Blog Archive (26) Posts Made in July 2012
Tuesday, July 31st 2012
Eighteen volunteers turned up to help out on the reserve today. With so many people in we decided to attack the thistles on the wetland before they set seed.
Thistles do provide a valuable source of food for insects and some birds, though if left unchecked they would spread and become a problem in this habitat.
Work progressed quickly and soon the area was looking much better. Only a small number of the thistles were showing signs of seeding so hopefully we should see the benefit of this work next summer.
Several trailer loads were remove from the wetland, and the area is now looking much better. More work is planned here over the coming months, aiming to reduce the coarse grass and rush sward height.
Thank you to everyone who helped out with this task. Volunteers also carried out the monthly flower walk and found over 100 plant species in flower, including three St John's Wort species - Square Stemmed, Slender, and Perforate, as well as Red Bartsia, and Enchanter's Nightshade.
A Bug’s Life
Monday, July 30th 2012
The temperature quickly climbed today from a cool start first thing to being warm in the sun. Insects were fast to take advantage of this and many could be seen basking in the warmth of the sun on paths, boardwalks and any spot the light reached.
Through the scrapes Common Darters could be seen in abundance. This example is a mature female; immature females show a much brighter yellow abdomen, with fewer black markings.
This Common Green Grasshopper was seen on the boardwalk close to the outdoor classroom. It is the earliest grasshopper to appear in the spring, hatching in April and moulting into adult form in June. Males can be seen displaying to females by rubbing their legs against their wings to create a song, a long, loud, 'churring' noise. After mating, the eggs are laid in the soil ready to hatch the following spring.
Monday, July 30th 2012
As the bird ringers arrived this morning, for a 0430 start, they were greeted by the very loud call of a Tawny Owl. Birds processed today included juvenile Robins, Chaffinches, Nuthatches and Blackbirds. Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs were also caught. These birds weigh less than 10 grams, and are beginning to prepare for their flight back to Africa.
Thank you to everyone who helped today.
Although there is plenty of vegetation for the insects, they do appreciate the sunny spots on the paths around the reserve. Look carefully on the path for darter dragonflies sunbathing. They are surprisingly well camouflaged!
Rural Crafts Day
Saturday, July 28th 2012
Over 250 people visited the reserve today to enjoy the sunshine and see some rural crafts in action! Crafts people from the Clervaux Trust teamed up with local craft experts and gave numerous demonstrations throughout the day. From green woodwork…
to felt making….
and everything in between! Visitors (and staff and volunteers) were encouraged to try their hand at a new skill.
Pottery was extremely popular and some children spent hours creating masterpieces!
Pond-dipping, sweep netting and guided walks were carried out at various times and were thoroughly enjoyed by the participants.
Crafts in the classroom included knitting, spinning, embroidery and kite making.
Spinning is not as easy as it looks as many of us discovered!
The Beacon Bakery from Catterick Garrison sold homemade bread from their Artisan bakery.
The blacksmith showed off his skills too.
All in all, a great fun day out. Thank you to all of the crafts people and to the volunteers who have put in hours of time to prepare the event and ensure that it ran smoothly.
Finally, congratulations go to Beth, who won the raffle and will be joining the Reserve Managers for a day 'behind the scenes' during the school holidays!
Rural Crafts this Saturday
Thursday, July 26th 2012
Preparations began this morning for the Rural Crafts Day on Saturday. Some of the exhibitors came along to plan their stalls and demonstrations. The Rural Crafts Day celebrates the diversity and skills of traditional countryside crafts; demonstrations and activities will be running throughout the day from 10am - 3pm. Stalls will include, an Artisan Blacksmith, Pottery, Pole Lathe Turning, and the Beacon Bakery, amongst many others. All of these will be based around the Field Centre so pop along to have a look around!
David came to help out with some jobs around the reserve, spending much of the day repairing wire on boardwalks and cutting back overgrown vegetation on the paths. These are all looking really smart now and are much easier to walk along without getting wet!
Moths, Moorland and Fundraising
Wednesday, July 25th 2012
The warm nights we have experienced over the last few days provide ideal conditions for moths. The moth trap was set as usual last night; this morning it was full, with well over 150 moths across more than 30 species identified.
