(16) Blog Posts Made in January 2018

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Another day of Heath tidying

Tuesday, January 16th 2018

Continuing on from Saturday's work tidying up the Heath we got to work chopping and removing the last pile of brash, all the while adding to it by uprooting more saplings that have taken hold in the ditches of the north paddock.

The snow didn't hold off for long, and very soon it was coming in sideways making the whole job that bit more difficult (especially if you were foolish enough to forget your gloves, as I did this morning).

After getting thoroughly pitted in mud, and having finally taken the last trailer of brash over to the burn site, the subsequent fire was a most welcome treat after a hard days graft.

Although the snow has now abated, it continued to come down heavily throughout the mid afternoon but never really threatened to put the fire out.

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Blue Skies after the Rain

Monday, January 15th 2018

As is so often the case, Monday is a quiet day after a busy Sunday, and where there had been well over 20 visitors yesterday, there were only a couple seen today.  Perhaps the weather at the start of the day put people off.  The persistent heavy rain for the early part of the morning meant that Risedale Beck was swollen and carrying a lot of sediment so that its normal clear water was an opaque light brown.

The force of the water would probably not account for one discovery, with the clay pad missing from the Mink raft in the Scrapes.  This was in the water next to the raft and so it was an easy job to return it to its rightful place.  It's likely that somebody's curiosity got the better of them and they had tipped the raft to see what was inside and the clay pad fell out. 

The Mink rafts are a good way of seeing if there are any Mink or other predators around, as they will make use of the platform to have a look around.  Thankfully, there are rarely signs of Mink as they will hunt the Water Voles.

By late morning even the showers had died down to be replaced by sunshine.  The Heathland was being used by one of its regular inhabitants with a male Kestrel using one of the Scots Pine as a vantage point.  Another trying its luck in one of the small pools on the Heathland was a Grey Heron, which flew off as it was disturbed.

Apart from checking the Reserve after the weekend, there was also time to work through the trees planted near to the Lake Hide.  Some of these have suffered in recent winds and have been blown over.  A simple task for the afternoon was to work along the bank containing some of these trees, putting on stakes and ties to support them to grow in an upright position.

This is a quick and simple job to do, but is very important as it will allow the trees to move in the wind without being blown over and so will encourage them to develop a wider spreading root system to anchor themselves in the ground.

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A Gentle Stroll

Sunday, January 14th 2018

It has been dark and grey and black and dark grey for days, but there was something in the sky that caught my eye this afternoon - it was blue!  Blue Sky!!!!!  Unfortunately it did not last long. 

Blue Sky

There were many visitors who enjoyed walking around the reserve no matter what the weather.

The lake was quiet, with just the odd call of a Moorhen.  Whilst watching a pair of Mallard courting, a movement caught my eye.  A Goldcrest was searching for food amongst the vegetation in front of the lake hide.  I was really pleased to achieve this photograph, even with all those pesky branches in the way.

A Goldcrest

It was a bit of a shock to the system to walk out onto the moor from the relative shelter of the central part of the reserve.  Not only was the wind blowing but it was really cold.  Usually the Moles tunnel along the edges of paths, where we presume the soil is less compacted.  Looking at the square of mole hills I let my imagination wander and I fancifully thought that there could have been a house built on our moor at one time.

Mole Hills

I have mentioned that most of the Holly berries have been eaten from the trees in the centre of the reserve.  Out on the moor, in the ancient hedgeline, a Holly tree, as usual, is still covered in berries.  Are they not ripe, not sweet enough or do they just taste plain nasty?

Holly Berries still

Although the Phragmities are brown and can look dull there are times when the light catches them and they look beautiful.  I was pleased with this photogrpah showing the reeds at their best.


Out on the woodland trail the Hart's Tongue Fern found last year is still doing well and another, smaller plant was also found a lilttle distance away.  We must have walked past it several times and not noticed it.  So much for being observant!

