Blog Archive (24) Posts Made in February 2012
Learning the Ropes
Wednesday, February 29th 2012
Over twenty volunteers turned out to help with a wide variety of conservation jobs today, most of them helping to clear away the cut reeds in the scrapes area.
This involved raking up cut stems and loading them onto wheelbarrows to be transported to a bonfire.
Two students who are on work experience at Foxglove helped to manage the fire which smouldered rather than burned!
The same students were very interested to watch the team from Lowther Forestry continue with their tree surgery. Large overhanging boughs, which presented a potential hazard to visitors, were removed by chainsaw. They were carefully lowered by rope to avoid any damage to the boardwalk and handrails.
The conditions were perfect today as the wind has dropped and the treetops looked like a fun place to be!
Other volunteers finished tidying in the Hazel coppice and prepared an area behind the lake hide for some landscaping work. This work will create a place for trees to be planted by school children in March. By home time, a huge amount of work had been done, and this is how the reedbed looked at the end of the day. In just six months time the new reeds will have grown and this patch will be rejuvenated.
The disturbance to the ponds was kept to a minimum and the frogs didn't seem to care. Their minds are focused elsewhere!
The pools are alive with the sound of croaking and the frogspawn is growing by the day.
This frog seemed to be too young to breed but was more than happy to pose for photos!
A Watery Day
Tuesday, February 28th 2012
The wetland looked bleak in this morning's dreary damp weather. It was cold and there were no signs of frogs in the ponds. Pipes and sluices control the flow of water so that the water, in theory, goes where we want it to go. Unfortunately the Water Voles have other ideas and dig holes through the bunds. Adam found the entry to one of these holes this morning and a surplus of water just where we didn't want it! This will be dealt with, but the voles will doubtless soon dig another tunnel!
From one watery task to another, cutting the reed bed. For these tasks we always take a before and after photograph, so here is the 'before' photo!
The reeds need cutting back about every 4 to 5 years to keep them healthy. They provide nesting sites for Reed Bunting and Moorhen. Adam and Sophie were soon busy cutting the reeds and quickly made a noticeable difference.
Whilst they were working the Moorhen was calling from another part of the reed bed and the frogs were croaking in the long pond. Once the reeds were cut then started the task of raking them up. By the end of the afternoon the area looked completely different as can be seen in the 'after' photograph
As has been said before, when this type of work is carried out the area always look very sorry for itself, but as Spring is hopefully just around the corner it will recover quickly. As for the net ride on the right - well we won't go there!! Perhaps the ringers will give it a miss for a bit!
A Bird Ringing Day
Monday, February 27th 2012
As the bird ringers arrived this morning bird song filled the air. Woodpeckers were heard drumming, Mistle Thrushes were singing loudly, and the beautiful, familiar call of the Curlew could be heard on the moor.
The beginning of the day saw a net being repaired before it could be used.
Usually all the data from the birds processed on a ringing day are written down on paper, and then many hours are spent at a later date inputting this data into a special computer programme so that they can be sent to the BTO. Today, for the first time, the data was entered directly into the machine. A learning curve for all involved, but by close of play information on over 100 birds had been logged for onward transmission.
Some birds were caught in the Heligoland Trap, used for the first time today after some renovation.
The new duck traps on the wetland were also in use today and Mallard and Teal were in good numbers on the ponds.
Fundraising and Eco Club
Sunday, February 26th 2012
Early this morning saw Adam and Tony loading the display to take to Tesco for our day of fundraising. Once there other volunteers helped to arrange the display outside. Inside there was a raffle.
And face painting.
Throughout the day volunteers helped to promote Foxglove Covert and raise funds for the reserve.
Back at the covert, even though it was cold and windy, 14 children arrived for Eco Club. On our walk we searched for the leaves of spring flowers. Some were easily seen but others were so tiny we almost needed a large magnifying glass! However we did find leaves of Celandine, Primrose, Bluebell and Dog Daisy. The children also found several ladybirds continuing their hibernation in the Gorse. We were lucky to see some frog activity and frogspawn in one of the ponds along Risedale Beck.
After refreshments we headed to the ponds to go pond dipping, not something we encourage at this time of year. Today, according to the thermometers the water was one degree centigrade! Surely they were not recording properly? Amazingly we caught 3 Spined Stickleback, caddis larvae, pond snails, water beetles and damselfly larvae. It will be interesting to see what we catch when we pond dip again in the summer.
In the afternoon the first spring flower was photographed, a Primrose.
By the end of the day at the covert over 60 visitors had been recorded. Fundraising all day, running Eco Club and covering at the Field Centre could not be accomplished without the support of so many volunteers. A huge thank you to everyone.
