Blog Archive (17) Posts Made in July 2019
A Special Visit and a Summer BBQ
Wednesday, July 31st 2019
The Marquess of Zetland, Patron of Foxglove Covert LNR, visited the reserve yesterday to see the recent developments. On a short walk he stopped off to meet Lark and Taurus.
The next stop was the newly completed wetland (Spigot Mere) where it is hoped to build a hide when funding allows. The banks are beginning to green up and the reeds that were planted only a few weeks ago are growing well.
After a quick tour, it was time to meet some of the volunteers who work so hard to keep the reserve running smoothly and to enjoy a summer BBQ.
Being a volunteer invited to an event is a double edged sword as there is lots of work involved to make it happen! It all began in the kitchen with chopping salad.
Outside, the BBQ was lit underneath the shelter of the workshop roof just in case!
Although it rained whilst everything was set up, luck was on our side and for the main part, it was sunny.
It was great to have a chance to sit down and enjoy the meal.
There was a good turn out from many different kinds of volunteers; from moth recorders and mammal experts to beekeepers and social media experts as well as the team that carry out practical conservation tasks and members of the Management Group.
Foxglove is lucky to have such a diverse team of dedicated volunteers with so many different skills to offer.
New best friends were made too!
An Insect Day
Sunday, July 28th 2019
Dull, cloudy, a gentle breeze, warm and a pinch of sun was the order of the weather during the day. This did not deter the insects from flying and feeding.
The hoverflies covered the Rayed Knapweed, Meadow Sweet and Pepper Saxifrage.
These three almost made a triangle on a thistle flower.
Antler Moths are just beginning to hatch and they can be seen flying and feeding during the day. This one is covered in pollen.
Small Skippers were slow to make their appearance on the butterfly list but they are making up for it now.
This Green Veined White was well camouflaged against the Meadowsweet.
Not all the insects seen were on the wing, some were on the water. The Scrapes ponds were covered with Pond Skaters. Most were not disturbing the water, but this one stood out.
Wednesday was a totally different day with high temperatures and lots of sun. Out on the moor a chaser was photographed. It was another discussion running along the lines of 'Its got four spots so it is a Four Spotted Chaser.' Its tummy (very scientific!) is narrow and black.' 'Maybe a female?' 'Hasn't got a black end to its abdomen.' Once home out came the books and we realised that it was a female (we got that right out in the field) Black Darter.
Friday, July 26th 2019
With their roots in the water, the hot sun poses no problem for the recently planted reeds at Spigot Mere. They have grown significantly over the past two weeks.
Further along the moor, the edges of Plover's Pool are looking very healthy and this patch is absolutely teeming with dragonflies and damselflies. This is a sure stop off point for the Dragonfly walk on the 3rd August.
The extreme heat wave conditions have not deterred the hardy group of volunteers from turning up on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The more strenuous work around the reserve has been carried out early in the morning to avoid the hottest part of the day. A delivery of very large cobbles was moved from the moor to the cascading pools where they will be used for landscaping to prevent the dams from getting washed out in heavy rain.
It is possible to do some tasks in the shade, such as sifting out the chaff for the large bird feeders.
In many areas the trees provide welcome shelter from the sun but suncream and sunhats have still been essential! The hoppers have all been topped up to keep the birds happy over the next few rainy days.
Of course there are always plenty of indoor jobs too such as weighing out seed for the sales table!
Moths and Butterflies
Wednesday, July 24th 2019
Before I start on the moths and butterflies, information arrived on email saying 'Chicks all OK! Seen all four wee heads!' This is great news.
The butterfly survey was carried out by Catherine, Abigail and Kate. The final count was 311 butterflies - an amazing number but probably not surprising given the temperature. Small Skippers have been scarce so far this summer, but not today with 62 recorded. Small Tortoiseshells are showing themsleves and numbers seem to be recovering after their poor year in 2017.
Commas are not see very often and not in great numbers but one was recorded on the walk.
As usual at this time of year the Ringlet butterflies outnumber everything else, with 188 counted. The final list contained 11 different species. All of the data is sent to the VC 65 butterfly recorder. First and last sightings are sent to another recorder.
