Blog Archive (18) Posts Made in December 2019
Volunteers at Work
Tuesday, December 31st 2019
Blue sky greeted the volunteers as they arrived this morning, but it was frosty and hats, coats and gloves were needed!
Work started on the moor to find the path edge, so enabling the path to be more easily seen.
Pipes under the access road have been checked and some repairs carried out. The last one was completed today.
Out on the moor a stile was given some tlc.
A gate that was not opening and closing correctly was also given some attention.
And finally the birds have been feeding in the back garden and the feeders need to be filled almost everyday.
The first Brambling of the winter was spotted on Friday and was ringed on Saturday. If you are birdwatching keep your eye open for them.
It is the end of a busy year at Foxglove. A great deal of work has been carried out, from mowing and strimming, CES bird ringing, moth trapping, removal of Silver Birch, planting trees and many different jobs along the way. The Management Group and reserve managers really appreciate all the work done by the volunteers and we wish you all the best for the New Year.
Sunday, December 29th 2019
At the beginning of the year some of the conifers in a block along Risedale Beck were felled. During the year, even though there were some very dry times, the vegetation began to show. There were ferns and leaves of Foxglove, Wood Sorrel and Primrose. It is our intention that we keep a photographic record of this area as it develops during the year. The first photographs have been taken, a little early admittedly, for 2020.
We will not just be looking at the vegetation but also any invertebrates that arrive. The log piles will be checked too. Someone is going to have to take some walks up and down the hill!
The Bluebells at the Stone Circle showed themselves well into the circle last year and we wait to see how far they have spread this coming spring.
Spigot Mere attracted new species during the year and it will be interesting to see if they return and if further new visitors arrive.
Friday, December 27th 2019
There are some species that we know where to look at certain times of the year. Amber Jelly has grown on an old Willow along Risedale Beck for several years, but has been conspicuous by its absence recently, until today. The damp conditions encourage it to remain jelly-like. If it dries up then so too does the fungus.
Lichens also appreciate dampness and they stand out against the dark branches that they are growing on. Something caught my eye. A closer look revealed a tiny water droplet on a single silken strand.
Some lichens grow and almost look like little gardens. They are often associated with moss.
You need the right sort of water for the lichen cups to catch a droplet of water and remain there!
Thursday, December 26th 2019
All visitors to the reserve arrive by the main access track. Alongside this road were many young diseased Ash trees (Ash Dieback has arrived in North Yorkshire). The disease is caused by a fungus named Hymenoscyphus fraxineus (H. fraxineus), which is of eastern Asian origin. More information about the disease can be found on the Forestry Commission's website. On Christmas Eve, several volunteers were eager to help out by removing some of the dying trees to make space for new species.
Fortunately, most of the affected Ash were small and could be cut down with pruning saws and bow saws.
Rain wasn't forecast, however, there was constant drizzle!
The trailer was loaded up over and over again with brash and there was a familiar face back on the reserve to lend a hand!
To avoid spreading disease spores, the wood was burned on a bonfire.
Although this all seems very destructive, this was only part of the story; in the afternoon, new saplings were planted to replace the Ash. Specimens were chosen that will look pretty on the drive in such as Spindle, Wild Cherry, Bird Cherry and Wayfaring tree. All from the ones that were recently donated by Bettys Tearooms.
Bird feeders were filled and boardwalks were repaired too. Another job was to rod the drains that go underneath the main driveway. Ian got well and truly stuck in and as a result the pipes are flowing well again to avoid any water from pouring over the road surface.
Our sincere thanks to everyone who gave up a soggy Christmas Eve to assist with these important tasks. The reserve is open as usual from now until the New Year. The Field Centre will be closed on New Years Day however, there will be a guided walk on the 1st January from 11.00am - 1.00pm. Booking is essential as places are limited and this event is free to Friends of Foxglove and Volunteers. Further details can be found on the events page.
A Winter Walk
Monday, December 23rd 2019
At this time of year there are no flowers or bugs or beasties to distract you when you walk around. An opportunity to look for other things.
Reflections in the still water, when photographed and downloaded, make you wonder which is the correct way up!
