(30) Blog Posts Made in May 2016

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Full Strength

Tuesday, May 31st 2016

For the first time in three months we are full strength and have a full compliment of Reserve Managers. Our new Senior Reserve Manager Jennifer introduced herself to our volunteers who as always welcomed her to the reserve.

The weather, although breezy, held off any rain for us to get a few jobs off the list. The big job was to finish the outdoor classroom path which involved physical hard labour.

New volunteer Stuart replacing path boards.

Ann carting gravel for paths

Physical carting with wheel barrows to get the job done.

Jennifer attached herself to various teams; the positioning of motion sensor cameras on Risedale Beck, as well as assisting the team filling bird feeders, and Stacey with the bird box checks and ringing.

While the bulk of the volunteers were doing the path, Ken and Eddie were busy strimming the path sides and generally keeping the reserve looking cared for.

Thank you to the whole team today for their hard labours.
 

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Bank Holiday Monday

Monday, May 30th 2016

Today was different to many Mondays. Being a bank holiday the working day was 10am until 4pm so it started later than normal. It also started with a difference. It was the first day at Foxglove for Jennifer, our new Senior Reserve Manager. The day was spent teaching Jennifer some of the ways in which the reserve operates. By lunch time, the desk based work was starting to seem somewhat dull so we headed out onto the reserve to do something more interesting.

At this time of year there are endless nest boxes to be checked and chicks to be ringed. We started with some of the big boxes, checking one of our nests of Tawny Owls.

One of the chicks was ringed, but the other two were still too small so we will return for them in a few days time. Afterwards, we did some Jackdaw chicks which were getting quite big. Some visiting families were able to see how the ringing process is done, learn about the birds and understand how important it is to ensure the birds are safe at all times.

We finished with some of the smaller nest boxes; Blue Tits and Great Tits.

Things are happening so fast at Foxglove at this time of year- the trees are all in leaf and new flowers are emerging daily.  Its worth visiting regularly to keep up with the changes through the season.

 

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CES 3

Sunday, May 29th 2016

The ringers travelled to Foxglove for a 0415 start under a beautiful half moon.  Expectations of a sunrise behind the stone circle were dashed as it clouded over very quickly and all was grey.  There is always next week.  CES nets were raised first followed by others.  As is usual with CES 3 there were not as many birds processed as in the last two sessions, due to the fact that half the population is sitting on eggs or young.  However 95 birds of 24 different species were processed, including Siskin, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and juvenile Robin and Greenfinch.

The ringing room was quiet when the radio 'talked'.  Great excitement and a request for help very quickly as a Tawny Owl was in the net!  Also in the net were two Jays and a thought that these two birds had discovered the owl at rest and flushed it out.

Tawny Owl

Tufted Ducks nest late and have bred on the wetland pools.  It would be nice the think that these two would nest on the lake so adding to the young to be seen there.  A photo was taken and afterwards it was realised that the Little Grebe was also there, although not for long, as it dived and disappeared!

Tufted Duck with Little Grebe

Thank you to everyone who helped today.

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Buzzing Busy Bees

Saturday, May 28th 2016

The weather was dull and cool which was not encouraging for bees to be busy!  Eco Club children talked about what they knew about bees and then looked at our hive bees.  They found the Queen who was busy inspecting the egg chambers and laying her eggs.  Some bees did bring some pollen in and did a 'waggle dance'.  To bring home the importance of bees the children played a pollination game and at the end had to count how many pollen grains they had collected.

The pollination game

A first stop to look for bees was at our orchard.  The trees are heavy with blossom.

The orchard

We searched and were lucky to find one bee.  She visited 16 flowers before flying off.

Bee visiting the flower

On our way back we stopped to watch the bees at the hives on the heath. They are there as part of the Richmondshire Bee Keepers Course being held in the Field Centre.  We could easily see all the bees entering and leaving.

Bee hives

Once back at the centre the children looked at different flowers and their pollen using microscopes.

Using the microscopes

Some pictures of bees to colour and Nasturtium seeds to plant were given to the children as they left.

Thanks to Lesley who ran the meeting and to Jenny for her help.

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Our Patron’s Visit

Friday, May 27th 2016

Today was based around a visit by our patron Lord Zetland. This was mainly to bring him up to speed on the various projects that we had been doing over the last few months;

the new Stone Circle

The duck feeding platform

The paths

The Education Days and Holiday Events

The natural history work and surveys

And all the work that we carry out that would be impossible without our team of volunteers.

We, as Reserve Managers, gave an informal slide show to Lord Zetland and some of our volunteers , a small buffet and then a tour of the reserve.

We wish to thank Lord Zetland, and the volunteers who also attended today, and all volunteers who were unable to attend for their continued hard work.
 

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Work in the Drizzle

Thursday, May 26th 2016

We have not had a day which has been wet the whole way through for some time; it was either drizzle or rain. This still did not stop the volunteers attending the reserve to give their time to us. So today was a tidying up day; cutting back various vegetation that was encroaching the paths and the road into the reserve where the rain had made branches droop.


 

Although raining we were able to get a few pics of the reserve as we made our way around doing various checks and jobs.

The Cascade Pools above the Lake

The Duck Platform from the Lake Hide

The Stone Circle, looking as it has been there since neolithic times

There is an up side to this rain, it made this simple Red Clover look stunning

As the days go by the Yellow Rattle flower is emerging in fairly large numbers

We finished up with a spring clean to the exterior of the field centre where we wiped clean various marks, emptied moss filled down pipes and cleaned around web encrusted light fittings to ensure the place looks cared for.


Thank you to the John, Jackie, Steve and Michelle for your help today.
 

