not get the two of them together!)

Chick

We were not sure if the noise, a high pitched sort of rattle squeak was because the chicks were getting too far away or whether it was because they had just been fed.  However it was a lovely unmistakeable sound.

Little Grebe chick

Thank you to our volunteers who spotted these little chicks and for keeping an eye on them.  Hopefully they will come a little nearer to the hide to allow some better photographs to be taken.  Records will be checked to see if this is the first time they have bred at Foxglove.

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Signs of Autumn

Friday, September 11th 2015

When out and about on the reserve these days, you can’t help but notice that autumn is on its way. Although the lovely spring flowers are long past, autumn itself is just as colourful, with the oranges and yellows of turning leaves and the reds of ripening berries. Through the scrapes there are still a number of later flowering plants, frequently covered with feeding butterflies and bees. Here are a few signs of autumn from around the reserve today.

The Bird Cherry tree is one of the first to change colour.

The Juniper bushes are covered in black and green berries.

The thistles that we didn’t manage to pull up over the summer are now spreading their seeds in the breeze.

The Hawthorn berries have turned a lovely red colour.

Foxglove in autumn is well worth a visit, so if you have a spare hour, come down and see for yourself!

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Strimming and Mowing

Thursday, September 10th 2015

It was a hot and sunny day at Foxglove. If it wasn’t for the ever-increasing number of golden yellow leaves appearing on some of the trees, we could have convinced ourselves it was still summer. The volunteers were busy with mowers and strimmers today. John strimmed the edges of the hay meadow (only the edges, we didn’t make him do the whole field!).

Meanwhile Tony and Mike and Stacey, armed with mowers, rakes, shears and brushes, set to work mowing net rides, removing cobwebs and tidying up the garden and the area in front of the Field Centre.

By the end of the day the place looked very smart indeed.

Thanks to all of our volunteers who worked hard today.

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The Crater

Wednesday, September 9th 2015

An earlier visit to The Crater was abandoned due to deteriorating weather conditons.  This morning at 0615 it was overcast, rather cool, and with a hint of dampness but no wind, perfect for ringing.  The nets were raised, the tape lures placed just so, and almost immediately the birds arrived.

In total 146 Meadow Pipits were ringed, all juveniles with the exception of one adult, a very unusual occurrence.  Mipits are beautiful birds.

Meadow Pipit

Amongst other birds ringed were two Lesser Redpolls, one Siskin and a juvenile Wheatear.

Juvenle Wheatear

There was a surprise awaiting the ringers on an early net round.  A young female Kestrel was caught.  Whilst ringing Mipits there are often raptors flying around, hoping for a meal.  Kestrels do not take birds on the wing but wait for them to land before making their move to catch them.

Female juvenile Kestrel

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What a lot of Seed!

Tuesday, September 8th 2015

Our Tuesday volunteers have been very busy today tackling a range of tasks. Over the weekend we had received a large delivery of bird seed mixture from a generous local farmer. This is a mixture of seeds and chaff from his harvest and we use it in our wooden hoppers. Birds such as Bullfinches are particularly keen on it. The seed arrived in eight large builders sacks.

These sacks have to be broken down into smaller more manageable loads which is a dirty and dusty job. Our volunteers proved to be very efficient at this, and before long, all the seed was bagged, transported to our seed store and neatly stacked for use during the rest of the year. 

Meanwhile, some of our other volunteers headed out onto the Moor to rake up the hay that was cut last week, ready to be baled and taken away. Afterwards we continued a task we began last week; cutting down overhanging branches along Risedale Beck.

Everyone worked very hard indeed today and it was much appreciated.

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Festival of Nature Quiz Results

Monday, September 7th 2015

Once again there has been an excellent response to our quiz and we would like to thank all those who have taken part.

The results are:

44 correct answers (100%): Mike Milton, Maggie Bruce, Adam Bradley, Christine Byers, the Coopers.
43 correct answers: Mike Fenwick, Trish Illingworth, Brian Hird, Caroline Broughton, Anne and Mike Bacon.
42 correct answers: Ann Hall
41 correct answers: Emma Atkinson, Val and Ted Darwin.

With five correct answers, the name drawn out to win the £10 token is Adam Bradley.

Thanks to Pat Thistlethwaite for compiling the quiz for us.

The answers are as follows:

1) Dog Violet
2) Wren
3) Toad
4) Meadow Brown
5) Chaffinch
6) Wasp
7) Dunnock
8) Mayfly
9) Comma
10) Cowslip
11) Swallow
12) Shield bug
13) Yellowhammer
14) Scots pine
15) Blue tit
16) Great tit
17) Sallow
18) Damselfly
19) Pied wagtail
20) Bluebell
21) Crow
22) Ladybird
23) Thyme
24) Jay
25) Larch
26) Skipper
27) Redshank
28) Daisy
29) Moorhen
30) Newt
31) Weevil
32) Pheasant
33) Yellow rattle
34) Ringlet
35) Brimstone
36) Celandine
37) Orange tip
38) Gorse
39) Blackcap
40) Bee
41) Kingfisher
42) Primrose
43) Sand martin
44) Reed bunting


 

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A Busy Weekend

Sunday, September 6th 2015

As has been mentioned when the sun comes out so do the insects.  This Peacock Butterfly looks as though it has a fringe!

