Blog Archive (28) Posts Made in February 2017
Continued Clear Up and More!
Tuesday, February 28th 2017
A large part of today was spent tidying up after tree work and the continuation of this year’s coppice block done by our contractors, both around the Field Centre and over towards the wetland. However, today our volunteer team had reinforcements in the form of Sean and Simon, who had been doing the tree work - and their chipper!
Our other contractor on site recently, Willie, was also working hard today – here helping backfill the stretch of willow spiling built by our volunteer team last Tuesday.
Elsewhere the keen volunteer team were tackling tasks across the reserve: bagging bird food for sale and tidying up around the Field Centre;
Preparing and putting up signs along our border with the ranges on the moor and the wetland;
Preparing and putting up signs about some of the ongoing management;
And some path maintenance and repair on the way to the wetland…
Thank you very much to all who helped today – so much was achieved and it would not have been possible without you.
In other (exciting) news: Bird boxes are not just used for nesting – although some are starting to get inspected, we think, with this in mind. Birds also like somewhere safe and dry to roost for the night and tonight our camera nest box was selected for roosting in by this blue tit! 😊
We had to turn the Field Centre lights out to get a good picture of the screen.
Trees, Dams and Drains
Monday, February 27th 2017
This was not the usual relaxed start to the week. Today we were assisting our contractors running around prepping jobs, indicating what jobs needed to be done and helping where we safely could. The first jobs for Sean and Simon, our tree surgeons, was to finish the various pollarding and coppicing around the Field Centre.
While they were up the trees Willie was on the ground fixing an on-going problem with the middle of the Cascading Ponds. If you have been reading the blogs over the past year you will have read that we have tried fixing the leakage problem in this pond before. Basically the water was flowing under the dam instead of over it, and no matter how we repaired it the problem would re-appear. So Willie and his digger tracked in to move the heavy boulders and pack clay and stone to create a permanent seal.
Simon and Sean were by now on the Beck Bank taking off Ash limbs to allow the shaded Hazel to flourish. This was a delicate job with such massive branches being lowered to avoid damaging our cherished Hazel coppice.
Later, Willie was on with a drain blockage at the Bullet Catcher. This archaeological remnant is part of an old firing range which was decommissioned over 40 years ago, but the main wall still stands. The blockage had been there for the last year and, although the flow of water from the Beck to the pond was good, at the inspection junction water had been welling up and flowing uncontrolled back to the Beck. After rodding both ways I found an inch root had entered the pipe and was the cause of the lack of flow, once cut off and pulled out we could see the extent of the blockage, ‘It’s like a massive fox tail’ Willie exclaimed!
Simon and Sean had missed a few Willows by the Field Centre parking area as the first of the afternoon showers started to fall….
…. supervised by Gus, Sean’s dog!
Willow buds are brimming to explode, Spring is rolling in.
One of the parents from our ‘Building For Birds’ event last Friday sent this pic of a Blue Tit using the feeder that they had made on the day…. great to see the benefits of our efforts!
Thank you to our contractors Willie, Sean and Simon for being so amenable, wilco, and hard working.
Sunday, February 26th 2017
The reserve was a little wind swept today with the odd shower, ….
….but even when wet and cold the reserve has a magical feel of peace and solitude.
The first frog spawn was noticed on Friday on the Scrapes. The numerous clusters are the signs of a dozen females, but I did not notice many Common Frogs about today, the cooler weather seems to make the mating less prolific.
Frogs and toads normally overwinter in places like compost heaps, amongst dead wood or under decking/your shed/other objects. Frogs and sometimes newts, will choose to overwinter at the bottom of the pond where temperatures are warmer; they bury themselves down in the silt at the bottom and take in oxygen through their skin.
Amphibians will emerge from hibernation when the weather starts to warm up (night time temperatures over 5’C) – this can be any time from January onwards, and although the weather has changed to cold recently the mating activity started in a mild spring-like spell a week ago at Foxglove Covert.They head straight towards the numerous waterbodies to breed and it’s common to see large numbers of them congregating in and around ponds. Males often start moving before females and will either wait at the pond for a potential mate to arrive or wait nearby and ‘piggy back’ on passing females.
