Tuesday, May 24th 2022
Our moth trapping has not resulted in large numbers of moths just yet. However one night certainly produced quality rather than quantity. Sitting tight on one of the wires to the moth trap was an Eyed Hawkmoth. The large eyes on the underwing are used as a deterrent to predators. It did not move its wings when asked to open them for a photo! However you can just see them. These moths are not common visitors to our traps.
A moth in the same family is the Poplar Hawkmoth, of which we often get many. They are very friendly and will walk on your hand and it feels a bit like velcro sticking to it!
A rare visitor to the trap in the Cockchafer Beetle. Our last one was seen in June 2019. That was a male, this is a female as it does not have bulbous antennae. The larvae feed on the roots of grass and crops and can, in large numbers, be considered a pest. They can spend between three to five years underground.
A slightly larger animal was the Sedge Warbler caught in the mist nets during CES 3. They had been heard for some weeks in and around the reed bed.
The night before CES 3 Mark was out looking for Woodcock. He saw and heard several flying around and out came the camera. As it was dark the photos are not as sharp as he would have liked, but the Woodcock do not fly during the day! Some wildlife can be very unco-operative for photographers! In spring and summer, male Woodcocks perform a display flight known as roding. At dusk, and just before dawn, they take to the air and patrol over areas of their forest and heathland homes, calling in a series of grunts and squeaks, competing with other males to attract females. We rarely see them during the day.
You can actually see that the beak is open as the bird calls over the heath.
Another of Mark's photos gives a different perspective on Bogbean at night.
Thanks to Mark for the night photos.
Tread Quietly, Tread Gently
Thursday, May 19th 2022
Now that it has warmed up and the biting winds have dropped a little it is time to take a stroll around the reserve. Leaves now cover most of the trees so sometimes the only way to know that the birds are around is to listen to their calls. Take time to stop and listen.
Walking quietly and gently, look for something that does not look 'right'. A red mark on a leaf turns out to be a Large Red Damselfly.
Another red mark was a Cardinal Beetle. Stealth was the only way to take a photograph, as insects have the ability just to fall off their perch, which is annoying for the photographer, but keeps the insects safe from predators.
One pond in the Scrapes is full of Bogbean. This flower does not remain in flower for long. The flowers that open first have set seed before those flowers at the top of the stem.
Another white flower, the Daisy, is a common sight around the reserve.
Plenty To See
Tuesday, May 17th 2022
After what seems to have been a long winter flora and fauna are now appearing at Foxglove.
Dryad's Saddle is a fungus that appears in summer and can be seen through to autumn. In warm weather it can decay very quickly to almost nothing.
St Mark's Fly, so called because it appears on 25th April, which is St Mark's Day. They can be seen on the wing through to June. Some years, and this looks like being one of those years, there are large numbers of this fly around Foxglove. The larvae spend their time feeding on grass roots, leaf mould and decaying matter, whilst the adults feed on nectar and are pollinators of early opening flowers.
An insect finishing its life cycle at this time of year is the Peacock butterfly. It has spent all winter in hibernation appearing in spring to feed on a variety of flowers. After egg laying it dies. By this time in spring they are looking a little worse for wear.
Large Red damselflies are the first to emerge from the water. I am still waiting for the opportunity to take a good photo of an adult! They have flown off, been blown away and/or had plenty of vegetation between them and the camera lens! However I was very lucky to take this photo of one just finishing emerging from its larval case, known as the exuviae. Once emerged it walked away quickly to hide away from predators, whilst its wings lengthened and its whole body hardened.
Some flowers are just opening the petals others are almost ready to release their seeds. This willow flower is developing tiny white seeds, that once released make it look like it has snowed in summer at Foxglove.
A photograph taken for one reason often shows other things once uploaded onto the computer. This photo made me smile. Food chains in action. Cuckoo Flower is a lovely delicate flower and can be seen all around the reserve. If you look closely you can see the orange egg of the Orange Tip butterfly, one egg per plant as there is only enough food on the single plant to support one caterpillar. If you look even more closely you can just see a spider, waiting in the wings for dinner?
At this time of year there is a lot to watch out for.
No Snow, No Hail
Thursday, May 12th 2022
No snow and no hail seems about the best that could be said about the weather yesterday! Although it has not been of the best, flowers are still blooming and it is now the turn of the some of the trees. Blackthorn is still in full flower, but in those areas where it flowered first the petals have dropped and leaves are appearing. The Cherry trees are showing their white and pink blooms. Now is the time of the apples. The wild Crab Apple at the head of the Scrapes is covered in beautiful flowers.
Apple trees in the orchard and in the back garden are almost in full flower. Bees and many other insects will feed from these flowers and pollinate them to ensure a good apple crop in the autumn.
The Wayfaring Tree has finally burst its buds to show a white dome of flowers.
In a glimpse of sunshine, a Green Veined White fluttered for shelter under some grasses.
Back at the Field Centre, under the shelter of the veranda, the nest box display was updated. It is probably a little late for the Blue Tit type boxes but Robins and Wrens may still nest if a box is put up now. Frogs and Toads appreciate a damp place to hide during the day, before heading off to feed during darkness.
Hedgehogs will appreciate a safe home for hibernation. If you would like to purchase a home for wildlife, please visit and call in at the Field Centre.
Tawny Owls and Grey Herons
Friday, May 6th 2022
With the bird breeding season well underway the members of the Swaledale Ringing Team are extremely busy. Owl boxes have been checked and although the news is better than last year, the results are still disappointing.
Inside some nests food was plentiful. Two of these chicks had already hatched an a third egg was just beginning to hatch as can be seen here!
Later on the same day, older chicks were found in a new box that has been kindly donated by the Hawk and Owl Trust. They were just big enough to ring and were in 'fine fettle'!
A Heron chick was also ringed thanks to Sean Stockdale from Yorkshire Tree Specialists who climbed a conifer tree to the nest. The chick was carefully lowered to the ground to be ringed and then was put safely back in it's tree top abode!
Each year any information about breeding Grey Herons on the MOD land in Catterick is sent to the BTO as part of the Heronries Census. The aim of this longstanding project is to collect counts of 'apparently occupied nests' (aon) of herons, egrets and other colonial waterbirds from as many heronries as possible in the United Kingdom each year. Its Grey Heron data represent the longest-running monitoring data set for any breeding bird in the world.