(29) Blog Posts Made in February 2018

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The Beast from the East

Wednesday, February 28th 2018

As always, the walk into work was a real treat this morning, and was made all the more special by the sheer volume of untouched snow and occasional animal tracks to decipher.

I had been woken up by messages from family and friends wanting me to share as many pictures as possible of my day, and who can blame them!

My first port of call was to go and see how the lads were faring. As it turns out they were doing pretty well, and feeding from a small area of ground they had cleared themselves.

After a quick roll over in the snow both Lark and Taurus came over to see what I had brought them and were not disappointed by the large bag of carrots and apples I had been hiding behind my back.

After giving them half and exposing a few more areas of grass I spread the remaining carrots and apples at different sites across the moors before heading back to the Field Centre.

It was interesting to see that the Holly at the boundary between the Hay Meadow and Moorland is still inundated with berries.

Once back we made quick work of clearing snow from around the Field Centre and headed back out to the ponies to drop off some hay, the snow having continued to fall thick and fast.

After another run around filling bird feeders, it was time to have a quick catch up with Tony where we were lucky enough to be treated to a sneak preview of drone footage of the reserve taken last year and financed by our patron Lord Zetland (watch this space).

After lunch it was time to get back to bird box renovations, whilst Steve headed back over to the Moorland to drop off more hay for the ponies (I bet they can't believe their luck!).

No doubt the ponies will make use of the natural shelter afforded by the trees again this evening and will be able to avoid the sideways snow we've been seeing sporadically throughout the day.

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The Arrival of the ‘Beast from the East’

Tuesday, February 27th 2018

The wonderfully-titled 'Beast from the East' didn't so much roar in today as make a quiet entrance. Snow had already been falling for a couple of hours before coming in to work, and continued to do so throughout the first half of the morning.  When it stopped, around 10 centimetres (4 inches) was lying, so not quite the depths that some had been predicting.

This was enough to cause some difficulties in driving, and we have to thank our cleaning staff for walking up along the access road to the Field Centre to get it ready for the rest of the day.  It also meant that some of our regular volunteers opted to stay at home rather than come in, so we had only a couple of them in today.  Clearing the paths around the Centre was the first task for the day.  No doubt we will have to repeat this again tomorrow, but if we can keep on top of this it makes life easier for those coming to the Centre.

Following this, the next jobs were checking all of the feeders around the Centre and at the hides.  The Lake has not fully frozen so that many of the Mallard and Moorhen are still on the water but also keeping an eye out for the feed being spread for them.  Some are so eager that they're out of the water before you have time to get out of the way.  Finally, a start was made on splitting some logs to have kindling ready for any future bonfires.

At times, rather than seeming like being stuck in the grip of freezing conditions, the weather seemed almost benign and the sun on the Wetland made the area look very scenic.  Ten minutes later and the snow shower was so heavy that it was assuming blizzard proportions.  'Changeable' somehow seems to be an understatement.

The 'Beast' may well show it's true colours in the next couple of days with heavy snow forecast for Thursday.  We are checking how Taurus and Lark are doing in the snow as it will be the accumulation of snow over a period that will cause concern.  At the moment, as they walk around, the heat from their hooves is melting the layer of snow to expose the vegetation underneath so they can carry on grazing. 

Once the snow becomes deeper, as forecast, this will not be happening and so they will need feed put out for them to supplement what they can reach.  Hay has already been bought in for them, and we'll see how much snow falls overnight which will determine whether we need to feed them in the morning..  

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Nest Box auditing

Tuesday, February 27th 2018

Apologies for the lateness of this blog post, yesterday was spent haring from place to place in Jenny's car checking nest boxes across nearby MoD ranges.

We found a range of different issues with the boxes we saw, with the vast majority still in good health. We managed to visit Andrew Markham Wood, Badger Beck, High Insque, Hudswell Grange, Primrose Gill, Stop Bridge Lane and High Spring Wood, all in one day.

A couple of boxes were brought back to Foxglove for repair, with a few more to be revisited and fixed in situ

A common problem is to find nest boxes like the one above at Andrew Markham Wood, and below found at Hudswell Grange, where the entrance hole has been widened.

The culprit of such wanton vandalism is likely to have been a squirrel or woodpecker; thankfully the solution is a simple one.

As these nest boxes are still in working order we will attach a new board over the enlarged hole with a newly drilled opening protected by a metal plate.

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Matching Up

Sunday, February 25th 2018

It is good when sorting through photographs you can find some that fit together. 

Out walking around the reserve we spotted an old Robin's Pincushion Gall.  The tiny holes from where the wasps emerged could easily be seen.  It is the only gall that has multiple chambers.

Robin's Pincushion Gall

This looks totally different to the gall that we see during summer, growing on the rose stems.

Robin's Pincushion Gall

Hazel has been in flower for some time but the Grey Alder catkins are just opening. 

Male Grey Alder catkin

Looking carefully the female flower was also found.

Female Grey Alder flower

Once fertilized these will develop into the brown cones.  The ones shown below are last year's and all the seeds have been dispersed.

Brown cones of Grey Alder

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A Colouful Blog!