Frogs on the Blog
Saturday, February 25th 2012
Many more Frogs were out through the scrapes today making the most of the sun and unseasonably warm weather.
The water was bubbling with activity and it was easy to hear the males calling. Frogspawn could also be found in abundance in the sunnier areas of pools. Hopefully it will be safe from frosts!
Friday, February 24th 2012
Tree surgeons from Lowther Forestry were back on site today to remove the weight from some of the large ancient trees along the Beck.
The trees have been carefully surveyed to ensure that only the necessary boughs are removed for health and safety reasons.
The work should help to prolong the lives of some of Foxglove's most special tree specimens.
Several volunteers continued to tidy the brash in the Hazel Coppice area. This patch is looking really superb now and work will be continuing here next week. Thanks to Mike, Tony, David, Paul and the students from Askham Bryan who all put in a huge amount of effort today.
No ducks were caught in the traps today, maybe due to the waves on the water bodies caused by the high winds!
Nice Weather for Ducks (and Moorhen)!
Thursday, February 23rd 2012
Five moths of three different species were caught in the Robinson trap last night. Satellite, Pale Brindled Beauty and Chestnut (pictured below).
Two specimen trees, gifted by Colonel MD Blacklock, last Commanding Officer of The Royal Scots Greys, were planted close to the head of the lake (in the pouring rain)!
Elizabeth planted an Oak tree that she has kindly donated in memory of her parents.
Tree surgery continued along Risedale Beck which is running brown due to the heavy rainfall.
Finally, the hard work has paid off and the first Moorhen this year was caught and ringed on the wetland, in one of the traps installed by the ringing team members last weekend.
Work in Progress
Wednesday, February 22nd 2012
With the days lengthening, the race to complete all of the winter habitat work is on. An area close to the lake was thick with Blackthorn and it was decided to cut this back away from the path edge. The photo below was taken at the start of the day.
The volunteers soon got to work and a two metre swathe was cut back along both sides of the boardwalk.
By late afternoon, the task was almost complete. What a difference!
The area has been transformed and hopefully in the Spring the woodland flowers will flourish here. Attention then turned to coppicing some of the large Hazel stools through the middle of the reserve. This was done selectively (younger stems remain) to promote the growth of the springtime flowers such as Primroses. The work is ongoing and will continue next winter in order to minimise disturbance in this highly sensitive habitat.
Once again, our most sincere thanks go to all of the Tuesday group. Thanks to Elizabeth and Ruth too who sorted out all of the education worksheets and prepared the display for Tescos. We will be fundraising at the Catterick Garrison store on Saturday, if you have an hour to spare to raise awareness of your favourite LNR please get in touch (see the events page for further details).
Contractors are on site this week to remove any limbs from dangerous trees. This is only being done where there is a high risk of a branch falling onto a pathway.
A Beautiful Day
Monday, February 20th 2012
The sun cast early morning shadows across the frosty moor but despite the warmth the temperatures remained low and the paths remained frozen all day long.
Many people enjoyed their walks around the reserve, many for the first time. Some visited the ringing room where the process of ringing was explained and also the importance of the data collected.
Over 130 birds were processed including Brambling, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Reed Bunting, and an excess of new Coal Tits! Considering that this species was quite uncommon when we started ringing at Foxglove 20 years ago the situation has changed significantly, and it is now almost our most common winter resident. One newly ringed Blackbird with a very long wing was probably a migrant from Europe that will shortly be heading back there. A retrapped Chaffinch was ringed as a juvenile in 2004 making it eight years old!
Saturday, February 18th 2012
It was a cold and squally morning when the 'A' Team met at Foxglove. Today's task was to install, repair or repostion the ringing team's four duck traps. Whilst Tony and John headed off to our workshop to build a new base for the trap on the Foxglove Lake, Tom headed out onto the wetland to site two new portable traps. Three hours later the group re-assembled to complete the installation of the new floor for the Foxglove trap.
We then headed off to Bellflask, where we were joined by Beryl and Emma to do the biggest job of the day, to move and then attach a new floor, to our largest trap. This shows the team hard at work positioning the trap guides:
......and finally the job is complete and all we need now are some ducks!
Tree Walk and First Frog!
Thursday, February 16th 2012
The Tree Identification Walk was well attended and Jez gave us a silvicultural tour of the woodland. In addition to identifying various tree species, topics covered included everything from tree disease and timber yield to the conservation value of our native trees. Thank you Jez for a most informative and enjoyable event.
