(28) Blog Posts Made in June 2018

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Lakeside Hoverflies

Saturday, June 30th 2018

The lake is thriving of late and is now playing host to two Tufted Duck and two Mallard families as well as a family of four Little Grebe.

However it's not just the birds that are doing well down by the lake as the slopes of the northern bank are in bloom at the moment, and the abundance of Oxe-eye Daisy and Thistle are attracting great numbers of insects.

Alongside this Tree Bumblebee worker is a male Hairy-eyed Syrphus hoverfly (Syrphus torvus). The male of the species is more easily identified due to the numerous pale hairs covering their eyes, with the females it comes down to femur and wing cell colouration.

The Hairy-eyed Syrphus is synanthropic, in that it benefits from an association with humans and the artificial habitats created by us (e.g. gardens, farms, roadsides). It will visit a great number of flower species including Cynareae (Thistles) and Daisies, being predominantly attracted to yellow and white flowers; its larva feed on aphids. 

A better angle paints an even more interesting picture with this male sporting quite a large dent in his thoracic dorsum; this could have been caused by a failed Crab Spider or Dung Fly attack, or as a consequence of high winds.

On a different Thistle head I found this female Sun Fly (Helophilus pendulus). Also known as the Tiger Hoverfly, its scientific name means 'dangling marsh-lover', likely given to it due to its association with waterbodies. Its larvae feed on detritus and can often be found in wet manure and cow-dung.

Although associated with waterbodies from marshes, to large lakes, rivers and even small ditches the adults will travel sizeable distances from these water sources.  

The final species that I found in my short time observing was a female Bog Hoverfly (Sericomyia silentis). It was the only individual that I observed in the area, which is usual for this species that are encountered in small numbers on moorlands and around bogs.

It is a very large, black and yellow wasp mimic that is predominantly in upland habitats, and which favours acidic wetlands. Adults prefer red and purple flowers, especially Thistles and Knapweeds. 

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The launch of HMS Colin

Friday, June 29th 2018

The first of our new mink rafts was completed this morning by Colin and Steve in the baking hot sun.

After barrowing it down to the Scrapes it was the moment of truth, and of course our newest contraption floated perfectly!

Meanwhile I was joined on the net rides by Louis and Vienna, here on work experience, where we continued to manage vegetation that was beginning to encroach on the rides, and was therefore at risk of affecting bird ringing operations this Sunday.

On the lake we now have a second family of Tufted Ducks bringing the total of chicks up to 12 thus far, we still have two families of Mallard on the lake also, with 9 chicks between them. The family of four Little Grebe are also doing fine.

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Last Day at Cape Wrath

Thursday, June 28th 2018

The ringing team have packed the Landrovers ready for their early start on the long journey back tomorrow.  However it was another day of ringing, although the hot weather did cause some sea fret.

Sea fret

There were Guillemots, adults and young, on Faraid Stacks.

Guillemots on Faraid Stacks

The last photograph definitely has the aaahhh factor!  A Kittiwake chick.

Kittiwake chick

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Pony Parade

Thursday, June 28th 2018

Summer is the season for cleaning bird feeders and ensuring good hygiene practice.

Birds are susceptible to a range of different diseases, such as Salmonellosis, Avian pox, and Trichomonosis, all of which can be spread via contaminated food or surfaces. For more information on bird diseases and hygiene, including what to look out for and means of prevention, click here.

After passing through our bird feeder cleaning station we allow the feeders to dry before filling them back up and putting them back where they were found, just in time to be refilled by Colin tomorrow.

Aside from bird feeder cleaning we were also busy yesterday evening moving Lark and Taurus from Plovers' Pool to the Heath.

Both of the lads were very well behaved and excited to be returning to the Heath paddocks, which have an abundance of different feed to choose from.

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Moths, Chasers, Views and Birds!

Wednesday, June 27th 2018

There was a good catch in the moth trap and the moth team, including Lewis and Vienna, the Works Experience people, helped to ID the moths.  Catching the moths was an interesting exercise and Lewis's height was much appreciated as the moths were very active and escaped into the ringing room, landing on the ceiling and light fittings!  With many exclamations they were all retrieved!

The  moth below was one that we said 'oh yes we know except we don't know its name!'  A lot of help, but we eventually tracked it down as a Clouded-bordered Brindle.

Clouded-bordered Brindle

Next was the flower walk but we were waylaid looking for Broad-bodied Chasers, which we found in plenty.  Not brilliant, as it is difficult to get them to sit just where you want them to, this is a female Broad-bodied Chaser.