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A Cold Day

Wednesday, May 25th 2016

Today was cold and grey at Foxglove, and the forecast threatened a wet day. However, this did not deter Leeming and Londonderry Community Primary School, who came clad in waterproofs and wellies, ready for a good day out whatever the weather. The children were split into groups. One group set off pond dipping, to see what they could find lurking in the water.

Many Toad tadpoles were caught, plus a few Caddis Fly larvae, some Sticklebacks, a large Water-Boatman and a good sized Pond Snail.

Elsewhere, hunting for small creatures continued, with a minibeast hunt. This involved searching under logs, shaking tree branches to see what could be found, and playing camouflage games.  A Garden Tiger caterpillar was found.

In the afternoon, the children explored the reserve on a walk, where they visited a variety of the reserves’ different habitats and looked at some of the creatures that live in them.

By late afternoon it was starting to drizzle, but this did not spoil the day and the children left the reserve with big smiles.

Sadly the cold weather meant that fewer than usual creatures were seen today. Not one Damselfly or Butterfly showed itself. The moth trap that was set last night as usual, didn’t manage to catch a single moth, so the moth identification volunteers were left with nothing to look at this morning.

Despite the cold it was busy at Foxglove today. In addition to the school pupils and the hopeful moth identifiers, the monthly wildflower walk also took place which was well attended. At lunchtime, the field centre was full to the brim with all of these people. It is great to see what a hive of activity it is on a day like today.

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Maintenance Day

Tuesday, May 24th 2016

The Tuesday volunteers as always have been busy at Foxglove today. A variety of tasks were completed. We have been steadily repairing some of our footpaths that are starting to get overgrown. Here are Before and After pictures of one of the stretches of pathway.

Pathway repairs involve clearing the weeds, spreading more gravel and finally using the whacker plate to compact it all down and finish it off.

Elsewhere on the reserve, volunteers located and fixed an area where the water was flowing from the reed beds out across the reserve and creating big puddles. We suspect our resident Water Voles may have been modifying our drainage systems for us! More work has also been done in the garden to keep it tidy.

Out on the meadow, the rushes have been strimmed. They tend to take over the wetter areas. We are pleased to see that the Yellow Rattle is now in flower here. This plant parasitizes on grass, preventing it from becoming too abundant and allowing more wild flowers to grow.

Finally, some of the volunteers cleared one of the old fire sites from the winter that was looking rather messy.

While this was going on, some less interesting, but essential office work was also done to keep everything up to date.

After work, the bird work continues and the ringers are all very busy keeping track of what is happening in all of the small nest boxes around the training area. Wader chicks are hatching too, and these young snipe were ringed last night.

Evening on the training area is a good time to see other species that sometimes go unnoticed during the day, such as this hare.

Thank you to everyone who came to help out today.

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Slugs and Snails No Puppy Dog Tails

Monday, May 23rd 2016

As with most Monday mornings we play catch up with the various left over jobs from last week and the up and coming jobs for this week. With the bulk of the nest boxes checked, we only had a few to go around today, as well as a few boxes off site on the training ground. Although we found Redstarts with eggs, we also returned to a few Great Tit nests to ring the chicks. One box we opened to check if it had a viable nest contained something other than the usual bird/wasp/bee nest …. A Common Pipistrelle Bat!


We have a number of bat boxes hung around the reserve, but this was the first one I had seen which was actually a bird box containing a bat, from the look of the droppings it was a regular roost. Pipistrelles are the commonest British bats, weighing around 5 grams (same as a 20p piece). A single pipistrelle can eat 3,000 tiny insects in just one night! There is a similar species called a Soprano Pipistrelle which can be identified by its higher frequency echolocation call.

With the showers of the day creating damp undergrowth and paths the various slugs and snails seemed more content to venture out. Here are the two colours of similar species of slug , Large Black (Arion ater) and Red Slug (Arion rufus), which can sometimes be orange. These can sometimes interbreed and create a sub species.

 On the Moorland this White-Lipped Snail moved amongst the new standing stones. This can also come with a black banded shell, but always the white shell edge/lip.

On the Moorland and around the ponds, the Cuckoo Flower is one of the main flowers at present, but there are also a few small less obvious ferns, like this Adders Tongue Fern which stands no more than two inches.

This Lousewort, which is semi-parasitic on grasses is also showing

.

Although this was not found on the reserve, I thought you folk that like your moths may be interested in this day flying moth called a Speckled Yellow. This is rare and localised up here, but fairly common in the south of England. We found this one and others whilst ringing in a remote spot near Catterick Garrison.

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Checking and Chicks

Sunday, May 22nd 2016

At this time of year the bird ringers are out as often as they can checking nest boxes.  This photograph is titled 'Is anyone there?'

Is anyone there?

Another next box checked and details recorded.

Checking a nest box

Wader chicks are also ringed.  They are coming in a variety of sizes.  These Redshank chicks are small.

Redshank chicks

Whilst this Lapwing is larger.  You can just see some of its feathers beginning to appear.

Lapwing chick

Many sites have to be revisited when the chicks are developed enough to be ringed.  All the records taken in the field are transcribed so they can, at a later date, be entered into IPMR.  Thanks to all the bird ringers for their hard work.

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Flourishing Flowers

Saturday, May 21st 2016

Despite the very wet winter, cold nights and every other weather that we have had, the flowers are flourishing.  Walking around the reserve it is amazing to see the Bluebells and to find them growing in so many more places than a few year ago.  How they are spreading is a slight mystery.  In the large areas they spread by their bulbs, but where there is just one or two on their own, raises interesting questions.  Have they grown from seed, which can take several years to develop and flower?  Have we moved a bulb somehow when working?  It does not really matter as they are so beautiful.

