(28) Blog Posts Made in November 2017

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Winter arrives!

Thursday, November 30th 2017

The cold weather of the last few days continues, and, as forecast, it was even colder first thing this morning.  Where previously the ice on the lake had just been beside the dam, the whole lake was frozen over.  Though very cold in the wind, it was still bright with both Moorhens and Mallards walking on the ice.

There was a sound of incredulity in the voice of a visitor on her phone in the Field Centre when she was told that it was snowing in Darlington when she said "but it's sunny here!".  During this time, two of the Reserve's volunteers were finishing the work of other volunteers on Tuesday, collecting and sorting the tree tubes and stakes, then taking them to be stored.  And then the weather changed.....

The snow arrived in a few flurries in the early afternoon, before falling more thickly to settle.  There was some envy that the ponies' coats were well insulated, with the snow not melting when lying on their backs, and, despite being in an area with plenty of shelter from the wind, they looked to be enjoying the arrival of the snow.  The work they are doing is also being appeciated by a male Kestrel who regularly uses a lone Scots Pine as a vantage point with mice and voles now more exposed among the shorter vegetation.

As the snow started to settle, pupils attending the Wilderness Schooling session for the final time this year said farewell to Foxglove after coming here on Thursdays during term time since the February half term.  Their appreciation of what makes Foxglove unique came through as we listened to one group practicing a scene as newsreaders, explaining not just the habitats but how the weather affects wildlife.  The news is usually followed by the weather forecast and there has recently been some light-hearted banter between newsreaders and weather presenters about what actually constitutes Winter.  According to the weather people, we are still in Autumn until the 1st of December.  Looking out from the Wetland Hide, I couldn't help but feel that Winter must have come early, but the bonus is being able to look for the tracks of birds and mammals in the snow.

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November Wildflower Walk

Wednesday, November 29th 2017

Despite the icy wind and rain that sometimes turned to sleet, five volunteers braved the elements to do the monthly wildflower walk, to identify the number of species in flower at the end of each month.  Yesterday, it was becoming clear that the Gorse on the moorland was flowering in ever greater profusion, the bright yellow flowers standing out against the grey skies and dark green of the rest of the plant.  

Today, a further ten species were found in flower.  Perhaps not surprisingly, many of these were in the more sheltered areas of the Reserve.  The species found were Gorse, Common Ragwort, Common Catsear, Ivy, Creeping Buttercup, Herb Robert, Marsh Thistle, Daisy, Primrose and Red Campion.  The group returned to the Field Centre to warm up having carried out the survey in most parts of the Reserve. Their efforts in such bad weather are very much appreciated.

During the afternoon, Christine and Pauline then settled to another important task - updating the species list for the Reserve.  This supports one of the three key principles for Foxglove Covert, "to encourage and facilitate research for advancement of knowledge in the natural sciences and local biodiversity".  

The work this afternoon will do this, but it is the final part in work by a team of volunteers who identify and record the very large range of species found on the Reserve, so the hours of work this afternoon is very much the tip of the iceberg for all that has gone on to achieve this.

Given the large amounts of rain over the last few days, it was highly likely that the work on the dam in Risedale Beck last week might have been undone as the increased water volume put increased pressure on the rocks.  The dam has coped admirably and is still doing its job of helping divert a supply of water to one of the ponds to the side of the beck.

It was also a chance to see some of the flowers identified earlier in the day, including Daisy and Red Campion, and, as darkness was falling, watch both Grey Wagtail and Dipper in action.                     

 

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A Cold Day

Tuesday, November 28th 2017

The overnight temperature had dropped sufficiently for ice to have formed across the road outside the entrance gate to the reserve this morning.  This barely lifted above freezing throughout the day, with a cold wind making it feel even colder.  Despite this eleven volunteers were in today and made quick work of moving the vegetation that had been pulled from the Wetlands ponds, ready for more work on the ponds this weekend.  They then continued with removal of tree tubes where necessary.  They were helped with this by pupils from the Dales School on one of their regular Tuesday visits.

At lunchtime, they were able to see a Moorhen appearing to walk on water with the ice still frozen on part of the lake just underneath where water from a rain shower had collected.  Having previously had the chance to see a male Kestrel looking for a meal from the lakeside Larches, today it was a female perched in the trees (thanks to John Andrews for both pictures).

Meanwhile, the Gorse on the Moorland continues to brave the elements with even more coming in to flower and signs of further flowers to come.  Tomorrow is the monthly Wild Flower Walk - it will be interesting to see what else is still in flower.

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Food for thought

Monday, November 27th 2017

Both this blog page and a number of newspapers have featured the two Exmoor ponies at Foxglove Covert, provided by the Yorkshire Exmoor Pony Trust.  They have caught the imagination of some journalists who have an eye for a good picture and general quote rather than looking at the detail of why this breed, which is classified as 'Endangered' by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, is often the breed of choice for conservation grazing.