There will be a fair bit of movement of Frogs and Toads over the next few weeks so please try to avoid them on the main track to the Field Centre.
End of the Season
Saturday, February 25th 2017
Our days are lengthening whilst Stacey's on Signy are shortening. One morning, last week, they woke to a blizzard. This photo was taken after the snow had stopped.
Most of her penguin chicks have fledged, so it is now seal counting time. These are some that have been recorded.
At Foxglove the plants are beginning to grow. Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage is in flower along the almost vertical sides of a small beck.
Scarlet Elf Cup always shows a bright splash of red during February and usually in the same places. You can also notice the green moss, a Wood Sorrel leaf and almost hiddden away Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage, which flowers much later along Risedale Beck.
Building for Birds
Friday, February 24th 2017
Another day of the half-term holidays and another busy day of family fun at Foxglove – this time Building for Birds!
We took a walk to have a look at some of the many bird boxes at Foxglove:
Some children were using hammer and nails for the first time, but with a little bit of help from their parents/grandparents/guardians/us they all made a bird box to take home.
We then all headed indoors to build bird feeders. We make seed feeders from old plastic bottles…
…and pine cone fatballs.
It was a fun filled morning!
Thank you to Peter and to Charlie for helping us with running the event and to Colin who was looking after our birds at Foxglove; filling the feeders for the weekend and taking this one for repair.
On another note, as of this coming Monday (27th Feb 2017) for three weeks, we are expecting some work to be done on the access gate to Foxglove so there may be some disruption. Watch this space for more information as we have it.
Thursday, February 23rd 2017
With the coming of Storm Doris we were unable to finish the willow spiling as the beck was high and rising. We were not short of work; still having a lot to do on the willow coppice block adjacent to the Field Centre.
With the coming high wind and steady rain our chainsaw gang, Sean and Simon, were grounded, enabling us to catch up with all the pollarding and coppicing we were determined to have cut before March. The excess timber was stacked nearby and brash left for chipping at a later date.
We ended up dividing up to do the various jobs today; Tony, Mike and I went to the Wetlands where Willie was re-enforcing the pond bunds with his small digger.
We only had a small amount of bund to repair by hand, plus a dam which was unreachable by the digger, so were very glad for the bulk of the work to be done by the heavier equipment saving us weeks of manual labour.
Signs of spring are with us, I spotted these Common Frogs as I checked around the pond edges.
Some jobs need that extra time to achieve, luckily Jackie was on hand to do some of them in the Field Centre, like defrosting the freezer!
One of the jobs which had us scratching our heads was how to get a felled tree trunk out of Risedale Beck. Willie who knows the reserve like the back of his hand is more than able to cope with things like this and tracked his digger up the beck….
....to lift the trunk out, then enabling Jonathan and I to secure it to the bank.
We had a few path repairs to be done, but the rain did not put off the enthusiasm of the volunteers as they carted gravel ….
…..and replaced the side boards, and wack-a-plated the surface to make good.
It was a mixed bag of a day which, considering the weather, was a massive success due to the commitment of the volunteers and the much needed assistance from our contractors, thank you to all.
Natural Craft Creations!
Wednesday, February 22nd 2017
Today was the first of our family half term activities: Natural Craft Creations! We started off going for a walk with journey sticks, collecting memoirs of our travels and craft materials for later.
This was followed by creative crafts in earnest, with an array of activities to enjoy! We made teasel hedgehogs…
…Created mosaic portraits of parents/grandparents/guardians using natural materials…
…Here some of the artwork, artists and their muses!
We made bird friendly mobiles, providing both food and nesting material for our feathered friends:
There was also a little time to use the natural shapes of branches to create stick people!
Everyone went away with wonderful creations – here are just some of the participants, with some of their crafts!
Thank you to Ruth, Ann and Elizabeth who helped us to run this event – as some feedback left in our visitors book said: It was a ‘magical morning’!
Creating Creative Work
Tuesday, February 21st 2017
It was a busy day on the reserve, but it was all worth the efforts of all groups that came in either as a contractor or volunteer.
The day started earlier than normal for us with last minute security passes and liaising with the two contractors who were on the site today.
