Blog Archive (16) Posts Made in July 2020
Tuesday, July 28th 2020
Bird ringers are still busy ringing the last of the Barn Owl chicks. This family were living in an old box that was falling apart. The team will replace the box with a new one as soon as they can and for now have made some urgent repairs. The owl on the left hand side is an adult female (distinguishable by the flecks of brown on her chest), the middle one is a well developed chick from this year and the right hand one is an adult male with a plain chest (usually white but this one happens to be a buff brown colour). The team have never come across such a dark Barn Owl before.
Another owl box in need of repair was replaced today by Plovers Pool.
The old one was also occupied but this time by Stock Doves rather than owls! They had two warm eggs which were carefully transferred to the new box that had been lined with clean, fresh sawdust. The adults will have a pleasant surprise when they return!
Volunteers have been hard at work with summer maintenance tasks such as strimming the network of footpaths and trails.
Overhanging branches were cut back from the main access road too. After all of the recent sunshine and showers this was a big job!
Finally, pond-dipping for family bubbles has been extremely popular. The next sessions are all fully booked now however, there are limited places left on the Minibeast Safaris, see the events page for details.
Friday, July 24th 2020
Behind the scenes, a lot of hard work goes into maintaining the net rides for the CES (Constant Effort Scheme) bird ringing. This would not be possible without the assistance of the conservation volunteers. The ringing begins at dawn and the ringers (also volunteers) put the nets out while it is still dark just before sunrise. Their task is made a lot easier when the net rides are clear and everything is in place. This week, regular volunteers helped with preparations such as strimming and mowing along the main routes.
They also pruned back any overhanging vegetation that may get caught up and tangled in the mist nets. Nets cost the team around £100 each and every effort is made to minimise damage to them. With all of the recent sunshine and showers there has been a lot of new growth especially on the willow.
Bird feeders were also filled; the large wooden hoppers around the reserve contain the waste chaff from combine harvesters. It is a great source of food for finches such as Bullfinches and Chaffinches. With 9 of these giant feeders to top up it takes a while to do!
Even the poles that support the mist nets received a dab of oil to make sure they are easy to take apart in the dark. The small jobs like this make a huge difference to the smooth running of the ringing activities on the day and are greatly appreciated.
Away from the net rides, the waymarkers on the green trail are gradually being replaced with new ones. This is the longest trail at Foxglove and there are around 50 posts to guide visitors along the way (additional ones are being installed to avoid confusion in the woodland and up on the moor). Each one is carefully concreted into place which means carrying post cement, water, spades as well as the heavy posts themselves and of course the most important tool; the spirit level!
Thank you to everyone for all of your hard work in the less than perfect weather conditions!
Thursday, July 23rd 2020
The moth recorders had a bumper catch in the Robinson trap this week with a total of 190 moths of 46 different species. Here are some of the highlights:
Lempke's Gold Spot which flies in July and August, coming regularly to light.
Silver Y with its unmistakable metallic silver letter 'Y' mark.
Coxcomb Prominent; a distinct dark scale tuft on the trailing edge and a rather 'funky' forward pointing, cream tuft on the thorax are the distinguishing features of this warm brown coloured moth.
Scalloped Oak which holds its wings flat at rest. The caterpillars of this moth feed on a variety of broadleaved trees including Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), Downy Birch (Betula pubescens), Silver Birch (Betula pendula), oaks, plus Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum) and heathers. They can be seen between March and June.
Purple Bar; with a wingspan of only 20-25 mm this smallish member of the 'carpets' has a velvety look to the forewings. It is fairly common throughout Britain, and is regularly attracted to light. It flies from May to August, usually with two generations in the south, but a single brood further north. The larvae feed on various types of bedstraw (Galium). It is often found on the outside of the Field centre close the lights on the front wall.
July Highflyers are extremely variable and this specimen was an unusual form for Foxglove Covert. The black mark at the apex of the wing is diagnostic though, so with the help of reference books the team was able to identify it confidently.
