(31) Blog Posts Made in March 2017

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New Visitors, New Turf

Friday, March 31st 2017

The day began with a visit to the shops to get some lard for the bird feeders we were doing with an education group today. We took the children on a tracks and signs walk as well as making casts of Roe Deer footprints, pinecone feeders for birds…

...and roasting marshmallows around a camp fire.

The bulk of the afternoon was spent laying new turf in front of the Field Centre…

…this was a steady job which required a good back on picking up…

 …and laying the turf

Thank you to John Hayden for the repairs he did on the Lake Hide today, a great job! Also, Charlie and Colin for their continued help.

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Walk, Mini-beasts and Wetlands

Thursday, March 30th 2017

Coming in this morning I was greeted to a fairly common occurrence at Foxglove, a sighting of Roe Deer.

Sadly by the time Richmond C of E Primary School, ages 5 to 7, arrived the deer were long gone and they unsurprisingly avoided the various areas we used for the day's events!
On the way in my group stopped at the Lake Hide and used the bird scope to look at the various waterfowl, discussing simple plumage on the Mallard present and comparing Little Grebe and Moorhens.

Once at the Field Centre the group was given a short presentation on the various species on the reserve and how we monitor them, before heading out for a habitat walk .

We had split the large group into small teams which enabled us to give a better experience. Luckily we had a solid team of pre-briefed volunteers who were able to assist us in the various habitats, including learning about mini-beasts at the outdoor classroom. There a multitude of beasties were discovered under the rotting logs and we played a coloured string game looking at camouflage.

This looper caterpillar was of particular interest, mimicking a twig!

While all this was happening another group was busy pond dipping; looking at the numerous Common Toads, Sticklebacks, Great Diving Beetles and their larvae amongst other aquatic life.


The normal Thursday jobs were left in the capable hands of Tony and Mike who did water checks and the season’s water tests, as always very professional.

No sooner had the children got back on their coach to leave than the heavens opened and a deluge of rain fell.... but by then the volunteers were back at the Field Centre having well earned tea and cake.

We cannot express our ‘thanks’ enough to those volunteers who gave their time to help out with the school event today; Jonathan, Christine, Jackie, and Stuart, it ran smoothly and without a hitch, again ‘thank you’ and we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. Thanks again to Tony and Mike - keeping things going while we were elsewhere.
 

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Small is Beautiful

Wednesday, March 29th 2017

This afternoon on our Small is Beautiful event we explored a small, overlooked world, including looking for lichen and marvelling at mini-beasts.

We started by admiring some of the many moths we caught last night before they were released. Here, an early grey (left) and a shoulder stripe (right).

Armed with magnifying glasses and hand lenses we looked for things we normally wouldn’t. We travelled through a range of habitats: Highlights included spotting hazel flowers,

liverworts, cased caddis fly larvae, water crickets,

fungi and various lichens.

Once we got our (collective) eye in we spotted all sorts of miniature marvels! Why not try walking with a magnifier and looking for little? It can be like a whole other world!

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It’s the Final Countdown!

Tuesday, March 28th 2017

Today with our team of Tuesday volunteers we did what we hope to be the final push on this year’s coppice block. The countdown is on to get it finished before the buds burst on the trees and the birds start nesting!

We think that all we have left to do it a little tidying up of coppice stools and stumps – thank you very, very much to all who have helped us both with this mammoth task (today and over the last few months) and with all the others jobs needed to keep Foxglove going!

Other jobs done today, which we caught on camera, were: repairing the tap outside the portacabin,

filling the bird feeders,

continuing the tidy and sort of the workshop

and planting a couple of saplings.

Unfortunately we didn’t get photos of all the help given today, including tidying the Field Centre garden, admin tasks, replacing the mesh grip on a bridge, moving boardwalks, pruning trees overhanging a bridge and cleaning out the tadpole tank. Then on the other hand when checking the camera at the end of the day we found we’d taken some odd pictures like this one:

We love it. Caption to explain what’s going on anyone?

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A Fond Farewell to the Exmoors

Monday, March 27th 2017

On this sunny weekend we sadly said goodbye to Sky and Sydney the Exmoor Ponies who had become a feature on the Moorland for the past few months. When we went to get them we thought they had escaped; they blended perfectly with the gorse background.

Thank you to Susanna Baker, the Secretary of the Yorkshire Exmoor Pony Trust, for loaning us these fantastic animals: We hope to see them back at Foxglove again next winter...

Today was mainly dealing with pre-visits of schools, and the various bookings pertaining to them ….Monday office work! Outside, however, Jenny and Elizabeth were continuing with fixing one of the damaged mist nets. I was assured they were not hanging out their laundry! These nets are bought under licence from authorised dealers and cost over £100 each!

