Blog Archive (29) Posts Made in April 2017

Just Made It

Sunday, April 30th 2017

Some species just made it onto the observation board for April.  First it was St Mark's Fly (Bibio marci).  These were flying around the Hawthorn tree and Gorse bushes on the moor.  Although I have seen them on plants and flying, I have never seen them in such numbers.  You can see their long hind legs hanging down behind them, in flight.

St Mark's Fly

The larvae live in soil feeding on roots, grasses and rotting vegetation.  The adults feed on nectar and are important pollinators.

St Mark's Fly on Gorse

Next was Bogbean.  The buds were visible during the flower walk but not a flower.  Today one had opened its lower buds.


Out on the moor one Tormentil flower was open.

Tormentil and buds

Barren Strawberry has been observed for several weeks but Wild Strawberry flowers much later. 

Wild Strawberry

Marsh Valerian was seen on Wednesday but it was not fully out, so did not pass the 'flower test'.

Marsh Valerian

And this is just for Jennifer, Roger, Stacey and all the volunteers, as I know how they love Silver Birch!  It is in flower and all those lovely seeds will be ready in the autumn!

Male and female Silver Birch flowers

Several species of butterfly have been recorded.  I chased Peacocks several times today, but only managed to look at vegetation.  An Orange Tip fluttered by, but finally a Speckled Wood came to rest and I was able to photograph it.

Speckled Wood

Tomorrow is the start of a new month and the observation board is clean and waiting for species to be added.

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A Quiet Friday

Friday, April 28th 2017

Today was a quiet day at Foxglove. Quiet days are rather nice because they do not happen very often and at the end of the day we feel we have moved forward and made some good progress with ticking things off our list of things to do. On busy days we sometimes get to the end of the day feeling as if we have more things to do than when we started.

Firstly, Colin came in to fill the bird feeders. We then planted some kindly donated plants in the garden at the field centre. Hopefully these will provide an additional food source for our bees once they have become established.

Later, we completed the work on the bird ringing net rides, preparing them for the summer ringing season. First the net poles are installed. Where possible, the same holes in the ground as last year are used as the nets fit them perfectly, although sometimes finding the original holes can be tricky. In these cases, we had to put the net itself up to work out where they should be. The guy lines are then checked and any old/damaged ones replaced.

Once the poles are in place, we need to look along the net line to see if there are any overhanging branches that will obstruct the nets once they are up.

At this time of year we are no longer doing any coppicing or felling of trees as the birds are now nest building and this would disturb them. As the net rides are maintained in good condition only small twigs and branches need to be pruned off.

The new bench, constructed yesterday is now in our picnic spot near the field centre. All it needs now is for you to come and use it!

Thanks to Colin for filling the feeders today.

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A Variety of Tasks

Thursday, April 27th 2017

Today was a mixed day at Foxglove. The forecast was for rain but it largely remained dry, allowing us to complete a variety of tasks. We started with the workshop, inside it got a bit of a spring clean.

Outside, round the back of the workshop, we cleared all the timber and general bits and bobs that tend to accumulate over time. This was loaded up into the trailer and taken away for storage.  It now looks much tidier. 

A new bench was constructed and some of the old ones brought in to be sanded down and repainted. Some of the marker posts were also given a spruce up.

A boardwalk was also repaired and installed by Gary on our heath.

Keith spent some time in the workshop, repairing a dilapidated owl box. Having labelled it carefully he hopes it will have owls in it next year!

We also continued work preparing the site for the bird ringing season which will start shortly. This involves cutting back all the vegetation that is overhanging the net rides and ensuring all the net poles and guy ropes are in good condition and in place.

Any poles needing maintenance were taken back to the workshop to be repaired by Keith.

Our licenced bird ringers visited some of the large nest boxes on the reserve. We are lucky enough to have Tawny owls nesting and were able to catch one of the adults today to be ringed. It was nice to find it was a bird that has not nested on the reserve before as it was not already ringed.

Like all bird rings, the ring it was given has a unique number on it, which will enable us to identify this bird again in the future and help us understand the behaviour of these creatures.

Thanks to everyone who helped us complete a variety of tasks today.

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Busy as Always!

Wednesday, April 26th 2017

Nothing out of the usual at Foxglove today – it was busy as always! In the morning two of us headed off to a meeting of the Catterick Training Area Conservation Group, while in the meantime at Foxglove we took delivery of a new bench and Elizabeth lead a Flowers of the Dales flower recording walk.