Thank you to Chris for providing today's photographs and to the other moth recording volunteers for identifying the moths and of course to Gerry for remembering to put the trap out too!
Bright and Beautiful
Wednesday, July 22nd 2020
Kingfishers are back at Foxglove! These small stunning birds have been absent from the observation board for over a year. However, they have been sighted recently at various places around the reserve. Most people's experience of the Kingfisher is a snatched glimpse of turquoise flying away and out of sight. This is not surprising as they can fly fast; it is estimated that they can reach speeds of up to 28 miles per hour on a still day. During the last CES ringing session, the bird ringers caught a juvenile male twice in the same woodland net! It was a real privilige to see the bird up close and in so much detail.
In most of Europe there is only one Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis and because there aren't any others, we call it the 'Kingfisher', although it is more correctly known as the Common Kingfisher. Common Kingfishers don't just feed on fish, they supplement their diet with invertebrates such as damselfy larvae. Some Kingfishers migrate. The german name for the Common Kingfisher is Eisvogel (ice bird), because of its southerly movements when waters freeze over. This may explain why they have been absent from Foxglove since the last 'proper' cold winter. Ringing the birds will hopefully help to shed some light on this theory.
As well as bright birds, there are many colourful flowers out at the moment. Most of the orchids that have put on such a great show are starting to go over now but other wildflowers such as Betony are still in full swing! In some places, it lines the footpaths, especially where staff and volunteers worked hard last winter to thin scrub and encourage more light to the ground.
From June until the first frosts, the sturdy stems carry compact spikes of vibrant, rosy-purple flowers which are almost orchid-like in their appearance. These are a valuable source of nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinators late in the season.
Foxgloves are still adding a splash of colour everywhere including this lone one in the reedbed!
July and August are great months for spotting butterflies and you can't walk far without finding a Ringlet; unmistakable when seen at rest due to the rings on the hindwings which give this butterfly its common name. The uppersides are a uniform chocolate brown that distinguish it from the closely-related Meadow Brown.
If you visit this month, please share your sightings with us either by writing them on the board in the Field Centre or sharing your photographs on Facebook. Look out for the Kingfisher (usually seen on the lake). A good tip is to try to learn their call, a piercing and high pitched whistle. If you hear it, scan the water for a bird in flight.
Getting Stuck In!
Tuesday, July 21st 2020
Volunteers carry out all kinds of different tasks at the reserve and this week has been a busy one so far (and it's only Tuesday)! Firstly, the reeds in front of the lake hide were obscurring the view and needed to be cut back. This is always a much bigger job than it looks with a lot of cut Phragmites to rake and remove.
Some of the stems were too far in the water to be reached from the bank so waders were required. The view has opened up well and visitors will now get a much better chance of seeing the Mallards, Tufted Ducks, Moorhens and Kingfishers that frequent this habitat.
The duck trap that had been overgrown was revealed once again and needed to be weeded out. There is only one way to do this and that is to climb inside and pull the plants out by hand! Hopefully, the bird ringers will now be able to catch and ring some of the Moorhens and young Mallards to learn more about their survival and longevity.
At this time of year there is always plenty of maintenance work to be done too and the decking at the front of the Field Centre was in need of some TLC after the winter. It was pressure washed, swept and prepared before being painted with woodstain. Today was a 'good drying day' at last!
During the summer months it has been said that at Foxglove you can strim for 9 days a week and still not finish! With 70 net rides and several kilometres of trails to keep on top of it is a never ending job and a strenous one in the hot sun.
Visitors may also have noticed that the carpark by the Information Shelter has had a makeover over the last fortnight as well. The old barriers were rotten and had started to fall apart. They were removed and the timber was sorted into what can and can't be used again elsewhere.
The uprights were found to be in better condition than at first thought and were re-used with new beams on the top.
After a lick of paint, the new barriers were looking rather swish!