Female Broad-bodied Chaser

And of course they don't sit still for long!

Female Broad-bodied Chaser just taking off!

Up in Cape Wrath they were also chaser spotting and a very tentative ID of this chaser is a Four-spotted Chaser.

Possible Four-spotted Chaser

There were blue skies in the North today.  This is a view across Durness Loch.

Durness Loch

Kervaig Bay where the team were busy ringing Common Sandpipers, Ringed Plovers, Pied Wagtails and Mipits or to give them their correct, full title, Meadow Pipits. One day we may catch one ringed in the North when we set the nets at the Crater!

Kervaig Bay

This Red Throated Diver was feeding her chick.

Red Throated Diver and chick

PS - I mentioned on the blog on Monday that it was not quite as warm in Cape Wrath as it is down here, but the forecast for Thursday is temperatures of 23 centigrade, so possibly they may be able to remove their coats!  This is most unusual for so far north.

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Work Experience

Tuesday, June 26th 2018

Today was the second day for two pupils carrying out work experience on the reserve. 

Part of becoming workplace-ready is experiencing and building new skills that could not otherwise be taught in the classroom, and can give prospective employees the edge when applying for part time jobs at university or when starting a career. 

The importance of soft skills, such as team working, communication and commercial awareness become all too apparent in a workplace setting. Tasks such as boardwalk repairs offer up perfect opportunities for pupils to test these soft skills whilst also giving them the chance to learn and hone practical skills that may come in useful in later life.

Aside from learning new skills and improving employability, work experience offers students the chance to sample career options and explore different job types without having to commit to anything.

Who knows, we may well be welcoming future Reserve Managers to Foxglove over the next couple of weeks. 

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More Northerly News

Monday, June 25th 2018

I took a guided walk this afternoon and intended to use the photos taken, for the blog, but received into my Inbox last night and this evening photographs from the North, more than enough to fill the blog.

Three quite large Buzzard chicks had just been ringed.

Buzzard chicks

What a view when they were returned to their nest!

Buzzard nest

A nest of Ringed Plover eggs were found.  The nest is a scrape in the rocks and gravel.  The eggs are very pointed and well camouflaged.

Ringed Plover nest

Later some chicks were found and ringed.  They already have their 'ring' around their neck.

Ringed Plover

The ringers are licensed and experienced and know where and how to check for nests of many species of bird, without causing unnecessary harm and disturbance.  They have, so far found ten nests of Red Breasted Mergansers.  It looks so 'comfy', especially in comparison with the little Plover nest!

Red Breasted Merganser nest

Mallards can be found almost anywhere and whilst many of our ducklings are now growing, these ones at Cape Wrath are just hatching.

Mallard Ducklings

 These are two Sandwich tern chicks.

Sandwich Tern chicks

It has been very warm at Foxglove today, but as some of the above photos show, people are wearing coats so obviously not quite as warm there as here.

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News from the North and Foxglove Sightings

Sunday, June 24th 2018

Firstly more news from the North.  For several years the team have found a Barn Owl's nest on an island.  There have been eggs and chicks too young to ring but this year success, two chicks were ringed.  This photo shows where the nest is.

Barn Owl nest

 These two beautiful Barn Owl chicks are just beginning to show their golden feathers through their down.

Barn Owl Chicks

Yesterday's blog mentioned that the Barn Swallows ringed by the ringing team were probably the furthest north Barn Swallows ringed!  I think the Barn Owl chicks can also be put into that category.  There was no ringing at Cape Wrath yesterday as there was heavy rain and strong winds.  The weather forecast is better for the rest of the week.

Back at Foxglove a well grown Moorhen chick was standing on the Bulrush stems.  I am not sure if this was an old nest or a convenient resting place.

Well grown Moorhen chick

Watching several Mallards feeding on the bank I noticed a movement, it was the Little Grebe, there one minute gone the next.  I kept a close look out and then saw him (?) feeding four chicks.

Little Grebe and young

Also flying around the weir was the Grey Wagtail, whose presence has been missed over the early summer.

Continuing with things that fly, moths can be seen on the vegetation, especially those with white in their patterened wings.  This is a Silver Ground Carpet.  We often catch them in the trap and they sit on the Field Centre.

Silver Ground Carpet moth

A rare catch was a Red-necked Footman caught in the trap on Thursday.  It was not a fresh one as can be seen by the marks on its wings.

Red-necked Footman

Although not the best of photographs this one does show its yellow/orange abdomen.