It was also moth morning. With storms forecast from about 5am the timers were set to turn off before that, for safety. The rain had not read the weather forecast as it rained much earlier. This did not stop the moths. There were moths all over the back wall of the Field Centre as well as two traps full of moths. Moths were caught and then taken inside for identification.
This was a most unusual moment, everyone was quiet, studying the moths in the hand.
It did not last, the conversations soon began. It must sound very strange to visitors in the Field Centre. 'It's a Muslin something or a something Muslin.' 'Look for its green hairband.' 'Got it!' 'What?' 'Large Yellow Underwing, its got the two marks.' 'Add another four Mottled Beauties.' At times Chris had a hard job keeping up with us. The moth total came to 263 moths of 64 species. This data is also forwarded to the moth recorder for VC65.
Once all had been ID'd and released those we wanted to photograph were taken outside in the shade. Although carefully placed on leaves, several found their own places, not always the best for a photograph. The Snout was released onto a log but decided it was much better under one of the picnic tables.
The Barred Yellow decided the underside of a leaf was a much better place to sit, so it had to be turned over carefully.
Mature Scots Pine are the preferred larval food plant of the Bordered White. This is a male with the feathery antennae.
Thank you very much to all the volunteers who helped today, identifying, searching and photographing the butterflies and moths.
Sunshine and a Happy Ending
Tuesday, July 23rd 2019
Volunteers managed to weed out a whole trailer load of Silver Birch and Willow from the heathland before the heat and the horse flies became too much! This is necessary to allow the heather to have the best chance of growing.
After a break, it was decided to work in the shade and to repair the dams along Risedale Beck that feed into ponds. The cool surroundings of the stream made this a much more pleasant task in the hot conditions.
Blog readers will be wondering what happened to the House Martin chicks that were handed in to the bird ringers yesterday. They had been rescued when their nest had fallen from a wall. Firstly, the chicks were put into a box with a towel covered bowl (to make a cup shape). Then, they were fed fresh, live mealworms (but not the head as this contains a chemical that they can't digest), scrambled egg and kitten food. Sadly, one of them didn't make it through the night however, four of the five did (including the small runt).
It was hard work caring for them as they required food at least every hour!
As the surviving four were all in good health the bird ringers decided to place them in existing nests with chicks of a similar age. Two suitable nests were found side by side and yesterday at tea time two chicks were placed in each one. The ringers waited to make sure that adults returned to the nests.
They were checked again this morning and adult House Martins were observed feeding both sets of chicks whose heads were peering out of their new homes!
People often make enquiries to the reserve office about wildlife that they have found abandoned or injured. Unfortunately, there are no rescue facilities at Foxglove and it is always best to call a Wildlife Rescue Centre such as The Wildlife Haven Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in Thirsk first for help and advice.
Sunday, July 21st 2019
Dawn was breaking as the nets were opened.
The sun shone over the orchard, making the dew drops caught on the grasses glisten.
Net rounds continued to produce many Bullfinches and pleasingly several Chaffinches, whose numbers have been low recently while they have been nesting. Wrens also turned up in decent numbers.
Thank you to the volunteers who prepared the net rides and to the bird ringers who spent over ten hours carrying out CES 8.
Weather was a mixture of warm and cool and the sun spent most of its time behind the clouds so the invertebrates were not very active. Walking through the Scrapes a movement caught my eye. It was too fast to be a newt, could it have been a Common Lizard? Returning to where the movement had been a little while later and yes - it was a Common Lizard and this one had a complete tail! Several that we usually see have regrown tails. It was a very busy day with 205 birds processed. In the last hour when getting ready to close down we were presented with a box of young House Martins by a member of the public. Their nest had collapsed and they were homeless. More on this tomorrow when we see if they survive the night!
Friday, July 19th 2019
Lark and Taurus, the resident Exmoor ponies, had a visit from the farrier this week to trim their hooves. Although the visit went well, the next day the pair were extra wary of people trying to get up close to them. This was unfortunate as they needed to be moved from the heathland back to the moorland before the rain that is forecast for the next few days.
They were tempted to the gate by apples and carrots and at first it seemed to be going well!
However, they knew that something was afoot and after two unsuccessful attempts on two different days, it was 2 to the ponies and 0 to the Reserve Managers!
