(29) Blog Posts Made in July 2016

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Just Amazing!

Saturday, July 30th 2016

Usually a common site at Foxglove and in everybody's garden is the Seven Spot Ladybird.  For the last two years the sight of one has given great joy, as they are really struggling at the minute.  Hopefully this is the lowest peak of the cycle for insects and we look forward to increased numbers in the coming years.

Seven Spot Ladybird on an Angelica stalk.

Sawfly larvae have also been scarce.  The ones seen today were large and took up their defensive posture as we were taking photographs.  Amazingly these were feeding on Silver Birch, which is a little strange as we have found them in the past on conifers and willows.  Brian was heard to mutter that we could do with a few more on Silver Birch as it may stop them spreading!  Possibly?

Sawfly larva on Silver Birch

They are not butterfly or moth caterpillars because they have no space between their legs and their claspers and have more than five pairs of claspers. 

Sawfly Larvae on Silver Birch

We have seen this 'creature' before and assumned that it was a caterpillar of a moth, but looking closely at it, when enlarged on the computer screen, even a tentative ID escapes me.  A bit more investigation needed.

White type of caterpillar?

It must look a bit strange watching me as I walk, stopping and turning over leaves of the trees along Risedale Beck, especially if the leaves have holes in them.  However the rewards can be great, the white 'creature' above and then these tiny, just hatching shieldbugs.  There is one just heading off and you can see the length of its antenna.  I think these are the carnivorous shieldbugs.  If they remain on this Alder tree they should be able to find enough food as there are larvae of the Green Leaf Beetle feeding on the leaves, holes left behind of course, for more investigation.

Tiny, just hatching shieldbugs

For those who are not excited and enthralled by creepy crawlies, this Water Vole was making the most of its ration of apple.  You can see its orange incisors that are excellent for chomping through the skin and flesh of the apple.

Water Vole just showing its incisor teeth

Its meal was disturbed by a bee or wasp flying overhead and it kept looking up at this pesky intruder!  (The yellow blob to the right of the plant.)

Water Vole and pesky intruder!

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Rain, Work and Shine

Friday, July 29th 2016

We have a busy weekend coming up… on Sunday we are bird ringing at the reserve from 4.30am to 3pm with the Constant Effort Scheme, and an overlap with a Dragonfly Walk at 1pm, then at 4pm we start the Summer BBQ for our Friends and volunteers.
So today was a planning, sorting and practical sort of day which seemed to fly by.

During a morning planning walk in the rain the lush vegetation was low on the paths and board walks so we had to cut them back this afternoon. The Phragmites reeds were hanging rain laden on the net rides and needed special attention.

 The afternoon was sticky and close, flies buzzed around our heads and clegs pecked away at us as we sweated hauling rakings of reeds .This Dor Beetle was crawling on the board walk, always a joy at seeing such a large beetle.

The beautiful underside showing the metallic blues.

These beetles make tunnels up to 18 inches below cow dung piles with side chambers with a store of dung placed inside and the eggs laid for the grubs to feed on when they emerge.

When checking the Field Centre Honey Bees there was a well developed Queen Cell being constructed, and one being de-constructed. The one being de-constructed may be because the grub is not up to spec, and will be killed and the cell destroyed. This causes a few problems as our reigning Queen is fairly new, from last year, and this may indicate that she will swarm, that is taking half the bees with her to form a new colony.  It is late in the year for that! The swarming happens a few days before the new queen emerges. Anyway, watch this space for updates.


 

Thank you Colin for your help doing the bird feeders.

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Two Busy Days

Thursday, July 28th 2016

Yesterday was so busy that we didn’t manage to find the time to write a blog, so there is plenty to report today. We put out extra moth traps on Tuesday night, so on Wednesday there were a lot of moths to identify (298 moths of 109 species to be exact!). Some of these were lovely specimens. This Iron Prominent is rarely seen at Foxglove.

This is a Burnished Brass.

This Poplar Grey is so well camouflaged it can barely be seen!

Last night the bird ringers were out ringing Sand Martins using mist nets at a nearby site. Here are a few photos from the event.

Sand Martins are ringed at dusk when they return to their nest sites to roost, so we ringed through the evening and into the dusk. We caught 224 birds in total which was a good catch. Four of the birds already had rings on them, two of which were French.

Today we had a group of Young Carers (children who care for a sick relative) in for an activity day. Despite the rain they had lots of fun pond dipping and minibeast hunting. At lunchtime they did their own craft activity and produced some lovely Dragonflies and Lizards!

Meanwhile the usual Thursday volunteers set to work strimming and mowing, ready for the weekend, when there will be both bird ringing and the summer BBQ going on. In addition, the mowers were fixed and low branches were trimmed off the overhanging trees.