Hart's Tongue Fern

There is one Hazel tree near the Stone Pile that always opens its catkins early.  They were open at the beginning of the month but no female flowers could be found.  A tiny spec of red heralded the open female flower this week.

Male and female flowers on Hazel

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Reserve presentation work

Saturday, January 13th 2018

Sometimes the little things matter a great deal. We spent the first part of the day wandering the reserve replacing old signs with new laminated ones, all of which will now follow the same design.

Many of the older signs did not stand the test of time, so here's hoping that the new laminated ones last a lot longer!

After our meanderings, and a brief stop at the Wetland Hide to watch the Heron, we ventured up onto the Moorland to see the ponies. Maybe it was the abundance of sheep, or perhaps a visiting canine, but both Lark and Taurus seemed a little reserved at first before eventually coming over to say hello.

It was nice to have a relatively relaxed start to our Saturday on the reserve, but in the afternoon we knuckled down and busied ourselves with removing hawthorn from the Heath.

Encroachment by trees and scrub is one of the biggest threats to heathland in this country, which is why it's so important to ensure that Hawthorn and other saplings do not take over. The aim is to maintain a diverse vegetational structure and to promote appropriate soil disturbance; in this way the very act of dragging the brash out of the paddocks will help our Heath.

There's a little more Hawthorn to come out, but we're well on our way to finishing up.

I'm very much looking forward to seeing our heathland plant community thrive along with the many incredible invertebrates, reptiles, birds and mammals that also call our incredible heaths home. 

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Testing the water

Friday, January 12th 2018

Part of today has been taken up with routine maintenance work on power tools which included a trip to Sam Turner and Sons to drop off the brushcutters to be serviced.  A new thermostat has also been fitted in the Field Centre to improve the heating as some rooms can be a lot colder than others.  While all this was going on, Colin was continuing his rounds filling the bird feeders and putting out apples on the Water Vole rafts.

Work to remove some of the stands of Hawthorn and Willow that have been taking over one part of the Heathland has now been completed.  This will leave three small clumps that will include Oak and Holly as well as the Hawthorn.  This area will still need to have the Birch regrowth cut back in the next week, while the cut material will be removed and burnt off-site.  The two stakes with orange tape on them mark the location of two of three Junipers which will be transplanted out of the Heathland onto an adjacent site. 

And now a spot the difference competition!  There was still time this afternoon to start work on clearing Reedmace out of one of the Wetland ponds near to the Wetland Hide.  With the (slightly!) warmer weather the pond is now clear of ice, so the vegetation on the shallower side of the pond was earmarked for removal.  At first, the water seemed to be comparatively warm.  However, as it was still close to freezing, the work only lasted for 30 minutes but this is still a case of getting small wins.  The milder weather is set to continue at the start of next week, so further work maybe able to take place for a short period before the icy weather returns on Tuesday or Wednesday.  If anyone likes the idea of Scandinavian saunas, this may be just the job for you!

While doing this, it was clear that there has been a lot of military activity taking place next to the Reserve this afternoon, with rifle fire, parachute flares and red smoke grenades going off.  Most of the wildlife in the Reserve appeared to take this in its stride, with the Exmoor ponies contentedly munching the Moorland grass and three Roe Deer quietly making their way along one of the paths towards the Scrapes, apparently quite happy to tolerate human presence comparatively close to them.

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Gorse bashing on the wetland

Thursday, January 11th 2018

It may have taken longer than a morning, but removing (almost) all of the gorse from the wetland within 24 hours is pretty good going!

The team put in a really good shift today; following the brushcutter around, raking and gathering the gorse cuttings, all the while trying their best not to fall into the pools.

Stumbling back and forth through the pools made me think of marshes described by Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings; thankfully however there was little evidence of 'Cold clammy winter' today with the weather being just right for such strenuous activities.  

My only regret has been that I forgot to take a picture of the wetland before we started working this morning as the difference made in one day would have been a nice addition to this blog post! 

