Blog Archive (25) Posts Made in April 2013
Tuesday, April 30th 2013
Fourteen volunteers, a work experience student from Breckenborough School and volunteers from the Youth Justice Service all turned out to help with a variety of different tasks. First on the list was finishing the dead hedges started last week.
These were finished in no time and have made this path much more inviting.
Several people then spent time enjoying the sun on the moorland weeding out the new planting in the ancient hedgeline.
Time was also spent in the back garden which was starting to become rather wild. The edge of the lawn was rediscovered and plans were made for some new wildlife friendly planting.
Thank you once again for the hard work from all of our volunteers, your efforts strimming, weeding, hedging, dam building and gardening today have really made a difference to the look of the reserve.
First Owlets of the Season
Monday, April 29th 2013
The 'silly season' is upon us and the Foxglove bird ringing team have been checking some of the several hundred nest boxes out on the military training area. If you spot a group of people carrying hammers, nets and ladders in the middle of nowhere don't panic they are not as suspicious as they may first appear! On site repairs to some of the older boxes are carried out en route hence the hammer and bucket (completely over full) of nails.
The Tawny Owls are one of the first species to lay and some of them have been using the special boxes for many consecutive years. The female sits on the eggs while the male hunts for food; she hardly leaves the box until the eggs are hatched. Most of the female adults are already ringed in which case the unique number is noted down. This provides useful information on site fidelity and longevity. One of the owls is definitely 13 years old. Occasionally, a new bird is discovered and and a new ring is carefully fitted by the licensed ringers. This is a fantastic training opportunity.
The owls are held in a special way to cause no harm to either owl or person (Tawny talons are extremely sharp)!
Once all of the relevant information has been gleaned, the owls are gently returned to their nest.
So far there have been mixed results. The owls have laid later than usual and many are still on eggs. However, in one box there were two healthy young chicks and a dead mole for food.
As well as checking the owl boxes, a start has been made on some of the smaller ones that usually hold Dippers - another early breeder. A second clutch of Dippers had not been as succesful as the first one checked only the week before. One out of the five eggs had hatched. Soon after this chick fledges the adults will have a second clutch, fingers crossed that they will have more luck next time.
Sunday, April 28th 2013
After a short introduction that ranged from Tawny Owls to weather and bees, we set off to walk along Risedale Beck to look for signs of spring. Yesterday in the warm spells the hive bees had been out collecting pollen from the willow flowers and returning with full pollen sacs. There was no pollen coming from the rather wet willow flower that the children examined.
As we walked down the hill Wood Anemones and Celandines were seen but the petals were tightly closed as there was not enough sun and warmth for them to open. Scarlet Elf Cup fungus was pointed out. Whilst searching for Hazel nuts chewed by squirrels and mice another fungus was found. It was holding water in its cup like shape.
We carefully looked at Blackthorn in bud. Not a bud was opened so we would not be able to put it on the April observations. However like the pantomime 'it is behind you', Sue found many open flowers!
Brian showed the children mayfly and caddis larvae hidden under stones in Risedale Beck. A mole hole was seen. Leaves of Bluebell and Greater Stitchwort were found and Wild Garlic leaves were smelt. Curled fern fronds were just beginning to push through the vegetation.
Our walk then took us to the Scrapes where we hoped to point out some toads at the bottom of the ponds. Not a one was to be seen. We were able to use our 'new technology' - a fly fishing rod - to point out tiny tadpoles, pond snails and sticklebacks on the bottom of the ponds. (Thanks Brian for a great idea!)
Arriving back at the Activity Room the children filled in an alphabet sheet on what they had seen today.
Thank you to everyone who helped taking photographs, finding things, answering questions, making tea and washing up.
Bees and Trees
Friday, April 26th 2013
The first few bumblebees of the year have been busy collecting pollen from the wildflowers during the sunny spells (and avoiding the hail storms)! This Common Carder Bee was photographed in a glade whilst out working in the woodland.