Sometimes the breeze blows just at the wrong time!
Water droplets made the trees look as though they were decorated with tiny baubles, so there are plenty of droplets hanging around.
Most fungi have finished fruiting and have decayed, but there are still some to be found.
The Hazel tree that opens its catkins first has already started to do so, so a close watch will be kept to see when the first female flower opens.
At the end of the walk, a pink sky.
A Fond Farewell and Ringing Update
Sunday, December 22nd 2019
Although Friday was Alex and Carla's last day of being officially employed at Foxglove, both have promised to return as volunteers until they find fulltime employment. The two graduates from Teesside University have made a positive contribution to the LNR and it has been a real pleasure working with them both over the past three months. They both threw themselves into life at the reserve and soon became part of the Foxglove family and will be missed by everyone!
With a gap in the wet weather, a few of the bird ringers made the most of the opportunity and carried out ringing at a different site. It was a successful morning with sixty five birds being processed. They were mainly garden birds and included: Great Spotted Woodpecker, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Goldcrest, Marsh Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Bullfinch and Reed Bunting.
It was a damp and misty start but the weather quickly improved and the ringing results were surprisingly satisfactory.
There was a shocking lack of mince pies but everyone remembered a hot flask. Tony had broken into his Christmas presents early and was sporting his newly knitted hat, very Gucci indeed!
Waste Not Want Not!
Thursday, December 19th 2019
Removing the old boardwalk timber from behind the lake was the main task for Team Thursday. What a job it was too! The new boardwalk is in place and the old wood had been left behind by contractors as most of it (once dry and treated) will be good enough to be used for small repairs elsewhere.
With wet and muddy ground and slippery wooden planks full of nails and staples, care was taken as it was loaded into the trolley to be taken away.
In total fifty six metres of path had been replaced. A surprisingly large amount! Wire was removed from the timbers and they were stacked in neat piles.
'Human chains' were made to load the planks onto a trailer.
This was then taken away to a store in order to dry out. It was heavy work and our sincere thanks go to everyone who helped including volunteers from Northdale Horticulture.
Out on the moor, Adam from Coxon Brothers was making a start on improving the drainage at the far end of the wetland. As you can see, it was rather muddy there too!
Wednesday, December 18th 2019
As a thank you to all volunteers, a Christmas meal was enjoyed after the tree planting yesterday.
It was great to see so many people who support Foxglove in so many different ways. From chainsawing, bird ringing, tree planting and carrying out research to species monitoring and updating social media and everything inbetween! Everyone who attended has made a significant and positive contribution to the success of the reserve this year.
At the end, a few well earned awards were handed out for a bit of fun. Certificates for excellence in strimming, painting and craftmanship were some examples!
With some anecdotes to back them up!
The food was delicious and there was plenty of Bucks Fizz to wash it down with too although we're not sure that it was evenly distributed around the tables!
After lunch, the group headed back to the Field Centre where Carla gave a fascinating presentation about her analysis of the bird ringing data that has been built up over the past twenty seven years. She did a fantastic job and the results will be extremely useful.
Today was a much quieter day with thick fog and freezing cold winds and only a handful of brave volunteers. Out on the moor staff installed a new strainer post where an old one had rotted. It was Gerry's job to make sure the wooden post was nice and straight!
Ian then used a post knocker to set it into the frozen ground. It would have been an interesting challenge without the help of him and his tractor! Thank you Ian!
Let the Tree Planting Commence!
Tuesday, December 17th 2019
The first half of the trees donated by Bettys Tearooms were collected at the end of last week and finally a start could be made on carefully planting them around the reserve. The only problem was that once the labels had been removed it was tricky to identify the different species!
Thankfully, the saplings were identifiable by the colour of their buds and bark and it was soon decided where to plant each one depending on its requirements.
The team worked in pairs to plant each one and protect them from browsing mammals with a tree tube and from the prevailing wind with a supporting stake.
Three Black Poplar were placed in amongst the Larch. These can reach thirty metres in height when fully mature so need a lot of space. They are a native tree and although once common in the UK, are now rare.