Whilst out on the walk the first frog of the spring was spotted. In a few days time, if the weather stays warm, more and more of these amphibians are likely to be seeking out their spawning ponds!
Thursday, February 16th 2012
Lots of families were here today, completing our half-term activity sheets. As we bumped into them along the paths, many commented on how much work has been going on over the recent months and how nice the reserve is looking in the late winter sun. In particular they were interested in hearing about all the forestry work and the reasons behind it.
Getting to the Root of the Matter!
Wednesday, February 15th 2012
The milder weather has allowed the tree planting programme to continue and this work will soon be completed. The Tuesday team worked out in the cold wind all day to see the job through to the end in the clear fell area. Hazel and Oak were the main species planted today. Richard's tiffin helped to keep morale high as this has been a tedious task! Thank you everyone!
Ken collected in his remote camera and was pleased to find the photo below.
Tuesday, February 14th 2012
Richard was busy on Saturday at the Worky Day snapping photos of all the action. He has kindly made this video montage with some of the best pictures he took.
Monday, February 13th 2012
Some of the Foxglove ringing team were at Bellflask Quarry near West Tanfield today. This interesting site is used to gain experience with species not normally found at Foxglove.
Among the 80+ birds processed today were Yellowhammers which can be quite difficult to age and sex. This young male was one of four caught among several Reed Buntings and other species typical of restored quarries and agricultural land.
A male Reed Bunting ringed at Bellflask in Feb 2010 has just been reported killed by a cat in Shap, Cumbria, some 83km distant, 680 days after ringing.
February Worky Day
Sunday, February 12th 2012
Despite the icy, cold conditions 33 volunteers turned out for the Winter Worky Day. This is a record turn out for the February event!
With the paths covered in ice the sledges once again came in handy.
Willow and Hazel were coppiced along the beck to create a glade.
Some of the larger stems and trees were felled by chainsaw.
Everyone worked really hard and enjoyed the day.
Richard captured the scene of everyone beavering away through a tunnel of smoke.
By the end of the day the fires had burnt down and it was clear to see how much had been achieved. The work that has been carried out along the beck and in other areas of the reserve has created ideal habitat for Redstart. Hopefully these will soon return here to breed.
Thank you everyone for the tremendous effort today. We look forward to seeing the fruits of our labour in the Spring.
Where there’s a will there’s a ......sleigh!
Saturday, February 11th 2012
Freezing rain yesterday and sub zero temperatures last night meant a very icy network of paths. With the birds hungry and a wheelbarrow completely useless in the slippery conditions Sophie and Adam made use of the Foxglove sledges to do the seed and peanut feeder round!
The access road may well be icy tomorrow so please take care and park on the parade square if necessary. The worky day will be taking place so if you plan to join in wrap up warm and have a big breakfast!
Friday, February 10th 2012
We have been working hard in an area next to the scrapes, clearing Silver Birch trees. Braving the rain today with our new volunteer Hilde, we have now finished felling the larger of these. We hope before spring is on us, that we can work through the adjacent willow carr to remove Silver Birch saplings and scrub. This will open up the area allowing light to reach the ground and will give more depth to the scrapes come summer.
Yesterday, Anne, Ruth and Elizabeth were off on their monthly flower walk. The reserve was looking great in the winter sun and despite the snow, ice and general freezing conditions they found Gorse, Hazel, Shepherd's Purse, Germander Speedwell and Bittercress all in flower. It might not feel like it today but soon Coltsfoot and Primrose will be out ushering in the other spring flowers.
Thursday, February 9th 2012
Volunteers are helping with more and more varied tasks. John Howard from U3A has stitched together this film of Blue Tits that nested in one the Foxglove bird boxes last spring.
Richard Witham has also filmed the birds in the Field Centre garden too.
These films are avilable to watch on the large screen in the Field Centre. Keep an eye on our YouTube page for future clips.
Tuesday, February 7th 2012
First spotted in the UK in 2004, the Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) has undergone a population explosion. Successive wet summers have provided ideal conditions for them to breed, and once confined to south-east England, they are now found as far north as Scotland. Having virtually no predators, due to much higher levels of toxins than other ladybirds, also being less susceptible to infections and parasites than native ladybirds has helped fuel the rapid population growth.
They show a huge variation in colouring and marking. 75% of Harlequins are orange with 15-21 black spots though some are yellow, some red and others black.
This insect is a top predator within its food web, and interacts with many other species. Researchers have stated that it poses a major threat to all 45 of the UK's native ladybird species, with over 1000 other species also detrimentally affected.
