Blog Archive (9) Posts Made in March 2022
More Spring Photos
Wednesday, March 30th 2022
Back to cold, wet and windy weather this week, but the warmth and sunshine made a difference around the reserve last week. Goat Willow started to burst and the stamens appeared with plenty of pollen.
Having watched the bees return to the indoor hive covered in pollen and with huge pollen sacs, it was a different matter when I tried to photograph them. There was only one heading into the hive. Some of the pollen would be from the willow.
Coltsfoot is also a source of pollen for the bees.
Lesser Celandine was beginning to open along the path edges. We have fun counting the petals to see if we can find a flower with more than 12 petals.
Common Toads will not be enjoying the return of winter weather. These two look as though they are saying hello, or talking about where they have spent the winter?
Thank you again, to Tim for some of these photos.
Sunday, March 27th 2022
Organisation for the visit of the students took in a debate about the moth trap. Weather forecasts were consulted, all said that it was going to be cold, but we decided to go ahead and put it out. A white sheet was placed over one of the picnic tables outside the Field Centre and the trap placed on top. A few moths would have been acceptable. We certainly did not expect 101 moths of 14 species!
Oak Beauty flies from late February through to April, having survived the winter as a pupa underground. The males have feathered antenna, which they sometimes need to clean.
The Satellite moth may also have orange spots. Both were caught but only one co-operated by sitting still for a photograph. There is one generation of moths and the adults fly from October through to late April. During mild winter weather they become active and feed from Ivy flowers and berries including those of Guelder Rose.
When identifying moths we look at how they sit and hold their wings. The identification book we use shows them in their usual position. When they sit differently it can make life interesting. This Yellow Horned Moth spread its wings but did show its antenna.
This is the way it should rest. The larvae feed on Silver and Downy Birch.
March Moth is a rather slim moth, sitting with its wings overlapping. It flies from late January to April. The larvae feed from many deciduous trees.
Unfortunately scrutinised weather forecasts suggest more cold nights to come so the moth trap will no doubt not be making another appearnace just yet. Thank you to Tim for the moth photographs.
And finally nature does have a mind of its own. Visitors asked if there were any Common Frogs around, no they have finished spawning and it is Common Toad time. Walking through the Scrapes listening to the high pitched call of the toads, there was another call, much lower, a frog croak? No. When the water was scanned sure enough there was a frog calling!
A Special Visit
Saturday, March 26th 2022
On Friday, students from the London NERC Doctoral Training Partnership were welcomed to the reserve for the morning. This partnership of eight prestigious research organisations across London is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council. Their aim is to attain new standards of excellence in environmental science research training, and deliver a transformative inter-disciplinary experience for PhD students. Their PhD programme is focussed on eight key research themes: Biodiversity, Ecology & Conservation, Earth, Atmosphere & Ocean Processes, Environmental Hazards & Pollution, Environmental Physics & Mathematical Modelling, Evolution & Adaptation, Past Life & Environments, Solid Earth Dynamics and Pan-disciplinary studies.
In smaller groups, they enjoyed looking around the Field Centre, a guided walk and a bird ringing demonstration. The weather was superb and highlights for everyone included seeing the huge number of Toads (we have never seen so many) and the Brambling which are still feeding up before their migration back to Scandinavia. This one was amongst eleven caught and ringed over the past two days.
Our sincere thanks to the students who came to visit us on the final day of their Field Trip before heading back to London and to Peter, Elizabeth, Elizabeth (the Second) and Hayley for helping them to make the most of their visit!
Spring Has Sprung!
Thursday, March 24th 2022
The Toad migration is taking place at Foxglove as these comical amphibians make their way to their breeding grounds in the various ponds around the reserve.
They can be heard calling in the Scrapes and on the wetland.
Not only do visitor's need to take care as they drive along the access road…
...care must also be taken when walking around the trails! Although there is plenty of frogspawn to be seen in the ponds, no toadspawn has been discovered yet.
A few butterflies have been observed; so far Brimstone, Peacock and Comma are on the observation board.
There are still flocks of Brambling to be spotted from the Field Centre and the Lake Hide, they will be heading off soon on their journey back to Scandinavia. Out on Spigot Mere, Redshank, Lapwing, Black-headed Gulls and Oystercatchers have all been observed and at the end of last week a Red Kite flew over the reserve too.
As the weather gradually warms up, the list of species recorded increases. Several moths were found on the Field Centre walls this morning including Engrailed, Dotted Border and Shoulder Stripe.
Reducing, Reusing and Recycling!
Friday, March 18th 2022
With frogspawn being discovered in the ponds, Primroses appearing in the Hazel woods, Chiffchaffs heard singing and a dash of welcome sunshine, Spring is finally beginning! Staff and volunteers have been working hard to complete any winter habitat work such as clearing away brash from forestry work. Over the past few months, many diseased Ash trees have been made safe especially those that are close to the path. Large branches have been removed and this always creates a huge amount of brash. The biggest logs have been stacked into habitat piles which will create the perfect home for a variety of invertebrates and small mammals.
