Blog Archive (16) Posts Made in May 2023
Chasing the Chasers and Other Insects
Wednesday, May 31st 2023
I have complained before that cold weather makes the invertebrates hide away and warm sunny weather makes them very active! Never satisfied!! This was the case on Monday, the chasers were flying, this way, that way and everywhich way. It was even hard to attempt to identify them. One was a Broad-bodied Chaser, male, as a flash of blue was seen. Eventually one decided to rest for a couple of seconds on a plant stem and a photograph was able to be taken, mainly for identification purposes as it did not show much of itself. It was a Four-spotted Chaser.
The chase will go on until one sits just right!
A flash of brilliant copper caught my eye. A Small Copper butterfly sat beautifully firstly on some grass and then on the mud, sunbathing. I think that these are both males, or the same male just moving around!
These butterflies do not like cool wet summers. The caterpillars feed on Common and Sheep's Sorrel.
Another butterfly on the wing was the Speckled Wood, again sunbathing on bare earth. Numbers of this species tend to increase following wet summers but fall after drought years. Often they are found in sunny glades, where males will defend their 'patch'. the caterpillars feed on grass, mainly Cock's-foot, Yorkshire Fog and False Broome are preferred.
A Lesson - Perhaps?
Tuesday, May 30th 2023
A female Mallard was watching over her feeding chicks, although they are quite well grown now. In both of these photos it was very easy to wonder if she had them well trained. 'All together now and heads down!
Small Nest Box Time
Sunday, May 28th 2023
The Swaledale Ringing Group have been out checking the small nest boxes both in Foxglove and out on the wider training area. It is very apparent that the nests vary from adults still sitting on eggs to some chicks almost ready to fledge.
The blue eggs belong to a Pied Flycatcher but Redstart eggs are pretty much the same in size and colour. The difference is in the nests ... Pied Flycatchers use dead leaves, grass, moss and lichens but Redsrarts use dead grass, moss, wool, hair and feathers. Leaves are a big clue as to the bird.
In the same wood as the Pied Flycatcher a retrapped Blue Tit that was ringed as an adult in 2021 was incubating her eggs in a similar place this year. Also caught was retrapped adult Pied Flycatcher which was ringed as a chick in the same area in 2022.
In the nest boxes was the Long-eared Bat. You can just see part of his 'long ear' sticking out.
One of the bird ringers is also licensed to check and rehabilitate injured bats. This is a Long-eared Bat wide awake. Its ears can be seen very clearly!
Some larger boxes on the training area, needed to be returned to, to ring the chicks, having been checked with a camera earlier. This was a nest with five Barn Owl chicks. You can see the difference in size between the chicks.
Some of the boxes at Foxglove are not in the easiet of places and over the years trees, shrubs, brambles and general vegetaion have grown, a lot, making it even more difficult. A ditch with water and a couple of steep banks initially separated the bird ringers from this box!
And then there is always a surprise. Thankfully it upended before the nesting season.
A huge thank you to all the bird ringers who work extremely hard at this time of year, to gatehr the data which is sent to the BTO. Thank you to everyone who has sent me photographs.
Half Term Trail
Sunday, May 28th 2023
Come to the reserve during the May Half Term (27th May - 4th June) and have some family fun along the Red Route (Easy Access Trail) as you search for the hidden clues! Test your knowledge of wildlife by answering the fun quiz.
No need to book, just turn up!
A Winding Way Through the Reserve
Saturday, May 27th 2023
Friday was warm and sunny. Flowers and some bugs and beasties were enjoying the warmth.
The 'damsels' were on the wing, some even sitting still for a reasonable photograph!
This is a Blue Tailed Damselfly, so named after its blue mark at the lower end of its abdomen. Of course the background is just perfect!
Butterflies were less co-operative and this Speckled Wood did not open its wings fully. And of course it sat with a beautiful background!
The middle moor, which just a couple of weeks ago was still short green grass, is now dotted with buttercups, Red Clover, Dandelions, Ribwort Plantain and many grasses.
Ragged Robin had tightly closed buds one day and open the next. This one was being used as an anchor by a spider, which as usual is nowhere to be seen.
Checking the Ponds
Wednesday, May 24th 2023
Although a serious side to the pond dipping carried out by our four Works Experience people, it was fun. The resulting photographs are not bright and colourful but are interesting showing the life in some of our ponds.
Each net returned many water boatmen and tiny damselfly larvae. Initially I classed this tiny creature as a damselfly until I got it on the screen. It is a diving beetle larva and a voracious carnivore. Is it heading for the damselfly nymph?
