Help For Heroes
Thursday, April 18th 2019
A keen and willing team from Help for Heroes gave up their time today to help with various maintenance tasks in the spring sunshine.
The main job for the day was to upgrade a section of the red route which is the 'easy access' trail that leads to the lake. The group set to work first sweeping the existing stones into the centre of the path so as to minimise waste.
This left behind only the weeds at the edges which could be scraped up and removed.
Many, many barrows full of weeds were taken away and used to fill in a quad bike track elsewhere. Then several trailer loads of stone were collected and transported by wheelbarrow to the trail. The team worked so fast that not only did they do the part that was planned for the day (before coffee time) but they continued along the next section too. It was quite a challenge for the quad bike and trailer to keep up!
The new stone was spread out and compacted using spades, rakes and a good, old-fashioned tamper.
The finishing touches were added and the new surface was smoothed out with a wacker plate.
The end result was impressive! Some of the team painted several benches including the picnic benches on the front lawns which were very 'thirsty' and required numerous coats of preserver and wood stain.
Volunteers also helped by building Water Vole latrines, mending tools and raking weed out of ponds. They also tidied around the field centre gardens so that they are ready for the many visitors who are expected over the Bank Holiday. The reserve is open from 10.00am - 4.00pm every day over the Easter weekend.
Visitors with a passion for Lepidoptera counted butterflies on their walk; Peacock (10), Brimstone (4), Orange Tip (14), Small White (2) and the first Speckled Wood of the year!
In the scrapes, work is continuing to replace dams. The water levels are currently very low due to lack of rainfall and it is hoped that the new structures will maximise the amount of water able to be retained in these wildlife rich pools.
The temperature got quite high and by lunchtime, the two ponies were wallowing in Plover's pool! The feeders outside the centre are still a magnet for the finches with many Redpoll and Siskin attracted to the nyger seed.
Mallard are everywhere and a camera trap put out to record an animal that has been leaving mysterious tracks in one of the Mink rafts captured a pair who appear to be looking for a nesting site! On the recently created Spigot Mere, Swallows were skimming the surface and Oystercatchers had already found a suitable place to bathe! Willow Warblers were calling all around the reserve.
Our sincere thanks to everyone for all their hard work today. It wouldn't be possible to run the reserve without all of this valuable support!
Spigot Mere & Owl Pellet Discovery
Wednesday, April 17th 2019
Looking back into the reserve you can now see our new wetland scrape begining to fill. This is the start of a new habitat within Foxglove, which will bring new wildlife to our area.
From close up you can see the water slowly rising, by the weekend it should be at the required level.
Team Wednesday were in early to check the two moth traps that were placed out overnight. The total of moths caught numbered over one hundred and fifty, a great haul of many species.
Several families visited to look at Barn Owl pellets and to learn what they contained. Children and adults alike were surprised to find what was inside.
Having identified the contents of the pellets, the families then glued the bones onto card so that they could take them away to show friends.
Finally more good news; several Lapwings have now nested on the newly restored wetland area. We all look forward to seeing the chicks in the near future.
Mink Raft Maintenance
Tuesday, April 16th 2019
Volunteers carried out many varied tasks including repairing and replacing Mink rafts all around the reserve.
Bob worked away in the workshop to upgrade and improve some old rafts and to construct a few new ones.
These are a vital way to monitor for the presence of Mink on the reserve, a clay pad fitted inside means that any intruding animals will leave their tracks behind. Mink would wipe out the Water Vole population and so this is a way of keeping them safe. The cartridge inside the wooden tunnel is made up of a mixture of sharp sand and potters clay. It takes quite a bit of mixing and the best way is by hand!
There is no alternative with this task but to get stuck in!
Once ready, the rafts were distributed to the relevant places (where water enters and leaves the site).
This involved going off the beaten track into non-intervention zones and wildflower banks.
Primroses, Violets and Wood Anemone are flourishing on the Hazel bank above Risedale Beck.
Colin edged the lawns around the Field Centre!
After lunch the Exmoor ponies were encouraged onto a new patch of moorland (by staff and volunteers with hay and carrots) where there is more grass for them which they seemed happy about!
A polite reminder to visitors to close all moorland gates behind them.
Sunday, April 14th 2019
The wind was set to increase by lunch time so the bird ringers made the most of the calm but very cold morning. Net rounds were carried out regularly and birds returned to the ringing room. It almost seems to be the norm that we are continuing to catch new Bramblings as they head north. We will miss them when the migration is over.
A second Redpoll within a week ringed elsewhere and caught at Foxglove was processed. Data collected from this bird will be sent to the BTO and information as to where and when it was ringed will be returned to us in due course.
Only one Great Spotted Woodpecker was retrapped today and when its details were entered into IPMR (the data handling programme) it was found to be at least eight years old.
A well camouflaged Snipe was wading along the pool edge on the wetland. Oyster Catchers, Greylag Geese, Moorhen and Mallard were also in evidence. Lapwings were flying over the wetland, sometimes chasing off the Rooks and Jackdaws.
A Barn Owl was observed sitting in a tree.
As always on a ringing day, it was a team effort. The birds ringed today brought the total of new birds ringed at Foxglove to over 63,000 and the total of birds processed by the group altogether to almost 234,000. Chaffinches remain the most common bird ringed with Blue Tits finally knocking Greenfinches into 3rd place and Willow Warblers, despite being here for such a short period each year, now in 4th place. Thanks to John for the photographs on today's blog and many thanks to everyone who helped.
Saturday, April 13th 2019
There is some warmth in the sun but the easterly wind ensures that we retain our winter clothes. Spring flowers are appearing across the reserve reminding us that spring is properly on its way.
Blackthorn that flowered first along Risedale Beck is 'going over' whilst that growing near the main entrance is beginning to open its buds. The last place for it to flower is near the Voley Pond.
Cowslips continue to spread in the area near to the Sycamore Avenue. There are some growing on the middle moor but some of the flower buds have been nibbled.
Wood Anemone are searched for from early spring and when we have almost decided that they are not going to appear where we expect them, there they are!
Leaves of Wood Sorrel, which is also less commonly known as Fairy Bells, can be spotted throughout the year but we have to wait until spring before seeing the delicate white flowers that can be veined with purple.
It is always amazing that given the ideal conditions of the reserve in which to grow, some flowers thrive where you least expect them. This Primrose, surrounded by Greater Stitchwort leaves, is growing on some steps.