Dogwood is a small shrub with bright scarlet twigs. It grows well on the edge of woodland and in hedgerows and will look stunning alongside this woodland path. Several were planted on the edge of the Larch plantation but others were saved for the creation of a new hedge on the moorland.
There had been a hard frost last night and there were still large patches of ice about. The temperature didn't get much above freezing all day. However, the ground was surprisingly soft and the spades cut into the soil with little effort. Other species put in today included Alder Buckthorn(food plant of the Brimstone Butterfly), Rowan, Whitebeam and Hornbeam. In total, Forty new trees were planted this morning and the rest of them were heeled in to soft ground to keep them alive for the next few days until they find their place in the Foxglove habitats.
When the weather is cold the bird feeders are kept topped up in the back garden. Getting into the seed shed was a challenge in itself as the locks were frozen solid!
Volunteers also finished tidying an area ready to be planted with trees. After a busy morning, a Christmas lunch was held as a thank you to all of the volunteers who give up their time to support the reserve; more on this tomorrow!
Tannenbaums and Willow Wreaths
Saturday, December 14th 2019
Tannenbaums (Christmas trees) and wreaths were the focus of today's Christmas crafts workshop and the end result was really impressive!
Marilynne led the workshop which began with an explanation of how to put together the base and the first few branches of the Tannenbaum centrepiece. The Silver Birch bases were made from some of the small trees that were cut down to make room for new saplings of varied species (donated by Bettys tearooms). The 'trunks' were made from Willow from the coppice block and where this has been cut, new shoots will grow. This means that the decorations are completely sustainable.
Once the bases were put together, small branches of freshly pruned Douglas Fir were layered up to give the Christmas tree effect.
The tree tops were created by adding branches and using florist's wire to secure them all together.
In no time at all, the activity room was a forest of miniature Christmas trees! The scent from the Douglas Fir was incredible but a little overwhelming for some!
In order to make the wreaths, circular frames were first woven and then fresh foliage such as fir branches and holly leaves were added. Finally, other natural decorations for example pine cones and cinnamon sticks were glued on as the finishing touches.
It was a fun morning and a steep learning curve for some of us! It was thoroughly enjoyed and our thanks to all of the people that attended and especially to Marilynne for being such a generous and patient instructor! Same time next year everyone?!
Bridge and Boardwalk Repairs
Friday, December 13th 2019
Repair works on the long bridge at the head of the lake have been completed this week. The new pieces of timber are Larch and stand out against the old worn wood that was installed ten years ago. Regular readers may remember that this work began in March this year when the weather was a little warmer! See the blog post for details.
The replacement of the fifty metre long section of boardwalk behind the lake hide was also finished. The old wood will be graded into various piles; one for planks that can be re-used on the reserve and one of broken and or rotten pieces that will be taken away. You can see from the photographs that this area is especially boggy and therefore the walkway is essential for visitors.
The ready made sections were put into place and the side kick boards were then added.
This is the main route into Foxglove by foot and is the way that the primary school children use to walk to the field centre from the parade square (where their coaches must park). The old boardwalk was completely rotten in places and was beginning to become unsafe.
By the end of the day, the new structure was in place and the final touch was the addition of chicken wire between the sections to prevent the surface from becoming slippery when wet. Contractors were not the only ones braving the December Yorkshire weather yesterday as staff and volunteers were also working out in the heavy rain. One job was to fill the perpetual potholes on the main track in!
Young people from Northdale Horticulture helped out by filling up the bird feeders at the lake. First, they learned about the different types of bird food and the different species that are attracted by it. Afterwards, they sanded down a bench in the workshop to escape from the cold weather conditions.
Later in the afternoon, the team of volunteers split into two smaller teams. One repaired boardwalk on the red route and the other one harvested Willow for the Christmas Crafts Workshop tomorrow.
Thank you to everyone involved, your dedication is appreciated!