Their most exciting find of the day was the first early purple orchids in flower!

Come the afternoon we were helping with an MOD conservation training event, which was using us as a useful venue/case study, taking delivery of our raffle tickets for the raffle to be drawn at our Foxglove 25 event (15th and 16th July – save the dates in your diaries!) and trying to catch up with some of the many other odds and ends that always need doing…including getting our latest events list sorted.

The next two events coming up are nest box visits. On these you can join our licensed bird ringers to visit some of the nest boxes in our scheme to observe and learn about the processes of bird ringing and nest monitoring. 

Exciting stuff!

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A Wintery Spring Day

Tuesday, April 25th 2017

It was a chilly start to this spring day with temperatures struggling to reach 8 degrees, and less than 1 degree on arrival at work…. I daren’t think what the northerly wind chill was! The volunteers that braved this weather trimmed back net rides ….

....using various techniques!

Continued with the dead hedge…

…. before the weather pushed us all in for lunch.

The hail gave a wintery feel from the cosiness of the Field Centre.

Amazingly, in the afternoon glimpses of sun, I spotted a Green Veined White butterfly. The so-called green veins on the underside of the adults are, in fact, an illusion created by a subtle combination of yellow and black scales. This is one of the most widespread species found in the British Isles and can be found almost everywhere except certain areas in the Scottish Highlands and Shetland. It has a wide variety of food plants from hedge mustard to garlic mustard. 

….and the first Bluebells still gave us that warm glow of Spring.

 Thank you to all the volunteers who made it in to help today.

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Monday Events

Monday, April 24th 2017

As with most Mondays it is a time to plan for the week, the various jobs to be done; a new events list for the web page and for folk to pick up in the Field Centre is in preparation.

A local farmer attended the reserve to plough the area we call the Nursery. This area we have put aside for a wild seed mix both for birds and insects. Flowering plants attract nectar and pollen feeding insects.

Any flowering crops, especially legumes or phacelia, will encourage nectar and pollen feeding insects. Many of these insects will then lay eggs in the vicinity and thus increase the numbers of insect larvae available to birds as food. Hoverflies will be attracted to this plot and will lay eggs wherever there is an abundance of aphids for their larvae to feed on. The beauty of this is that it also provides wild flower seed come Autumn for the birds to feed on. There is still the harrowing and then the seed to be sown, so watch this space.

This time of the year the leaves of the trees are either in leaf or the buds are now bursting . This elm is showing fresh leaves:

English elms are hermaphrodites, meaning both male and female reproductive parts are contained within the same flower.

As with a lot of trees, there is folklore attached to the Common Elm: It used to be associated with melancholy and death, perhaps because the trees can drop dead branches without warning. Elm wood was also the preferred choice for coffins.

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Looking Back - April 2009

Sunday, April 23rd 2017

Looking back through photos in preparation for Foxglove 25 highlights some of the changes to the reserve.  It was rare to get all the Highlanders in one photo.  They were on the moor to help control the vegetation and so lay the grounds for changing the middle moor to a flower meadow, which they did really well.

The Highlanders

In the photo above you can see the ancient hedgeline that had just been fenced and replanted.  We had un-welcome help!


The lake has changed over the years too.  If you look carefully you can see the path that used to wander along the far side. 

The lake

One of my first worky days was clearing this area of brash.  We had a huge fire!  Walk up towards the middle moor and see what is is like now.

Cleared conifer area

On entering the reserve last week I saw the Roe Deer eating young shoots of Hawthorn.  Some things do not change.

Roe Buck eating Hawthorn leaves

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Early Nest Boxes

Saturday, April 22nd 2017

After visiting the nest boxes at a new site and finding chicks large enough to be ringed, the start of checking the large boxes at Foxglove and on the training area was brought forward. The bird ringers are well versed in organising maps, books and pencils, rings and ringing pliers, ladders and net.  They go about examining each box with skill and care.

Checking a large nest box

Checking a large nest box

Sometimes the adult Tawny Owls have already been ringed and when their history is looked up in IPMR we find that they have nested in the same box for several years. Some are new and receive their ring.

Adult Tawny Owl

Most birds of prey start to incubate their eggs as soon as the first is laid, so there a spread of ages in a brood of young.  This is a survival strategy.  If weather conditions and or food is poor then the youngest and smallest do not survive.  It is Darwin's survival of the fittest in action. In this nest these young all look well fed.