Exmoors are very hardy and can tolerate rain, snow and cold winds, all of which they have experienced in their short time at the Reserve.  They also have a clear preference in eating habits and will look to eat finer, more succulent grasses first before moving on to coarser grasses, rushes and sedges.

 

 

 

When these have been taken, they will readily eat Gorse (which can make up to a third of their overall diet) and will strip broadleaved trees and shrubs when more nutritious food has gone.  Taurus and Lark are doing an excellent job on the heathland and are now stripping out the grasses in the larger of the enclosures.  No doubt they will then move on to the Gorse and the young Silver Birch in the next couple of weeks.

 

 

Meanwhile, away from the equine media stars, let's not forget that there is a flock of 41 Swaledales steadily working their way through the moorland area, having also made excellent work of removing much of the growth on the Middle Moor area.  They are also doing a good job

While not eating such a wide range of plants, they are steadily tackling the coarse grasses on the moorland. They tend to see Gorse as shelter rather than food. In the coming months, work will include removing some areas of Gorse from this area but some clumps will be left to continue as shelter for the flock.

 

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Sun, Frost, Ponies and Reminders.

Sunday, November 26th 2017

Totally unrelated pieces today.  Although cold the sun catches trees, seed heads, berries and leaves.  

Sun through the autumn leaves

Late in the afternoon the sun was catching the Mallards on the lake.  At one count there were 21 of them.

Sun catching the Mallards on the lake

Frost is beautiful to see.  Over the last few days the frost has coated parts of the reserve, but not everywhere. Some of the vegetation stands out frost covered.  This small Holly tree sapling was in the right place to be heavily covered by frost.

Holly tree

A fern frond lying on the ground caught not only the frost but the sun too.

Fern covered in frost

It was moving day for the ponies.  They are doing an excellent job on the heath.  We moved them from the small heath back into the largest paddock and they did appreciate a change of scene.  They were very calm walking across the road.  They always seem much bigger when there is not a fence between them and me!

Moving ponies

Once into their different paddock they kicked up their heels and had a little gallop around before resuming browsing.

Browsing

Now the reminders.  It is Worky Day on Saturday 2nd December.  If you have not yet put your name down and wish to come, please do so as soon as possible so that we can order the meals. 

Foxglove Calendars are for sale, at £6, from the Field Centre.

Our Christmas Raffle is up and running.  If you wish to contribute to the hampers then please take your gift to the Field Centre.  Tickets are on sale there too.

And finally if you wish to come to the Christmas Party on Wednesday 13th December, more details on the events page, again please contact the Field Centre to reserve your place.

Exciting news just in.  The bird ringers were ringing at another site today and retrapped a Reed Bunting, X562426.  This was checked on IPMR and the bird was first ringed in January 2012 as an adult, so it is at least 9 year old. 

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Flowers!

Saturday, November 25th 2017

We repeatedly say that Foxglove is special.  Foxglove is a magical place.  There is always something to see, no matter what the weather or season.  Today she lived up to all of these statements.

Walking along Risedale Beck, which I have done several times over the last few weeks, some pale yellow leaves caught my eye.  I thought it an odd colour for autumn leaves but worth a closer look.  Treading carefully a little off the path, I was amazed that these leaves were actually Primrose flowers!

Primrose flowers

They were coated in tiny droplets of water that had frozen.

Primrose flowers

In another part of the reserve, something white was spotted.  Had to be frost.  A closer examination revealed a tiny Barren Strawberry flower.  I am not sure if this will pass the 'flower test' on Wednesday.

Barren Strawberry

Both Primrose and Barren Strawberry are classed as spring flowers, so both are a little out of season, especially with the cold weather that we are experiencing.  Some of the late summer flowers are still just hanging on.  Common Figwort is found in many areas across the reserve and this one was near the Voley Pond.

Water Figwort

Gorse can be a weed on the reserve, taking over areas of habitat, just where we don't want it.  Much of it is in flower bud.  First the buds are greenish and then they turn dark brown.  In an area of quite thick Gorse there was a flash of brilliant yellow.  Flowers again.  Photograph taken from a little way away as there were too many prickles to get close up. 

Gorse

Download the photo for the blog and something else was apparent.  Enlarged and cropped a tiny insect was sitting on the flower.  Some of the Gorse is host to the Gorse Seed Weevil, which is what I thought it might be, but upon investigation it is unlikely, so an unamed insect on Gorse.

Insect on Gorse Flower

Foxglove lives up to her uniqueness yet again!