Bluebells

Many insects value these flowers in the early spring and can pollinate them.  However there are some bees that pierce the base of the bell to reach the nectar and so do not pollinate the flower.

Bluebell

A patch of bright yellow on the pond fringes is Marsh Marigold.  These flowers, with a possible 100 stamens, provide plenty of pollen for visiting insects.

Marsh Marigold

Out on the moor Common Milkwort is in flower.  This flower will be scrutinised yet again in the hope that it may be Heath Milkwort!  The names of many flower reflect what it was thought they could do.  An infusion of Milkwort was supposed to increase the flow of a nursing mother's milk.

Common Milkwort

One flower of Greater Stitchwort was recorded then a few more until, now it is turning areas of the reserve white.  In ancient times this plant was associated with the healing of broken bones, because the stem breaks easily at thepoint where the leaf joins the stem.  The Greek word holos means whole and osteon means bone and these words can be seen in the Latin name - Stellaria holostea.

Greater Stitchwort

Cuckoo Flower named so because it flowers when the Cuckoo sings.  Its other names, Milkmaids and Lady's Smock are associated with milkmaids and their smocks.   When it first opens it can be quite a dark pink, but as it ages so the colour fades.

Cuckoo Flower

The monthly flower walk takes place on Wednesday and we will need a clip board to record the many flowers that pass the 'flower test' this month.

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More Help

Friday, May 20th 2016

With the completion of the stone circle yesterday with help from Cemex Quarry with the ‘Lend a Hand’ scheme, today we were joined by the A1L2B team and this time a similar scheme called ‘Give and Gain’. This team does all the logistical work with the new A1 road improvements locally, so it seemed ideal that they helped us with our paths. We are presently re-surfacing some of our paths, but the odd one where grass has encroached just needs a spade and wheelbarrow to tidy them up as opposed to heavy machinery used recently. Later next week we will put a new surface on and pack it down.


The team soon had the job done, then time for a tour of the reserve before heading back to their place of work to deal with similar things, but on a much larger scale.


 

We returned later to rake over and level off the path for weekend footfall, as well as tidying up the stone circle area where turf needed laying and loose soil spread .


The circle looked glorious in the sun, and can only get better in appearance as the years go on.


Moving the turfs around, a toadling was exposed, and also this ground beetle larva, which are excellent merciless hunters in their own right .


The stone circle has certainly made an impact on the moorland as this 'before '


and 'after' shot shows, maybe a good rest spot for the odd Short Eared owl in the future.

Thank you to the A1L2B team for all their help today, and Colin for doing all the bird seed feeders.

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A Historical Day for Foxglove

Thursday, May 19th 2016

Today was a historical day for Foxglove. It was the day of the Foxglove Stone Circle construction. We have been preparing for this for a few weeks now, organising how and when the stones will be delivered and installed, how many people are needed etc. The site was chosen a few weeks back, and earlier in the week the location of the stones was measured. Yesterday the holes were dug.

The circle consists of 12 large stones, four of which are larger than the rest and point North, South, East and West, with an additional central stone. They have been kindly donated to the reserve and installed by Cemex as part of their “Lend a Hand” programme. This morning the fence was taken down to allow access to the site and the stone circle construction began.

The stones arrived on a lorry from the quarry and were transported to their approximate location on site.

Then each stone was raised using a sling, into an upright position and manoeuvred into place. From here, it was finely tweaked until it was in exactly the right place, at which point the soil and rocks from the hole were placed in around the stone and the whole thing tamped down to guarantee stablity.

Afterwards, the turves were placed back onto the area to make it clean and tidy.

Regular breaks for food supplies and tea kept the morale of the workers high as each stone fell into place.

By lunchtime, quite a crowd had gathered to watch the proceedings.

Even the BBC reporter from Look North and a newspaper reporter called in to see how we were getting on and document the proceedings. Ruth was able to explain to the reporter what a great coffee table the stones make before they are set into the ground.

By the end of the day the stones were all in place and the circle was complete.

Thank you to everyone who helped today; to Willie Metcalff for digging the holes and standing the stones up; to Cemex in Leyburn for supplying and delivering the stones, and to those who volunteered to come with them and install them; to Len Porter for dealing with the fencing; to the Foxglove Thursday Volunteers for helping to pack the soil around the stones and to Ruth and Elizabeth for keeping the constant stream of bacon sandwiches, cakes and drinks flowing throughout.

The Stone Circle looks tremendous and will be enjoyed by visitors for years to come. There will be better photos tomorrow, once we have a bit more time to take some.

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Bluebells Galore!

Wednesday, May 18th 2016

Last night some of the Foxglove ringers were out checking nest boxes in the local woodlands. These are small nest boxes and can contain a variety of species, including Blue Tits, Great Tits, Coal Tits, and the less well known Redstarts, Pied Flycatchers and Nuthatches. What stood out for most of us on this occasion however was not the birds but instead, the stunning display of wild flowers. These are the Bluebells at High Spring Wood.

The Bluebells there are interspersed with Primroses and Early Purple Orchids.

Continuing on the Bluebell theme, this week is Stone Circle Week at Foxglove. This is an exciting week for us as we are constructing a stone circle out on the moorland, next to the Bluebell bank. Earlier in the week we spent time carefully measuring out the site to decide where the stones should go. In the picture below you can see our Bluebell bank, which the stone circle is to be installed next to.

Today the digger started carefully excavating the 12 holes in the moorland that the stones will be placed into.