Opening up the wetland by removing the gorse and managing the sward in the run up to Spring will hopefully encourage breeding wading birds to return to the Reserve as we are now on track for repair works to be carried out in the coming weeks.

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A stop-start day

Wednesday, January 10th 2018

It was another quiet night for moths last night with only a few midges and no moths found inside the trap; thankfully two Early Moth were captured outside of the trap at the front of the field centre. 

Unfortunately we had no luck with the duck trap either, however there has been a lot of interest over the course of the day from the mallards and moorhens that have been enjoying the feed scattered on the banks over the last week or so. Here's to hoping that we're able to trap and ring some soon!

Aside from the traps it's been a stop-start kind of day, with lots of machine maintenance interspersed with many odd jobs around the Reserve. There has been more effort put into tidying up the heath after yesterday's volunteer task, along with a concerted effort to knocking back big patches of juncas grass near to the orchard.

Juncus are especially good at colonising boggy soil, but are also able to ride out the odd dry spell. It's for these reasons that it is often planted in rain gardens designed for bioretention purposes so as to allow stormwater runoff to be absorbed, and contaminants and sediments to be removed. Despite these interesting properties juncas grass will take over if allowed to do so. 

The late afternoon has been given over to tackling gorse on the wetlands using various bits of kit, with the aim to continue with this task, and to remove cut gorse from the wetland as part of tomorrow's volunteer task before returning to the heath in the afternoon.

Removing the gorse from the wetland will (and has already) make a huge difference aesthetically, unfortunately you will have to take my word for it until tomorrow as even I was too distracted to take pictures this afternoon!

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Jobs Well Done

Tuesday, January 9th 2018

The Tuesday Volunteers got stuck into a range of jobs today, but the first task was to have a quick check on Lark and Taurus to see how they had settled into their new surroundings.  They are both clearly fascinated by the sheep on the other side of the boundary fence although the decision about whether to continue with this or enjoy a piece of carrot was clearly not a difficult one to make!  They are only given treats like this when they are being checked over as we hope that they will not identify people as a source of food, so again we do ask people not to feed them.  Once it was obvious that they were doing well then it was back to get the work started.

The first task was along the Woodland Trail, and two of the volunteers repaired a section of boardwalk where one of the boards had become rotten and snapped.  This was soon removed and replaced, with the netting then secured to make sure that the boardwalk would not become slippery.  And so on to the next task, with a Sitka Spruce having been damaged during Storm Eleanor, splitting along the lower half of the trunk and leaning into surrounding trees, known as being 'hung up'.

Because the tree had split, which proved to be due to rot at the centre of the trunk, and was hung up, this was not going to be a straighforward job.  Having cut through the trunk, the tree was rolled off the stump and then had to be levered and pulled backwards to allow it to drop down.  This required all of the six volunteers to pull on the rope while Ian guided its progress and helped lift it over the roots of other trees using a long pole as a lever.

Once it was safely down, the tree's limbs were removed and it was cut into lengths for the volunteers to stack neatly.  The stump was then cut to leave in a tidy condition.  After a quick break for coffee, the next job was to continue with work on the Heathland and carry on from the work there on Saturday's Worky Day.

Working on cutting he Birch and Willow regrowth included taking out large areas with the brushcutter, but also had the volunteers clearing smaller areas by hand with loppers and secateurs.  By walking through the areas where the seed was broadcast on Saturday, this has also helped tread some of the seed into the ground although it has already become difficult to see where much of the seed was scattered.

On the other side of the access road, dealing with the Hawthorns that have started to shade out some of the Heathland was also part of the work task.  The ones next to the road have now been cut down and the resulting material will be removed from this enclosure.  The aim is to leave two or three small clumps of Hawthorn together with an Oak that is growing well, so that there will be shelter when livestock is put in here to graze again, but reduce the cover of Hawthorn and taller Birch by about half to encourage growth of the Heathland plant community.