Most of the woodland is inaccessible to machinery however, where possible, branches have been turned into woodchips using a woodchipper. This reduces the amount of wood that is burned on a bonfire or stacked up to rot down.
The resulting woodchips provide valuable material for topping up some of the woodland paths. Recycling at its best!
At this time of year the habitats are left for the wildlife to breed in and work is more focused on enhancing the visitor experience. Repairs have been carried out on various boardwalks and bridges. Reclaimed timber from the boardwalk replacement project on the red route has been reused to patch up other walkways.
Some small conifers had died due to lack of space in the plantation. These had been felled as part of a woodland management plan and some of the trunks were used to edge part of the woodland trail. Not only is this a clever way to reuse the timber, it also helps to guide visitors around the woodland.
Volunteers have also been monitoring for presence of Mink, observing tracks and signs of animals and setting trail cameras to capture images of some of the more elusive species on the reserve. Thank you to everyone who has helped out over the harsh winter months, it is time now to slow down a bit and enjoy watching the reserve flourish as a result (before the mowing, strimming and pruning starts)!
Saturday, March 12th 2022
Usually we have at least one Primrose in flower through the winter. Not so this year. We have been hunting for them across the reserve. Success today, several were found along Risedale Beck.
An added bonus to the find, was that they were in the area that has been excellently coppiced by the reserve staff and volunteers over the winter. This work had to be completed before the young leaves emerged. Now that the area has been opened up and sunlilght can reach the ground, the flora will flourish. Leaves of Barren Strawberry, Cuckoo Pint and Bluebell were all present. It will also be an ideal spot for butterflies.
Another sign that spring is on its way has been frogspawn. Unfortunately it has been laid in shallow water and this means a wet summer to come, according to 'frog folklore'.
Last year the Common Frogs did not do very well but are doing much better this year, with spawn in several ponds. The frogs are very sensitive to sound and movement and disappear as you approach. Sometimes they pop back up.
Stretching the camera to its limit, a photograph of the Buzzard, (one of a pair) soaring on the thermals.
Lapwings and Oystercatchers were seen and heard. Robins were singing. There were plenty of Brambling in the back garden along with Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, and a Reed Bunting. It is almost spring!
Wednesday, March 9th 2022
Thank you to everyone who kindly donated items for Ukranian refugees. The Catterick Garrison Beaver Scouts have been busy creating care packages with them. The response was fantastic and people were extremely generous. Well done to the Beavers and their leaders for organising such a brilliant and urgent appeal.
We are not collecting any more items for now but may be assisting the Beavers with another appeal in the future.
Wednesday, March 9th 2022
Visitors have been enjoying bird watching from the comfort of the Field Centre and hides. The back garden of the centre has been full of birds frequenting the bird feeders. There have been flocks of Chaffinch, Brambling, Redpoll and Siskin plus the usual Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit and Marsh Tit.
Bird ringing activities had to be put on hold at the start of the year due to local outbreaks of bird flu followed by a lot of very windy weather! However, the Avian Influenza surveillance zone close to the reserve has now been removed and the weather has finally calmed down, so at the weekend the Swaledale Bird Ringers dusted off their pliers and put some mist nets out after a long break!
A pair of Nuthatches were ringed, these are often seen from the kitchen window.
Several Long tailed Tits were amongst the 157 birds that were ringed in total.
The totals were:
2 Blackbirds, 41 Blue Tits, 1 Brambling, 41 Bullfinches, 17 Coal Tits, 1 Dunnock, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 7 Great Tits, 18 Redpoll, 3 Robins and 2 Nuthatches.
It is most unusual that at Foxglove the numbers of Bullfinches caught are equal to the numbers of Blue Tits!
Arrival of Spring
Tuesday, March 1st 2022
Although Winter isn't officially over, now that the strong winds associated with the recent named storms have eased, there is a definite feeling of Spring in the air. Earlier in the week, Andrew Gillings captured this photo of a beautiful Hare posing on the boardwalk.
Today, the first frog of the year was observed outside the Field Centre. Overhead, Buzzards soared high on thermals and a pair of calling Kestrels flew overhead as the volunteers were enjoying an outdoor lunch.
Off site at Marne, small nest boxes were cleaned out and damaged ones were replaced ahead of the bird breeding season.
Birdsong could be heard all the way around and it won't be long before the Great Tits and Blue Tits begin to build their nests.
One of the woodlands had a carpet of Snowdrops and Winter Aconite.
Back at the reserve, it is the usual race against time to complete any outstanding habitat work before the wildlife swings into action. Ash that was felled for safety reasons was tidied into log piles and brash was burned on a bonfire.
It was hard work dragging branches and piling up heavy logs. At the end of the day, a well earned break involved cooking pancakes on the bonfire ash.
It was a case of trial and error and the results improved with each attempt!
As always, our sincere thanks to everyone who has helped out so far this week.
Finally, we are hoping to assist the Catterick Garrison Beavers Scout Group who are organising care packages for Ukraine refugees and are asking for secific items:
If you would like to donate any of the above then please bring them into the Field Centre and leave them in the kitchen.