Mist nets are used by us and other ornithologists to capture wild birds for ringing, or other research projects. They are typically made of nylon or polyester mesh suspended between two poles, resembling a volleyball net. When properly deployed in the correct habitat, the nets are virtually invisible. Mist nets have shelves created by horizontally strung lines that create a loose, baggy pocket. When a bird hits the net, it falls into this pocket. The birds are then removed by trained BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) permit holders who then process the birds in the ringing room at the reserve where data is recorded on age, moult, weight, wing length and sex. An alloy ring is also attached with a unique number (if one is not already present) which enables other ringers to find out previous data on the bird and possible routes the bird has taken over the years.


 

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First and Last?

Sunday, March 26th 2017

Members of the bird ringing team opened the nets this morning and caught the first summer migrant , a Chiffchaff.  They had been heard singing since the 15th March.  Two were retraps, ringed at Foxglove last summer as juveniles and the third a new bird.

Chiffchaff

Although we have caught Bramblings in May, from now on their numbers are likely to be reduced.  Several were ringed today and we decided that these were not 'our' Bramblings that have spent the winter with us, but birds from the south heading north.

Brambling

Common Toad, Mallard, Greylag Geese and Curlew were heard calling.  Three Buzzards were seen circling on the thermals over the Field Centre.  

The last of the fondant that we feed to the bees over winter had been left on their platform and in the afternoon sunshine, they were making the most of it.  They were also returning to the hive with full pollen sacs.

Hive bees

In some places the frost held on well into the morning.

Frost covered vegetation

Seeds of the Bulrush are being dispersed by gentle breezes.

Seeds of the Bulrush

This one, having fallen onto the ground, was frost covered.

Frost covered Bulrush seed head on the ground

Each ringing session gives different results.  Sometimes this is because of the weather, time of year and or the season.  Two weeks ago Siskin topped the list of birds caught.  Today, not a one.  Redpoll numbers have also decreased as they disperse to find suitable breeding sites.  Chaffinch numbers are slowly increasing.  What will we find next time?

Thank you to everyone who helped today.  A real team effort is needed to open the nets, complete net rounds, ring the birds, take down the nets, check and count the bird bags and tidy the ringing room.  We must not forget the tea makers, the washers up and the very welcome sausage rolls brought in for us all.

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Little Grebes

Saturday, March 25th 2017

The Little Grebes (Dabchicks) had been seen on the lake but I had not spotted them until sitting quietly in the hide I noticed one swimming down the lake, making a noticeable wave.

Little Grebe

Watching these birds always gives great pleasure.  Photographing them is fun!  Focus, click and no Dabchick, only a ring where it has been.

Was a Dabchick!

Then scanning the surface to see where it appears, often a long way from where it dived.  When alarmed the Little Grebe submerges, with only its head showing.  This has not been reported by anyone 'grebe watching'.  Something to look for this year.

There are two Dabchicks on the lake, at the minute, and we hope that they will breed again this year.  Their nest is a pile of water plants built up from the surface of the water or supported by a branch, usually in shallow water.  The young hatch in about a month and are fed by both parents on a diet of small fish and other water fauna.

Two Dabchicks

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Spring Work in the Sun!

Friday, March 24th 2017

What a contrast to the wintery weather of Wednesday when we had 70 mm of snow and a maximum of 1 degree followed by 34mm of rain. Clear blue skies, still air and a more respectable 12 degrees was the order for today…. spring is here and with the mild weather Coltsfoot was present in numerous places, Greylags have moved onto the Wetland, and Little Grebes are cavorting on the Lake.

Toad spawn is present in numerous places, and from the look of things there will be a lot more to come! Note the strands of spawn ….

….as opposed to the clumps of frog spawn

Charlie and I were multi-tasking today ticking off the various jobs on the day’s job list, like dragging more brash out….

….repairing the information board at the Wetland ….

….and the first grass cut and strim of the season around the Field Centre.

I saw my first bumblebee on the reserve, but was uncertain if it was a white or buff tailed, it was probably a Queen looking for a vacant vole hole to start her new brood.


 

A special thank you to John who was also multitasking, and David and son who came in specially to help with the hide cameras, plus Colin, who without fail ensures our bird feeders are filled for the weekend.

Thank you also to Elizabeth and Jenny who came in to fix mist nets.

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Exciting Education Events

Thursday, March 23rd 2017

Our Thursday team of volunteers helped with lots of jobs today (thank you all) including repairs to signage, tidying the workshop, monitoring water quality and levels, filling feeders, tidying up the coppice block

and returning to position the now-repaired window in our portacabin.

A small group also spent a morning learning about how we run some of our education events with schools, in preparation for supporting us in leading them! Pond dipping was very popular with cased caddis fly larvae being a particular excitement.

