Blog Archive (29) Posts Made in July 2017
A Water Vole Study
Monday, July 31st 2017
We are fortunate to have Jade, who is at university studying Conservation Management, with us for the next few weeks doing a dissertation on Water Voles.
This will involve a detailed study of their feeding preferences as well as giving us more of an idea of their territories and movements on the reserve.
Jade is no stranger to the reserve having completed a-one-day-a-week, over a year, placement here. Her first job was to maintain the vole rafts already in situation and construct a few more rafts.
Then place them in the various areas with motion sensor cameras ready to film these shy little critters. We will keep you informed of her progress and findings.
Elizabeth and Ruth were busy planting a couple of trees today; Elizabeth planting a lovely English Walnut…
and Ruth a Sweet Chestnut.
Out, About and Around
Sunday, July 30th 2017
There was an initial debate as to whether Saturday or Sunday would be best for CES. We definitely chose the right day as today, the wind was very strong, not only would we have been unable to open the nets, it was not at all helpful for taking photographs!
The Tufted Duck - Mrs Tufty to her friends - has five ducklings and is being very attentive to them. They stay close to her, in line astern.
Then she rounded them up a little closer. I wondered if the camera was at fault as she appears to have a large head and lots of beaks but they are her youngsters side by side with her.
Mallard ducklings are now well grown and I counted about ten swimming around.
House Martins were swooping for insects across the lake and a bright blue flash showed that the Kingfisher was still around. A visitor was thrilled that she had seen it as she had never seen one before.
Cinnabar moth caterpillars are munching their way through the Ragwort leaves and flowers. They range in size so I am unsure if these are all from one hatching or from several.
There were few butterflies around due to the strength of the wind, but the bees were out. A Spear Thistle was the flower of choice for this one and you can see that it is covered in white pollen.
At home I have Mealy Primrose flowering for a second time. Wandering across the moor I checked those growing next to the stream and was pleased to see that it too was having a second flowering.
We have to think hard about the name of this dandelion like flower - it usually ends up being called hawkweed cats ear thing! Its correct name is Mouse-eared Hawkweed. It is one of the easiest of the hawkweeds to ID as it has a lemon flower with the underside of the petals tinged red. I noticed when looking at it closely, that the sepals are covered in tiny prickly looking hairs.
Spiders are beginning to be seen. Not for everyone a lovely creature to behold. I do love the Cucumber spiders.
I have had a leg shaken at me by a bee to warn me to go away, but never has a spider done this to me, until today. I am not sure if you can tell that it is waving one of its legs threateningly, as they do seem to be a little mixed up!
No Thunder, Hail or Snow!
Saturday, July 29th 2017
Red sky at night, shepherd's delight. Red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning. We should have taken notice of this saying. First thing, 0430, there were pink clouds although there were some very dark grey ones mixed in.
Then the sun rose and caught the tree tops turning them to gold.
Add to this it was a good job that the bird ringers had all brought their fleeces as it was cold. As the morning continued so the black clouds rolled in and the drizzle and rain showers fell. Of course these were not forecast! During these damp spells the bird ringers checked the nets continuously.
During August we will be at the Crater catching Mipits ( Meadow Pipits). We had our first one today.
Yesterday three Kingfishers were seen on the lake. It was too windy to open the net on the weir, but we need not have worried as one Kingfisher was caught in the Scrapes and the other near Risedale Beck.
Today was CES 9, only three more to go and we have not missed one, although the weather has not made carrying out CES easy. In the ten and a half hours the nets were raised 183 birds were caught. Initially very few Great Tits arrived in the ringing room and Tony commented on this. Needless to say after his comment 16 were eventually processed, many having been ringed as chicks in the nest boxes. Earlier in the year few Bullfinches were ringed. Over the last few weeks their numbers have increased, 14 new birds and 16 retraps were processed today. Altogether 183 birds were caught of 23 different species making today the 10th best total of the 25 years - a fairly average result!
Thank you to everyone who helped today. CES requires a skilled team of people to raise and take down the nets, do net rounds, ring the birds, enter data, tidy up and of course not forgetting keeping the net rides in pristine condition. A huge thank you to you all.
By the afternoon some sun appeared and the temperature rose and the insects left their shelter. Usually you only see a side view of a Meadow Brown but this one was sunbathing.
Bees and Hoverflies were competing for the same flower.
Fungi enjoy damp, warm weather and they are certainly getting plenty of that. Fly Agaric is growing in the conifer wood on the way to the wetland, where it can grow in profusion. This is a 'youngster'.