Thanks to everyone for helping with the various tasks today.

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De-Fencing

Tuesday, July 26th 2016

Today was perfect for working at Foxglove- pleasantly warm but not too hot, and with a lovely breeze to keep the flies away. The Tuesday volunteers set to work on a variety of tasks. The never ending strimming continued, as did a bit of pruning and lopping. The feeders were filled and the dams at the cascading ponds were fixed as they had started to leak. We also cleared up all the vegetation that the CEMEX team from yesterday had cut down. 

The biggest task of the day however was up in the woodland, where an old boundary fence runs. We noted earlier in the week that it was getting very rickety, and as it now has no purpose at all, the decision was made to remove it. A good shove and the fence almost fell over.

The volunteers then set to work on the rest of it, breaking it down into pieces and pulling out the fence posts.

Afterwards they were carted away to be disposed of or reused, depending on their condition.

We were all very pleased with the end result- it made the area look much more natural. A man-made fence always seemed a bit out of place up in the trees.

Whilst in the woods we found this Stinkhorn fungus.

This lives up to its name and smells horrible, attracting a variety of flies. The spores are found on the head of the fungus and the flies that are attracted to the smell then spread the spores. By the end of the day it was looking completely different- obviously the flies had done a good job!

Thanks to everyone for a very enjoyable and successful day today.

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A Lend-a-Hand Day

Monday, July 25th 2016

We started the week on a very positive note, we had a cool breeze, the horse flies were not biting and CEMEX quarry from Catterick were coming in to 'Lend-A-Hand' with various jobs on the reserve. You may remember Cemex from a similar day back in May, when they donated stones and labour for our Stone Circle on the Moorland. Today they lent-a-hand on the same site bashing Bracken around the stones, and generally around the Moorland.

To break the day up we spent time doing path repairs by the nursery

Then finished the day near the Heathland tree popping Birch, Gorse and Hawthorn. The team's efforts cleared an over grown area exposing Heather, and Oak saplings, and hopefully preventing more pioneering plant growth on the heath.

Thank you to the CEMEX team for the hard work today, and we hope to see them back another day.

 

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Wandering Through Photographs

Sunday, July 24th 2016

We try to find something different to go on the blog and also try not to repeat things, but it is not always easy, so a trawl through recent photographs was needed.  These are totally unrelated!

How long will it be before the Grey Squirrels are raiding the Hazel nuts?  They usually try them first to see if they are to their taste and may wait a while before completely raiding the trees and scattering the shells over the paths.

Hazel Nuts

The grasses have grown tall, some are over five feet! 

Grasses

Dithery Docks, the name I was taught as a child, or Quaking Grass to give it its correct name has lined several of the paths.

Dithery Docks

Although beautiful vegetation can be a nuisance when trying to focus on a small bird feeding and drinking using the pond weed leaves to stand on.  If you peer through the grasses a brown splodge can be seen!

Grasses in the way!

The bird ringers have been out checking a Sand Martin colony and it is hoped to visit it this coming week.

SAnd Martin Colony

Another site was visited today and the net rides are just a little different to those found at Foxglove!

Net ride

Net ride

Net ride

Obviously the different habitats where these net rides have been prepared catch different birds.  A Lesser Whitethroat juvenile was caught and ringed.  A rare catch.

Lesser Whitethroat juvenile

I wonder what this young Reed Warbler was thinking, as it watched what was going on.  He was in no hurry to fly off!

Young Reed Warbler

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Mid-Summer Species

Saturday, July 23rd 2016

Rayed Knapweed was recorded on the middle moor last year and it has spread this year.  It is a good food source for bees.  This one was rather sleepily feeding and getting covered in white pollen in the process.

Bee on Rayed Knapweed

The middle moor is beautiful and the flower colours show through the grasses.

Middle moor

Yellow Rattle, buttercups and Bird's-foot Trefoil show yellow and are easily recognised, then something different catches your eye.  Bird's-foot Trefoil can have orange and red colouration but a pure orange one is unusual.

Orange Bird's-foot Trefoil

When we notice a new species, especially a plant, we expect it to stay where it was seen.  In October 2013 Goat's-beard was growing on the verge near the Stonepile.  If you want to see the flower you must visit before noon, as the other name for this flower is Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon, meaning that the flower closes at noon!  The seed head develops and that is usually what is obvious.  This plant disappeared from the area but last week was found growing near the weir.  When plants 'move' there is always the question - How did it get there?  As the seed heads are dandelion like, presumably the seeds were moved by the wind, although I suspect it was somewhat of a circuitous route through the  trees!

Goat's-beard seed head

Wasps are busy collecting material for their nests.  They find the wooden hand rails and benches ideal for this purpose.  You can see the lighter marks where they have removed some of the wood.

