Blog Archive (24) Posts Made in April 2019
Stone Circles and Paths
Tuesday, April 30th 2019
Bluebells on the bank by the stone circle are beginning to flourish now although there are many more still to flower. The colour will intensify day by day. The coconut- like scent of the gorse flower or 'Whin' was in the air adding to an idyllic setting.
Volunteers paused here for a while, then visited Spigot Mere, on the way back to the Field Centre after a morning tackling a drainage problem on one of the trails.
A good section of stone path was upgraded by the team who are now a dab hand with spades, mattocks and wacker plates! The result was very rewarding and the new surface looks fantastic.
Gerry organised the day into 'phases' and was surprised at how many were achieved! Three phases later, another section had been re-surfaced too!
Students from the Dales School helped out by raking pathways and bird feeders were filled by volunteers too. Another productive day thanks to the dedicated Foxglove volunteers!
Water Birds and Wagtails
Monday, April 29th 2019
Many of the water birds are either on nests or have young now. The first Mallard ducklings were seen this morning on the main wetland. On the lake, the ducks were enjoying the sunshine on the 'Tony Robinson' log!
The Greylag Geese appeared to be a little jealous of this prime basking spot!
Grey Wagtail are often seen along Risedale Beck at this time of year. This one was spotted in a quiet area of the reserve.
Pied Wagtail have also been observed regularly feeding around the pool margins on the main wetland and Spigot Mere.
Where the conifer was thinned, Primroses are beginning to show and ferns are beginning to unfold now that the sunlight can reach the ground.
Elsewhere, Early Purple Orchids are starting to flower adding a welcome splash of colour.
Everywhere you turn, butterflies are on the wing. This Green-veined White was photographed by Elizabeth this afternoon.
Finally, Lark and Taurus continue to make the most of the warm weather and seem to be enjoying the rushes in the middle of Plover's pool!
Sunshine on a Rainy Day
Thursday, April 25th 2019
Sunshine and showers were the order of the day with the morning staying dry enough to carry out some outdoor jobs. The Exmoor ponies, Lark and Taurus, seemed to be enjoying the cooler weather up by Plover's pool.
Volunteers added stone to the recently improved section of footpath as the recent rainfall had helped to bind the surface and it just needed levelling out a touch! Stone was transported by wheelbarrow to the areas where it was needed most.
Then it was smoothed out with the wacker plate.
Some of the edging was also repaired where the wood had rotted over time.
After lunch, the rain became heavy so attention turned to the 'indoor' tasks! A new footbridge was constructed for one of the maintenance paths.
The quad bike received some TLC by the way of new oil and a filter whilst on the other side of the workshop the shelves were tidied. These are some examples of the toil that goes on behind the scenes by volunteers for which we are extremely grateful. Out on the wetland, Lapwing, Greylag Geese, Oystercatcher and Mallard are nesting and Snipe were heard drumming for the first time this year.
Wednesday, April 24th 2019
Due to the fact that Foxglove Covert is a little higher than its surrounding areas, many flowers appear later than they do elsewhere. The first Bluebells are beginning to bloom on the many Bluebell banks around the reserve.
One of these places is adjacent to the stone circle and it would be helpful if walkers could keep to the path to allow the Bluebells to grow.
Team Wednesday have been busy all day recording flowers on their weekly walk. In total they found a staggering thirty-five species. They were spotted on their rounds from the wetland hide. Botanists always have their eyes to the ground whereas the birders tend to gaze up to the sky!
Back in the field centre, the observations were added to the board.
Then details were entered into the species database.
Willow stems that were planted to fill gaps in the coppice block are starting to grow.
Visitors enjoyed learning about Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs on the Magnificent Migration event and they were lucky enough to watch both singing in the Willow Carr. They also watched a Grey Wagtail collecting food for its young on the wetland. Thank you to all of the volunteers who helped out today and to Elizabeth for the photographs for today's blog.
Many Hands Make Light Work
Tuesday, April 23rd 2019
Once again, Team Tuesday achieved the main job for the day before coffee time! They re-organised and tidied the main bird seed store. This was a mammoth task but thanks to so many helpers the building is now absolutely pristeen and there is not a single seed on the floor!