Saturday, February 24th 2018

Having just looked at the weather forecast for the next ten days I decided that a bright colourful blog was needed!

Spring sees Lesser Celandine flowers.

Lesser Celandine

Greater Stitchwort, provides food for many insects.

Greater Stitchwort

Come summer the Common Blue Butterflies are feeding on Bird's Foot Trefoil.

Common Blue Butterfly

The Cucumber Spider is one of my favourites in the summer months, bright green with a red bottom, but still hard to find.

Cucumber Spider

Common Spotted Orchids appear across the reserve.

Common Spotted Orchid

By September the reserve is changing colour to the golds, yellows and reds of autumn. Guelder Rose berries hang brighly from the branches.

Guelder Rose Berries

I suspect that the blogs next week will be white.

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Scrub and hedgelaying potential

Friday, February 23rd 2018

Colin has been in since this morning topping up the bird feeders and hoppers whilst Steve has been continuing his efforts to stake downed trees across the reserve.

Meanwhile I put the finishing touches to the new Honeybee display before heading back out to the corner where the Wetland and Risedale Beck paths meet.

I focused on the other side of the path today an area which was heavily overgrown with brambles and gorse located just below the O of orchard on the map below.

I've had my eyes on this area for a week or so now, however it was only after I got started that we realised that this little patch of scrub had hedgelaying potential.

The corner already has a number of Hawthorn, some of which were being severly strangled by brambles. Interestingly the best specimens form a rough semi circle, which if laid correctly could create a novel sheltered picnic area.

In order for this cunning plan to work the desired length of hedge would first need to be underplanted and then left unmolested by brambles for a couple of years before the whole lot could be laid.

It may be sacrilegious to say it, but I imagine a Midland Bullock style would be more appealing in this setting rather than the traditional Yorkshire style:

Regardless of the grand hedge laying scheme it was well worth getting the area tidied up, as it really helps open the place up, and gives a number of planted trees a fighting chance of recovery.

For more information on hedgelaying visit the National Hedgelaying Society by clicking here

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Planted woodland revival

Thursday, February 22nd 2018

Once again we were back on the corner where the Wetland and Risedale Beck paths meet.

Of late we have been thinning this area which was previously planted with a mixture of conifers and broadleaved trees that has become overgrown with Brambles and Gorse.

We have uncovered plenty of plucky Scots Pine and Oak saplings that have been having a hard time of it and are hoping that the area is now better balanced, giving many of the planted desired trees a better chance of survival.

We found a number of patches of droppings in the area we were working in; all believed to be Roe Deer. Strangely they were missing the pointed end associated with Roe Deer droppings, but we can't think what else they could be.

After a day of Bramble and Gorse bashing we were all pretty done in; sporting forearms crisscrossed with cuts and scratches, and hunched backs from ensuring Brambles were cut as low to the ground as possible.

'No pain, no gain' comes to mind, and we gained a lot today, with the area looking much better by the time we finished tending to the fire in the late afternoon.

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Moths at Last!

Wednesday, February 21st 2018

Bird ringing requires dedicated weather forecasting, moth trapping requires the same.  If it is too cold, too wet and or too windy then we do not put out the trap.  Keeping an eye on the weather over the last few days, it was starting to look like we may get the trap out for the second time this year.  We were successful!  Moths in the trap and on the Field Centre.  Having said that we only collected seven moths of two species.

One of our aims for this coming year, is to ensure that we photograph the moths that we have not yet put onto the web site species list.  Today was a classic example of moths that we had not photographed.  Out to the wood pile.  The first to be carefully placed onto the moss was Pale Brindled Beauty, whose flight season is January to March. 

The larva feed on a variety of broadleaved trees including Silver and Downy Birch, Blackthorn, apple, Alder Buckthorn and Hawthorn, during mid-April to mid- June.  Much leaf inspection will be carried out to see if we can find and identify the larva.

Pale Brindled Beauty

Next was the dark form.

Dark form of Pale Brindled Beauty

Both the moths co-operated.  We then decided that it would be very good to have a photo of them side by side.  So another Pale Brindled Beauty was released next to the dark form.  Nature does not always listen to what you want!

Light and Dark from of Pale Brindled Beauty!

Dotted Border was the other species trapped.  This moth is on the wing from February through to April.  It lives up to its name as there is a row of black dots on the edge of the forewing and some small white dashes just above the dots.  The larvae feed on the same broadleaved trees as the Pale Brindled Beauty.

Dotted Border

Unfortunately weather watching is strongly suggesting that there will be no moth trapping for the next couple of weeks as temperatures will be back around freezing again.  Someone also mentioned SNOW!

In other species news, Greylag Geese were seen flying over and on the lake.  A Grey Wagtail was spotted on Risedale Beck and out over the moorland a Curlew was heard.  Hazel catkins and their tiny red female flowers can be found across the reserve.  Grey Alder is also in flower.  Leaves of Barren Strawberry, Foxglove, Herb Robert, Lesser Celandine and Cuckoo Pint were all noted today.

PS News just in - Lapwing were spotted on the local moors yesterday for the first time this year, and this morning a flock of at least 200 Curlews were near the ponds at Bellerby road end.