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A Special Visitor

Friday, November 24th 2017

Inspired by attending the Sanctuary Award Ceremony in London on Wednesday, Geoffrey Robson (the Chief Operating Officer for the Defence Infrastructure Organisation) took advantage of a visit to the DIO North Office at Wathgill to visit Foxglove Covert.  Looking at how the reserve has developed over the last 25 years, with the wide range of contributions made by volunteers, staff and supporting organisations over that time, he left saying this is a 'fantastic facility - a real pleasure to come and visit'.

Whilst some volunteers were in London work continued at Foxglove.  The weather was terrible so it was a good job that we had some indoor jobs to carry out.  Chris and Pauline entered the fungi data from a survey carried out in September.  This  task is not completed yet but already 10 new species have been recorded.  Ruth was busy 'trimming photos and adding stickies'.  'Stickies' being the velcro, we use to attach the photos to the display boards.

Indoor work

Linda had the unenviable task of filing the photos we no longer wanted and then being asked to find some of them again, when we changed our minds!

Sorting photos

It was not all work and no play, as at lunch time, we celebrated the award with cake.  Thank you for all your hard work.

Celebrating with cake

Geoffrey was impressed by the range of habitats and the facilities within the Field Centre, including the ringing room.  Had he had time to have a walk around the reserve he may have been fortunate enough to see the Roe Deer near to the Lake.  Two were seen, and one of them is in the picture below.

This one is not so easy to make out as the ones seen on Sunday, but look closely to the right of the Oak tree in the centre of the picture and you should be able to make out the white 'target' on the deer's rump.  Although a very grainy picture, zooming in shows the deer more clearly.

As the leaves fall from the trees so the deer and birds are more easily seen, although not always more easily photographed.  The invertebrates are usually hidden away, but occasionally one appears.  This shield bug was on the rail of a bridge, not the best place to be in the rain.

Shield bug

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Sanctuary Environmental Project Award Winner

Thursday, November 23rd 2017

Each year the launch of Sanctuary Magazine (The Ministry of Defence Sustainability Magazine) coincides with the Award Ceremony, which is held at Main Building in London. The prestigious Sanctuary Awards recognise and encourage group and individual efforts that benefit sustainable development, energy saving measures, wildlife, archeology, environmental improvement or community awareness of conservation on or within land that the MoD owns or uses in the UK and overseas. This year, Foxglove Covert won the Environmental Project Award for 25 years of Foxglove Covert. As you will know from yesterday's blog, several representatives from the reserve travelled to the award ceremony to collect the trophy and certificate.There was just enough time before the launch for a quick photo opportunity outside Main Building. 

Sanctuary Award

It was an enjoyable and interesting day. The MOD staff and award hosts were extremely welcoming.

Sanctuary

After a short presentation, the Foxglove team were called onto the stage to receive a beautiful wooden trophy and framed certificate. These will be on view in the Field Centre from today. The new copy of Sanctuary Magazine is available now either via this link for the digital version or in paper copy from the Field Centre and has a fantastic 3 page article all about the reserve (pages 80-82).

Photo Shoot

Well done to all involved over the last 25 years, we have a great deal to be proud of. Here's to the next 25 years!

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A Very Special Day

Wednesday, November 22nd 2017

At 0715 this morning, the Chair, the Senior Reserve Manager and two volunteers boarded the train to London.

A volunteer and the Chair

SRM and a volunteer

They were going to the MoD Sanctuary Awards Ceremony, where they received, on behalf of Foxglove, the MoD Sanctuary Environmental Project Award.

There will be more photos and news to follow over the next few days.

Congratulations to everyone who has helped Foxglove achieve this award.

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More Tree Talk

Tuesday, November 21st 2017

The volunteers have put in a tremendous effort removing tree tubes from young trees that have outgrown them.  The tubes are used to help trees to establish by acting as 'mini-greenhouses' as well as protecting them from being eaten by rabbits and deer.  Once the trees have grown enough to emerge from the top of the tubes, the restriction of the tube can cause problems.  

  

Taking the tubes off allows the trees to move in the wind which helps them develop their root system, and a healthy root system will also be able to take in nutrients more efficiently.  There are still many areas of planting within Foxglove Covert which will benefit from having the tubes removed, so there is no danger of the volunteers running out of this work.  Excellent work by the volunteers!

Following on from the tree inspection yesterday, two trees have been felled today, the first being the Ash described in the blog yesterday, and the second is a large limb of a Willow near to the lake.  This was much more tricky as the limb had split after the recent high winds.  The strong wind today also meant that, as the tree was being felled, it was being pushed back rather than falling forward, but it came down in the end.  This should now allow  the other limb to grow without danger of the whole tree splitting, and next year will see the first shoots of regrowth from the stump left behind.

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A Watching Brief…...