A reminder that carparking at the reserve is free to Friends of Foxglove (membership is from as little as £12) and volunteers and for all visitors costs only:
£2 for up to 2 hours
£3 for up to 4 hours
£4 for a full day
All of the money received goes directly towards the running of the reserve (It costs over £120,000 per annum to keep the reserve going). If you don't carry cash at the moment, don't worry, you can pay by card in the Field Centre.
Whether you are a volunteer, Friend or visitor, your support in whatever way is extremely valued and makes a direct and positive difference to the LNR and its wildlife.
Dragonflies and Damselflies
Monday, July 20th 2020
Although the guided walk planned for yesterday was cancelled due to the current situation, Keith Gittens (Chairperson of the Yorkshire Dragonfly Group) was able to carry out a dragonfly survey with a couple of volunteers. The conditions were a bit breezier than desired however, they found eleven species of dragonfly and damselfly.
Broad-bodied Chasers have become more common at the reserve in recent years and are often seen at Plovers Pool. It is a very broad, wide dragonfly. The male has a blue abdomen with yellow spots on the side (shown here) whereas the female and immature males have golden-brown abdomens with paler spots on the sides.
So far this year Keith has noticed a lack of big Hawker dragonflies in general but damselflies are abundant. Damselflies do not fly as strongly as dragonflies, so tend to lay in wait for their insect prey before catching it in mid-air with their legs. They will return to their perch to eat their prey. The Azure damselfly is very common around most waterbodies and can also be found away from breeding sites in grassland and woodland. It is on the wing from the end of May through to September. This damselfly is pale blue with bands of black along the body. To identify the small blue damselflies, of which there are seven species in the UK, it helps to concentrate on the pattern on the second segment of the males' abdomen, just behind the thorax. In the Azure damselfly, this segment is blue with a black U-shape.
The Common blue damselfly is our most common damselfly and can be found around almost any waterbody, or away from breeding sites in grassland and woodland. It is a regular visitor to gardens and is on the wing from April to September. It is an aggressive species: males will defend their females as they lay their eggs, both from their own kind and other species. As with other damselflies, when Common blues mate they form a 'mating wheel' in which the male clasps the female by the neck and she bends her body around to his reproductive organs.
The metallic-green Emerald damselfly can be seen from June to September around ponds, lakes, ditches and canals. Unlike other damselflies, it holds its wings half-open when perched.
As well as the species mentioned above Large Red Damselfly, Emperor dragonfly, Golden-ringed Dragonfly, Four-spotted Chaser, Common Darter (females and immature males), Common Hawker and Blue-tailed damselfly were also observed during the afternoon along with plenty of butterflies such as these Small Skippers.
Our sincere thanks to Keith and June for carrying out the survey and to Chis for providing the photographs for this blog post.
More information about the dragonflies of Foxglove can be found in The Dragonflies of Foxglove and Strensall publication written by Keith Gittens and Anne Carter and to learn more about these fascinating insects you can visit the British Dragonfly Society and Yorkshire Dragonfly Group websites.
Saturday, July 18th 2020
The small flock of Hebridean sheep have chosen to graze at Plovers Pool rather than on the wetland bunds where they were needed most! It was decided that they might be more beneficial in the heather paddocks which are filling up with unwanted grasses, rushes, willow and birch. However, the first attempt at moving them between these two different habitats failed miserably as once they were herded to the main gate they soon scattered and ran back to Plovers Pool! With limited staff and volunteers it wasn't the easiest of tasks!
A second try was more successful as the team had an extra helping hand; Ian's talented sheep dog Maisy! Here she is cooling off after her hard work.
It was an eventful occasion with people placed at strategic points along the way to prevent the sheep from turning off into the woodland or along Risedale Beck. It took around 45 minutes to round them up and move them to the paddocks. They took an unexpected detour along some of the net rides but Hayley outflanked them and then they came back along the main road. Thor (the ram), then managed to close the field gate from the outside by butting it with his horns at the critical moment!