Willie, a regular contractor, was briefed on the work he had to do down in the Scrapes; some improvements to clogged ditches and clearing of ponds choked by excessive vegetation. This required a little work by our volunteers to clear a route for his digger - fortunately we have boardwalk sections which are designed to be lifted!
We had noticed after last year’s lush growing season that the ponds were becoming more like marsh than pond. The frogs and toads are on route back to their spawning ponds (like this chap below), so to minimise any disturbance we had to get Willie in to do the necessary work before spawning starts.
It was not long before the work had begun.
Meanwhile Sean and Simon were on Risedale Bank removing deadwood and limbs from trees which had begun to shade out the undergrowth.
A small team began clearing the sized logs to the path edge ready for removal to a more structured place and therefore allowing any ground flora to flourish.
One of the main activities today was the willow spiling which was a continuation of past work on Risedale Beck. This is using the willow from the recent coppice block work to re-enforce the beck bank, which suffers from erosion when the stream is in spate. A lot of hard graft goes into this kind of work. The day previously I had coppiced some willow to get the team rolling first thing this morning; this was processed then carted to the Beck.
While this was happening another team were readying the upright posts of the spiling….
and knocking them into the rocky stream bed.
Once the uprights were in place the team were able to weave the horizontal willow lengths.
What a great job!
Thank you to all 27 volunteers who came in to a very busy reserve and helped us today in various ways. Foxglove was a humming hive of activity!
Woodland Work and a ‘Wow!’
Monday, February 20th 2017
If you know a teacher they may seem a little more relaxed this week, enjoying the relative peace and quiet of half-term. The reverse is happening with us at Foxglove this week – the schools are off so we get more visits by families and we also put on events for children. Today included preparation for these, with more materials collected for our natural craft event on Wednesday and Keith dropping off bird box kits he’d kindly cut for us at home (thank you Keith) for the event on Friday. Both these events are now fully booked – if you’ve missed out this time why not get your family booked in early for our Easter holiday activities?
Elsewhere we’ve had a contractor in doing some of our more technical tree work, today reducing shade on the south facing bank of Risedale Beck.
It also included taking the top off this dead tree, as it was near to the path and getting increasingly fragile. Plenty was left standing too, as dead wood is an important habitat for our wildlife. Different types provide different habitats: for example standing dead wood provides different micro-habitats to dead wood on the ground, in the ground or under water.
An article I found by the RSPB summarises it nicely: “Around 1,800 invertebrate species in Britain are dependent on dead or decaying wood, as are a significant proportion of British fungi. Several declining birds utilise dead or decaying wood features for nesting and/or foraging: willow tits excavate nest holes in standing rotten wood, lesser spotted woodpeckers nest in dead snags and stems and forage on dead branches, other species use holes created by dead branch die-back or by woodpeckers.”
We had a quick look at the piece taken off and found this large centipede:
We think it’s of the genus Lithobius, and so is a type of stone centipede. Stone centipedes are found under stones or bark (that’s where we found this one), or in soil or decaying matter. They are hunters, feeding on insects and other small invertebrates.
We finished the day with a beautiful scene of evening sun through the trees on the way to the wetland. It makes for a lovely photograph…
...speaking of lovely photographs, we were sent this beautiful one of a sparrowhawk taken by John Hayden from the wetland hide.
All we could say was WOW!
A Brambling Redpoll Day
Sunday, February 19th 2017
Tea drinking in the corner and cup washing in the kitchen have been rather slow, as people involved have spent a great deal of time bird watching. Redpolls and Siskin have been collecting on the Nyger seed feeders, whilst Bramblings have joined flocks of Chaffinches under the feeders.
Twenty five new Redpolls were caught, including a control. (A bird ringed elsewhere.) Those of us who thought we had seen a Mealy Redpoll were rewarded by two being processed. A male, with a dark red head and chest and probably a female, although with a red head, no red on her chest. The red feathers develop as the birds come into breeding condition, with the white ends to the feathers wearing away leaving the red colour on show. (Black-headed Gulls and Reed Buntings undergo the same process to get their black heads.)
Siskins are often to be found feeding with the Redpolls.