Detailed notes are recorded, including a date for a return visit if the chicks were not big enough to ring.  This is the start of a lot of hard work for the bird ringers over the coming weeks.

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Discovering the Depths

Friday, April 21st 2017

Today saw the final of our Easter holiday activities for this year, with a pond dipping event! We discovered animals living in the depths of our ponds including stickleback, well-camouflaged cased caddis fly larvae and predatory damselfly and beetle larvae.

We even had the excitement of watching one of the beetle larvae eating a water hoglouse!

Families leant about water voles at the event and saw plenty of signs of their activity, but today they were only spotted when the Scrapes got a bit quieter…

After having a look at the tadpoles in the classroom; the final activity was making egg box frogs to take home.

Meanwhile Roger and John were continuing to lay the new cable between the lake hide camera and the Field Centre.

Some stretches are trickier than others!

Thanks especially to Lesley and John for helping us today.

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Thursday, April 20th 2017

Another Thursday and another busy day where we got loads done with help from our keen Thursday volunteer team! Thank you! The biggest technical job of the day was starting to lay a length of new cable. This will replace the old cable between the lake hide and the Field Centre which has finally succumbed to strimmers/rodent attack/old age/other. Once installed this should then give us, once again, a working live feed from the lake hide camera to the screen in the Field Centre!

Elsewhere we cleared up brash left over from work on a dead hedge earlier in the week, repaired a hole in the seed shed and tidied some areas that had been disturbed up in the woodland. The revamp of the marker posts was continued – needing a steady hand for the coloured stripes!

We had some lovely new trees and flowering plants introduced carefully to their new homes in the Field Centre garden…

…and the hoppers were filled for feeding our feathered friends.

Speaking of birds, it’ll soon be time for our licenced bird ringers to start checking our nest boxes and ringing the chicks, but we still have some nest boxes without sponsors for this season

We can’t of course guarantee that any particular box will be occupied (as wildlife IS wild and so does its own thing!), but it’s exciting to know that your box COULD be used!

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Brilliant Birds!

Wednesday, April 19th 2017

Today visitors came from as far away as Leeds to enjoy the Foxglove Covert Brilliant Birds event. This was an Easter holidays activity for children, giving them the opportunity to learn all about birds and the work we do with them at Foxglove. The children enjoyed a walk around the reserve with Roger, to look at some of the birds that use the various habitats on the reserve. From the hide they were able to get good views of the wildfowl on the lake using the scope.

As a change from the bird theme, whilst out and about they were also lucky enough to get a glimpse of the water vole enjoying an apple on the feeding platform.

Afterwards the children tried their hand at creating their own bird nests, constructed with grasses, mosses and twigs in the trees. Their challenge was to create a nest that was stable enough to hold small chocolate Easter eggs.

Back at the field centre, the bird ringers were on hand to demonstrate bird ringing techniques. They were able to see a variety of birds being ringed and released, including this Jay.

They then learned how to make origami birds in the classroom with Jennifer.

In addition to all the bird related activities, Wednesdays are moth recording days, and some of our volunteers identified all of the moths found in the moth trap. This Water Carpet Moth was particularly well camouflaged when released.

Another attractive moth was the Powdered Quaker.

Many thanks to those who helped out with the event today.

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Net Rides and Heath

Tuesday, April 18th 2017

With this Spring sun we were able to get on with a few Spring-like jobs.

With checking the various net rides ready for the coming season, it was obvious that we needed to cut back some of the excessive growth to prevent it impeding the mist nets we would be putting up in the near future.

We also checked the various poles and guy ropes to ensure a smoother operation when we have a bird ringing day. The various net rides were checked for any nesting birds before we started to clear the dense top growth of willow.

The removed willow was taken to the heath where a stretch of dead hedge was being resurrected; instead of a dead hedge it had the appearance of a brash pile and needed an overhaul.

We followed up with the usual tidying up of paths.

The Mallard duck that is nestled down amongst the Primroses has finally hatched her ducklings…

....with 11 counted.

Thank you again to all the volunteers who did the bulk of the hard work today.

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Return to Foxglove

Monday, April 17th 2017

Today was my first day back at Foxglove after a winter away counting penguins. Elizabeth managed to get some good views of the Roe Deer on the way into work but they had vanished by the time I arrived. They were nibbling the new Hawthorn leaves.