A combination of saturated ground and high winds has led to the loss of several trees around the reserve. This large Beech tree was cut up to provide different habitat piles for wildlife.
Lesser Redpoll can still be seen throughout the reserve. It won't be long before they head off to their breeding grounds.
Thursday, April 25th 2013
Chris, our resident Bodger has been mentoring a group from the Richmond Adult Learning Service on Thursday afternoons. He has been teaching them the basics of green woodworking; so far they have mastered spoon carving, and built a beautiful section of rustic fencing.
This has now been positioned up in the woodland, replacing an old section of hazel fencing. Thank you all for your hard work on this project - we are looking forward to seeing what will be made next.
April Flower Walk
Thursday, April 25th 2013
The intrepid 'Flower Hunters set off in the wind, drizzle and cold to record the flowers that were braving the weather in the reserve. Whilst hunting for some colour, the information Jez had given us about conifers was put to good use as we tried to identify them for ourselves. This is a Grand Fir and when touched smells of citrus - it did!
Plants are making the most of any warmth and sun to open their flowers. From being just one or two willow flowers around the reserve, now there are several yellow coloured trees breaking up the grey leafless backdrop. On closer inspection these are the male flowers that produce pollen. These flowers provide food for any early bees and butterflies on the wing.
Coltsfoot, Dandelion, Primrose, Gorse, Elm and Common Daisy were some of the flowers added to the list and then a bud of Wood Sorrel was seen. But under the strict rules of the flower walk it had to be 'in flower' and it was not. Careful searching turnrd up one single open flower so to the list it was added!
Records from the flower walk are added to the data base of species and we are able to compare one year with another. When last year's list was read out it was rather disappointing that so few flowers had been been recorded this April.
Nature is amazing and it was pleasing to see that areas that had been disturbed during the winter had a variety of green leaves poking through the bare soil. Soon this will all be covered with plants.
And finally although cold and drizzly there was still beauty to be seen.
Data from the flower walks could not be collected without our volunteers, thank you to everyone who helped.
Spring has Sprung!
Tuesday, April 23rd 2013
The last of the major winter work is now complete. The final tidying of brash was undertaken by the Tuesday team who could work without coats in the Spring sunshine (for the second time this year)!
Branches were loaded into the trailer and taken to a place where an old dead hedge was in need of some TLC.
In the same spot Brian got well and truly 'stuck in' and cleared some drainage pipes beneath the track.
The dead hedge soon took shape as the branches were woven in.
Students from the Dales School enjoyed weaving materials into the structure too.
The hedge will be a valuable habitat for nesting birds, small mammals and invertebrates.
Adam helped to compact the 'fedge' and tested out its strength!
The warmer weather has encouraged some new flowers to bloom. Many of these are starting to appear in the coppiced areas. Wild Strawberry was spotted on the Hazel bank.
Wood Anemone was also seen for the first time this year.
Finally, Elm is starting to flower. Across the reserve Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler can be heard singing. These are all welcome signs of Spring.
The latest Foxglove Covert Quiz sheets are now available for £1 each. The theme is trees and garden flowers. There is a prize for the most correct answers. In the event of more than one winner, all successful names will be put into a hat and one winner will be drawn for the prize. The closing date for entry is the Spring bank holiday - May 27th 2013. Answers will be posted on the blog on Monday 3rd June. Go on, have a go!
New Owl Box
Monday, April 22nd 2013
In the strong winds over the past few day several trees have been lost. This owl box was also found on the ground this morning.
Owl boxes are sited quite high up the trees; a rope over a branch is used to pull the box into place.
The box is then nailed into place and the bottom filled with sawdust.
Thank you to Sam who spent time making these boxes for us, and to Elizabeth for adopting this box from our Adopt a Box scheme. If you are interested in adopting one of our nestboxes please click here.
Sunday, April 21st 2013
An earlier start for the bird ringers this morning. Nets were opened to the sound of Curlew, Greylag Geese, Mallard and the newly arrived Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers. One of the nets used during the summer season is down the steep bank to Risedale Beck. The poles had to be aligned and instructions were given as to how to put up the nets without everything ending up on the ground!
