Blog Archive (24) Posts Made in February 2016
Monday, February 29th 2016
Foxglove was busy at the weekend not only with the bird ringing, on Saturday we held interviews for the Reserve Manager post. A candidate has been selected - Roger Foreman, who has been able to start work immediately, commencing his employment today. We welcome Roger to the Foxglove fold.
Roger joins us from Dorset, where he worked for the County Council as a Ranger and has in previous years been a volunteer at Foxglove. He has a wide range of practical skills and natural history knowledge, being particularly interested in Moths and has just started bird ringing.
A Ringing Day
Sunday, February 28th 2016
Firstly a continuation from yesterday's blog about 'My Patch'. Walking along Risedale Beck, a photo was needed of the Blackthorn flower buds, just waiting to burst. This group of trees is always the first to open their petals. Sure enough one single flower was open.
Weather was perfect for ringing today, no rain and none forecast, a gentle breeze and sun. It was not long before an adult male Sparrowhawk was returned to the ringing room. It was given the age code 8, which means that it was hatched three or more years ago, but the exact date was unknown. When the data was entered into the computer, the date the bird was ringed was shown, 21st April 2013, when the bird was age code 5, so it was hatched during 2012.
Other older birds recorded included a Great Spotted Woodpecker that was ringed as a juvenile in November 2010, a Chaffinch ringed in June 2011 and a Coal Tit ringed in 2009. A Lesser Redpoll was caught that had been ringed elsewhere. We will get details of its ringing site from the BTO.
When the sun came out some of the bees left their hive to stretch their wings, but they did not fly far from the entrance.
Over the last few days sightings have been recorded on the observation board of a well fed Stoat, Roe Deer and Barn Owl. Greylag Geese have been heard as has the drumming of the Great Spotted Woodpeckers.
Many visitors walked around the reserve, enjoying the sunshine. Thank you to everyone who made visitors welcome, especially in the ringing room.
Saturday, February 27th 2016
Foxglove Covert is special and is 'My Patch' to many visitors and volunteers. The winter has been wet but mild although this cold spell is making its presence felt and we are not used to it! But no matter what the weather people take ownership of their patch and can watch the end of winter approaching.
On Wednesday, the Flower Walk volunteers were not blown about, drowned by rain or frozen by snow. The sun was actually warm. Looking carefully in places where early spring, well late winter, flowers appear, we found a single female Hazel flower. We were really chuffed! A visitor returned to the Field Centere and said they had found several on a tree near the wetland gate, an improvement on our one flower. Whilst looking and being excited by this single flower, we marvelled that it would soon disappear and then nothing until the small developing Hazel nuts can be seen in mid summer.
Whilst the sun was warm, one or two bees ventured out for a short filght. The ice did not melt but the 3 Spined Sticklebacks were beginning to move and made it onto the observation board for the first time this year. This brilliant photograph, through the ice, shows a little brown splodge, honestly it was a fish! There were none to be seen today!
Knowing Foxglove and watching it change as the seasons progress, it is interesting to make comparisons from one year to another. Last winter the Holly tree near the lake was covered in red berries and made a splash of colour. Within a couple of weeks there was not a single berry to be seen. Blackbirds and thrushes had had a feast. The mild winter has meant that there has been plenty of food for the birds and so there are still some berries on this Holly.
There is one small willow that grows in the Scrapes and it usually bursts its buds before any others and sure enough it has done so.
From now on, keeping a watching brief on 'My Patch' signs of spring will be obvious. Primroses are in flower, Gorse is glowing yellow and now we await the return of Common Frogs to their spawning ponds.
Thursday, February 25th 2016
Today our small technical team amongst other jobs have been building a new Mink raft, after one was deemed beyond repair. We have several mink rafts set out across the site, they house a dish filled with clay. Should any of these predators enter those waterbodies and board the raft they would leave evidence in the form of footprints. Thankfully, the only tracks that have been recorded on them have been those of our resident population of water voles and long may that continue.
Other tasks included repairing the boot cleaners, now bristling with pride outside the verandah,…… so um….. no excuses now for leaving muddy footprints in the Field Centre…..
The water levels on the wetlands are not quite right at the moment, working out how to address this is tricky, as it's a complicated system. We checked the water levels this afternoon and a board was put in place to retain water where there was previously an outlet. We will monitor the situation closely over the next week or so in order to find a solution.