Looking for mini-beasts proved popular too, searching under the log rounds by the outdoor classroom…

…and seeing what we could find in the trees.

Jonathan also couldn’t resist having a play in the dam!

If you’re hoping to bring a school group or other group of children or young people to Foxglove please get your bookings in! If you just fancy bringing yourself or your family on an event keep an eye on our events pages – we run activities for all ages. The next, Small is Beautiful, is for adults and older children (around 8 years plus) – come and join us to look for lichen, marvel at mini-beasts and admire small-scale spectacles! Book via our events pages here.

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A Step Back into Winter

Wednesday, March 22nd 2017

On arrival at work the snow was about 3 inches deep, but even then it had started to thaw, with massive clumps of snow falling from the conifers as we walked the Green Route to ensure there were no wind felled trees from yesterday.

Even with the cold wintery weather we still had the moth trap out, and the time setting it up yesterday evening was not wasted. The haul from the trap is very much dictated by wind, wet and temperature so it was not surprising that we only had 8 moths: We actually felt the numbers were high considering the conditions; Common Quaker, Hebrew Character and this lovely Shoulder Stripe

Tracks of rabbits, pheasants and a fox showed clearly in the snow as we walked around the reserve

The snow was fairly sparse under the conifers, but it was like rain under the canopy as the thaw picked up.

The Wetland looked cold and uninviting but held a vision of mystic; 

The route above Risedale Beck was dusted with snow giving a fresh look.

The site was not totally devoid of Spring, with female Larch flowers, also know as Larch Roses,

...and the blossom of Blackthorn

On leaving the reserve this evening rain had been falling for most of the afternoon and was still falling, we had recorded 32mm since midnight.

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Many Helping Hands

Tuesday, March 21st 2017

We are very fortunate here at Foxglove to have brilliant, dedicated and friendly volunteers helping us to keep the reserve loved, looked after and flourishing! Volunteers complete a whole range of tasks at Foxglove, including practical tasks, office work, data entry, species identification and monitoring, equipment maintenance, assisting with school groups and stock checking. Their hard work is critical to the success of Foxglove and we are very grateful – we could not do all we do without the help of volunteers.

Today’s volunteer team was our regular Tuesday practical volunteers. Tasks tackled today included filling bird feeders, re-seating posts by our car park,

cleaning and tidying in the Field Centre, giving some of our trail marker posts a layer of wood preservative and repainting their stripes,

getting a tank of tadpoles set up in the classroom (yes – we already have tadpoles!),  

feeding the Exmoor ponies (on loan from the Yorkshire Exmoor Pony Trust),  

cutting and moving logs,  

clearing a fallen tree, pruning branches that give squirrels access to our one of our anti-squirrel-design feeding stations and continuing the tidy up of this season’s coppice block.

Another busy day – thank you team! Do get in touch if you fancy joining us – we’re a friendly bunch, there’s lots of things you could get involved with and practical volunteering at Foxglove is much cheaper than the gym!

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Equal Night

Monday, March 20th 2017

The word equinox is Latin for "equal night". The Spring Equinox is the official first day of spring, and today certainly felt like it with temperatures reaching a balmy 13 degrees centigrade; toads a-mating...

Primroses, ....

...Gorse and various other flowers starting to show, birds are busy looking for nest sites, and generally the air feels more Spring-like.

On the Spring Equinox, the Earth hits the turning point in its orbit where neither the North or the South poles are tilted towards the sun. As a result, the Sun spends a roughly equal amount of time above and below the horizon at every location on the Earth, so night and day are about the same length.



On the weekend we had 19 young people from the 1st Wensleydale (Leyburn) Beavers (and a few Cubs) to help us with some conservation tasks on the reserve. Luckily we had plenty to do with the continued clear up from the past few weeks of activity.

We were also graced with the presence of Clive the bear, from Hunton and Arrathorne Community Primary School. Here taking a well-earned rest from the work.

We made pine cone bird feeders…

….identified various trees,….

…as well as getting close and personal with them during our ‘Meet a Tree’ game

A special ‘thank you’ to Stuart who came in to assist us with this event.


 

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Same Time, Same Place

Sunday, March 19th 2017

This time last year the blog recorded the willow in blossom along the fence near the access gate.  The sun was bright and the sky was blue.  This year it is in blossom again, but without the blue sky.

Willow catkins

We always assume Coltsfoot is an early spring flower, but we often  hunt for it in vein, but it has been found in bloom down by the Bullet Catcher pond.  Other places to look for this dandelion like flower is the back garden and on the islands in Risedale Beck.

Coltsfoot

Lesser Celandine open with the sun and close when it is dull.  First seen on the island in the Voley Pond this year, but first photographs have been taken near the wetland hide.