Wasp collecting wood for nest

Next week Eco Club is going out to count species, so I hope that the Soldier Beetles co-operate and remain on the Angelica flower heads.

Soldier Beetles on Angelica

There is a third brood of duckilings on the lake.  We should be able to see her and count her young.

Mallard and ducklings

Green Leaf Beetles were plentiful during the spring but their larvae are less so now and only a few have been found on the underside of Alder leaves.

Green Leaf Beetle larvae

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Fungi

Friday, July 22nd 2016

It was another warm sunny summer day at Foxglove. I tend to think of Autumn being the season for finding fungi, in among the fallen leaves, but we found some lovely specimens today. Here is some Yellow Slime Mould.

This is Oyster mushroom.

Also found was this rotting wood, which gains its lovely green colour from Green Elf cup fungi.

Whilst out and about we stopped to look at this Bumblebee and the White Tailed Hoverfly that were sharing a Thistle.

At a glance, the hoverfly could easily have been mistaken for a bee (not this one admittedly, but certainly some of the other species). This mimicry has a couple of advantages to the Hoverfly- creatures thinking it has a nasty sting are likely to leave it alone, but also by being similar looking, it is able to lay its eggs in the nests of Bumblebees, where the grubs can safely live as scavengers.

Around the Woodland trail we found lots of lovely Foxgloves amongst the trees.

As it was Friday, the usual Friday jobs were done, including filling the feeders, some strimming and some office work. We also released the White Ermine moth caterpillars into a large nettle patch as they have started to pupate so we were no longer able to keep them indoors. Thanks today go to Alex who has just completed her week of work experience with us. She has been a great help.

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Lizards and work

Thursday, July 21st 2016

Today was nice and sunny at Foxglove but not too hot for working. A number of tasks were completed, but we are a little short of photographs for evidence of this as the work camera decided for some reason to put orange and blue stripes through most of the photographs!

Everything has been growing prolifically at Foxglove this season, so todays task was strimming and mowing net rides and paths, and cutting back some of the overhanging vegetation along the entrance track. This is a job that has to be done quite frequently as when it rains, the vegetation hangs down quite low.

Yesterday we saw our Common Lizard. This is a male. We know this as it is spotty- females are stripy. It is frequently found along the boardwalk, basking in the sunshine near the Wetland Hide. Lizards can lose their tails as a defence mechanism if they are caught.  The tail continues to wriggle in the grasp of the predator, while the lizard itself beats a hasty retreat. You can see that the new tail it has grown is not quite as smart as the original one would have been!

Other jobs today included some repairs to the mowers, clearing moss from the gutters (another seemingly never ending task!) and putting out our motion sensor cameras, to see what interesting wildlife is roaming the site when we are not looking.

Thanks to everyone who helped out today. The reserve is looking much tidier.

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Dexters, Moths and Things

Wednesday, July 20th 2016

Yesterday two Dexter Cows arrived, Liquorice and Fern, to help us with the management of the Wetland area. A lot of plants in this area benefit from a grazing regime, and although small, these two cows certainly make an impact. Thank you to Big Sheep and Little Cow near Bedale for loaning us these girls for the summer.

Checking them this morning was a bit of 'hunt the cows', especially with them lying down in such tall grass, they are not easy to spot.

Wednesday is also our opening of the moth trap set from last night. With the warm weather came some beautiful moths and other insects attracted by the mercury vapour light bulb.

This Large Emerald moth was fresh and stunning, sadly photos do these moths no justice.

Here is the more common Small Emerald.

Miller Moth.

Coxcomb Prominent.

Alas this Swallowtail was rather worn, being one of two, the better one got away before a photo could be taken.

The Red-necked Footman is a more localised species and we always feel privledged to find them.

Other insects of note caught in the moth trap was this solitary wasp. Their nests are normally in mud cavities where they take caterpillars as a food source for their young.

This larger variety of Lacewing, the delicate appearence disguising the aphid eating appetite.

The Sexton Beetle is a common visitor to the trap and smells awful, also commonly covered in mites near the head.  It lays its eggs on the festering corpse of mammals.

Another beetle was found which is normally in the ponds of the reserve, a diving beetle, which shows how mobile and flighted they can be in colonising new ponds such as our Plover Pond on the moorland. Note the strong swimming legs, certainly not fast on land.

To finish the day we did some more land management

Thanks to Elizabeth, Joan and Glennis with the identification of the moths.

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A Scorcher of a Day

Tuesday, July 19th 2016

Often topics of conversation at Foxglove revolve around the weather. Usually it is to comment about how cold, wet or rainy it is on a particular day. Today however turned out to be different. It was baking hot and sunny, perfect for sitting on the beach and topping up a tan.