Over the last few weeks Brambling have been seen in numbers, but on ringing days they have disappeared, not so today as 17 were newly ringed.
Greenfinch numbers have decreased, but over the last few months more sightings have been recorded and four were ringed during the session.
Birds are starting to sing to set up their territories. This Robin caught my eye as I walked through the Scrapes to the lake
Other sightings included Primrose in flower, a Peacock butterfly and Common Frogs in the pond by Risedale Beck.
Thank you to everyone who helped today, ringing, greeting visitors, making tea, washing up, bringing sausage rolls and tidying up.
Saturday, February 18th 2017
The Met Office takes spring from the 1st March, so we still have a few days to go. If we wait until the equinox then it is nearly four weeks. Although Foxglove is still clothed in its winter coat there are signs that winter is losing its grip and spring is slowly on its way. Buds, very tiny, of Primrose and Barren Strawberry have been seen. Walking around the reserve it is views that have been photographed and not flowers.
This is a view across the moor from the far moor gate. One of the ponies can be seen.
At the far end of the moor is Plover's Pool and a Grey Heron was seen going down onto it. Even with camera ready it spotted me before I spotted it, and a close look is needed to see it flying off.
On a calm day the lake can be like a mirror.
Bare branches reflect well in the still water.
Last year's Cotton Grass stems and leaves also reflect well on the water in the Scrapes.
Where are the Water Voles?
Friday, February 17th 2017
As regular readers of this blog will know; last June we installed water vole feeding platforms at various locations across the reserve. This increased the number of sightings, photographs and videos (see our youtube page here!) of this elusive and rare mammal throughout the summer. This photo taken by Terry Wright shows one enjoying an apple we provided:
Yet we’ve not had many sightings recently… Water voles don’t hibernate, but during the winter they do spend a lot more time in their burrows which they build into waterside banks. With the weather starting to warm up we’ve played detective to check up on them:
We have floating ‘mink rafts’ at various points around the reserve which we use to check we don’t have any American mink – an invasive, non-native species which is a major threat to water voles. We do this through a pad of soft clay inside a tunnel which records the footprints of all animals that cross it. Here, today, this pad from the raft in the scrapes shows not only star-shaped water vole footprints, but also a water vole dropping!
Water voles are herbivores and have been recorded eating more than 220 different species of plant. They are also untidy and leave leftovers from their meals, but tidy in that they leave them in piles, with the ends cut at a distinctive 45 degree angle. Today, alongside more water vole droppings I found this feeding station on the mink raft in the scrapes.
Apples put on the water vole feeding platforms have been disappearing much more slowly over the winter than during the summer, with the apples appealing to birds too. However, this apple was fresh on the platform yesterday and we know at least some of it was taken by a water vole due to some nibbled parts (as well as some peck marks from birds) and tell-tale droppings again.
The final step of water vole detective work is spotting one, but with them much less active above ground at this time of year we had to get clever… So, recently we put out a motion activated camera trained on a feeding platform. We saw one! The majority of the footage was a close up of the backside of a water vole with whiskers twitching as it tucked into the apple, but this still, taken from one of the videos shows it arriving.
Fingers-crossed for easier water vole spotting opportunities as the weather warms!
Birds with Standards
Thursday, February 16th 2017
The main job (again!) today was continuing with this year's coppice block…
…the area is really starting to open up: Lots of light can now get through to the ground, which we hope will give the ground flora a boost come spring.
We coppice our willow carr on a ten year rotation, doing one of the five blocks every two years. This rotation means we have parts of the habitat in different stages of growth, so providing lots of different niches for our wildlife. We leave standard trees among the coppice to add to the variety of the habitat and to give an upper storey of vegetation. Working around these we enjoyed seeing evidence of some of them having been used by birds last year:
Thank you to all who helped today – and a warm welcome to Luke who was volunteering with us for the first time.
Runners and Moths
Wednesday, February 15th 2017
Today we were visited by over 150 cross country runners from various regiments from the Army in the North. It was a well organised event which you would expect from the army. The course followed the hard standing pathways of the reserve, along Risedale Beck and much of the green route. It is not often we get to host such an event and it certainly made the place buzz with all the physical activity.