Lesser Celandine

Primroses are now showing their flowers along Risedale Beck, on the bank from the wetland and through the Hazel Avenue.

Primrose

Now that the spring (vernal)) equinox is nearly here, 10.28 on 20th March 2017, our days are getting longer, so allowing more time to be out and about with cameras, taking photographs for the Foxglove 2018 calendar.

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Out and About with a Camera

Saturday, March 18th 2017

Early mornings at Foxgove can be very quiet, with hardly a sound to be heard and not much out of the ordinary to photograph.  Sometimes it is special and a camera is needed.

This caught my eye - whoops going the wrong way?

Whoops going the wrong way?

I tried very hard to find some cloud whales or mice or bears, to no avail so had to be satisfied with the view down the lake showing the clouds bubbling up.

The lake

Continuing on my walk I realised that I was not alone but was sharing the boardwalk with a feathered friend, Mrs Mallard.

Mallard on the boardwalk

Toads were also using the paths as they continue to return to their spawning ponds.

Comon Toad

Checking along the Hazel Avenue, following deer slots in the mud, my young pup stopped and looked, so I too stopped and looked.  A Roe Deer moved slowly from the path into the undergrowth, but photo taken in the hopes I would achieve something.  I did, a splodge of white if you look hard enough!

Undergrowth with Roe Deer

We walked on and he stopped and then turned to look at us, with nothing other than a stem of grass in the way.  It is clear to see that he only has one antler having dropped the other.   

Roe Deer Buck

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Something Out of Place

Friday, March 17th 2017

While over towards the wetland today I spotted something that was out of place. Can you see it too – what’s odd in this picture?

To me it seemed strange that quite a scattering of spruce cones were to be found on the ground with only ash, hazel and hawthorn above – none of which produce cones. So I went to have a closer look.

The cones on the ground appeared jagged and ruffled…

…here, one (on the left) with a fallen cone (on the right) for comparison.

A little bit of research later and an explanation is achieved – I’ve found a greater-spotted woodpecker’s anvil! These birds feed on conifer seeds in the winter and will pick a cone from its tree and fly with it to a convenient crack. It will lodge the cone firmly in the crack, tip upwards, and peck and prise the scales apart to get at the seeds – this gives the cones their ruffled appearance. The woodpecker will even turn the cone around to get the seeds from all sides. Apparently it only takes around 4 minutes for a woodpecker to empty the seeds from a pine cone, during which time it pecks at the cone approximately 800 times! The woodpecker only removes a cone it has finished with from a crack when it needs the crack for a fresh cone. Armed with this knowledge I looked for a cone left in a crack and lo and behold, there it was on a branch a fair way up the ash tree!

Sadly I didn’t see the greater-spotted woodpecker with its meal, but maybe someone with more time and patience could try for a photo…?

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Varied Volunteering

Thursday, March 16th 2017

With some regulars away on holiday or busy with other commitments, it was a smaller group of Thursday volunteers joining us for an eclectic mix of tasks today – thank you very much to everyone who helped. There were little jobs like collecting in temporary boundary markers from the coppice block,

topping up woodchips on some of our new paths,

putting the earth back around the edges of a new drain,

packaging a broken window unit ready for transport to a glazier

and cleaning a particularly slimy water vole feeding platform and returning it to position (complete with an apple – of course!).

There were also jobs that appeared fairly small and straightforward at a first glance, but turned out to be a bit bigger than expected: tidying up paths with the wacker plate

– it turned out that a top up of gravel was needed in places too;

and tree popping unwanted saplings, tidying up in the coppice block and burning excess brash, where there was a bit more left to do than we had hoped!

In other news, I spotted quite a few Goldcrests today and heard lots of their high pitched song. They were flitting through our trees probably searching for tiny insects and similar to feed on. As I feared though, these very small (only around 5-7g) and charming birds are not easy to photograph – or at least, as these photos attest, the combination of me and my camera were not up to the task today!

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Spring is Springing!

Wednesday, March 15th 2017

Signs of spring are all around us now, with new shoots coming up, buds starting to burst, early flowers opening and toads continuing to move towards their breeding ponds – watch where you’re walking!

The birds are singing (if you like listening why not book onto our Bird Song Breakfast?) and checking out nesting sites – the blue tit in our camera nest box has started bringing in the occasional piece of moss or grass. It was therefore with a feeling of urgency that we popped out today to put up a final few bird boxes in one of the woods on the training area. Hopefully we weren’t too late for some of them to be used this nesting season…

Here we’re putting up one of the boxes kindly made and donated to us by Barry Evans:

The catch in our moth trap also showed signs of spring, as we caught greater numbers of moths (around 30) than any other day so far this year. I particularly like the fluffy tufts on the body of this Yellow Horned moth, Achlya flavicornis. This species is named for its orange antennae, which unfortunately are not very obvious in the photo and its larvae feed on birch.