Red-necked Footman

More flight, but not under their own steam.  The Cotton Grass seeds were beginning to be dispersed in the gentle breeze.

Cotton Grass seeds being dispersed

Always something to see on a walk around, I spotted this combination of flowers, a Common Spotted Orchid in amongst Ragged Robin.

Common Spotted Orchid and Ragged Robin

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Swallow Tales

Saturday, June 23rd 2018

At this time of year there are many summer wildlife visitors to the UK. Barn Swallows, Swifts, Sand Martins and House Martins all belong to the family Hirundinidae and come here to breed during the Summer months. They are small passerines with long-pointed wingss and spend most of their time in the air, where they catch insects. This year, their numbers appear to be significantly lower than in previous years. The bird ringers monitor several local nests and the number of these is definitely down on last year. In one location having gone from thirteen nests a few years ago to only five last year and a mere two this year. At this rate it is easy to imagine them disappearing from the UK skies completely in the near future. This would be incredibly sad as they really are stunning animals.

The Swallows are most striking as they are blue-glossed black above and have a deep blood-red throat and forehead. On the juveniles this is a buffish colour.

Swallows

The males and females have the same coloured plumage but they can be identified by the length of their tail streamers. The female adult has slightly shorter and broader tail feathers (on the left below) than the male (right below). This pair were rescued and released after having flown into somebody's garage by mistake!

Swallow tails

The ringing team in Cape Wrath ringed some Barn  Swallows today: most likely the most Northerly ones in the UK!

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Mole madness and other sightings

Friday, June 22nd 2018

We've seen four Moles above ground today, most likely as a consequence of their invertebrate prey being scarce and/or the ground being particularly hard due to drought.

Moles will sometimes surface during conditions such as these in order to search for new food supplies.

Two of the Moles happened upon each other by the Field Centre before having a little barney and going their seperate ways.

Aside from the Moles there has been a lot of activity on the lake today, with Tufted Ducks, Little Grebes and Mallards a plenty

We've had hundreds of damselflies on the Scrapes and plenty of Four Spotted Chasers also!

Whereas over by the Heath there have been Common Blue and Meadow Brown butterflies all over the place.

I spotted this little guy taking shade from the hot summer sun on an Oxeye Daisy too.

Around the Field Centre we've been inundated with Goldfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Great Tits, with the majority of the bird feed that Colin has been putting out having already disappeared!

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Tidying the Green Route

Thursday, June 21st 2018

The group have achieved a great deal during our tidying of the Green Route today. We started the morning with boardwalk repairs and removing vegetation overhanging the paths.

It wasn't long before most of the group moved on to woodland management of areas previously planted as mixed conifer/broadleaved woodland; removing large quantities of brambles and gorse, whilst also marveling at the number of self-seeded Rowan that are thriving in the area.

Meanwhile, Peter was busy strimming paths throughout most of the day, with yet more to do next week!

Another group got a huge amount done at the bridge by the Willow Spiling; so much so that you can now see the Willow Spiling from the path and bridge!

All in all, a very productive day in the woods! 

Some of the bird ringing team have started their long journey north to Cape Wrath to ring sea birds.  We hope that the birds have had a good breeding season and that this is reflected in the ringing results.

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A Very Busy Day

Wednesday, June 20th 2018

If you wanted to choose a day that showed the many sides of Foxglove Covert, today would have been a good one to choose.  The moth trap had been put out on Tuesday evening so a first task was identification.   

While that was going on, we had staff and pupils from Barnard Castle School in to do pond dipping, minibeast hunting and looking at Foxglove's range of habitats.  Our regular group from Risedale School were also in helping with practical work around the reserve.

Dr Roger Key ran a workshop on "Invertebrate Identification for Adults" for much of the day with one participant finding the Great Spruce Aphid (Cinara piceae) but on a Pine tree rather than a Spruce.  It's likely that this was on the look out for a suitable Spruce tree to call home and hadn't quite got there yet!

In the afternoon, we had a visit from the Defence Infrastructure Organisation's Executive Committee who had a walk through the reserve with Sophie, Chair of the Management Group before meeting other Management Group members, volunteers and staff for tea and cakes in the Field Centre.

One member of the Executive Committee was the Chief Operating Officer, Geoffrey Robinson, who had previously visited last November.  Then he had picked up a jar of Foxglove honey and he made sure that he bought another jar today.  The Committee left having thoroughly enjoyed their visit, including the cakes.