Adam returned from the first net round carrying one bird bag rather carefully. Inside was a young male Sparrowhawk, the 50th to be ringed at Foxglove.
Later in the day, another Sparrowhawk was returned to the ringing room, this time an older male.
Next out of a bag was the first Willow Warbler of the year, newly arrived from its wintering grounds in Africa. A wing length of 68mm and a weight of 9.3g being just a little smaller than the 204mm and 163g of the Sparrowhawk. This Willow Warbler had been ringed at Foxglove on 15th April 2012.
It is most unusual to catch the first Willow Warbler before the first Chiffchaff of the year, the former usually arive at least two weeks before the latter. But the summer migrants have all had a difficult journey due to the weather conditions and many of them are arriving together rather than over a period of time.
A good start to the day. Many of the 60+ visitors were able to see the birds close up and listen to information about the different species.
Once the birds have been processed the information is entered into the computer and a retrapped bird's details of its first capture are shown at the bottom of the screen when the ring number is entered. Today two six year old Chaffinches were caught.. A Nuthatch first ringed In June 2009 was netted making it nearly four years old. Ringed as a juvenile in July 2004 was a Marsh Tit, making this small bird over eight years old.
And then the ring number of a Jay was entered, details checked and checked again and amazingly this bird had first been ringed as a juvenile in July 1997, making it over 16 years old, just missing the oldest known record of 16 years, 8 months and 19 days set in 1983. As all the records for this bird are stored in the data base, we checked to see how often it had been caught. In all the years between it had only visited the ringing room four times, the last time in 2004 - 9 years ago!
By the end of the day 140 birds had been processed and this included 52 Lesser Redpolls, mainly females caught for the first time, and three Lesser Redpolls that had been ringed elsewhere which we will receive information on soon from the BTO. It was an amazing day with the surprise capture of such a long-lived Jay and the recent arrival of the first summer migrants to the reserve especially rewarding.
Thanks go to everyone who helped.
Friday, April 19th 2013
The first Dipper chicks of the season were ringed out on the training area today. The chicks were about 11 days old and all 5 were in fine fettle as you can see.
Once ringed, they were returned carefully and safely to their cosy nest beneath a bridge.
Unfortunately, Adam's waders were not as waterproof as they should have been! In his own words they were 'like a colander'!
Waste Not Want Not
Thursday, April 18th 2013
Team Thursday continued with the 'big move' and with the help of Ian and Mick transferred more storage racks and goods from the old conservation store to the new one. The usefulness of some of the items was questioned by some of the team members!
However, at lunchtime Tony found a book to remind everyone that everything may come in handy one day!
Time will tell, in the meantime our thanks go to all of the people who have given up their time to make this task possible.
New Store Room
Wednesday, April 17th 2013
With the old off site conservation store due for demolition, the MOD has kindly provided a new spacious abode for this purpose. This will house vital materials and equipment for the upkeep of the nature reserve.
After 20 years of accumulating items (or hoarding)!, the move from the old building is a mammoth task. However, no job is too big for the Tuesday Team of volunteers who rallied to the call yesterday and made a huge inroad into transferring everything across. Energy was provided by a wide range of rice crispie snacks in the latest bake off!
Thank you so much to everyone involved.
Tree Walk, Toads and the First of the Summer Migrants
Monday, April 15th 2013
Volunteers joined MoD forester Jez Kalkowski for a Tree Identification Walk around Foxglove this morning. He gave us some very useful tips for identifying the many species of trees we have on site, below we see him describing the differences of the three pine species (Scots Pine, Corsican Pine and Lodgepole Pine) found on the reserve.
This walk was thoroughly enjoyed by us all and Jez has kindly offered to lead another walk later in the summer,
As the weather has warmed over the weekend, the first of the summer migrants have been returning. Chiffchaffs have been singing since Friday, a Blackcap was heard over the weekend and the first Swallow of the Spring was seen this morning swooping low over the Scrapes.