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Work for Spring Rising

Tuesday, March 14th 2017

It is no surprise that on Tuesday volunteer day we were still clearing up areas from the recent tree works. Our first priority was to finish taking a few logs and brash from a Bluebell laden bank on Risedale Beck. The amount of emerging Bluebells on the area now opened up to the sun is amazing and will be well worth a look at in a few weeks’ time when in bloom.

John repaired a loose step above the bank as we toiled below.

We had folk in a number of areas - it was a day for multi-tasking! Jackie and Brian continued the morning filling the hoppers with seed surplus to the rape seed harvest from one of our local farms. The seed in these hoppers is a great source of food for the numerous Bullfinches around the reserve.


Brash needed to be removed from a number of areas….

…. as well as finishing off the coppicing near the Wetland Orchard

Thank you to all the volunteers who helped out today.

In other news, the frog spawn is unmissable around the reserve ….

… but now the focus is on the Common Toads, which for the past few evenings on leaving the reserve we have had to stop on the exit track to remove from our path! They are leaving their winter hibernation sites and returning to our ponds to spawn. If anyone spots the long cords of toad spawn, as opposed to the clumps of Frog spawn above, please let us know - we've not seen any this year...yet...

Another highlight today was this Bank Vole which fed on seed below the Field Centre kitchen bird feeders. This little chap went back and forth a few times feeding and collecting, allowing me to get a few snaps and a video.

Bank Voles are a staple diet for Owls (their bones are often found in owl pellets) and other raptors. They are also prey for foxes and, given the chance, Otters and Badgers. It is not surprising then that they can have 5 litters a year consisting of 3-5 young and they have a high mortality rate.

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Doing and Observing

Monday, March 13th 2017

After a busy weekend at the reserve our weekend managers, Sandra and Leanne, carried out the various checks on the mink rafts, dams, ensuring the hides are in good order etc., the ringing team were bird ringing and I replaced an owl box on the training area.

We hit Monday running. The usual office jobs, emails to answer, bookings for school visits and events, as well as trying to identify an unusual fruiting body on a rotting Silver Birch log pile.

After a bit of research we ascertained that the fungi looking bead-like growths were a form of slime mould. Each 'bead' was about 1mm in diameter. We have a number of fascinating, curious slime moulds frequenting the reserve, but I have never seen this variety before. We think we have narrowed it down to the genus Trichia. We found this interesting article on these complicated organisms: http://cronodon.com/BioTech/Plasmodium_SM.html


In the afternoon we were out and about again moving more logs from Risedale Beck bank.

As you can see from the photos below our first Primroses are flowering!

Nearby was this Barren Strawberry which had just begun to flower. This is very similar to the Wild Strawberry but differences include notably earlier flowering, more rounded leaves and a slightly different flower.

 

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Winter is Coming!

Sunday, March 12th 2017

I received an email from Stacey giving us some news and photographs.  Technology is amazing as I have said before - an email all the way from down south!

Last week to go now - the ship comes next Sunday. Here is a final instalment for the blog.  All a bit rushed I'm afraid as I have a lot to do.

Winter seems to have returned to Signy this week and everything is covered in snow. 

Winter is coming at Signy

This is the enormous square iceberg that I think you put on the blog a while back, which this week suddenly broke into three and tipped up sideways. It gives an idea of how big it was to begin with as this is only a third of it!  You can see the horizontal line that would have been at the waterline until it tipped up, and now the underwater part is revealed too.

Upturned iceberg!

Adult Chinstraps that have finished breeding have now returned to the colonies to moult all of their feathers.   (Wonder if you can do a moult score?)

Moulting Chinstrap Penguins

Friday morning’s sunrise. As the days get shorter sunrise is at a much more civilised time for taking pictures!

Sunrise on Signy

The Shackleton is due on Sunday 19th and will be with us for a couple of days while we close down, then we'll be heading for the Falklands. The usual links are as follows:

The ship tracker showing its location is at:  http://www.sailwx.info/shiptrack/shipposition.phtml?call=ZDLS1

The Shackleton Webcam is at: https://www.bas.ac.uk/data/our-data/images/webcams/rrs-ernest-shackleton-webcam/

That's all for now as I have many boxes to pack. But I'll see you in a few weeks.

If you want to read more about Stacey's time and what she does on Signy then this link will take you to her Blog - http://staceyinantarctica.blogspot.co.uk/

Thanks Stacey for your photos and for keeping us updated on your time down on Signy - see you soon.