And finally. Early this morning, walking quietly through the Scrapes hoping to see the Water Vole but not really expecting it, there it was, with plenty of pesky vegetation between it and me. I think it was a youngster as it was quite small. I could see it and it could certainly see me and watched as I moved to try to get a better photograph. It eventually decided that I was getting too close and left the raft, unusually quietly.
A Trio of Kingfishers
Friday, July 28th 2017
A Friend of Foxglove Covert took some fantastic photos of three Kingfishers on the Lake this afternoon.
Kingfishers tend to breed in their first year having paired around February. The nest burrow is usually in a bank which is stone free. The burrow is about 2 to 3ft in depth, where up to three broods are produced one after the other. The clutch is 6-7 eggs, hatching approx 21 days after being laid, they then leave the nest after about 24 days, but this can be another ten days if food is short. They are fed for about 4 days by the parents before being driven out of the territory so another brood can begin.
They were fishing off the duck platform, seen here with Tufted Duck and ducklings in the background.
Off the hand rail in front of the lake Hide
Below it is holding what looks like a dragonfly larvae.
Also seen diving off the Lake tree trunk
Here are some other views of these fantastic birds
Thank you to Terry and Yvonne Wright for these great snaps.
Thursday, July 27th 2017
Today the Thursday volunteers were busy moving logs, tidying up an area that was used for tree climbing demonstrations during the Foxglove 25 celebrations. The rain poured down heavily on the soggy volunteers (hence the poor quality of all of today's photographs!) as they carted the logs to the trailer.
All the rain meant the ground was far too soft to get the trailer down the net ride to the logs so everything had to be moved by hand. The logs were unloaded at the bullet catcher for future use.
Afterwards they were cut up into useful sized chunks by Jonathan.
By the end of the day the sun was shining beautifully- quite a contrast to the rest of the day, which had prevented us from doing a number of other useful tasks such as mowing and strimming.
Thanks to everyone who worked in the rain today.
All Shapes and Sizes
Wednesday, July 26th 2017
With the heavy rain this morning we were pleased to have the Mini Beast Marvel event in the afternoon. This event linked in well with the morning moth trapping with Elephant Hawk moths …
...and Light Arches for the young bug hunters to see.
The moth trap also tends to get a few flying insects in the trap, and no stranger to it is this Sexton Beetle, one of the burying beetles.
We were able to use the digital microscope to show folk this rather smelly specimen on the big activity room projector. This beetle lays its eggs on carrion; such as mice, frogs, or any other dead animals where the beetle grubs consume the rotting flesh. The beetle burrows underneath this dead animal excavating soil to bury the carcass. As you can see from the pic above the beetle is carrying Gamasid mites, in this case about 40. These fast flightless mites use the flying beetle as a taxi to get from one carcase to another, in doing so they eat the fly maggots also infesting the carcass. This is a symbiotic relationship due to the mites eliminating the beetle grub competition and apparently does not harm the beetle.
The group hunted for various mini beasts at the outdoor classroom, looking under logs…
... and in the bushes
before returning to the Field Centre for various bug crafts like making bees-on-a-stick
and pipe cleaner dragonflies
before proudly showing us all their hard work.
Tuesday, July 25th 2017
Much of today was spent on the Wildflower meadow and in the neighbouring Plover’s Pool field. The task was meadow maintenance. It is the time of year to remove thistles. With no control, they have a tendency to take over everything else and a thistle bed is not really what we are wanting. By removing them now, when the seeds are just starting to form we are not depriving the bees and butterflies of their food source. Despite our best efforts there are always more thistles than we can pull, meaning there will still be plenty left for the wildlife next year.
It was a nice day for thistle pulling - after heavy rain the ground was soft so they pulled out quite easily. For once the flies didn’t seem to be biting much either. It will not be long before our flower meadow is cut. We have deliberately left it until now to allow as many of the flowers as possible to drop their seeds back into the soil before cutting.
The Yellow Rattle is no longer yellow, but is definitely living up to the rattle part of its name now that the seeds are ripe.
Ann spent some time collecting some seed in case we decide to introduce it to any other parts of the reserve.
Whilst out on the Meadow we found this large Green Tiger Beetle.
To finish the day we removed tree guards from some of the larger trees that were becoming choked by their guards.
Thanks very much to all the volunteers who helped out today.
Ideal for Slugs!
Monday, July 24th 2017
The rather damp recent weather had encouraged the slugs to cross the paths and be ever present on the path sides. We have a fair few slug varieties on the reserve, the most numerous appears to be the Large Black Slug , Arion ater.