Each hole was dug very carefully, to minimise the mess and damage caused to the site. By the end of the day we had 12 neat little holes, and a pile of soil and turf next to each one.

Once the stones have been installed, the turf will be replaced, and the stone circle will stand in all its glory, amidst the bright yellow gorse and flanked by the sweet smelling Bluebells.

It rained at Foxglove today.

Despite this, good numbers of visitors came to Foxglove. In the morning we had a group visiting the reserve from the Richmond Women’s Institute, and in the afternoon, the Durham Federation of Women’s Institutes brought a large group, who enjoyed a guided walk and looking round the Field Centre.

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Work, work, work

Tuesday, May 17th 2016

Today dawned bright and sunny, with much warmer temperatures than the previous few days. This brought out the volunteers in good numbers and we were pleased to welcome two new faces to the volunteer team. We set to work on a variety of tasks. Many of these were a continuation of tasks started last Tuesday.

Work in the back garden continued, weeding round the pond, cleaning the windows, trimming bushes and mowing the lawns.

The highlight for many was finding a Great Crested Newt under one of the stones being weeded. It must have been a good day for them, as later on two more were found when clearing up some old rotting logs.

Mowing and strimming continued on the reserve, this time getting all the bird ringing net rides cleared so the nets don’t get caught in the long grass.

Raising water levels at one of the pond dipping platforms seems to have been a topic of the blog several times in the last couple of weeks. I am pleased to be able to report that today this task was successfully completed, and the water is now flowing over the top of the dam.

We will try out the pond dipping platform with the next school group that visits. It has been so long since it was used, there is no telling what we might catch!

Finally, a team of volunteers finished cleaning out the bird feeders, another task which was started last week.

Thanks very much to all of you that turned out to help us today. We achieved a lot, and it would not be possible without your time and support.

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Bluebells Galore

Monday, May 16th 2016

Monday is a day of catching up on paperwork and clearing the decks for the week, a planning day. We went through the various events for the coming months and will be putting them on the web site in the next few days, so keep viewing the events on the Web page.

When we finally got out it was a mix of sun and cloud. In the sun warm, but the temperature plummeted as soon as it was covered by clouds. We were working at the site of the new stone circle that is to be erected on Thursday, a fairly big job that leaves little room for error. We had marked out the site last week, now with the distances and the spacing correct, triple checked, we were to remove the turf to clearly mark out the holes where the stones are going to be placed.


Around this site are traces of a midden, and old farm tip/dump, from many years previous. Rabbits had dug up a fair bit of broken crockery, old glass bottles and in the photo below an old ink bottle. Quite often where the ground has been disturbed like this you get nettles and elder growing. All this made the job of removing turf a little more interesting, alas nothing but pieces of broken glass were found.


The stone circle is on the edge of our Bluebell bank, but we are trying to cause as little damage to these plants as possible, replanting any that may be threatened. The site is stunning in location and visually, with the scent of the flowers as a bonus. The reserve is awash with scent from the various tree flowers at present.


 

Down at the Lake the Little Grebe chicks are doing well, and another pair has appeared at the far end near Haig Bridge, hopefully also looking to nest build. These Little Grebes are fairly secretive, and disappear either by diving or heading into the reeds when humans appear, so excuse the quality of the pictures as the zoom of the camera was on maximum - 30x.

Siskins are being seen regularly on the nyger feeder at both the Lake and the Field Centre.

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Another Early Morning

Sunday, May 15th 2016

Well wrapped up bird ringers arrived at Foxglove at 5am.  A different walk, over the moor saw a delightful sky.  There is a hint of blue in the sky and on the ground on the Bluebell bank.  Bluebells are indicators of ancient woodland.  I wonder what the moor looked like when covered in trees?

Sky over the moor

Great Spotted Woddpeckers were drumming.  The first Cuckoo of spring was heard.  A Roe Deer was barking.  It then jumped the gate to the middle moor before elegantly stretching its legs to fly over the boundary fence and disappear onto the training area.

CES 2 is always quiet as many of the birds now have territories and are not moving around.  Females are sitting on nests and the males are guarding them.  The resulting data shows more retraps and more males on this day.  In total 161birds were processed including the first juvenile Song Thrushes.  Other birds included Siskin, Robin, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and our first Sedge Warbler of the year..  Interestingly the Lesser Redpolls have moved on and not a single one was caught. This was the fourth highest total for CES 2 in 24 years.

Ringing room

Some of the bird ringers were out checking nest boxes and the cold weather has obviously had an affect;  some nests were not finished yet and the females were not sitting on their completed clutches of eggs.

This is the entrance to a Nuthatch's nest.  The hole is made smaller by lining it with mud.

Nuthatch nest

The large nest boxes have all now had one visit and plans are ready for their next.  Today was the start of the small boxes and emails and phone calls will happen over the next few days to organise visits to various woods.  A really busy time for the ringers.  Thank you for all your hard work.

Already some of the spring flowers are setting seed as this Dandelion shows.

Dandlion flower and seed heads

Cotton Grass is beginning to flower in the Scrapes but does not look as appealing as it will later on once the seeds set and the white fluffy cotton heads dance in the gentle breeze.

Cotton Grass Flower

Judging by the temperature over the weekend 'our clouts' must remain to hand as May is only half way through and the May blossom still has some developing to do.

May blossom buds

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Bird Song Breakfast and…

Saturday, May 14th 2016

The forecast.....  how often have the blogs started with this comment over the last few months?  It was not good, cold and windy, certainly not ideal for the birds to wake up and sing, but it was not unbearable and it was cool rather than cold, although everyone was well wrapped up. 

