Blog Archive (30) Posts Made in June 2017
Friday, June 30th 2017
As hinted on yesterday's blog, it has been a little on the wet side.
When viewed closely we think we have found Gold Spangle's proboscis protected between two 'lips'. I have no idea what these are called. In butterflies they roll their proboscis and tuck it under their 'chin', and it can be clearly seen.
I have tried to get a photo of the Barred Straw to no avail, but with a little persistence and chasing it around in the rain I managed to get a reasonable photo.
Out on the moor the Rayed Knapweed is coming into flower.
The yellow and red colours of Slender St John's Wort can be found along path edges and growing amongst other vegetation. Its colouration makes it stand out. If you look closely you can see tiny rows of black dots along the petal and bud edges.
A Busy Day
Thursday, June 29th 2017
After nearly three days of rain, today the reserve was looking very wet. The cascading ponds were definitely cascading and the weir had a lot of water coming over it, making an attractive water feature.
A number of reserve staff left this morning on their annual bird ringing visit to Cape Wrath at the very top of Scotland where each year large numbers of seabirds are ringed. We look forward to hearing of their antics and wish them a successful visit. Hopefully there will be photographs in the coming days.
Back at the reserve, the day was a busy one. Thirty six members of Teesside West Rotary Club visited the reserve for a walk and talk. The heavy rain meant the talk was a little longer than planned, and the walk a little shorter, but the event was much enjoyed by everyone. By the afternoon, the weather had fined up, which was convenient as a second group, a U3A wildflower group visited for the afternoon.
Meanwhile, the volunteers continued working away. Two tasks were tackled today- the first was continuing the painting and staining of the signposts and red net ride number signs around the reserve, which was tackled by Christine and Stuart. Meanwhile, everyone else continued work on some of the paths. This is hard work, especially in the rain. The paths must be weeded, then topped up with extra gravel.
Finally the whacker plate is used to compact the gravel down into a hard path.
The end result looked very tidy!
I am grateful to all those who helped make today so enjoyable for the visiting groups, and to the volunteers working behind the scenes.
Look! A Phallic Mushroom!
Wednesday, June 28th 2017
With the warm and wet weather our vegetation is growing very rapidly, so, just like a lawn, some of it needs regular trimming. In our case, as well as the lawns, there has to be regular effort put into keeping paths open as the surrounding vegetation starts to scramble across. Even after removing obstructive foliage this path near Risedale Beck still looks very verdant!
While doing this, one of our volunteers spotted something in the undergrowth – with a (rather accurate) exclamation of ‘oh look! A phallic mushroom!’ Its scientific name, Phallus impudicus, tells us that our volunteer is not the only one who thinks the mushroom in question looks a bit phallic! Its common name is stinkhorn, as it has a spore-containing slime which coats the bell shaped head and gives off an offensive smell, similar to rotting meat. This attracts flies which then disperse the mushroom’s spores via their slime-coated feet! An early, and not yet smelly, stage of this mushroom is apparently considered to be an aphrodisiac, presumably due to the phallic shape…
Thank you very much to all those who helped us again today with both indoor and outdoor jobs, including painting signs, trimming vegetation, recording moths, putting together new displays and stock taking.
A Spectacular Seabird
Tuesday, June 27th 2017
Not one, but two unusual and exciting happenings occurred at Foxglove today: We hosted Brigadier Dalton, head of the DIO Training Estate and we also received delivery of our new taxidermy display – a gannet – from taxidermist Brain Lancaster. We even got a photo of the meeting of these two events!
The gannet was found locally last year, around 40 miles from the nearest coast and 70 miles from the nearest gannet colony. Unfortunately this stunning seabird was not at all well and died shortly after it was found. However, taxidermied now in a dramatic diving position it will be used to help people to learn about these beautiful birds and their impressive adaptations – of which they have a number to prepare them for the impact of their dives from heights of up to 40m and at speeds of up to 60mph! It’ll be going up on display in the next couple of days – why not come and see it?!
Meanwhile our wonderful Tuesday volunteers continued busily beavering away at all kinds of jobs around the reserve: Filling bird feeders, clearing an area for the chainsaw carver (come along for Foxglove 25 on 15th and 16th of July to see them in action), painting new net ride signs,
strimming, and leaf blowing, weeding and repairing paths.
Thank you very much to all who helped today.
Wandering Through Photographs
Monday, June 26th 2017
I am wandering through my photographs looking for just the right ones to print out for displays in the Field Centre.
Chimney Sweeper moths are small and as their name suggests they are black. They do have a white edging around their wings which disappears with age. As soon as the sun comes out they are on the move, followed by me and my camera, up and down the boardwalk. I was really pleased to get this one, even though there are shadows across the wings.
