Blog Archive (20) Posts Made in August 2019
All Hands To The Deck!
Thursday, August 29th 2019
Once a year, chaff is brought to the reserve from a local farm. This is the waste from the combine harvester and contains plenty of rape and wildflower seeds such as poppy which the finches at Foxglove enjoy feeding on. Five tonne sacks were collected and needed to be put into smaller bags to be used throughout the winter months. This is a mammoth task but thankfully a team of volunteers made light work of it.
Working in pairs, the grain was poured into new bags.
One by one, the tonne sacks were emptied.
Very quickly, an efficient system developed and this sped up the process.
Cable ties were used to seal the new sacks to keep the feed dry and fresh.
The chaff is used around the reserve to fill the large wooden hoppers. These were topped up in order to make room in the store for the new stock.
Thank you to Team Thursday who pulled together and completed the job before lunchtime. Our sincere thanks too to Ian and Mick for fetching the load this morning and congratulations to Brian for guessing the number of sacks correctly (93)!
Minibeast Safari Day
Wednesday, August 28th 2019
Three Minibeast events took place at Foxglove throughout the day. These were led by Dr Roger and Rosy Key who are both well known entomologists or as they describe themselves 'walking books with a few missing pages'! With over 30, 000 different types of invertebrates to study, it would be impossible to learn them all!
The day began with a workshop for adults who work with children and at the start of each session Roger and Rosy demonstrated the specialist equipment that would be used to capture and study the creatures found.
With pooters, sweep (or swish) nets and plenty of small containers each group was well equipped. A small area close to the Heathland was the perfect place to begin and was near to the field centre in case of a heavy downpour!
Late in the morning, some of the finds were taken back to the classroom to be identified with the help of microscopes and reference books.
An interesting specimen was this Swallowtail Moth caterpillar that when disturbed became a master of camouflage by standing at a 45 degree angle and imitating a twig.
The weather held off in the main and both adults and children enjoyed testing out their newfound entomological skills!
There was a lot of discussion about the various animals that were caught and Roger used many amusing anecdotes to help people remember their names.
Our sincere thanks to Roger and Rosy for giving up their time and for sharing their incredible knowledge, hopefully there may be a few future entomologists as a result!
Tuesday, August 27th 2019
Heathland is an important piece of the 'habitat jigsaw' at Foxglove. This year the Heather is spectacular and is one of the reasons for a new moth species being discovered last weekend.
The bright purple flowers are important for all kinds of invertebrates including ladybirds, bees and butterflies. There ares still many butterflies on the wing, the most common one this week is the Peacock which is often feeding on Devil's Bit Scabious amongst the Heather.
Due to its small size, the Heathland at Foxglove is difficult to manage. There isn't enough space to have a controlled fire as there is on the Grouse Moors nearby. The burning of Heather encourages new growth and helps to keep out unwanted species. The Exmoor ponies, Lark and Taurus, have grazed on the Heathland for a few days but they didn't eat the Silver Birch or Willow. Instead, much of this has been taken out over recent weeks by a method known as 'tree popping'. Staff and volunteers have used special tools known as a tree 'poppers' to lever out the unwanted saplings by their roots.
This has been done in all kinds of weather conditions from red hot sunshine to heavy rain and sometimes required digging with spades too.
It has been hard work but is good to look back and see the difference that has been made. It is also extremely satisfying when a large root comes up intact!
Thank you to everyone who has helped with this task so far, it is both strenuous and tedious but the results make it worthwhile. There is still more to be done. The hay meadow has now been cut and finally, the Exmoor ponies have been allowed into this area to 'tidy up the edges' and hopefully eat the grass that the tractor couldn't reach. Lark was first through the gate!
Swiftly followed by Taurus!
A Very Hot Day
Monday, August 26th 2019
I went to check on Lark and Taurus, using the little gate onto Plover's Pool. No one in sight, opened the gate and suddenly hooves thundering on the ground, well that's what it sounded like, as I hurried back through the gate! Lark and I then had a conversation along the lines that he was to stay on his side and I would stay on mine. I am not sure if it was in agreement or in annoyance, but he then sneezed all over me!
Taurus wandered over but was too busy eating grass to be concerned about the gate. Looking at their legs, both had been in Plover's Pool cooling off.
