Blog Archive (16) Posts Made in June 2023
Thursday, June 29th 2023
The only reptile we have on the reserve is the Common Lizard. Last year we were thrilled to spot some young. Hopefully, if we are not imagining it, there will be young this year too. This possibly pregnant female was sunbathing. Common Lizards are cold blooded and need to warm up in the sun. They are viviparous, meaning that the eggs develop inside the female's body and she gives birth to live young in July and August.
Another lizard was seen close by but as usual the pesky vegetation got in the way!
Monday, June 26th 2023
There are few flowers in the Scrapes during the spring, but once summer arrives, not only do the flowers appear, the reeds grow and the 'damsels and dragons' arrive. Andrew (Atkins) took a stroll with his camera, through the Scrapes at the weekend.
I must admit to being very envious of his first photograph! I saw one of these fly quickly across Spigot Mere then disappear, before I could even get my camera ready! This beautiful Banded Demoiselle landed and sat just right for this photo. Female Banded Demoiselles lay their eggs by injecting them into plant stems in ponds or slow moving streams, under the surface of the water. The eggs take about two weeks to hatch and the larvae take two years to develop, overwintering in the mud at the bottom of the pond.
Another 'dragon', well more of a chaser, that sat still was the Black-tailed Skimmer. It does look similar to the Broad-bodied Chaser but its abdomen is much thinner, unlike the Broad-bodied which is more rounded and fatter.
Male Four-spotted Chasers are living up to their names and chasing each other across the ponds as they defend their territorries. Their quick straight line flight can be interrupted by a vertical dash, obviously to catch prey.
Like many chasers, hawkers and dragonflies, the female lays her eggs into the vegetation. This Brown Hawker was egg laying. They can be found away from water as they hunt prey, and may be seen in sunny glades in woodland.
The Large Red Damselflies were late to appear due to the cold spring but they have made up for their late appearance by flying around in very large numbers. This one looks very hairy!
Many thanks to Andrew for these great photos.
Saturday, June 24th 2023
The nesting season is the busiest time of year for members of the Swaledale Ringing Group as they monitor hundreds of nest boxes at Foxglove and around the wider Catterick Training Area. The data is collected as part of the British Trust for Ornithology's (BTO's) Nest Record Scheme. This helps to provide important information on the breeding success of British birds.
Great Tits, Blue Tits and Coal Tits are the main residents in the small boxes. When the chicks are old enough, they are fitted with a BTO metal ring and the data generated helps to increase understanding of bird survival, movement and productivity.
Other species that use the nest boxes include Redstarts. This species is a summer migrant found in deciduous woodland. This chick is just beginning to grow its stunning red tail feathers.
Pied Flycatchers also use some of the boxes. This adult female has returned to breed after wintering in West Africa. This species feeds on insects which they catch in mid-flight.
Thank you to everyone who has helped with checking, ringing and scribing!
Ooohs and Ahhhs at the Moth Traps
Thursday, June 22nd 2023
As the moth traps were emptied and the moths identified there were a lot of ooohs and aaahs. The first to be looked at was Green Arches. They were newly hatched judging by their bright colours. These moths are locally distributed throughout Britain, but more common in Wales and the South. The caterpillars feed on a variety of plants including Bilberry and Knotgrass which are not found at Foxglove, although another food plant, Honeysuckle, is well distributed throughout the reserve.
The Honeysuckle is coming into flower.
A Light Emerald Moth was the next one to be identified. We expect to see these moths between June through to August. There are other 'emeralds' to appear, hopefully in our traps. You can see his very large greenish eyes.
An Elephant Hawk-moth was next to have its ID confirmed. Many adult moths do not feed but this one does. It feeds from Honeysuckle and other tubular flowers, whislt still flying. The caterpillar enjoys Rosebay Willowherb, again this does not grow in large quantities on the reserve.
Its proboscis is the orange piece sort of tucked in under its face - not very scientifically explained! It also has large eyes.
The moths above co-operated and sat still whilst being photographed. The Beautiful Golden Y did not. Kate kept her eye on it as it flew from the front of the Field Centre into the back garden. It landed and she was able to take a photograph. Thank you!
Thank you to one species team who put out the traps and thank you to the other species team who identified the moths and put away the traps.