Among the more impressive moths caught were two Garden Tigers, which are unmistakable. The dark brown spots and blotches are so highly variable that no two moths are exactly alike. If disturbed it displays its orange hind-wings with vivid blue-black spots.
This rather striking Blood Vein was also found, and is the first example we have seen this year. The damp herb-rich habitat at Foxglove provides ideal conditions for this species.
Out on the moorland Team Tony began repairing the worn and kicked up wire at the end of all the bridges. They have made a really smart job of this - Thank you! The Belted Galloways and sheep are beginning to make an impact on some areas of the moorland, helping us to control the growth of coarse grasses.
The money raised at Tesco on Saturday has been counted up with a total of £246.01 raised. This represents a fantastic effort from all those who gave up their time to help; thank you to everyone involved, your help is much appreciated by everyone here at Foxglove.
Tuesday, July 24th 2012
The Tuesday volunteers spent the day up around the outdoor classroom, strimming and clearing bracken. The warm wet weather we have had this summer has created conditions ideal for brackens and other ferns.
The area by the classroom was thick with tall tough bracken stems, creating a dense shade and smothering other plants. The cut stems were removed from the area to allow light to penetrate through to the ground and encourage growth of grasses and flowers.
These ringlet butterflies were seen mating on a grass stem as we worked. The small circles on the underwings, which give the butterfly its name, vary in number and size and may be enlarged and elongated or reduced to small white spots; occasionally they lack the black ring.
To compliment the monthly flower walks, Ann and Elizabeth spent some time this morning looking at other plants found on the reserve. With the help of a hand lens and some of the books several grasses and sedges were identified.
Thank you to everyone who has given up their time today to help out with the various tasks around the reserve.
Every Little Helps!
Sunday, July 22nd 2012
A fundraising day was held at Tesco (Catterick Garrison) in order to raise awareness and some much needed funds for Foxglove yesterday. Several volunteers gave up an hour or two and helped to spread the word about the quality of the reserve and to let people know that it is only a four minute drive from the store!
All in all the day was a success and as well as raising money some new volunteers were recruited and new visitors were encouraged to discover the site. Many first time visitors were noted today as a result. Thank you so much to everyone who helped out and to Elizabeth, Ann and Brian for running guided walks and looking after the Field Centre at the same time.
A Dry SunnyDay!!!
Sunday, July 22nd 2012
Sun hats and sun cream were the order of the day, making a change from overtrousers and wellies, as the Wildflower Walk and Yoredale Naturalists set out on different walks around the reserve. Seventy two flowers were recorded including Self Heal, shown below.
Orchids were seen still blossoming in a variety of colours.
St John's Wort, growing on the heath, was examined using a hand lens to see the coloured 'dots' on the sepals and petals. These can be used as a diagnostic feature of the many St John's Worts.
Yoredale Naturalists recording included Kidney Spot Ladybirds, Ringlet Butterflies, shield bugs along with grasses and flowers.
Thank you to Ann and Brian who helped with these walks and made them enjoyable and interesting.
Another huge thank you to the volunteers who were at Tescos today, raising funds for Foxglove Covert.
Rooting and Pooting!
Thursday, July 19th 2012
Dr. Roger Key spent the day at Foxglove leading a workshop for staff and volunteers on insect identification.
The first hour or so was spent out around the centre and heathland with sweep nets and pooters.
There was a large variety of insects, spiders and other invertebrates to be found in these habitats. Froghoppers, flies, spiders and micro-moths were the most numerous to be found, though there were no shortages of individuals from other orders.
Like many other animals, insects have suffered in the prolonged period of bad weather this summer.
Once the collecting pots had been filled it was back to the classroom where the next few hours were spent analysing our finds, trying to key them out and match them to pictures.
The majority of the day was spent peering down microscopes, and it was not possible to identify every specimen to species level due to the sheer number of invertebrate species, and the subtle differences between them.
Thank you Roger for giving up your valuable time to run this enjoyable day for us! We are sure the information will help us all when we are out leading guided walks.