This slug belongs to a species that is so complex that can only be differentiated by dissecting the genitalia. There are three species in this complex (Arion ater group): Arion ater, A. rufus and A. vulgaris. These slugs species range from 75-180 mm in length at maturity. They may be dark brown, black, orange or reddish in colour. The juveniles of these species have an even wider range of colours and can be distinguished from mature adults by the presence of lateral stripes.
Slugs are hermaphrodites; they have both male and female genitalia hidden under their mantels. When they come together, like these above, they exchange sperm and fertilise each other’s eggs, quite often in an entwined embrace. If you find round clusters of small round eggs under logs, or at the base of your garden vegetables in the soil it is sure to be that of the slug!
Sunday, July 23rd 2017
Yesterday it rained and it did not take long for the becks to fill. Out on the moor the tiny streams were rushing across the moor.
In a quiet eddy under an overhanging piece of bank, the Water Crickets were managing not to be swept away.
Risedale Beck was a beautiful colour!
There are not many flowers along Risedale Beck during the summer, as the canopy of leaves from Hazel and Alder shade out the light. However these trees do provide food for many caterpillars and larvae. Once the rain stopped the sun came out and so did the insects. Something caught my eye and it was a fly. Looking closely I realised that it was having a cleaning session, starting with antenna, then front legs, then finally back ones.
Hoverflies were busy hovering around many different species of flower. I caught this one head on.
Angelica is in flower and providing plenty of food. I am unable to remember ever seeing so many of these flies Sciara hemerobioides, a Fungus Gnat, on one flower. They have bright yellow tummies - to be correct abdomens. The Soldier Beetles were also out in numbers.
On the heath I spotted a frog hopper and realised that it was one of my favourites. Camera ready and some photos taken. Honest, this is Cicadella viridis a Green Frog Hopper. Not one for the calander competition!
Small Skippers were feeding in large numbers too. This one, again on the heath, feeding on Betony. The small meadows, as well as the heath, are covered with the pink purple flowers.
More Images from Foxglove 25
Saturday, July 22nd 2017
It was damp last Saturday but we were very lucky that it did not do this!
The puddles soon appeared and the rain drops kept falling. I hasten to add that these photos were taken from the protection of the Field Centre.
During the week we have received people's photos of Foxglove 25. Thank you very much for bringing them in. These ones were taken by Colin.
The pond dipping team. Sticklebacks, beetle larvae, damsel and dragonfly larvae were caught.
Listening to the speeches.
The Exmoor Pony was very well behaved and many people stopped to admire him.
Enjoying the sunshine
These are from another volunteer. Glennis's owl pellet dissection held both young and not so young enthralled.
Roger and Rosie took people on a bug hunt. They all had to receive instructions about sweep netting and using a pooter.
Looking at the bugs from the heath. Was it really that big?
Volunteers at the end of the day - they had worked hard - thank you.
And to complete the weekend the BBQ. A right royal feast.
Friday, July 21st 2017
It has been somewhat busy at Foxglove over the recent weeks, with endless days of preparation for the Foxglove 25th Anniversary Celebrations. With the weekend now behind us, there is finally time to stop and take stock of the situation. Instead of needing to look at what needs to be painted or strimmed or tidied up, there has been the chance to look at the reserve around us purely from a point of interest. What I found today, whilst out checking the cows, caught me somewhat unawares. I was thinking it was still early Summer, possibly even late Spring, but somehow the weeks have passed and I find the blossoms and flowers of Spring have long gone.
In the hedgerows, many of the berries and nuts are forming. These Guelder Rose berries are already starting to turn red.
The Rowan berries vary in colour at present from green through orange to red- this was the ripest bunch I could find.
The sloes on the Blackthorn bushes have swelled to full size, but are still very green and unripe.
The same is true for the Hazelnuts.
And for the Holly.
The little four-lobed Spindle seeds are currently a delicate pale green. They are a delight later in the year when their bright pink seed cases split open to reveal the vivid orange seeds inside.
I even found one or two of the Bramble leaves starting to go red around the edges.
The Wildflower Meadow has taken on a golden brown tinge as the Yellow Rattle and grasses start to seed.
It is a colourful time to be at Foxglove, with many of the flowers of Summer still upon us in addition to the reds and oranges of the leaves and berries.
Not the Usual Thursday
Thursday, July 20th 2017
This was not the usual Thursday. Yes, the volunteers came in, yes loads of work was done, but we, the Reserve Managers, were in at 4.15am because the weather was not going to allow for a weekend CES (Constant Effort Site bird ringing). If you read our blogs from the past few weeks you may have picked up on us getting up earlier than normal folk and setting up the mist nets to allow the birds to be collected and therefore the ringing of the birds to begin.
With schools attending the site there was a busy happy buzz in the Field Centre.