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Around and About

Saturday, March 11th 2017

Redpolls and Siskin topped the list of birds processed today.  Some of the male Redpolls are looking very red.

Redpoll

Siskins are still feeding in the back garden and their bright yellow colours stand out.

Siskin

Some of these birds were controls, meaning that they have been ringed elsewhere.  We will wait for information from the BTO to find out more details.  Other birds visiting the ringing room included Bullfinch, Blackbirds, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Dunnocks. 

Out and about on the reserve, leaves are showing through.  Primrose leaves on the island in the Voley Pond.

Primrose leaves

Lesser Celandine leaves are beautifully marked.

Lesser Celandine leaves

Now that the winter work has almost finshed some areas have been opened up and new things, once hidden can now be seen.  This Hazel was coppiced many years ago.

Coppiced Hazel

In the willow carr a very old, moss covered, knarled willow stands out.

An old willow

A Curlew was heard calling.  Whirligig beetles were lilving up to their name and whirling on the surface of one the ponds.  A black slug was slowly munching on some green leaves.  

Jennifer and Roger's journey to the gate last night was slow, due to Common Toads walking across the access road.  They moved 26 of them to safety.  Not a one was seen today.

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Tidying Up Continues

Friday, March 10th 2017

Today was another day of getting as much tidying up and finishing up done as we could before the weekend. We cleared paths and tidied materials around the workshop. John kindly came in to help complete the next stage of the drainage improvements outside the Field Centre.

Charlie cleared paths with the leaf blower.

We tidied up and topped up paths that have had heavy use by the quad bike over the last few weeks.

While doing so we found this ground beetle.

Most ground beetles are voracious predators, with both larvae and adults being carnivorous. As the name suggests, many spend their time on the ground and some can’t fly due to having fused wing cases which act as protecting armour. 

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Sunglasses and Spring Sunshine.

Thursday, March 9th 2017

It was a glorious sunny day today – a day to enjoy being outdoors, which we did with enthusiasm! With help from the Thursday team of dedicated volunteers we got things done across the reserve. Even the sunglasses came out!

Continuing the clear up of logs after the tree works by the beck was one of the major jobs of the day. The sun poured onto the bank where the tree cover had been thinned as if to invite new growth. Thankfully the timber is away and we can leave the cleared areas to flourish again.

While I drove the ATV and trailer laden with logs to the store to off load them, some of the team patched up damage to the paths and tracks caused by all this intense activity.

John did various jobs today, such as tending to the hide camera batteries, but his main job was digging a drainage channel on the picnic area in front of the Field Centre.

The heavy clay sub-soil, which was the cause of our pour drainage in this area, did not make the job easy, but by the end of the day the pipe was in and connected with just a tweak for us to do tomorrow.

Tony and Mike did their usual water checks but this time with the added job of doing a frog spawn survey around all the ponds/ditches to find out the surface area of spawn and any frog activity.

Frogs are normally the first to spawn and to move to the ponds, and a couple of weeks after that there is the movement of Common Toads to all areas. Today the first toad was seen moving around the ponds near Risedale Beck. The sign warning of ‘Toads on the Road’ went on the main gate, a sure indicator that Spring is here!

One of the jobs unforeseen was a window breakage at the port-a-cabin. Again this does not phase our volunteers and the job is now near to being completed.

One of the last jobs to be done today was the clearing of the Gabions Dam on our perimeter. This needs constant attention over winter and Spring as the pipes get clogged with debris and can compromise the surrounding banks.

Again, a varied and busy day spurred on by the continued Spring like air. Thank you to the volunteers who attended and for their hard work and smiles!
 

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Spot the Moth!

Wednesday, March 8th 2017

This morning was a typical Wednesday morning here at Foxglove in that it started by collecting, identifying, photographing and releasing the moths caught overnight in our moth trap. For me, the most exciting of the moths today was this Oak Beauty, Biston strataria, our first this year (it typically flies in March and April).

This moth has a disruptive pattern – where the pattern continues over different body parts, breaking up the shape of the moth, so making its outline difficult to spot. Its colouration makes it remarkably well camouflaged on tree bark with lichen...can you spot the moth?

We can tell from the amazing feathery antennae that this moth is a male. The males use their feathered antennae to sense pheromones produced by the female, helping them to locate a female to mate with. The females have more thread-like antennae.

Oak Beauty caterpillars feed on a number of deciduous trees including Oak, Elm, Hazel and Alder from late spring onwards. They overwinter underground as pupae.

 

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Spring is in the Air!

Tuesday, March 7th 2017

In the wake of our Winter Worky Day on Saturday, today we were back continuing the tidy up around the reserve. A lot of the jobs we were doing today were a carbon copy of Saturday: We had a team on the last area to be cleared in the Coppice Block by the Orchard...
We continued removing unwanted Silver Birch saplings... 