Yarm School Holiday Club
Wednesday, July 18th 2012
Children from Yarm holiday club visited the reserve today as part of an action packed summer programme. The group did pond dipping, sweep netting and enjoyed playing in the dams. On a walk they learnt about habitat management and about the wildlife that lives at Foxglove.
At the end of the day, echo location was the theme and the youngsters played 'Bat and Moth'!
Work continued on strimming the paths and net rides and Colin and Bethany tidied up the Field Centre gardens too!
The Tuesday Gang
Tuesday, July 17th 2012
With around 50 net rides to maintain for bird ringing, volunteer help is much valued. The Tuesday Team were out in force today strimming, pruning, mowing and re-siting bird feeders. Thank you everyone for your hard work! This will be greatly appreciated on Sunday when the bird ringers are using the net rides.
Satellite Tracking at Bempton
Tuesday, July 17th 2012
As part of the Government's research into windfarms in the Wash some of the Foxglove ringers were involved at Bempton Reserve today in the satellite tagging of the Gannets.
Gannets are perhaps the only seabird currently increasing in numbers.
The trackers cost £1500 each and this year for the first time we were able to fulfill the quota. Instructors from the Joint Services Mountain Training Wing abseiled down the limestone cliffs in order to capture the adult birds that had satellite tracking devices fitted to their tails before being released back to sea. The hundreds of chicks were in good health as you can see here.
Moth Morning at Marne
Sunday, July 15th 2012
Approximately 100 species of moth were recorded by Charlie Fletcher at Marne Barracks on Saturday. This was a good number considering the relatively low temperature for the time of year. A record number of people turned out to help with setting up the mercury vapour traps on the training area between the barracks and the River Swale close to the A1 at Catterick. The traps were put out on Friday evening and then the identification began at 6.30am.
The moths are found inside the traps hiding amongst the empty egg boxes.
In total seven traps were emptied and Charlie rattled off the names of the contents.
Many of the moths are masters of camouflage such as this Buff Arches that resembles a piece of flint.
Buff Tip looks just like a twig!
Several Poplar Hawk Moths were discovered.
This stunning Elephant Hawk Moth also made an appearance.
Charlie explained that The Drinker moth (below) gets its name from the caterpillars habit of drinking large droplets of rainwater or dew from the grass stems on which they feed.
The shiny metallic brassy greenish yellow pattern on the wings of the Burnished Brass are unmistakable.
Another distinctive moth, the Yellow Shell, is often disturbed and seen during the day.
There were plenty of dull coloured moths too (wee brown jobs difficult to seperate!) including the Dingy Shears shown here!
The wide variety of species shows how special Marne is as an important habitat. The whole site is currently dotted with orchids amongst many other wildflowers. This just goes to show how well army training and conservation can go hand in hand.
This event has been a great success yet again. Thanks to Charlie and Jill for their expertise and to everyone for their support. Special thanks go to Raye who kindly volunteered to close the traps at the ungodly hour of 5.00am and gathered in all of the electrical equipment, what a star! Thanks also to Whitfield for some top macro photography tips!
Friday, July 13th 2012
The Belted Galloways returned to the moorland here at Foxglove yesterday. This hardy breed is one of the oldest in the UK; originating from wet, reedy country it is perfectly suited to the conditions on the moorland and wetland.
Cattle are ideal for removing long, coarse grass growth, which seems to have swamped the moor in the last few weeks, and will also help us manage braken and rushes throughout this area by trampling these invasive species.
Please ensure if walking through the moorland that you close all the gates behind you.
Very Special Habitat
Thursday, July 12th 2012
The wetland was surveyed today by Martin Hammond, a freshwater biologist working on behalf of the County Council. He was 'spellbound' by the results! This habitat that was improved only four years ago has developed into an extremely special place for some remarkable and in some cases rare species.
The sunny spells encouraged Azure, Blue-tailed, Emerald and Large Red Damselflies to show themselves off and the pond edges were teaming with them. Ringlet Butterflies and Common Blue were also on the wing.
Several Reed Bunting were roosting in some of the larger reeds too.