Unfortunately this was not today’s task however, and pulling thistles out on the Wetland and Meadows seemed like a less appealing task. The volunteers set to work despite the overpowering heat and being plagued by Midges and biting Horseflies. Regular breaks had to be taken to escape from the heat, and for most, lunch occurred in the shade of the trees.

Some nice flowers were found on the Wetland and Flower Meadows, including this Marsh Cinquefoil.

Sneezewort.

A white Orchid.

By the end of the day there were a lot less thistles (and some very hot workers!). Although thistles are loved by bees and butterflies, they are very good at multiplying so need to be kept in check. Thistle lovers can rest assured that we will never have the time to remove all of them!

Elsewhere on the reserve, the bird feeders were filled and some of the paths were strimmed. The Wetland fences were checked to ensure they are cattle proof as our two Dexter Cattle are due to arrive by the end of the day.

Thanks to everyone who helped out today- we know it was hard work in the heat!

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Sunshine galore!

Monday, July 18th 2016

It’s been a lovely day today, one of the hottest of the year so far according to the radio this morning, and the reserve is looking glorious in the sunshine. Apparently tomorrow is set to be even hotter. Why not come to Foxglove for a picnic? We have picnic spaces waiting!

In fauna news, we found this beautiful little critter in the office this afternoon. It’s a ruby-tailed wasp, Chrysis ignita. According to our book, these wasps mostly parasitise mason bees and are often seen running over tree trunks and walls in search of their nests.

Finally, how many ducks can we fit on one duck raft? Glennis saw eight on ours this morning, plus a bonus moorhen!

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A Later Start

Sunday, July 17th 2016

Yesterday's blog showed a net ride with a difference.  Compare it to a net ride at Foxglove.  From now on the bird ringers get some extra minutes in bed before heading to carry out CES.  It was 0415 this morning, an extra fifteen minutes sleep after three 4am starts.  The nets were taken down after ten and a half hours.

Taking down the nets

Twenty four different species were processed during that time.  Thirty seven Chiffchaffs and twelve Willow Warblers, mainly juveniles, were newly ringed.  Interestingly, after recording many Great Tits that were ringed in the nest box this year, only a few returned to us today.  It is sometimes 'negative' results that are also of importance.  There were no Reed Buntings or Garden Warblers caught and only one Blackcap.  All our CES results are forwarded to the BTO and a preliminary report is published during the autumn followed by a more detailed study later.

Thak you to everyone who helped today and to the volunteers who keep the nets rides in pristine condition.

We do not just catch birds in the mist nets.  This Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet moth was returned to the ringing room.  It was most co-operative and remained on the leaf for a photograph to be taken.  The food plants of the caterpillar include Greater Bird's-foot-trefoil, Meadow Vetchling and Red Clover, all of which grow on the reserve.

Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet moth

Although warm when the sun came out from behind the clouds the breeze was cool so there were not many other insects about.  Those that were, were busy.  A bumblebee was hanging onto the Meadow Sweet flowers.

Bumblebee on Meadow Sweet

This hoverfly was eager to land on the thistle.

Hoverfly near thistle

And finally some of the orchids growing are white and we have waited patiently for a specific clump of white orchids to open.  It was important to keep an eye on them as they were not in flower for long as something always came and chewed them.  We presumed that they must be tastier than the pink ones.  They have eventually blossomed and they are no longer white!

Once white, now pink orchids

Our orchids keep us guessing as to their parentage but now we have an added query, how or why do they change colour?

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Net Rides

Saturday, July 16th 2016

Some of the bird ringers were at another site today preparing the net rides.   The email sent out to the ringers did warn that waders or wellies would be helpful.  As you can see from these photographs, they certainly were.

A net ride

Where to start?

Where to start

Just deciding which branch needs to be cut.

Just starting the task

Once the overhanging branches were removed they had to be pulled through the water and squirrelled away.

Keeping dry

At the end of the afternoon the net ride was ready for the net, but unfortunately it was too windy.

All finished

Thank you to everyone who helped today.  This net ride will be ready to use over the coming weeks.

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A Reserve Walk with a Purpose

Friday, July 15th 2016

It was a fairly quiet day in relation to the hustle and bustle of the week, but this allowed us to finish and start various jobs that had been on the job list for some time. Even our computers got updated and made a little more user friendly.

It is not often we get to walk around the site together to look at the various up and coming jobs that involve the Higher Level Stewardship scheme, and general site management. One of the first areas we looked at was the heathland and surrounding area. Various flying crafts flew over the reserve giving a change of vista.

This Nursey Spider had created its brood tent and stood motherly nearby having carried her egg case for the past couple of months. The male is not present having risked life and limb to mate with her, distracting her with an tasty fly gift.

The spiderlings will soon be leaving the protection of the web tent.