It had been a very busy day and many people had contributed to making it a success.  Thanks in particular to the pupils from Risedale School who did a brilliant job in helping to tidy around the Field Centre.  The day was rounded off with a quick check on one of the camera traps with the bonus of finding a Roe Doe and her two fawns moving quietly among the conifers.

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Spring Cleaning

Tuesday, June 19th 2018

Today we've had help from our regular Tuesday Volunteers, pupils from the Dales School and our work experience student Josh with tidying up the paths and boardwalks from the Field Centre through the Scrapes and over to the Lake hides.

The work has acted as an extension of recent practical work on the 11th and 12th to remove encroaching vegetation from the Scrapes, with the Dales School using wheelbarrows to ferry the brash away.

We have also continued removing moss and dirt build up from the edges of boardwalks, with Colin showing especial proficiency.

At the end of the day all that is left to do is for us to walk to route one last time with the leaf blower in hand in order to remove anything that may have been missed by the brooms and rakes.

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Of Moles and Voles

Monday, June 18th 2018

Foxglove seemed to be deserted when I  arrived just after 8.00 this morning, but then there was a tell-tale movement of grass in the opposite direction to the way the rest was being blown by the strong wind, and there was a Mole.  Oblivious to much that was around, he seemed quite happy to be above ground until catching my scent when he quickly made a dive for cover under one of the large logs.

It's not certain what brought him out but we did have a report that two Moles were seen later in the day having a skirmish, so this may have been part of a territorial dispute.  

As we had just about run out of seed in our main Seed Store, the delivery this afternoon was very timely.  Colin does a remarkable job in topping up the feeders each week, so this should keep him going for a while yet!

We are starting a period where we have pupils from local schools here on work placements and one started with us this morning.  After a period clearing some of the cut vegetation in the Scrapes, it was back to the Workshop and a chance encounter. 

Among some of the dumpy bags was this small mammal.  The picture obscures one of the easiest ways of distinguishing between mice and voles as the ears are covered.  The blunt nose and colouring suggest a Field Vole.  Meanwhile on the Mink raft on the Scrapes, droppings show that a Water Vole is a regular visitor here.

A final task and introduction was to meet Lark and Taurus.  Both showed their true Exmoor Pony spirit by keeping their distance, which gave Ian time to take this picture of a Red-tailed Bumblebee worker moving around among the White Clover.

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CES 5

Sunday, June 17th 2018

Bird ringers arrived for another 4am start.  In the distance a Tawny Owl called and then as dawn was breaking so the smaller birds started to sing, filling the reserve with quiet song and chattering. 

Wavell School visited the reserve recently and have been following our Blog.  They have seen the juvenile Robin with its speckled breast. The photograph below shows a juvenile Robin just beginning to gain its red breast, so that it will look like the Robins on Christmas cards.

Juvenile Robin.

Eight Robins, six Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 15 Goldfinches, 16 Great Tits - many of which were juveniles - were newly ringed;  Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff young as well as this Nuthatch also received rings.

Nuthatch

In total 225 birds were processed of 23 species.  The total of birds makes it one of the best CES 5 days during the whole of the time CES has run.

As always thanks to the bird ringers for all their hard work and to those other volunteers who ensured that the net rides were ready for today.

It is always interesting to wander around to see what is about.  One stop was by the Jack-by-the-Hedge to check on the Orange Tip Butterfly caterpillars.  They have really grown.

Orange Tip Butterfly Caterpillar

Over the last few years the orchids have amazed us by growing in many new places.  Plants need good conditions in which to grow, but there is always one that defies the odds.  This Common Spotted Orchid is growing amongst other vegetation on an old tree stump.

Common Spotted Orchid on tree stump.

Talking of ideal conditions for plants, the winter seed crop in its well prepared area, is coming on well.  The rain yesterday will help.

Winter seed crop

 

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Wandering, Looking and Checking

Saturday, June 16th 2018

Dog Daisies are doing really well this year.  The end of the path behind the orchard on the way to the Dog Leg net ride is full of them.

Dog Daisies

The lake side where the ducks are fed is also covered with them.

Dog Daisies

Checking the ponies, the heart rate started to rise, only one pony!

Only one pony!

Careful looking around eventually found two ponies, heart rate decreased!

Two ponies

Storm Hector has brought down more fine branches and leaves rather than any serious damage.  I thought that these Sycamore leaves, blown in from the edge of the conifer block, looked rather artistic.

Artisitc leaves?

I fed the ducks on the side of the lake.  As I approached they all decided that water was better than land.  Walking back across the lake I had reached the weir when out came the ducks to feed.  Obviously my progress had been carefully watched and when I was judged to be far enough away, it was safe to leave the water to feed.