Mud and Marshmallows
Wednesday, December 11th 2019
A small group of students from Risedale Sports and Community College spent their morning helping out on the reserve. The Risedale Rangers, as they are known, began their day by carrying the treated wooden benches (from yesterday) back to the outdoor classroom from the workshop. Later, they chopped up large Willow branches from Saturday's Winter Worky Day. They were given a choice of two different jobs and chose this one, prefering to spend their time on the moorland rather than in the woodland. The young people have been assisting with practical conservation work on a weekly basis since returning to school in September.
It wasn't all hard work though and as a reward for all of their efforts over previous weeks, they had a go at fire lighting with flint and steel and toasting marshmallows.
They have shown great resilience (often wading around in mud in freezing temperatures) and teamwork skills and have made a positive contribution during their 'worky' mornings! Our thanks to the group and their leaders and we wish them a Happy Christmas!
There have been more familiar faces on site today with the return of staff from Custom Made Wooden Buildings. This time they are replacing the boardwalk between the lake hides and the main entrance. The new boardwalk is 'ready made' in sections and by this evening (working in floodlight) these were all lined up ready to be installed. It was quite a challenge moving the solid Larch structures from the access road to the footpath. However, as the saying goes: where there is a will, there is a way and where there is a way Trevor will find it!
The Lull Before The Storm
Tuesday, December 10th 2019
Woodland work continued this morning as it was a good sheltered location with the forecast predicting gale force winds and heavy rain. Diseased Ash, Cherry and Sitka Spruce trees were cut down to make space for the new native hardwood trees that have been donated by Bettys tearooms.
The timber was graded into various piles; some for habitat, some for path edging and the brash for the bonfire. This tidy up operation will also reduce the risk of forest fire in the hot summer months.
The larger trees that were in good health were brashed up to head height to allow more light in to the woodland floor. Some of the dead trees that were away from the path were left standing for the wildlife too.
Thanks to Elizabeth T, staff and volunteers were treated to a delicious homemade pie. With that and Jo's lovely tea loaf everybody was re-energised and raring to get back to work!
With a storm predicted for later in the day, it was decided to work inside the workshop on the benches that had been brought back to dry. The seats from the outdoor classroom were oiled and came up really well.
A bench from the Easy Access Route was also sanded down ready to be stained with preserver later this week.
Out on the moor, James from the Coxon Brothers (civil and environmental engineers) was busy flailing the Gorse on the outside of the reserve fence. This was necessary as the Gorse was beginning to damage the wooden posts.
The view from Plover's Pool is quite different now with some Hawthorn trees newly revealed.
Volunteers also replenished the vole feeding platforms with apples, edged footpaths and cleaned more bird feeders. Our sincere thanks to all who helped to make today another productive one on the reserve.
Monday, December 9th 2019
It has been a busy few days at Foxglove preparing for various events. On Friday, Carla decorated the Christmas tree in the Field Centre to get ready for the festive season and it looks fantastic. There will be a Christmas trail for familes to enjoy over the school holidays so watch this space!
Gloves and tools were organised ahead of the Winter Worky Day.
Benches were fetched back to the Field Centre in order to dry out before being sanded down and treated with wood stain.
Some of them had to be carried a long distance however, this is never a problem as it is easy to take a rest!
Finally, some of the fruit trees were carefully pruned to prepare them for the summer months.
Later this week, Willow will be harvested for the Christmas Crafts Workshop on Saturday. There are still some places left on this event and if you would like to take part then please see the events page for details.
A Mild Winter Worky Day
Sunday, December 8th 2019
Compared to last year's December Winter Worky Day, this year was very mild. There was a fantastic turnout with plenty of keen and willing volunteers.
The task was to clear Gorse from the moorland as it had almost taken over the land adjacent to the Bluebell bank. Thanks to Ian and his chainsaw, light work was made of the larger trunks and progress was quick.
With so much unwanted Gorse, the only way forward was to burn it. Although it burns well, it always creates an alarming amount of smoke!
So much so that Gerry had to inform the guard room as it was blowing in their direction!
It was hard work battling against the wind and dragging the cut brash to the fire.
As the day went on so the distance to carry the spiky branches increased. A bridge crossing and several canine 'helpers' made life even more difficult!
The only time when the dogs were not in the way was when they were distracted by food!
They weren't fussy either!