Roe Deer

The day started with a walk around the reserve with Elizabeth, looking at all the changes that have happened over the winter. The reserve is looking very neat and tidy and I was impressed by the vast amounts of work carried out by the staff and volunteers since I left in October. The coppice blocks are looking particularly good and are awash with Primroses and Dog Violets which appear to appreciate the extra light reaching the woodland floor.

Common Dog Violet

In the afternoon, the Foxglove nest box season officially began as a team of us set out armed with ladder, net, rings and a map to check the first nest boxes. We started with the large boxes as it is too early in the season for checking the small boxes.

Checking owl boxes

We have 16 large boxes on the reserve, which we hope will be occupied by Tawny Owls. So far we have found good numbers of Jackdaws, all of which are now incubating eggs. We will return later in the season to put rings on the chicks. No owls were found today but we still have plenty of boxes to check over the coming weeks.

Checking owl boxes

I had a very enjoyable first day back at Foxglove and am looking forward to another busy summer.


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Opening Flowers

Sunday, April 16th 2017

Bluebell leaves have been seen for some time and the buds have slowly appeared.  This is the first flower to be open.


Cuckoo Pint flowers are not easy to spot and once open are often eaten, but I was lucky to see this bud.

Cuckoo Pint bud

Rowan buds are developing.

Rowan buds

Primroses have been on the blog several times but I could not resist this one.


And this has to be on as there is the first fern frond, curled like a shepherd's crook, behind it.

Primrose with fern frond behind it

Cowslips are growing just off the obstacle course path and this year they have spread over a considerable area.  They are not growing near Primroses so the chances of a hybrid, called a False Oxlip, are not likely.  However Nature does have a way of proving you wrong, so we will wait and see.


Always with a thought of a good photograph for the 2018 calendar, I thought I would take one of the Blackthorn, just beginning to blossom near the Voley Pond.  Downloaded - white/grey sky and a signpost, ah well keep trying!

Blackthorn near the Voley Pond

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Different Sizes

Saturday, April 15th 2017

On the lake the Mallard were quietly passing the time of day.  They are in breeding condition and their colours reflect this. 

Male Mallard

Out on the wetland, almost hidden from view, was a brood of Mallard ducklings.

Mallard ducklings

We arrived at 0830, one of the last late starts, as soon we will be arriving at dawn when CES begins.  It was a quiet ringing day with the nets being taken down just after lunch as the wind was increasing.  Summer migrants continue to arrive with Chiffchaff and Willow Warblers ringed and we welcomed some returning to Foxglove after their long journey north.  Bramblings have headed north as none have been recorded over the last week or so.

This beautiful male Bullfinch received his ring.

Male Bullfinch

Jennifer and Sue carefully extracted this insect from the net but we did not have a ring small enough to fit its leg!  It decided that its back legs needed to be cleaned as it sat on Jennifer's hand.  Amazing to watch.

Insect cleaning its back legs

I have said that the early spring flowers provide food for the insects, but rarely do they co-operate and remain on the flower for a photograph to be taken.  Over the last few days when the sun has hidden behind the clouds and it has become slightly cooler, the insects have waited patiently.  This insect was feeding on Marsh Marigold.

Insect on Marsh Marigold

Dandelions are also enjoyed by the hoverflies.  

Insect on Dandelion

 Insects are not long in finding the open flowers of Greater Stitchwort.

A possible hoverfly on Greater Stitchwort

Bees on the otherhand, flit from flower to flower and photographs are more by good luck than good judgement.  Wild Cherry is flowering across the reserve and you can hear the bees buzzing around the flowers.

Bee on Wild Cherry

Willow does not all produce pollen at the same time so the bees have plenty of opportunity to find one in flower.

Bee on willow

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Wild in the Woods

Friday, April 14th 2017

The rain over night did not dampen our Wild in the Woods event this morning, and a great turn out made the walk and activities even more fun! We started from the Field Centre with our journey sticks, ready to collect natural treasures from our walk like feathers, pine cones and fallen leaves.
We made our way along Risedale Beck talking about the varied trees before heading into the conifer plantation for the Get to Know a Tree game…

….which produced plenty of smiles and laughter. The route took us onto the green route where we counted tree rings, rolled logs ….
 …. then sat and sang our ‘This is NOT a Stick’ game, where folk young and old changed their sticks into fishing rods, wands, broomsticks and more!

Quite often the top of the Green Route is not used as much as other routes around the reserve, but today we spent lots of time up there! We shook trees over a white sheet to find creepy crawlies hiding among the leaves…

…and thanked the Magic Archway

….before heading into the conifers to make pictures on the forest floor with natural materials found there.