Other work completed today included strimming and mowing of key areas…
...painting discs to go out on the wetland as points of reference for birdwatchers…
...and adding a well needed splash of paint to the feeders in the back garden.
Boardwalk was repaired and net rides were mown too. All in all, a productive day. Gerry and Ian even squeezed in a bit of retail therapy with the purchase (or rather part exchange) of a brand new, shiny lawnmower! Boys and their toys!
Thankfully, rain is forecast for the coming days and this will no doubt lead to a sudden growth of grass all over the reserve. Finally, Spigot Mere is now complete. The spurs or spits have now been lowered to match the height of the small island in the middle to make it even more attractive to waders. A truly inviting habitat!
Flowers in the Sunshine
Monday, April 22nd 2019
We have been waiting for the spring flowers to flower and they have been a little on the slow side, but the warm weather has really made a difference. Marsh Marigolds in the Scrapes were in bud before the weekend but are now open.
Bird Cherry buds have been tightly closed but one small tree is covered in blossom.
Weather conditons do not really bother Daisies and they flower throughout the year, but they do look brighter in the sunshine.
The Exmoor Ponies were moved from the far moor where the Bluebell bank is situated, so that they would not damage the Bluebells, which are now spreading well into the Stone Circle. These flowers are now beginning to bend their heads as the bell shaped buds open.
White Dead Nettle is not often seen on the reserve. A photograph was taken and upon closer inspection the flowers are covered in tiny hairs.
The Exmoor ponies were taking a rest in the shadow of a Hawthorn tree. Lark (I think) is lying down and if you look closely you can see the mud on his leg from wading in Plover's Pool!
Focus on Fire Prevention
Sunday, April 21st 2019
Although the hot weather can be enjoyable, the countryside really does need a dose of rainfall. A major concern at the moment is the outbreak of fire on the moorlands, on the MoD training area, or God forbid on the reserve. Visitors will notice a new sign which indicates the level of fire risk. This is extremely high at the moment and the Management Group would greatly appreciate everyone's co-operation to minimise the danger posed by following the advice, by acting responsibly, and by remaining vigilant. There are no fires at Foxglove in the spring and summer months so please report anything out of the ordinary immediately. Many species are breeding now and minutes could make a huge difference. Please focus on the fire risk and help us keep the reserve intact by using safe practices at all times. Thank you.
As mentioned on previous blogs, the Exmoor ponies have been keeping themselves cool by paddling in Plover's pool! They are now starting to lose their winter coats and their shiny summer ones are showing through gradually. They could do with a good brush however, as they are wild ponies, this would be tricky!
They are friendly but are not too familiar with being handled. Taurus is the one closest in the photo and Lark (who is dark) is in the background. Thank you to all of the people who have supported the reserve over the Bank Holiday weekend and Happy Easter from the Foxglove Team!
What A Difference a Day Makes
Saturday, April 20th 2019
Yesterday as some of the bird ringers were busy checking the net rides ready for CES, the back garden feeders were full of Redpolls and Siskin. So today we were hopeful of catching more Redpoll but it appears that they have dispersed overnight, as we only caught two and there were none on the usual feeders. Brambling are still on the move and some had built up fat ready for their migration, which we anticipate will be tonight. Most of those ringed were males.
Chiffchaffs have been on the reserve for a couple of weeks but the Willow Warblers are more recent arrivals. We speculated that one weighing in at 7.7g had just arrived, after its long journey north, whilst one weighing in at 9.2g had been here for a few days and had fed well to replenish its fat. Several of the Willow Warblers processed had been ringed at Foxglove in previous years. (Thanks to Charlie for this photograph.)
First thing this morning it was totally still and Spigot Mere was like a mirror, reflecting everything around it.
At the same time, the lake looked rather forbidding.
Late afternoon saw sunlight on the water.
Thank you to all the bird ringing volunteers who helped throughout the day.
