Blog Archive (15) Posts Made in March 2020
Time for Toads
Sunday, March 29th 2020
It is that time of year when hundreds of Toads migrate back to the ponds at Foxglove. In usual circumstances, visitors have to take care when driving in, as the speckled amphibians are well camouflaged on the gravel track. The Toads make their way back to the pools around the reserve to breed. They are often found on the footpaths and are observed sitting on the bottom of ponds (where they can remain for four to seven hours). The pair photographed here appear to be following some kind of 'social distancing' rule!
They are always a delight to watch and the males make a funny sound (similar to a squeaky dog toy) in order to attract a mate! Each year, the first school children to visit the reserve enjoy this wildlife spectacle which only lasts for a few days. Last week a class from St Mary's RC Primary School in Richmond should have been to Foxglove for an educational day out. It is a shame that the the visit had to be cancelled for this Spring but we will give schools that had booked for this term priority for another date in the future. We hope that the staff and pupils are all safe and well and we look forward to welcoming them later in the year.
Photographs of wildlife have been coming in from many of our supporters and a Friend of Foxglove from Newton Aycliffe has kindly shared these beautiful pictures taken in his back garden. Here is a Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly:
A Long-tailed Tit:
And finally, a Great Tit:
Please see our Facebook site for more wildlife pictures taken by our supporters and if you are stuck inside, a reminder that nature is never far away whether it is a ladybird on the windowsill or a Robin in your back garden, enjoy it!
Spring Goes On!
Wednesday, March 25th 2020
As a distraction from the current situation, we will try to bring you as many wildlife and nature photographs as we can. The latest Foxglove newsletter Undergrowth is now available to read and will hopefully be posted out to Friends and Volunteers shortly. Our sincere thanks to the editor Katie Awdas for bringing this together at a difficult time. Thank you too to all of the contributers (we are always looking for more if anyone has an idea for an article then please get in touch). A final thank you to the staff at Richmond Print who managed to turn this job around before having to close their doors.
Here are a couple of photos that were sent in by a local Natural Historian. The first one shows a Long-tailed Tit sitting in her beautiful mossy nest. According to the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) their nests can be found in a variety of locations; tight against the trunk of a forked tree, high up, or in a shrub like hawthorn or bramble and placed lower down. The oval-shaped nests have a single entrance and are made out of moss, hair and cobwebs, then covered with lichens for camouflage and lined with hundreds of feathers. The nest is made by both parents quite early in the year (beginning in February), as they can take more than 3 weeks to build, and it is often left for some days once complete - a noticeable gap before egg-laying begins.
He also sent this stunning photograph of some Avocets that have returned to breed on his patch.
We would love to see your pictures of wildlife too. It doesn't matter when they were taken. Please send any that you are happy to share on the blog to the reserve email address: email@example.com (remember to include your name if you would like to be mentioned).
Alternatively you can upload them onto the Foxglove social media sites (FB, Twitter and Instagram).
Monday, March 23rd 2020
We regret to announce that in line with both government and MOD guidelines, to help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, as of 4pm today Foxglove Covert LNR will be closed to the public until further notice. We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their continued support during these unprecedented circumstances and will keep you updated of any changes. We apologise for any inconvenience and hope to be open again soon.
An Important Update for Volunteers
Monday, March 23rd 2020
It is after much thought and with regret that a decision has been taken by the trustees to put a temporary halt on volunteering at Foxglove Covert LNR. Volunteers are the backbone of the reserve and will be tremendously missed but in view of the current situation with Covid-19 this next step was unavoidable and we need to do our part to help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.The health and wellbeing of the staff, volunteers and visitors is the main priority and we will keep you informed as and when the situation changes. We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for all of your hard work to date, it is hugely valued and we hope that you will return as soon as the situation improves. You are a fantastic team and the different skills and knowledge that you bring to the reserve are second to none. In the meantime, please stay safe and if you are struggling in any way please get in touch and we will do our best to help you.