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The cutting of net rides 9 and 10

Tuesday, February 20th 2018

You can't beat starting your day with a walk around the Lake on a beautiful morning like today's.

After stopping by the Lake and putting out feed for the ducks it was time for a quick catch up with the volunteers before cracking on with today's task.

Today we busied ourselves with tidying up and burning the mountain of brash cut from net rides 9 and 10 on Monday, whilst another team got stuck into filling potholes on the main access route onto the reserve. 

After some considerable effort from both teams we managed to get both tasks completed around lunchtime.

Some of us even had time for a post lunch marshmallow break before making a start on net rides 30 and 31.

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Water Everywhere!

Monday, February 19th 2018

On Friday morning, while some went to Warcop and Wathgill to put up the owl boxes, 21 adults and children came to Foxglove to take part in the 'Wonderful Water' event.  This was an interesting event to run as not only was the age range from less than 1 to over 60, but much of the water was all around but frozen.

We started with getting some idea about how much people knew about water and how important it is for life.  With less than 1% of the world's water being freshwater that is available for use by humans and terrestrial animals, and with parts of the human body, such as the brain, being 60% water, this is a precious commodity.  It's ability to help in the evaporation and transpiration processes in plants through molecular bonding which also supports surface tension for Pond Skaters to use when walking on the water surface makes it a key material in supporting life.

We then went outside to look at how water flows using ping pong balls to float through a series of obstacles, before returning to the Field Centre to use water to act as part of the fuel to fire a small rocket into the air.  As one of the adults was celebrating his birthday, we agreed that he could go first.  He did well but his effort was quickly overtaken as we set the Foxglove Rocket Mission record distance of over 100 metres.  

The ice and frost remained over Saturday, but, as Sunday warmed, much of it has now melted.  There is now water everywhere and part of walking the Green Route this morning was identifying blocked drainage channels and clearing them or noting where new drains will have to be put in place. 

As we are now approaching the breeding season for amphibians, one key task is to keep the water flowing in to the ponds along Risedale Beck to make sure that there is enough for them to lay spawn in.  Sometimes this involves feeling for the inlet feeder pipe in muddy, cold water and clearing where the filter has become covered with leaves brough downstream.

The ponies' coats are definitely weatherproof with Lark showing a fine line where his coat changed from being rained on to being dry under his shoulders and belly.

This afternoon has been spent re-staking some of the Scots Pine trees planted near to the Outdoor Classroom and replacing cable ties on some trees with proper tree ties.  There is still more of this to do, which will be continued tomorrow alongside the work planned for the Volunteers.

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A Hoary Dawn!

Sunday, February 18th 2018

The bird ringers had travelled through mist, frost and sunshine to arrive at Foxglove for 8am.  The ice crunched beneath their feet as the nets were opened. Guy ropes on the net poles were so cold and rigid they refused to bend!


Of the total of 205 birds processed, 90 were newly ringed.  Coal Tits come into the reserve over the winter months as there is always plenty of food for them.  In all 54 were handled today.

Coal Tit

Siskins are frequent visitors to the back garden feeders but have been conspicuous by their absence recently.  These birds weigh in around 12g.  This is a beautiful female, one of the first to return for the 2018 breeding season.

Female Siskin

Treecreepers use their long thin beaks to probe for insects in the bark of trees.  Usually you are only aware of a movement and the brown and white colour of the bird, but when you get close up, the pattern on the back and wings is amazing.


Whilst Treecreepers only go up a tree Nuthatches can move up and down as they search for food.


This morning we watched the Sparrowhawk fly through the garden and then sit in a tree before flying off.  Too many branches in the way for even a splodge.  From a net round Leanne returned with a 1st year female Sparrowhawk.  This bird was big and very powerful, females being somewhat bigger than the males. 


Taking photographs I initially thought the camera was out of focus, when I realised that I had managed to catch the blinking of the third eyelid, the nictitating membrane, which protects the eye.


 The majesty and power of this bird is caught in the photograph. They are fierce predators!


We have only ever caught 10 female Sparrowhawks at Foxglove because they routinely bounce out of the nets such is their size.  The last two were caught on 25/11/2007 and 06/01/2013.  

Thank you to everyone who helped today - it was a productive session.

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Looking Back Through the Years

Saturday, February 17th 2018

Thinking about what to put on the blog today, I started to look back through photos taken during February.  Some things don't change, snow was left in the hollows in the banks by the Vole pond in 2013.

There was still plenty of snow around on Thursday!


The first Common Frogs were photographed on 18th Feb 2015.  So far none have been recorded this year.

First frog

Visiting Foxglove over the next few days, I will have to have a search for any bursting willow buds.

Bursting willow buds

And finally I found this image from 2013, of the path to the middle moor gate.

Path to middle moor gate

It looks a litte different now.

Path to middle moor gate


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Owl Boxes at Warcop and Wathgill

Friday, February 16th 2018

We split the team again today, with Steve and Colin staying on the reserve to run the 'Wonderful Water' event and fill up the bird feeders, and the rest of the team heading off to put up new owl boxes at various MoD sites nearby.

