Blog Archive (22) Posts Made in May 2013


Friday, May 31st 2013

It was time to re-visit several of the owl nestboxes here at Foxglove this morning in the hopes the chicks would now be big enough to ring.  Owls are not the only species to take up residence in these; Jackdaws, Kestrels and Squirrels are also sometimes found.

Ten Jackdaw chicks were ringed this morning, it was interesting to see the differences in the development of the chicks with some almost ready to fledge, some in pin like below, and some still with no feathers.

Owls have been having a very hard time hunting this year, the small mammal population has been hit hard by the relentless wet weather over the past 18 months.  It was good to find healthy chicks in the boxes, though they are growing slower than usual reflecting the shortage of food.

Unusually this mother was reluctant to leave her nestbox as we approached and we were lucky enough to get a picture of her brooding her chicks!

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Can You Help?

Thursday, May 30th 2013

The rest of the small nest boxes on site were checked today, of those that had nests most were no further on than eggs or young chicks like those below.

One brood of Great Tit chicks were old enough to ring, the first of the season.  Keep checking back for developments in the nestboxes over the next few weeks!

The Car Boot Sale and Coffee Morning are being held in Bedale next Saturday (8th June), if anyone can help out by baking cakes, donating sale items or helping out on the day please get in touch with the Reserve Managers.

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Spring News - Bluebells, Birdboxes and Boardwalks!

Tuesday, May 28th 2013

With the nesting season well underway, the bird ringers are out almost everyday monitoring the hundreds of birdboxes around the military training area as well as those at Foxglove Covert. A favourite location is an Oak woodland that is packed with springtime flowers. The floor is covered with a carpet of Bluebells.


Among these are hundreds of Early Purple Orchids. The land adjacent to the woodland is grazed by sheep, here there are very few flowers which demonstrates clearly the negative effects of grazing on traditional wildflower rich grassland.


This habitat is perfect for many of our native woodland birds who benefit from the artificial nest boxes put out by the Foxglove team. Traditionally this wood has been home to Pied Flycatchers and Redstart.


The woodland is on a very steep bank and the team have to work hard moving between the different locations.


The effort is well worth it to catch a glimpse of life inside the nest boxes. Both Pied Flycatchers and Redstart use dried Oak leaves in the construction of their nests. Redstart will also add a bit of green moss as seen below.


Team Tuesday were also constructive for once today! The industrious band of volunteers russled up numerous sections of boardwalk to be installed at a later date in a boggy patch on the reserve.


Other tasks carried out included removing tree tubes from mature Corsican pine trees and butterfly recording. Butterflies seen on today's transect were two Small Whites, one Green-veined White and two Speckled Woods, the latter were freshly emerged.

Muchas gracias a todos!

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A Warm Day!

Monday, May 27th 2013

Birds were singing and the Sun was rising as the bird ringers arrived at Foxglove Covert for CES 3.


At this time of year many female birds are sitting on eggs and the males are guarding territories, so it was not expected to be as busy today as it has been in recent weeks.  Over 125 birds were processed including Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Song Thrush, Sedge Warbler, Marsh Tit, Garden Warbler, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch and Nuthatch. 

A surprise was the first juvenile bird of the year to be returned to the ringing room, a Greenfinch.  These youngsters are very noisy as they beg for food from their parents.

Juvenile Greenfinch

Blackcap were also handled.  The male has, as its name suggests, a black cap on its head, whilst the female has a brown cap.  Lesser Redpolls, amazingly. were still in good numbers.

Male and female Blackcap

Towards the end of the day another surprise was a Linnet.  These birds feed on weed seeds and judging by its beak this one had been searching around in the mud for them!


Sunshine and warmth are encouraging many flowers to burst their buds and bloom.  Insects are making the most of the warm weather and Orange Tip and Speckled Wood butterflies, bumble bees, and crane flies were amongst those to be seen flitting through the flowers.  Visitors enjoyed this spectacle.

Bee flying through the blossom


Thank you to everyone for their help throughout the day, ringing, welcoming visitors, providing tea and of course washing up!  A special thanks to the ringers and scribe who were on site at 4.15am!