Co-operative Plants and Animals
Tuesday, June 20th 2023
Thankfully plants do stay still for photographs. This very large, possible hybrid Northern Marsh x Common Spotted Orchid stands tall and obvious in the surrounding vegetation. It is also living up to part of its name, in that it does have spotted leaves. Not all orchids that have spotted in their names have spots - anywhere!
Taking a photograph of a Yellow Flag Iris, a bee decided to get into the photo, not very much in focus but obviously on the hunt for food. I did see it venture into the flower, but it did not stay long, although it does have some pollen on its back legs.
Often it is a mark or colour or shape that looks out of place that catches the eye. Another seed head in the way but no, it was a Crab Spider. They live up to their name and walk just like a crab. They do not spin webs but hunt for prey. This one was camera shy and kept disappearing to the underside of the daisy, so I held onto the flower and when it appeared topside and managed to get a photogrpah. Quite often these spiders are able to be well camouflaged against the background, well hidden from prey insects.
The Common Blue Butterfly frequents one area of the moor and flies amongst the flowers and then onto the path where it settles with its wings closed, making it very hard to find, never mind take a photograph. An obvious blue patch amongst the yellow stood out. A Common Blue, not feeding but resting or possibly sunbathing on a seed head of Ribwort Plantain.
Sunday, June 18th 2023
Over the past few weeks, volunteers have been busy working on a range of reserve maintenance tasks. With the recent warm weather, the vegetation has grown massively and lots of pruning and strimming has been done around the main footpaths. Dams have also been repaired to create pools of water which will remain even in the very dry conditions.
Both Lake Hides have been cleaned and the steps painted. This completes the essential maintenance work being carried out on the Tower Hide which is now open again for both volunteers and visitors to enjoy.
In addition to practical work, lots of other volunteering has been carried out including species recording, bird ringing, and helping with education. Visiting schools and pupils from the Personalised Learning College have been enjoying minibeast safaris and pond dipping on the reserve.
Lots of tadpoles have been found!
Thank you everyone for all your hard work!
Saturday, June 17th 2023
It was mentioned on the blog a few days ago that we were catching rather a lot of Common Swift moths. Charlie, our VC65 recorder sent this information. 'The total of 141 Common Swifts caught on our moth night is unusual. The biggest counts ever in the county all come from Spurn where it is really abundant, but away from Spurn, this is the biggest number ever caught in a trapping session in the county!'
Another piece of good and interesting news also came from Charlie. 'The piece of excellent news is that we have a goody. A rather nondescript Gelechiid I took home has turned out to be Carpatolechia notatella. It’s the eighth record for Yorkshire, the second this century and the first for VC65. It’s a goat-willow feeder.'
Double Square-spot lives up to its name. The caterpillars hibernate when quite small and feed in spring on various trees and shrubs. The flight season is during the months of June and July.
A moth whose wing pattern we rarely look at, is the Spectacle. It actually has lovely markings and quite distinctive.
But we identify it by its spectacles!
Last week Hayley found a Ruby Tiger moth walking around in the Scrapes. There is only one flight season in the North, from April to June, whilst down south their is a second in August and September.
She moved it out of harms way and it very conveniently turned on its side allowing its bright red abdomen to be on show.
Another was caught on Wednesday night but this time from the heath. You can see that its wings are almost transparent. When our records were scruntinised we found that this moth had not been seen since June 2018.
Our thanks go to Charlie and Alan who helped us to identify the moths on our moth morning and to Jill who scribed for us. Thank you very much.
Friday, June 16th 2023
Firstly a thank you to Mr R Brooks, who is the Principal for Environmental Support and Compliance in the DIO Technical Services team. We applied for a grant to purchase pond and sweep nets. These will be used by the species team to continue the valuable work surveying and collecting more data about our species. As he was in the area for meetings, he very kindly delivered them. These will soon be used as we 'pond dip' in the ponds in the wetland and across the moor. The sweep nets will collect bugs and beasties in our meadows, orchards and heaths. And anywhere else we can think of! Preferably without thistles!
The nets will be as well used as the two moth traps that we have also been given through grants from Mr R Brooks. Thank you again.
Back to bugs and beasties. Out on the moor a 7 Spot Ladybird was seen on a Dog Daisy. The sightings of these beetles have been far and few between.
Rayed Knapweed is just beginning to open and a Meadow Brown butterfly was making the most of the nectar.