At present I do not have the full details of the winners of both the male 6 mile and female 4 mile races, but I will let you know as soon as I do.
Apart from ensuring that all the footfall of the runners kept to the hard paths and not our valuable path verges, we had the moth trap out as usual. The mild evening brought in a dozen Pale Brindled Beauties
and a single Chestnut - the first of 2017.
Every time we have a new moth species in 2017 it feels like we're getting a step closer to spring!
More Coppice Work!
Tuesday, February 14th 2017
I know that it seems a repeat of every Tuesday that all we seem to do is work on the Coppice Block, but this is a big job that would be near impossible if it was not for the help and assistance from our merry band of volunteers.
The area we are working on will be more open to the sun, and will sprout fresh new Willow sprigs, and also allow more light to the ground to encourage wild flowers and ground feeding birds such as Green Woodpeckers, it is all about diversity.
As you can see from the above photo the undergrowth is thick, but the team thinned it out to create a more open area, one which will benefit more critters…. roll on Spring!
Thank you to all that helped.
Not all timber went on the fire only the brash; it is important to have habitat piles of wood created for insects, and fungi, as well as any other animal that may use these piles as a home.
We are holding our 16th AGM at Wathgill Camp this Thursday 16th February at 7pm..
This is the agenda for the night.
1 Minutes of the 15th AGM for approval
2 Matters arising
3 2016 Foxglove Covert LNR Report
4 Election to Management Group
5 Grants - John Walker
a) Looking forward
1 Foxglove 25
2 Green Works
3 Future projects
Please contact the Reserve Managers if you wish to attend. Thank you.
Monday Jobs and Returns
Monday, February 13th 2017
Having worked yesterday this did not feel like a Monday morning. A few jobs had come to the fore from the Weekend and I was determined to make a start on them, and luckily for me I had Charlie to help me achieve this. We had had some strange footprints on one of the rafts. These rafts carry a wet clay slab to indicate what had walked on the raft, but if we are unsure we set a motion sensor camera to see what we have moving up and down the Beck.
Once set I walked the green route to inspect a few way-marker posts that indicate which route to take. Some had been needed to be replaced so I wanted to know the extent of the damage. While I did this Charlie gathered up the Water Vole rafts to give them a bit of a tweak as they were becoming waterlogged and in need of more floatation.
I juggled a few jobs at once; soaking new posts in preservative to prevent them rotting at the base like the old ones, and gathered up materials to finally repair a few things on the Lake Hide. The wet weather had prevented me doing these jobs, but with the glorious sun drying the South West facing timber on the hide I was able to get on and complete 95% of the job, and make it water tight by the end of day.
The low sun gave stunning views of the reserve…… What a place to work!
Having only started to ring a year ago I am always pleased to get a recovery, but in this case it was a 'control' which is a bird that was ringed by someone else and I have caught it elsewhere and recorded all the biometric data such as wing length, weight, age , etc. My records go to the BTO ( British Trust of Ornithology) and the person who ringed the bird is informed. That numbered metal ring ties that bird to the person who put the ring on in the first place. In this case it was a Swallow that I had caught when up in the very North West of Scotland, near Cape Wrath and the ring/ringer was from France. The bird below was a nestling Swallow during the same trip.
The Swallow in question had flown all the way to the very North West tip of Scotland from Paradou, Bouches-du Rhone, in the South of France, a distance of 1780 km.
As you can see below this Swallow still had a fair way to go on its return journey!
Make Do and Mend!
Sunday, February 12th 2017
Today was not the usual Sunday ringing birds at Foxglove; our intention was to make good a couple of the mist nets we put up to catch the birds.
The nets get torn if caught up in bramble and at times Roe Deer have run through them or holes appear from just wear and tear. It is quite a fiddly job to patch and replace the fine nets, but at over £100 pounds each net it is time well spent.
A lull in the weather did enable us to put out a couple of nets for a short spell enabling us to process about 60 birds from Redpolls to Blue Tits. We checked the nets every 10 minutes to extract the birds and limit any exposure to the elements.
Sophie, our Chairperson, took these pictures of this lovely murmuration of Starlings near Bedale. It is always a fantastic spectacle to watch before they dive through their vortex to their roost site in the reed beds.