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Finding Food in the Frost

Monday, January 8th 2018

Yesterday was a busy day day at Foxglove Covert with around 40 visitors to the Reserve.  Today promised to be another good day, starting with a very heavy frost which attracted visitors throughout the day, but making it more difficult to find food.  Lark and Taurus did their normal ritual of standing next to the Wetland Hide to catch the first rays of the sun before moving on to browse the Gorse.  Watching Lark at work showed that he needed to break and bruise the plant first by stamping on it before eating it.  Taurus had no such inhibitions and was tearing off lumps to eat.

Clearly the frost took a long time to clear, covering much of the Reserve with ice.  There were several family groups walking round just to admire the views before making use of the faciilities in the Field Centre, and we had at least 16 visitors today, many saying that this was their first visit and they would be coming back soon.  

Here some were treated to the views from the camera on the Wetland Hide which had caught our attention as there was a tall thin line which was not normally there and which then moved to show itself as a Grey Heron.  Focusing on the bird showed interesting behaviour when it first noticed the ponies.  Initially both were wary of each other, but then the Heron seemed to start stalking them.  The picture below is taken of the Field Centre screen, so is a little bit blurred, but shows the bird making its way over to start feeding between Lark and Taurus, and it seemed to be working over areas that they had just been either walking or feeding on.

Going to check how the bonfire had settled over at the Bullet Catcher from the Worky Day on Saturday showed it was still glowing and so a quick raking in of wood that had not caught fire meant that this could now be burnt as well.  Again, a bird arrived to join in with the activity, with a Robin almost going into the fire to see if there was anything to eat.

Towards the end of the day, Susanna of the Yorkshire Exmoor Ponies Trust came to check on Lark and Taurus.  It was decided that they should move from the Wetland to the Moorland.  Thankfully, both know Susanna, so there was little difficulty in her catching them and getting head collars on.

They moved over quietly before cantering off to explore their new surroundings.  Lark discovered that there were sheep the other side of the fence and gave them a meaningful stare before settling to graze.  They have plenty to eat in the Moorland, and a good supply of running water, so we are putting signs up asking visitors to keep dogs on leads and not to feed them.

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Thoughts of Summer

Sunday, January 7th 2018

Putting the finishing touches to the species list for 2017 made me think back to the summer, full of colour and warmth, well warmth some of the time.  Winter colours tend to be rather monotonous, so I thought a blog of summer colour to brighten up the winter days.

Thistles, whilst proving at times to be a weed, provide food for insects including this Small Skipper.  On one day in the middle of July 118 of these butterflies were recorded on the butterfly transect.

Small Skipper on thistle

Brimstone butterflies were frequent visitors and were most co-operative in sitting still.

Brimstone Butterfly

Fine green leaves almost suddenly appear and then there is a profusion of white flowers carpeting the sides of Risedale Beck.  Greater Stitchwort has opened its buds.

Greater Stitchwort

The far moor was covered in white umbels of Pignut


In 2016 there were one or two Rayed Knapweed on the moor, last year there were many more of these beautiful flowers.

Rayed Knapweed

Searching under leaves many bugs and beasties can be found, including this Cucumber Spider.

Cucumber Spider

The total number of species is now 2687, with 65 new species being added during the year. There are 557 moth species and 352 fungi species, included in that total. When will we find our first new species of 2018 and how many will we have by the end of the year? Lots of looking, searching, watching, rooting and walking will be needed by our dedicated species hunters! Thank you for all your work this year in adding to our species list.

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January Worky Day

Saturday, January 6th 2018

Although the freezing wind from the North was not as cold as anticipated, the water temperature in the Wetland ponds was too low for anyone to work in them, so the alternative tasks highlighted yesterday were put into operation.  Sixteen volunteers were out today and made an excellent contribution to managing some of the Reserve's habitats.

