Blog Archive (23) Posts Made in March 2019
Sunday, March 31st 2019
Ringing days have been few and far between this year due to the weather. Today the forecast was perfect, although we were a little concerned about the drizzle first thing, but this soon moved away. It very quickly became apparent that it was going to be an interesting day as an early net round returned three Brambling and one Chiffchaff from the same net.
The Bramblings are moving north to return to Scandinavia. It was suggested that some of these birds may meet up with the ringing team when they head to Dividalen in August! That would be magic, but highly unlikely!
Chiffchaffs have been heard on the reserve and several of these tiny birds were newly ringed, having flown thousands of miles from their wintering grounds around the Mediterranean.
Whilst having a cup of tea, identifying the moths, washing up or checking some species, the Sparrowhawk can be seen flying through and around the back garden. He flew into the net today! He was born in 2017 and is now in his third year. How many small birds has he eaten in that time!!
The ringing team are supportive of each other and help each other when there is a query about a bird. It is also important that interesting details about a species are shown to everyone.
The bird ringers were kept busy.
Ringing is not about numbers but it is interesting to record that we ringed eight new Chiffchaffs today. We still await the return of those ringed in previous years. Thirty two Bramblings were ringed. Bullfinch numbers have not been high over recent months but there have been more sightings of them in the back garden, especially around the seed hoppers, during March. This was refelcted in 17 being ringed.
As has been said before bird ringing is a team effort and includes not only the bird ringers themselves but those who help during the day carrying out a variety of additional tasks. Volunteers have worked in the net rides over the winter and in the coming months volunteers will support the ringers keeping the net rides in pristine condition A hugh thank you to all involved.
Saturday, March 30th 2019
The sunshine and warmth is certainly making it feel like spring and the flora and fauna are responding. Peacock and Comma butterflies were out but refusing to settle for any attempt at a photograph. Queen bees searching for a nesting site were no better, there one second, gone the next! Even the hive bees were flying quickly making a photograph a little difficult.
We have a nest box with a camera fitted so that we can watch the developments if a bird decides to nest in it. It is shown live on the screen in the Field Centre. At the minute there is a Blue Tit visiting the box, who does not, strongly does not, like the material in the nest box! She chooses a piece and then pulls and twists it until it is lose, then removes it.
Flowers are opening their buds. Lesser Celandines kept us entertained last spring as we counted the number of petals as they can vary. It is rather compulsive and so far there have been flowers with eight or ten petals. We'll keep counting!
Barren Strawberries showed their tiny white flowers quite early in the month but then appeared to disappear. Now their flowers are covering areas in white blossom.
Common Dog Violets always flower first on the bank on the far moor, which they did, but others have now caught up.
Friday, March 29th 2019
Trevor and Darrel from Custom Made Wooden Buildings Ltd have been toiling away all week to repair many of the timber structures that have been in place for over ten years. They have been replacing some of the 'tired' bridge supports with new pieces of Larch.
This particular job has proven to be quite a challenge and will be continuing next week too.
Trevor explained that the Larch will last longer than the pre-treated timber as it produces its own oils and will therefore not require any further treatment.
Paths and Rafts
Thursday, March 28th 2019
It's been a busy day on the reserve with a strong team of volunteers, we started work in the conifer woodland with restoring the footpaths after the Green Works.
Finding the right sections of timber was a case of trial and error, but the three musketeers, Peter, Ian and Gerry were experts in no time.
The footpaths can finally be seen again thanks to all our volunteers help. Bob's construction skills came in very handy when it came to laying all the logs out and pegging them down.
The thinning project in this part of the conifer woodland has meant that a lovely view can now be enjoyed from the top of the bank, so where better to put a homemade bench with its very own table?! Do take a moment to take it all in when wandering around the woodland trails.
The afternoon threw up a new challenge; the duck raft which has been launched on the lake needed to be anchored down and placed in the middle. How do you get the anchor in the middle of the lake you ask? Well, with difficulty is the simple answer… The first idea was to chuck the anchor from the bank, which despite getting tanlged up in a Hawthorn tree, did make it surprisingly far.