By the end of the day, the moor looked very different and one of the moorland streams was once again visible from the path.
The removal of the Gorse cover revealed several interesting finds such as this ancient Willow tree…
...some Hart's Tongue Fern…
...and finally, some fascinating White Brain fungus.
Thank you to all of the volunteers who helped to achieve this huge job, it wouldn't have been possible without you. A reminder that Winter Worky Days at Foxglove are family friendly and the next one will be on the 4th January.
These events are fun and free however, booking is essential as a hot meal is provided in return for your efforts. Further details can be found on the events page.
Wednesday, December 4th 2019
Washing up can take a little while as the birds flying into the feeders can cause a very good distraction. Each species has their own way of feeding. Great Tits examine each seed they remove, sometimes dropping those they do not like. Blue Tits can be quite aggressive and seem to spend much of their time chasing other birds away rather than feeding!
Carla is continuing to work on the bird ringing data and needs some photos of birds to add to her presentation. Consequently I have been on the look out for a Great Spotted Woodpecker, which have been conspicuous by their absence. When one appeared on the peanuts, the washing up was neglected whilst some photos were taken.
More washing up was attempted but he (the red mark on the nape indicates that this is a male bird) arrived back and sat on the fence. We all commented on his very muddy beak.
The washing up was completed by Ken - thank you.
There are Mallard on the lake and walking quietly over the bridge they can sometimes be seen on the tree. I think this female was showing off a little by sitting at its highest point.
Nicola has been checking all our mink rafts and putting out the camera traps. Unfortunately nothing has been caught on camera - yet. However she has found a perfect Otter print. It is most unusual to find the fifth digit in an imprint, but you can see it clearly in the footmarks of the first print.
Colin has been busy making more small bug hotels and bird feeders. (These would make ideal Christmas Presents.) Foxglove volunteers have such a varied set of skills and contribute so much to the reserve. Many thanks to them all.
More Woodland Work
Tuesday, December 3rd 2019
We have been awarded a grant from Bettys Tea Rooms, which is much appreciated by everyone at Foxglove. As part of the grant we have purchased some more picnic tables and more trees. The trees that we have chosen are those that will encourage wildlife. Before any can be planted, the area has to be cleared of Gorse, Birch and Brambles. Clearing out some of the trees will also ensure that those left are not overcrowded and have a better chance to flourish. Tuesday volunteers were carrying out this work. Peter was expertly using the tree popper to remove some saplings.
Once the vegetation had been cut so it had to be carried to the fire site. Not an easy job walking over uneven tree roots.
Armful after armful were carried to the fire site.
Lighting the fire was carried out by another expert!
As the sun set a group photo was taken of some of the volunteers.
Their work was not finished as they returned to the porta cabin to continue to repair the bird feeders. Many thanks for all the work carried out today.
A Mallard Tale on a Frosty Morning
Sunday, December 1st 2019
Mallard were leaving the shelter of the reeds at the head of the lake. Some headed onto the ice, which was thick enough to take their weight,
whilst some remained swimming in the open water.
After very careful walking those on the ice reached its edge and very gracefully lowered themselves into the water.
Spigot Mere also retained some open water.
Some of the puddles on the bund formed during the rain had frozen and made beautiful patterns in the cracked ice.
Ice crystals had formed on much of the vegetation around the reserve and this Selfheal seed head was no exception.
Coming off the moor and walking down through the conifer woods, the sun highlighted the frost.
The bird ringing team were busy today. Another 12 Redwing were ringed. Fieldfares were flying over but none visited the nets. Already it is noticeable that the number of Hawthorn berries is decreasing. A migrant Blackbird was also ringed, its dark beak and very black head were obvious as it was taken out of the bird bag. Also amongst today's catch was a Blue Tit ringed in the nest box in 2016, and a Great Tit from a nest box in 2017. Siskin and Reed Buntings and made their appearance. No Redpolls were caught but they could be on their way? Eleanor, a member of the Swaledale Ringing Group is working in Scotland and ringing with the Grampion Ringing Team. They are catching many Redpoll.
Many thanks to the bird ringers for all their hard work, it was a very good, enjoyable day.