This web is only made by the female spider to protect her egg case and young, and will stand guard until they leave the brood tent. She does not produce a web to catch prey but uses her stealth and speed to chase down her victims.

A walk along Risedale Beck in a rain shower added to the mystic of this beautiful area.

The Orchids are still looking stunning


 

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Spoilt for Choice

Thursday, July 14th 2016

As I sit down to write the blog I seem to have huge numbers of photographs to choose from - I am spoilt for choice! Here are a few of them, showing some of the nice things that have happened at Foxglove in the last couple of days.

Yesterday, as we went home from our “Fascinating Flowers” evening event, we were privileged enough to get some lovely pictures of this family of Roe Deer, along the entrance track near the gate.

Today some the volunteers have been working out on the wetland.

There were lots of damselflies seen, including this lovely blue one (species unknown).

And also this Emerald one.

Around the Field Centre some pruning and clearing was done and the potholes in the road were filled.

Inside the Field Centre, the seemingly never ending job of weighing out seed was done.

Off site, it is Barn Owl ringing time of year. Here is one of the youngsters from earlier in the week.

We have got a lot done today. Thanks to everyone for their help.

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Looking for something to do?

Wednesday, July 13th 2016

There is a lot going on here at Foxglove to get involved with! Last night our moth trap was out and today volunteers identified, recorded and released the moths caught, such as this lovely brimstone moth.  Come on a Wednesday morning (9am) to join them and our moths.

Yesterday our practical volunteers were out helping with site management. This happens every Tuesday and Thursday with tasks varying from week to week.

There are our one-off events.  We have holiday events for families including pond dipping and mini-beast hunting, especially fun for primary-school aged children. For ages 7 upwards our Owl Pellets for Families gives you a chance to discover more about owls and what they eat.

We now have details of our Summer BBQ – the same day as our family dragonfly walk ‘Dragonfly Discovery’. Events for adults include various walks (our next is a Flower Walk on 25th July at 6pm) and workshops, including an Owl Pellets for Adults (photos from the last adult owl pellet workshop below - all the bones were from one pellet!). More events are still in planning! Keep an eye on our events page: http://www.foxglovecovert.org.uk/events/

Then of course, you can also just come for a visit. There’s our observation bee hive, water voles, orchids, damselflies, touch screen quiz, kingfishers, wildflower meadow, etc…and our peace for meditation, paths to jog, inspiration for art and outdoors to give the kids some fresh air! Hoping to see you here at Foxglove soon!

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‘Make Hay When the Sun Shines’

Tuesday, July 12th 2016

With the fine weather that came today came the work, but luckily it was shared by our fine team of volunteers.

We had lots going on, including Marsh Thistle pulling on the Flower Meadow. This gave us a chance to look at the management side of things such as grazing, and damp areas that need work, as well as the flora and fauna such as this 7 Spot Ladybird

Hoverfly larvae maggots were found at the base of the thistles

The work around the site did not stop as Stacey gave a presentation to the Dales School on her Antarctic exploits, which caused such interest that the 30 minute talk became an hour. From the preview on setting up I know I will be there for another talk which I hope she will hold in the future for the volunteers.

Other items of interest were this Dark Green Fritillary Butterfly.

A Red Necked Footman.

A Lacewing.

The Bird Cherry Ermine Moth was dropping from the Shrub Bird Cherry.

A Bird Cherry Ermine Moth case.

Together with the bracken bashing and the start of the pothole filling it was a very full day.  Thank you to all the volunteers for their continued hard work. Also thanks to Brian for his photographs.

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Growing Moths

Monday, July 11th 2016

The showery weather from the night before gave the reserve a muggy air. The reserve was a fairly quiet place today, the heavy showers seemed to keep folk at bay. On the positive side the lack of distractions enabled us to get a few jobs done in the field centre such as office paperwork catch up, plus a few repairs. Even the White Ermine moth caterpillars got their weekly clean out.

The caterpillars are growing at a fair rate.  They pass through a number of instars or growth moults, before pupating.  Over night we were suprised to see how some of them have changed, from the small brown caterpillar at the top of the picture to the larger hairy version below!  They are almost unrecognisable as the same thing!  The caterpillars are still very active and are a lot of fun to watch.

This Ringlet butterfly is a common sight on the reserve at present.

In not such large numbers are Common Blue butterflies.  This one was on the wetland, feeding from Selfheal.

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White - Well Almost

Sunday, July 10th 2016

Pink sky in the morning, shepherd's warning.  The weather was a little mixed at times.

Pink sky in the morning

The bird ringers were in at 4am, a lie in next week, start time 0415.  During the day 173 birds were processed.  Twenty seven new Chiffchaffs received their rings, many of them juveniles.  One Chiffchaff received some special attention as it was very light coloured, almost white.  It was probably not an albino as its eyes were not red, but a beautiful bird.  Its wing was very gently opened so the colouration could be seen.