Monday, November 20th 2017

Today, Foxglove Covert was visited by our Forestry Advisor to look at the potential Health and Safety risks posed by dead or dying trees that are next to, or near, the trails running through the Reserve.  There is a balance needed between keeping dead trees that are still standing as habitat for wildlife, especially for woodpeckers, and the potential hazard posed of wood falling from rotting trees.

        

The small Ash tree in the picture on the left is right next to the path and so will have to be felled this week.  It will still be left to rot down as a new form of habitat for invertebrates and fungi.  Some trees have been identified as having weaknesses which need to be monitored, and these have been marked with small discs to identify them  for future inspections.

This time, there was little cause for concern, and few trees have been identified that will need to be revisited to check on their health.  However, there are several tree diseases that could well arrive at the Reserve in the future.  'Ash Dieback' may already be present, spread by the Chalara fraxinea fungus, and the Larch trees near the lake may be attacked by the Phytophthera disease, causing dieback and cankers and leading to the death of the trees.

Work is already in hand to see what alternatives could be planted to take the place of these trees.  While we may lose the autumnal colours of the Larch, it will be important to select species that are equally good for wildlife, particularly in providing seeds for birds to eat during Autumn and Winter.

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Very Special Encounters

Sunday, November 19th 2017

Taking a break from inputting, I walked through the Scrapes. Suddenly concious that I was being looked at I stopped to see a female Roe Deer in the net ride.  Too late to even get the camera out of its bag, the deer walked slowly away.  I then realised that I could see some white bottoms.

White bottoms!

Trying to look through all the vegetation, I focused on three white bottoms.  Well focused may not be the correct term!  Not even thinking that I would get a chance of another  photo I took some through the vegetation just to say that I had seen them.

Three Roe Deer

Walking very quietly until I could dodge some stems and leaves I managed to take a photo.  Yes it is sticking its tongue out!

Roe Deer

I was enthralled at being allowed to watch these shy animals.  They began to walk away slowly and I was able to photograph all three and I hope I am correct in saying that it was a doe with her two well grown kids.  It was a very special encounter, one of those moments that I will treasure.

Roe Deer and kids

However that was not the only special encounter today.  Several Great Tits that had been ringed in the nest box during the breeding season of 2016, came through the ringing room.  A Goldcrest was ringed as a juvenile in October 2015, making this tiny bird over 2 year old, a grand old age.  The photograph below shows a male Goldcrest.

Male Goldcrest

During the summer not many Blackbirds were recorded but over the last few weeks they have been seen flying and feeding in the Hawthorn trees along the access road.  Several were processed today and judging by their wing size and weight, they are from Europe or Scandinavia and are our winter migrants.

Male Blackbird

As I enter data for re-trapped birds, it brings up the first time that a bird was ringed.  A Coal Tit, with the ring number V025115, was entered.  It was first ringed as a juvenile on 26th September 2010.  This bird was seven year old.  We then looked at its history.  It has been caught 10 times, twice in 2010, three times in 2011, twice in 2012, and twice this year.  In all of these captures it has been during the winter months.  2014 was the exception when it was retrapped in May.  We all admitted that he was looking a little grey, but very healthy.

7 year old Coal Tit

Thank you to the bird ringers who made a special day for several visitors, young and older, as they saw birds in the hand whilst the bird ringing process was explained to them. 

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Middle Autumn

Friday, November 17th 2017

As autumn progresses into middle autumn, so more leaves fall, opening up views that have been hidden during the summer.  Ferns, like most plants need water, light, soil and nutrients.  This one must be getting all it requires somehow, judging by the length of its fronds.

Fern in tree

Closer to the ground Candlesnuff fungus grows on dead and decaying wood.

Candlesnuff fungus

Marker posts do not make the best of backgrounds for anything to be photographed against but when you see a harvestman with such long legs resting on one, the appeal is just too great.

Harvestman on marker post

We are preparing for the Christmas Hamper raffle.  If you would like to make a contribution please leave it at the Field Centre.   A reminder that the Foxglove Calendar is for sale.  Foxglove's Christmas Dinner is to be held on Wednesday 13th December, if you wish to attend please contact the reserve to book your place. 

Finally there are only 3 days and 20 hours left to vote for Foxglove in the Aviva Community Fund Vote.  Thank you to everyone who has voted so far.

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Thursday Volunteers

Thursday, November 16th 2017

The Thursday volunteers have been working hard on a number of small projects.  The ponds alongside Risedale Beck are fed by water running through pipes from the beck.  Dams have been built to keep the water at the right height for the pipes but sometimes the dams are broken when the beck is in flood.  The first task today was to repair one of the dams to get water flowing back into the pond.