Feeding Mallard

Glancing up the lake I spotted Mr Tufty - a male Tufted Duck.  It is a while since I had seen him.  A movement and there was Mrs Tufty with nine chicks which she called to her so that they were all line astern.  Unfortunately the light and the pond weed and a full zoom on the camera does not make a great photo but it is a record.  

Mrs Tufty and young

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Spreading Around

Friday, June 15th 2018

Over the years work has been carried out in the Scrapes as part of the management of this important habitat, and the work has continued this week.  We are reaping the benefits of this work.  Flowers that only grew in a certain area are now found throughout the Scrapes.  Ragged Robin is one of these flowers.  Not everyone's favourite as it does tend to live up to its name and look rather ragged, however the show of pink stands out against the green vegetation.

Ragged Robin

Cotton Grass has always grown in one of the main pools between the pond dipping platforms and in the wind yesterday was blowing, but not as yet releasing its seeds.  In amongst it, Greater Spearwort showing its buttercup yellow flower.  Another plant slowly spreading through the pools.

Cotton Grass and Greater Spearwort

If we are lucky, we can still see a splash of yellow into October, but it does depend on the weather.  These buttercup like flowers belong to the same family as buttercups and provide food sources for the many insects that visit the Scrapes.

Greater Spearwort and insect

Damselflies can be seen hunting for insects not only in the Scrapes but across all the ponds on the reserve and along Risedale Beck, where they enjoy the many insects and the sunshine.  Although they have so much vegetation to rest on they often choose to sit on the rails of the bridges and this is sometimes an opportunity to get close up to them.  I was amazed that this one sat still for so long.

Damselfly

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Richmond Town Hall Coffee Morning

Thursday, June 14th 2018

We had a great turn out for today's Coffee Morning at Richmond Town Hall, managing to raise over £200 for the Reserve! Thanks yet again to everyone that helped out and everybody that came to support Foxglove.

After returning to the Reserve in the afternoon there was enough time to move the ponies from the Wetland and back onto Plover's Pool.

Lark and Taurus continue to carry out an important job on the Reserve as part of our grazing regime that is geared towards meeting our conservation objectives for the various habitats of Foxglove.

Well managed low-intervention grazing schemes are able to meet the welfare needs of the livestock whilst also allowing natural processes through grazing to reinvigorate sward structure, thus improving grasslands and pond edge ecosystems for invertebrates, small mammals and birds.

Talking of reinvigorated sward structure...

Our Wild Flower Meadow is really starting to take off! Even on a blustery day like today I was able to spot four different Bumblebee species during a quick walk back to the Field Centre from seeing Lark and Taurus.

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School visits and happy helpers

Wednesday, June 13th 2018

Firstly I would like to thank all of my happy helpers today, both those helping with the school groups that enjoyed a wonderful visit to the Reserve, and all those that helped Elizabeth prepare for tomorrow's Coffee Morning at Richmond Town Hall.

We were joined today by (almost) the entirety of Leeming & Londonderry Community Primary School, from Foundation level all the way up to Key Stage 2. We had a variety of activities going on simultaneously, including Pond Dipping, a Mini-beast Hunt and Habitat Walks. 

 

Pond Dipping proved popular as ever, where the groups found yet more Great Diving Beetle larvae exuvia.

Unlike us, insects such as the Great Diving Beetle are exoskeletal, meaning that they have external skeletons. As a consequence these creatures must periodically moult their external skeleton leaving behind an exuviae.

Exuvia can be very useful to biologists as they can be used to identify species when it is not practical or possible to study a species directly. 

We were also joined by Risedale School again today who have been helping to tidy up the brash that was cut during our recent work on the Scrapes.

Almost all of the piles have now been cleared up and stored at the bullet catcher, with the remaining piles being moved by our Thursday Volunteers tomorrow.

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More Scrub bashing on the Scrapes

Tuesday, June 12th 2018

I was happy for the help today as we continued to tackle encroaching scrub on the Scrapes.

Foxglove has many shallow ponds that provide a range of habitats, unfortunately ponds such as these are also more vulnerable to encroachment by Willow, Ash, Birch and Brambles.

Overhanging branches quickly begin to shed leaves, which can cause ponds to become nutrient rich over time in a process called eutrophication. Nutrient enrichment further increasing the growth of plants and algae may lead to oxygen depletion of water bodies. 

Aside from the dangers of eutrophication the roots of nearby trees can also damage the structure of ponds, and disrupt the intricate waterways that criss-cross the Reserve. 