….which the Dales School pupils kindly reduced in size for us;

Jackie and Eddie helped us to remove more timber to storage; some heavy loads were carted with the quadbike and inbetween loading the trailer they topped up the dead hedge.

Jackie gathering adornments for her hair as she worked!

 Nick, John and Peter heaved off the logs at the storage area!

Small jobs were being completed around the reserve such as Irene in the car park area....

.... and John finishing off hanging ‘conservation area’ signs on our perimeter, amongst other vital clearing, fixing and tidying jobs.

The Spring-like air and sun seemed to get the bees moving and collecting, maybe from the Gorse, returning to the Field Centre hive with pollen baskets full.

We gave the Exmoor Ponies, on loan from the Yorkshire Exmoor Pony Trust, some tasty hay to top up their grazing on the Moor.

Thank you to all the volunteers who contributed today in their many different ways, it certainly was diverse but incredibly productive.
 

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Nest Box Inspection

Monday, March 6th 2017

We mentioned on the blog last Tuesday (28th Feb) that our camera nest box was selected for roosting in by a blue tit. Well, it’s been back to roost quite a few times since, but today we saw some different behaviour: We spotted a blue tit giving our camera nest box a thorough inspection!

It's getting to that time of year when birds are starting to pair up and look for possible nesting sites…fingers crossed that this box will pass the inspection and be selected for nesting. We’ll have to wait and see..!

Check out the video: 

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Spring is on its Way!

Sunday, March 5th 2017

At the meeting yesterday people recorded what they felt was important to them about Foxglove and there were many positive comments including the wildlife, magical, special and always something new.  Out walking at the break, a sound caught my ear - one of those magical moments - the first time I had heard the Common Frogs croaking this spring!

Common Frog

The males arrive back at their spawning ponds first and call in the females.  They 'lie' almost on the surface of the water and croak.

Common Frog

The bird ringers were busy today.  Over 100 birds were processed.  Discussion took place about the different species being caught.  For example, we used to catch many Chaffinches and Bullfinches but today there were few.  Siskins and Redpolls (they used to be called Lesser Redpolls) took their place. 

Whilst ringing we watched the back garden feeder outside the kitchen.  As the Nyger seeds went down in the feeder, so the displays of the Siskins increased!  Glass is not the best of things to try to get a good photograph through but you can see the Siskins and a Redpoll feeding.

Siskins and Redpoll on Nyger seed feeder

Sightings of species are increasing.  Greylag Geese flew over the reserve calling. Seven Grey Heron were seen on the wetland.  Unfortunately they seem to know that it is time for the frogs to appear from hibernation.  A Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard drumming.  Roe Deer have been spotted.  Apples put out for the Water Voles have been taken by other species but  a Water Vole had a good feed reducing the apple by half and was then seen leaving a dropping on the platform!

Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage continues to open its small yellow flowers along the beckside and a bud of Primrose was spotted.  Cuckoo Pint leaves are well through the leaf litter and Bluebell leaves are just beginning to appear.  Spring is on its way.

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Last Winter Worky Day of the Season

Saturday, March 4th 2017

When we need the extra push to get to the end of our winter habitat works we can always rely on our dedicated volunteers and a Winter Worky Day to provide that effort. It has been a really big winter workload with the Willow Coppice Block, Hazel Avenue and Risedale Beck Bank, in addition to the usual maintenance, etc. and thankfully the volunteers have enabled us to keep up. Today's workload was based around tidying up and finishing off for the coming season, so that meant we broke the volunteers into various groups. The first of the groups was at the bottom of Risedale Beck Bank hauling logs to the path edge so we could cart them away for storage, or making habitat log piles.

Not all volunteers were human (although they may think they are...)

With the trailer full the 20 minute round trip enabled the team to top up the path chippings on the Green Route.

At the same time, along Hazel Avenue a tidy up of cut timber was going on....

.... although the coppicing of the hazel is not finished in this area we will carry on after the nesting season, in late Autumn - possibly on the next Winter Worky Day! 

Mike and David were processing some timber down at the workshop

With folk of different skill sets were are able to tap into this and make the most of our volunteers abilities; Colin was mapping bird ringing recoveries for our website.

At another location along Risedale Beck we had a team moving logs to an area where we could get the ATV and trailer in to remove them.

This was a physical job, clearing up after tree works, which will hopefully allow more light for the ground flora to flourish.

At the workshop Siver Birch saplings were being removed and debris was being tidied up.

Near the Wetland Orchard Tony Cooper's team continued with the last area of this year's coppice block to be cleared ....

.... some of the undergrowth was still fairly dense as the last of the coppicing was carried out....