After that, repair of netting on one of the boardwalks keeps people from slipping or getting tangled in the broken netting.  This will continue to be an important part of the volunteers' work over the coming months.  A female Sparrowhawk flew from a stone under one of the bridges along Risedale Beck as the volunteers were making their way to the dam - more typically a site where you would expect to find Grey Wagtails or Dippers!

Meanwhile, work over the last few weeks on the wetlands has seen 5 of the ponds cleared of vegetation that was taking them over, with work having started on another 3.  The wetlands are gradually returning to being the diverse range of ponds that provide a wide range of habitats, with over a dozen Mallard and two Snipe being seen.  After a couple of weeks, the disturbed sediment in the water has gradually settled.  There are signs of Water Vole activity and one was swimming and disappeared with the characteristic 'plop' just before dusk.  

Continuing work on the wetlands and removing Gorse that is taking over some of the other areas will be among the main tasks for the volunteers on weekdays and on the monthly Worky Days over the next few months.

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Moths and Moving

Wednesday, November 15th 2017

Last year we put the moth trap out nearly every Tuesday night unless the weather was very poor.  There were several nights with no moths, so we decided this year that we would check the weather and if we thought it would be 'good moth weather' the trap would go out.  Last night was good and we were rewarded with 31 moths of 6 species and lots of midge like insects.  The majority of moths caught were December Moth.  Surprisingly its flight season is from early October through to January.  It overwinters as an egg, attached to a twig or a tree trunk.  Broadleaved trees including oaks, birches, elms, poplars, sallows, Hawthorn and Blackthorn are all food plants of the caterpillar from April until June.

December Moth

We also caught some Mottled Umber and this is a moth that can show considerable variation, as these three do.

Mottled Umber Moths

Moths and books were examined closely to ensure that we had the correct species.  Conversations were quite scientific!  It has the splodge that it should have.  It's got that white bit.  Has it got all its wiggly lines in the right place? 

Identifying moths

Another conversation started with the confirmation that a dropping was from a Fox and ended by confirming that male trees still had flowers - how we finished up at this point we were not sure!

It was also moving day for the ponies.  A well laid plan was executed perfectly.  With quiet talking and careful walking, the ponies left their paddock, one behind the other, and walked quietly into their new one.

Moving Heath

Getting there

They settled immediately and began eating Gorse.  Taurus was happy to stop feeding, for a short time, to pose for a photograph.

Taurus

Thank you to everyone who helped today.

News just in :-

A little piece of good news for you all - one of our Reed Buntings has been caught alive in Holland. That doesn't happen every day! Ringed FGC Dec 16, retrapped Oct 17 in Friesland.

 

A Chiffchaff caught last time we were out, came from Ladybank, Fife.

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Tuesday Volunteers

Tuesday, November 14th 2017

Tuesdays are work days and the volunteers were busy.  Our meadows must be strimmed once the flowers have seeded and then raked to ensure that the wild flowers flourish from spring through to early autumn.  If the cuttings were left and allowed to decay then this would enrich the soil which is not good for the flowers.  They much prefer nutrient poor soil.  

Because of the varied flora in the meadows, they need to be cut at different times.  The meadow opposite the Grand Fir is one of the last to be strimmed.  The late flowering Devil's Bit Scabious can be found here, providing food for bees.

Devil's Bit Scabious and bee

Hardheads or Knapweed  can also be found.

Hardheads or Knapweed

Today it looks shorn, but the seeds will have fallen and been moved around with raking.  It is now ready for all winter can throw at it - rain, snow and frost!

Strimmed meadow

A puzzle - do you know where this photograph was taken?  The tree tubes are being checked and where necessary removed.

Checking tree tubes

I have not seen the Kestrel for a few days, but whilst the volunteers were having lunch in the Tower Hide, the male Kestrel came close and was photographed by John.

Male Kestrel

I am not sure if these Willow Aphids, found as tree tubes were checked, are so beautiful.

Willow Aphids

A reminder about the Christmas Dinner on 13th December.  There are more details on the Events page.  We always hold a Christmas Raffle and we are beginning to collect items for this.  If you wish to make a donation then please bring it to the Field Centre.  Thank you.

Mainly sunny today with some drizzle around, but that does create a rainbow.

A rainbow

Thank  you to everyone who helped carry out a range of tasks during the day.

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Time

Monday, November 13th 2017

There are only 7 days, 21 hours and 5 minutes left to vote for Foxglove in the Aviva Community Fund.  Thank you to everyone who has voted so far.  There is still time to vote.  Any money raised from this vote will help the reserve to flourish.

Talking of days, if I have counted correctly there are are only 42 'sleeps' left until Christmas Day.  If you are looking for some different presents, you could join a friend or relative as a Foxglove Friend.