Dragonfly nymphs are quite robust. More danger lurking beneath the calm surface as they hunt for prey. Some of these nymphs can spend many years in the water, shedding their exoskeleton several times to allow growth, before making the final transition to a flying dragonfly.
Some efts (baby newts) were also caught. Like frog and toad tadpoles they breath through gills but unlike frogs and toads they retain their gills until they are ready to leave the wter. Sometimes they can overwinter in the pond rather than leaving in the late summer.
Thank you to my helpers, I kept my feet dry!
Around the Reserve
Monday, May 22nd 2023
It is amazing what a little bit of warm weather can do. It just seems a few days ago that we were all walking around with coats and scarves, hats and gloves. Yesterday it was shirt sleeves and t shirts. There were plenty of Large Red Damselflies around and sometimes a blue streak flew past, but not allowing for any identification other than it was a blue damsel.
Walking near Plover's pool a slight movement caught my eye and I realised that it was the first of the chasers to leave its larval case to become a flying insect. The exuvia can be seen underneath the adult.
Across the wildflower meadow there are plenty of Yellow Rattle leaves and one or two flowers.
Whilst some flowers are opening their buds the willow trees are just beginning to release their tiny seeds. Soon the reserve will be covered in a white fluffy carpet.
Their are a few moths around and this Brimstone moth was found on the Field Centre. Moths that sit with their wings flat tend to be a bit more flighty than those that sit with their wings closed. Although the background is not a very good one it was better to get a photograph then none at all.
The bird ringers have been out and about checking small bird boxes. There have been a range of results, from adults still on eggs to some chicks that have just hatched to those that are near fledging. 'Our' Blue Tit on camera now has several chicks. The male is bringing in food and appears to be giving it to the female who then feeds the tiny chicks.
Thursday, May 18th 2023
This blog was going to be moths only but an owl just has to have a mention. On checking the nest box this female Tawny Owl was caught. She had already been ringed and when her number was checked we found out that she was first ringed in Foxglove in 2014, so 9 years old! The oldest owl was 23 years 5 months 27 days (set in 2016, not at Foxglove) but the typical life span is 4 years. Last year she was nesting in a box further through the woodland. She has moved house this year but still within the area where she was hatched, Foxglove. She looks in very good condition.
Another intruder onto the moth blog is a juvenile Common Lizard. We saw some young last year and they were quite small, so we wondered if they would survive the winter. This one has. It was sunbathing in the morning sunshine. There was no sign of it this afternoon when the 'sun had gone to bed'!
Now to the moths! Earlier in the week I was complaining that the Poplar Hawkmoth I had caught would not sit still. Today we caught another and it sat exactly where I wanted it! This photo shows the red parts of the underwing which the moth flashes when threatened.
But then there were two and they both sat still.
We also caught a male White Ermine moth and yes he is not white but cream.
Whilst trying to get him in a better position he ended up on his back, so I took the opportunity to photograph his abdomen which has spots along it. It is also fluffy. You can see his feathered antennae. We soon had him the right way up. The larvae feed on many herbaceous plants including Common Nettle and docks.
Another moth caught was Flame Shoulder. Ribwort Plantain is one of the food plants of the larvae.
This beautiful moth is Buff-tip and looks rather like a bit of broken branch,
especailly head on.
We are not getting large numbers of moths yet but we have moved from the late winter/early spring moths, mainly brwons and greys in colour, to the spring moths, a bit more colourful, and as it is a year since we last saw them it is making our little grey cells work overtime identifying them.
Many thinks to the species recorders who visited Foxglove today. A bee survey was carried out, also a butterfly survey, as well as the moths and Derek was identifying many insects. Yesterday more moths were identified along with flowers and their distribution. Nest boxes were checked. A huge thank you to everyone involved; you make a valuable contribution to our data about Foxglove's species.
Monday, May 15th 2023
CES 2 was completed yesterday. Not many birds were caught as half the population is sitting on nests.The Blue Tit 'on camera' arrived back in the box and could not get comfortable. She was moving the eggs and shuffling around until things were just right and she settled down.
The team caught a Willow Warbler that has been ringed elsewhere. Once the details have been sent to the BTO we will find out more information about this bird. Mark took a photo as a record showing that it was a very smart individual.
Once CES was completed some of the large nest boxes were checked. The records that had been made about 10 days ago were very useful, allowing the ringers to go back to the correct nests. In the first box checked, were two quite well grown Tawny Owl chicks. Both received their rings and were completely unphased by the whole operation. You can see that there is a size difference, which is quite normal, as the female starts to brood her eggs as soon as she lays. She lays one egg every one to to two days and they hatch with that age difference. There is always a reason for nature to do things the way they do. Owls can lay up to 4 to 5 eggs and in a good food year the pair will fledge all of them, in a poor year only the biggest, strongest and probably that is the eldest will survive.