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A Special Eco Club

Sunday, May 26th 2013

This time of year is very busy for the bird ringers as they have to check all the nest boxes to ring the chicks.  Because of the changeable weather some owls have chicks that are nearly ready to fledge, whilst others are still very small.  Eco Club children were taken to an owl box on the training area to see two young owlets ringed.  These were small and still covered in down, although their pins (where their feather grow from) could be seen on their wings.  The children were able to see the owlets close up.

Looking close at the owlet

Tony explained why they were ringed.  He also mentioned their diet when he looked in the box, Rabbit and Blackbird on this occasion!! The owls were then carefully placed back in their box.

The next task was to hunt for Lapwing chicks but some Red Grouse chicks were found first!  Under supervision the children were allowed to hold the chicks and to see their beautiful plumage.

Observing the Red Grouse chicks

The welfare of the birds is always put first and so these chicks were taken altogether to be released, and then the children moved away quickly.

Releasing the Red Grouse

Adam was sent on ahead to look for Lapwing chicks and two were eventually spotted.  They are very well camouflaged.

Camouflaged Lapwing chick

Once ringed they were released and as they walked away they were feeding on tiny insects!

Another stop and a Wheatear nest was found.  These birds are summer migrants.  They nest down rabbit holes and this particular one was very long!  Seven young chicks were in the nest, just a few days old.  These were ringed and in the future someone may send us information about these birds.

Ringing Wheatear chicks

 A very special day.  Thank you very much to everyone who helped in such a variety of ways, spotting chicks, ringing, carrying ladders, opening gates and driving.

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1st Richmond Beaver Group Visit

Friday, May 24th 2013

Thirteen children from the 1st Richmond Beaver Group visited Foxglove yesterday evening to see what wildlife they could discover.

Large numbers of tadpoles were seen swimming through the ponds in the Scrapes, as well as footprints left by a Water Vole.  Pieces of apple were then left out on the waters edge for the voles.

Several bird calls were identified as the group walked around including Blackcap and Willow Warbler.  We hope that you all enjoyed your visit and thank you for your kind donations!

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Friday, May 24th 2013

The weather has certainly felt unseasonal at times today with short, sharp hailstorms passing over.  Despite this signs of spring can be found across the reserve; all of the newly planted fruit trees are now in leaf and several are flowering.

The sun was very welcome inbetween the showers - invertebrates were quick to make the most of these warm spells and were seen visiting the many flowers that are now in bloom such as this Water Avens.

Bumblebee on Water Avens

Butterflies have also been seen in numbers over the past few days - a sure sign, that while not quite here yet, Spring is on its way!

Orange Tip Butterfly

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Bee Hives, Bug Hotels and Bird Boxes

Wednesday, May 22nd 2013

Foxglove provides important habitats to well over 2000 species of wildlife. Most of these build their homes in natural places but several are given a helping hand with an artificial abode! The Richmondshire Beekeepers will be running one of their courses at Foxglove over the next few days and have placed wooden beehives on the heathland. These are a welcome site and any resulting heather honey will also be in demand as honey bees are suffering nationwide due to many factors.


A recent project undertaken by Colin was the construction of a new 'bug hotel'. This involved building a wooden frame that could then be filled with a variety of materials for invertebrates to live in.

Bug Hotel

Natural materials were gathered and arranged inside the individual compartments before Colin fixed the wire onto the front.

Filling the hotel

The wire will prevent the material from falling out.

Almost finished

An ideal sheltered location was chosen on the edge of the heathland and supporting posts were installed.


 The 'hotel' was then mounted on the posts and the end result is a beautiful feature close to the main access road.


Finally, this unusual photograph of a female Tawny Owl inside her nest box was taken by Adam earlier this week. Tawny owls usually fly out of the box when the ringers approach it but this dedicated mother refused to leave her eggs which must have been on he verge of hatching.

Tawny Owl

A rare sight indeed!

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Maintenance Mayhem!

Tuesday, May 21st 2013

One of the jobs that volunteers regularly find themselves helping with is the cleaning of all the bird feeders around the reserve.