Martin explained that the ponds contain many species that are indicators of good water quality such as stoneworts and mosses and will no doubt be of regional importance.
Many of the bunds are lifting with wildflowers such as these orchids.
Marsh Cinquefoil is beginning to flower.
This plant has spread significantly over recent years.
Other flowers in this area include Eyebright, Fairyflax, Marsh Stitchwort, Cotton Grass and Zigzag Clover.
The eco mowers are back!
Wednesday, July 11th 2012
In order to help manage the moorland several sheep arrived and began at once to feast upon the lush grass!
The photographs show just how long some of the grasses are.
They have just been sheared and are on loan for a few weeks. If you visit the moorland please make sure that you close all gates behind you including the bridge gates as the cattle will be arriving tomorrow and are too heavy to cross them!
The Kingfishers have been seen regularly on the lake and can quite often be spotted on the perches.
On Saturday 21st July there will be a fundraising day at TESCO (Catterick store). Please get in touch if you are able to lend a hand even for half an hour to help raise awareness and much needed funds for Foxglove.
Tuesday, July 10th 2012
The moorland is looking spectacular now with flowers and grasses all at their best. The vegetation is high and in the next few days some Belted Galloway cows and several young sheep will be arriving to graze off the tall grasses.
The bracken has grown back in some areas but the work in previous years seems to be reducing the extent of this invasive species. Volunteers worked hard all day (in the rain) to knock it back again by cutting off the tops of the plants.
Most of the work was focused on the Bluebell bank and should improve the show of the woodland flowers here next spring.
Special care was taken to avoid damaging the Foxgloves!
On the heathland, the 'Nature and Natterers' group were hard at work weeding out other invasive species such as Birch, Willow and Hawthorn. On checking the reptile refuge the group members discovered a Great Crested Newt.
By the end of the session an area had been completely cleared.
Pupils from the Dales School raked cut grass from the moorland path and volunteers from the Youth Justice Service repaired rain damaged paths too. Thank you to everyone for your help today. Finally, Bethany took this photo of a young frog who seemed to be enjoying the wet weather!
Operation Auk 2012
Monday, July 9th 2012
Last week saw the 20th 'Operation Auk', the annual bird ringers' expedition to the seabird colonies at Cape Wrath, on the north west coast of Scotland.
The journey up was eventful, with a stay at Balmacara House, and a day spent out on Loch Torridon, visiting the many islands with nesting birds. The cheese scones provided by Sally (thank you!) were delicious.
The views from these islands were spectacular but only a taste of what was to come as we headed further north.
Common and Arctic Terns, Herons and Shags were among the birds ringed on these islands. Above you can see Roger, Ian and Rosie at one of the Cormorant nests we found in the Inverbain colony..
As we headed back to the shore some of us were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of an otter.
The highlight of the second day was undoubtedly finding this Corncrake chick in the thick vegetation as we were looking for Common and Herring Gulls.
The 10ft swell meant the sea was very rough at the start of the week, preventing the Marines from landing us on several of the areas we had planned to visit. We still managed to visit the odd stack and and a beach or two where we were able to ring Fulmar and Black Guillemot, and where we saw this Ringed Plover.
While we were waiting for the sea to calm we were able to visit a Kittiwake colony on the cliffs just below Faraid Head where we were staying.
Guillemots, Kittiwakes, Puffins and Shags were all seen around the cliffs here, while a group of Gannets were spotted out to sea diving into the water to fish.
The swell finally subsided and we were able to get out on several of the islands in Loch Eribol. Great Black-backed Gulls, Shags, Fulmars and terns were all ringed here. On Eilean Hoan six adult Bonxies were spotted circling; after some searching the nest was found.
The seas were calmest on the final day and we were able to land on the boulder field at the base of Clo Mor cliffs, the highest cliffs on the UK mainland.
Guillemots, Razorbills and Puffins were found here in large numbers, Rosie, Robert and John can be seen ringing some of the chicks on the higher slopes.
Bridled Guillemots, with a white line encircling the eye and continuing down towards the nape are not regarded as a seperate sub-species of Guillemot.