AAB - Adopt-a-Box gives you the opportunity to join the bird ringers as they visit the nest boxes around the reserve and at the end of the year find out how all the boxes have been used.  The money raised from this scheme helps to look after all the nest boxes. 

Checking nest boxes

There are of course our books and bird seeds, charts and clothing for sale in the Field Centre.  Any money raised through our sales helps the reserve with continued habitat management, ensuring that all the flora and fauna are catered for.  Almost each species has their own special requirements and a part to play in the whole of the reserve.

Bluebells along Risedale Beck need to have the canopy controlled to enable the flowers to bloom well in the spring and provide food for many insects.

Bluebells

Already, Hazel coppiced early last winter, has produced Hazel nuts which have been eaten by Grey Squirrels, mice and voles.  Now the leaves have fallen but already catkins have been produced in preparation for next spring.

Hazel Catkins

Cutting and removing the hay from the middle moor prepares it well for summer flowering.

Middle Moor

Tiny habitats are important as they cater for many a bug and beast!  In this case a spider who has built its web on a Cock's Foot Grass seed head.

Spider and Web

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Larch

Sunday, November 12th 2017

Larch stands with bare limbs throughout the winter.  The brown cones, full of seeds, are often visited by chattering flocks of Redpoll, Siskins and Long-tailed Tits.  March sees this only deciduous conifer begin to come to life.  Red female flowers appear first, followed by the deep yellow brown pollen covered male flowers.

Larch flowers

Soft fresh green needles stand out against the other dark green conifers.  By July the cones are well developed, only taking a year to mature, unlike some conifers that can take several years.

Larch cones

By autumn the needles finally turn golden brown and fall.

Fallen Larch needles

Blue skies highlight the autumnal colours.

Larch against blue skies

Larch colours agianst the blue sky

Dull brown cones full of seeds can easily be seen.

Cones of Larch

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Stairway to the Moon?

Saturday, November 11th 2017

I have to admit that at this time of year flora and fauna, especially little bugs and beasties, are hard to find and so my eyes wander around to see what I can photograph that is inspiring to put on the blog.  Today I was cloud watching and spotted this stairway to the moon!

Stairway to the Moon

I did try try to find some clouds that looked like bugs and beasties but they were not co-operating, so I had to make do with nice fluffy clouds over the Scrapes.

White fluffy clouds over the Scrapes

Amazingly I did see some beasties, a Common Darter darted past me but soon disappeared into the vegetation.  A Kidney Spot Ladybird was sunbathing on the Ash at Kidney Spot Corner - where else would it be?

Kidney Spot Ladybird.

Talking of ladybirds, if you wish to prepare for next summer or hunt for hibernating ladybirds this winter, there is a Field Studies Council chart about ladybirds, for sale in the Field Centre.  There are many new titles available.

The calendars have arrived and are for sale for £6 from the Field Centre.

2018 Calendar

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A Pony Only Blog

Friday, November 10th 2017

The ponies, Lark and Taurus were photographed on Wednesday and were on the blog showing how well they could behave. Susanna posted a comment on the blog, and rather than put it on the blog itself I thought it would be nice to put it actually in the blog. She said of them - 'Glad the ponies behaved themselves - at least for a bit! They look as if they are fluffing up nicely.'

The Ponies

I mentioned, not long after they had arrived, that I had seen one of them kick the gorse before eating it.  Susanna again commented - 'Research into the ponies' diet on Exmoor found that in the winter, gorse made up 32% and grass stood at 31% of vegetation eaten.'

Ponies on the Heath

They have already made a difference to the invasive species.  This has been a huge job in the past for the volunteers and an endless task.  Hopefully no more!

Ponies on the heath

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Coffee Morning

Thursday, November 9th 2017

An early start saw volunteers set up the Town Hall ready for the Coffee Morning.

Washing up was carried out by Colin.

Washing up

Other volunteers helped with the cake stall.  Thank you to everyone who baked.

Coffee Morning

There was a raffle, tombola and the Foxglove Shop.

Coffee Morning

Thank you to everyone who helped .  Over £300 was raised during the morning.

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A Visit, Ponies and Work

Wednesday, November 8th 2017

Councillor Ian Threlfall, Deputy Leader of Richmondshire District Council, visited Foxglove this morning.  He came to see how the money the council had gifted us had been used.  First stop was a photo shoot with Lark and Taurus.  

Photoshoot on the heath

The two ponies did co-operate for some photos.

Enough!

But eventually enough was enough!

Walking away

We then headed to the Scrapes to look at our interpretation panels and then back to the Field Centre to look at our inspirational text.  While having a cup of tea Councillor Threlfall talked to volunteers about Foxglove.  He thoroughly enjoyed his visit.