Over time dirt from the seed can build up; this can cause seed to rot in the feeders and may harbour disease such as Papillomatosis that is sometimes seen in Chaffinches and Sedge Warblers.  To minimise the chance of transmission the feeders are often cleaned and rotated around different positions on site.

With many tiny nuts and bolts this is a fiddly job…

The feeders were hung out to dry - the volunteers attempt at modern art?!

These will all be re-sited once fully dry later in the week.

Other maintanence tasks carried out included strimming and pruning along many of the trails, while students from both Breckenbrough and The Dales School tested out some of our new activity boards and helped to brush some paths.

Merci beaucoup tout le monde!

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CES Day 2 - A Record Breaker!

Monday, May 20th 2013

CES days two and three are usually quieter days because half the population is sitting on nests.  Not yesterday it would seem.  In 20 years the largest total ever recorded on day two is 172 – and that was in 1996!  Yesterday’s total, which is not yet complete, stands at 228 which is quite remarkable, and that is with only the essential CES nets unlike previous years!

Not only was yesterday a record breaker for totals, it was also unique for species and once again controls!  Twenty four species were seen in the ringing room and there were at least three controls of a Sedge Warbler, Siskin and Lesser Redpoll.  The Belgian Lesser Redpoll caught at the first CES session put in another appearance - it seems to have settled nicely at Foxglove!

Even more remarkable was the fact we caught 20 Sedge Warblers which is unheard of!  We have ringed less than 40 at FGC in 20 years!

Sedge Warbler

Three Spotted Flycatchers and another 71 Lesser Redpoll were caught of which 48 were new and one was five years old!  Whitethroat, Garden Warbler and Blackcap were also ringed as well as 24 Willow Warblers.

Spotted Flycatcher

Surprisingly no Chiffchaff were caught, although they were heard singing throughout the day.  A retrapped Marsh Tit was seven years old - and a new one was ringed.


Yet again a fantastic effort from everyone involved - thank you all for your hard work during the day!

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Batten Down the Hatches

Friday, May 17th 2013

With heavy rain forecast from the early hours of tomorrow morning right through to mid-afternoon we have unfortunately had to cancel the Birdsong Breakfast.  We apologise for this and as the nesting season is now well underway we will not be reorganising this event.

The forecast is looking better for Sunday and there is lots happening on the reserve.  The bird ringers will be in for the second CES visit of the season, if you are visiting pop your head into the ringing room and see what has been caught.  Also the Foxglove Bodgers will be around the workshop practicing their green woodworking.

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Hidden Gems

Thursday, May 16th 2013

Off the beaten track there are some beautiful ancient trees in the reserve. These provide valuable food and shelter for wildlife.


Wood Sorrel often grows on these old tree trunks.


Many species benefit from this kind of habitat including Great Spotted Woodpeckers who not only feed on the invertebrates that live amongst the bark but also make their nests in the ready made holes.


Ancient Ash trees mark out old field boundaries. So far there is no sign of Chalara dieback on the reserve which is good news.

Ash roots

There are several events in the pipeline including the summer BBQ. Please see the events section for details. If you are spring cleaning and come across any unwanted items, please bring them into the Field Centre at anytime where they will be gratefully received for the car boot sale.

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Sunny Spells

Wednesday, May 15th 2013

Weeding out tree tubes was the main volunteer task yesterday. This job is vital to the success of the young trees that have been planted to replace the old Sitka Spruce block.

Tree Tubes

This is a rare opportunity for everyone to carry out a summer task as one large group.

tree Tube checking

There are hundreds of saplings to check on the reserve and the job will be ongoing all summer!


The ground flora seems to be thriving in the increased amount of sunlight reaching the floor. This Primrose is one of the best specimens out in flower this month.


The ground in this clear fell area is covered in Foxglove leaves and will be quite a sight when the plants flower later in the year.


Harrogate U3A Naturalists ventured out in the sunny spells on a guided walk and saw Early Purple Orchids, Bogbean and Bluebells on their tour.

U3A Naturalists

Thank you to everyone for your valued support.

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More Flowers

Sunday, May 12th 2013

Despite the cold weather, other flowers are beginning to join the Primroses that are in bloom around the reserve.  Blackthorn first appeared along Risedale Beck, then more was noticed on the moor. The area bordering the walk to the bridge over the lake is also turning white with blossom.