The volunteers split into three groups.  One group moved to the Heathland to scatter the three bags of heather seed taken from the North Pennines.  The Heathland is predomiantly the common Heather or Ling (Calluna vulgaris), and the seed contained this and one of the Erica species.  Ideally, the Heathland should contain both Erica species found in the Yorkshire Dales, North Pennines and the North York Moors, Bell Heather (Erica cinerea) and Cross-leaved heath (Erica tetralix).  By scattering the seed this should diversify the heathland plant community.

Each of the heathland sections was further divided using tape so that the seed in each bag could be shared to give the same coverage of seed in each area.  This was particularly important in those areas where there was little or no heather growing, while a more random pattern was used to fill in gaps among the taller heather.

The seed was broadcast by hand, and is so fine that it had to be released very close to the ground to make sure that the wind could not take it too far.  After a while, we became quite proficient in using the wind to help get a good spread.  We will need to go back into the heathland during this week to cut the Birch and Willow that is growing there together with the small patches of Gorse remaining after Lark and Taurus had been there.  This will help work some of the Heather seed into the ground so that we will have a mix of seed on the surface and in the soil which should give a good chance for it to grow.

Another group went to the bullet catcher to burn the cuttings that had been left there from previous work.  Given how wet it had been in the last few days, lighting a fire was easier said than done, and it took the best part of the morning session to get the fire going.

But once it did get going, we were well away and all the cuttings that had built up over the last few months were burnt, together with rotten timber that could no longer be used around the reserve.  Care was taken with the fire to keep it sufficiently small not to cause heat damage to the surrounding trees.

The third group completed the Gorse clearance job near to Hague Bridge.  One side of the footpath still needed the Gorse to be cleared and there were other small patches which, when cut, would add to those removed just over a week ago.  All of this was then also burnt, leaving a much more open area amongst the trees.

This was a really good day's work, with all of the work targets achieved, and everyone both enjoying themselves and feeling that a good job had been done.  A big thank you to all the volunteers today for a huge effort which has made a significant contribution to managing the reserve's habitats.

Doing these tasks rather than the ponds proved a good decision - a final quick job was to unblock the inlet to the Vole Ponds, and, although this only took 10 seconds, it took a lot longer for hands to warm up again!

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Preparation and Planning

Friday, January 5th 2018

Tomorrow is our first WInter Worky Day of the year, and we have at least 15 people booked to come along to help with management of the Reserve.  Part of the day is getting everybody together over lunch, so preparation for the day includes ordering food as well as planning the tasks, together with getting the portakabin ready for people to eat there. 

Weather can also be an important factor in deciding the tasks, and, given the forecast for tomorrow, this has been the case.  One of the most time critical jobs to be done is to complete removal of vegetation, especially Reedmace, from the ponds on the Wetland nearest to the hide.  looking at the ponds just now, they still have a thinlayer of ice on them and the wind is going to strengthen and shift to coming from the north.  That means that working on the ponds is highly unlikely as anyone doing this will become cold very quickly, but the work must be completed by the end of January so will be done whenever there is a window of opportunity during the month.

So part of tomorrow's work will be seeding the heathland with heather seed sourced in the North Pennines.  Again this is an important job to get done this month.  This will be broadcast onto the areas where the Exmoor ponies have eaten much of the vegetation, and will require dividing the area up and weighing the seed to make sure that the correct amount of seed is scattered over each of the three heathland areas.  More will follow on this tomorrow.  Another important job to do tomorrow is to burn some of the material that has been cut and stacked over the last few months.

We are also planning work for the week ahead for both staff and volunteers.  The area of woodland planting above desperately needs to be managed.  you may be able to see two trees in tubes, together with two Oaks on the left of the picture.  The rest of the vegetation is made up of Bramble, and self-seeded Scots pine, Sitka Spruce and Silver Birch.  Some of these are at least 5 years old and there is a danger that they can take over the area by crowding out the slower growing trees. 