After all this the volunteers had to get back to work, preparing for the Coffee Morning in Richmond Town Hall tomorrow morning, 9 till 12.  Ruth was sorting out which cards to take.

Preparing for the Coffee Morning

Pauline made sure everything was priced.

Pricing Foxglove items

Whilst Jenny worked on the paperwork for the raffle.

Doing paperwork

Staff from Natural England held a course in the Activity Room during the day and were taken on a guided walk by Steve.  

Natural England staff

Thank you to everyone who helped with such a variety of work.

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Seasonal Colours

Tuesday, November 7th 2017

Each season has its colours and they change, sometimes so slowly that you hardly notice the differences.  Spring turns parts of the reserve blue with Bluebells.

Bluebell

Risedale Beck must be coppiced to open up the canopy to allow the sun to reach the ground and encourage the spring flowers. Warm sunny glades are feeding and sunbathing sites for invertebrates of different colours, sizes and shapes.

Bluebells along Risedale Beck

As the days lengthen so the middle moor changes from lush green to yellow as the Yellow Rattle opens its flowers.

Yellow Rattle

By late summer Meadow Browns and many bees flit amongst the purple Betony.

Betony

Early autumn or late autumn, by the end of October greens are changing to yellows, reds, browns and the Larches are orange.

Autumn colours

Winter can be white.

Winter white

Throughout all these seasonal changes people work to ensure that the reserve is always looking its best.  The Aviva Community Grant would help us to continue this work.  If you have not already voted for Foxglove, please do so, as every vote counts.  Thank you.

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Bits of This and Pieces of That

Monday, November 6th 2017

There is no tale to tell today but bits of this and pieces of that.

Driving in this morning the reserve was white.

White reserve

The moon was up, or should that be down?

Moon - up or down?

Work called.  The new delivery of books was finally organised onto the shelves.  A lady who looked at them over the weekend took a trip down memory lane with Owl Babies, as this was the story she read to her, now grown up, children.

New Books

There are also plenty of new titles for adults. 

New Books

Baking utensils are are being brought out of cupboards in preparation to make cakes for the Coffee Morning in Richmond Town Hall on Thursday morning.  Thank you.  If you can help, please let us know.  If you want a cup of tea or coffee please drop in and say hello.

The calendars are being printed this week and hopefully they will arrive soon.  Watch this space.

People are already putting their names down for the next Worky Day on 2nd December.

Details of Foxglove's Christmas Dinner are now on the events page.  Please book through the web site, or call the reserve.

We welcome to Foxglove, Steve Scoffin as Senior Reserve Manager and Ian Wilson as Reserve Manager.

By the end of the day the temperature had risen from minus one to a positively tropical plus nine.  The sun was setting over the wetland.

Sun over the wetland

And when I stopped to say good night to Lark and Taurus,

Lark and Taurus

the sky behind them was showing tinges of pink.

An evening sky

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Catching Up

Sunday, November 5th 2017

The bird ringers are busy with CES, nest box checking and ringing of chicks during late spring and early summer.  Others are always busy rooting, wandering and looking at the same time.  Photographs taken, records made, ring details of chicks and boxes noted.  It then comes a little bit of a shock that all of this data has to be handled.  So it is probably a good job that the winter nights have arrived to allow us all to enter that data into the appropriate lists and programmes. 

I started to enter the monthly observations for May.  This encouraged me to look back at the photos to go with the names I was recording.

Flowers were out in bloom in profusion.  Blossom covered the apple trees.  We think this is a Wild Crab Apple but must go and check next year to see if the petals are pale pink and darker on the back, to confirm our ID.

Apple blossom

Marsh Marigold needs no further study.  We just enjoyed the beautiful golden colours showing through some of the still brown winter vegetation.

Marsh Marigold

Wild Strawberry has certainly increased its presence around the reserve, but we did not eat - sorry - see much fruit.

Wild Strawberry

Of course once the flowers are out and the sun is warm so the insects appear.  St Mark's Fly had a tremendous year, with huge numbers of these flies right across the reserve, including at times in the mist nets.

St Marks' Fly

Damselflies appeared.  Large Reds are the first.  Common Darter and Southern Hawker dragonflies are the last and they were in evidence yesterday, a very late date.

Large Red Damselfly

Spring is a time of growth and birth.  Our Mallards had several broods of ducklings on the lake.

Mallard and young

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First Winter Worky Day

Saturday, November 4th 2017

Volunteers dressed in waders or wellies and very old clothes, headed to the wetland for more pond clearance.  An aromatic job to say the least but an essential one as the ponds have become almost totally overgrown.  At the start of the day decisions were made as to who would go where and do which job.

Working in the ponds

Once the Reedmace, sometimes known as Bulrush, Typha latifolia, was pulled by those in the ponds, those working on the sides raked it onto the banks to allow it to drain and any life amongst it, to crawl back into the water.