Walking around the reserve

Two groups walked around the reserve and between them recorded over 25 species singing or seen.  These included Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Curlew, Song Thrush and Chaffinch.  A Robin was heard and initially could not be found but we were not looking high enough, as he was singing loudly in the top of an Ash tree.  You can see that the Ash is in flower.

Singing Robin

We left the reserve and in convoy, Tony lead us across the training area.  Curlew, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Woodcock, Oystercatcher, Lapwing and Blackcock were recorded.  The poor camera was yet again asked to do the impossible and this black mark in the middle of the moor is, honestly, a Black Grouse!

Black Cock

We traversed many of the tracks across the training area.

The convoy across the training area

Eventually we found ourselves heading to Wathgill and breakfast.  A feast awaited us.  Thank you to the chefs who gave us such a delicious spread.

On return to Foxglove the sun continued to shine and the temperature rose a little so another walk was called for.  Although not officially on the morning list, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Moorhen and Wren were heard.

The lake was quiet but the Moorhen chicks were feeding in the lake and on the bank side.  The male Little Grebe was seen but no young.  At the head of the lake there were six male Mallard resting from their chores.

Resting male Mallard

Midges and St Mark's Fly were plentiful.  Peacock and Orange Tip butterfly were observed.  Then a movement and a Speckled Wood settled in the vegetation.  Climbing through the Bramble and being very careful not to disturb the settled butterfly a photo was taken.

Speckled Wood

Obviously some gardening was needed, but that was not good enough so the grass stem it was sitting on was picked up and more photographs were taken as it sat still.

Hand held stem with butterfly being photographed

We achieved some excellent photos.  It is not often you get the opportunity to see the beautiful underside of a Speckled Wood wing.

Speckled Wood

The sun then came out and the butterfly was off into a sunny glade where almost miraculously it was joined by four more.  They all flew around, the sun went behind a cloud and all five butterflies disappeared - truly amazing!

And finally I have been waiting very impatiently for the Early Purple Orchids to appear and at last they are in bloom.  This species is not as quick to spread its range as the other orchids, but it is doing so and some can be seen as you head onto the bridge to the lake hides, to your right.  This one is the usual dark colour.

Early Purple Orchid

But this one is slightly lighter.

Early Purple Orchid

Thank you again to everyone who helped to organise this morning and ensure that an enjoyable and interesting time was had by all.

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Friday 13th

Friday, May 13th 2016

Thankfully ‘Friday the 13th’did not live up to its name and the day flowed.

We had a few folk in today that were keen to share their photographic eye with us and as a result we are sharing them with you. There were a lot more than I can put on the Blog, but these are a select few from the reserve.

These are possibly Alderfly eggs

A variety of St Marks Fly, male

Brittle Moss

Common Liverwort

Crosswort

Owl Midge

Water Avens

Please remember if you are coming for the Bird Song Breakfast tomorrow, that due to the cold night we are to meet at Foxglove Covert Field Centre at 5am, and not 4.30am…. so enjoy the lay in!
 

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Seeds and Beans

Thursday, May 12th 2016

The Thursday Volunteer group were in at Foxglove today and had a lovely day for it. The warm weather over the past week means the grass has been growing well. Today, for the first time this season, we dusted off the strimmers and set to work, strimming all the way from the main gate, up the driveway to the Field Centre. The mowers were out too, helping make the place look tidy. The Information Shelter also got a good scrubbing and weeding. It is now looking much better and is ready for a coat of preservative, which we hope to do in the coming weeks.

The last couple of weeks we have spent some time trying to raise the water levels below the middle pond dipping platform. The water has risen well but there is still a bit to do as the dams leak due to being made of simple wooden planks, packed with stones and natural mud and sediments from around the reserve.

After a few minutes work, it becomes very difficult to see through the murky water and make much progress, so this has proved to be an ongoing, but quite fun project.

One of my favourite flowers at Foxglove is just starting to emerge. It can be found in one of the ponds about half way down the Scrapes.

This is Bog Bean, with its delicate little star-shaped flowers that appear fluffy or fringed. Although pretty to look at, the flowers have an unpleasant smell which attracts flies and beetles. Bog Bean has had medicinal uses in the past (to treat Tuberculosis and arthritis) and is still used today in some herbal remedies. It is also edible, but is apparently very bitter, and only eaten in emergencies! I think it is best left in the pond looking pretty! 

Jacky was very busy today with a much needed indoor task. All of our seed comes in large sacks, which are usually far more than most visitors want to buy. So someone has to weigh out the seed into smaller portions for sale. By the end of the day we had a large pile of neatly bagged seed. All profit from the seed we sell goes to help cover the enormous cost of keeping our hungry birds at Foxglove fed, so remember to come to us when your supplies are running low.

Thanks to everyone who came to help out today.

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Insects Abundant

Wednesday, May 11th 2016

The day was overcast but still held the warmth of the last few days. This had helped with the moth trapping as a fairly respectable number was caught for us to identify. We have a great team of folk identifying the moths, which later on in the year can take most of the day as it is not unusual to have over 150 species.


Highlights of the moths were a Scalloped Hazel, alas it escaped before a photo could be taken, however a Pebbled Prominent is always worth a look.


and Pine Beauty


There was no rain which made the precision measuring out of the stone circle on the moorland fairly pleasurable. Marsh Valerian was fairly prominent .

Onthe route back we observed numerous insects feeding on the Blackthorn flowers that lined our route.