Comments in our visitors book from children today include:
'I had so much fun spotting the birds and walking around.' Callum
'Thanks for the great time at the bird ringing.' Jenish
'I had fun drawing frogs and getting a score of 26 on the quiz which was 2nd.' Rose
The Thursday crew of volunteers were, as always, straight to work carrying out jobs on the reserve. A few clear up jobs from the Foxglove 25 weekend were undertaken.
One of the interesting finds was this Horntail, or Wood Wasp. This is a sizable insect, about 50mm in length. It is not a wasp but a sawfly and is totally harmless despite its threatening appearance.
These two Horntails were buzzing around our chainsaw sculpturing area from the weekend,
when we spotted one remove the sheath from her ovipositor drill ready to lay her eggs in the pine wood of the newly sculptured mushroom!
Thank you to all the folk that helped with the ringing, and also the excellent work carried out by our regular Thursday volunteers.
Moths and Other Critters
Wednesday, July 19th 2017
With this warm weather the moth trap gave a bumper haul of over 40 species with a fair few requiring more detailed examination. These are just a few of the delights from today. A male Chevron:
A female Chevron, which is slightly smaller than the male and less colourful:
A Plain Golden Y, which is similar to a Beautiful Golden Y but lacking a few markings:
Less beautiful, but maybe not to its male counterpart, was this biting female Horse Fly. The male incidently is found gathering pollen on various flowers.
There are 3,500 known species of horseflies, of which about 150 live in Europe. The female is the one that folk notice most, mainly because the little devils are sucking their blood. Unlike other blood sucking insects they can be quite painful initially when biting; stabbing with the mouthparts and slicing the skin with scissor-like movements of the finely serrate, knife-like mandibles and smaller maxillae. After capillaries are ruptured, anti-coagulant saliva is pumped out through the hypopharynx, and the blood is lapped up using the labella.
Once they are attached they are less painful, feasting until they have had their fill or until they are swatted off.
Stopping off at the Wetland I could see numerous newt larvae, soon to become an eft or newtlet when they lose their external gills and leave the pond. I am unsure if this is a Palmate or Smooth Newt as we have both species on the reserve (as well as Great Crested Newts) and at this age it's hard to distinguish between them. Its external gills are still clearly present!
Blue Skies and Cake
Tuesday, July 18th 2017
Today was another glorious summer day here at Foxglove. Many of our volunteers came prepared with sun cream, sun hats and insect repellent as we tackled practical tasks of the season: The main tasks of the day were removing creeping thistles before they seed (now the insects have had a chance to enjoy the flowers) and knocking back bracken.
We stopped in the shade for elevenses, enjoying some of Ann’s wonderful cakes left over from the weekend!
Thank you all 😊
Foxglove 25 Celebrations
Monday, July 17th 2017
The sun shone at Foxglove Covert this weekend, bringing out families in large numbers to visit the reserve and enjoy the range of activities on offer. Many photographs were taken over the weekend and below are just a small selection.
Ann's legendary refreshment stall:
The working horses:
One of our guided walks:
The wormery weaving:
The BMX Smoothie Bike being tested by one of our volunteers:
The owl pellet dissection session:
Barry Dodd (Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire), Rishi Sunak (MP for Richmond), Lt. Col. Stephen Jordan (Garrison Commander), and Lord Zetland (Foxglove Patron) planting commemorative trees:
The Foxglove Bodgers:
The chainsaw carvers
And to round off the day, the BBQ:
We express our grateful thanks to all of those who helped to make the weekend such a resounding success. It would not have been possible without the dedication and commitment of all the volunteers who give up their time to support us.
Monday, July 17th 2017
We are home finally, and Foxglove 25 is over! It seems like we have been planning it and preparing forever.
It has been the most successful event we have ever held at Foxglove in 25 years. Yesterday, the weather was not over kind, but even so we were spared a soaking! It was dull and damp but workable; today has been perfect and we have much to be grateful for.
On Saturday we started out with a highly successful moth trapping session despite the weather, and then we entertained 17 VIPs. That they chose to come, in itself speaks volumes; but with the help of the caterers, the guides, and the exhibits we had on display I know they all had an interesting and entertaining time. From comments made to me privately at the time, and from texts and emails since, I know many of them were pleased to be there and to have the opportunity to support us. Many were very surprised at the personalities who joined them, and it is a credit to you all that they chose to. More would have been there had it not been for prior commitments that were set in concrete, but we should be very pleased with the final outcome.