Common Blue Butterflies flit from flower to flower and just as you get the camera focused they are off again. Deep breath and click and it remained on its flower long enough for a photograph.
A skipper butterfly was very co-operative and sat on its leaf, quite still.
Some things you take for granted and it is not until you are looking at the image on screen that you realise how amazing it is. Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil flower buds are covered in tiny hairs. There are also hairs on the leaves.
Tiny white hairs were found on the Phragmites.
Not to everyone's taste, a fly, but its colours are golden and it too has hairs on its body and legs.
I can stand and watch the Cotton Grass seeds waving around in gentle breezes for some time, just waiting until the photo looks just right.
Glennis spotted an orange flower on the far side of the lake, which she ID'd as Fox-and-cubs. A close up was required so Adam set off through the undergrowth and returned with this superb photo of yet another new species for the reserve.
Sunday, June 25th 2017
CES 6 today, so only another six to go. The weather was not the best but an early morning walk saw some red and pink in the sky, which the camera could not pick up. Trying to trick the camera made for interesting viewing once the photo was on the main computer screen! A lopsided lake!
I usually do not like the flash setting on the camera but I must admit it made for some different photos. It looks like the middle of the night when this Foxglove was snapped.
The ringing room was busy and the total at the end of the day was 230 birds, the third highest for CES 6 in 25 years. Included in the total were 16 new Bullfinches, 23 Willow Warblers and 14 Robins.
When taking photographs of birds in the hand for the blog, the welfare of the birds is of the utmost importance. Every bird must look pristine, which is not always easy with youngsters with fluffy uncontrollable feathers.
This juvenile Robin is showing off its speckled breast beautifully but does have a few fluffy uncontrollable feathers. Later in the summer these speckled feathers will turn red.
Treecreepers are delightful birds that hunt for insects in tree bark. It is not often that you get close up to the fabulous feathering on their wings.
When we arrived this morning the Tawny Owls were calling and later, one arrived in the ringing room. It was an adult that had been ringed when the nest boxes were checked. When released it flew off strongly.
There were Great Tit chicks ringed in the nest boxes and many of these have fledged, as 53 of them came through the ringing room. It is good to see that they are doing well.
There was cloud, a little bit of drizzle and wind but when the sun came out so did the insects. I chased this Red Admiral through some vegetation before it settled to feed on a Blackberry flower.
Damselflies like to use the bridge rails to rest and sunbath. A Blue-tailed Damselfly sat quielty waiting for more sun.
Thank you to everybody who helped today, raising nets, net rounds, ringing bids, taking down the nets, tidying up and not forgetting the many cups of tea made!
Saturday, June 24th 2017
Buzzards are the last birds to be ringed during the nesting season and the bird ringers were out last night trying to find the last nests. Unfortunately they were unsuccessful, at least as far as Buzzards were concerned. I will let Tony continue the story - 'but we did ring several Curlew and Lapwing. Amazingly the 12 Lapwing were all less than a week old - presumably second broods, so they are still out there.
One of the young Curlew was almost ready to fly, with a curved beak forming already.
However, we got well and truly stuck on a heather moor in the middle of nowhere which wasn't very clever! We were gaily coasting along at one moment - the next minute up to the floor of the rover in peat! After an interesting yomp around the high moor in drizzle and a strong wind, a friendly farmer who I hadn't seen in probably 8 years immediately agreed to pull us out - and here we are. Without him we might still have been somewhere else!'
Thanks to Leanne for the photographs and thanks to the farmer for the rescue, ensuring that the ringers will be present for CES!
This moorland shown above is a little different to our middle moor. At the minute it is very dry and there is no chance of getting muddy! The flowers are blooming and making a beautiful mosaic of colour. If you look closely there is a tiny white flower called Fairy Flax. Some of the photos I have taken of this flower leave a little to be desired, but I was pleased with this one.
Some years ago we had to search for Eyebright but this semi-parasitic plant is thriving.
Early spring sees Greater Stitchwort show its white flowers, especially along Risedale Beck, but also in the hedgelines across the moor. Lesser Stitchwort opens its tiny, delicate white flowers in June and it too can be found amongst the vegetation on the moor.
Bees benefit from different species of clover. Red Clover is just going over, whilst the White has a fairly long flowering season and so can still be seen and the Zigzag is at its best now.
A School Day Out
Friday, June 23rd 2017
Today Middleham C of E Primary School visited Foxglove. We initially thought we might be thwarted by the Royal Lancers Parade on the parade square, which was looking like it would clash with the arrival of the 38 primary school children and their teachers. However, the parade was complete by the time the school group arrived and the day went to plan. The children enjoyed a range of activities. They were divided into mixed-age groups which enabled the older ones to help the younger ones.