After a quick, early morning stop at Piave to meet Martin and pick up the boxes, the convoy made its way over to Warcop where the last two of the Barn Owl boxes needed replacing.

Martin is a dab hand at getting these boxes up now; in fact getting the ladder over to the tree was by far and away the most time consuming part of the whole process! 

In contrast to the last few days the weather was very kind to us, especially over at Warcop where the sun shone throughout; we were even treated to a glimpse of a Barn Owl as it left the second box.

Although the second box had been occupied the inside really was a bit of a mess, being almost full to the brim of old debris and maggots. It won't take long for our friend to return and find a brand new box full of saw dust and rape seed bedding.   

The perfect spot for an owl box! 

After our fleeting, and yet highly productive visit to Warcop we headed back over Tan Hill and down into Wathgill where we met Sophie and Jenny with an odd looking package.

Over the last few days Sophie has been putting the finishing touches to a DIY Long-eared Owl basket, which she can be seen holding below. 

Sophie used the old metal frame from a hanging basket and weaved willow whips through the gaps before lining it with hessian rags, sticks, spruce branches and moss.

Finding a suitable tree which would take the basket proved difficult, but by using Tony's previous knowledge of Long-eared Owl nesting proclivities we were able to select what we all believed to be the perfect site.

Once half way up the tree Martin spotted an old nest which seemed as good a place as any for our new basket; somehow he even managed to keep the moss inside throughout the whole process. 

Feeling a little left out I decided to get myself up the tree once Martin had finished the job. It was great to be up there and to be able to have an owl-eyed view from the basket, hopefully this is the view that many Long-eared Owl chicks will have in the years to come.

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Net ride renovations and a trip to Strensall

Thursday, February 15th 2018

A small team of two continued on from where we left off on Tuesday by burning the mountain of brash that had been cut from net ride 25, while another team ventured off to Strensall to put up Owl boxes with Matt the Range Warden.

The weather wasn't on our side at all, with sporadic downpours of rain and hail interspersed by periods of calm with very little wind to stoke the fire. Thankfully the new gel-based firelighters we received yesterday really did the trick!

After a long day tending to the fire Peter managed to burn off the remaining brash by late afternoon, ready for a quick final tidy up on Tuesday.

We have now finished 5 of the 14 net rides that we aim to cut this year, so plenty more to crack on with!

While all of this was going on Tony, Adam and Matt had been very successful, fitting two Owl boxes; the one shown below being placed on the tower of the grenade range. 

We hope the tower, which is no longer used, will make a great home for many Barn Owls in the future.

The second Owl box was put up in one of the troop shelters and it replaced an old box.

Once back at Foxglove the team wasted no time in getting one of the Kestrel boxes put up by the Heath. 

Over recent weeks we have seen both the male and female Kestrel perched overlooking the area, on the hunt for small mammals and perhaps the odd frog or toad.

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Bird Box Building

Wednesday, February 14th 2018

The icy conditions made getting onto the reserve an adventure unto itself, and after a couple of cars got stuck by the lay-by the access route quickly turned into an impromptu car park.

After a quick call to the Guard Room to ask all new visitors to be parked on the parade square it was decided that the cars were best left where they were until after today's event.

Once "parked" everyone made their way to the Field Center for a much needed hot beverage before once again braving the cold on a guided walk of the reserve.

After consulting the nest box map we made a quick stop to talk about coppicing and pollarding of Willow Carr, and the benefits of such management practices for wildlife.

We stopped by a number of nest boxes; all with interesting histories, from successive successful broods of Blue Tit and Coal Tit, to others taken over by Wasps and Bumblebees.

Next on our shortened loop of the Yellow route was Risedale Beck where we had a look at the Dipper nest boxes under the bridges and a chat about where we were going to put all of our soon to be built nest boxes. 

After a quick stop off at the Heath to decide where to place our brand new Kestrel box, the party headed back to the Field Centre to begin assembling their own bird boxes. 

Aside from the short interval needed to move the cars from our make-shift car park, the room was filled with the noise of industry; and before long 12 well assembled nest boxes were ready to take away in the hope that they provide a home for many broods to come.

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Extreme Owl Box Antics

Wednesday, February 14th 2018

A small team from Foxglove braved the wild winter weather conditions yesterday, to repair and replace nest boxes for owls across the training area. As owls are early breeders, this was a race against time and could not be postponed. The large boxes are designed for Tawny Owls, Barn Owls and Kestrels although other species do use them too. They were built by staff and volunteers at Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve in Norfolk which is managed by the Hawk and Owl Trust. The Trust have kindly donated the boxes and in return we will monitor their use and provide data on the breeding success of birds that use them.

As you can see the journey to the various sites was interesting to say the least! This was Cordilleras Lane at Feldom which some of you will be familiar with.

White out

It was only made possible by travelling in landrovers.

Landrovers in snow

Working with heavy boxes at the top of a ladder is not easy at the best of times however, Martin rose to the challenge!

Owl box

A main part of the task is to carry the equipment from the vehicles to the trees as they are not all easily accessible even by 4x4. 


The team were rewarded by stunning views in these remote and isolated places.  This was Waitgate Bank which is bad enough in the sunshine!