 All-in-all we had great fun!

In other news, one of our supporters sent these photos of their Barn Owl box with Barn Owls - which in the past our ringing team have had the privilege to ring. It is not always Barn Owls near the box…. seen right, below, are two Egrets near the same box.

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Foxglove and Further Afield

Thursday, April 13th 2017

Today the mud saga continued: With water still welling up in the path Peter and John sought out a more thorough solution for getting water from the spring in the path to the stream…

Here’s hoping that the path will now dry out!

Elsewhere at Foxglove our Thursday volunteer team also cleaned the outside of the Field Centre,

filled bird-feeding hoppers, planted a new tree, cleared gorse and tree saplings from the heath, monitored water levels on the wetland and water flows through the reserve, re-painted stripes on some of the marker posts

and put up a new bat box.

Further afield, a team were checking out some large bird boxes – recently taken on for monitoring by the ringing team. There were plenty of barn and tawny owls, including one box of 4 tawny chicks already big enough to ring which is quite unusual. In other exciting news Stacey is back after her winter in Antarctica! Officially she starts at Foxglove next week, but she was out today with the team checking out the bird boxes, here with a clutch of gorgeous tawny owlets. Welcome back Stacey! 😊

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A Spring Event

Wednesday, April 12th 2017

Some days do not go as smoothly as others and with a fault on our entrance gate we were facing the possibility of cancelling the “Signs of Spring” event which was held here at the reserve from 10am to 12 noon. Luckily we were able to run this and the group that came in were shown the various Spring delights that are on show at the reserve via a habitat walk.

The cold morning and wind limited the moth numbers in the moth trap, but did enable us to show the folk visiting the variety and beauty. Here is a Twin-spotted Quaker….

…. this very dark Pine Beauty,

…. and an Early Thorn

…. although a common species at this time of year these Clouded Drabs showing the variation in colour.

An introduction to our Honey Bees at the Field Centre, and the potting up of some spring flowers seeds to take home completed the morning.

 This Wood Anenome is one of many which is thriving on the reserve….

…. and as one of the early Spring flowers is a good indicator of ancient woodland species. It is a member of the buttercup family which is poisonous, and can cause skin irritation and illness if ingested.

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Tuesday, April 11th 2017

Another busy Tuesday with an amazing list of achievements from a great team of volunteers – thank you all! We started the day with most of the volunteer team helping us blitz the last of the gorse on the wetland before it sets seed and creates more! (It’s flowering now).

Elsewhere some more modest jobs were being tackled by smaller teams: filling bird feeders, giving the lawn in the back garden its first proper cut of the year,

bagging bird seed for sale and filing ringing recoveries – we’ve had quite a few recently. Some of the more interesting ones are now on a new map on our interesting recoveries pages and include a swallow ringed in the south of France.

Jobs continued with more removal of gorse – this time on the heath;

pollarding along one of the bird ringing net rides;

repairing a dam, ensuring water continues to feed one of our ponds;

and continuing the saga of the very muddy hole… For those who have been following this as we try to find the cause of the excess water on the path (broken pipe vs. spring). We think we have the answer – three holes in the pipe AND two springs! Some repairs and newly engineered drainage later and we hope all that’s left are finishing touches. A special thank you to John G. and Brian for braving a LOT of mud today (and to Jade, Brian and John G. for doing so last week).

The tools took some cleaning up…

…and so did the people!

However today wasn’t all hard graft: We had a bring-and-share lunch to celebrate all the hard winter work and especially getting to the end of this year’s coppice block.

Thank you again to all who helped with the coppice block – it was a big task and has made a huge difference, even just from during (we don’t seem to be very good at ‘before’ photos…)... finished!

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A Sun Drenched Bank

Monday, April 10th 2017

The beauty of Spring is that every day brings us something new. Just working on the Wetland Bank we noticed that Bluebells are starting to flower…

 ….and the Primroses are at their best.

Looking at this picture I saw that I'd also caught a Common Lizard on camera - basking on the sun drenched bank! I saw two on the bank today.

Looking at the Primroses I was pleased to see a number of Bee-flies moving from flower to flower. These flies mimic Carder Bumblebees, but are actually flies, and can easily be over looked. Flies have one pair of wings and bees two pairs. We appear to have the commonest of the several species that are found in the UK, the Greater Bee-fly, or Dark-bordered Bee-fly.