Thank you Team Thursday for all your hard work today, it's much appreciated.
Wednesday, February 24th 2016
Another frosty start that led to glorious sunshine, making being outdoors a real pleasure, the sky was blue and there was plenty of birdsong. A few of the volunteers went on our monthly Flower walk this morning, as expected at this time of year the list was not extensive, but at last Primroses have made an appearance, albeit in small numbers for the moment, but as they say.. ‘watch this space’!
The dam of the bottom cascading pool that was mended yesterday was checked this morning, all is well and ‘normal service has resumed’. Icicles were even spotted in a shady crevice to the side of the ‘waterfall’.
Rock ‘n’ Roll
Tuesday, February 23rd 2016
A beautiful, clear and sunny day greeted the volunteers this morning. There was just a slight breeze out on the wetland as we raked up the grass and rushes that Ken and Eddie have been cutting over the past few weeks, they finished the last section off this morning whilst the volunteers raked around them.
There was more digger action at Foxglove this afternoon too, a few days ago one of the dams on the bottom cascading pool had burst and the water level had dropped dramatically. Luckily, Biker contractors came to the rescue and lifted the large boulders and rocks back into place and sealed it with clay and soil. In the hour or so we were down there the water had already risen several inches, so hopefully by tomorrow there will a cascade once more.
Thank you to everyone who came and helped today.
Sunday, February 21st 2016
At this time of year plans for Eco Club are finalised. Thoughts turn to the changing seasons. Common Frogs come first followed by the Common Toads. Will they be there or will they have gone? We might see the spawn though and talk of where they live during the summer.
Conifer trees grow their new needles and are so soft in comparison to the older ones, great for the children to touch.
Spring flowers are always high on the list and Bluebells are interesting as they flower first along Risedale Beck.
Slightly later the moor turns blue.
As summer progresses so butterflies are on the wing. Weather forecasts are scrutinised, with fingers crossed for a warm day so that some will make an appearance. Brimstone butterflies are often only seen as a blur as they flit through the vegetation.
Over the years, with careful habitat management the moor has changed from rough pasture to a flower meadow and with the introduction of Yellow Rattle further improvements continue. The children can be taken there early in the summer to look for Yellow Rattle, and later to listen to it 'rattle'
When the Water Voles were released in 2007 and again in 2009, they were seen regularly, now we see more signs of them than actual sightings. Latrines and feeding stations can be looked for and their foot prints in the mink rafts.
Exciting this year will be the changes that occur in our new scrape on the moor, possibly to be called Plovers Pool. Each month we will visit this area and photograph what is happening.
All we need now is good weather for the flora and fauna to co-operate and be where we want them to be when we want them to be! If they are not, no worries, as there is always plenty to look at and new things for the children to discover.
Saturday, February 20th 2016
Pillwort is growing well on the wetland. This is a little puzzling as land ferns are still dormant and will not be unfurling their fronds until late April. The Pillwort growing indoors is just doing OK, producing some new curly fronds. The sporocarps burst, producing the white spores. About two weeks after bursting open there were tiny green fronds seen. Amazing as spores from land ferns can take up to two years to develop into a small fern.
Interestingly the sporocarps that we opened and those that opened themselves away from the parent plant, have disappeared in the containers they are in.
This Holly tree is growing in the gravel on the steps leading up from Risedale Beck.
The next question to be asked is how did the seed get there? Dropped from the tree, carried by a bird or mouse, or the one the children love best, eaten by an animal who then does a dropping!
Beech tree seedlings were found growing on the moor last year. The nearest Beech tree that produced a seed was at the beginning of the Sycamore Avenue. Seeds hiddden away by Grey Squirrels and Jays?
Lichens and mosses are plants that will grow on almost anything, given the right conditions. There is a small hole in the top of this post and the lichen is now filling it.
On the dry stone wall there are some mosses growing but then this plant was spotted and so far we have no idea what it is. Patience required.
Out and About
Friday, February 19th 2016
Visitors made the most of a sunny calm morning and many walked around the reserve and visited the Field Centre. It was quieter in the afternoon as the weather deteriorated with strengthening wind and a persistent drizzle. We should not complain too much as it is still officially winter!