Here are some of the pictures taken of the last few volunteering days when we were respecting the two metre distance rule and enjoying the fresh air!
Friday, March 20th 2020
Circumstances globally at the moment are unprecedented and we are in unchartered waters. How life generally will pan out over the next six months is difficult to predict as are the spring and summer activities at Foxglove. It is our intention to keep the reserve open, if possible, but whether or not we will be able to achieve that is unknown at this stage.
Our main priority is to keep staff, volunteers and visitors as safe as possible. The reserve trails and hides remain open however, access to the Field Centre is now limited to the toilets only. Please use the hand sanitiser provided at the entrance way.
We have adopted the two metre rule, please respect this whilst on the reserve and keep a sensible distance away from staff and other visitors.
The events programme has been temporarily withdrawn. For up to date information this website, FaceBook and other forms of social media should be consulted. If you have donated in advance to secure a place on an event you will be contacted over the next few days and offered a refund. We apologise for this inconvenience.
The telephones will normally be manned during opening times. These are 01748 830045 (office) or 07754 270980 (mobile).
The reserve should always be open for walks and exercise unless notice is given to the contrary.
Keep well, keep safe and listen carefully to the advice given.
On a more positive note; the reserve is starting to come alive just now with signs of spring everywhere. There is a mass of frogspawn in the ponds through the scrapes and the Toads are beginning to arrive on their annual migration to their breeding grounds. Primroses and Bluebells are starting to show and the place is lifting with birds. There are still Brambling about and the first Chiffchaffs to arrive can be heard in the Willow Carr. There are plenty of Redpolls, Chaffinches and Bullfinches as well as the more usual common garden birds. Woodpeckers can be heard drumming in the woodland and up on the wetland and moorland, Lapwing and Curlew can be heard calling again too. A real sign of hope at this unsettling time. A walk around in the sunshine is just the right medicine if you are feeling concerned and provides welcome respite from the current situation. For those of you stuck at home, here is the view from the tower hide today!
Your continued support during this unusual period is extremely valued.
Tuesday, March 17th 2020
Over the last few weeks, staff and volunteers have been working hard to maintain the many ponds all around the reserve. One of the dams at the cascading pools had been overflowing and to allow for this in the future, an overspill channel was created by first digging out a trench and then filling it with boulders.
The pools are a beautiful feature and act as a wildlife corridor from the training area to the main lake on the reserve. In the summer they are frequented by Grey Wagtails and Kingfishers.
Another task was to clear the inflow and outflow pipes from the ponds that are fed with water from Risedale Beck. After the recent storms, debris had collected around the pipe entrances preventing water from leaving and causing the levels to rise. In some cases, the levels were so high that waders were necessary!
Locating the pipe was the first challenge however, once the leaves and twigs were removed, the levels soon returned to where they should be. It looked as though spear fishing was the new hobby!
All of these water bodies are important habitats for a variety of species. Last week and the week before, the ponds were filled with frogs. Now there is hardly one to be seen just plenty of frogspawn. Today saw the first Toads arriving; this pair were in the middle of the footpath on the way to the wetland hide.
Signs of Otter such as spraint and tracks are frequently observed at Foxglove and recently this perfect footprint was discovered in one of the clay rafts on the wetland. The print had five clear toes and could only have been left by this impressive yet elusive mammal.
This evidence was backed up with a photograph of an Otter taken with a wildlife camera trap close to where the footprint was found. The image showed only of part of the animal and if a better one is captured, it will be posted on a future blog.
Monday, March 16th 2020
Staff and volunteers have been continuing the pollarding of Willow in some of the net rides around the reserve. Pollarding is an ancient form of tree management. Trees used to be grown within grazed pastures and the tree’s crown was regularly cut at around eight feet high, well above the browsing height of the stock below. This allowed the land to be used for both grazing animals and to provide useful material from the trees. The wood was used to make hurdles, fences and baskets.
This technique creates a huge amount of brash which isn't as useful today as it was in ancient times! It had to be dragged from the net ride to the main car park.