Over the last few years sightings of Marsh Marigold have been rare, but this year through the Scrapes several splashes of bright yellow can be seen as these flowers open.

Marsh Marigold

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Moths and Birds for Beginners

Saturday, May 11th 2013

Last night was cold, wet and windy and this meant that we only caught eight moths in the trap.  Over a cup of tea we used the moth books to identify them as Common Quaker, Small Quaker and Clouded Drab. 

Our attention then focused on the birds in the back garden.  Lesser Redpolls are still feeding and enjoying the Nyger seeds.  Chaffinches were identified, along with Greenfinch and Goldfinch.  Siskin were also seen.

Identifying the birds

For some time the Jays have been absent from the back garden but over the last week, three have visited.  They rarely sit still for long.  


Late in the afternoon we spotted a Robin collecting food from the tree stump.  


The voles are still feeding from under the feeders, outside the kitchen window.


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Moor Fun on the Reserve

Friday, May 10th 2013

Rushes have taken advantage of the heavy rainfall of recent months and begun to invade many of the habitats where they are not welcome. One such place is the moorland and the scale of the problem can be seen below. 

Juncus Attack

This section was strimmed by Adam to give the smaller wildflowers a chance to grow.

Juncus Removal

Once the cuttings were raked into heaps the area looked a lot better. With some sunshine this patch should be transformed into a colourful meadow where the school children will be able to sweep net for invertebrates.

Middle Moor

Women in Middleham are the latest organised group to enjoy a visit to Foxglove. Elizabeth took the group members on a guided walk along Risedale Beck to see what was out and about.Women In Middleham

Along with butterflies on the wing this Bluebell was a highlight of the tour. The first of many!


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Survival of the Fittest

Wednesday, May 8th 2013

Do you remember these owlets from the blog post on 29th April?


Because Tawny Owls lay their eggs over a period of several days, the hatching is also staggered. This means that there is always a difference in the size of the chicks in the nest, the larger and more active individuals invariably getting more food from the parents than their smaller, weaker siblings. As a result, it is rare for all the chicks that hatch from a clutch to survive unless there is an abundance of food. Often the youngest chicks starve, or are sometimes even eaten by their siblings. This may seem cruel but this method of rearing of young ensures that, whatever the food availability, some offspring will always survive and produce further offspring. If all the young were fed equally there would be a chance that all might starve in years of poor food supply. So when the box was re-visited yesterday, it was no surprise that there was only one large healthy chick.

Healthy owlet

This was ringed and then carefully returned to the nest box.


The moth trap was set last night and produced 41 moths of 7 different species (Early Grey, Hebrew Character, Common Quaker, Powdered Quaker, Twin-spotted Quaker, Clouded Drab and Small Quaker.

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Fifty Shades of Brown!

Tuesday, May 7th 2013

Summer work on the reserve is very different to that in the winter. With major habitat management complete, attention is turned to the upkeep of the site. Rather than working together as one big group, the conservation volunteers carry out smaller projects in pairs at different locations. Brian and John began their day by 'beating up'! This is the is the term that is used by forestry people referring to the process of replacing sick or dead young trees in newly planted woodland with healthy ones. The trees that were planted four years ago were checked. The tree tubes were weeded out and any rotten stakes were replaced with new ones. A handful of new trees were planted in the gaps where necessary. It seems that most of the young trees are doing exceptionally well and are thriving.

Beating Up

The weather was 'perfect for painting' and with this in mind several people set out to treat the many wooden benches and signs with wood preserver.

Brian's Helper

The light breeze meant that the furniture dried in no time at all.


There are a dozen benches in total. Last year they had to be treated in the workshop due to the excessive summer rain. This time the painting could be done in situ and shades were the order of the day, by the end of which everyone was covered in brown paint!

Maintenance Work

The list of jobs carried out today is endless. In addition to the painting, people helped with filling bird feeders, weighing out bird seed for the sales table, tidying away fallen trees, building bug hotels and carrying out surveys. This dead hedge was constructed along the beck to use up the very last of the brash from the winter work. It was noticed on the way to this site that the 'fedges' built earlier in the year were already home to nesting Wrens.