A small team of bird ringers were in and the garden nets were raised. Siskin are making their appearance and this male was showing off his beautiful plumage.
Other birds processed included a Coal Tit that was ringed in a nest box in 2014, at Downholme, over 5km away. Blue Tits, Great Tits and Lesser Redpoll were also included in the species list. Many nests failed last year due to the weather and this is reflected in the birds that are passing through the ringing room. The majority are adults having been born before 2015. Very few young birds, hatched in 2015 are present in the birds processed.
Out for a walk, not really looking for a Primrose, but just happening to walk along paths where they might be, a reward, a yellow something and on closer inspection a Primrose!
Foxglove volunteers have a tremendous skill base and can turn their hands to most things. Lesley and Elizabeth had minibeasts on their minds as they visited the outdoor classroom. The area was examined and suggestions made as to how to enhance the area for minibeasts. More child-friendly minibeast-friendly log piles were first on the list along with another 'fairy' ring of cut tree trunks (a friendly chainsaw person required for this task!) and the removal of Bramble and Rose. This is just the start, watch this space.
Like bird ringing, moth trapping requires the 'correct' weather and over the last few months, strong winds, heavy rain and low temperatures have curtailed our mothing. Very few moths have been spotted on the front of the Field Centre, a favourite place for them to rest. There was one today, a Dotted Border. These moths overwinter underground as pupa. The larva can be found from April to June on a variety of broadleaved trees including Silver and Downy Birch, Goat and Grey Willow, Hawthorn and Field Maple, all of which can be found at Foxglove.
Thank you to everyone who helped today.
Fun in the Sun
Thursday, February 18th 2016
What a great day it’s been to be out and about at Foxglove, cold but with some glorious sunshine. There has been a variety of tasks and things happening on the Reserve today. In the morning, the volunteers split into two groups, with the ‘Girls’ going round and filling all the bird feeders, whilst the ‘Boys’, gave the workshop a jolly good tidy up and sweep out.
After lunch everyone went down to Risedale Beck to help re-build the dams that feed the two small ponds. All the heavy rain of late had washed the stones etc further downstream and the pipes were left high and dry. Although it was cold, we all had fun splashing around in the beck and there were several incidences of wet feet and more!
The main drive has been getting some much needed attention today as well, with Landmarc diggers and rollers repairing the potholes. This work will continue tomorrow also. This does mean that the drive is not in use during this time, and visitors will need to park in the Parade Ground and walk down. We apologise for the inconvenience, but it does mean that the next time you visit you will have a smoother drive.
Thank you to everyone who came and helped today, we couldn’t do it without you.
On a sadder note, today is Matt’s last day at Foxglove, we thank him for all he’s done and achieved for the reserve and wish him every success for the future.
Half Term Antics
Wednesday, February 17th 2016
It’s half term this week for the local schools, so we organised an activity morning, with lots of nature themed indoor activities for children to choose from. We always try and get the children outside if we can, but the weather forecast had not been good, so we brought some of the ‘outdoors’, ‘indoors’, in the form of sticks and twigs, cones, ivy and pine needles.
The children then transformed these into fantastic works of art, making picture frames, mobiles, collage drawings, mini nature reserves and on a more practical note bird feeders.
There were quizzes and a jigsaw to keep them amused too. One of the popular activities amongst the older children that attended was birdwatching, with help on identification from two of our volunteers, Jenny and Sue.
A big thank you to all our volunteer helpers who came today, it was a very enjoyable session for all involved, children and parents alike.
Tuesday, February 16th 2016
It was another cold and frosty start to the day, though most of yesterday’s snow had disappeared. The volunteers soon got warmed up cutting down some more of the straggly Hawthorns up in the woodland and dragging them towards the bonfire.
At lunchtime, everyone returned to the field centre for a fantastic spread in the classroom.
Sophie, our new chairperson of the Foxglove Management Group gave a short speech and vote of thanks to Matt and presented him with a bottle of Whisky.
Lisa then presented Matt with a card and a gift from the volunteers.
Thank you to everyone who came today either to help out or just to say their goodbyes, your thoughts and actions are much appreciated. And of course a big thank you to Matt, who has worked really hard to make Foxglove the special place it is. He will be much missed.