Today was icing on the cake, with the greatest number of visitors I have ever seen on the reserve. I have no idea exactly how many were there but things will become clearer during the week. Suffice it to say the monies taken at the gate and on Ann Hall's food stall surpassed substantially anything we have ever done previously. The reserve was full this afternoon of generally well-behaved people with a real interest in natural history and the environment. The discussions held and the obvious interest of several nice children was great to see. I could go on forever. Double the people we expected attended the BBQ.
You have all heard it said many times before but we could do nothing like this without the good will, commitment, regular attendance and sheer hard work of the volunteers, and the determination and endeavour of our staff. Days like these, with so many different facets and concurrent activities don't happen easily. The reserve looked pristine and was/is a credit to you all. On Saturday I received endless comments about many different aspects of the reserve and none at all were negative. What else would you expect you might say ….. well there is a way of knowing whether people are being sincere or waffling, and I detected none of the latter. What was said and the way it was said was pretty convincing.
We planned this, together we gave up numerous dark evenings last winter, and between the Staff, Volunteers and Management Group we made it happen. Through out media contacts we reached 'Look North', and already there are newspaper articles being produced with photographs taken by various friends, and there are many more to come. Several people quizzed me today assuming a large financial profit from the weekend was what we were seeking. Entirely wrong! What we wanted and what we achieved was to raise the profile of the reserve and let others see the great things that go on there for free, and the great people that work there. Every single contributor, from the tree climbers to the moth-ers, the ringers, the lepidopterists, the horse loggers, the exhibitors and chefs - all played a key and valuable role.
I have to mention Lord Zetland. Not many of you will be aware of the generous support he gave us and he would not thank me if I went into detail, but he made several promises at the AGM and he more than kept every one of them - at considerable personal expense, and we are indebted to him.
I could go on forever with superlatives and further examples. I hope you will have got the message!
This was a major team effort. Together we successfully hosted HM The Queen's representative in North Yorkshire, our MP, our Patron, the recently retired Chief of the Defence Staff - the senior serviceman in the country, the CEO of Richmondshire District Council and 12 other high ranking military and civilian officers. Together, we successfully hosted many hundreds of people from this area of North Yorkshire. This afternoon at times the Royal Lancers square was full - there was no spare parking available!
As he was leaving yesterday the Lord Lieutenant said to me - and with his background he should know better than anyone: 'If your project - whatever it is - is credible and successful, you always attract the right sort of volunteers'. Well…..I leave you to ponder that!
On behalf of Sophie, who is peering over my shoulder offering advice on my grammar, the Management Group, and Foxglove, I thank every one of you who had anything to do with the success of this weekend, I thank you most sincerely for your contribution no matter how big or little it was, and I ask you please to pass this on to those for whom I have no email address so that they too can see how grateful we all are.
Best wishes. t.
Come One, Come All
Friday, July 14th 2017
We spent today getting lots of final touches together for the celebrations this weekend. We were helped by many, including regular volunteers, specialists and this group from the Royal Lancers, here erecting a tent for the Meet the Cows events.
Thank you to everyone who helped!
Tell your friends, family, neighbours and people you meet in the street – come one, come all to our 25 year anniversary celebrations this weekend – 10am to 4pm both days, with a BBQ continuing on later on the Sunday (please book for this here). Hope to see you soon!
Cows and Worms
Thursday, July 13th 2017
The cows are starting their time with us in the Plover’s Pool field, where they are enjoying a paddle and some lovely grazing, before starting their regular job of grazing our wetland in a few weeks time. This year we welcome back Fern (who was with us last year) and Dolly, also known as Dumpy (who was with us a couple of years back) and extend a brand new ‘hello and welcome’ to Florence – Fern’s calf, born last Boxing Day!
There will be opportunities to find out more about these beautiful animals and meet them with members of the team from Big Sheep Little Cow this weekend…
With some repairs and upgrades kindly made to our wormery by Colin (and new doors to come in the next few weeks) it is now back in position, complete with composting-specialist brandling worms. Pupils from West Park Academy in Darlington gave the worms their first meal of leftovers to get started on.
They’re looking forward to coming back next week to see what’s changed, comparing the sides of the wormery with and without worms… Come along this weekend to see our wormery, learn about worms and get creative making an artistic woven wormery!
Huge thanks again for the continuing efforts of our fantastic volunteer team
A Lucky Find!
Wednesday, July 12th 2017
With all the preparations for Foxglove 25, it was nice to do the routine weekly jobs such as putting out the moth trap, and opening it this morning. One moth that was discovered on the reserve recently was this Lunar Hornet Moth. This was actually found on a bird ringing net at the weekend and is a day flying moth which does not come to light traps.