Some started with pond dipping.
Others enjoyed a habitat walk.
The remainder went minibeast hunting, to see what they could find under the logs, in the trees and out on the wildflower meadow.
Rotating through all the activities meant everyone got the chance to try out every task.
Meanwhile, thanks go to those working behind the scenes- Colin who filled the bird feeders ready for the weekend and those working on the various preparations for our Foxglove 25 anniversary celebrations on 15th and 16th July.
Productive and Fun!
Thursday, June 22nd 2017
The temperature was a lot cooler today as we started work with the volunteers at 8.30 this morning. We had some important guests attending the Field Centre so we finished a few tidying up jobs before retreating to the workshop to get on with the days job list.
Christine and John were re-vamping the finger posts: carefully staining the written signs with excellent results.
Peter, and the two Jackies’, were bracken bashing on the Wetland Bank. This involves cutting and removing the bracken to prevent the grasses and other flora from being suppressed.
The Milk Crate Hide, which looks onto the Wetland from the conifer plantation, had Brian putting on a new wooden plate on the actual milk crate.
Jonathan and Tony strimmed the path edges and net rides, cleaning up with the blower to remove the newly cut grass littering the paths.
Meanwhile, the rest of the team were busy repairing path edges….
….and putting new gravel onto various paths.
Lunch felt like a family affair; plenty of laughter and banter.
We seem to see plenty of mini beasts today, this Alder Moth which is classified as ‘scarce and thinly distributed or restricted resident’ in North Yorkshire.
This Figwort Weevil, Cionus scrophulariae, which is a mere 5mm was found in the field centre. As its name suggests it grazes on the leaves of figwort, also mullien and buddleia.
When disturbed the adult drops from the plant and is well camouflaged as a crumb of soil, it appeared to crawl onto this bark then tucked its head into its body. The slug-shaped larvae are covered in very shiny, sticky 'glue', resembling a droplet of tar. This is very distasteful to both potential predators and parasites.
A new one for me was this Pill Millipede, which is easily mistaken for Pill Woodlouse which has only has one pair of legs per segment, millipedes have two pairs!
The Pill Millipede has one large terminal tergite, end segment, rather than the several seen in the Pill Woodlouse.
We have a fair few Speckled Woods, and Ringlet Butterflies flying around the reserve, this one landing on Jackie B’s arm.
Thank you so much to the whole team today, productive and fun!
New Shop Stock
Wednesday, June 21st 2017
Just a short note from us today – our new book order has arrived and is now on the shelves.
These will be available to purchase from Friday – a great excuse to pop in for a walk!
In other news – the Field Centre will be closed tomorrow for a private military function. However, there will still be access to the toilets and our volunteer team will still be helping with jobs around the site, so come along as usual.
Tuesday, June 20th 2017
Today really started yesterday with us, the Reserve Managers, making a new exit/entrance tunnel for the Field Centre bee hive. This morning with the arrival of a new colony of bees we assembled the new clear tunnel which replaced the old propolis-coated perspex. Propolis, or bee glue, is a resinous mixture that honey bees produce by mixing saliva and beeswax with exudate gathered from tree buds, sap flows, or other botanical sources. It is used as a sealant for unwanted open spaces in the hive. Propolis is used for small gaps, while larger spaces are usually filled with beeswax. It is known to contain antibacterial substances.
With the display hive cleaned and ready to receive the new bees,....
.... Allister and Alison Shepherd, from the Richmond & District Beekeepers’ Association, arrived and opened the ‘nuc’ or small hive, to put the new bees into their new home.
The first thing to do was to find our new queen. She is the most important member of the hive, as mother to all the other bees. Without her the hive cannot produce the worker bees that do all the work in the hive including feeding the bee grubs, cleaning and guarding the hive, foraging for pollen and the production of honey.
Finding the queen is not an easy task, so the frames were examined until she was found…
….placed in a plastic container and marked with a special paint, in this case yellow for ease of checking her.
With the queen marked she was put into our hive and as many of her bees placed with her on the brood and food store frames.
Now she was safely in the hive we blocked any exits and carried the heavy hive to its inside location in the Field Centre.
The bees that were flying around outside or on the remaining frames were placed near the hive entrance where they gradually made their way into the new home.
Fanning bees stood at the entrance wafting pheromones to the confused bees outside their new hive as if to say, all is OK and your queen is in here!
All that remained was to clear up….
....and watch the bees make their way in and continue with the work at hand.