As both the Birch and the Spruce spread so prolifically in open areas (with Birch being a very effective colonising species), thinning the area will take a staged approach.  The Bramble needs to be cut back first, followed by removal of the Spruce.  Once this has been done, then we can gauge how much of the Birch will need to be removed.  Work on this will start on Monday, so one of next weeks blogs should feature this picture again and show the results of our efforts.

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Odd jobs and quick wins

Thursday, January 4th 2018

We've been cracking on with and completing many odd jobs of late, alongside the now completed moorland path works.

The recent work carried out to improve the views of the waterfowl platform from the lake hide, coupled with more regular spreading of feed has already proved successful and is well worth the time taken to complete.

Staying with the lake, the duck trap is now cleaned and ready to use. We are likely to start catching and adding to the three Mallard, four Moorhen and one Teal that were ringed on Monday over the coming weeks!

At the moorland edge within the mixed conifer and broadleaved woodland we've been keeping busy righting trees, some of which have then been re-righted after storm eleanor came in and undid some of our hard work. Many of the Scots Pine have been under planted in these areas in order to provide more shelter and bolster the wind shield effect of the existing Larch trees.       

Hopefully these Scots Pines will be better prepared to weather the next storm that rolls in off of the moorland, until then the rubber tree ties should do the trick.

Work has also been carried out to remove Gorse around the edges of the heath, and to take out brambles and saplings on the heath and within the ditches that criss-cross them. Despite a really good go at the north west paddock there is still a fair bit to remove!

Another big piece of work that has been well overdue and that I am very happy to have got stuck into is the removal of vegetation from around the Heligoland trap. Work was ongoing well after dusk yesterday to cut back vegetation from the edge closest to the road, which has now been crosscut and removed. 

It was great to get all of this removed, it won't be long before we start work within the trap itself and finish off what's left to do on the other side.

Aside from all of this we've had great views of the Sparrowhawk during coffee and lunch break today, swooping in regularly and scattering the birds in all directions.

Unfortunately, despite great views none of us were able to get a good picture of her due to the poor light and weather conditions we've been subjected to!

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A Flower Walk with a Difference

Wednesday, January 3rd 2018

We set off on our flower walk, to look for flowers.  I had decided that the Red Campion along Risedale Beck did not pass the flower test, but I was persuaded, or should that be out-voted, that it did!

Examining Red Campion

In January we had to agree that flowers were scarce, so we found other things to look at and learn about.  This is a Dog Lichen, one of the Peltigera species.  Discussion amongst some experts is still going on as to which species it actually is.

A Dog Lichen

Walking up the quad bike track looking at the dead hedge is always of interest.  Although many leaves of Herb Robert, not a flower was seen.  A Frilly Lettuce, Platismatia glauca was noticed.  Looking up its correct name it can also be called Ragged Platismatia.  It was last recorded on 29th September 2015.

Frilly Lettuce Lichen

A fungi that we see quite often is Turkey Tail.

Turkey Tail Fungus

Another is Candlesnuff Fungus, with its white tips,

Candlesnuff fungus

which turn black once the white spores have been released.

Candlesnuff fungus

A small furry moss was photographed and unusually the spore cases were held quite close to the moss leaves and not well above them.  Again there are variations on its common name, Grey Hair Moss or Grey-cushioned Grimmia.  Looking this up in the Species List it was recorded on a boulder along the access track in May 2012.  It is still there!

Grey Hair Moss

Our wanderings took us through the Scrapes where the sun was catching the Phragmities.

Sun catching the Phragmities

Whilst looking at the ice still remaining on the Voley Pond some holes were observed in an old stem of Bulrush or Reedmace (Typha latifolia).  Moving further down the stem it became apparent that the inside of the stem had possibly been eaten.  Carefully moving an old piece of leaf, an empty pupa case was found.  Some investigation was required.  We do have Bulrush Wainscot Moth recorded in Sept 2008 and further searching revealed that this moth pupates in the stems of Bulrush.  So possibly an exciting find.  Another visit is required and some good photographs needed for possible confirmation.