Sunday, February 14th 2016
Foxglove has several Juniper trees. They were grown from seed and planted about 10 year ago. They are growing well. This photograph was taken on the snowy day in January, showing the Junipers on the heath. The mound on which they are growing is often covered in Common Spotted Orchids in the summer.
Juniper trees are under threat from a fungus-like pathogen, Phytophthora austrocedri. Trees with the disease have been found in Scotland, Northumberland, Teesdale and North Yorkshire. Different strategies are employed to prevent the spread of the disease but so far none have been totally effective. Thankfully ours are disease free but we keep a watchful eye on them.
Paths pass the Junipers and they are always looked at. The green berries take over a year to ripen so we are always excited to find ripe blue ones. Interested in growing plants from seeds, a glance at the web indicates that they need cold and warmth, at the right time and for the correct length of time and can take up to five years to germinate!
Admiring our Junipers on the flower walk, we spotted a small tree growing in an area of the heath. Conifer we said and we all trooped across carefully to see if we could ID it. Juniper. It was inspected again and Juniper it was. You can just see it to the right of the photograph, just a little smaller than those it is growing amongst!
A close up. It is not much bigger than the Heather surrounding it.
Once ID'd so the questions began. Is it a dwarf variety? Has it been planted recently? No one put their hand up to this. A more exciting suggestion - has a seed germinated itself? We will continue to investigate and keep a careful watch over our little Juniper.
Sun, Snow, Cloud and Rain
Saturday, February 13th 2016
There was not much missing from the weather today, except some warmth! Hats, coats, scarves, gloves and wellies were the order of the day with hot cups of tea and sausage rolls! Just as the nets were raised there was a short sharp snow hail shower. Although it was quite obvious when you were out in it, taking a photograph of it was another matter. The white fuzzy look is the snow!
At the same time the sun was shining!
Of course after the precipitation there were water droplets everywhere. Privet berries are still to be seen, obviously not the first choice for the birds to eat.
Hidden in the dry stone wall mosses are growing, and they caught not only the water droplets but the snow too.
Back in the ringing room, net rounds were carried out regularly. The squawk boxes were needed, but required a little attention. Leanne was given many words of encouragement as she tried to find the Lesser Redpoll song, rather than the Nightjar!
For once the forecast was correct and the snow/sleet arrived at 11am, so the nets came down. Although they were only raised for a short time, and not many of them, 84 birds of 10 species were recorded. Thank you to everyone who helped today.
The Moor and Some News
Friday, February 12th 2016
Even at the height of summer the moor can be a very bleak place. This afternoon, with blue sky and white, almost fluffy clouds it was a joy to walk across. There was just a hint of mist.
The trees are leafless and look black against the sky, although the buds are ready and waiting.
Grass may be growing on lawns but it is far too cold for much growth on the moor.
Looking skywards, the imagination could take leaps and bounds and pretend that it was early summer, apart from the very cold finger tips!
Last night the Foxglove Covert LNR AGM was successfully held at Wathgill. Tony Crease, Graham Newcombe and Elizabeth Dickinson were all re-elected to the Management Group. Sophie Rainer, Lesley Durkin and Lesley Garbutt were elected onto MG. As stated in the Constitution the MG then elects the positions of Chair, Treasurer and Secretary. Sophie accepted the proposal and became our Chair, whilst Tony remains as Treasurer and Elizabeth as Secretary. The MG oversees the running of Foxglove and ensures that the constitution is adhered to. It is emphasized that the MG members are Trustees of the reserve and focused on the governing principles listed in the constitution, the well being and future of the reserve, the people who give up endless hours of their time and skills to maintain the habitats, the 2500+ species with whom we share the reserve, and the visitors and schoolchildren who enjoy the benefits of all our various contributions. Decisions taken are ALWAYS for the benefit of Foxglove now and into the future. The MG has an exemplary track record, and in the past 15 years, since the LNR was declared, huge advances have been made in every area. That is how those within the MG, with your help and support, intend it to continue. To the retiring Chairperson and those who left the MG last night we offer our sincere thanks for the many things they all achieved during their tenure.
Thursday, February 11th 2016
It’s been a busy day at Foxglove, with a variety of tasks going on. A couple of the volunteers started off planting the last 10 remaining Larch saplings in the plantation block behind the lake.