The St Marks Fly with its large dangling legs were fairly numerous trying to mate during their brief time as an adult. These flies are very easy to sex, and could be totally different flies if you were unknowing. The male has large eyes and clear wings


The larger female a smaller head and smokey wings

These flies normally are on the wing around the 25th April, St Marks Day, having spent nearly a year as a larva in the soil feeding on rotting vegetation. Once mated the female lays her eggs in the soil and soon after dies having spent no more than two weeks on the wing.

There are plenty of insects about at present, almost as if they are trying to make up for lost time due to the recent cold wet weather.

Thank you to the moth team today.
 

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Varied Work

Tuesday, May 10th 2016

Although not as warm as the last two days it was good working weather, not too hot and not too cold! As it was Volunteer Tuesday we had plenty of jobs to get on with, the team dividing up to cover the jobs of the day.

Cleaning the bird feeders, this may seem like a simple job, but to do it properly they need dismantling, cleaning with oversized bottle brushes, putting back together and drying before reloading with seed. The sizes of our feeders varies, but are not your average garden feeder, plus we have a fair few to get through and even now we have more to do next week.


 

We are erecting a stone circle on the moorland so cleared some Gorse from the location, as well as measuring up for the 13 standing stones which will be points of a compass.


The spoil from the newly surfaced paths was spread and levelled in some wet areas near the car park.


While all this was going on the two Anne’s tidied the Field Centre garden area by weeding ,

together with Bob planting new plants in the rockery and Colin continuing the edging of the path. Although not finished it is looking a lot better.


Various flowers are showing themselves like this Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolate) , or Jack-by-the-Hedge.


As the name suggests it gives off a garlic smell if you crush a leaf in your fingers, and is the only British member of the cabbage family to do so. Onions, garlic, leeks, etc. are from the lily family, but both scientific names are from the Latin word for garlic. The caterpillar of the Orange Tip butterfly, which is the most common butterfly found on the reserve at present, can be found feeding on the seed pods later in the season.


Thank you to the whole team for such fantastic work today.

 

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An Indoors Day

Monday, May 9th 2016

Today has been gloriously warm and sunny. However, it also somehow turned out to be an indoors day with lots of catching up on emails, making plans for the coming weeks and doing some preparation for the forthcoming nest box checking. Sometimes these days just happen, and it seems a shame to be inside on such a nice day, but we got a lot of necessary tasks completed.

Later in the afternoon, we managed to escape the office however, for a wander out onto the reserve to complete a few tasks. Roger spent some time modifying the dam that he and the volunteers had created on Thursday. We had given it time to settle down to see how well it is working. The dam was working well but water was sneaking round the edge of it, so small modifications were made. Hopefully this should now raise the levels by another couple of inches, bringing the water level high enough for the school visits to use the pond dipping platform there.

With the last few days of warm weather, Foxglove has been looking greener every day. Before, the reserve looked quite bare, and in places you could see quite a distance, but now the footpaths are starting to become tunnels of green winding through the trees. This Birch tree is showing its upright female flowers and drooping male catkins.

The Blackthorn bushes are also blooming well with their pretty white blossom. In the Autumn these bushes will be covered in small sour Sloes.

Dandelions are plentiful around the reserve at present, and this one looked particularly bright and summery growing down in the scrapes.

Attracted to the warm sunny boardwalks, the first few Damselflies are starting to emerge. This Large Red Damselfly settled long enough for a photograph.

The Toad tadpoles have re-emerged in the last couple of days. These had all disappeared during the cold spell over the last couple of weeks and we were worried that they had all died. But today they appeared clustered in good numbers at the bottom end of the Scrapes.

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More Bird Ringing

Sunday, May 8th 2016

The nest box season is well and truly with us and the ringers are busy.  If they have time they take photographs, but the welfare of the birds always comes first.  These were taken earlier.

Once the Grey Heron chicks were ringed they were carefully placed back in the nest.

Heron chicks returning to the nest

At the same site as the Grey Herons a Mute Swan was seen swimming gracefully across the lake.  Jenny has caught the reflection.  Swan cygnets are ringed later in the season.

Mute Swan

Ladders are an essential part of the kit for nest box checking.

Ladders at a nest box

Back on our lake there is some discussion going on about the Moorhens.  One pair has seven young but one of the adults appears to be adding material to a nest. 

Moorhen nest

If you are patient and have time to sit in the hide, you may well see chicks of Moorhen, Greylag Geese and Little Grebe and it is interesting to look at the different methods that the parents use to find food and then present it to the chicks.

As the information from bird ringing is entered into IPMR during the ringing sessions it is easy to collate data.  To date 104 Siskins and 329 Lesser Redpolls have been ringed.

Our Bird Song Breakfast morning takes place on Saturday 14th May beginning at 0430, followed by breakfast at Wathgill.  There is a £5 charge for breakfast.  Eco Club on the 28th May begins at 1030 and is all about our bees, bumble and hive.  1st of June is the Wednesday of half term and is our activity morning where we will be looking at butterflies and moths. Thursday 2nd June is our Coffee Morning at Richmiond Town Hall from 9.

If you are interested in any of these events there are more details on the events page.  

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Spring Flowers

Saturday, May 7th 2016

Spring seems to have been a long time in arriving, but one advantage to the low temperatures is that the spring flowers remain in bloom longer.  Primroses were slow to appear but can now be seen in many places around the reserve.  They are certainly spreading their range.  The one growing in the steps is still beautiful and now has a Common Dog Violet next to it.

Primrose and Common Dog Violet

Common Dog Violet with the honey guides that guide the insects to the centre of the flower.

Common Dog Violet

Last year we recorded Bluebells growing in many new areas and that has continued this year.  They are not yet all in full bloom, turning parts of the reserve blue.  Soon though.