This was a fantastic and exciting week visiting the islands, stacks and boulder field where the seabird colonies are found. Thank you to all who helped and supported us during the week.
An Almost Dry CES 7
Monday, July 9th 2012
A dry day seemed highly unlikely after all the weather forecasts were scrutinised, but we were lucky to complete all of CES 7 with only one short shower early in the morning. Tony read an email from the BTO thanking everyone involved in CES for all their hard work and commitment.
No Garden Warblers were caught today and only eight on the last CES. Discussions lead to the opinion that they had started their journey south to Africa after failed breeding attempts. Juvenile Willow Warblers and Chiffchaff were ringed along with Robins and Wrens. Taken to the same CES date last year Chiffchaff numbers are 10% up and Willow Warblers ca 40% down. The total of birds ringed on the reserve by this date last year was 2136; this year it is 1177, the substantial reduction being due almost certainly to weather-associated factors.
It was a surprise when this young male Redstart was caught and on the same net round a young Nuthatch was also found.
In all 154 birds were processed. Thanks to everyone who helped today and also to those volunteers who spent damp days strimming and mowing the net rides in preparation - for which the ringers were extremely grateful.
Another Wet Day
Saturday, July 7th 2012
Yesterday's strength of flow from the streams was noticeable as it began to flow under the bridge. Today after all the rain it was much more obvious.
Every stream running acrosss the moor was full. Even the small ditches were full!
Given the conditions it was amazing to see so many micro moths flying, even if it was just from one sheltered place to another. On the wetland the damselflies were hiding deep in the vegetation. This one appeared to be very co-operative but it was difficult to get him in focus. It was only when the photograph was downloaded that the reason became clear - he had a large rain drop on his face.
We are photographing Foxgloves so we have a collection to use for display. It was suggested that a shot taken of the flowers against the sky would be good. Here it is.
Would it be better with blue sky?
News and Water Again!
Friday, July 6th 2012
Just after 9pm last night, another email, with photograph arrived from Cape Wrath. 'Things are very late here. This is an Arctic Skua nest found today - but little has hatched yet, as you can see! We saw several pairs on the Cape side earlier.'
The team are heading for home tomorrow, we wish them a safe journey.
Hurworth School came for their third visit this week and we managed to finish the first activity, when the rain came down and we returned to the classroom. Refreshments were taken in the hope that the rain would ease but it did not, so a short talk was given and a game played.
Meanwhile outside the lawn and road were flooding!!
Water is amazing at eroding the soil and stones over which it flows. The large stone seen at the exit from the right hand stream used to be embedded in the 'hole' that can be seen behind and slightly to its right.
Volunteers have rebuilt the dams in Risedale Beck more than once. It looked today as though this one was survivng the raging water, at least for the time being.
Thursday, July 5th 2012
An email from the Noth this morning with this great news. 'This is the first Great Skua nest found up here. One egg.'
The birds yesterday with Sophie and Adam were Great Black-backed Gulls.
Mike and Tony were busy at Foxglove today, checking mink rafts and finding prints of Otter and Water Vole, planting some trees in the hedgline to replace some that had died and yet more strimming of netrides and paths! The plentiful supply of water is encouraging everything to grow well!
Hurworth School visited again and enjoyed seeing a large leech, a diving beetle larva feeding on a stickleback and finding out about different habitats, large and small.
Moths are still flying but their numbers are reduced. However it is noticeable that we have recently caught some moths not seen in the trap for some time. This morning there was a green moth, which was at first glance identified as a Small Emerald and then we looked again - it wasn't. On closer inspection it proved to be Grass Emerald.
A Poplar Hawkmoth was very co-operative and sat on the leaves to be photographed. In this close up of his head you can see how 'furry' he is on his head and legs.
A Birthday, Some Photos and Volunteers
Wednesday, July 4th 2012
An email (think it was sent yesterday but only arrived this morning) from Adam at Cape Wrath, with photos! ' Been amazing up here but the swell and wind are holding us back from getting onto some of the stacks and islands. Still been able to get quite a bit done though, Sand Martins last night, Kittiwake colony this afternoon plus Black Guillemots, gulls, Red Breasted Merganser and we even saw a Corn Crake chick!'