Luckily, help was only a phone call away and their owner from the North Yorkshire Exmoor Pony Trust was quick to assist and made catching them look very easy!
You never know what you might end up doing as a volunteer at Foxglove; you can be pruning one minute and handling livestock the next.
Once caught, the ponies behaved superbly as they followed a bucket of feed through the reserve and out to the moorland.
After being released on the moorland, the pair galloped about for a few minutes, seeming to enjoy the wider, open space up at Plover's Pool. They ran around a few times and were comical to watch as they leapt over the stream several times.
They appeared to recognise where they were straight away. This is a suitable place for them when it is warm as there is plenty of shade from the Hawthorn trees and the cool pond to wallow in.
They will be left here to graze for a few weeks and will hopefully eat the young gorse and grasses before it is time to go through the whole procedure again and move them to a new patch to carry out their important conservation task!
Thursday, July 18th 2019
It was that time again when Foxglove Covert volunteers take over the Town Hall in Richmond for the Coffee Morning. After an early start, with everything in place, the team were ready for customers.
Homemade carrot cake, rocky road, custard creams, lemon cake, cupcakes and marmalade cake were some of the delights on offer.
Honey, books, bird seed and greeting cards were also available.
As well as the usual tombola and raffle.
A good, steady flow of visitors ensured that the kitchen team were kept busy and out of mischief!
Everything was served with a warm, friendly smile!
Many thanks to all who helped out with this event from baking and preparing to washing and drying up. A special shout for Elizabeth who has been working on this behind the scenes for some time and who is still tidying up!
Pheasants and Grouse
Wednesday, July 17th 2019
Nothing to do with game birds on the reserve, these are the names of the Year 4 classes from Wavell Community Junior School who visited the Covert this week! The pupils were extremely lucky with the weather; the fine sunny spells provided the perfect conditions for sweep netting in the corner of the wildflower meadow.
One budding Entomologist was keen not to let his precious haul escape from the net!
His determination paid off and he was able to get a closer look at a grasshopper!
Various crab spiders, froghoppers, grass bugs and Soldier Beetles were all caught in the sweep nets along with a Small Skipper, a Wall Brown and many Ringlet butterflies. The children were careful to handle the animals gently before returning them to their habitat.
Earlier, a minibeast safari around the outdoor classroom was made memorable by the finding of a Smooth Newt. The groups also spent time studying the pondlife in the Scrapes (a highlight was finding a Water Scorpion) and of course no visit is complete without saying hello to Lark and Taurus! Our thanks to the school for their support. This is the final school visit for the summer but there are plenty of family activities lined up for the next few weeks. See the events page for more details. Talking of events, tomorrow is the Coffee Morning in Richmond Town Hall (from 9am - 12 noon) so please come along and support the reserve if you can. It isn't too late to donate tombola prizes and cakes which can be taken along to the Town Hall in the morning. Many thanks to Team Wednesday who not only identified moths from the traps but also managed to get everything ready (from displays, shop stock, biscuits and cakes to raffle tickets and tea towels) and loaded into cars for an early morning start!
Tuesday, July 16th 2019
Volunteers have finished planting a new reed bed along the banks of Spigot Mere. This will provide shelter for the wildlife from the prevailing winds.
Some of the plants have been in for a few weeks now and are growing well.
Last week a flock of twenty five Lapwing and over thirteen Oystercatchers were observed on the mere. Black Headed Gulls have also been enjoying this new habitat. The Spigot Mere appeal is ongoing as it is hoped to build a new tower hide and some screening to prevent any disturbance to the birds by visitors.
Today, Team Tuesday have been hard at work, pruning along the access road, strimming, repairing footpaths, painting benches, mowing lawns and pulling thistles.
Sunday, July 14th 2019
Catherine carried out the butterfly survey yesterday and recorded 257 Ringlet Butterflies. As I walked around this morning when it was dull and overcast there were still plenty flitting from grass to grass. Investigation found that these butterflies will fly even in the rain. Some research suggests that the caterpillars take in poisons from the fungi that often infect their food plants, grasses. These poisons are retained by the adults and the rings on their wings may be a warning to predators that they are not very nice to eat!