Thank you to the volunteers who wandered around and were able to add many species to the January Observation Board.

Yesterday the bird ringers were at another site and in the duck trap were three Mallard and nine Moorhen, possibly a record.  A good start to the bird ringing year.

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Working Whatever the Weather!

Tuesday, January 2nd 2018

They say that we are obsessed with the weather in this country.  Given the heavy rain that moved in this morning, that's not really a surprise.  It was to the credit of the three volunteers in today that they stuck to the task throughout the morning and continued to move the stone material on to the path to complete one section between bridges on the Moorland. 

This has now completed a section of 110 metres of new surfacing, with much of the material being moved with wheelbarrows from a point where the quad bike and trailer could reach.  The surface has been compressed down using a vibrating plate and at one point was being done in front of an appreciative audience as a family from Leicester walked past.  However, they weren't sufficiently appreciative to join in despite the invitation!

So back to the weather. The rain eased off this afternoon, allowing work to continue in better conditions, but as Storm Eleanor is due to pass through tonight with gusts predicted of up to 80 miles per hour, the moth trap won't be going out tonight.

And back to volunteers.  It is one of our Winter Worky Days on Saturday, and food for lunch has to be ordered a couple of days in advance.  If you are interested, or intend coming along, and have not yet put your name down for this, please could you do so tomorrow so that the food order can be put in.

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Happy New Year

Monday, January 1st 2018

I had the blog for the first day of 2018 almost planned in my head but then the duck trap at another site yielded some photos as did the walk around Foxglove, plus news about ringing for 2017, so all change. 

Firstly the duck trap.  Three Mallard, four Moorhen and this Teal were ringed today.


The combination of feathers in the wing show that it is an adult bird.

Combination iof feathers showing an adult Teal

Whilst the duck trap is emptied and the data collected the Mute Swans get fed!

Mute Swan

Mute Swan

All the bird ringing data for 2017 has now been entered.  Numbers are down, a consequence of the poor weather almost all year long (which they were saying at the BTO Ringers' Conference will be a feature of 'normal' expected weather patterns in the future) and linked to that we did fewer Mipits (at the Crater) and fewer Stormies, as the second visit to Cape Wrath could not go ahead.

We ringed 5915 new birds and retrapped 2485 bringing the combined total to 8400. The number of species ringed was 94.

There were many birds today in the back garden including Moorhen, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Greenfinch and Dunnock.  Blackbirds were making the most of the thawed ground.  A Robin sporting its ring was keeping watch to see what fell from the feeders..


Out on the reserve, some ponds, including the Voley Pond, were still covered in ice.  Snow was still to be seen - more to come?

Voley Pond

In the Scrapes the still, ice free water showed many reflections.

Reflections in the Scrapes

A mixture of sun, cloud, rain and warmth brought out swarms of tiny flies.  On the rails of the bridges were Stoneflies and this very small Globular Springtail.

Globular Springtail

At the other end of the size scale were the Roe Deer.  Three were walking quietly by the pools at the head of the lake, but because of the pesky branches it was difficult to get a shot in focus.  We noticed yesterday that their coats are really thick and wooly at the moment no doubt keeping them warm during the bleak winter weather.

Roe Deer

I was asked by the Botany Recorder for VC 65 to check on any flowers flowering for the BSBI New Year Plant Hunt.  I recorded Daisy, Gorse and Primrose.  Greater Spearwort and Red Campion that sometimes manage to remain in flower through to the New year failed!  But amazingly I did find Water Figwort passing the flower test. 

There is one place where Cuckoo Pint (Lords and Ladies) comes into leaf early.  I looked last week and could not see a single leaf, today it was there!

Cuckoo Pint leaf

As I left the reserve there was a beautiful sky, but it was cold and unsettled.

A beautiful sky

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