Thank you to Allister and Alison for all their hard work and dedication to keeping bees here at Foxglove Covert. Also, thank you to all the hard working volunteers who carried out a multitude of other jobs today!
An Even Hotter day!
Monday, June 19th 2017
One of the hottest days of the year saw another visit from Hipswell C of E Primary school. Year groups of 4 and 5 undertook a number of activities across the reserve, including pond dipping, habitat walks and searching for minibeasts. Despite the heat the wildlife was out in force and these activities were wonderfully successful…
Damp and cool conditions under rotting logs provided the perfect refuge from the sun for all manner of minibeast…
Net sweeping the meadows was highly productive, with mini beasts such as scorpion flies, grass-hoppers and plant bugs being caught in theirs dozens with only a couple of sweeps…
Pond dipping also yielded many treats including Great diving beetles, Horse leeches, Damsel fly larvae as well as sticklebacks and tadpoles aplenty…
After the school had left, attentions were quickly turned to the refurbishment of the honey bee display within the field centre. This was in preparation for a new colony of honey bees that is set to be delivered tomorrow. Perspex that had been stained by honey bee propolis and clouded by the sun over time had to be replaced…
A Very Hot Day
Sunday, June 18th 2017
On Thursday evening the meeting adjourned to the heath and the trees were caught in the setting sun.
This morning, early, the lake was caught in the rising sun. The herald of CES 5.
As is usual on this CES there are many juveniles coming through the ringing room. It is always good to see some of the Great Tits ringed in the Foxglove boxes making an appearance, 32 in all. There were 17 new Robins, mainly juveniles, 12 new Bullfinches and nine new Long-tailed Tits. Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs were also in abundance. One adult Chiffchaff had been ringed at Foxglove last year and returned to breed this year. We received an email from Tony 'It was a very good session and the best CES day 5 since 2011. A reminder that CES 6 will be next Sunday!' Thank you to everyone who helped today, in the lovely hot sunshine!
In between scribing I was out taking photographs to add to my already, huge collection, as there is always something else to see. It was too dark in natural light for this snail, but the flash shows his balancing expertise.
A cake decoration was one description of this spider egg case. I have seen it before but unfortunatley I have forgotten its name! I think the spider belonging to the white case can be seen towards the bottom left of the photo. It is very tiny.
Roses are blooming across the reserve and I love the way these flowers cascaded along the branch.
Honeysuckle is also flowering and early this morning its scent could be detected.
And finally. I have often said that I have crept up silently only to find my insect was a piece of leaf, a dollop of mud or a bird dropping. I spotted this, called my pup to heel and slowly approached and got a photo! By which time I realised that it was a leaf, better luck next time.
Busy in Different Ways
Saturday, June 17th 2017
I don't think that there is ever a quiet day at Foxglove, even in the middle of winter, there is always plenty of work being carried out. The volunteers have, as always, done stirling work around the reserve this week. The net rides have been mowed and/or strimmed and many thanks must go to Peter who has manged to mow around every orchid. All I need to do now is to ensure that the bird ringers don't walk on them! I am sure to be popular as some of these orchids are on direct paths to and from the nets.
Sometimes work is done 'behind the scenes'. Recently leaflets have been counted, photographs found for the celebration of Foxglove 25, bills paid, nest box data updated, meetings about Foxglove 25 and so the list goes on. A huge thank you to all our volunteers for all the varied work they do.
There are times when we can sneak away and enjoy the results of all the work done. On the wetland, Chris and I were looking for anything that caught our eye, flowers and insects were abundant. Then we spotted this micro moth. It did not conveniently sit on a nice piece of vegetation and nor did it sit still for long, so this is the only photo we were able to get..
It was sent to Dr Fletcher, the moth recorder for VC65 and he replied that it was the first record for the county and of course a new species record for Foxglove. Grapholita compositella's food plants are clover and Bird's-foot Trefoil. Interestingly the first brood of caterpillars feed in the stems, whilst the second brood are in spun leaves and flower heads.
Chris wanted to see a Four-spotted Chaser, but we only saw one fleetingly. Continued determination found us at the Bullet Catcher pond where we did see one, just.
Walking around the pond to get a better view we spotted a bug! Its antennae almost looked top heavy!
On looking in various insect ID books I found it to be Agapanthia villosoviridescens or its common name is Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn. A book printed in 2004 indicated that it only lived in Norfolk, but a more recent book had a dot in N Yorks. Call in the expert. Mr Bob Marsh replied, 'In Yorkshire (VCs 61-65) we have a total of 117 records dating from about 2000, when the species first appeared in Yorkshire but so far (not including your record) we have not had it at Foxglove. The nearest in VC65 is Nosterfield SE2779, so yours looks like our most northerly record, at least as far as Yorkshire is concerned.'