She also recorded 6 Speckled Woods, 13 Small Skippers and 17 Meadow Browns. As soon as the temperature warmed up and the sun came out this afternoon, a very large Painted Lady was seen and Common Blues. We usually see Common Blue butterflies as shown below. (Apologies for one taken in August last year but today's was totally out of focus.)
I managed to catch this one 'on camera', it has brown markings and the blue colour is not as intense. It is still a Common Blue.
Four-spotted Chasers were on Plover's Pool and then a very small one flew into the undergrowth. Creeping up as quietly as I could I realised that it was a Common Darter, the first to be recorded this season.
The lake seemed still with not much movement when I felt myself being watched. I was half hidden behind the vegetation as was the Little Grebe so if was not easy to obtain this photograph. If you look carefully you can see that there is a chick on its back.
The weed is dense in places and so I was unsure if I was looking at weed or ducks. There were actually several ducks and when I was close enough, saw that they were Tufted Duck chicks. They were spread over an area, but the female called to them and line astern they swam down the lake.
Always Something to See
Saturday, July 13th 2019
Wandering around Foxglove there is always something to see. This Common Bird's-foot Trefoil, has its seeds just developing, which gives the flower its name.
Roses clamber through the vegetation showing their pink flowers.
Walking up towards the moor through the conifers a pineapple was spotted! It is actaully a Pineapple Gall, caused by a greenfly like insect, on Sitka and Norway Spruce.
Holes in leaves are always interesting. Nine times out of ten there is nothing there but just sometimes there is. These sawfly larvae are on Alder. They didn't quite make it into their warning stance, which looks like an S shape.
Wednesday, July 10th 2019
A second team from Help for Heroes has visited the reserve as part of the Sports Recovery Programme at Phoenix House. The group worked hard to improve the surface of a section of the red route which is the easy access and wheelchair friendly trail. It was a strenuous task, removing the old material, bringing in new stone and compacting it down. The hot sun made it even tougher. The group showed great stamina and teamwork and completed the task in the time allowed. They also gave a bridge a new coat of wood preserver and helped to sieve chaff for the bird feeders.
Since then, regular volunteers have been busy repairing the edges to the same path which had rotted over time.
After a few finishing touches, this section is now complete.
Elsewhere, footpaths were strimmed and then the debris was cleared with the leaf blower.
Improvement works were also carried out on the outdoor classroom.
All of these summer maintenance jobs are crucial for the running of the reserve and without this huge volunteer effort it would not be possible.
Pupils from Hipswell C of E Primary School have visited again this week. The Year 4s also showed great stamina and resilience (and did their bit for the planet) by walking to the reserve from their school (3.7km) instead of travelling by coach. Whilst at Foxglove they did some pond dipping and went on a minibeast safari before their long walk back. All of the pupils from Hipswell have visited now over six different days and they have all been a pleasure to work with.
1st Richmond Rainbows and 1st Brompton Beavers both came on evening visits this week to learn about the wildlife and habitats too. Nearly 2,000 organised groups have been to the reserve to date with many more planned in the diary.
Finally, whilst having a health check from his owner from the North Yorkshire Exmoor Pony Trust, Lark discovered that he had a 'tickly spot'!
Thank you to everyone for all of your support!
Over Half Way
Sunday, July 7th 2019
It was CES 7 out of 12 today and the last 4am start. We are promised a lie in for CES 8, a 4.15am start! Thank you to the ringing team who worked extremely hard to achieve a successful day. It was made easier by the feeders being filled and the net rides strimmed and trimmed by the reserve managers and volunteers. A huge thank you to them all, not forgetting Ken, Linda and John who support the ringers throughout the day with plenty of tea, and pie and other goodies.
We continued to ring more Bullfinches. Wrens made their appearance in the ringing room along with Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs. On release, instead of flying away this Wilwa or Chiff was searching happily for some food in the Privet Hedge!
As is usual by this time of year the majority of birds processed are juveniles as the adults are beginning their moult.
Out on Spigot Mere at the end of the day, a Curlew was having a bath and then a preen, whilst the Oystercatchers were resting. The House Martins are using the Mere for feeding, drinking and collecting mud.