Toads are out in abundance and can be easily spotted crossing the footpaths and access track - please take extra care as you go around the reserve!
Sunday, April 14th 2013
At last the warmer weather has allowed the toads to wake from hibernation. Please take care as you drive up the access road and walk around the reserve as the toads can be found almost anywhere, as they walk back to their spawning ponds.
Over the next few days, providing the weather stays warm, you should be able to see the toads in the ponds.
Foxglove Bioblitz Weekend - 20th/21st July 2013
Friday, April 12th 2013
Foxglove Covert has a busy events calendar during the Spring and Summer this year. We have guided walks, bird and moth identification mornings, Eco Club and the Bird Song Breakfast to name but a few.
To celebrate the incredible diversity of our countryside and wildlife we are holding a Bioblitz weekend. Through a range of guided activities and surveys, our naturalists and visitors will be racing to seek out and identify as many species as possible across the reserve. In addition the Foxglove Bodgers, our resident greenwood workers, have invited artisan craftsmen from across the region to demonstrate heritage countryside skills and encourage visitors to have a go themselves.
We are in need of volunteers to ensure the weekend runs smoothly and is a success. Roles will include helping people to find their way around the site, running the refreshments stall in the Field Centre, car parking and leading or assisting with guided walks and some family events. If you are able to give up any of your time to help us at all over the weekend we would be very grateful; please get in contact with Adam or Sophie if you can spare an hour or two.
Bird Watching for Beginners
Wednesday, April 10th 2013
The second of our Easter Holiday Bird Watching events saw eight visitors spend time in the Field Centre and hides learning some handy identification tips for common garden and woodland birds. Highlights amongst the 15 species seen from the Field Centre windows were Brambling, Lesser Redpoll, Nuthatch and Siskin.
Special thanks go to Grace who donated £15 to Foxglove after saving her pocket money, this is really very generous and will be put to good use in conservation projects around the reserve.
Planting, Fedging and Spring Flowers
Tuesday, April 9th 2013
Volunteers found themselves planting the final few trees this morning. Much to their delight there were only about 50 left, and within an hour or so they were all in the ground.
A few decaying Silver Birch have been felled along the heathland edge, both to help manage the encroachment of woodland onto the heathland and to open up the area on the top of the south-facing bank which has a rich ground flora. The brash from this was used this afternoon to rebuild an old dead hedge between the heath and one of the net rides. The hard work of the volunteers on this task has really improved the look of the area.
Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage was seen in flower today. This moisture loving plant was seen on the shady banks of a stream. Interestingly the flowers of this plant lack petals, but are surrounded by their golden sepals and yellowish leaves. As each day passes more and more flowers are appearing with several Primroses also seen today, as well as the leaves of Bluebells and Lords and Ladies pushing up through the earth.
Monday, April 8th 2013
A group of local children from Colburn and Carnagill primary schools have spent the morning walking around the green route to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. So far they have raised a fantastic £500 - well done!
A Busy Day
Monday, April 8th 2013
The ringers were met with Curlew calling and Great Spotted Woodpeckers drumming as they arrived at 0730 this morning. Throughout the day the ringing room was busy with visitors. It is very important to us that we welcome visitors to the ringing room so that we can explain what we are doing and why. Young children are encouraged to watch and try to identify birds, some are very knowledgeable.
Birds are on the move with the warmer weather. Fourteen different species were ringed today and these included 11 new Lesser Redpolls and 8 Siskin. Other newly ringed birds were Brambling, who are certainly on their way north, Reed Bunting and Coal Tits. Three controls were processed, two Siskin and one Lesser Redpoll, these birds have been ringed elsewhere. Details about them will be sent back to us from the BTO.
Thank you to the bird ringers and their supporters - tea makers and cake bakers!
Chris Furphy was out and about on the reserve and photographed a species we did not catch today - Crossbills! He has very kindly sent us these photographs. Thank you Chris. These birds feed on the seeds from pine cones at the top of conifer trees. This photograph shows the female.