Aside from the work being carried out on the Scrapes we've also been lucky enough to have extra volunteers removing saplings from the Heath and cutting lawns and Net Rides in time for CES 5.

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Scrub bashing on the Scrapes

Monday, June 11th 2018

Over the weekend we were visited by the Northallerton Beavers who had a very successful day catching and releasing fauna from the ponds on the Scrapes.

The most impressive find of the day being a Great Diving Beetle larvae. 

One of our largest beetle species, the larvae of the Great Diving Beetle has impressively large jaws and is a fierce predator; catching and eating anything from other waterborne insects to tadpoles and even small fish (hence why he/she was given her own pot!).

On a similar note we recently received a number of excellent pictures drawn by pupils of Year 4 Grouse at Wavell Junior School, who visited the Reserve on the 16th and 23rd of May.

On Sunday our very own Swaledale Ringing Group were up and out ringing birds on the Reserve from 4:00am where they recorded the 3rd highest number of birds for the the fourth day of CES ever!

And now onto the work of today...

At Foxglove we have large areas of wetland scrub habitat that are home to an array of different species; from the plethora of invertebrates, to birds such as the Reed Bunting and Marsh and Willow Tit.

Although a valuable habitat in its own right, wetland scrub will encroach into and dry out ponds and other open habitats such as sedge and reed fen if left unmanaged.

Generally speaking the older the wetland scrub habitat is the greater its value to biodiversity, which is why we target the younger expanding scrub vegetation for removal.

If left unmanaged wetland scrub will continue through its natural successional stages and develop into woodland; rotational management of this valuable habitat asset has been very successful on the Reserve in the past.

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A Misty Start

Sunday, June 10th 2018

It is a great privilege to walk around the reserve at dawn, even though it means getting up much earlier.  There was no wind so the mist hung in the air and tiny water droplets coated many spider webs.

Spider web

Some were strung between plants.

Spider web

Walking with my pup beside me, I realised that she had stopped and was almost pointing.  I followed her intense stare and thought I saw some Guelder Rose flowers through the misty vegetation.  Almost at the same time thinking that was the wrong shape, size and colour.  It was the white bottom of a Roe Deer.  We stood quietly and I took some photos but there was a brown splodge through the vegetation, so walking stealthily forward I managed to see her head, even if it did have that pesky vegetation right in front of it!  She knew where we were as she looked straight at us before moving slowly away.  I wondered if her kid was somewhere in the vicinity and she was leading me away from it.

Roe Deer

As it was CES 4 we expected to have more juvenile birds through the ringing room.  Many of the Great Tits ringed in the nest boxes were processed, in all 46!  A few Blue Tits were also handled.

Juvenile Blue Tit

A juvenile Willow Warbler received its ring and then was returned to the area where it was caught.  It sat catching insects as they flew past before flying further into the undergrowth.

Willow Warbler

Juvenile Robins were the first youngsters to make it to the ringing room this year.  They continued today and a further 12 received their rings.  These birds are speckled and will not gain their red breast for a few more weeks when they look as though they have been dusted with red powder poster paint!

Juvenile Robin

There were also young of Chaffinch, Dunnock and Long-Tailed Tit. 

In all 160 birds were processed, making it the third best CES 4 ever in 26 years.  The bird ringers expertly raised the nets, carried out net rounds, processed birds and returned the nets to the net room, after ten and a half hours, well before the forecast rain, which actually never materialised.  Many thanks for all your hard work.  Thanks also to the volunteers who helped to prepare the net rides. 

The mist lifted and the afternoon was warm and sunny, bringing out many damselflies and insects.  This character was hanging on the upright of the fence on the heath, not the best background for a photo, nor was the light in the right place!  I have, at this time no idea which caterpillar it is but some research may help.  I thought it looked quite smart, although I know many will not agree with me!

Unknown caterpillar

And to add a little bit of colour to the blog, the Northern Marsh Orchids and their hybrids are in flower in several places on the reserve.

Northern Marsh Orchid

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Lots of Legs

Saturday, June 9th 2018

One of the things that I miss during the winter months is turning over leaves and logs to see what is hiding there.  Spring and summer walks often take some time as holes in leaves, funny shapes and shadows are all checked just in case an interesting 'thing' is present and ready to be photographed.  If you have an interest in 'things' that have lots of legs then the course being run by Dr Key on Wednesday 20th June, from 10am to 3.30pm is ideal for you.  More details and to book your place, go to the Events page.