Whilst the ringing was going on there was an event to celebrate our middle moor flower meadow. The group of people walked across the moor and we identified many different flowers and saw a variety of butterflies. One little one put her book to good use to ID some of the insects seen.
We then visited the corner where we sweep net.
Once the nets were full they were examined and the contents put into the white trays.
We did our best to identify the varied species caught, which included several species of spider, Timothy Bugs and a multitude of flies.
As the nets were safely locked away John and Janet were thrilled to have seen the Common Lizards in their usual area on the wetland. Later I walked quietly up and sure enough there were at least two sitting on the boardwalk in the late afternoon sun.
There were few sightings of these elusive reptiles last summer and certainly no photographs so this was very special.
Friday, July 5th 2019
Warmth and sun are excellent for all the invertebrates, but can cause problems when you want to take a photograph of something that flies! Moth morning was a good example, moths 10, photographers 3, meaning 10 flew as soon as they were released and of course disappeared into the undergrowth where we were unable to follow. A Peppered Moth did sit still. When it was ID'd we decided it was darker than normal but not as dark as the dark variation. It was quite worn but I was amazed that it had stripes on its legs.
Ringlet butterflies were certainly on the wing on Wednesday when the butterfly transect was carried out, all 128 of them. They usually sit with their wings closed so it was a careful step and a zoom of the camera to catch one sitting with its wings open.
Investigating a movement in one of the meadows we thought we had a Meadow Brown but then realised that it was too small. Stalking it saw it fly from grass to flower and back to grass again before it settled for a few seconds to allow a photo to be snapped. It was a Small Heath. This butterfly has shown a severe decline over the long term and is therefore a priority species for conservation efforts. It was not recorded at Foxglove during 2018. It is good to see it back.
I make no excuses for another photograph of the Four-spotted Chaser. This species was first recorded at Foxglove in June 2012. Over recent weeks it has been observed along Risedale Beck, near the heath, up towards the middle moor and of course on the wetland. It is widespread throughout Britain but slightly scarcer in Northern England.
Thistles and Reeds
Wednesday, July 3rd 2019
In the hay meadow amongst the wildflowers were hundreds of thistles and although they are a valuable source of nectar for many insects, they are prolific on the reserve and if every one were left to go to seed then they would take over all of the habitats! In the sweep netting area they are a particular nuisance as they snag on the sweep nets too. The best way to remove them is by pulling them out by hand much to the delight of the Foxglove staff and volunteers!
Fire gauntlets provide great protection from the prickles.
Pupils from the Dales School came along to see what was going on and to lend a hand with the sacks and wheelbarrow.
Although a tedious task, it was lovely to spend a sunny morning in the hay meadow which really is teeming with life. A large Hawker dragonfly and a Common Blue butterfly were observed along with many bumblebees. A Kestrel family flew overhead too.
At lunchtime, an odd delivery arrived at the centre; three boxes full of Phragmites australis also known as Common Reed.
They were for planting along the banks of the newly created wetland, Spigot Mere. Once grown, the reeds will provide some shelter for wildlife from the prevailing wind.
They were planted in a zigzag line along the water's edge. The plugs were put in 50cm apart and had to be 2cm beneath the surface.
Gerry (being the only sensible person to wear wellies), had the important job of tamping down the soil around the reeds to remove any air pockets and make sure they were compacted in!
By the end of the day a third of the plants were in and it is just possible to imagine what they will be like in a few years time.
Out with a Camera
Monday, July 1st 2019
John was out and about yesterday and spotted these House Martins on the far bank of Spigot Mere, collecting mud for their nests.
Continuing his travels with his macro camera into the back garden, an insect decided to come and have a closer look at what he was doing. So this photograph was the result. It has been identified as Birch Sawfly. Cimbex femoratus. It is yet another new species for the reserve.
Whilst checking up on this insect I came across a photograph of a similar larva, which is likely to be Woolly Alder Sawfly.
More cameras in action, which is interesting but not of calendar standard. A big shadow for a tiny Heather Ladybird.
Freshwater shrimps are not often seen in the ponds and becks of Foxglove but these were spotted in the exit pipe from Spigot Mere. They are indicators that the water they live in is free from pollutants.
Thank you to John and Gerry for being out and about with their cameras.