Working in the ponds

Our work party, as always, included a wide age range, from teenagers to those who are no longer exactly young in age, but always young  at heart.

Working in the ponds

As the morning turned from dull to bright sunshine so the amount of water to be seen in the ponds increased.

Working in the ponds

Lunch time saw the usual curry, which was enjoyed by everyone, also tea and 'stickies'.  There was a call for a photo before heading back to the wetland.

The Worky Party

Work continued all afternoon and by the end of the day the result of the hard work could be seen.

Almost sunset at theend of the day

Whilst clearing the vegetation, several signs of Water Vole activity were noted.  Although it can't be seen in the photo, as it was taken, a Water Vole showed itself before making its characteristic plop and then it swam alongside the bank. 

Many thanks to everyone who helped today, not only in the ponds but making 'stickies'.

If you would like to join in our next Worky Day, it is on 2nd December, 10 till 3.  Please book through the web site or call the reserve.

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Lots of Things

Thursday, November 2nd 2017

Thank you to everyone who has voted for us.  You still have plenty of time to cast your vote, in fact 18 days 16 hours and 51 minutes.

Next Thursday is our Coffee Morning at Richmond Town Hall.  If you can help out please let us know.  Any cakes can be taken to the Town Hall on the day.  If you are in Richmond on that morning drop in for a cup of tea or coffee and a chat.

Carrying on from yesterday's interesting, read gruesome, bits, is this fungus.  It is small and yes it is the right colour, sort of bright orange red.  Its name is Scarlet Caterpillarclub, Cordyceps militaris. This is not found very often because it grows on buried insect larvae, usually caterpillars. It is a new species for the reserve.

Scarlet Caterpillarclub

Another colourful fungus is Conifer Blueing Bracket, Postia caesia, found on dead wood of conifers.  Not gruesome!

Conifer Blueing Bracket

I missed the Kestrel sitting in its tree as I drove in.  It flew into another tree and although the camera would have been at full zoom, I thought I had a chance of a splodge at least.  That was until I peeped the horn as I moved around to get a good shot! 

Sometimes on the lake we see large circles that are not from insects or small fish.  Much discussion takes place as to what can be causing these, a large Pike or an Otter or a trout.  A Brown Trout was seen at the head of the lake, so mystery solved.

Work continued on the wetland, removing vegetation that has been pulled from the ponds.

Clearing pulled vegetation

The wetland looked a little different in December 2008, as it was being profiled.The wetland in December 2008 

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We All Went on a Bug Hunt

Wednesday, November 1st 2017

We were pleased to welcome Dr Roger Key to Foxglove today to run an invertebrate training course for the volunteers.  His presentation gave us some fascinating facts.  The structure of an Earwig's wing helped to develop solar panels that would not get damaged in space.  Of course for children, the more gruesome the better.  A lacewing larvae covers itself with the dead bodies, cases and droppings of it prey, for protection.  But its method of protection is brilliant!  A bird comes along for a feed and the lacewing larvae rears up and gives the predator a mouthful of the debris.  The question was posed 'Would you like to carry on trying to feed with all of that in your face?'    A solitary wasp collects a caterpillar and puts it in a hole, lays an egg on it and then blocks the hole up.  Another lovely photograph showed us a caterpillar feasting on a spider.   I will leave you to work out what happens next! 

The presentation over, we collected a variety of things to go on a bug hunt.

Getting ready to go on a bug hunt

Not far from the Field Centre Roger demonstrated how you could sweep net through Gorse.  I am not sure if I would risk this with children. 

Sweep netting through Gorse

And once your net is full you flip it over and then, and this is definitely a 'do as you are told and not as I do', stick your head in the net!

Checking the catch

We progressed to the heath.  Where we searched in the undergrowth, looked at the horse droppings (these were a little too fresh and it is now a little too cold for them to be homes for creepy crawlie things)  and carried out sweep netting.  Pooters were used to collect the catch, remembering not to put spiders in with other insects.

Bug hunting on the heath

The ponies' curiosity got the better of them and they had to come and have a look to see what we were doing.

Being watched

After lunch it was time to examine and where possible identify the catch.  A whole new world opens up when you look through a microscope.

Looking at the catch

Although colder than forecast, so not quite as many insects and bugs around, we did find more than enough to be of interest.  A huge thank you to Dr Key for coming and giving us a really enjoyable and informative day.  We hope he will return next summer when there are more invertebrates running, flying and crawling around.

We have, as I write this 19 days, 17 hours and 51 minutes to vote for the Aviva Community Fund 2017.  If you have not already cast your vote please do so to support Foxglove Covert LNR.  Thank you.

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