Most of the 'damsels and dragons' are moving so quickly patience is required to wait for them to rest for a brief moment. This dragonfly decided to sit still for while allowing some photos to be taken. The willow seeds had to get in the photo also!
Along Risedale Beck a mayfly was resting.
The Bees Return!
Thursday, June 15th 2023
Earlier in the year, essential winter maintenance work was carried out on the observation bee hive in the Field Centre. This week, local beekeepers Alison and Alistair have restocked the hive with a new queen and her colony.
The bees were very carefully moved to their new home.
Come along and try and spot the new queen in the hive. She can be identified by her slightly larger size and a small spot of yellow paint that has been carefully applied by the beekeepers. There are lots of interesting facts to learn about the bees around the observation hive.
There is also locally produced honey available to buy in the Field Centre along with a range of beeswax products including candles and bowls.
Thank you to Alistair and Alison for returning our bees!
Monday, June 12th 2023
Early summer has been late in arriving but now that it is here everything is growing madly! The volunteers have been out pruning overhead branches along the many paths. Tree branches, roses and Brambles seem to grow as soon as their backs are turned! Thank you for doing this important task.
The middle moor is blooming! Common Bird's-foot Trefoil shows bright yellow even amongst the many buttercups and Yellow Rattle.
There are many more flowers to open as the summer progresses and the buzzing of bees will increase. Butterflies will flit amongst the flowers, feeding.
Dog Roses have started to open even if they are covered in tiny willow seeds.
In the Scrapes the Yellow Flag Iris has opened, but the flowers do not last for long.
One flower that can stay in flower until October if we are lucky is Greater Spearwort.
Most of the trees have flowered and many set seed. Guelder Rose has just opened its flower head. It has red berries in the autumn, which are sometimes eaten and sometimes not eaten!
Lots of Legs
Saturday, June 10th 2023
It finally warmed up on Thursday, nearly. Some butterfies were on the wing and after careful stalking a photograph of a Common Blue butterfly was able to be taken. Three legs of six and striped antennae can be plainly seen. This butterfly likes Common Bird's-foot Trefoil.
Another butterfly that was watched as it flew this way and that was, when it eventually settled, a Wall. We do not see many of these on the reserve and the distribution map shows them just possibly in North Yorkshire. The adults feed from a range of flowers including Ragged Robin and Daisy both in flower, Fleabane which flowers in late summer and Common Knapweed nearly ready to come into flower. The caterpillars feed on grasses especially Cock's foot and Yorkshire Fog.
When emptying the moth traps the white sheets that they stand on have to be carefully checked as moths and other invertebrates often hide on it and under it. This week was a beautiful (not everyone would say that!) spider, Pisaura mirabilis. Once the female has her egg sac she will build a tent nest to put it in and then she cares for her young once they are hatched. You can quite clearly see all eight legs!
Thursday, June 8th 2023
As part of the ongoing work to develop a 5-year management plan for Foxglove Covert a workshop was held on 6th June, bringing volunteers and staff together to think about what we know about the reserve today, and to imagine how we would like it to be in 5-years time.
The staff and volunteers divided themselves into groups. The tasks given during the morning session dealt with the reserve as it is now.
After lunch the groups concentrated on the reserve of the future. There was a lot of discussion about the habitats and species on site, and how to maintain and improve them, the visitor experience, and attracting new people and groups.
The outputs are being summarized and will be reviewed in developing the new plan.
Many thanks to all who participated and to John Heslegrave for leading the event.
Wednesday, June 7th 2023
Firstly let me thank everyone who attended yesterday's discussions about Foxglove now and in the future. Your support, suggestions and comments were extremely valuable. There will be more about this on a later blog.
Wishes - I wish that every living thing had a code or name tag on it, from birth! I also wish that they could answer when questioned. I do sometimes have a fanciful outlook about Nature! In reality identification books and the Internet are needed, as is the help of the experts who support Foxglove and provide us with details of many species.
Derek who visited Foxglove in mid May sent these pieces of information.
Trupanea stellata - a very pretty little Picture-wing Fly - it develops in Ragwort and I found it in the “orchard” area - it appears to be new to VC65 and is a significant northern record.
Cheilosia vicina - a hoverfly found in good numbers along the beck in wooded areas. It is a northern and western species thought to breed in Lady's Mantles but also associated with Primroses.
Portevinia maculata - the Ramsons Hoverfly - on Ramsons in the wooded valley near the boundary.