The long mouth piece, or proboscis is used much like a drinking straw to suck up the nectar in these flowers, and is not retracted when in flight. Not only do they look like bees but also parasitise them.

The female Bee-fly hovers in front of a Bumblebee’s, or Solitary Bee’s burrow where she flicks her eggs around the entrance. The tiny grub, when hatched, makes its way down into the bees burrow /nest, locates the host bee's grubs where it fastens onto and sucks out the internal fluids of a bee grub. It will then over-winter and come out in Spring just as the Primroses are flowering, and the cycle starts again. All this a-side they are great pollinators, and they have little impact on solitary bee colonies and do not harm honeybees or bumblebees.

Also on the Bank was a single Small Tortoiseshell butterfly, again basking in the Spring sun.

Another sign of spring was this female Mallard sitting tight on her feathered nest. This lovely picture was taken by a Friend of the reserve, Terry Wright.

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Sunshine and Shadows

Sunday, April 9th 2017

Early morning sunshine was casting shadows through the conifer plantation.

Shadows in the conifer plantation

The moorland was also in shadow.

Shadows on the moor

Plover's Pool is developing and in amongst the vegetation a Moorhen was swimming, trying to make sure she was unseen.  Presumably somewhere there will be a nest.  Two Curlew were also exploring the Pool.  One remained whilst the other flew to the wetland.


 The warm, strong, bright sunshine shone on the nets so the birds could see them and avoid them, so it was a quiet day.  Each ringing day is different.  Last week many Redpolls and Siskin, today only one of each.  Chiffchaffs were caught and the first Willow Warbler.  These tiny birds weigh about 7g.  This one had flown 5000 miles from Africa and will do the return journey in autumn.

Willow Warbler

Although cool overnight there were several moths on the Field Centre, including The Streamer, newly hatched, by the brightmess of its colours.  Its flight season is April and May.  The larvae feed on the leaves and flowers of Dog Rose.

The Streamer moth

Thank you to all the bird ringers who helped today.  Some of the CES (Constant Effort Site) nets were put in after not being used over winter, to check that all was well.  Thank you also to Glennis for the sausage rolls and to Ken and Linda who kept us all supplied with cups of tea!

And finally I could not resist taking photographs of these Bulrushes.  Over winter they stand  proud and brown.  Now they look like fluffy lollipops!


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Trees, Plants and an Insect

Saturday, April 8th 2017

Following on from the programme, Coast to Coast, last night, the tree in the lake continues to attract wildfowl.  Taken from the hide, so yet again the poor camera is stretched to its limit, this Mallard was preening and then decided to have a drink, all whilst keeping its feet dry.

Mallard on tree trunk in lake

Without the Reserve Managers and volunteers working before, during and after the filming, we could not have completed this task, nor could we have achieved such good footage for the crew to film.  A huge thank you to everyone involved.

In the woodland an old Ash tree had two fallen trunks, one on each side of the main trunk.  Over the years they had started to rot and grow moss which in turn gave a foothold for a variety of other plants.  Recently one of the trunks has finally broken, although the moss and plants are still growing well.

Ash with broken trunk

It has given a slightly different view down to Risedale Beck and a surprise.  A closer look through the camera lens and the leaves seen were actually fronds of Hart's Tongue Fern.  A new species for the reserve.  It looks a well grown specimen so has been there for several years, unseen.

Hart's Tongue Fern

Many people have commented that the area around the Field Centre looks so different now that the willow carr has been coppiced.  Some people wonder if it will ever grow again, but if you look closely you can see that already some of the coppiced stems are beginning to show new shoots.

New shoots of willow

Different flowers have been mentioned since the middle of March, but one that has been left out is the Dandelion.  Not a favourite of many people but it is a rich food source for a variety of insects.


'When the sun comes  out' - how many times have we said that? But it is true.  Invertebrates need the higher temperatures to be able to become active.  This insect certainly was and it needed a quick camera click to catch it flying on the wetland bank.  I half knew what it was but was not sure.  Roger ID'd it as a Bee Fly, Bombylius major.  This is only the third sighting. It was first recorded by Roy Crossley on the 20th April 2011 and was not seen again until April 2015. 

You can see its long proboscis, which it uses to reach the nectar at the bottom of flowers. 

Bee Fly

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Things to Look Out For!

Friday, April 7th 2017

There are lots of things to spot at Foxglove at the moment, but tonight you can also see Foxglove from the comfort of your own home. Check us out on Tony Robinson: Coast to Coast on Channel 5 at 8pm this evening!