However, getting the raft into the middle of the Lake was yet another challenge. It was decided to tie a rope to the bank on the opposite side too, so shovels in hand, two of us paddled across the lake. A little wind can create a surprising current on the water, so this made for an entertaining show for everyone watching from the bank!
Despite only being designed to support nesting ducks, the raft was able to carry two people across to the other side, although there were a couple of close calls…
Finally, the duck raft in place in the centre of the lake.
Meanwhile, staff members from Love Property were in today for a meeting and a guided walk around the reserve. They managed to miss the drama unfolding on the Lake, and enjoyed the sunshine while Sophie gave them an insight into the reserve.
The ponds all around the reserve are teeming with toads, and toad spawn!
Finally, we bid a fond farewell to Imogen as she heads off to Bempton Cliffs for a summer to monitor the seabirds. She will be missed greatly and we wish her all the best for the future and hope to see her again soon. As you can see from the pictures above she has put her heart and soul into Foxglove over the past months!
A Wonderful Wednesday
Wednesday, March 27th 2019
Welcolmed to the reserve this afternoon was a group of visitors from PLACE (People, Landcape And Cultural Environment of Yorkshire) who first enjoyed a short presentation about the different habitats and species at Foxglove by Elizabeth.
The group members then enjoyed a guided walk to experience the habitats for themselves. They paid a quick visit to a newly discovered archeological feature that is yet to be identified by a military archeologist.
Everyone was amazed by the large amount of Toads still to be found moving around the network of footpaths and spawning in the ponds. Team Wednesday were extremely busy today after catching a huge haul of moths in the Robinsons trap last night. Most of the egg cartons were full on both sides.
In them were no less than 281 moths of 14 different species, including 107 Common Quaker, 56 Clouded Drab and 43 Hebrew Characters! Four Pine Beauty moths were caught, the first ones to be recorded this year. The adults feed on Willow catkins and as the name suggests the larva feed on needles of pine, especially Scots, Corsican and Lodgepole and in some cases Larch.
Another first for the year was a single Oak Beauty, seen below, these have a flight season from late February to April .The Larvae feed on Oak, Hazel, Aspen and Alder along with other deciduous trees.
The first 3 Early Thorns were another highlight. Their flight season is from March to May then again in July through to September. Larval food plants include Blackthorn, Hawthorn, Silver and Downy Birch and Honey suckle.
Later as volunteers carried out the monthly flower walk they discovered Yellow Rattle seedlings on the hay meadow, a sure sign that summer is on its way!
Also hard at work were some students from Risedale Sports and Community College who assisted with protecting young trees from browsing animals such as Roe Deer and Rabbits. Once again their problem solving and team building skills came into good use and their hard work is valued.
All in all, a wonderful Wednesday and the icing on the cake was a special wildlife opportunity when a Jay and two adult Buzzards were ringed locally by members of the Swaledale Ringing Team.
Not bad for Gerry's first day in the office! Welcome to the Foxglove team Gerry! Thank you to everyone who supported the Local Nature Reserve today in whatever capacity, it all makes a difference.
Trees and Ducks
Tuesday, March 26th 2019
The first job of the day was to tie up some Douglas fir trees, which have a tendency to blow over in the strong wind blowing off the moor. It took several hands and various ties and stakes to hold them up, but with a little perseverance, they were soon all upright again.
It was then back to the coppice block for the final push! With a couple more Willow trees coppiced, and the rest of the brash tidied up, the coppice block is officially finished (although we have been saying that for the last couple of weeks…).
Meanwhile it's been all go around the reserve, with work on the far moor scrapes, on the heathland and on the Lake. The new shiny duck raft, seen in the distance below was launched ready for the ducks to nest on.
It’s A Drag…
Monday, March 25th 2019
...up the bank!
It's been a day in the conifer woodland once again, this time winching several large piles of wood up the bank. Most of it will be used to rebuild the footpath edges, the rotten sections were left to provide a habitat for many small invertebrates, and the rest was taken away for firewood.
The winch made short work of dragging the wood up, which would have taken us days if it were to have been done by hand.
It was then time to winch the large Larch tree trunk which came down in the wind last week, navigating it round the trees turned out to be quite a challenge.
Meanwhile, discussions about rebuilding the bench along the path led to Sophie and Peter demonstrating the perfect height for a bench!