So this lovely bug is yet another new record for Foxglove. The adults feed on Cow Parsley, Nettles and Hogweed. The larvae live and feed on various plants including thistles.
Much work is going on now, as the date for the annual visit to Cape Wrath draws ever closer. We have received some photos taken by Tom Dewick. This is a superb photograph of a Black-throated Diver.
A pair of Sea Eagles were seen over Pavingstone Point.
We are often asked why we ring birds and one of the resons is to find out about the longevity. This photo shows the ring on a Guillemot. It was ringed by Tony on the 29th June 1999, over 17 years old.
In the next few weeks work will continue towards Cape Wrath and Foxglove 25, as well as the everyday work that is needed at Foxglove.
New Found Things
Friday, June 16th 2017
Today we had a visit from Hipswell C of E Primary School years 3 and 4. It was a great day with various activities going on from mini-beast discoveries using sweep netting on the flower meadow….
… close examination of the contents
… to looking under rotting logs for the numerous ground beetles, slugs, etc.
....and using a sheet to examine tree/leaf insects
….to pond dipping in the Scrapes where delights including Great Diving Beetles, diving beetle larvae and these mating Giant Freshwater Snails graced our nets .
… and finishing off with a habitat walk that had the added bonus of newly hatched Moorhen chicks on the Lake.
While we were tending to the school Peter had come in specially to assist with various jobs that needed doing on the site and Colin helped by filling bird feeders and other much needed jobs. Thank you from us all for such hard work!
A Day of Preparations
Thursday, June 15th 2017
We have spent today getting further on with preparations for our Foxglove 25 weekend on the 15th and 16th of July when we will be celebrating 25 years of Foxglove Covert! Posters and flyers are printed and ready for distribution (please get in touch if you can get some out in your area) and an exciting programme of events, activities and stalls is being finalised – so keep an eye on the events pages as more details will be coming soon!
In the meantime a huge thank you to our Thursday volunteers who valiantly continued efforts to get the reserve looking its best and to our Team Cappuccino who ran last week’s coffee morning. We now know they raised a total of £346.16 for Foxglove!
On that note, did you come to the coffee morning last Thursday? If so, please check your raffle tickets and get in touch if you have ‘green 520’ or ‘green 531’. Thanks.
Wednesday, June 14th 2017
Today we had some slightly different visitors at Foxglove Covert. These are the Horse Loggers, who we expect to be a popular attraction to visitors at our Foxglove 25th anniversary celebrations. The horses Blueberry and Thomas were here for a trial run in preparation for the weekend. Once unloaded from the van they set off into the woodland to see where they will be working.
They were then installed on a rope strung between two trees to get used to their surroundings.
After being tacked up they had a practice logging session.
They seemed to enjoy their day out! To see them working for yourselves, come along to our celebratory weekend on 15th and 16th July.
Elsewhere on the reserve Wear-Tees U3A Wildlife Group enjoyed a guided walk and talk.
Being Wednesday, and therefore a moth identification morning, they were able to get a good look at some of the moths, including this Poplar Hawk-moth. The wings on this photo appear fuzzy - this is the moth rapidly beating its wings in preparation for flight.
Thanks go to the volunteers who came in to help out with various tasks behind the scenes today.
A Lucky Chance Encounter
Tuesday, June 13th 2017
Another Tuesday and another day of progress on the many jobs involved in maintaining Foxglove with many thanks to the hard working volunteer team. The day started gently with cups of tea (or coffee).
Then we got stuck in: Bird feeders were filled, the back garden weeded and tidied, lawns mown, marker posts painted, paths strimmed/mown, seed bagged for sale, the tadpoles cleaned out, bracken bashed, paths weeded…and more!
However, it was a lucky chance encounter which made my day: Taking a less-used path there was a squawk and flutter in the grass beside me and I looked down to see a young jackdaw struggling and failing to fly away. I picked it up and discovered it was attached to a substantial amount of nest-contents by a great tangle of wool – which must have been a part of the nest – around one of its legs, preventing it from flying.
We removed the wool (this was a small amount of it).
We then gave it a ring and let it go near where we found it…but that last bit took a while as it seemed to consider me a sort of strange tree: It wandered along my arm, had a look around, called for its parent…
…walked a bit further and gave itself a good shake (it’s got its left leg in the air here so you can see its new ring on the right leg)…
…before finally flying away! A beautiful bird helped along its way 😊
In other news – did you come to the coffee morning last Thursday? If so, please check your raffle tickets and get in touch if you have ‘green 520’ or ‘green 531’. Thanks.