And this is the male and you can see the crossed beak.
A great shot of the male actually eating the seed and the wing of the seed will be dropped.
The warm weather meant that not only were there many visitors to the reserve but signs of spring were on show too. A spider was seen, insects were on the wing. There was a fleeting glimpse of a butterfly and the first 7 Spot Ladybird was recorded. Pond Skaters and Whirligig Beetles were on the water surface. Frogs were croaking in the ponds and others were still making their way there. This one was caught by Chris.
And finally Coltsfoot has made it onto the observation board!
Thank you to everyone who was involved today to make visitors feel welcome and enjoy their visit to Foxglove.
Saturday, April 6th 2013
What a difference a day makes. Cold and an icy wind from the east yesterday, today the wind has dropped, the sun is out and it is a little warmer. Frogs are making the most of this tiny warm spell and are back in the ponds croaking and spawning.
The saying goes that if the frogs lay their spawn in the shallows and at the edges of ponds it is going to be a wet summer. If they spawn in the middle and deeper parts of the pond then it is going to be a dry summer. What shall we get this year, as the frogs do not seem to be sure?
A question often asked is 'How long does it take the spawn to hatch and the tadpoles to develop?' The answer is - it depends on the temperature. Spawn was collected and taken into the tank in the Activity Room. It was laid at the same time as the spawn in the photograph above. The difference is plain to see.
Hopefully the toads will soon be making their way back to the ponds.
Friday, April 5th 2013
No sooner have the feeders been filled but the birds are quickly back emptying them. The cold weather is bringing a variety of species to the back garden of the Field Centre. The homemade fat mix is a favourite of the Blue Tits and the Long Tailed Tits.
The Coal Tits are happy to feed from feeders and on the ground.
Putting out a selection of food draws in more species. The nyger seed attracts small finches such as Siskin and Lesser Redpoll. Goldfinches love this too and small ready filled feeders are now available to buy from the Field Centre for only £3.
Many visitors have reported seeing Reed Bunting in their back gardens. These are found mainly dining on the tubular seed feeders.
Peanuts are favoured by the Great Spotted Woodpecker and occasionally a Nuthatch will visit too.
Nearly all of the birds photographed here have BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) rings on them. If you find a dead bird with a ring on please report it on the BTO website.
Finally, the winner of the Easter competition is Viv Winter. Only two people managed to get all 40 answers correct. Viv Winter and P Illingworth. These names were put into a hat and Viv is the lucky winner. Tony & Lilian Cooper and Brian Hird all came a close second with 39/40 and Suzanne Welch, Chris Carruthers and Jo & Sue Poynton all came third with 38/40. Pat and Glennis already have another quiz in the pipeline for later in the year. So far these quizzes have made over £160 for the reserve. Thank you to everyone who has taken part.
Winners, Whittlers and Wildlife
Thursday, April 4th 2013
Congratulations go to Viv Winter and P. Illingworth who both got 100% in the Grand Easter Cryptic Word Quiz! These two names will be put into a hat to decide the winner of the £10 prize. The winner will be announced tomorrow on the blog. Here are the correct answers:
18.Mother of Pearl
21.Elephant Hawk Moth
26.Death’s Head Hawk Moth
Many thanks to Pat and Glennis for putting the questions together and generating more valuable funds for the reserve. Congratulations also go to Jean Gabriel who is the winner of this quarter's 100 club draw.
The Thursday Bodgers were busy in the cabin carving wooden spoons from Chestnut and Ash.
Birds are starting to pair up ready for the breeding season and across the reserve there are now several pairs of Greylag Geese. This couple was seen from the wetland hide.
This individual seemed to be guarding a nest. Some ground nesting birds are beginning to lay eggs even in the cold conditions and dogs must be kept on leads at all times to prevent disturbance to these and the female Roe Deer which will be having their young in May.
In the distance, a Heron was sighted flying in from the adjacent training area and settling on the wet meadow.