With a wingspan 32 to 42 mm it is one of the larger moths, and presents a fearsome sight to the uninitiated; as you can see the finder was being cautious! This is one of several similar 'mimic' species, known as Clearwings.
Their habitat is predominantly where willows are present and best looked for in July as the adults emerge and rest low down on the trunks. The eggs are laid on the bark, and the larvae burrow into the wood, feeding internally under the bark.
Although widespread in Britain they are often over looked as wasps and not moths. In a recent survey to determine the status of all macro moths in Britain this species was classified as common. Instead of using a light trap to catch and record this species they are caught and recorded via the use of lure phenome traps, or, as in this case, a lucky find!
Apple for All
Monday, July 10th 2017
Water voles enjoy the apples on our feeding platforms: Our experience agrees with the text books – that despite having a huge range of food-plants (they’ve been recorded eating over 200 different species) apples are a favourite! However, it’s not just water voles that enjoy the apples; they’re very popular with some of our other wildlife too as shown in this rather lovely footage from earlier today…
Well the best laid plans of mice and men! I was praising technology not long ago, now it has us totally confused. A video is all ready, but for some reason it will not upload to the web site. It can be viewed on our Facebook page. Hopefully we can work our way through the mysteries of the internet and upload the video over the next few days.
I did have difficulty in choosing which photographs to use over the weekend and some had to be left out, so here they are. The hoverflies were busy feeding on Dandelion flowers.
Some of the hive bees were returning with very large pollen sacs.
My favourite, although not to everyone's taste, is this Cucumber Spider. It has a red bottom!
Sunday, July 9th 2017
There was a full moon as the bird ringers drove into Foxglove. As the nets were raised I went for my early morning walk , 4am, accompanied by bird song, including Song Thrush, Chiffchaff, Tawny Owl and Moorhen. Crossing into the middle moor I put up a Hare. Not wanting to disturb it too much I retraced my steps. John was in and set off with his big camera and got this shot of a male Hare. There was also a smaller, younger female on the moor possibly being courted by the male? A beautiful photograph - one for the calendar?
Forty six nets were expertly raised by the ringers and net rounds returned many birds. As I scribe I am still thrilled as the year progresses. Winter migrants followed by summer migrants, few females caught and then the influx of juvenile birds. There were many today including Great Tits and Robins, Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Blackcaps. We had a spell where very few Bullfinches arrived in the ringing room. Twenty eight Bullfinches were ringed today and 14 more caught as retraps from previoous sessions. In total over 250 birds were processed.
Juvenile Redstarts made their first appearance in the nets for this year..
Some of the youngsters are now in post juvenile moult and for some, like this Robin, it means moulting into adult plumage and the charactristic red feathers. You can just see a tiny red feather under its eye.
Thank you to everyone who helped on a busy ringing day, providing sausage rolls, plenty of cups of tea, helping with the inputting of data and checking the bird bags.
The birds are expertly removed from the nets, as are other creatures who find themselves there. Stacey removed a Southern Hawker dragonfly, to the sound of its mechanical wing beats. She had a healthy respect for its jaws! Stacey and Alicia then had another encounter with a wasp. It was carefully placed on a leaf, but examined further and photographed as its ID created some debate. Once back in the ringing room it was identified as a Lunar Hornet Moth. This is one of the largest clearwings and presents a fearsome sight to the uninitiated.
Summer flowers are opening and Common Centaury caught my eye.
Some, like the Cotton Grass are dispersing seeds, unfortunately I don't think that this one has much chance of germination.
Interesting and Wow!
Saturday, July 8th 2017
There are many Ringlet butterflies flying around. This one caught my eye as it landed in the middle of the pond. When the photograph was examined closely on screen, I saw that it was feeding from the flower of Broad-leaved Pondweed. As this flower is to say the least, uninspiring, I never really considered that it would have nectar! Think again!
A flower that has plenty of pollen and nectar is Ragwort. An Antler Moth was feeding and in so doing was covered in bright yellow pollen.
Dithery Docks, the name I was told as a child, for Quaking Grass is not easy to photograph, but I was quite pleased with this one, until I realised that it had a friend, and a tiny one at that. I have no idea what it is, other than saying it is an insect.
As it was warm, I crept along the boardwalk to see if the Common Lizard was there. Other people had seen it and photographed it earlier in the year but I had failed to be there at the right time. No lizard, so I walked on and investigated more flowers. I returned along the same path and there was one sunbathing. Vegetation in the way of course! I am making a guess that this is a youngster by its size and the fact that it still has a full tail. Most of those photographed last year and earlier this all had re-growing tails.
It changed its position and another photo was taken. It could see me! However I left it still sunbathing, obviously not disturbed by its encounter with me.