Winter wonderland

The group successfully upgraded/replaced many boxes and it won't be long before the owls and kestrels are enjoying the warm, dry boxes to roost and hopefully nest in.

Beyond the call of duty!

Many thanks to Tony, Martin, Peter and John for their hard work in the bitter cold. Let's hope that the raptors appreciate it!  By day's end 6 new boxes had been installed and 2 had been repaired.  Tomorrow a regulary breeding Barn Owl at Strensall will get a new box, the existing being well past its sell by date.  On Friday the last 2  Barn Owl boxes at Warcop will be replaced!  We are then all set for the season!

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Winter’s Still With Us

Tuesday, February 13th 2018

The snow started to fall not long after we arrived at Foxglove this morning and continued for much of the day until we had a sunny finish to the afternoon.  There were less volunteers in than normal and they were split between those who stayed at Foxglove and those who went to help Tony and Matt put up new owl boxes. 

Lark and Taurus were clearly interested in any food that might be on offer as, although they are hardy and can survive happily through the cold days of this month, there is less nutrition available until the grasses start growing again.  Taurus took the lead in the search for pieces of apple or carrot - a good reminder why we ask people not to feed them so that they don't associate all people with being fed.

Ian worked with Mac and John, two of the Volunteers, on cutting back the vegetation on net ride 25.  As they were carrying on from the work on the other net rides last week, they are becoming much quicker at doing this so that the work was completed by lunchtime.  This has left a pile of brash for the Thursday Volunteers to burn.

Another job was to check trees that had been staked and tied before the latest storms and high winds.  One had blown over because the strength of the wind had been enough to snap one of the newer, thicker tree ties, while a second was on the ground because a thick stake had snapped.  A couple of hours work here meant that all of these were re-staked and a number of other thin tree ties were replaced with the thicker ties.

An inspection of the perimeter fence at the end of last week had shown that a young Ash tree had managed to grow through one of the holes in the chain link fence.  Not thick enough to cause any damage at the moment, if left it would damage the fence and so has been removed.  On the way back to the Field Centre, there was time to admire Ian's handiwork in constructing the new vole raft for the Vole Ponds, watch a couple of Roe Deer quietly feeding among the Scots Pines, and then stumble upon these large footprints in the snow.  If the size wasn't enough to be able to give an idea of who they belonged to, the Grey Heron who featured in yesterday's blog took a couple of seconds to decide that flying off might be a good idea.

The ponies had by now settled to alternately clearing snow to uncover the grass or were gingerly taking bites from the Gorse bushes as the snow was melting in the late afternoon sun.  That sunny finish to the afternoon means that, with clear skies, the temperature is going to drop below freezing tonight - not much point in putting out the moth trap really!

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Unexpected sightings

Monday, February 12th 2018

We can't seem to keep up with demand at the feeders at the moment, what with the birds having to endure the continuing cold weather.

As a consequence the first port of call this morning after setting the duck trap was a mad dash around the feeders; the lake side feeding stations were especially in need of a top up despite only being filled at the weekend!

Some of our smaller visitors continue to get more of a look in on the gound below the feeders of late, thanks in part to the reduced number of pheasants on the reserve.

At 9g the Long-tailed Tit weighs less than a £1 coin and maintains a body temperature over 40⁰C despite having to survive temperatures of -20⁰C from time to time. 

Many small birds living at latitudes such as these have special ways of minimising the effect of extreme cold, such as the Wren which roosts in holes.

Long-tailed Tits do not typically shelter in holes, and instead roost communally to keep warm. It was through bird ringing that it was discovered that flocks of Long-tailed Tits are essentially family parties, made up of a brood. It is even thought that aggregating in family flocks may be crucial in order for them to defend feeding areas and territorial boundaries. 

Aside from our usual visitors to the feeding stations we have also seen Woodcock wandering near the Green route in the mixed conifer and broadleaved woodland by Risedale beck, and have even caught sight of Lapwing at the Moorland! 

The above picture was taken from Steve's car as we were trying to head over to Piave after lunch; this lazy Heron made us wait behind him for well over a minute before he finally decided to let us past (keep an eye on Twitter and Facebook for the video from which this still was taken).

Moments after we had been allowed passage by our young Heron we were discussing Kestrel boxes when we happened to spot a female Kestrel at rest on top of one of the large rocks at the Heath.

It has been a great day for unexpected sightings!

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Sunday, February 11th 2018

Checking through the species lists on the web site and updating new species, adding notes, photos and common names has been an interesting exercise.

Unfortunately I have no photographs to go with some species of fungi.  Wood Woollyfoot, Dewdrop Bonnet, Elfin Saddle and Scurfy Twiglet are some that immediately jump out.  Others make you wonder if you will ever go near a fungus again!  Poison Pie and obviously even worse Bitter Poison Pie, Stinking Dapperling, Pine Firefungus, Bleeding Broadleaf Crust and The Deceiver!  A task for the coming year; make sure we have photos of as many fungi as we can.

As a child I was always told that the grass below was Dithery Docks.  I was much older when I realised that its correct name was Quaking Grass.