Quite an impressive trailer load of wood was eventually weaved out of the woodland.
Huge thanks to Ian for bringing his tractor and winch in, and to Peter for helping out with stacking and hauling wood around, and building habitat piles.
Meanwhile it was drama on Spigot Mere once again, as another WW2 mortar was found while digging up the new Scrapes. It was thankfully quickly dealt with by the bomb squad!
Staying well out of the way of the bomb squad, the ponies were enjoying some Gorse in the sunshine.
Spring is Coming
Saturday, March 23rd 2019
We have waited patiently, (well if you have been reading the blogs that statement is not really true - we have been very impatient!) for Primroses to appear. They are now to be found showing their beautiful lemon yellow heads in many places across the reserve. A real taste of Spring.
Another Spring flower is the Dandelion. Although often called a weed it does provide food for the early insects on the wing.
Larch is a deciduous conifer and just before the green needles burst their buds the red female flowers appear.
The Field Centre walls are a resting place for moths and this Engrailed was moved onto the logs for a decent photograph. Other visitors included Hebrew Character, Clouded Drab, Early Tooth Stripe and March Moth.
Out on the moor the ponies are still enjoying the company of the diggers which are continuing the work on Spigot Mere, now that the ground has dried.
As we walked across the moor the ponies were distracted from the diggers as they thought we may be bringing hay.
Chiffchaffs and Commas!
Thursday, March 21st 2019
he first day of spring has arrived at Foxglove, and the weather matched spring expectations. It was warm and calm, and the reserve is absolutely teeming with life. The first Chiffchaff, a small warbler that overwinters in the Mediterranean region, was heard in the Scrapes and the first Comma butterfly of the year was also seen while working with volunteers near the entrance to the reserve!
Having emerged from their overwintering sites, the toads have taken over the reserve, including these two spotted on the access road. They tend to return to their ancestral breeding ground every year, regardless of what may be in the way!
A reminder to take extra care when driving along the access road over the next few days as they blend in extremely well with the gravel.
Toads and Rocky Road
Wednesday, March 20th 2019
The toads are out in force around the reserve! Please do drive carefully along the access road as they seem to enjoy basking in the sun on the stones.
The moth trapping was a success overnight with several new species for the monthly observation board.
The most common species identified this morning was Hebrew Character and there was a lot of variation in colour as can be seen in the photograph below.
The team from Risedale Sports and community College (Risedale Rangers) assisted with various outdoor tasks including sieving chaff to fill some of the larger bird feeders. They also checked on the Exmoor ponies and fed the ducks on the lake.
Next, they removed some brash from a bluebell bank on Risedale Beck which involved carrying armfuls of branches up a steep hill; a great fitness workout! Their help has made a big difference to this habitat.
The dry weather over recent days has meant that work can once again continue on the creation of Spigot Mere, a new wetland scrape. Proceeds from today's book and cake sale will go directly towards this new feature. Our thanks go to Team Wednesday for all their hard work preparing for this event and for the delicious baking which included rocky road, coffee cake and chocolate brownies. If you couldn't make it today then the books will be left out in the classroom until Monday so you are welcome to come along and have a browse over the weekend!
The End of the Brash
Tuesday, March 19th 2019
Today was (nearly) the end of a very long project. The huge quantity of brash produced by the Green Works in the conifer block was finally cleared, both at the top and bottom of the bank!
A mountain of brash which remained at the top of the bank was cleared with the help of volunteers and the children from Mowbray School. And it was done in record breaking time, all in time for lunch!
The fire took a little persuading after the rain in the last few days, but was soon ablaze, once again smoking out large parts of the reserve.
We were grateful to have help from volunteers from Foundation, who were busy raking up the last bits of brash. Many hands make light work.
A couple of stubborn long pieces of timber decided to roll half way down the bank, but our two lumberjacks, Brian and Peter were on hand to haul them back up. These will be used to restore the footpath edges along the Green route.
A little work was still needed at the bottom of the bank, with covering up the two fire sites. This was done in the form of a habitat pile with various pieces of wood, which will turn into a perfect home for many invertebrates.