If You Build It They Will Come
Friday, April 19th 2019
The newly completed wetland scrape, Spigot Mere, has finally filled with water to the maximum level and is quite a sight! To say that the Foxglove team is proud is an understatement. The mere sits perfectly in its place on the edge of the reserve and is already attracting the target species for this habitat. A single Greylag Goose was wading about this afternoon and appeared to be defending his new territory!
A pair of Oystercatchers have now claimed the central island as theirs! Hopefully, they will nest here.
These comical appearing birds are a delight to watch and their call, along with that of Lapwing and Curlew, can now be heard from the field centre.
A possible new species for the reserve was also observed; a female Wheatear which had most likely been lured to the site by the recently disturbed ground. This photograph, taken by Elizabeth, was taken from a long way off and although it is not that sharp it is a great record for the reserve.
Help For Heroes
Thursday, April 18th 2019
A keen and willing team from Help for Heroes gave up their time today to help with various maintenance tasks in the spring sunshine.
The main job for the day was to upgrade a section of the red route which is the 'easy access' trail that leads to the lake. The group set to work first sweeping the existing stones into the centre of the path so as to minimise waste.
This left behind only the weeds at the edges which could be scraped up and removed.
Many, many barrows full of weeds were taken away and used to fill in a quad bike track elsewhere. Then several trailer loads of stone were collected and transported by wheelbarrow to the trail. The team worked so fast that not only did they do the part that was planned for the day (before coffee time) but they continued along the next section too. It was quite a challenge for the quad bike and trailer to keep up!
The new stone was spread out and compacted using spades, rakes and a good, old-fashioned tamper.
The finishing touches were added and the new surface was smoothed out with a wacker plate.
The end result was impressive! Some of the team painted several benches including the picnic benches on the front lawns which were very 'thirsty' and required numerous coats of preserver and wood stain.
Volunteers also helped by building Water Vole latrines, mending tools and raking weed out of ponds. They also tidied around the field centre gardens so that they are ready for the many visitors who are expected over the Bank Holiday. The reserve is open from 10.00am - 4.00pm every day over the Easter weekend.
Visitors with a passion for Lepidoptera counted butterflies on their walk; Peacock (10), Brimstone (4), Orange Tip (14), Small White (2) and the first Speckled Wood of the year!
In the scrapes, work is continuing to replace dams. The water levels are currently very low due to lack of rainfall and it is hoped that the new structures will maximise the amount of water able to be retained in these wildlife rich pools.
The temperature got quite high and by lunchtime, the two ponies were wallowing in Plover's pool! The feeders outside the centre are still a magnet for the finches with many Redpoll and Siskin attracted to the nyger seed.
Mallard are everywhere and a camera trap put out to record an animal that has been leaving mysterious tracks in one of the Mink rafts captured a pair who appear to be looking for a nesting site! On the recently created Spigot Mere, Swallows were skimming the surface and Oystercatchers had already found a suitable place to bathe! Willow Warblers were calling all around the reserve.
Our sincere thanks to everyone for all their hard work today. It wouldn't be possible to run the reserve without all of this valuable support!
Spigot Mere & Owl Pellet Discovery
Wednesday, April 17th 2019
Looking back into the reserve you can now see our new wetland scrape begining to fill. This is the start of a new habitat within Foxglove, which will bring new wildlife to our area.
From close up you can see the water slowly rising, by the weekend it should be at the required level.
Team Wednesday were in early to check the two moth traps that were placed out overnight. The total of moths caught numbered over one hundred and fifty, a great haul of many species.
Several families visited to look at Barn Owl pellets and to learn what they contained. Children and adults alike were surprised to find what was inside.
Having identified the contents of the pellets, the families then glued the bones onto card so that they could take them away to show friends.
Finally more good news; several Lapwings have now nested on the newly restored wetland area. We all look forward to seeing the chicks in the near future.
Mink Raft Maintenance
Tuesday, April 16th 2019
Volunteers carried out many varied tasks including repairing and replacing Mink rafts all around the reserve.
Bob worked away in the workshop to upgrade and improve some old rafts and to construct a few new ones.