We missed 'Charlotte' last year but she was spotted recently scurrying away with her egg case.  Pisaura mirabilis is the Nursery Web Spider.  She will build a dome shaped web nest for her spiderlings to keep them safe.

Pisaura mirabilis

Another spider that always fascinates me, is the Cucumber Spider, green with a red bottom.  This one was quite well camouflaged.

Cucumber Spider

Down to six legs, from eight, this green beetle sat still for a photograph.  This is the Common Malachite Beetle that feeds on pollen.    

Beetle

Cuckoo flowers have been checked regularly for Orange Tip Butterfly eggs, then caterpillars and it is amazing once you get you eye in as to how many plants actually have a small caterpillar.  These butterflies also use Jack-by the Hedge to lay their eggs.  I found one on a plant and was showing it to other volunteers.  With serious study we found six caterpillars on the single plant.  Discussion followed as to how the butterfly knows that the plant can support more than one caterpillar.

Counting caterpillars

This is the caterpillar we were finding.

Orange Tip Butterfly caterpillar

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Moths, Dates, Seeds and Sunshine

Thursday, June 7th 2018

What a mixture for the title of today's blog, but read on.

The moth trap was emptied yesterday and we recorded Poplar Hawkmoth, Flame Shoulder and a Cinnabar Moth amongst the catch.  We usually see the caterpillars of the Cinnabar Moth feeding on Ragwort.

Cinnabar moth caterpillar on Ragwort

It is amazing that these black and yellow characters change into black and red moths!

Cinnabar Moth

Occasionally the moth trap is put out on other evenings.  This morning there were not too many moths in the trap.  A White Ermine male, as it was yellow coloured, sat just as I wanted it to, to show its underside.

White Ermine male

A Lesser Swallow Prominent also obliged, showing off his beautiful markings.

Lesser Swallow Prominent

I am going to be confident and say that this is a Silver Y moth, and then await comments that I have incorrectly ID'd it.  One of the characteristics of this moth is that it rarely sits still and always, sorry that should be nearly always, has its wings fluttering.  This one sat perfectly still.

Silver Y

We always check the Field Centre as many moths are attracted by the security lights.  I was disappointed that there were none, until I spotted some large wings just within my reach.  I was so excited to find that it was an Eyed Hawkmoth.  It co-operated so I was able to take several photos of this most beautiful moth.  You can just see a tiny piece of the 'eye' under the right wing.  If the moth is threatened it moves it wings to expose the eye and so scare any predator.

This moth has been recorded only four times in over 25 years, the last date was 10th June 2009.

Eyed Hawkmoth

If you are interested in these fascinating insects then you are welcome to join in with the event 'Meet the Moths' on Saturday 4th August at 0730.  More details on the events page.

Whilst talking dates could I remind you that it is the Foxglove Coffee Morning in Richmond Town Hall on Thursday 14th June 2018.  Again more details on the events page.

Some volunteers may well remember clearing many stones from the area at the head of the Sycamore Avenue, near the moor, which was then ploughed and sown with a seed crop for birds. The seed has to be sown every year and we are just beginning to see a hint of green as this year's crop starts to germinate.

Bird seed crop area

Germinating seeds

Many visitors, some who come regularly, some new and some who return each time they holiday in this area, enjoyed the warmth as they explored the reserve.  A U3A group had a short talk and a walk around the reserve before having their lunch outside in the sunshine. 

Volunteers were hard at work, checking the camera links to the Field Centre TV and ensuring that the net rides are ready for CES.  Thank you for all your hard work.

And finally, the shade from the Hawthorn was welcomed by Lark and Taurus, although they soon moved off to browse.

Lark and Taurus

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Volunteers at Work, Chance Encounters

Tuesday, June 5th 2018

Despite the dull start to the day, we have had a total of eleven volunteers working at Foxglove today.  While some have been continuing the work on monitoring the species using the nest boxes around the reserve, the Tuesday group have been working to keep parts of the reserve clear.

Eddie has moved on to strimming the Soft Rush that is growing on the orchard near to the Field Centre.  This has to be a delicate job as there are a range of Orchids growing here as well as Bugle and Tormentil.  Others have been cutting and strimming the network of small paths used to get between the net rides and which were becoming overgrown.  Thanks to both the Johns for doing this and filling potholes in the access road.

Once Ian (the volunteer) had finished strimming here, he moved on to cut the grass at the front of the Field Centre.  Meanwhile Colin took a break from his regular rounds to fill the bird feeders to have a chat to a couple of new visitors to the reserve.  Yesterday, we had a regular group of mothers with young children who come to Foxglove every Monday, and today seems to have been a day for new visitors as all but the group from the Dales School were new to the reseve.