Dithery Docks or Quaking Grass

Ladies Smock. Milkmaids or Cuckoo Flower are some of the names for Cardamine pratensis.  This flower is the food plant of the Orange Tip butterfly.  Each flower stem only provides enough food for one caterpillar, so only one egg is laid on each stem.

Ladies Smock with Orange Tip egg

The Greater Bee Fly or Dark Bordered Bee Fly emerged in the spring and many sightings were recorded.

Greater Bee Fly

We know that summer is passing when we start to find Autumnal Rustic moths in the moth trap.

Autumnal Rustic

Then there are the 'nicknames'.  When we record the data for bird ringing each bird has a code and the name sticks.  Reed Buntings, code Reebu, are known as Reebus,

Reed Bunting

whilst Greenfinches, code Grefi, are called Grefis.


Confusingly Meadow Pipits are Meapi, but know affectionately to us as Mipits!

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Species Galore

Saturday, February 10th 2018

Amazingly we have recorded 2688 species on the reserve to date and we are waiting for the first new species of 2018.  During last year, 65 new species were noted.   The web site holds a list of all the species and we try to add photographs and notes where possible.

Blackfoot Polypore was a new fungus recorded.

Blackfoot Polypore

Sometimes searching through photographs I come across one that is missing from the web site.  Jack-by-the-hedge or Galic Mustard, is not often recorded on the reserve.


Another photo found was of Mare's Tail, an aquatic flowering plant, not to be confused with horsetails.

Mare's Tail

It is also the time of year when the final totals of birds processed are distributed to the bird ringers.

Brambling have not been seen or ringed very often this winter but last year 78 new birds received their rings.


As visitors and volunteers are aware the Sparrowhawk has a flight plan through the back garden and is often seen sitting on the feeders.  Only one new bird was caught last year.


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Rounding off the week

Friday, February 9th 2018

The weather today was supposed to be sunny, but snow started falling at the start of the day.  Luckily, it only lasted for about half an hour and wasn't lying on the ground.  Not long after that the predicted blue skies did appear although there has been a biting wind all day. 

The ease of checking on the ponies first thing always depends on being able to locate them.  Approaching the gate onto the Moorland a small, almost square, light patch was showing against the dark green of a large patch of gorse right at the other end of the area. This was either the pale nose colouring of an Exmoor pony or one of the parachute flares that had been used during military exercises during the week. When it moved it quickly became obvious that this was Lark who was already walking forward to see what was going on.  However, there were also a couple of parachute flares which had landed on the Moorland that were quickly collected.

A check on the work of yesterday  included how the dams on the Vole Ponds were working, and the water was coming over the top of the dam, but these will need to be checked again as the pressure of water behind each dam will exploit any weakness. 

Colin was in to do his normal round of the bird feeders and he regularly brings in fat balls which he makes at home.  These have proved highly successful and attract a lot of birds to the Field Centre garden.  While many of them were busy trying to get to the fat balls, five Long-tailed Tits took advantage of the lack of competition on the ground and quickly went through much of the food scattered there below the feeders.

A final job with the Volunteers yesterday was to work on removing Gorse and Bramble from an area of woodland close between Risedale Beck and the Wetland.  This allowed the trees growing there to be identified and then thinned to allow more spave for the stronger ones to grow.  The removal of some of the Silver Birch and self-seeded Sitka Spruce will allow the Oak, Scots Pine, Hazel and Rowan more room to develop.

Two separate areas were started and the plan is to work towards each other to create a more open patch of young woodland.  One of these is already looking much better, and work will continue on thinning these areas over the next couple of weeks.

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Vols and Vole Ponds

Thursday, February 8th 2018

The task for the Volunteers today was to work on the two Vole Ponds repairing and reinstating the dams that maintain the levels in both of them.  The inlet feeder to the upper pond had been closed yesterday evening so that the water level could drop overnight, and this morning the dam between the two ponds, which had been leaking around both sides of it, was removed.

Despite the muddy conditions, the four Volunteers involved in this operation made light work of rebuilding the dam and sealing it with clay that had been excavated when Willie was working here last week.  When this had been completed, the inlet feeder pipe was uncovered to allow the pond to refill.

The work on the dam for the lower pond was to face the clay bund that had been built by Willie.  Stones and lengths of wood were used to put a straight edge on the curve of the clay that was holding back the water in the pond. Once this had been done, the team had a well earned break for tea and coffee before returning to check the flow through the system and make some minor adjustments.

A final task related to these ponds was to relay the slabs that sit on top of the dam that creates the pool for the Vole Pond inlet feeder pipe.  With these being more stable, checking that the pipe is clear will be easier.

Two more Volunteers had been working their way through the piles of brash left from clearing around the ponds to allow access for Willie's machine, and the whole group came together to burn this up.  This was a series of small tasks that helped to complete all the work on and around the Vole ponds, and the work of the group of six who achieved all of this is much appreciated.

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Bird Box Building preparation

Wednesday, February 7th 2018

Today has been all about nest boxes for me.

I have continued my hunt for the boxes in need of pre-nesting season attention, and have also been preparing for next Wednesday's 'Bird Box Building' event.