Light coloured Chiffchaff

A close up photo shows the colours of its feathers.

Chiffchaff

Not many Blackcaps have been processed this year but this one made its mark with its white feathers on its cap. 

Blackcap

Some people ask why we ring birds.  Our reply is that by ringing we can monitor longevity, migration and breeding.  Tony had received an email from the BTO informing him that our data, along with that from other CES sites had been used in three reports recently.  The BTO thanked everyone for all their hard work and dedication.

At Foxglove, the bird ringers are supported by many volunteers and those volunteers were praised today, by the ringers, for repairing many of the net poles and pairing them up, so making life much easier when poles were required for new net rides.

Having had two 'white' birds it seemed appropriate to find other white flora and fauna around the reserve.  No white fauna were found!

There was a white Self-heal.  You could just tell it was white from the couple of petals it had left.

White Self-heal

Its usual colour is dark purple/blue.

Self-heal

Three different species of clover grow across the reserve, Red, Zigzag and White.  Each clover supports different bees, because of the length of the tube of the flower.

White Clover

Our Common Spotted Orchids come in a variety of shades of pink, with occasionally an almost white one.

Common Spottted Orchid - white

And finally, not white but rather cute, a female Mallard with her three young.  She was talking to them as they swam gently down the lake, in the early morning light.

Mallard and young

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Walking Around

Saturday, July 9th 2016

Walking around Foxglove you are never quite sure what you are going to see or hear.  Depending on the season, when arriving just before dawn for ringing, you could hear a Tawny Owl calling, a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming or a Roe Deer barking.  During the day the sounds change and it could be a Chiffchaff, or a Moorhen calling for her young, or the reeds rustling in the wind.  Sometimes it may be the plop of a Water Vole leaving the apple platform in disgust as there are no apples present.  They are on a diet at the minute as they were probably eating too many apples!

Knowing the reserve and knowing where certain insects are likely to appear, given the right conditions, standing quietly, your eye starts to tune in on what is around you.  Camera at the ready and focus and click.  Four blue damselflies all sitting together on a fern frond.  There was a fifth but the photo was not in focus.

Four Damselflies on a fern frond

The Ringlet butterflies are leading us a merry dance and refusing to settle in a suitable place, but the skippers are much more co-operative.

Skipper Butterfly

It is always best to take an invertebrate against a green background of vegetation, but this Zebra Spider preferred the rail of a bridge.  He does not spin a web but jumps onto his prey.  There can be insects on the rails, so probably a good hunting ground.

Zebra Spider

Many ladybird larvae eat greenfly, so it is to be expected that they would be found on plants.  As can be seen this marker post is not a plant and not the easiest of places to gain a sharp, in focus photo.

Ladybird larvae on a marker post

Thankfully plants stay in one place and stay still.  Some are more beautiful than others.  Water Figwort grows through the Scrapes and is not a flower that stands out, but when you look closely, the tiny flowers are different.

Water Figwort

Zigzag Clover is the brightest coloured of the clovers and essential for bees and other insects.

Zigzag Clover and Bird's Foot Trefoli

Zigzag Clover

Knapweed or Hardheads begins to flower now and can still be flowering well into autumn.  Consequently it is an important food source for late flying bees, butterflies and insects.

Hardheads

Interestingly the Rayed Knapweed flowers just a little earlier and its flowering season is not as long.

Rayed Knapweed

The Yellow Rattle has done really well and it is just beginning to rattle.

Yellow Rattle seed head

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Froglets and Wooden Owls

Friday, July 8th 2016

A fairly varied day, with the bulk of the focus getting things together for a stall at Wavell Junior School fair (on Catterick Garrison) .

I spent the first hour cutting logs of wood for children to construct/design their own owl as per the 'Alien Owl' produced by one of the children at the fair today. Fairs, or shows like these are a great opportunity for Foxglove Covert to engage with the public and get the word out. With holidays coming we have a full events list for young and old so visit the events page on our web site http://www.foxglovecovert.org.uk/events/.

 

Reserve Manager Stacey, and Sophie, Foxglove's Chairperson, were running the stall which included a treasure hunt, explained the exhibits of tadpoles and caterpillars, as well as informing all of where and what we do.

Barry Evans, a local carpenter, delivered another load of bat, owl, and bird boxes which we hope to put up this autumn and winter to replace the rather worn boxes of this season. Thank you to him for his kind donation.

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One of the highlights for me, as I was putting grain down on the duck platform, was avoiding froglets who were having a mass exodus from the Lake, there were hundreds of the little fellows.

.......and as always thank you to Colin for filling the bird feeders.