Other boxes were checked and will have to be returned to in a few more days as the chicks were too small to ring. Many thanks to the bird ringers for continuing this valuable work.
The morning had started out misty highlighting the many spiders webs across the reserve. These ones are very fine and although they look very good, a photograph does not do them justice, however a web spun in branches of the Spindle tree was just right. Couldn't see the spider though.
Pond Skaters hibernate over winter, tucking their long legs away carefully to avoid any damage, and they have now arrived back on the ponds. They usually move around quickly, but this one stayed still long enough for a reasonable photo to be taken.
And finally. Poplar Hawkmoths are excellent at sitting just where you put them and staying there. A good background helps to enhance its beauty. I think I can only say that this one had not read the correct book! It flew from a lovley background to the legs of a bench! As it was the first one of this year, I wanted to record it. I hope others are much more co-operative.
Saturday, May 13th 2023
When the weather is cold, wet, windy and no sun the invertebrates stay hidden away. When the sun comes out, the wind drops, the temperature rises, so too do the invertebrates! Unfortunately this usually means that they do not sit still long enough for photos! Never satisfied!! One insect that is defying this is St Mark's Fly. They are around in their hundreds. Their name reflects the day that they should be seen, 25th April, St Mark's Day.
The larvae live in the soil feeding on roots, grasses and rotting vegetation, whilst the adults feed on nectar and are considered to be important pollinators for fruit trees and other plants.
The path through the Gorse across the moor is an ideal place to be bombarded by these flies!!
They do tend to land anywhere including on Jan's hand and recording sheet, which she was trialling. (Please pick up a sheet in the Field Centre and let us know what you find. Thank you)
Further along the moor path is the Stone Circle and the Bluebells are just beginning to open.
Having headed towards the Scrapes and looked at the wild Crab Apple for several weeks hoping that it would flower, it finally has and a beautiful spectacle it makes.
The reeds are beginning to show new green leaves and further down the boardwalk the Bogbean is in flower. The lower flowers are going over before those at the tip are open.
The ponds are now full of tadpoples. It is too early to say if they are Common Frog or Common Toad or both. We did not have the usual toad migration across the reserve with only a few toads being recorded. This one was spotted near the Field Centre during the week.
Volunteers have been busy this week with the usual assortment of tasks. Thank you very much for all your work. A special mention should go to Hayley, Jules and Nicola who got caught in the torrential rain on Thursday. I understand that some coats are still dripping!
Friday, May 12th 2023
Jan and Andrew were heading slowly up towards the smalll hide on Spigot Mere. Once settled they looked out over Spigot Mere. Something caught Jan's eye to the left and it was a Roe Buck. Andrew's quick reactions with his camera caught an amazing set of photos as it ran across the middle moor and over the fence onto the training area. It is a Roe Buck and I suspect he is a young one, just beginning to lose his winter coat which is why he looks not quite the right colour. They do not need words.
Thank you to Jan and Andrew for spotting the deer and taking these photos.
Wednesday, May 10th 2023
Members of the Swaledale Ringing Group are all licensed by the BTO, to handle and ring birds. There are various levels, trainee, C license, then A, then Trainer. It can take many years to reach each level. When they go to ring birds across the training area, they take with them a great deal of expertise. This also includes knowing where to look for Dipper nests.
Foxglove does have Dippers along Risedale Beck, but they are not often seen If you do see one please report it in the Field Centre. Dippers get their name from the fact that they 'dip'. They are associated along water courses, often shallow fast flowing ones. Diet is mainly invertbrates found as the birds dip and sometimes swim underwater. The white breast feathers can make them stand out as they bob amongst the stones in becks and streams.
During the breeding season a pair will set up a territory along part of a suitable habitat. The nest is often made in cracks and crevices, man made structures like bridges can also be used. It is a domed structure made of grasses, leaves and moss. Both adults help to build the nest but it is the female who lines it. Four to five eggs are laid and the female incubates them for about 16 days. The female broods her young for a further 12 to 13 days, although she does leave them to help gather food with her mate. The young fledge about 24 days from hatching but are fed after they leave the nest for a further week. The nest is relined ready for a second brood.
As with many birds fed by their parents they have a gape. When they open their beaks it is often a bright colour, yellow or red, to encourage the parents to put the food into the beak. On this photo of a youngster you can see the size that the gape will be when it opens its beak!