In other news we have had sightings of some of our more elusive wildlife this week: There’s been more activity on the water vole feeding platforms (in case you were interested; our experiment earlier in the week to see if they like hazel catkins tells us that they’re not a favourite – apple gone, catkins left behind!).

We have also had our first sightings of common lizards this year, now awake from their winter hibernation. This one was spotted basking. As cold blooded (ectothermic) animals they can’t produce their own body heat and so bask to warm up to their optimum body temperature. Common lizards can flatten their bodies when basking to increase the surface area they have exposed to the sun, so helping them to warm up faster.

They camouflage well among the rough grass.

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Lots of jobs, lots of mud!

Thursday, April 6th 2017

Today has been very busy and varied with lots of odd jobs needing to be done to tidy up the reserve.

To give a flavour of the varied day; this morning some of the volunteers raked up the rest of the gorse cut on the Wetlands, filling up four big dumpy bags!

John was hard at work all day putting in a new drain outside the Field Centre. Thank you John!

Stephen helped out with watering the Field Centre lawn; it is now looking lovely and green in the sunshine!

Jennifer has put some hazel catkins on the feeding platforms for the water voles. Apparently they are a tasty treat, high in protein. We shall wait and see if they get a nibble….

One of our visitors, Terry, managed to get some lovely photographs of a Grey Wagtail.

He also spotted our first Brimstone butterfly of the year!

At the end of the day, Jennifer and I carried on with the inspection into the possible burst in the pipe by the voley ponds – where there’s a lot of surplus water on a path… After much digging (and a LOT of mud) the pipe was found, hurray! Hopefully once we have done some more digging around the pipe we can find the cause, and then the solution, to this problem.

This is a guest blog by Jade, here on work experience from Askham Bryan.

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Planting, Raking and other Bits

Wednesday, April 5th 2017

The last couple of days have been fairly productive with volunteers working enthusiastically enabling us to have a reserve which not only has great flora and fauna, but is also a fantastic place to be!

The last of our saplings went in yesterday; Walnut, hazel and a couple of Common Oaks, and some Willow cuttings also went in to fill empty areas in the Willow Carr coppice block we have been doing lately.

On the wetland the team had begun raking up Gorse cuttings from the previous day .…

….Charlie continued with more brush-cutting which we raked-up and removed today!

As we worked we noticed a foaming bubbly patch on one of the ponds, on closer inspection it had been made by numerous frog tadpoles wriggling in the shallow water.

Elsewhere a mud coated but jovial Luke, John and Brian were investigating a path where an up welling of water was coming to the surface, it was suspected that a burst pipe was causing this, alas this is still unknown and will involve further digging work to find the pipe in question.

Ann, Colin and Bob were busy tidying up the Field Centre as well as getting toad spawn in a tank to accompany the frog spawn in the Field Centre activity room.

Two other Johns filled the bird feeders….

…. before helping on the wetland where Common Lizards were spotted and this Peacock butterfly, probably just out of hibernation.

These butterflies usually find a shed, outbuilding, or even a hole in a tree to sleep through the cold winter only to emerge when the temperature warms up in Spring. Small Tortoiseshells have also been seen recently on the reserve, and in the moth trap this morning half a dozen Early Tooth-striped. This moth visits sallow catkins to feed on having over wintered as a pupa.  

Jorge was busy at the workshop processing some timber into manageable lengths, and fixed a damaged water fitting in one of the sheds.

As you can see from all the above activity we depend heavily on our fantastic volunteers. It is credit to them that our reserve is maintained to such a high standard, thank you to all involved.

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A Bunch of Flowers

Tuesday, April 4th 2017

Foxglove may be 'greening up' but there are also hints of colour showing through.  Wood Sorrel leaves have been seen for several weeks but the flowers have been slow to show themselves (or we could just be being impatient!) but these ones have been found!

Wood Sorrel

Wood Anenomes only open when the sun shines so can be easily missed.

Wood Anemone

The Wild Cherry down by the lake bridge is always the first of its species to flower.

Wild Cherry

Violets - the ID of these ones is still not clear, it could be Common Dog Violet or Wood Dog Violet.  Books, hand lens and discussion needed. No matter which one it is, they enjoy the sun.

Violet sp

While we appreciate the spring flowering there are hints of more to come.  This EPO - Early Purple Orchid - is in bud.