Peacock Butterfly

Walking through the Scrapes a dragonfly was seen hunting when it suddenly made a turn upwards and caught an insect.  It then landed on a post.  If you look carefully (make sure you are not having your tea!) you can just see the wings of the insect. When the photograph was downloaded it was interesting to see the number of wings this dragonfly appears to have!

Dragonfly

Early in the morning some bees are to be found sitting very close to the flower head, obviously not yet warm enough to be feeding.  Have they spent the night there?  We will need to investigate.

Bee on Hardheads

Jack, a member of the ringing team rings currently on Salisbury Plain and caught  a Lesser Whitethroat today, a bird we do not see any more at Foxglove.

Lesser Whitethroat

Another bird, few people have seen is a Wryneck; Jack caught this beautiful bird earlier today.  They are a Red Listed bird.  They mainly feed on the ground, on ants, and don't climb trees like other members of their family.

Wryneck

Wryneck

The ringing team at FGC completed the last CES of 2015 this afternoon.  Twenty three years of CES, with not a day missed - a tremendous achievement.  The data has been collated and sent to the BTO - it is an amazing set of records.

CES does not just happen.  A dedicated team of ringers arrive at dawn throughout the summer and leave at least 11 hours later.  Many volunteers support the ringers by carrying out a multitude of different tasks.  A huge thank you to everyone involved.

The team.

A Song Thrush was ringed this morning and it showed off its patterned plumage as it was held for a photograph.

Song Thrush

Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, Siskins, and Lesser Redpolls all passed through the ringing room today along with some of the other regular visitors including Goldcrests, 15 Bullfinches, a Sparrowhawk, many Chiffchaffs and 21 Chaffinches.

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Insects in the Sunshine

Saturday, September 5th 2015

It is that time of the year again; when the sun shines the temperature rises and insects appear.  When the sun goes in and the temperature drops - the insects disappear!

Peacock butterflies feed from Hemp Agrimony.

Peacock butterfly

Looking delicate, green and beautiful, the lacewing looks harmless.  However it is a carnivore.

Lacewing

Its larva looks less than friendly and it too is carnivorous.

Lacewing larva

These shieldbugs are well camouflaged against the beech hedge fence.

Shieldbugs

 

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Northdale Visit

Friday, September 4th 2015

Northdale Horticulture paid a visit to Foxglove today to learn about the reserve and the flora and fauna that make Foxglove their home. We went on a walk in the morning and the group were very good at spotting the different plants and animals on their worksheets.

In the afternoon we spent some time pond dipping, delving into the scrapes looking for many of the small creatures that live beneath the surface. Amongst other things we found Sticklebacks, Pond Snails and Whirligig Beetles.

We then finished the afternoon with a spot of bird watching in the lake hide.

A fun day was had by all and we really enjoyed their visit.

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A Premier Team

Thursday, September 3rd 2015

Today our usual group of Thursday volunteers had some extra help. The newly formed team of staff from the recently completed Premier Inn at Catterick Garrison came to help out on the reserve. This gave them the chance to get to know each other as part of a team building week, whilst giving something back to the community in the form of charity work.

Today’s task was clearing vegetation from the heath; a task everyone set to work at with enthusiasm despite the odd passing shower. As it wasn’t too windy we were able to have a fire and burn everything we cut down. By the end of the day, the area of heath we were working on was looking vastly better.

The  work on our entrance track was completed this afternoon so access to the reserve will be back to normal from tomorrow.

We would like to thank the team from Premier Inn who had a number of volunteer opportunities available, but chose to come and support us at Foxglove. I have no doubt that when the Premier Inn opens, it will be in good hands! We would also like to thank our usual volunteers for their continued support.  

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Down by the Beck

Tuesday, September 1st 2015

Today our volunteers have been very busy indeed. Some headed off to the Moorland to start mowing the areas of wildflower meadow that the tractor was unable to reach when the rest was cut last week.

Everyone else headed down to Risedale Beck where a number of tasks were completed. The wooden steps from the beck up into the woodland have become rotten and slippery and these were repaired or replaced accordingly.

Meanwhile, another group rebuilt the dams that cross the beck in a couple of places. These dams divert the beck through a number of ponds, before the water re-joins the main watercourse. We use only natural materials (stones, packed with mud and sediment) to make the dams- after heavy rain and high waters these often get damaged so this is a task that has to be completed a few times each year.

The rest of the team spent the day walking up the beck, removing any overhanging branches from the beck. This gives visitors a better view along it and opens up the water course for birds such as Dippers that use it as a corridor.

We achieved a lot today- thank you very much to everyone who came to help out.

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