His first photograph shows a Guillemot.
His second shows the Scottish Primrose, Primula scotica, quite a rare flower now.
And finally Happy Birthday to John.
Later in the afternoon Tony sent a photo of Sophie and Adam holding gull chicks that had just been rung. (If I have the species wrong there will be a correction tomorrow!)
A busy day at Foxglove commenced with the arrival of volunteers. Ken and Eddie strimmed many net rides in preparation for CES 7 on Sunday, (weather permitting!!) they looked really beautiful when they had finished! Other volunteers headed to the moor to remove thistles and an excellent job they did too. However they do not wish to see another thistle for a long, long time! Other volunteers removed weeds and grasses from under the seats placed around the red route and the butterfly transect was carried out. Hurworth School came for a visit and with help from more volunteers, were led on a minibeast walk, a habitat walk and they pond dipped.
In the afternoon it was identification time - Male and Lady fern and Common and Water Figwort and just to add to the mix yet another speedwell. Some progress was made but it is back to the reference books tomorrow! Invertebrate life was the task for Brian, John and Richard. John was really pleased with this photo of a Small Skipper and fly on a thistle - one that had not been pulled up!
Brain caught this Cucumber Spider in its web.
By the end of the afternoon the observation board was filling up and one good record was a toad, having recently left a pond.
Volunteer work is always varied and they turn their hand to whatever is asked of them - many many thanks for all your hard work today.
Tuesday, July 3rd 2012
A photograph arrived from the North this morning. The words accompanying it said it all - cold and windy! It looks wet too! Let us hope the weather improves for them - they could have sunshine about 1600 tomorrow!!
Foxglove was less cold and less windy but rather damp. It is getting difficult to take photographs of dry flowers and dry insects. Slugs galore could decorate the blog, all colours and sizes too. The snails are also doing well and this one was found in a nettle patch and you are not mistaken - it does have hairs on its shell. We think it is Trichia hispida, the Hairy Snail. This was last recorded on the reserve in May 2001.
Foxgloves are in full flower now and are doing well despite of or because of all the rain and splashes of dark pink can be seen in the undergrowth around the reserve.
In close up the 'bells' of the Foxglove are hairy. The pattern on the petal acts as a honey guide for bees to direct them to the nectar.
News from the North and Eco Club
Sunday, July 1st 2012
This morning a text arrived from Sophie at Cape Wrath. 'We all arrived safe last night. Good day at Torridon, ringed Arctic Tern, Herring Gulls and Cormorants. Saw dolphins, a whale and an otter too.' The breeding success of the seabirds has been variable over the last few years, hopefully this year, the adult birds will have found plenty of the correct food for their chicks.
At Foxglove the children arrived for Eco Club to look at flowers. Invertebrates love plants, for food and shelter so this was a good excuse to go sweep netting and bug hunting to see what we could find. Our first stop was the moor. Everyone joined in and soon flies of various sizes, shapes and colours were caught, along with Timothy bugs, a spider and two young, tiny grasshoppers.
As we walked over the moor we identified a variety of flowers. The children were shown how the sawfly larvae react to danger, although they no longer appeared to produce their tiny droplet of saliva, which we presume tastes nasty to predators! On to the Gorse to hunt for more bugs.
After a search a shieldbug was spotted!
Along Risedale Beck the Stinging Nettle patch revealed more invertebrates hidden amongst the leaves. We also saw Speckled Wood Butterflies dancing in the sunshine. Stinging Nettles, grasses, Raspberry and Hawthorn growing up the side of a net ride from Risedale Beck always proves to be a good place for invertebrates, as it catches the sun. Very quickly Cercopis vulnerata was spotted and although some jumped huge distances when approached, some were very co-operative and sat quietly on a finger ...
... and an arm.
Back at the centre there were refreshments and activity sheets as well as looking for and finding the queen bee and watching the 'waggle dance'. Out on our walk we had spotted a bee from the hive searching for pollen. Using the pollen chart to match the colour of pollen, we think that the bees were feeding from Buttecups.
Thank you to everyone who helped to make this morning another good outing.