Dawn Chorus and Volunteering
Monday, May 8th 2023
The forecast did not look promising but nine people arrived at 0530 to listen to the Dawn Chorus on the reserve. Although bird song was the aim of the walk it was not always easy to stop looking for other species and at long last an Early Purple Orchid, the first of our four species to flower, was spotted.
Back to concentrating on bird song, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were heard, along with Blackcap and Garden Warbler. Blue Tit, Great Tit and Coal Tit, along with Song Thrush and Robin sang. Also the Reed Bunting was singing in the Reed Bed. Sometimes these birds can be seen at the feeders in the back garden.
The Shelduck on Spigot Mere were attempting to impersonate Snipe - and doing quite a good job of it. As usual a long distance shot!
Few nature reserves are able to include Lapwing in a Dawn Chorus walk, but our Pee-wits called on cue.
The bird ringers have been out on the training area ringing Lapwing chicks.
On returning to the Field Centre for a well earned cup of tea the rain began to fall - good timing.
The reserve is home to a large variety of birds and many other species, from tiny flies to the larger Roe Deer; Dandelions to massive Oak trees. There are 12 habitats and all the fringe areas associated with them and to keep them all in pristine condition requires a lot of hard work. This work is carried out by the reserve managers and many volunteers, some giving up two or three days a week, some a few hours. Any time given is much appreciated. Volunteers who keep an eye on the species are busy too, identifying flowers, fungi, moths, butterflies, mammals, bugs, beasties and birds. Other volunteers help with bird ringing, school visits, and events. There is always plenty to do. If you would like to lend a hand then contact the reserve managers or pop in to talk to them and other volunteers. Volunteer days are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You will be made most welcome.
Sunday, May 7th 2023
After much discussion over the winter it was decided to change the timings and nets for CES. There were many valid reasons for this change. The first new CES was carried out over the weekend.
A bird that has been heard on the reserve but not seen was a Garden Warbler. Its song is difficult to distinguish from the Blackcap's. A summer migrant, it spends its winters south of the Sahara.
Over the winter months the Lesser Redpolls have been heard across the reserve and seen feeding on the Nyger seeds in the back garden in quite large numbers. Their diet includes seeds from Birch, Larch and Alder. A Red listed bird due to a sharp population decline in the 20th century. Not many have been seen feeding recently, so it was a pleasant surprise to catch one.
Once CES had finished the bird ringers were checking bird boxes, following up on the preliminary work done earlier this week. A Tawny Owl was held securely but gently before being returned to the its box. This one is browner than the one on an earlier blog, which almost appears black.
And finally the camera in a nest box shows that there is a Blue Tit in a lovely comfy nest. Pop into the Field Centre to view its secret life on screen.
Hive of Activity
Friday, May 5th 2023
Where to start? Volunteers from the Swaledale Ringing Group have been checking the owl boxes at Foxglove and out on the training area. The results from this work not only go to the BTO but also the Hawk and Owl Trust.
Usually it is the ringers who can spy on the nest boxes with a camera on a stick, to save disturbing the nest if the chicks are too small to ring, but in this case it was the other way around!
They did catch one adult Tawny Owl, details of whether it was ringed and where have not come through to me yet. Surprisingly they can nest in the same box year after year. Even the young once fledged, do not stray too far, just away from their parents territory, and often nest near to the nest box where they were hatched.
Meawhile back at Foxglove volunteers were carrying out some repairs on the boardwalk.
The moth traps had been set and volunteers had identified the moths but the catches are still low.
Flowers are slowly opening and I spotted a Cuckoo Flower in the Scrapes.
Not many insects were out and about although St Mark's Fly was on the moor. This insect was seen in a Marsh Marigold flower. You can see that it is covered in pollen.
Many thanks to all the volunteers who have supported Foxglove, as always your help is very much appreciated.
Monday, May 1st 2023
Regular volunteers have been out and about enjoying the spring sunshine whilst working on a number of projects around the reserve. Firstly, the dismantling work started by the team from Natural England last week has been completed.
Both sides of the covered boardwalk leading up to the Wetland Hide have now been completely dismantled and the timber extracted.
Nail removal continued in the outdoor 'workshop', a very satisfying job! Wherever possible, good timber was saved to be reused elsewhere on the reserve.
Several of the posts have already been reused at the Vole Ponds as part of a new fence to improve safety around the first pond. The timber planks which form the fence and new edging have been made from windblown trees on the reserve. They were expertly cut into planks by tree surgeons from Yorkshire Tree Specialists earlier in the year and moved to location with the help of groups from the Personnel Recovery Centre.
Other timber from the dismantled boardwalk has been reused as kickboards around the Spigot Mere viewing platform to improve safety for wheelchair users.
Thank you to everyone involved in all of these different projects!