Wood sorrel can be seen sprouting up throughout the cleared area, which is a great sign that the increased light will encourage other plants to grow too.
We had an interesting visitor to the reserve too, an Eyed Ladybird with rings.
The willow catkins around the reserve are in full bloom too!
Wetlands and Ringing
Monday, March 18th 2019
It's been a mild spring like day, and it was spent catching up with odd jobs around the reserve, including maintaining the pipes on the Wetland, and updating the Recent Ringing Recoveries page on our website.
Up to six Lapwing could be seen on the newly restored Wetland at any one time, we have our fingers crossed that they will breed here. Frogspawn could be seen everywhere, and looks close to hatching.
More signs of spring and flowers emerging, the bees have started bringing 'pollen pellets' in that cling onto their hind legs on the way back to the hive.
A brief ringing session at lunch time was all about the tits, we had Long Tailed Tits, Blue Tits, this handsome male Great Tit…
...and this curious Marsh Tit.
If you would like to learn anything about the natural world, from birds to insects and amphibians, why not come along to our Natural History Book Sale this coming Wednesday (20th March)? We will have a wide range of books, as well as tea, coffee and cake. All proceeds will go towards the construction of the new scrape, Spigot Mere, on the far moorland, which will become a haven for wildlife.
The Calm After The Storm
Sunday, March 17th 2019
It's been one storm after another at Foxglove in the last few days, with high winds and lots of rain in the last 24 hours. However, today most definitely felt like the calm after the storm. The skies were blue, and despite the fresh breeze, the sun was shining on the reserve.
Risedale Beck was fast flowing with all the water coming off the top of the hills!
Despite the recent conditions, spring is most definitely in the air, leaves are emerging, the bees have been seen bringing pollen in, and some of the tadpoles in the Field Centre have started to develop legs!
The Blackthorn trees around the reserve are officially in bloom, making for some rather lovely photographs.
Any photographs taken on the reserve can be entered into our competition, the winners will have their photographs published in the 2020 calendar, so why not visit the reserve with your camera this Spring?
The visitors weren't the only ones relieved to see some sun, the ponies enjoyed a (relatively) calm day out on the Moorland.
While the rain was needed, work on the far Moor Scrapes has had to be put on hold until the ground dries out, fingers crossed for a few dry days!
A VIP Visit
Thursday, March 14th 2019
Graham Dalton, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), visited Foxglove for the first time today and described the reserve and its activities as inspirational.
His first stop was the hexagonal hide at the lake where he learned a bit about the history of the reserve which was started back in 1992 when the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards returned from the Gulf war and created a small conservation area.
Next, he walked through the scrapes to find out more about the wide variety of habitats that Foxglove has to offer and the different wildlife species that inhabit them.
On arriving at the field centre, the CEO was introduced to some of the volunteers who are the backbone of the reserve and who make a valuable contribution to the running of the LNR.
Students from Mowbray School also enjoyed a trip to the Covert and helped with the final clearing of brash from the conifer block. Volunteers worked in the plantation too to clear a newly fallen Larch tree, a victim of storm Gareth, then continued to coppice willow in the afternoon. Thank you to everyone for your help today and to all of the people who rallied around behind the scenes to ensure that the day ran smoothly. There are no tea making, washing up, drying up, brushing up fairies just a great team of caring volunteers who go above and beyond. Our sincere thanks go to Whitfield Benson for his photographs and finally, a special mention for Ken who cleaned the hide windows so well that they were positively gleaming in the spring sunshine!
Wednesday, March 13th 2019
The Risedale Rangers were back today with a shiny new sign for the newly restored bug hotel.
The bug hotel is aptly named 'Bugingham Palace' and the new plaque was made at the Risedale Sports and Community College by the Design and Technology Department.
After installing the plaque the group retired from the gale force wind to enjoy a 'full monty' hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows!
The budding naturalists then checked some of the Mink rafts around the reserve for any footprints. These checks for the presence of Mink are vital to protect the Water Vole population.
Students from Mowbray School enjoyed a guided walk this morning. After feeding the ponies some hay they retreated to the warmth of the field centre and dissected Barn Owl pellets. Although at first a little hesitant the group soon got well and truly stuck in and found all kinds of different rodent bones.