New Hedge

After spending the morning strimming in the spring sunshine, Ken and Eddy cooled off in Risedale beck and re-built one of the dams to provide a header pool for a pond. As you can see the pipe was well above the water level when they began.


The first butterfly transect of the year was carried out by John. Peacock, Red Admiral, Speckled Wood, Orange Tip and Small White have all been observed on the wing so far this month. The background sound of Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler heard all over the reserve has been enhanced by that of Blackcap. More good news is that a Blue Tit has been seen in the nest box with a camera, her story will unfold on the main screen in the Field Centre and the first owlets (Tawny ones) were ringed out on the adjacent military training area. Finally, the back garden is still full of Lesser Redpoll (many of which have no BTO ring)!

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A Round Up of News

Tuesday, May 7th 2013

Piave was the center of work on Saturday and the units that hold wood were removed from the old Piave store and rebuilt in the new location which will be light and spacious.

Moving the shelving units

Completed units in Piave

Thank you to everyone who helped. 

We were so amazed yesterday with the number of Lesser Redpolls that came through the ringing room we totally forgot that early in the morning, in the distance, a Cuckoo was heard - the first this year.  This morning Curlew and Cuckoo were competing!

After a period of time without any rain (no we are not complaining!) Risedale Beck is running low.  Although the dams have been rebuilt many times by the volunteers they are in need of further TLC to ensure that the water runs though the pipes to the ponds.  This morning some of our younger volunteers helped Sophie (their Mam) to repair one of them.  By the time they had finished the water was running a little more freely into the pond.  Well done boys!

Repairing the dam

People have been asking about our toads. Usually you are unable to drive up the access road or walk along the paths without stopping to help them across.  This year that has not really happened due to the prolonged snowy conditions..  It was mainly male toads seen in the ponds and no toad spawn had been seen. Today however, closer scrutiny of the Scrapes suggests they did manage to spawn and that tadpoles have hatched after all.  It will be some weeks before we can be sure these are 'toadpoles' rather than the 'frogpoles'!


It is with confidence (hopefully) that this photograph shows 'frogpoles'.  These are further developed than the toads as frogs spawn at least two weeks earlier.


The last owl boxes were checked this morning: two had Jackdaw nests in them and one a Tawny Owl on two eggs.  Surprisingly she was not ringed, so Sophie remedied this.

Sophie ringing the Tawny Owl

The owl was quickly and carefully returned to her nest and we waited quietly to ensure she settled back on her eggs.  The box will be checked again for chicks, and they will be ringed when they are old enough.

Temperatures are rising and the nights are thankfully above freezing: the water in the lake and ponds is warming slightly.  It is worth stopping and looking in the ponds to see what can be seen.  Today it was shoals of Sticklebacks.


A visitor was asked to stand still whilst Brian took a photograph of the first Eyed Ladybird hanging onto his jumper!  Peacock Butterflies were also recorded along with the first Orange Tip.  A soldier beetle was seen flying around.  Our hive bees were bringing back different pollen and could be seen doing their 'waggle dance'. 

Cherry blossom can be seen in the area surrounding Foxglove but until today there was not a cherry flower to be seen.  Now that one has burst its buds hopefully more will follow to give extra food for the insects and bees.

By way of a PS on last night's blog the Tree Pipit was the first caught here since 2009, the number of Lesser Redpoll ringed was just one less than the record set in April 2010, and yesterday no less than 10 birds ringed elsewhere were controlled (retrapped) on the reserve which is an amazing number for one day - including the Belgian bird.  We much look forward to hearing the details from the BTO in due course.

Cherry blossom.

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A Day of Surprises!

Monday, May 6th 2013

It is some time since the blog has started with a sunrise.  The bird ringers arrived and nets went up at 0530.  Today was the first Constant Effort ringing day of the year and it was to be a bumper!


It was soon very obvious that there were large numbers of Lesser Redpoll on the reserve.  By mid pm over 100 new Lesser Redpoll had been ringed and by close of play that number had reached 154, one bird short of the all time record of 155!