A Finishing-off Friday
Friday, July 7th 2017
Today was Friday, the last day of the working week and the last day before the team from Cape Wrath return to Foxglove. This meant it was a day for attempting to finish everything on the list of things to do. The net rides were mowed ready for CES on Sunday and various preparations continued, both indoors and out, for the Foxglove 25 celebrations. St Mary’s Roman Catholic Primary School also visited the reserve and enjoyed pond dipping, minibeast hunting and a habitat walk. This colourful Violet Ground Beetle was found under the logs. Its powerful jaws can be clearly seen. It lives on a variety of invertebrates which it actively hunts down and kills.
Also found today was this tiny Frog which still has a small tail.
The Cape Wrath Team return home today so I will finish the blog with a stormy view of where they have been staying (I suspect the slightly fuzzy edge to the picture may be the result of one or two raindrops!)
... and a team photograph to prove they have all survived the adventure!
On Sunday, life returns to normal with CES bird ringing starting at 4am.
Many thanks to everyone who helped out today, with the school, the net rides and the display boards.
Thursday, July 6th 2017
The Foxglove BBQ is the afternoon of Sunday 16th July. All welcome, Free for any Foxglove Volunteers!
After waking up to thunderstorms and heavy downpours it soon cleared to form a mild and humid day at Foxglove. The volunteers continued to work around the reserve. It was an exciting day for Christine, who after many weeks of hard and careful work, finally completed the painting of all net ride number plates, finger posts and trail markers around the entire reserve (ably assisted by Stuart, and John who finshed the final posts in situ). The reserve looks so much smarter.
Elsewhere, the volunteers turned their attention to the heath, to remove Birch and Willow saplings. This is a reoccurring job, hated by volunteers as it is hard work, usually accompanied by large numbers of biting flies.
Today was not helped by the warm damp heat which brought out the insects in large numbers. Some bite, some are just generally annoying, however, it was also nice to see some of our more favoured insects. Rachel took this lovely image of Common Blue (I think) damselflies which appeared to be having a chat!
The Dark Green Fritillary butterflies were also out in good numbers adding a splash of colour to the heath. On the heath we came across this creature.
This sizeable caterpillar will turn into a stunning Emperor moth. According to the books these are widespread and common- yet somehow I have never seen one before.
The grass at Foxglove finally dried, enabling a start on the job of mowing the net rides- this has been on my list of things to do for over a week now but the weather has refused to cooperate.
Thanks go to those who helped out today.
North and a Little Way South
Wednesday, July 5th 2017
The ringing team were on the island in Loch Borralie on Monday. They had to row across.
Landing and ensuring the boats are tied up and safe.
No time was given for this photo but I bet it was 11am - tea time.
Yesterday they were heading to the Stacks. Isn't this an amazing photograph?
As can be seen from these photographs there is blue sky and no rain. Just a little different to Foxglove. The rain did eventually stop about four, but even the gentle breeze did not move the rain drops.
Greater Spearwort's flower shape is good for catching those raindrops.
It was a good day to be inside, starting with the moths.
More volunteers, including Jenny, arrived and sorting the store room was on the list, to make room for Ann's cakes on the FGC 25 weekend.
Whilst waiting for the net ride discs to dry after painting, Christine continued with the task of preparing the leaflets for FGC 25.
Sophie helped with the store room and leaflets, whilst Ruth and Rachel folded raffle tickets. I did not venture out in the rain, but Peter was strimming net rides ready for CES. We achieved a great deal. Thank you so much to all the volunteers who worked so hard today.
And finally thanks to Pat and Glennis for writing and marking the quiz. Chris Heap was the eventual winner.
Finishing Jobs and Quiz Answers
Tuesday, July 4th 2017
I had hoped that the Tuesday volunteers might be able to do some painting today. They put in so many hours of hard physical labour, cutting things down, building things up, and repairing things that I thought a pleasant day of painting the sheds near the field centre to make them look smart for our Foxglove 25 celebrations would make a nice change. However, as has been typical of the last few days, the day started off wet, and got wetter as the day went on, putting an end to all my painting plans. So it was back to the hard labour in the rain.
We have been working on two paths in recent weeks, repairing path edges, removing the weeds and then refilling with gravel, before finally compacting it all with the whacker plate. Both were nearly finished and I am happy to report that after today’s efforts they have now been completed.
Meanwhile Christine and Stuart continued painting the finger posts and net ride signs in the workshop. This job has been ongoing for a while- It is amazing just how many signs the reserve has once you start taking them all down to paint them!
With the pathways complete we moved over to the Heath to tidy the hedge along the roadside.
Thanks very much to everyone who came to help today.