A Growing Job List
Monday, June 12th 2017
This Monday did not feel like a Monday! Instead of the usual office work that follows a weekend we were working on preparations for the 25th Anniversary ‘Foxglove 25’ event coming up on the 15th & 16th July.
With only a month to go we headed out around the reserve; with notebooks in hand we made a list as long as my arm with jobs to be done. This was not an unpleasant task as it's good to look at the reserve in detail.
The general maintenance of the site is on-going, but we spotted various signs for re-newing and wooden structures such as the outdoor classroom which need a re-staining.
Taking time and looking closely, we saw that our orchids are coming into their glory, including this Common Spotted Orchid:
The path verges are lined with numerous flower spikes (making the strimming a little awkward when defining the path edges!). With all the winter work it is always reassuring that these beautiful flowers are still here in abundance!
I believe this to be a hybrid Northern Marsh Orchid.
We have tin sheets laid in suitable areas to give a haven for various critters; quite often it's a vole or toad who uses the underside as a temporary home, but in this case a nest of bumblebees were present. Without disturbing the nest site too much I determined it was a Buff-tailed Bumblebee.
These bees do not have hives like Honey Bees. Only the Queen over-winters, but they have nests of up 500 workers, where Honey Bees can be in the thousands. Honey is limited to about a thimble size amount if any, as the bee grubs are fed mainly on collected pollen.
Sunday, June 11th 2017
There is always plenty to look at when I wander around Foxglove, even in the depth of winter. During June, though, it is almost impossible to wander far! I keep looking at this and that, sometimes an insect, sometimes a piece of mud, whatever catches my eye.
Ferns like shade and damp and there are many on the reserve that are enjoying the recent rain, although I suspect that these Male Ferns, growing on the bank of Risedale Beck, will always have enough water!
On the island in the Voley Pond the Lady Fern also has plenty of water.
Fern Knotting Gall, not as I sometimes call it Fern Knitting Gall, can be found at the tips of some of the fern fronds. This is caused by the fly Chirosia betuleti.
Damselflies enjoy sitting and sunbathing on ferns that catch the sunshine.
Other leaves also provide resting places, especially after a meal.
Orchids are opening and can be found along many of the path edges. Common Spotted Orchids are the last to flower,
along with all the hybrids!
Saturday, June 10th 2017
Green plants need sunlight to make their own food, which helps the plants to grow new leaves, flowers and seeds. In turn many invertebrates then use the plants for their food.
One tree, probably a Buckthorn, was buzzing and when examined from a safe distance, we realised that it was covered in bees, mainly the Tree Bumblebee. Easy, take a photograph of the bees feeding. This is the best one!
Once observed our interest then turned to the flowers. They are small and not colourful but they must be full of nectar.
Bees were also busy amongst the Marsh Cinquefoil just coming into flower.
Greenfly are numerous this year, sucking sap from the leaves. This damselfly may well have its eyes on food.
Undersurfaces of leaves are ideal protection for insects and caterpillars and also for their eggs. There is a suspicion that these eggs may be those of a shield bug. If we can remember which leaf they were on we will check! Once hatched will they eat the leaves or await other insects to prey upon?
Many leaves on the Hazel trees along Risedale Beck have holes in them. It should not have been difficult to find out who was making them. After much looking this green larva was found munching away. As yet we have no firm ID. Next to the larva is the cast skin from one of its moults.
Honey and Honey Bees
Friday, June 9th 2017
It’s beeeen a bee-zy day: At least it has been since lunchtime when the beekeepers arrived! Our observation honey bee hive has been struggling in recent weeks. This is because the queen in there hatched out late and so didn’t mate enough: To lay a worker bee (a female) the queen needs a fertilised egg, whereas to lay a drone (a male) she will use an unfertilised egg. Worker bees do as the name suggests – all the work of the hive – from cleaning cells, making wax, feeding grubs, guarding the hive, foraging…however the only job of a drone is to mate with a queen bee from another hive. We know our queen bee did not mate enough as she is now only laying drones.
The plan today was to swap our colony of bees for a new one: First the temporary closure of the Field Centre…
…and the donning of protective outfits.
Then careful removal of the observation hive to outside…
…where our bees were taken out…
… and put into a nuc for transport to their new home.
Then the observation hive was cleaned ready for its new occupants.
Equipment was got ready to mark the new queen so we can spot her easily in the hive.
Then the new, waiting nuc of bees was opened ready for transfer…
…but OH NO! We discovered that the new box of bees unfortunately has a drone-laying queen too!