In due course this information will be added to our species list which continues to grow.
Our moth trapping has been carried out for many years and the data we have is considerable. This year we have already caught 26 Common Swifts, where as our tally is usually less than 10. Immediately I thought that it was a specialist feeder and that the food plant had grown exceptionally well. Not the case as the larvae feed on the roots of grasses and other herbaceous plants. Why is it doing so well this year?
Another species that is posing questions is the Northern Marsh Orchid. Although all orchids can be, shall we say interesting, (or should that be temperamental?) as to where they grow or do not grow. For over 12 years our Northern Marsh Orchids have appeared in two places on the reserve. They are not there this year, but they are in the orchard and the front lawn.
We do not know how much effect the very hot spells, drought, lack of winter rain and the cold spring has had on our species. Climate change is also noticeable. Idenification books often show maps with distribution of species which clearly now are out of date, as species spread north and some retreat south. Our species work at Foxglove feeds into VC65 records and then onto the appropriate organisations so that trends can be looked at.
Thank you to all those volunteers who spend many hours identifying, searching for, photographing and recording Foxglove's many, many species.
Monday, June 5th 2023
The title sounds like the chasers have been caught in some sort of trap. This is not the case, they were caught by watching them and stalking them where they were resting for a short time before they flew off. Both species were very active in the warm sunshine.
The first is a male Broad-bodied Chaser, who was doing 'circuits and bumps' from the dried mud. Intruders, of any species, were not allowed and he chased them off vigorously. These are known to be some of the first to arrive at newly built ponds, but ours are quite happy on many of our established ponds.
Patience and a few side steps were required to catch the Four-spotted Chaser settling on some horsetails.
Some Bugs and Beasties
Sunday, June 4th 2023
The title of the blog is probably unfair as these creatures are spectacular although I do appreciate that they may not be to everyone's taste. Andrew caught this Red and Black or Black and Red Froghopper (Cercopis vulnerata). He was lucky to photograph it as they do not like having their photo taken and can just fall off their perch!
The moth trap results have been variable over the last few weeks but what we have lacked in quantity we have gained in quality. The first Elephant Hawkmoth was caught. The adults are nocturnal, flying from dusk and come to light. During the day they rest amongst its foodplants. They feed from honeysuckle and other tubular flowers on the wing. Not all adult moths feed. The caterpillars feed on Rosebay Willowherb, of which we do not have much on the reserve.
We have had several Scalloped Hazel moths in the trap. They are lovely moths, but don't always co-operate when it is photo time, so I was pleased with this one even though I did have to hold the leaf. The catrpillar is a looper meaning that when it walks it actually loops, head end forward then the back end next to it making a loop. The larvae feed on a variety of deciduous and conifer trees, although its name suggests it should feed mainly on Hazel.
As I said it is not the best of moths to photograph although it sitting with its wings up did give me the opportunity to see the undersides which are just as spectacular as the top view.
Snow in June?
Saturday, June 3rd 2023
Snow in June, no, thankfully, although with some of the weather we have been having it would not be surprising! The willow flowers have set seed and the parachuted tiny seeds are dispersed by the wind, across the reserve! Everything was covered in fluffy white seeds. The heath looked rather strange in the early morning sun.
Some of the seeds were caught in spider webs, which would not make for happy spiders!
The Swaledale Ringers are very busy at this time of year ringing chicks and carrying out CES. Many owls have been ringed but there are still some boxes to check. Some Kestrel chicks received their rings. This was a nest of five healthy chicks, although you can see the age difference.
Some of the owl boxes are used by Jackdaws and some were ringed today. They beheved well but did look rather 'grumpy'!
The small nest boxes with Blue and Great Tits, Coal Tits, Pied Flycatchers and Nuthatches have shown a huge variety of ages. Some adults are still sitting on eggs whilst some young are nearly ready to fledge and every stage in between. House Martins are still at the nest making stage, collecting mud. The poor camera yet again, was pushed to its limits and it did not help that the martins did not stay still for long but you can at least get some idea of what they were doing.
Thank you to all the bird ringers who spend many hours checking the nest boxes. All the information is sent to the British Trust for Orinithology so that they can continue to build a picture of populations, distribution and longevity.
Thank you to the volunteers who checked net rides, mowed them and acted as scribes whilst the bird ringers ringed chicks. Everyone's hard work is much appreciated.