It has given me a great opportunity to test out the power tools in the workshop and to work out if anything needs a bit of TLC; unfortunately it has also given me the opportunity to cover the nicely swept out floor in sawdust again.

We now have 16 boxes ready and waiting for next Wednesday, minus the odd entrance hole that still needs to be created. 

As it stands the majority of boxes that have been made have a 32mm opening that is well suited to the following bird species:

We will also have a couple of open-fronted boxes available that are more likely to be frequented by Pied Wagtail, Robin or Spotted Flycatcher.

Aside from nest box related activities we have also been tidying up after last week's endeavours to improve the reserve's waterways. This has involved a lot of stomping up and down on the tracks left behind by the excavator at the start of last week.

It's good to get round all of the many tracks left behind by Willie now while the ground is still soft and pliable so that we won't have to waste time and energy trying to clear them up later in the year.

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Continuing Work on Net Rides

Tuesday, February 6th 2018

Although the forecast for snow to have fallen by the time we got to Foxglove this morning proved to be wrong, the day started out cold and snow eventually fell throughout most of the day, although mostly it was light.  Today's volunteers were tasked with completing the work on five of the net rides that was started with the Worky Day on Saturday.

While some started on more pruning back of the trees along the net rides, others got the fire going to burn the brash that was being produced.  WIth the polesaw and two chainsaws available for use and with most volunteers being armed with loppers and bowsaws, a large amount of brash was produced very quickly, filling most of the ride.  The amount of brash in net ride 18 was only the tip of the iceberg as the piles continued around the corner into net rides 20, 21 and 22.

Adding further to the cut material was the limbs and trunk of a large Silver Birch and a number of smaller ones which were removed as they were in the area of Willow Carr and needed to be removed to stop them colonising the habitat.  

A total of eight volunteers were at Foxglove today and they soon settled into a pattern of cutting and pruning the trees, cutting the brash into smaller sections and then taking this to feed the bonfire.  As piles were removed from the ride, the brash from further away was brought up to the fire site to be processed and burnt.

This meant that the rides could be left in a tidy condition, if not more than a little muddy from where everyone had been walking.  However, the opening up of the rides will have a benefit for both the ground flora in the next few weeks and for ringing as the height of the vegetation caused many of the birds to fly higher over the mist nets.

Thanks to all involved today, a lot was achieved due to their efforts.  The only down side to the day was that people couldn't decide whether they should have brought potatoes or marshmellows (or both!) for the fire.  Perhaps they will have decided by next Tuesday when we will be moving on to work on another net ride.

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A Quiet Day?

Monday, February 5th 2018

Today has been a quiet day as far as visitors are concerned, with no sign of anyone around.  This is not so as far as wildlife is concerned with the first sight out of the office window this morning being the large Grey Squirrel upside down on one of the peanut feeders in the Field Centre garden.

Looking around the Reserve this morning, everything seemed still and quiet until you took time to watch and listen when it became clear that there was a lot of activity.  Although the lake may look quiet, the Mallards and Moorhens were busy at the far end and it became clear that staking out territory is now an important consideration.  

The lengthening days are now seeing an increase in birdsong and there was a lot more activity on the bird feeders.  More species were in evidence with both Redpolls and Siskins joining the usual species, with Long-tailed Tits also putting in more frequent appearances.  The large Squirrel, who shows signs of being very successful in finding food was chased off the feeders by one considerably smaller.  Meanwhile, a Dunnock was busy mopping up all the seeds spilt onto the ground.  

This afternoon a start has been made on taking out Birch and Spruce near the Wetland and a check has been made on some of the dams and pipes after Willie completed his work last week.  Some of them will require further work as with this example where the water is leaking through below the top of the dam

The weather forecast for tonight and tomorrow suggests that it is likely that there will be snow on the ground when we get in tomorrow morning.  Ian has spent the afternoon getting the chainsaws and polesaw ready for further work with the volunteers on the net rides tomorrow.  It sounds like there will be a need for a bonfire both to clear the brash and to keep people warm.

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Ambling Along

Sunday, February 4th 2018

It was lovely and sunny with very little wind, so I took the opportunity to wander around Foxglove to look to see what was about.  Lark and Taurus were standing contemplatively on the moor.



From something large to something small.  Some of the mosses still had water droplets covering them.

Water droplets covering moss

Other moss capsules had released their spores as could be seen by the open caps.

Open moss capsules

Self-heal is not the most attractive of summer flowers but the seed heads are much more distinguished.

Self-heal Seed head

Not a single insect was observed, not even the Stoneflies that usually sit on all the bridge rails right through the winter.  A Robin was feeding along a path edge and judging by the way it was moving it was finding some tiny insects to eat.


Most of the berries in the centre of the reserve have been eaten or fallen to the ground, even the Rose Hips have disappeared, but on the moor the Holly tree is still covered with red berries.

Holy Tree with berries

Ambling along off the moor, listening to the bird song rather than observing what was around me, something red caught my eye and I was rather taken aback by a Holly tree with berries on it!  I wonder if they do not taste nice?  Or could it be the birds and small mammals are leaving them in reserve to be eaten if winter turns severe again?