The team successfully turned them around and finally they arrived in their new surroundings. They seemed to settle in well and will stay here for a few days or so until they are moved again to an adjacent paddock.
We hope that visitors enjoy seeing them as they drive up the main track to the Field Centre.
Thursday, July 16th 2020
When walking around Foxglove it is always worth looking for something that should not be there. A nettle leaf with a dark mark on it proved to be a beautiful snail. There are not too many land snails on the reserve, although there are plenty of slugs on damp mornings!
A flash of orange and a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly landed on a Knapweed flower. Two years ago we saw very few of these butterflies but since then the sightings have increased.
Walking through Plover's Pool, wondering where the sheep were, I realised that I was being watched, by the ram (tup). Obviously I was a likely intruder so he had to guard his flock. Once he saw me move away he settled down again. I was no threat.
Gorse is controlled otherwise it would take over, but unfortunately it soon grows its spiky stems again. Sitting on one of these stems was a Black-tailed Skimmer. Usually found in the southern part of the UK it is spreading north and was a new species at Foxglove, recorded last year.
Whilst out on the training area Sophie and Ian spotted some pupa on a fence. On closer inspection a burnet moth was seen, probably Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet moth. The pupa are usually found high up on plant stems. These have gone for high and missed out the plant! Larva mainly feed on Meadow Vetchling, Red Clover, Sainfoin, and Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil, occasionally Common Bird's-foot Trefoil, White Clover and Bitter Vetch. Adults nectar (feed) on many flowers and sometimes can be seen on the Rayed Knapweed on the middle moor.
Even More Owls
Wednesday, July 15th 2020
A second Tawny owlet was found in the same place as the one on Saturday. It was also ringed and then returned to its perch back in the woodland! If you look carefully you can see the BTO ring on its right leg. These are the latest Tawny Owl chicks that the bird ringers have ever known.
Just when we thought that we had ringed the last young owl of the year another one arrived! This time a slightly older bird that was on the road to recovery after having been rescued. It will be released back into the wild over the next few days where it will hopefully learn to fend for itself.
Tuesday, July 14th 2020
CES is a term many of you will have heard mentioned over the years; it is the BTO's primary bird ringing project which at Foxglove we have operated for almost 28 years. For us there are 12 mandated visits of 10.5 hours duration and we have never missed a session which is miraculous.
The ringers are totally dependant on our erratic weather and very often have to cancel or adjust personal arrangements or even take annual leave to meet the vagaries of the prevailing British conditions.
Start time varies according to sunrise but the 300m of mandatory net is always out there supplemented by 300+ metres of additional net which fortunately the computer program can remove from some of the key calculations at the end of each CES day.
Our results over the years have contributed to this principal national survey and the associated analyses of breeding songbirds; the Foxglove component is by far the biggest in the country by a long way. We have completed 7 visits this year already totalling 75 hours and over the 28 years have clocked up 3,477 hours of CES ringing, or put another way, 145 days ringing around the clock non-stop! The mathematicians amongst you will soon deduce that is roughly 4.5 months of ringing every day and night back to back without a break! It really is quite an achievement. Once you break it or miss a visit that is the balloon burst and very much the reason why we try, despite the odds, to keep the scheme alive at Foxglove.
Despite the very erratic weather of recent summers and the difficulties lockdown has created this year we appear to be on track for a very productive season and are likely to produce certainly the best results of the past 3 years.
With over 1000 new birds caught in Foxglove already this year, not to mention the numerous retraps, Chaffinches (9,127) remain our most common bird followed by Blue Tits (6,298)! Willow Warblers are our most common migrant at 5,242 but their numbers are slowly dwindling as are many warbler species across the spectrum. The one exception is Chiffchaff; we have this year ringed exactly 100 new Chiffchaffs so far with Willow Warblers falling behind at 82.
There is a mountain of information available from our CES activities and we are trying now to make this more accessible to all on the newly designed DeMon website. It is happening, but it's very slow, and it is hoped that in the near future simpler access will make interrogating the data more interesting and much more fun!