Once back in their nucs, both colonies of bees will be taken away for the care they need. In the meantime our observation hive is without any bees – but the beekeepers think there will be a suitable colony available soon, so watch this space…
You can still enjoy our locally-produced honey as we received a new delivery today!
Thank you very much to Alison and Allister for their help with the bees today and to Kevin for the new batch of honey!
Foxglove goes to Town
Thursday, June 8th 2017
Today being Thursday was a Volunteer day. However, it was a day with a difference. Today was the Foxglove Covert Coffee Morning in Richmond Town Hall. This involved quite a lot of organisation by our volunteers beforehand, who delivered an excellent coffee morning with raffle, tombola, tea and coffee, cakes, bric-a-brac, and stalls. The event was well attended, despite being a very wet day! Here is “Team Cappuccino” who manned the stalls, washed cups, made tea and gave us their support.
Volunteers who were not involved with the coffee morning turned up at the reserve to work in the rain. Because of the weather, the tree branches along the entrance track were laden with water and hanging down to car height in the road. This meant loppers were required to prune back all the overhanging branches to stop them damaging cars. Jonathan found a novel way of squashing the vegetation to fit more into the trailer.
Meanwhile, Stuart filled the hoppers and cleaned up the seed around them that had been scattered by the birds. Elsewhere, more of the trail marker posts were brought back into the workshop for repair and repainting.
We are very grateful to all those who put so much effort into the coffee morning to make it a success today.
Heroes and Squabs
Wednesday, June 7th 2017
After the rather hefty winds and rains overnight it was good to get out and check the green route for any wind-blown branches. To do this I had help from a Help For Heroes Pathfinders group.
We were able to walk the route cutting back any branches over hanging the path or obstructing the route with time to stop and take in the glorious tranquillity of Risedale Beck. As we were up above the beck we removed a few of the marker posts to re-stain and touch up.
Also at Foxglove today, the garrison medical centre had a team building event on the reserve…
... seen here enjoying the various sights and facilities of the reserve.
During one of our nest box checks we found a couple of Stock Doves chicks called squabs. This little guy was too small to ring yet.
Wet and Windy
Tuesday, June 6th 2017
Tuesdays are volunteer days. Our dedicated volunteers braved the wild autumn-like weather to come and help out at Foxglove. With the rain we have had over the last week, everything seems to have sprung into life and grown. The grass along the paths and bird ringing net rides is becoming too long; meaning the lower part of the nets will get caught next time they are put up. This meant the strimmers and mowers were kept busy trying to get things back into shape.
It is not just the grass that appreciated the rain. Net rides are usually quite narrow- some only 4-5 metres wide. It does not take long for the new shoots to grow across the rides, again providing something for the nets to get caught it. More of the volunteers therefore were tasked with pruning the newly overhanging branches. A wet day is actually ideal for this as the branches hang lower with the weight of the rain so are easier to reach for removal.
Elsewhere at Foxglove, a number of other tasks were completed. The bird feeders were filled and the ongoing project of bringing in and painting all of the trail marker posts continued. Gorse was pruned in some areas. Gorse has a tendency to take over anywhere that it gets the chance so it is important to remove it now before the seeds ripen.
The bird ringers continued the seemingly endless tasks of ringing chicks in nest boxes. While the vast majority have now been done, some of the later breeding species are still incubating eggs or small chicks and have a little way to go yet.
Thanks to everyone who came out on such a wild day to help out.
A Very Wet Day
Monday, June 5th 2017
Today it rained. Not just a light drizzle, or even scattered showers, but a constant downpour of heavy rain that began about 6am and continued until mid-afternoon. This was rather unfortunate as we were expecting a small group of GCSE students who were coming from Beverely School in Middlesbrough to try various biological sampling techniques out on the reserve.
The weather was far too wet for being outside. The gutters were overflowing and creating waterfalls all around the field centre building. Luckily we had set the moth trap under cover on the veranda the night before and had a good catch of interesting moths. The students spent some time learning how a moth trap works and then identifying and recording the species caught before releasing them.
After a talk about the reserve and a discussion of some of the monitoring we do here, it finally faired up enough to head outside. We all headed down to the pond dipping platforms to see what we could find lurking in the depths. One of the Highlights was a Great Diving Beetle Larvae eating Tadpoles. We also studied the different Caddis Fly larva we found and marvelled at their excellent camouflage.
Despite the weather, and last minute changes of plan, everyone had a good day out. We will try to do the sampling techniques on a drier day later in the year!
All Shapes and Sizes
Sunday, June 4th 2017
This is one of the busiest times of year for the bird ringers. They are out many nights during the week checking nest boxes at Foxglove and out on the training area. Wader chicks are also ringed. Added to that it is CES season and we now have four 4am starts during June.