Not far away were the other members of the group, who worked on re-laying the flags underneath the bird feeders.
and Ta Da, all finished!
After lunch, they all headed up onto the woodland trail to sort out the route waymarking system, which needed making clearer, as some of the logs outlining the route had drifted.
Whilst the volunteers were doing this, our contractor Willie Metcalfe was busy down in Risedale Beck, with his mini-digger. He has removed obstructions, such as a large tree, which could have become problematic if it got swept further downstream. Also he has moved stones to help improve the flow of the beck and ‘shored up’ some of the banks that are prone to erosion.
Well done volunteers, thanks for all your hard work today.
Dates for Your Diary
Wednesday, February 10th 2016
Walking around the reserve today in the lovely winter sunshine, an Alder tree was observed starting to flower. Pictured here are the male flowers, also known as catkins, they are about two inches long, Alder are monoecious, which means they produce both male and female flowers on the same tree. The smaller female flowers resemble cones and are red in colour.
Just a final reminder that it is the Foxglove AGM tomorrow, starting at 7pm, up at Wathgill. All are welcome to attend and refreshments will be served.
On a different note, next week sadly we say goodbye to Matt, who has been a Reserve Manager at Foxglove for over a year and half.
We intend to send him off in style however, with a bring and share lunch on Tuesday 16th February, all are welcome to attend.
A Dry Day
Tuesday, February 9th 2016
Our Tuesday volunteers were blessed with dry weather for a change, not a drop of rain on our bonfire today! Working up in the conifer block out on the woodland trail we had a dichotomy within the group, some of them went to plant trees (Larch), whilst others took down some of the straggly Hawthorns that have been racing for the light .
40 trees had been planted by lunchtime, so in the afternoon everyone helped with taking down Hawthorn and burning the brash, including the Dales School.
Whilst planting we disturbed this wonderful beetle from his underground home, we think it is a Violet Ground Beetle.
Thank you everyone, you all worked really hard and have made a big difference.
Bits and Pieces
Sunday, February 7th 2016
The last owl boxes were put up yesterday. As can be seen from this photograph conditions were no better on the training area than they were at Foxglove!
The boxes have to be fixed securely and given their nice thick layer of sawdust.
Whilst out and about the nest box team saw Primroses growing in woodland. Still none to be seen at FGC. Opposite-leaved Golden-Saxifrage is showing its flowers along the vertical banks of the stream that runs from the Voley Pond. It always flowers here first.
Elder leaves burst their buds early in the year, but then almost appear to stop growing.
During the summer we were a little concerned that our sphagnum pond on the wetland was drying up. This area is not connected to the network of ponds and so has to rely on rainwater to keep it filled. Marsh Cinquefoil grows in this pond. It was good to see that after all the rain it now has plenty of water and the moss looks very green, as it should.
Storm Henry is on its way and was beginning to make its presence felt on the lake. There were waves blowing straight down to the weir. Only two Mallard were braving the conditions.
The stream flowing into the new scrape on the moor was coming into it from the wetland side. So that the water would not flow straight out the exit has been made at the moorland side. The mud and shallow water looks very inviting to waders. Hopefully the Snipe that reside on the wetland will soon begin to explore this new habitat.
If you looked in the right direction there was some blue sky and sunshine making for a lovely photograph.
Winter Worky Day
Saturday, February 6th 2016
There was a good turn out despite the inclement weather, with over 30 people attending for all or part of the day.
Splitting the volunteers into two groups, one party headed out to do some tree planting in the woodland area behind the lake. 50 bare rooted Larch saplings were planted with tree tubes and stakes. February is the best month for tree planting, because the roots are not sat in cold soil for too long, as spring approaches and the soil warms up.
By lunchtime the 50 trees were in, so in the afternoon they joined the other party who were taking down leggy Hawthorn trees up on the green route. All fodder for a bonfire. With all the heat generated from the sawing of wood, combined with the rain, there was visible ‘steam’ coming off the hard working volunteers.
Lunch was another tasty curry with trimmings and lots of lovely homemade cakes courtesy of our fabulous baker Ann.
Thank you all for turning out on such an un-inviting day, your hard work and enthusiasm are much appreciated.
Thursday, February 4th 2016
Thursday is when we have our multi-tasking techno team in! From the routine cleaning of tools to the mending of equipment, doors, gates and fences etc, to the making of owl boxes, our small team delivers the lot.