Our CES activities rely greatly on our staff and volunteers so they deserve a mention in any CES related text. The support they give us is amazing and we know it, thank you.
Sunday, July 12th 2020
There were more surprises in store over the weekend when the bird ringers were carrying out the 7th CES visit. The Constant Effort Sites (CES) scheme is the first national standardised ringing programme within the BTO Ringing Scheme and has been running since 1983 and at Foxglove since 1992. 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. The Scheme provides valuable trend information on abundance of adults and juveniles, productivity and also adult survival rates for 24 species of common songbird. However, it wasn't just songbirds that were encountered on Saturday. In a net close to the Field Centre a young Common Crossbill was caught. The crossbill’s distinctive feature is its thick, powerful beak that crosses at the tips. Males have a bright red head, while females are a yellowish-green with hints of grey. Males have bright red plumage, whereas females are a yellowish-green. Common crossbills are heavy-set birds, weighing roughly twice as much as a robin.
As the final net was being taken down at the end of the day, some of the ringers realised they were being watched by a Tawny Owl fledgling. It was resting in a nearby conifer and seemed very peaceful!
This is another unusual discovery as it is very late in the season to find such a young owlet. It was only around 3 weeks old and not long out of the nest. It was quickly ringed before being carefully returned to the same branch where it continued its afternoon nap! The female Tawny Owl broods her young for up to a fortnight after hatching, the male continuing to deliver food to the nest, and it is only after this stage that the female leaves the nest to hunt herself. Most prey is delivered at night, though some daylight deliveries have been noted, and the female may often spend the daylight hours in the nest with the chicks. Young Tawny Owls usually leave the nest ahead of fledging, moving to nearby branches at c.25-30 days of age, where they continue to receive food from their parents.
Here are the totals from the 10 and a half hour session on Saturday:
|Great Spotted Woodpecker
Friday, July 10th 2020
Whilst carrying out some of the routine Friday jobs, a couple of surprises were discovered. Firstly, checking the Hebridean Sheep took a little longer than anticipated as they had escaped from the wetland via a gate that had been left open and had wandered into the wildflower hay meadow!
They seemed to know that they were in the wrong place and hurried back in their small flock towards Plover's Pool. A polite reminder to all visitors to leave any gates as you find them to prevent this from happening again! The meadow is looking stunning although the heat wave earlier this year has limited the growth compared to previous years. As can be seen in the photograph, the Yellow Rattle has gone to seed. These flowers are pollinated by large bees (especially bumblebees) and are followed by large, inflated seed pods. When these ripen and dry, the seed inside rattles around; in former times, farmers used this sound as their cue to cut the hay. There might not be enough growth this year for hay making at Foxglove but it is lovely to walk through this colurful habitat. As well as many butterflies and bees, a Hare, a Buzzard and a Lapwing have all been observed here this week.
The orchids in the Field Centre garden are still providing a 'wow factor' for visitors.
A second surprise was finding an Orchid growing out of the boardwalk close to the lake hide!
The reserve is at its best at this time of year and is well worth a visit if you haven't been for a while.
The Scrapes are full of dragonflies and damselflies and a Kingfisher has been seen on several occasions flitting over the cascading pools.
Thursday, July 9th 2020
Repairing boardwalk, filling bird feeders, strimming net rides, cutting reeds, updating social media and identifying moths are some of the varied tasks carried out by the Foxglove team this week.
A start was made on weeding out invasive scrub such as Willow, Brambles and Silver Birch from the heathland.
A highlight for the moth recorders was catching this stunning Large Emerald. This large, distinctive green moth is unusual in that it rests like a butterfly with its wings spread and at a slight angle. It was a lucky find as although this species is attracted to light they often land a metre or more away from the light source and fail to fall into the trap. Occasionally, they fly high in the canopy on warm, sunny days.
Our sincere thanks to everyone who has helped out at the reserve this week in whatever shape or form, it all makes a positive difference!