The frogspawn collected early last week by Mowbray School pupils for the classroom aquarium hatched out by last weekend due to the warm temperature inside. The tadpoles are now swimming around. In contrast the frogspawn that is outside in the ponds is still looking like black dots in jelly.
A Productive Day!
Tuesday, March 12th 2019
While it was a slightly damp start to the day, we've been busy with odd jobs around the reserve. Our regular visitors from The Dales School and an additional group from Mowbray School also joined in with practical tasks.
The first one was a good challenge; the duck raft on the lake is going to be replaced, and needed bringing in before the ducks nested on it. After trying to haul it in yesterday, it was decided that a winch was required to pull it up the bank. The old timber was very rotten which didn't make the job any easier.
However, once it was finally up the bank, the volunteers set to work dismantling it (which didn't take much doing!).
It is rather strange seeing the view from the lake hide without the duck raft which had been in place for several years. Some blog readers may remember the day when the raft was first launched back in March 2013.
It was then down to the 'bullet catcher' store to clear a lot of the brash which had accumulated after various winter habitat work, as well as have a general tidy up.
The fire ended up being taller than Ian which just goes to show how much work has been carried out over the past few months!
With the wet conditions, a good coat and hood was essential!
The afternoon was just as busy with two teams spread across the reserve. One was busy repairing some boards on one the bridges in the woodland, the other was re-setting a bench and doing some maintenance work on the boardwalk through the scrapes.
Meanwhile out on the moorland, the ponies seemed to have found a good spot to shelter behind the dumper truck!
A great deal was achieved, thank you to everyone who helped today. Fingers crossed that tonight's storm doesn't cause any damage to the reserve.
Spigot Mere Appeal
Friday, March 8th 2019
Regular visitors to the reserve have noticed and expressed their excitement at the work that has taken place over the winter, work that has been carried out by staff, volunteers and contractors alike. The cascading ponds have been rebuilt, more than one hundred conifers have been removed from a dark block on the beckside, one of the willow compartments has been pollarded and coppiced, the wild bird seed field is being re-sown as are the three heather paddocks, the inner scrapes have seen some essential maintenance and the bridges around the reserve have had major repairs.
Importantly, a large section of the flagship ponds area has received a face lift with new dams being built, some dredging being done in places badly choked with Reed Mace, and many of the bunds destroyed by the cattle and ponies being re-built. It has been a period of intense but essential activity which has made a significant dent in the reserve finances.
Going a step further, the decision was taken on the back of the success achieved with Plovers Pool, to develop the last remaining, previously untouched section of the far moor to create a large shallow mere with a water surface area of some 2, 500 square metres. (Don't be fooled by the puddle in the picture - the whole dark area will be water!). Partially cleared of large tracts of gorse, the project is well underway but has stalled due to the recent heavy rain. Named Spigot Mere after a WW2 grenade unearthed early in the construction phase and dealt with by the bomb squad, it will be completed as soon as conditions allow and already looks enormous! The Exmoor ponies give some idea of the scale in this photograph taken from outside of the reserve.
All of this work has been expensive and although we are constantly applying for grants (Foxglove is a registered charity) and received notification of £10, 000 last week, we need more to ensure the job is completed. In due course we would like to see a hide on this feature as well.
If you feel you may like to help and could assist us by making a contribution however small, there are several ways that you can do so. You can send a cheque to the Wathgill address, or phone the Field Centre on 01748 830045 to make a card donation. Alternatively, you can use the 'just giving' option on our website. Of course you are welcome to call in and leave a donation in person too, and if you are a UK taxpayer by filling out a gift aid form you can make your donation go even further. We don't like to ask you but Foxglove is your reserve too, and any financial assistance with the huge amount of work going on would be really helpful on this occasion.
You can also help with no cost to yourself at all by placing your blue tokens in the container for Foxglove in the local Catterick Garrison Tesco store! Thank you!
Preparing for Spring, Summer and Sales
Wednesday, March 6th 2019
In spite of the 'dreich' weather conditions help was on hand from the Risedale Rangers and for a change their work did not involve a bonfire! Instead the team of students from Risedale Sports and Community College carried out many tasks to tidy up the area around the outdoor classroom. This is in preparation for the many school visits that will happen over the Spring and Summer months.