Above, Mike precision cuts the plywood ready to construct the Owl boxes. Below, Mike and Tony with the finished articles.
John keeps our tools in tip top condition and later in the afternoon was spotted mending a path.
Thanks team Thursday, we couldn't do it all without you.
We would welcome suggestions for a name for our new scrape, to help us distinguish it from the other 'scrapes' on the reserve.
New Scrape Takes Shape
Wednesday, February 3rd 2016
Today saw our new habitat creation at Foxglove completed. Our scrape has now taken shape! It has been interesting to watch it develop over the last 8 days, from just a big muddy depression in the ground to the nicely contoured scrape that we now see.
We hope it will attract species of wading birds like Lapwing, Curlew, Snipe and Redshank from the surrounding area onto the reserve.
All the mud around the periphery is good because waders and their chicks require a constant supply of high protein invertebrate food throughout the breeding season. A rich supply of insects will also help other birds such as Reed Bunting and Yellow Wagtail, which also rely heavily on insect food for their chicks. The conditions created by the fluctuating water levels of these types of water bodies attract a limited but specialised range of invertebrates. These often occur in very high numbers due to reduced competition and few predators. The water body is often nutrient rich because of the levels of organic matter, which encourages high rates of invertebrate reproduction, particularly of midge larvae, which are a valuable food source for waders and their chicks.
Top of the Pops
Tuesday, February 2nd 2016
To say it has been a bit breezy of late is an understatement, so the volunteers split into 3 groups and spent the first half of the morning checking the reserve for wind blown tree damage. Thankfully there were only a few trees that needed some attention, one, near the small hide in the plantation block had a large branch down which was crushing the deer fence, luckily the mesh had not been damaged and just needed stapling back into place, once the branch was removed.
Whilst Ken & Eddie were braving it out on the windy wetland, carrying on strimming the rushes, the majority of the group headed to sheltered climes after teabreak, to the track just behind the field centre, where there are a lot of self sown birch saplings. Time to get out the tree poppers we got just before Christmas! The ground there was quite soft with all the rain we have had so they sank into the ground a bit, but with a bit of innovation - aka some pieces of board- that was alleviated.
The Dales School joined us and helped tidy up the 'popped' trees, after which they went down to look at the developments on the wetland, which they had heard about in the local press.
Thank you to everyone who helped today, your hard work and support are greatly appreciated.
And the Winners Are!
Monday, February 1st 2016
The results are in for the Foxglove Covert Cryptic Quiz on Items of Clothing. So with full marks (36), our Hats go off (pardon the pun) to the following people:
Tony & Lillian Cooper
Mike & Anne Bacon
Ted & Val Darwin
Mike Fenwick, Christine Byers and Andy Clarke.
With 33 points were Sophie Rainer, with 32 Trish Illingworth and with 31 Carole Davies.
Well done all.
The Answers are:
1. Coat or Wrap. 2. Espadrilles. 3. Waders. 4. Pork Pie Hat. 5. Cassock.
6. Pullover. 7. Shorts. 8. Bonnet. 9. Toga. 10. Cloche. 11. Mantilla.
12. Busby. 13. Tabard. 14. Dungarees. 15. Hood. 16. Caftan. 17. Bolero.
18. Gilet. 19. Bearskin. 20. Knickers. 21. Skirt. 22. Beret. 23. Tights.
24. Dog Collar. 25. Trench Coat. 26. Boots. 27. Mules. 28. Trousers.
29. Cheongsam. 30. Dress. 31. Plus Fours. 32. Bikini. 33. Y Fronts.
34. Leotard. 35. Chemise. 36. Panama.
and a message from Glennis…...
If you have enjoyed the quiz, do send them in. People who have retained them, often comment on not being able to do one or two, and feel they should not forward them. We are grateful to all those who support us, and feed back helpful remarks. Many thanks once again to Pat who compiles them, and who has already begun working on the next one. The sale of the quizzes is another valuable addition to FGC funds. We print 100 each edition, so if you know of anyone who would enjoy the challenge, please buy an extra one for them!
Thank you to everyone who purchased a quiz, and especially to our compilers, Pat and Glennis. We look forward to your next brain buster!