The winners of the Headgear Quiz can be seen below.
Stacey and Adam
Mike and Anne Bacon
Thank you for supporting us by buying the quiz and particularly those who returned them.
We are also grateful to Pat Thistlethwaite who compiles them for us.
The answers are as follows:
1 Cloche Hat
6 Stovepipe hat
7 Pork pie hat
16 Top hat
22 Crash helmet
23 Opera hat
26 Mortar board
32 Sun hat
35 Sailor hat
An Outdoors Day
Monday, July 3rd 2017
After what feels like weeks of heavy rain, today was a sunny day at work. It was too good a day to spend indoors. After all the rain the grass has been growing rapidly so the first job was to get the lawn mowed. I couldn't help noticing how nice the bird ringing net rides were looking- many were covered in a carpet of flowers.
Next the entrance sign to the reserve was painted. This is the “Before” picture. The “After” picture was looking rather patchy as the paint was wet so I haven’t included it here, but it is looking much better.
To finish the day, the wheelbarrow, mower and bird seed sheds were all scrubbed down, ready for the next sunny day when they too will get a coat of paint.
Meanwhile, it is worth noting that Foxglove is back on TV on Tuesday night at 5pm, in a replay of the Tony Robinson Coast to Coast programme. This time it can be found on a channel called Spike (number 31 on freeview channels).
A Flower Walk and ...
Sunday, July 2nd 2017
Sometimes it is difficult to find suitable photographs and notes to go on the blog. Not so today. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I will begin. Firstly we will start up north where they have had one of the worst storms that they can remember. By this afternoon the rain had stopped and the wind was dropping a little. Thankfully the remainder of the week is looking much better.
Before the storm they found a nest of Meadow Pipits. Letting one's thoughts wander ... might they be retrapped at the Crater, on their way south, later in the summer?
The team also ringed a Common Sandpiper chick.
Last week I mentioned that birds in the hand had to have pristine feathers. This Skylark is almost perfect, except for its downy feathers on its head.
Back at Foxglove the delayed flower walk took place this morning in strong winds but warm sunshine. No rain! Our meanderings took us across the moor. Much of the Yellow Rattle is setting seed and it certainly has reduced the grasses allowing other flowers to bloom.
There is a swathe of Tufted Vetch showing its colourful purple heads through the vegetation.
Walking towards the Stone Circle, something white stood out and on closer inspection it was found to be a white Foxglove.
The Stone Circle was looking magnificent. In the groups on Thursday there was some discussion as to what people would think in a hundred years time!
In all 76 flowers were recorded. Thank you to everyone who helped this morning.
Over the last three years, ladybirds have been very scarce. We counted fifteen 7 Spot Ladybirds as we walked across the moor. This is excellent.
Quite often when leaving the reserve after closing time, animals that like to hide away can often be seen. We sometimes think that they know when the reserve is 'all theirs'. Today no Roe Deer, no Stoat or Weasel but a Common Toad just starting to cross the road.
Technology - From the North!
Saturday, July 1st 2017
Before I start the blog, on behalf of the Management Group, I would like to say a huge, sincere thank you to all the volunteers who are helping the reserve to get ready for Foxglove 25. The range of tasks is so varied. They include taking on Word and producing new labels, strimming around the orchids along the path sides, pruning wet branches, filling feeders, stock taking, washing up and supporting guided walks. Some volunteers must be tired of coloured paints as the marker posts have been repainted. Paths have been re-laid and net ride discs collected and cleaned ready for a new coat of bright red paint. Sugar, flour and butter has been purchased to make the cakes and tray bakes. The list is endless and all of the tasks are carried out with a smile, enthusiasm and great energy. Comments from two groups on guided walks were extremely complimentary and with an understanding of the amount of time and care taken by volunteers to keep Foxglove looking so good. Thank you.
Other volunteers, members of the ringing group, are now at Cape Wrath. Technology, as I have said before, is amazing and we have photos flying through the ether to me, to go onto the blog!
The photos are from Thursday and Friday as the signal has been a little variable. Although a long journey ahead of them, if wader chicks are spotted then the landrovers stop for a ringing session.
The rain kept pace with the journey as they neared Balmacara.
Some of the islands in the area of Ardheslaig, have to be reached by boat.
All the kit packed on Wednesday has a use, and much of it has to be taken with them on each excursion.
For several years the team have found a Barn Owl on one of the islands. One year she had 14 eggs, this year she has chicks about 4 days old. Our Barn Owls have fledged.
Thanks to Roger and Leanne for the update. The email said that they were now at Cape Wrath and just setting out to visit the islands - but black clouds were looming!