Lesser Redpoll

There were several controls returned to the ringing room, these being birds that had been ringed elsewhere.  When the information about one of these controlled Lesser Redpoll was entered into the computer, it said 'Foreign ring'.  Help was needed, so Tony came to assist and said that it was a bird ringed in Belgium.  We thought it very good that he knew that this ring number was from another country - but then he said it had Belgium on the ring!

Late in the afternoon a Tree Pipit was brought into the ringing room, a species that has proven very elusive in recent years but that used to breed on the reserve in days gone by.  In addition the first Blackcaps and Garden Warbler of the year were processed.  After a 0530 start the team finally wrapped up at 1945hrs after handling more than 400 birds - roughly a 14 hour ringing day!  313 different birds of 21 species were processed, the highest total for CES day 1 in the 21 years of the scheme on the site.  Seventeen Willow Warblers from previous years were caught.

Tree Pipit

At day's end the nets were taken down, bags counted, ringing room tidied, cups washed and the ringers headed for home as the sun was nearly setting.  Without doubt it had been a marathon, and extremely busy all day.  Thanks go to everyone who helped to make it run smoothly.

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Ups and Downs

Friday, May 3rd 2013

Having checked most of the large bird boxes out on the training area, attention was turned to the ones closer to the conservation hub at Foxglove. A small team equipped with ladders and nets set off in the hopes of catching Tawny Owls to ring.

Team Owl

A head for heights is required as many of the boxes are sited high up on trees and need to be checked for eggs or chicks.

Checking the Box

Early results indicate that the Jackdaws are having a good breeding season with clutches of up to 5 eggs in some cases.

Jackdaw eggs

However, to John's delight, Tawny Owls were also found in some places. This adult female was brooding three eggs. This was a new bird that hadn't been ringed before.


Another was found to have only one egg. This bird had been ringed as an adult in 2010 so is at least four years old.


Sadly, in another location the eggs had been predated.

Predated Egg

The successful nests will be re-visited over the next few weeks so watch this space to see if the adults manage to raise any young. Thanks to everyone who helped out today and to Joan for making delicious chocolate biscuits too!

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Spring Flowers

Friday, May 3rd 2013

A few days of sunshine and the wind swinging away from the north and east has resulted in the spring flowers blooming across the reserve.  Primroses can be seen along Risedale Beck as one would expect, but they also pop up beside footpaths, on the sides of a beck running across the moor and sheltered under the trees.


Wood Anemones are also called wind flowers as they move, even with the slightest of breezes.  These flowers open when the sun shines but close up tightly when the sun sets or it is cloudy.  The underside of the petals are often shaded pink.

Wood Anemone

Wood Sorrel, a woodland flower, again can be seen along Risedale Beck.  It also grows on the old wood in amongst the moss.  This is another flower that can have pink stripes on its petals.

Wood Sorrel

Dog Violets grow in many different places, on paths, in the woodland, on steps and on the moorland.  The dark stripes act as honey guides to direct insects and bees to the nectar.

Dog Violet

The hive bees were making the most of the sunshine and returning to the hive with large pollen sacs.  A Peacock Butterfly was seen today along with some bumble bees, but there still appears to be very little insect life around.  However, closer inspection shows that they are there.  These tiny insects are in a Barren Strawberry flower.

Insects in Barren Strawberry

The bright yellow Celandine also attracted insects.


Then waiting in the wings to flower and provide more food, are Bird Cherry

Bird Cherry

and Rowan.


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Help Support Foxglove

Friends of Foxglove

The Friends of Foxglove Covert is for those individuals, families and organisations who would like to support the reserve through an annual membership subscription. Friends receive a regular newsletter and invitations to attend our various activities and social events.

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Upcoming Events

Access to the Reserve: CLOSED

Monday 20th May 2024 |

Due to security and access problems the reserve is temporarily closed to the public except for organised events.

Dragonfly Walk

Sunday 21st July 2024 | 1pm-3pm

Guided walk around Foxglove Covert LNR to spot and learn about IDing dragonflies and damselflies. Led by county recorder Keith Gittens.

Booking essential. Donations welcome.


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