Jenny, one of our ringers, took this photo of a Roe Deer as she left the reserve. Quite often it is the flash of their rear end that is seen. You never know what you will see at FGC!
Saturday, February 11th 2017
Since the reserve first came into being in 1992, a record of species has been kept. To date there are 2591 listed in the data base. 48 were added to the list last year. Every year I think there can be no more, but I am usually wrong. I would hope that we can find, at least 25 new species this year! During our 25th year, we are going to do an audit of our species. It is highly unlikley that we will be able to find all 2591 of them, but we will see how many we can find.
Some like the Primroses that we are still waiting to flower, can be found easily as we know where they are.
Coltsfoot is another flower the monthly flower walk always want to find in its usual haunts, as it is a harbinger of spring.
Although lichens can be very obvious during the winter their identification is not so obvious.
Insects can prove difficult to find and identify. This is a weevil, whose survival technique is falling off the leaf if the predator gets too close. It also applies this method when a camera is around!
Peacock butterflies come out of hibernation from late March, depending on the weather. Sunny spots suitable for sunbathing are the best places to look for them.
Some animals drop in to see us for a short time and then apparently disappear. The Tufted Ducks visit the lake then head to the wetland where they breed late in the season. There they are rarely seen or heard. Little Grebe remain on the lake but hide in the reeds and feed underwater so sometimes it is 'now you see me now you don't'!
Net Ride 56
Friday, February 10th 2017
The temperature struggled to get above freezing as we continued with the final job of the week , the wood chipping of net ride 56, next to the Field Centre. A light dusting of snow coated the surrounding trees, but never really threatened more.
Net rides feature a great deal at the reserve and each is known by a number seen on a red disc, the one we were working on was 56. We are an important bird data collection point for British Trust of Ornithology (BTO). We use mist nets along these rides which is a safe method of catching birds. These nets are checked on a regular basis by skilled, licensed ringers, and if the birds are present they are removed to the Field Centre for processing and finally released. Although we were not ringing birds today it is necessary that these net rides are maintained.
Each bird is aged and sexed using different plumage characteristics, Various measurements are recorded including wing length, fat deposits and weight before finally releasing.
It was just Charlie and I who were in today, but although we had the easier job of laying the wood chippings it was still labour intensive with over 30 wheel barrows of chippings, and the slatted bridges to raise and stake.
We also had to clear away the brash that was not used ……
….. but finally the job was done and we felt all the effort over the last two days had been worth it.
The last of the outdoor jobs was the daily check of the Exmoor Ponies before retreating to the Field Centre to complete the end of week jobs.
Thank you to Colin who filled the bird feeders for the Weekend, I am sure the birds are more than grateful in these low temperatures, and Charlie for all the above effort.
Thinning and Improving
Thursday, February 9th 2017
We had a job in mind today; the net ride behind the Field Centre which is always a mud bath at this time of year, the only problem was that we had to do half a dozen jobs to achieve this one, like to repair one of the bridges over a ditch.
Thank fully we have a great team who can help us with making it happen!
Yesterday we had cut a few wayward trees down in the Coppice Block, in doing so we were able to partially lay down the edging to a path along this net ride, which we were then planning to top with fresh wood chippings.
We still had to finish the edging so Jonathan took down a couple of Sitka Spruce that we were going to clear anyway.
Jackie, Christine, and Jenny thinned out some spruce on route to the Wetland Hide to provide brash which allows the chippings to sit above the mud to prevent them from becoming waterlogged and rotting prematurely.
This required that brash to be dragged or carted to the site of the net ride.
We then had to cut the brash down so that it would lay flat.
While all this was going on pegs were being cut using the small spruce trunks to make firm the edgings…..
…. as well as the surface levelled to prevent pooling of water under the chippings.
The fence can be awkward to climb over so John built a stile to facilitate easier access.
Although this job is not yet completed, watch this space, the team did a great job at doing the bulk of the hard labours leaving us to do the easier job of laying the wood chippings tomorrow. Thank you to all who helped today.