The Willow branches were then put through a woodchipper to make woodchips that will be used to top up some of the footpaths through the woodland.
Thank you to everyone who has helped with this over the past few weeks in all weathers, it was a refreshing change today to be working in sunshine rather than rain!
Friday, March 13th 2020
There was variable weather, to say the least during the day. Cool wind, gentle then strong, drizzle then heavy rain, dark clouds followed by sun, but this did not deter the volunteers working, nor some wildlife making an appearance.
Birds are returning to Spigot Mere. Two Oystercatchers were on the small island, doing some gentle stretching exercises!
Later it was bath time and then a preening session.
They had been joined by a Lapwing
Pied Wagtails have also been seen around the Mere.
Something bright stood out on the bund and it was Coltsfoot. This dandelion like flower appears early in the spring, followed in summer by large leaves shaped liked a colt's foot, hence its name.
A movement on the boardwalk proved to be, on closer inspection, a brown hairy caterpillar. We double checked its identification and confirmed that it was a Ruby Tiger moth caterpillar. We often find these on the boardwalk in autumn as they head to a suitable hibernation site.
Water Crickets were also to be found on one of the fast flowing streams. These can be spotted much earlier and later in the year than Pond Skaters, that prefer the calm of still water.
In the blog on frogs it mentions that temperature plays an important role in the hatching of the spawn. The spawn in the Activity Room in the tank is hatching. In the ponds it is showing no sign of development.
Wednesday, March 11th 2020
The frogs are back!
One of the signs of spring is the sound of male Common Frogs croaking in the ponds. They are calling the females. This is soon followed by seeing one, then two, then many more swimming around in a relatively small area. We spotted these ones in the Bogbean pond in the Scrapes.
There is plenty of frogspawn in some of the ponds. Temperature plays an important role in the timing of the hatching of the spawn. Low temperatures mean it can take many days before hatching, whilst warmer conditions see the tadpoles develop more quickly. If you want a closer look at spawn then there is a tank set up in the Activity Room.
When the frogs first return they are quite shy, disappearing underwater and staying there, but after a few days they become more used to people walking by and although they do dive back underwater they soon emerge again. We tried to count them in one pond and got numbers ranging from 18 to 20 and the last count reached 30! This year has seen much more activity than last year when sightings of frogs and spawn were low.
The frogs can be photogenic.
You can see the smooth skin and the reflection shows their eyes.
These two look like they are smiling!
Best Laid Plans
Tuesday, March 10th 2020
This winter, major improvements were meant to be carried out on the main wetland. Some of the pools are really overgrown.
The intention was clear these and also to strengthen the main western bank to prevent leaking. The leakage can be seen in the photograph below.
Last winter, the other half of this habitat was re-profiled and the result has been a success with the return of wading birds such as Lapwing and Oystercatchers. This is how the whole area should look once the works are complete with a low sward and open water.
However, it has been one of the wettest winters on record and the ground has been too soft for the contractors to complete the job. Time has run out this season as the amphibians will soon be back to breed as will the water birds. Over the last few days the diggers have been 'buttering' which is tidying up and smoothing out the earth before leaving the site.
The ground will soon heal and fingers crossed that the work can continue at the end of the year.
A Generous Donation
Sunday, March 8th 2020
Following the success of the 34th Hunton Steam Gathering in September 2019, the HSG Committee have been able to make donations to local charities and good causes. 2019 was the biggest and best event in the 34 years history. The Gathering was originally conceived to raise much needed funds for a play park on the village green and has grown in size significantly over the years since 1985. It is run by a voluntary organisation and an army of helpers and the event aims to make donations where possible with any surplus funds. This year Foxglove was amongst thirteen local charities to benefit from this successful event.
Thank you to all of the members of the Hunton Steam Gathering Committee for this kind donation which will be used to buy vital tools for the Foxglove conservation volunteers. This money will enable us to continue to manage the 100 acres of varied habitats for wildlife.