The Foxglove Shop
Sunday, July 5th 2020
Bird seed is available to purchase in the Field Centre in handy 1kg bags. However, if you would like to save money and buy a sack of seed then please ask a member of staff as there are several in stock. The sacks vary in weight and price and are all at a reduced rate. For example, a 15kg sack of Black Sunflower Seeds costs only £14.00. Payments can be taken over the phone and if you live locally we may be able to deliver free of charge. See the full price list of feed on our website.
As well as bags of seed, we stock Flutter Butter feed too, such as the Easy Peasy bird food with a pop up hanger included!
Chunky dumplings (handmade luxury fatballs) and basket feeders are a hit with most garden birds too.
To help identify flora and fauna there is a large choice of Field Studies guides. These quick reference guides enable you to quickly identify all different kinds of wildlife. From the birds, butterflies and bees to bats and the trees. The laminated guides are weather proof and can easily be wiped clean. They are great fun for use in groups, in the classroom or on a family day out. They are only around £3 each (reduced from the RRP).
For more detail on a subject, there is a range of Natural History books for all ages. These are all selling for less than the RRP too.
We sock a selection of Robert Fuller greeting cards all for only £2 each.
Plus John Webster cards and notelets than can be bought as single cards or in packs of 4 notelets.
Finally, our best seller; in stock but selling fast are jars of delicious Foxglove honey at only £5 per jar!
If you see something that you would like to buy but can't get out then give us a call on 01748 830045 and we will do our best to help!
Weekly Round Up
Friday, July 3rd 2020
Orchids continue to flourish all over the reserve. The Field Centre garden is absolutely full of them at the moment and it is difficult to access the net ride without standing on them!
Staff and volunteers worked on improving a small section of footpath throughout the week. A power barrow really helped to speed up the job.
Fine stone dust was spread over the path to make it smoother and more wheelchair friendly.
Hayley learned a new skill; operating a wacker plate to compact the surface!
Metal strips for new waymarker posts were also sanded down and prepared for painting. These will be sprayed red and yellow next week when the weather is suitable.
A reminder that the reserve is now open. Visitors are requested to respect the 2 metre social distancing rule and observe any other safety signs and notices to help keep everyone safe. Please enjoy your visit and remember that it is your responsibility to follow the new guidance on staying safe outside your home.
Although we are not yet working as a group of volunteers, some people have started to trickle back and work as individuals or with other members of the same household on tasks around the reserve. If you would like to do some volunteering then you can call or email us to arrange a time. In order to minimise contact we are trying to allocate jobs at different times across the week. We hope to have the group up and running again as soon as the Government and MOD guidelines allow for this to happen. Our main priority is to keep everyone safe!
Wednesday, July 1st 2020
The rare aquatic fern called Pillwort has been slowly spreading in some of the ponds on the reserve. To help speed up the process, Elizabeth has been cultivating more of these unusual, bright green ferns at home. 3 full trays were delivered last week ready to be planted out on pond edges.
Some was planted out in the newly re-profiled ponds along Risedale Beck, this is a new location and the GPS co-ordinates were recorded to assist with finding it again in the future.
Clumps were also placed around the margins of Spigot Mere where it seems to grow well. Time will tell! On the largest pond on the reserve Broad-leaved Pondweed - Potamogeton natans has become somewhat of a problem due to the excellent growing conditions and it has almost covered the entire water surface. Staff and volunteers have spent several hours hand pulling the weed from a canoe. A coracle was used as a floating container to transport the unwanted weed to the shore!
The plants were left piled up on the banks of the lake so that any aquatic life such as damselfly larvae had the opportunity to move back into the water. Several hours of work have only made a small dent in the vegetation cover and the team is looking at other ways to control the vigerous growth.
If you would like to learn more about the wildlife that lives in the Foxglove ponds we are now offering pond dipping sessions for family bubbles of up to 6 people! Please see the events page for further details.