We finished off with replenishing the Honey Bee feed, which supplements their own honey over winter. This is always an interesting episode, last time we did this we had to catch 30+ escapees from inside the Field Centre and take them around to the outside entrance of the hive so they could get back in. This time it was just a few that were contained in a jar and returned with ease and success!
Wednesday, February 8th 2017
The wet start had us in the office dealing with future bookings for schools and adding folk to the events which we have coming up at half term.
Our usual Wednesday team was in; Glennis on moths, alas the only moth today was a single Early Moth, and Elizabeth and Ruth dealing with the Field Centre display boards which get changed on a regular basis.
Once the rain had stopped we ventured out to continue with a few tidying up jobs from yesterday. There was a fair bit of brash to convert, as well as tidying up some of the coppiced Willow stools.
Just moving around Foxglove Covert you cannot help observing new wondrous things; this carpet of moss had gone unnoticed by us in the Conifer Woodland…..
…..and this cup lichen, a Cladonia, had me reaching for my eye glass which I have learnt to carry with me as I do the various jobs on the reserve.
This Roe Deer scat (right below) sat nearby, not too far from a bark rubbed stem I had noticed a few months back.
I find that I collect photos of all these tracks and signs to enhance the Tracks and Signs event which we run here, quite often taking plaster- of-paris casts of footprints like this Roe Deers print.
Thank you to Elizabeth and Ruth for their help today.
Talking About the Weather
Tuesday, February 7th 2017
It seems another good day to talk about the weather on the blog as we’ve had lots of it today and we’ll have plenty of company: Research done by social anthropologist Kate Fox found “94% of British respondents admit to having conversed about the weather in the past six hours”. It seems that the British do talk about the weather a lot…
Today started foggy, both for my drive in and for when we started work continuing on this year’s coppice block with our Tuesday volunteer team.
By lunchtime the fog had lifted to make a grey day, with occasional glimpses of sunshine.
Roger even enjoyed having his lunch outside.
Then shortly after lunch it all changed. First came some rain, then hail and then heavy rain. We were glad of our coats and, in many cases, waterproof trousers. Up went hoods on raincoats…
…and we kept calm and carried on! Here’s Eddie giving stakes and guards to some rather nice self-seeded oak saplings we found – in a few decades hopefully some of them will be beautiful standards among the willow coppice.
As the rain got heavier we decided to call it a day and set about finishing off and tidying up. At this point two things happened: Firstly the rain stopped and we had a lovely rainbow to look at as we cleaned the tools and put them away.
Secondly a military aircraft flew over carrying a vehicle!
What a busy and productive day with very variable weather! Thank you very much to all who helped.
Redpolls and more…
Monday, February 6th 2017
In true British style, today we’ll start another day by talking about the weather: It was another frosty start, with ice coating the vegetation.
It melted as the day went on, but remained very chilly. However, and moving away from weather, it has been another good day for bird watching, with feathered folk flocking to the feeders! Brambling are still around…
...and the niger seed is popular with siskin and goldfinch…
…as well as redpoll, who can also be seen tidying up seed spilt on the ground. The feeders outside the Field Centre kitchen seem especially popular with these often overlooked little finches.
But look out! We’ve been seeing two species of redpoll! There’s our ‘normal’ redpoll (until recently known as lesser redpolls), but also mealy (or common) redpolls. Mealy redpolls are winter visitors to the UK and are larger and paler. Our ringing team has fitted rings to both species recently, so we can show you a nice comparison – on the left a male (lesser) redpoll, on the right a male mealy redpoll:
February in Foxglove
Sunday, February 5th 2017
Looking through the last few year's photographs highlights what February can throw at us. Snow.: it makes Foxglove look totally different.
Below freezing temperatures cause the lake to freeze.
Blue skies can be deceptive making you think of warm summer days. Usually you need extra layers, hat, scarf and gloves! But it is good weather with a pair of binoculars around your neck, to look for the flocks of birds feeding in the Larch.
As the light wanes so the mood changes and the bare trees are silhouetted against the darkening blue sky.
The monthly Flower Walk volunteers are looking so carefully for flowers but usually not many appear on the list. A week or so into February and the Opposite Golden Leaved Saxifrage - OGLS - when we do record it, begins to make an appearance along some of the little beck sides.