Walking through the reed bed at the head of the Scrapes, birds could be seen flitting between the old stems. Sometimes singing could be heard. Reed Buntings frequent this area, particularly in the winter when they head there to roost and be safe from predators. They are beautiful birds and can sometimes be seen feeding in the back garden.
Sedge Warblers only make use of the reed bed during summer. They winter in Africa, south of the Sahara Desert. An amazing journey for these small birds weighing around 12g.
The ringers are involved in a special project to colour ring Peregrine Falcon chicks. However before this can happen the nests have to be found and this involves many hours sitting watching for the adults returning to the nest. Quite often the nest is out in the open but this one is a 'des res', hidden away under an overhang.
As with most birds of prey, incubation begins as soon as the eggs are laid, so there are often several days difference in ages of the chicks. The third egg may still hatch.
Peregrine chicks are helpless and the parents feed them for several weeks, unlike Mallard ducklings who can feed themselves shortly after leaving the nest. The female does keep and eye on them.
She also 'talks' to them so they can all keep in contact. I heard her and was able to get some nice photos as she walked her young away from the pools above the lake, onto lake where they started feeding.
PS Just arrived. Jack rings on Salisbury Plain and has tracked this Whitethroat nest from eggs to chicks to fledging.
Saturday, June 3rd 2017
Yellow Rattle on the moor is growing well.
Some of the grasses are not growing as vigorously as they did, so allowing other flowers to blossom. Common Spotted Orchids are beginning to flower.
In the Scrapes, the yellow heads of Greater Spearwort are open. The flower walkers keep their fingers crossed that one will remain in flower until the end of October or even later!
Over 70 flowers were recorded on the flower walk on Wednesday. Four volunteers were involved and we were all looking around to make sure that we did not miss anything. Later in the day as I ambled through the Scrapes I did wonder how all four of us had missed the Foxglove in flower!
As the day warmed so did the inverts. Speckled Wood butterflies were in any small sunny patch, defending it against all comers! This Speckled Wood was photographed from a different angle, so allowing some of its underwing to be seen.
'There it is. There it isn't!' These are the usual comments of volunteers trying to take a photograph of a Broad-bodied Chaser. Brian asked this one to sit still for him and it did! A great photo.
Flowers and Fauna
Friday, June 2nd 2017
As it is half term, we ran a children’s event at Foxglove Covert. Today’s theme was Flowers and their Fauna. It was a wet start to the day but this did not deter the families who came to the event. By the time we set off the rain had stopped and we were able to get out and make the most of the day.
The children went out onto the reserve to see what could be found. Slime Mould was investigated…
Different types of flowers were found and the children learnt about the names of different parts of them. They then learnt about insects and their role in pollinating flowers. They tried out a variety of invertebrate sampling techniques including sweep netting and shaking trees to see the variety of insects living there.
This pupa of a leaf mining moth was particularly interesting as it was possible to see the trails it had eaten through the leaves and the droppings it had left behind.
The favourite of the day was this Wasp Beetle which relies on its striking wasp-like appearance for defence.
Finally they returned to the field centre to look inside our beehive and learn about the bees to make their own model bee on a stick to take home.
Elsewhere on the reserve, Colin filled all the bird feeders in preparation for tomorrow’s bird ringing session and then continued with a bit more work edging the lawn around the field centre.
Thanks to Colin for helping out today and Jorge for his work on our Field Centre guttering.
A Festival and Feedback
Thursday, June 1st 2017
It amazes me how diverse this job can be; one minute I am organising volunteers with their various jobs, the next I am giving a talk on the reserve, followed by using the wac-a-plate to re-vamp the paths.
We held two walks and talks for the Swaledale Festival; one in the morning and one in the afternoon. It was well attended and folk appeared to enjoy themselves.
Being Thursday we were blessed by having our volunteers in, this varied from guiding walks to clearing paths,
and re-vamping the marker posts.
A few jobs we will be repeating in the coming weeks, as they are jobs that will take a few weeks to complete! Thank you to all who helped out today.
In other news: A few months ago we ran a Build a Nest Box event. This was well attended and folk went away with their completed boxes to hopefully put up in the early spring ready for the nesting period.
It is rare that we hear back from folk, so we were especially delighted to receive this message yesterday:-
“Hi my son asked me to share his news we have had great tits nesting for a few weeks in the bird box which he made at Foxglove a few months ago. Today we witnessed a fledging tit and we now have an empty box. I want to thank you for putting such a wonderful event on as this has allowed my son to be completely engaged with the wildlife in and around our garden.”
It is comments like this which make a really great end to our day!