They feed most commonly on aphids, though when this food supply runs low they also eat other ladybird eggs, larvae and pupae, butterfly and moth eggs and caterpillars. Larger than most and with a wider food range they are able to outcompete the majority of our native ladybirds, in particular the Two-Spot (Adalia bipunctata), whose population fell by 44% in the UK in the five years following the Harlequin's arrival.
Not only a problem to wildlife, there have been reports of infestations of sometimes thousands of these ladybirds in homes. Harlequins in houses, woken from dormancy by central heating, may bite people as there is no food available. The bites usually produce a small bump and sting slightly.
Luckily these have not been seen on the reserve, where we have 12 native species recorded. If you spot any please report them to The Harlequin Ladybird Survey which monitors their numbers and spread though the UK.
The snow has started to thaw and volunteers were able to continue with tree planting. At the end of the day the mist came in from the moor and it seemed very dark. The access road is much better today but please note that due to maintenance work on the barrier, access to the reserve will be via Bourlon Barracks on Plumer Road tomorrow.
The Snow Cometh!
Sunday, February 5th 2012
Yesterday's light dusting of snow continued through the evening and produced beautiful scenes around the reserve today. With clear blue skies, many animal tracks were visible, with Roe Deer and Fox being just about everywhere. There were Stoat prints along the walkways.
Here are some prints that are not seen too often…that of the Grey Heron.
These were taken along the Wetland walkway. Being one of the larger waders, the scale of their prints can be seen clearly when next to a size 7 boot!
Risedale Beck was very serene as the songs of tits and finches could be heard in the tree tops.
Many of the pathways were unspoilt save for that of the various animal tracks.
Despite the frosty start the bird ringers were in and 166 birds of 20 different species were caught and processed. Species were as expected and incuded Goldcrest, Reed Bunting, Siskin, Brambling and Lesser Redpoll. Three Woodcock were also seen on the reserve, a flock of Crossbill, and a flock of Fieldfare eating the Cotoneaster berries as a last resort!
Saturday, February 4th 2012
The forecast was right and at lunchtime the snow began to fall. At closing time there was just a light dusting as you can see but it didn't seem like a shower! Please be extremely careful if you visit tomorrow as the access road is likely to be very icy.
Saturday, February 4th 2012
With the ground frozen this morning, we were unable to continue planting trees in the clear fell area. With snow forecast over the weekend this could get held up even more! Instead work was done strimming and clearing the orchid bank, this had become overgrown with brambles which would have choked the flowers come spring.
The Youth Justice Service helped us out today by filling all the hoppers, while Clive was in as usual filling the bird feeders. The birds were obviously thankful for the extra food in this cold weather; the back garden was full of Chaffinches, Coal Tits, Brambling and Blackbirds feeding this afternoon!
Contractors were in to fix the 'floating' bridge down on Risedale Beck, new posts have been dug into the ground and bolted to the frame to secure the bridge in place.
Large flocks of Goldfinch, at least 80-90 strong were again seen around the Larch trees that border the lake. With the lake completely frozen over there is not much activity, though I did spot this Coot sliding about on the ice inbetween the reeds.
Wednesday, February 1st 2012
Volunteers and contractors completed a multitude of tasks today. Ann, Elizabeth and Ruth sorted out the photographs for the Field Centre displays.
Mike, Tony and Jack planted some Crack Willow and Black Poplar trees. Black Poplar trees are now considered to be rarer than the Giant Panda! Failing germination conditions are a main reason. Given that its natural habitat is in wet woodland, the tree has struggled to survive through land drainage and woodland clearance. Foxglove, being an extremely boggy site, should be an ideal place for these large, deep, round trees with smokey grey bark, which generally grow to around thirty metres.
One of the most frequently asked questions asked by visitors is 'What are the strips of tape for on the windows'. The white lines are to prevent the garden birds from flying into the windows! The large panes of glass have a clever 'one way' film which means that the birds are undisturbed by people on the inside of the building. From the outside the glass looks like an extension to the back garden and is a hazard to the song birds. Several materials have been tried in the past from binder twine to landmine tape! Today, John put new white webbing out which will hopefully withstand the windy weather much better.
Young Gorse was flailed up on the moorland.
Here is the 'before' photograph.
And here is the 'after' one!
The clear fell area is slowly taking shape. The wire 'gen guards' contain Crack Willow and it is lovely to focus on constructive tasks after all of the felling and burning.
The big freeze that is forecast nationwide has so far missed Catterick Garrison. The blue sky was very welcome.
The tops of the Larch trees around the lake were teeming with a huge flock of Goldfinches and several Roe Deer were seen here too.