Having said that, the Moorhen chick that had been hiding under the dipping platform obviously was less impressed and made a careful bid for freedom by stealthily following the line of vegetation around the pond.

                    

Ian (Reserve Manager) chanced upon a couple of amphibians in the Heathland area.  While nothing was found under the metal sheet put out to provide these creatures with a place to warm up, the small water area seemed ideal for this Great Crested Newt and Common Toad.

For those who like to take a more relaxed approach to wildlife watching, there are always the camera traps.  This one in Risedale Beck often shows nothing but leaves and must be triggered by movement and changes in light.  In this case, it's caught a Roe Buck during the day.  Clearly the deer is not scared by the camera as it returned at night so close to suggest it might be posing for a selfie.

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Clearing the rat runs

Monday, June 4th 2018

Today we've been hard at work clearing back and mowing the interconnected paths that link many of our most important net rides.

This kind of work not only makes it easier for our bird ringers to carry out our part in the CES scheme, but also provides visitors with an interesting path network to enjoy. 

By clearing back encroaching vegetation we also create mini woodland rides with edge habitat that can be utilised by many species of plants and animals. 

Aside from the ongoing maintenance of our path network the team has also been continuing to monitor the on-site nest boxes on the reserve as part of the Nest Record Scheme

The results of both the NR and CES schemes are used to produce trends in breeding performance, which help us to identify species that may be declining.

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Wonderful Waders and Water Birds

Sunday, June 3rd 2018

Several waders come inland to breed each spring. This is a great opportunity for the ringing group to catch and ring the chicks before they fledge and make their way to the coast. The Army Training Estate provides perfect habitat for these beautiful summer visitors. Many are ground breeders hence the need to keep dogs under close control in upland areas. This photograph shows a very recently hatched Oystercatcher chick.

Wader nest

These birds are ringed with a large sized ring and need to be a certain age before a ring can be safely fitted.

Oystercatcher

This year appears to have been good for Curlew so far with their numbers seeming to be higher than in previous years although the data will provide evidence of this once submitted to the BTO.

Curlew

Redshank have had successful broods this year too with several chicks being ringed already.

Redshank

Other waders that are usually ringed at this time of year but have not been observed much at all include Golden Plover and Snipe. However, whilst out checking small nest boxes in remote woodlands, members of the ringing team often come across unusual finds. This Goosander was first discovered nesting in a hollow tree last year and has decided to use the same location again this year. 

Goosander

She has successfully reared six chicks in this cosy nook.

Goosander nest

Although too small to ring, the chicks were a delight to see and are an important discovery as there are only nine recorded nests of this kind in the UK.

There are many more intriguing photographs we have taken recently which we hope to share with you in due course.

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A very busy day Bird Ringing

Saturday, June 2nd 2018

Apologies for the lateness of this blog, which should have been up yesterday evening.

Yesterday was a very busy day for all involved with Foxglove and the Swaledale Ringing Group. As ever Colin was in filling bird feeders in preparation for CES 3, Jenny and Lesley were out all day checking nest boxes and ringing chicks at Hudswell Grange and Badger Beck, and Tony was working at sites across the Military Training Estate ringing all manner of interesting birds.

I started my day strimming the mini meadows by the Grand Fir, avoiding patches of wildflowers by cutting scallops in the same way that you would manage a woodland ride. 

After finishing I met up with Tony with the aim of ringing a couple of ever elusive Kestrels not far from the Reserve. We missed one due to equipment failure, but managed to sneak up on this gorgeous female in Stonecutter Woods.  It transpired that Stacey ringed this bird as an adult last year in the box at Foxglove Farm, a few hundred yards from where she is nesting today.

If you cast your mind back to Friday 18th May you will remember that she was not at home last time we called; here's to hoping that those five eggs have now hatched and that she is sitting on five healthy chicks.

Buoyed with this success I hot-footed over to Marne Barrack to meet up with Sophie and finish checking the remaining nest boxes.

Marne Barracks seems to have been very successful, especially for Great Tit; so much so that we even came across a Great Tit chick that was clearly being very well looked after alongside five Blue Tit chicks in a Blue Tit nest.

The white outer tail feathers and mardy face gave away the Great Tit chick (click here for our recent blog post on Tit chick ID). 

To cap off a very successful day of ringing we finished at an undisclosed location up in the Dales where the group ringed a Peregrine Falcon nest with a healthy brood of four chicks.

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