Bluebell

Our orchard, on the way to the wetland and moor, is doing well and the first tree, probably an apple, is in full flower.

Probable Apple blossom

One reason for planting these trees was to provide pollen for bees, both bumble and hive.  In the photograph below you can see the pollen on the anthers.

Pollen on the anthers

Another tree that provides food for insects in spring, is Norway Maple. 

Norway Maple flower with insects

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A Sunny School Visit

Friday, May 6th 2016

Today the sun shone, if a little hazy, for our visit by Mill Hill Community Primary School. What a contrast to the last school visit when we had sleet and snow.

The activities were divided off and the groups made their way to either the pond dipping platforms, the outdoor classroom for mini beasts, or the habitat walk. We try to adapt the various activities to any projects which the classes are doing, in this case their subject was based mainly on mini beasts, which take in all the slugs, spiders and insects.

With the pond dipping we had such delights as Whirligig beetles, Pond Skaters, as well as Mayfly, Caddis and Damselfly larvae which fell into the mini beast category. The habitat walk found a Stonefly, various bumblebees, a few butterflies (Orange Tip, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell). On the Minibeast safari the children lifted the logs for the usual slugs, millipedes and woodlice. So thankfully they had a lot of areas filled.
The Moorhen is still about with her 7 chicks, and there is another nest opposite the Lake Hide that is being constructed.

Also today I had reports that a couple of Little Grebe chick were seen briefly taking their first dip into the water from their cosy nest, hopefully over the weekend they will be fully off the nest.


We do not just get moths just when we put out the moth trap, some were found on the walls of the Field Centre this morning, a Shoulder Stripe and a Purple Thorn (below), which amazes me every time I see these, how much they look like a dried leaf.

Thank you to Colin for again coming in to fill the bird feeders,

and Jackie, Lesley and Elizabeth for their much needed help.

Sorry for the mistake yesterday with the photo which I said was a Stonefly, it was actually a Alderfly, that has now been corrected.

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A Useful Springlike Day

Thursday, May 5th 2016

Today was another beautiful sunny day at Foxglove. Our Thursday volunteers came in to help out around the reserve and successfully completed a range of tasks. The day started with the lawns around the Field Centre getting their first mowing of the season. Some time was then spent replacing the wire mesh on the bridges out on the moorland- this is in place to make sure people do not slip on the wood when it is wet, but in some places the mesh had started to come lose. They were soon back in good working order.

Johns triumph today was managing to get the webcam fixed that overlooks the lake, and feeds live video back to the Field Centre. He has been working on this for a while so this was a great achievement. Now visitors can watch the young moorhen chicks paddling around the lake at the far end of the reserve from the comfort of the visitor centre.

Meanwhile, other volunteers spent the day paddling up to the top of their wellies in the scrapes area of the reserve. This is a series of interlinked pools with pond dipping platforms for educational visits.

The water levels at the middle platform have been too low for some time to be used for dipping so it was decided to raise the water levels. This involved reinforcing some of the banks, and raising the height of the dams with mud and wooden planks. It was a satisfying and muddy job, and we now eagerly await the rising of the water levels to see if it has been successful.

Whilst hammering one of the planks to act as a dam this Stonefly wandered up the board and was lucky not to have been hit. There are 34 recorded species in Britain, of which 2 are thought to be extinct. They are in the adult state from 3 days to 3 weeks depending on species, having spent the previous 11 months as larvae having gone through about 20 instars, or growth sheds. The male and female locate each other by drumming on substrate with the end of their abdomen. Once mated the female lays her eggs on the surface of the water and the cycle begins again. Maybe it was my hammering that attracted this one to me, but not an ideal mate!

This week the weather seems to have finally started warming up a bit. Flowers are starting to appear around the reserve such as this Ground Ivy.

Taking advantage also of the warmer weather, the butterflies have also started appearing in greater numbers. An Orange Tip (below) was seen for the first time today and a small blue butterfly flew past yesterday but didn’t settle long enough to determine the species. Brimstones and Speckled Wood are also starting to appear and Peacock butterflies are now being seen regularly.

Thanks very much to the volunteers who came and helped out today.

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A Summers Spring

Wednesday, May 4th 2016

What a glorious day! If the wind had not been blowing it would have felt like late Spring.
The moth trap yielded a few more moths this morning, mainly Hebrew Character and Clouded Drab, but also Lead Coloured Drab and Early Tooth-Stripe, so the milder evenings are starting to show what we really should be getting for this time of year.


We had a good look around the reserve to see what was now about. A Tawny Owl took flight from the conifer plantation above Risedale Beck and the woodland floor was littered with Wood Sorrel and Wood Anemone in full flower.


 

A Speckled Wood took flight along our path and settled long enough for this photo to be taken.


Down by the Lake Hide the Moorhen bobbed about with her seven chicks, and the Dabchick seemed to be hanging out with the Mallards.


As we walked the Moorland, Dog Violet, Globe flower, Yellow Primrose and Bluebells dominated . We surveyed the site of where the new stone circle is going to go, and ensured that the bluebells are at present on the outside of the area to be disturbed. Coming back we noticed a small blue butterfly flit past, sadly not settling for us to get a photo, but Orange Tip, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacocks were out.

Greater Stitchwort (above), stood out next to the path as we made our way back to the field centre where the honey bees were busy in and out of the hive trying to recoup lost foraging time from the last weeks cold winter like weather. Hopefully their numbers will also increase.

The photo below is an Ichnuemon of the Coelichneumon genus, this female wasp hunts for moth larvae to lay her eggs in, which her larvae then consume whilst feeding on the live caterpillar.


 

Thank you to Elizabeth, Ruth, Jenny and the moth gang Glennis and Joan for their help today.