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Best Day Ever!

Thursday, July 7th 2016

"Best day ever!"

This was the announcement made by a year 3 pupil leaving after a school visit this afternoon. Book your school visit now! What more can we say?!

While we were busy with a school group today our wonderful volunteers were helping with jobs around the reserve. This ranged from repairing poles for our net rides and building a rack for our strimmers to path maintenance. Thank you to all!

In other news, you can find us tomorrow at Wavell Junior School fair (on Catterick Garrison) from 2pm until 5pm. It’s open to the public.

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Owls

Wednesday, July 6th 2016

Today at Foxglove Glennis ran an Artful Owls session. The idea of this was to look closely at what makes up an Owl and concentrate on the specific details, rather than the Owl as a whole, as painting this can seem a daunting task. People got in touch with their arty side, experimenting with a variety of media, including pastels, watercolours, oils and prints.

Even those who claimed to be completely unable to draw produced some rather nice masterpieces- here are some of them, and the specimens from which they gained their inspiration.  Here are some eyes...

And some feathers...

Whilst out and about afterwards, Jenny took this lovely picture of a Water Vole.

I think it was looking for its apples, which it didn’t find- we had decided to ration them a little as they were getting rather greedy!

Like every Wednesday it was also Moth day at Foxglove. Some nice ones caught were this Pebble Prominent and this Peppered Moth 

This Ringlet Butterfly was also spotted whilst out and about.

Thanks go to Glennis for running the session today. It was very much enjoyed.

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Heath and Hedges

Tuesday, July 5th 2016

With it being a Tuesday it was our volunteer day, the job of pulling birch , gorse and willow off the heath enabled most of us to work together. It was a fairly warm with the damp weather from the previous night having us swatting horse flies from bare arms. The one in the picture below was taken after its feast on my arm.

There are about 4,500 species of Tabanidae, or horse flies in the world. The female like the one in the photo is identified from the male by the fact that it is biting me, and the wide eyes, the males have close set eyes like a house fly and the do not bite.

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The endless pulling using tree poppers , brute strength and loppers cleared a fair bit of the heath, however the pioneering birch will need some more work.

Folk trimmed up the beech hedge that lines the road, while others attacked the bracken in other locations around the reserve, or strimmed the ever lush path edges.

As well as some assistance from younger volunteers

Whilst moving around the heath it gave us time to observe this male Ringlet Butterfly, as you can see the open wings are devoid of the ringlets seen on the underside , however the female does have this upper wing markings.

This grasshopper gave me the run around as I tried to photograph it

, but eventually it showed itself as a Common Green Grasshopper

Other things of interest from the heath was Slender St Johns Wort

and a Large Skipper Butterfly

Thank you to all the volunteers for their hard work with all the jobs today.


 

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Water Famous Vole!

Monday, July 4th 2016

Did you see us in the paper at the weekend? Not us, as in the Reserve Managers, this time, but instead one of our (far-cuter-than-us) Water Voles as photographed by Glennis!

For the longer article see: http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/14593880.Rare_water_vole_thriving_at_North_Yorkshire_nature_reserve/

It’s been another lovely day at Foxglove. The damselflies have been out and about, including this beautiful pair photographed mating.

First time visitors to the reserve saw a Water Vole and our feeders have been busy with birds, including plenty of visits by the Greater-Spotted Woodpeckers and also these young Great Tits (a ring can be seen on the bird on the left). These were mostly likely hatched and ringed in nest boxes at Foxglove, so it’s especially lovely to see them!

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A Good Weekend

Sunday, July 3rd 2016

The ringing team from Cape Wrath arrived home safely on Friday evening.  The Barn Owl that nests on an island in the middle of Loch Torridon only had 8 eggs this year, and two had hatched.  Many of the chicks  ringed, across the different species, were plump, chubby and or fat which was very good.  I wonder if these two are waving goodbye?  (It is the original photo.)

Waving goodbye

Half way through CES an order for any species of owl, a Nightjar, a Cuckoo or a Sparrowhawk was requested.  The owl came close as a Little Owl was seen sitting on the stone in the heath as the ringers arrived.  This is another new species for the reserve!  No sign of the Nightjar or Cuckoo, but a male Sparrowhawk did make it to the ringing room which had been ringed 3 years ago!

Sparrowhawk

At the other end of the scale a juvenile Redstart was ringed.

Juvenile Redstart

Cotton Grass has looked very sorry for itself after the rain but when it dries out and the breeze blows so it changes and its beauty can be admired.

Cotton Grass

Meanwhile the bumblebees are making the most of the warm sun.  Foxgloves are ideal for them.

Foxglove and bees

Butterflies are tending to hide away in the vegetation so making interesting positions when trying to get the said butterfly in focus through the vegetation, especially if it is moving in the breeze. The shadow of the antennae of this Ringlet Butterfly can be seen on the leaf.