Hunton Steam Gathering takes place annually in farmland to the east of the Village of Hunton in Lower Wensleydale just off the A684, between Bedale and Leyburn, and is signposted from all main roads (nearest postcode for Sat Nav users is DL8 1QF). The next Gathering will be held on Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th September 2020 with the ploughing event commencing at 11 am on the Sunday.
March Winter Worky Day
Saturday, March 7th 2020
The final Winter Worky Day of the season was well attended and the weather was perfect; dry and breezy.
Net ride maintenance was the priority as the CES (Constant Effort Sites Scheme) bird ringing season is fast approaching. During the CES period bird ringers operate the same nets in the same locations over the same time period at regular intervals through the breeding season at over 140 sites throughout Britain and Ireland. Foxglove has been a part of this project for twenty seven years providing important year on year data for the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology). The vegetation on either side of the net rides needed to be lowered in order to maximise the number of birds caught and monitored over the coming months.
This 'extreme pruning' always creates a huge amount of brash which has to be chopped up smaller.
With two teams working in different net rides, great progress was made. A hot lunch consisting of pies, mash, peas and gravy followed by a variety of delicious cakes kept everyone going until late afternoon.
Thank you to all of the volunteers who helped out today, your time and effort is greatly appreciated. There was a definite feel of Spring in the air and the frogs could be heard calling in the Scrapes where the first frogspawn of the year was discovered.
A Frosty Morning
Friday, March 6th 2020
Early this morning parts of the reserve were coated white with frost.
Although the rising, warming sun was causing the frost to melt, but only where the sun could reach.
Long shadows were cast across the moor.
Whilst scanning the moor a Lapwing flew across and landed. A very quick long distance photo. One had been seen on Spigot Mere earlier in the week.
It is lovely to see the birds returning to Spigot Mere. Pied Wagtails and an Oyster Catcher have also been sighted. Greylag Geese are flying over and some are beginning to inspect the smaller ponds on the reserve.
Thursday, March 5th 2020
One of the remaining items on the list of habitat management jobs for this winter was to coppice some of the Willow on an island in the Scrapes area. As can be seen in the 'before' photo, the Willow was all one height. Cutting it down to ground level encourages the root system to develop and causes the root stock to thicken, creating new growth from the base. It was decided to cut some of the stems this year and some next year in order to vary the height and not only to look better but to benefit the most wildlife species too. Another advantage of removing some stools is that more sunlight can reach the ground allowing the wildflowers to flourish.
The first challenge of the day was to get onto the island! An improvised bridge was soon made!
The 'after' picture shows what a positive difference the team have made. The old Sand Martin colony is now once again visible from the main red route. This is no longer used by the birds as there are too many trees in front of it however, plans to build a new one by Spigot Mere where there is much more open water are currently being debated.
It was a beautiful sunny day and the temperature rose during the afternoon. Young people from Northdale helped out by filling bird feeders and looking out for signs of frogs stirring from hibernation.
Volunteers have been working hard all week; continuing to clear up after the storm damage, maintaining net rides, carrying out vital repairs to buildings and fences, organising displays, filling in paperwork and feeding the Exmoor ponies. All of this effort and support is what makes Foxglove the fantastic place that it is for both visitors and wildlife and it is greatly appreciated.
World Wildlife Day
Wednesday, March 4th 2020
The 3rd March was World Wildlife Day. On 20 December 2013, at its 68th session, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) proclaimed 3 March – the day of signature of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1973 – as UN World Wildlife Day to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. This inspired Mathew Allen from Army Communications to create a short film about Foxglove for social media. With some creative ideas, Mathew made the best of some sunny spells in all areas of the reserve.
The short video is available to view on both the Army in the North and the Foxglove Covert FaceBook pages and is also on Twitter and highlights the importance of Foxglove in terms of biodiversity and its engagement with the local community (both military and civilian).
Our thanks to Mathew for supporting us and helping to raise the profile of the reserve.