.... but with the use of these tree poppers the pioneering growth was reduced.

A hard-working morning was followed by a hearty lunch of curry and wonderful homemade cakes - thanks to the chefs!

The Worky Day was officially finished after lunch to allow the volunteers and Management Group to look at ideas for our 5 year plan. John Walker lead this session which enabled everyone to express their ideas.

Thank you to all the volunteers of all ages that attended today, we got an amazing amount of work completed, both outside and in!

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Insufficient Numbers for a Labour.

Friday, March 3rd 2017

The presence of some of the wildlife at Foxglove is more often deduced from signs than confirmed by sightings. For example footprints of our roe deer, droppings from the water voles or hills from the moles.

However, sometimes we spot the more elusive animals and this happened earlier in the week: I was looking out of the kitchen window as I washed up and spotted something dark and furry moving in the grass…

Closer inspection showed it to be a mole! The first I’ve ever seen alive! He (yes, it did appear to be a he!) was bigger than I had expected, and faster, with a constantly twitching nose.

Moles are industrious diggers, able to create 20m of tunnel per day. It therefore seems fitting that the collective noun for moles is a labour!

Moles are very interesting animals with some pretty cool adaptations for their underground life, including:

• Short, stout, strong legs with powerful paws perfect for digging;

• Short, dense, velvety fur which lies in any direction, providing no resistance to the mole as it moves forward or backward through its burrows; 

• More blood and twice as much haemoglobin compared to other mammals of their size, to deal with lower levels of oxygen in their tunnel system compared to the surface; and

• Sensitive hairs on their snout, feet and tail which help them to find their (mostly earthworm) prey and although their eyesight is not good they have excellent hearing and are very sensitive to vibration.

Moles are considered a pest as they can kill small plants by shifting the earth beneath them, expose stones and debris that can damage machinery and their molehills can be considered unsightly. However, moles also have benefits as they will eat grubs that can kill grass and young shrubs. Their digging aerates the soil, can help with drainage and rainfall capture and also can help plants by carrying organic matter deeper into the soil and mineral-rich subsoil to the surface.

The Greater Manchester Local Record Centre has a nice fact sheet on moles here if you’d like to find out a bit more about these fascinating and beautiful mammals.

As I mentioned earlier, moles are fast and really good diggers – when we popped ours down on some soft earth he burrowed away in only a few seconds!

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Photo Caption Needed!

Thursday, March 2nd 2017

What a day! Our Thursday volunteer team were in and we got loads done! Our Tuesday and Thursday volunteer teams provide invaluable help with practical tasks around the reserve. Today tasks included continuing the tidy up after our recent tree work.

(We managed to get this levitating log action shot! Witty caption anyone?!)

Sean and Simon, our contractors, continued to help us with their chipper. We caught them on camera here taking a well-earned break!

Some logs were left in the woodland to provide homes for our wildlife, and some were moved for later use – with a couple of us cycling to get us quickly to the right place for loading and unloading the trailer!

Mike, Stephen and Carl filled the hoppers. Christine got the portacabin cleaned ready for the work day this Saturday (if you’re planning to come please book here), smartened up our activity room and tidied up around the Field Centre.

Traditionally, on Thursdays we also tackle some of the more technical tasks and today we made good use of just some of the skills within the volunteer team:

John made improvements to the camera cabling;

Keith helped make signs, repair bird boxes and make up bird box kits;

Mike and Tony monitored water levels across the reserve and a team considered and started work on improving drainage near the Field Centre.

Thank you very much to everyone who helped today.

In other news, preparations are starting outside the reserve for work on our new access gate…

…we’ll keep you updated as the work progresses.

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Drains and Chippings

Wednesday, March 1st 2017

It finally feels like we are coming to an end for this coppice block. With nearly all the willow coppiced or pollarded it was now the job of dragging all the branches to the chipper and then carting the chippings away for use at a later date, plus general tidying up for the coming season.

After the enormous effort by our volunteers yesterday we continued with the dragging of the brash to the chipper via a network of paths by the workshop.

The very mobile, tracked chipping machine enabled us to change location on a regular basis to reduce the distances we had to drag brash.

Peter kindly came in to assist us, despite having also been in helping yesterday! We were very pleased to have him spread the load for us.

Willie, our other contractor, was busy doing various drainage jobs along the reserve main track.

We had noticed certain areas that were wanting over the last year; water not draining where it should or water pooling or washing away the track gravel.

This is an ongoing site maintenance issue, where constant vigilance is needed to keep the reserve at above standard for appearance, but mainly for the flora and fauna to benefit.

Thank you to the team of contractors; Willie, Simon and Sean for their professional approach to all the jobs they have carried out for us, and a special thank you to Peter for coming in - the extra helped was needed!

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