These are a vital way to monitor for the presence of Mink on the reserve, a clay pad fitted inside means that any intruding animals will leave their tracks behind. Mink would wipe out the Water Vole population and so this is a way of keeping them safe. The cartridge inside the wooden tunnel is made up of a mixture of sharp sand and potters clay. It takes quite a bit of mixing and the best way is by hand!
There is no alternative with this task but to get stuck in!
Once ready, the rafts were distributed to the relevant places (where water enters and leaves the site).
This involved going off the beaten track into non-intervention zones and wildflower banks.
Primroses, Violets and Wood Anemone are flourishing on the Hazel bank above Risedale Beck.
Colin edged the lawns around the Field Centre!
After lunch the Exmoor ponies were encouraged onto a new patch of moorland (by staff and volunteers with hay and carrots) where there is more grass for them which they seemed happy about!
A polite reminder to visitors to close all moorland gates behind them.
Sunday, April 14th 2019
The wind was set to increase by lunch time so the bird ringers made the most of the calm but very cold morning. Net rounds were carried out regularly and birds returned to the ringing room. It almost seems to be the norm that we are continuing to catch new Bramblings as they head north. We will miss them when the migration is over.
A second Redpoll within a week ringed elsewhere and caught at Foxglove was processed. Data collected from this bird will be sent to the BTO and information as to where and when it was ringed will be returned to us in due course.
Only one Great Spotted Woodpecker was retrapped today and when its details were entered into IPMR (the data handling programme) it was found to be at least eight years old.
A well camouflaged Snipe was wading along the pool edge on the wetland. Oyster Catchers, Greylag Geese, Moorhen and Mallard were also in evidence. Lapwings were flying over the wetland, sometimes chasing off the Rooks and Jackdaws.
A Barn Owl was observed sitting in a tree.
As always on a ringing day, it was a team effort. The birds ringed today brought the total of new birds ringed at Foxglove to over 63,000 and the total of birds processed by the group altogether to almost 234,000. Chaffinches remain the most common bird ringed with Blue Tits finally knocking Greenfinches into 3rd place and Willow Warblers, despite being here for such a short period each year, now in 4th place. Thanks to John for the photographs on today's blog and many thanks to everyone who helped.
Saturday, April 13th 2019
There is some warmth in the sun but the easterly wind ensures that we retain our winter clothes. Spring flowers are appearing across the reserve reminding us that spring is properly on its way.
Blackthorn that flowered first along Risedale Beck is 'going over' whilst that growing near the main entrance is beginning to open its buds. The last place for it to flower is near the Voley Pond.
Cowslips continue to spread in the area near to the Sycamore Avenue. There are some growing on the middle moor but some of the flower buds have been nibbled.
Wood Anemone are searched for from early spring and when we have almost decided that they are not going to appear where we expect them, there they are!
Leaves of Wood Sorrel, which is also less commonly known as Fairy Bells, can be spotted throughout the year but we have to wait until spring before seeing the delicate white flowers that can be veined with purple.
It is always amazing that given the ideal conditions of the reserve in which to grow, some flowers thrive where you least expect them. This Primrose, surrounded by Greater Stitchwort leaves, is growing on some steps.
Friday, April 12th 2019
The first chicks of the season have been ringed on Salisbury Plain, where Jack, one of the Swaledale Ringing Group rings. He found a nest of Mistle thrush chicks.
He also spotted this female Blackbird sitting tightly on her nest.
Back at Foxglove a pair of Tufted Ducks have arrived back on the lake. Last year there were two pair and one hatched and reared nine young whilst the other reared four.
The camera was at full zoom, just ready to take a photograph of the female. That is her tail!
On checking the next photo, which is not brilliant of her, it does show very well the drop of water on her beak.
We await the arrival of the second pair.
Volunteers at Work
Thursday, April 11th 2019
As has been said many times before volunteers at Foxglove have a wide range of skills. Yesterday's volunteers were guiding walks, bird ringing and identifying moths whilst today, building new mink rafts and then in the sunshine, repairing bridge rails and improving access to one of the water inlets responsible for keeping some of the ponds flowing were all on the list of tasks.