There aren't many flowers on the observation board yet for this month. Larch flowers, Hazel catkins, Daisy, Gorse and Primrose are the only names so far. Coltsfoot is trying to make it onto the list but isn't quite there yet (according to the Foxglove Flower Fairies who carry out the monthly survey)!
‘Ne’er cast a clout till May be out’
Wednesday, April 3rd 2013
Birdwatching for Beginners was a successful event with the children spotting 21 species during the morning session. They learnt how to identify many different birds from Siskin and Goldfinch to Great Spotted Woodpecker. 18 of these species were seen from the warmth of the classroom. The donated telescope was perfect to see the birds up close.
Outside, treeplanting continued. The end is now in sight after many weeks of hard work in cold weather conditions.
Some very hardy visitors tested out the new stone seating for a picnic. The sun shone for a brief time during their lunch! 'Ne'er cast a clout till May be out' is an English proverb that maybe should be abided by!
Finally, Elizabeth took this lovely photo of Roe Deer in the clear fell area. They seem to be glad that the snow is thawing reavealing the vegetation once more.
Tree Huggers and Reed Pluggers
Tuesday, April 2nd 2013
With a break in the weather, fourteen volunteers spent a very busy day here planting 22 fruit trees to make two small orchards, and 1300 reeds to act as a wind break on the wetland.
A mixture of Apple, Plum, Cherry, Damson and Green Gage have been planted to provide a valuable food source for birds in the future. The trees were planted on mounds to aid drainage as this is a reasonably wet site.
The first step in planting these trees was removing roots from the mound and digging the hole for the tree to sit in. This needed to be wide and shallow to encourage the roots to spread out.
Once the hole was prepared the tree was chosen and placed in it.
A mixture of soil, compost and ash was then used to fill the holes, making sure the tree was not too deep or shallow so the root collar was just at ground level. The soil was then firmed around the base of the tree.
A small stake was then used to support the tree low down.
As there are several deer on site we need to use metal deer guards to protect the trees until they are established. Two stakes were driven into the ground at an angle close to the base of the tree.
The guard is then secured around these keeping the tree safe from grazing deer.
By midday all 22 of the fruit trees had been carefully planted in the two small orchard areas, however, that was not the only job for today!
Phragmites reeds have been bought with the aim of establishing a small reed bed along the wetland edge. It is hoped in time this will provide shelter and nesting areas for some of the wading birds found here. With the snow now (mostly) gone we could finally get these out of the workshop and into the ground - a good thing as several of the shoots had begun to sprout.
The team worked hard and within no time all 1300 had been planted!
Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard today to achieve all of this, it really is remarkable what you can get done with a good band of volunteers!
Monday, April 1st 2013
Yesterday the bird ringers were ringing at another site and were thrilled to catch some Yellowhammers. One was seen at Foxglove about two weeks ago, a very rare visitor to the reserve. These birds prefer open fields.
They also processed over 20 Reed Buntings.
Ringing took place again today at Foxglove and the ice was crunching underfoot as the nets were raised. Net rounds were carried out regularly and birds were returned to the ringing room. It soon became clear that we were in for a busy time!
63 Chaffinches were caught of which 40 had not been ringed before. These birds are frequently seen in the back garden and flying through the trees around the reserve.
A rarer visitor was this Nuthatch. They can sometimes be seen collecting food from the back garden feeders and flying off with it, to hide for later use.
10 new Robins and 13 Blackbirds were ringed. NO new Great Tits! 16 Brambling including a control, a bird that has been ringed elsewhere, were handled. Unusually only three new Lesser Redpolls were caught. A surprise was a Common (Mealy) Redpoll. There were more Bullfinches processed today than there has been recently. The final total for the day was 233 birds.
Although the sun shone and there was blue sky overhead it remained cold. However Brian found this larch flower, so it has just made it onto the March observation board - a hint of spring?
Thank you to everyone who helped today, ringing, walking miles on net rounds, checking birds, making tea, baking delicious cakes! and of course not forgetting the counting of the bird bags and tidying up at the end of the day.