After feeding the Exmoor ponies some hay, they began a variety of jobs including raking up and tidying the log piles and seating area…
...removing algae from the metal dams to make it less slippery…
...and repairing 'Bugingham Palace', the bug hotel, which needed a new roof.
Last but not least was the important sweeping of the boardwalk. Not only does this look better but it prevents the wood from rotting too.
Back at the field centre Team Wednesday were also hard at work. Their main task today (amongst many others) was to begin organising the Natural History books for the book sale on 20th March. Our sincere thanks to everyone for all of your time, effort and support.
Tuesday, March 5th 2019
Happy Shrove Tuesday from all the team at Foxglove. We've been having a busy day with the Tuesday volunteers, and children from both the Dales School and Mowbray School. It's been all go, burning brash in the woodland, and continuing work in the coppice block, although we did find some time for some pancakes on the fire.
Although they didn't all look quite as nice as this, everyone enjoyed them with a variety of toppings!
It was very much a team effort, Emma was in charge of the important batter, and spooning it into the hot pan.
Brian was our master fire manager, keeping the temperature just right(ish) for the pancakes!
The group of children were eagerly anticipating a pancake flip, thankfully the one photographed didn't end up on the floor…
Every Little Helps!
Monday, March 4th 2019
During March and April Foxglove Covert LNR is part of the Tesco 'bags of help' scheme. If you are shopping in the Catterick Garrison supermarket then you can claim a blue token (or two!) and put them in the clear plastic container to support Foxglove. It doesn't cost anything and every blue token will make a difference. All money raised through this community grant will go directly towards the creation of a new wetland scrape for wading birds. This will benefit all kinds of wildlife from amphibians like frogs and toads to mammals such as Water Voles and enhance the visitor experience too. Please spread the word!
Unseasonal Warm Weather
Sunday, March 3rd 2019
As we await Storm Freya and the changeable weather to follow it, observations and photographs show us the results of the unseasonal warm weather. Brimstone butterflies were seen on the 16th Feb whilst Small Tortoiseshell butterflies were seen flying around on the 24th and 25th Feb. Water Crickets were seen on the 11th and 19th Feb.
The bird box building activity was able to be held outside in the warmth and sunshine. The guided walk showing the variety of nest boxes resulted in three species of ladybird being noted and photographed. The most common ladybird is the 7 Spot, but over recent years their numbers have decreased.
Kidney Spot Ladybirds live at 'Kidney Spot Corner' on the Ash trees. Over time they have been found on other Ash trees but more recently they have been recorded on Willow.
A much smaller ladybird is the Heather Ladybird, not a frequent visitor to our Observation Board.
Blackthorn always opens its buds first on the shrubs along Risedale Beck and this year is no exception. In amongst the buds are spiders, their presence only noted by the silken strands.
The flower group have found at least one Primrose in flower over winter, for the last few years. Even hunting with binoculars for anything that looks yellow so far we have failed. A single bud was found today!
Spring Like Worky Day
Saturday, March 2nd 2019
It's been our final Worky Day of the winter, although it certainly didn't feel like winter! The frogs were out in force, and frogspawn could be seen in many of the ponds around the reserve.
The volunteers were hard at work back in the conifer woodland, with piles and piles of brash being raked down to the bottom of the bank.
Many rakes make light work! Although it seemed like a never ending task, all the bank and a huge portion of all the brash was cleared up, ready for the spring flowers to hopefully come up.
Mick was feeling particularly strong after rolling a big stump down the hill!
Everyone was flat out by the end of the day, but all in all a very good days work!
Thank you to everyone who helped today, the mountains and mountains of brash are gradually diminishing, and all the wild flowers will be very grateful for all your help.
Calling All Photographers
Friday, March 1st 2019
If you would like to have an opportunity to have your photograph published in our 2020 calendar then why not take part in our calendar competition?
Pictures must be taken on the reserve and in order to be judged need to be entered as paper copies. The deadline is Friday 30th August. A winning photograph will be chosen for each season. Entries can be posted to the Wathgill address or handed in to the Field Centre. Happy snapping!