Water does not always go where we want it to go, but a pipe should aleviate the situation and send the spring water into the beck.
Hard core was then placed on the bridge to complete the task.
A great team effort. Thank you for all your hard work today.
Wednesday, April 10th 2019
A group from U3A Wetherby visited this morning to have a guided walk and to learn more about bird ringing. They were not disappointed as the most common bird caught was Redpoll including one Common Redpoll. Siskin, Chaffinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Long-tailed Tit and Brambling were also ringed.
Team Wednesday were busy identifying moths, checking for flowers and attempting to record butterflies that were a little too 'fluttery' to capture on film.
This Grey Wagtail was spotted along Risedale Beck during an afternoon walk. Many thanks to all who helped out today.
Tuesday, April 9th 2019
Volunteers made a splash today as the many Water Vole feeding platforms were replaced around the reserve. Bob 'rustled up' some replacements and at the end of the day there was a grand launch!
The floating stations have spikes that apples are pushed onto because they are a favourite of Water Voles which are very shy and difficult to observe. Other tasks completed by Team Tuesday included protecting young saplings, removing brash from recent habitat management work and burning it on the last bonfire of the year. It was a good workout carrying large branches up a hilly pathway to where the quad bike and trailer could transport them away.
There is no need to pay a gym membership fee when you volunteer at Foxglove!
As usual, a lot of jobs were carried out, all adding to the value of the site. Volunteer help is really appreciated. With the bird nesting season about to start, attention will now turn from the big conservation tasks to more general ones such as painting benches, improving footpaths and of course maintaining the many net rides and trails that criss cross the one hundred acres. Up on the moor, diggers and dumpers were adding the final touches to Spigot Mere which should be completed by the end of the week. The area will hopefully be filled with water from a spring by the weekend, watch this space!
Waders on the Wetland
Monday, April 8th 2019
It is only a few weeks after the re-profiling of the main wetland was completed and already many species of waders are investigating the wet margins of this special habitat.
So far, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Snipe, Mallard, Greylag Geese and Moorhen have been observed with almost a new species being spotted a day! Black-headed gull and Redshank were added to the list today.
Some Friends of Foxglove enjoyed a guided walk this afternoon followed by tea and cake. Thank you to Elizabeth for organising and leading this and to the supporters who came to learn about recent developments. Their walk took in the newly thinned plantation, the recently sown Heather paddocks and the new wetland scrape. Taurus and Lark were slightly disappointed that the group had no hay! They are losing their winter hair now and so look a little shabby but will soon have their glossy summer coats.
Kate has been busy again making Easter goodies for the shop. All proceeds of these sales will go directly to the creation of Spigot Mere, the new wetland scrape.
Rabbits, Eggs and Redpoll!
Sunday, April 7th 2019
The Foxglove Easter trail is now in place; try to spot ten rabbits and ten eggs as you follow the trail. Trail sheets are available from the field centre and the clues will be in place for the next three weeks.
The clues were placed out this afternoon by one of our Duke of Edinburgh volunteers.
He also helped by weighing out bird seed for the shop.
His help with these and many other tasks today is much appreciated! Yesterday, members of the Swaledale Ringing team caught over fifty Redpoll including two Common Redpoll (Carduellis flammea), these are noticeably larger and paler than Redpoll (Carduellis cabaret). The photograph below is of a Common Redpoll.
Pastures Planted and Pastures New
Friday, April 5th 2019
The remaining heathland was scarified this morning and Gerry showed off his new-found farming skills by scattering Heather seed on the disturbed ground with the borrowed seed fiddle drill!
The sunny spells gave hope that the tiny seeds were getting a good start to their long germination.
Whilst the sowing was taking place, Colin was busy with a different kind of seeds. He was filling the many bird feeders around the reserve. Flocks of redpoll are common just now and today was no exception with several feeding in the field centre back garden.
Later in the day, Susanna from The North Yorkshire Exmoor Pony Trust came to take away two of the ponies from the moorland. Corvus and Fawn have been doing a great job all winter by eating the rushes and gorse in this area. However, the construction of a new wetland scrape has decreased the amount of grazing and it was time for them to say farewell for the summer months.