Ringlet Butterfly

We try to photograph the children after school visits and activities but sometimes it is difficult to get them all in one place and suitably organised.  There should be no such problem arranging the ringers but firstly the camera had to be sorted.

Sorting the camera

Then a walk from the ringing room to the stone seating area to herd everyone into place.

Everyone in place

After some shuffling around, a ringing group photo was finally taken.

The bird ringers

CES 6, half way and only one more 4am start.  Some members of the ringing team have just returned exhausted from Cape Wrath so a huge thank you to them for turning out over the weekend.  There were 200 birds processed including 29 new Willow Warblers and 15 Chiffchaffs. It will not be long before these birds start their long journey south.  The total was the 8th highest in the 24 years with the best being 244 in 2007.  There were 24 different species caught - just a little short of the number of ringers who took part.

Thank you to everyone who helped prepare the net rides during the week and to those who contributed over the weekend.

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June’s Flora and Fauna

Saturday, July 2nd 2016

A new month means a new folder for photographs, but also a time for reflection of those photographs taken last month.  The weather is playing its part in helping or hindering flora and fauna.  Apparently the Jet Stream needs to be pushed a little further north so we get warmer weather instead of the westerly air steam that is bringing wind and rain.

As soon as the rain stops and the sun comes out - how many times has that been said recently on the blog!? - insects do what they do best, feed, pollinate flowers or hunt for prey.  These tiny insects were covering the Honeysuckle blossoms and the pollen grains transferred by them, from the stamens to the stigma, can clearly be seen.

Tiny insects on Honeysuckle

Large Red Damselflies are predators and this one was enjoying a feast.  I suspect that the legs would be left behind.

Large Red Damselfly feeding

Another predator is the Daddy Long-Legs Spider or Cellar Spider, Pholcus phalangioides.  It hangs around in its untidy web, often frequenting houses and particularly cellars, hence its name.  Although spiders do have eight legs this one appeared to have many more and it was impossible to get legs and body in focus!  This is a new species for the reserve.

Daddy Long-Legs Spider

Daddy Long-legs Spider

Zig Zag Clover  is the nicest of the clovers to photograph as it is slightly larger and a lovely bright reddish pink colour.  After taking two photos I realised that there was something else close by.  A skipper butterfly was resting on a leaf that was just the right size, no doubt waiting to warm up a little before setting off to feed.

A skipper butterfly and Zig Zag Clover

Multi-petalled buttercups can be found but it is unusual to find Greater Spearwort with more petals than it should have.

Multi-petalled Greater Spearwort

Slender St John's Wort is usually found growing along the quad bike track across the heath, so it was a surprise to find it on the far moor.  A close up shows the tiny black marks that edge the petals and buds.

Slender St John's Wort - close up

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End of the Week and End of the Trip.

Friday, July 1st 2016

Today, like any other Friday, the end-of-week jobs were completed. Colin, one of our volunteers came in to fill the bird feeders ready for bird ringing at the weekend. It is now looking likely that ringing will take place on Sunday and not Saturday as the weather is looking better on Sunday. The day also involved mowing the last of the ringing net rides ready for the weekend, emptying the bins and other admin tasks. The water voles were fed, as were the tadpoles, bees and the Ermine moth caterpillars. These are now getting very large!

The Cape Wrath ringers are on their way home as I write this, having set off first thing this morning. They shouldn’t have too far to go now. They have been able to get out in the boats in the last couple of days, and have sent through some lovely pictures of their antics. Here are some of them.

Here are some Common Guillemots on their nesting ledges. These are likely to have been ringed. The ringers carry long poles with a hook on the end which works like a shepherd crook. The birds can be gently lifted off the ledges with the hook, ringed, and replaced. All birds are ringed as part of the BTO scheme, under licence, and with the welfare of the bird of paramount importance. 

The ringers have also managed a night of Storm Petrel ringing. This involves setting up loud speakers playing storm petrel calls to lure in the birds from the sea, then catching them in mist nets- this part is exactly the same as a normal ringing session at Foxglove. The only difference is that Storm Petrels come out at night, so the whole operation is done during the hours of darkness out of the back of a landrover and by torchlight! It is quite a surreal experience standing in the dark on the cliffs with the call of storm petrels booming out across the wilderness and the waves crashing far below. The pictures are not that clear but hopefully give you the idea.

Here are some of the team searching for Arctic Tern chicks.

Arctic Tern chicks look like this...

Thanks go to Colin for filling the feeders today and to Jerusha who has been with us all week for work experience. She has been a great help! Also thanks to the Cape Wrath folk for keeping us up to date with their steady stream of photos.

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