Red Holly berries

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February Worky Day

Saturday, February 3rd 2018

Seventeen volunteers turned out for today's Worky Day.  Picking up work on the net rides that was started during Thursday's volunteer day, one of the first jobs was to move the large amount of brash that had already been created in cutting back the trees alongside the net rides.

The Thursday volunteers had made a significant impression on the cutting back, with three of the net rides full of cuttings.  Once the fire had been started, these were all collected to feed the fire.

After the work on those rides had been completed it became more obvious that this area of Willow Carr had been heavily colonised by Birch so many of these trees in the immediate area around the rides were also cut down.  Leaving them to grow through would eventually completely change the character of the woodland, losing one of the most important woodland types in the area.

At the end of the day, the net rides were clear of cut material and the fire had died down sufficiently to have the unburnt wood around the edge turned in to the middle and left to die down.

Although the weather hadn't been as bad as was forecast, many thanks are due to all the volunteers who turned out on a wet and grey day.  We achieved a lot and those net rides and the Willow Carr are looking much better for their efforts.  Work on other net rides will be continuing in the next weeks.

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Duck trap success again!

Friday, February 2nd 2018

Over the last couple of days we've been continuing to manage the net rides, pruning branches that may get in the way of mist nets and pollarding trees where needs be. 

The objective is to end up with a bank of trees either side of the net rides that are no higher than the top of the net when it is in place. Sprouts from previously pollarded trees are weakly attached to the knob, and should be cut every 2 years to prevent branches becoming too thick and heavy.    

The whole process causes quite a mess; especially given that many of the Willows we've been cutting have not been pollarded for many years.

Some of the brash piles have gotten pretty huge; shifting the brash to the bullet catcher will be the first task of tomorrow's February Worky Day. 

Aside from the practical work going on at the net rides we have had a very successful day with the duck trap; catching two drakes, one very familiar, one not so.

That's right! This year's first Mallard into the duck trap was the very same drake that was raised by Tony and Sophie, who used to chase Rona and Whin around their back garden.

Both Rona and Whin seemed very pleased to see their old mate again, and once back with Tony at the Field Centre Mr.Drake seemed very relaxed too.

The other occupant of the duck trap was our second male Moorhen that was released onto the scrapes with a shiny new tag on its leg, but not before decorating Ian's chainsaw trousers. 

Once he had finished pecking my fingers I was able to get this quick picture where you can see right through both nares (nostrils); both clearly dry and open suggesting good health.

And finally, continuing on with the wonderful world of birds; we have been graced with the prescence of a young Grey Heron that has taken to hanging about near the Field Centre over the last week.

As Tony rightly suggested, it's most probably on the look out for the froglets and toadlets that are due to be spawning over the next few weeks as we head towards spring.

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Warcop Owl Boxes

Thursday, February 1st 2018

A team from Foxglove spent yesterday working on the ranges at Warcop to replace a number of the owl boxes that were in poor condition.  The van had been loaded the previous evening with 12  of the new boxes that had been brought up from Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve in December, and the team of seven volunteers, Martin the Range Marshall, Tony and Steve set off just after 8.30 to drive over the Pennines.

Despite the wintry weather, they arrived at Warcop where we were joined by Chris from the Warcop Conservation Group.  We were briefed by Tony on the plan for taking down the old boxes and hoisting the new ones to be put into position.  The first box proved to be the most difficult to put up as it was slightly larger than the previous one which meant that it had to be moved slightly because of a large limb on the Oak tree.  This was also the one where the method of attaching the box was tried and amended to find the best way of fitting them to the trees.

WIth a biting wind and frequent snow showers, the need for refreshments was becoming apparent and we were joined by the team from the kitchens at Warcrop, walking across the field to the tree that had just had its box fitted with a very welcome serving of tea and coffee.  Special thanks go to them for coming out to us, and to Jenny who had also brought cake which went very nicely with the hot drinks.

By the end of the morning, the team had become well drilled in getting to the trees, with Martin taking the lead on removing the old boxes and securing the new ones in place.  There was a short return to the Warcop camp for lunch, with those choosing the lamb chops expressing particular delight in how tasty they were.

We were joined for lunch and for the afternoon session by Major Mick Lynch, soon to take over command of Warcop.  As we approached the final box to be replaced, two Barn Owls flew off, so it was important to fit the new box quickly, although there was a slight distraction for a couple of the party as a small piece of drystone wall was repaired.  After this, Major Lynch thanked everyone and said that he may well join in future work.

At the finish, we had replaced nine boxes and decided that one was in sufficiently good condition to be left.  The drive back was in slightly warmer conditions than the morning and we arrived back at Wathgill at 4.30.  Thanks must go to Major Lynch for joining us, to the staff from the Warcop kitchens for keeping us fed and watered, to Jenny for recording the location of each of the boxes (and for the cake), and to Ken and Linda, Peter, Eddie, the two Johns for an excellent day, and to Tony for making all the arrangements.  But I think we all agreed that the star of the day had been Martin, described by one of the group as 'awesome'.

Thanks also go to Chris for all his help on the day, but also for coming back to the final owl box to be put in place to remove the lower limbs from the Ash tree to allow a clear flight path for the residents to gain access to the box.

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