Fawn was very well behaved and not too difficult to catch considering she is a wild pony. Corvus though, being old and wise, gave everyone a bit more of a challenge as expected!
Finally, both were caught and walked to their transport. Our sincere thanks to Susanna for loaning them to us, they have been a real pleasure to look after and have made a good difference to this particular habitat.
They will be missed but Lark and Taurus remain for now to continue their important role in managing the moorland.
Sowing The Seeds
Thursday, April 4th 2019
Managing a small patch of heathland is not without problems. In order to encourage new growth the Heather needs to be knocked back somehow. On a large moor this is achieved by burning. This method is effective as a fire sweeps across the area and the flames are not too intense. In a confined space however, this is not possible and the fire would be too hot. Several methods have been attempted over previous years to manage the Heather at Foxglove and despite all our best efforts there remain many grassy gaps! It was decided to try rotovating these bare patches and then to plant Heather seed on them in order to grow new Heather shoots.
James Coxon and Brothers found the ideal machinery to turn over just the surface of the soil to prepare the ground for planting. This was an interesting task in itself given the uneven terrain and drainage ditches.
Next, the area was raked over to make the surface as even as possible to prevent the seed from getting washed away by any rainfall.
Heather seed is extremely fine and is harvested by specialist machinery making it very expensive. With this in mind Team Thursday wanted to minimise wastage.
As usual, Ian came up trumps with his farming experience and nipped off to borrow a 'fiddle drill'!
Any visitors were forgiven for thinking that they had travelled back in time as Ian stepped out of the field centre with this seemingly ancient piece of farming equipment! It may look old fashioned but once filled it proved to be an efficient way of spreading the tiny seeds.
It was quite good fun and after a little training everyone took a turn.
There was a fine art in making sure that the breeze carried the seed away from the “fiddler's” face!
In no time at all, two of the main paddocks were seeded.
With only one fiddle drill, another technique was to sow the seed by hand. So with raking, fiddling and sowing everyone was kept busy!
Volunteers also helped with the final tidying of the coppice block (honest!) and moving off cuts of timber and brash from the lake area where Trevor and Darrel continued with vital bridge repairs.
Another productive day and a fun one too, thank you to all involved.
Saving Trees and Preparing for Easter
Wednesday, April 3rd 2019
Students from Risedale Sports and Community College helped out by protecting young trees from browsing animals such as Roe Deer. They fitted guards over some saplings and re-staked them where necessary.
Many of the trees were on a steep bank which made the job interesting at times, walking up and down with tree tubes, ties and stakes.
The team worked hard as usual and used their problem solving skills!
This group have worked really hard in all weathers on all different kinds of conservation tasks and have made a real contribution over the autumn and winter months, well done and thank you to the Risedale Rangers!
Trevor and Darrel continued to 'live the dream' in the Yorkshire weather down by the lake repairing walkways and bridges! As the saying goes 'you can't make an omlette without cracking eggs'!
Back at the Field Centre moths were identified and preparations were made for Easter. Kate made some gorgeous Easter goodies that are now available to buy; all proceeds from these sales will go directly to the Spigot Mere appeal.
Our thanks to Team Wednesday for another productive day.
Woodland Work Finally Completed
Tuesday, April 2nd 2019
Path edging has been the order of the day and Team Tuesday have done a brilliant job pegging out the timber along the sides of the woodland trail.
It hasn't been the easiest task due to the uneven ground and the large amount of roots so a bit of handy spade work has been required in places.
Bob worked so fast that at times he was a mere blur!
The same can be said for Brian!
It has been a good use of the timbers remaining from the recent thinning of the plantation.
Work has continued on the bridge to the lake hide, our apologies for any inconvenience whilst this is taking place. Hopefully it will be completed soon.
Spigot mere is also nearing completion, more on this later in the week. Our sincere thanks to all of the volunteers for their efforts today and to the 1st Richmond Scouts and students from the Dales School who have visited over the last couple of days too. Finally, Tony has found a renewed interest in Health and Safety!