Gorse may be in flower, showing bright yellow in various places.
On very still days there may be patterns to be found.
Oh - and we must not forget the rain!
Pulling (and other pursuits)
Saturday, February 4th 2017
Today saw the February instalment of our Winter Worky Days. The weather was clear and relatively mild; this was just as well given that two brave souls spent the morning in waders pulling Phragmites out of the Scrapes!
Elsewhere, work continued on this year’s coppice block.
We also continued coppicing in the Hazel Avenue, which we started last month.
Bob and Ruth bagged bird food…
…and Ruth got new displays sorted for the Field Centre…
…accompanied by Bella.
And of course we were all fuelled through the day by the customary curry, tea and wonderful homemade cakes!
Thank you very much to all who helped today, lots of good progress was made. Do let us know if you would like to come for the next one on Saturday 4th March!
This was a guest blog by Peter B.
Looking for Inspiration?
Friday, February 3rd 2017
With our February Worky Day happening tomorrow, today was a day spent in preparations: we maintained machinery, confirmed the food order, got the porta-cabin ready and did some setting up of the area we’ll be working in. It’s all very useful stuff, but not all that photogenic. However, there is always something beautiful to take a photo of at Foxglove – the ponies are often very obliging…
…the bird feeders are busy…
…or look for a miniature world of small-scale splendours! (For more miniature marvels why not book on to our Small is Beautiful walk).
So there are plenty of opportunities at all times of the year to get beautiful photos for our photo competition - but don’t risk losing or forgetting about that brilliant picture, why not send them in now?!
Tidy and Make Good
Thursday, February 2nd 2017
It was a mild, dull, drizzle laden day on the reserve, made a lot brighter with the humour and banter with our Thursday volunteers. We were able to get through a fair bit of work, even though a lot of it was tidying up loose ends and trying to clean up areas where our activity had created mud.
Mike and Tony did the usual checks on the wetland, and the checking of the various water courses and dams.
Jenny assisted Tony with the repairs in the Scrapes.
Christine and Mike coppiced some Hazel to make 18” pegs to re-enforce the path edging , as well as clearing mud and soil from around the coppice block paths.
Stephen, one of our regular helpers over the past year, had his last day with us today. We wish him all the best, and a big thank you from all of us at FGC.
Keith repaired more owl boxes, and Andrew assisted where he could. Thank you to all that came today.
Quiz Results and Finishing Touches
Wednesday, February 1st 2017
After yesterday's rain today was damp, but thankfully drier. I hoped the mild overnight temperatures would bring more moths to the mercury vapour moth light, alas it was not the case, but we did have two species; the Early Moth and a new species for the year, the March Moth. This pretty little moth has a flight season from February to April, so we nearly caught it out of season, being only a day out of January! The female of this moth is flightless and has very little wings, more like stumps, so this is a male.
The other rather nice observation today was this beautiful Scarlet Elfcup.
This fungi grows on dead wood, apparently it is edible but not recommended.
We finished the path from yesterday, which makes this bit of the green route, along Risedale Beck, seem more inviting. Thanks again to all the volunteers who helped yesterday.
The Foxglove 'Words Associated with Christmas' Quiz results are now in.
Many thanks again to all those who supported our quiz and especially to those who sent in their answers, a special mention to Pat Thistlethwaite for compiling the quiz, and to our Glennis for doing all the leg work. We had a particularly good response this time. The results only record those who returned them…there is no ‘bottom of the class’!!
Roger and Jenny
Frank and Carol Broughton
Ann and Bob Hall
Stacey and Adam
Mavis Hodgeson – the name drawn from the hat to win the prize!
Anne and Mike Bacon
Jacky and Martin Botterill
Jonathan Heap and family
Mrs Doreen Newcombe
Many thanks to Pat Thistlethwaite who compiles them for us and who already has the next one in the pipe line. So look out for it. The proceeds go into Foxglove funds.
Answers for the Christmas Quiz:
5. Mince pies
7. Maids a milking
13. Silent night
14. Three French hens
16. Lords a leaping
19. Pigs in Blankets
21. White Christmas
28. Good King Wenceslas