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Return to Foxglove

Tuesday, May 3rd 2016

After a Winter spent in the Antarctic today was my first day back at Foxglove. The day dawned bright and sunny and relatively mild compared to previous days. I arrived at Foxglove to a warm welcome from Roger and the Tuesday volunteers and we quickly set to work on a variety of tasks.

Much work has been done around the reserve since I left in October and with many of the trees not yet in leaf some areas were looking quite bare. However, some of the smaller trees and shrubs had burst into bloom so the first job of the day was to clear the bird ringing net rides of stray bits of vegetation to prevent them from getting in the way when the nets are up. Ringing nets are expensive and easily damaged by getting caught in overhanging branches and prickly bushes as they move in the breeze. The first CES ringing at the weekend showed us which areas needed special attention and these were soon cleared.

Two of the volunteers continued working on our little woodstore, which is a vast improvement on the untidy heap of timber that was there before and will allow the wood to remain dry.

The two Johns spent some time trying to fix the wetland webcam, which frequently gives us problems. This will be an ongoing project. They also gave the benches behind the Field Centre some care to make them more stable. Colin spent some time tidying up the more enthusiastic weeds that were starting to show around the Field Centre.

Also on the reserve today the dry stone wall seating area was repaired where a stone seat had fallen out of the wall. The contractors continued working on the footpaths, taking advantage of the decent weather.

The Richmond Beekeepers also visited to have another look at our bees as numbers were dwindling and we had misplaced our queen.  She is now much easier to spot, being marked with a yellow dot.

We achieved a lot today. It is great how much work can be done with such a dedicated team of volunteers. Thank you all very much for your help today and for welcoming me back to the reserve.

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Not a Quiet Day!

Monday, May 2nd 2016

Bird ringers arrived at Foxglove with the sun rising across the reserve.  It was the first day of CES.  A 0530 start. (Constant Effort Site - where the same nets are put up for the same length of time, 10 1/2 hours on the same day for 12 days during the summer.)

Sun rising

The sun was catching the tops of the trees.

Sun catching the top of the trees

There was a Tawny Owl calling and the Great Spotted Woodpeckers were drumming.  Greylag Geese were on the lake and shouting as they flew overhead.

CES nets were raised first.

Raising the nets

All was calm. The ringers carried out net rounds as they raised other nets.  Fifty bags were in the box and that was plenty.  A quiet day in prospect judging by the last few weeks and the fact that the Lesser Redpolls had moved on.   Some birds were returned to the ringing room and a request for more bags.  We had not needed more than 50 for several weeks.  Eventually all 150 bags were in circulation and the ringing room hooks were filled.  It soon dawned on everyone that this was not going to be such a quiet day, but we knew that there would be fewer birds as noon approached.

The ringing room

During the morning our sausage rolls arrived.  They were very welcome.  Thank you so much Glennis.

Arrival of sausage rolls

Noon came and went and still the birds arrived.

The ringing room

By this time we realised it was going to be very busy.  Once the birds had been processed the data was entered into IPMR.  Thank you to Linda and Ken who helped with this task.

Usually there is time to take some photographs.  It just did not happen as everyone was so busy with net rounds, ringing and checking birds.  The last net round as the nets come down is usually bird free, it was not so and more birds arrived.  The ringers headed for home about 1800.

 Once Tony was home and caught his breath he worked on the data and sent this out to the ringers.

'Yesterday was quite a day. It was, rather strangely, the biggest day ever over the 24 years now we have been doing CES at Foxglove. It reminded me of ringing at foreign observatories which are designed to have the biggest possible through put of birds, and you probably heard me say it was the most consistent days ringing I have done for some time. It even exceeded the totals we did in a single day while the ringing courses were on going at Foxglove when we had every single net in the place open.

The nearest numbers we have ever achieved were 336 on CES 9 in 2011, and 310 on CES 1 in 2013.

I want to thank you all for your help and perseverance because it was a testing day. Among the retraps were no less than 5 Lesre controls (birds caught and ringed elsewhere and then caught at FGC) which brings the total over the past month to close to 20, which is completely unheard of.

I am grateful to everyone, Glennis for the hot sausage rolls, all of those that brought food in from home, Catherine who baked and brought in hot cookies, Ken and Linda who battled on all day providing tea, scribing and so on, John for emptying many of the bags at the end, and Sophie and Roger for coming in specially late on to help with the final tranches of birds. I can't afford to forget Elizabeth without whom I would have all these birds to put in here at home myself. It was a real team effort and one you should all be proud of. It was particulary useful to the newer members of the group who had lots to go at and an ideal opportunity to consolidate ageing and extraction skills. I doubt any CES yesterday in the country did even half that number and for many that would equate to the entire year's catch!'

Some of the numbers :-

Lesser Redpolls newly ringed - 89 (As we left the back garden was still full of Lesser Redpolls feeding from feeders and on the ground.  There had been very few during the last week, some had obviously moved on and some more arrived.)

Chaffinches 45 ringed

Willow Warbler 16

Siskin 13

There were 22 species caught, including the first Blackcaps, 197 new birds and 204 retraps giving a total of 401.

A very busy special day. 

Last night we received this comment

Thank you very much to all the ringers at Foxglove Covert today. In particular, I would like to thank Tony who patiently allowed me to hold some of the birds and let me release them. I was thrilled to be with you all today and to observe the birds so closely. You were all so incredibly busy which proves what a great success Foxglove Covert is. The range of species and numbers of birds must be very encouraging for you all. I hope I didn't get in the way.

Best wishes to you all.

Janet Hutchinson

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