Early Purple Orchid

The middle moor has been checked over the last few weeks.  Seedlings scrutinised and finally Yellow Rattle seedlings are present!

Yellow Rattle seedlings

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Changing by the Day

Monday, April 3rd 2017

Fitting in among the other jobs on a busy Monday was an excursion over to the woods along and beyond Risedale Beck to complete a few odd jobs. It’s the time of year when the reserve seems to be changing almost by the day as the seasons progress: The woodland floor is turning green with new leaves of wood sorrel…

…and the blackthorn is now a cloud of white, new blossom.

A great time to come and take seasonal pictures for our photo competition perhaps..?

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A Special Time of Year

Sunday, April 2nd 2017

Spring is such a special time of year.  Foxglove is changing her coat from the blacks, greys and browns of winter to the greens and yellows of spring.  The flower walk did not record Marsh Marigold, but early this morning it was just opening, hidden away beneath the winter stems of grasses.

Marsh Marigold

By early afternoon, the sun had come out and the flower had opened!

Open Marsh Marigold

Early spring flowers are important for insects and you can see one sitting on this male willow flower.  I could not be sure if it was eating the pollen or waiting for prey.

Insect on willow flower

Spring sees our winter migrants heading north and summer ones arriving from the south.  Chiffchaffs, our first summer migrant to return, can be heard when walking around the reserve. A Chiffchaff that had been ringed elsewhere was caught today, as were 3 Redpolls and a Siskin. We will find out details once their information has been sent to the BTO.  In addition, among the birds caught were two 7 year olds - a Great Spotted Woodpecker which had been caught over 20 times, at least once every year since 2010 except 2015 - and a Great Tit ringed in 2010 in a nest box in Badger Beck.  Amazing that they have survived so long. There were also two 6 year olds, a Coal Tit and a female Chaffinch both ringed as juveniles in 2011. 

This morning we also heard the first Willow Warbler of 2017 which is always such a pleasant experience. This will hopefully be the first of many!  A male Sparrowhawk was caught that was last in the ringing room two years ago!  See below!

Brambling numbers decreased on the reserve for a couple of weeks but were back in strength today. They are fattening up prior to commencing their journey back to Scandinavia and other northern climes. In all 26 were ringed of 29 caught. No apologies for another photo of these stunning birds. 


All was quiet in the ringing room when a call came in on the radio 'There is a Sparrowhawk in the net.'  Then silence. These birds are not easy to extract as their size often means that they can bounce out of the net before the ringers can get at them. We waited.  Then a larger bird bag was brought in and it was clear we had it. It was an adult male. Other birds caught included Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting and Bullfinch - in total 170 birds were processed altogether.


Spring is the time when the resident birds are returning to Foxglove from the surrounding areas, to set up their territories ready to breed.  Many of them are already ringed, so usually our totals reflect this. But during the last two sessions we have ringed an unusual number of new birds which is good news.

Thank you to everyone who helped today.

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Foxglove 25 - Species Audit

Saturday, April 1st 2017

During our 25th year we are doing an audit of the flora and fauna found at Foxglove.  It is highly unlikely that we will record all 2602 species, but we will do our best. 

The monthly flower walk recorded 18 flowers that fulfilled the criteria of being 'open', including Hairy Bittercress.  This did need to be checked.

Checking a flower ID

Although looking for flowers our attention was drawn to some tiny things!  Initially we thought they were spiderlings as there were so many of them walking about on the hand rail of the bridge.  When home and photos downloaded only six legs could be accounted for, and they had a hairy bottom!  With help from a friend of Foxglove they were identified as Globular Springtails.  Photographing these tiny insects was not easy and when the photos were cropped and enlarged to show detail, they have become slightly pixilated.

Globular Springtail

We are still working on a species ID but think these could be Allacma fusca and if so it is the third new species for the reserve this year.

Globular Springtail

Back to the flowers, we were rather surprised that the female Hazel flower was still to be seen.  

Hazel  leaves growing over the female flower

Some species we rarely see, some like the Grey Squirrel are an all too frequent visitor to the seed feeders.  We can also see where they have been,  This neat line of empty Hazel Nut shells look rather fresh, so I am presuming they have been retrieved from some that were stored in the autumn.

Hazel Nut shells

Back at the Field Centre, we were easily distracted from the washing up by two Long-tailed Tits feeding from the peanuts.

Long-tailed tits

As spring continues the number of species, particularly the invertebrates, will increase so adding to our list, which already stands at over 100.

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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.

More Details

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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