I walked the long way back to the middle moor to photograph the neat lines of cut hay.
After lunch the hay had been baled. Last year due to the drought, there was only one and a half bales, this year there are ten.
House Martins are beginning to gather for their southern migration and were drinking from Spigot Mere. A Pied Wagtail was seen on one of the spits into the Mere. Common Darters were egg laying and a Black-tailed Skimmer flew right along the moor path, but not stopping long enough for a photo to be taken.
Red Poppies like disturbed ground and this one was growing right on the edge of the Mere.
Down on the lake a Moorhen has had a late brood of two young chicks. Not a brilliant photograph, but if you look closely you can see one of the youngsters right on the back of the adult.
The bird ringers were ringing at another site today. They ringed Reed Buntings and Reed Warblers and also a Sedge Warbler.
Then there was a surprise. I will let Tony tell the story.
'Mark was the first to hear a Cettis Warbler, then we both heard it a couple of times more. Imagine the surprise when in the far end net I extracted what I felt sure was a Cettis juvenile. I took it back, the first I have ever caught in the UK, and after counting the tail feathers and checking the wing emargination it could be nothing else. As I have ringed several in Cyprus and the Middle East, Mark ringed it.
Two net rounds later I extracted an adult male well into moult from exactly the same place in the net line. Two Cettis Warblers! Then a minute later Mark found and extracted another juvenile! So we ended up with 3 Cettis today which was pretty good! The first I have caught in 30years! Quite a reasonable day and well worth getting up a little early!'
This is quite an unusual bird for this area, so will be an excellent record.
More Moths and Butterflies
Sunday, August 25th 2019
Friday night saw the reserve light up as Dr C Fletcher and his team set up nine moth traps in different habitats. Early morning saw the team go around and close the traps before returning them to the Field Centre. At a more civilised time the moth-ers arrived to watch the traps being opened and the moths ID'd.
One of the first moths to be identified was Angle Shades. This beautiful moth is often hard to photograph as it starts to vibrate its wings as soon as it is released onto a leaf. I was lucky, this one stayed still.
The traps sat in line waiting to be opened.
As the egg cartons were removed so the moths were identified and Jill recorded them all.
Once the moths had been identified, they were released by Raye and Dave.
A Feathered Gothic, one that we have not caught on a Wednesday, was noted. This one is a little worn.
The final results were quickly fed back to us. There were 103 species of which 11 are new for our moth list. Aristotelia ericinella is a new record for VC 65. There were a few Square-spot Rustic moths caught, 455 in the final total!
Thank you to everyone who helped make this activity a success.
As the day warmed up so the butterflies made their appearance. Catherine and Jenny carried out another butterfly transect and their results included 61 Peacock butterflies
and 22 Painted Ladies. There are some of these butterflies looking a little worse for wear but others are newly hatched and they look pristine!
Sightings of Comma butterflies have increased over the last few years. Two were noted on the butterfly walk.
Keith and June checked on our dragons and damsels and saw three Black-tailed Skimmers on Spigot Mere.
And finally the spider on Wednesday's blog has been identified as a Walnut Orb-weaver.
Thank you to everyone involved in recording and observing the variety of different species to be found at Foxglove. All your hard work is much appreciated.
One More to Go
Saturday, August 24th 2019
CES 11 (Constant Effort Site) was completed today. Dawn was breaking as the bird ringers arrived.
Thirty nine Bullfinces were ringed today, an astounding number. Siskin, Coal Tit, Marsh Tit and Robin were also processed. Most of the Willow Warblers have now headed south, beginning their migration.
A surprise was a juvenile Pied Flycatcher.
Another one was spotted hunting for butterflies amongst the Hemp Agrimony.
Ken and Linda very kindly provided us with sausage rolls and scones to go with the many cups of tea they made. A huge thank you to everyone involved, making today another successful ringing session.
It was also moth morning and there will be more about this tomorrow.
Butterflies, Moths and an Escapee!
Wednesday, August 21st 2019
There are still many butterflies on the wing, this Brimstone was captured feeding in the wildflower meadow.
Here are the results from the butterfly transect:
Speckled Wood 37
Small Skipper 1
Meadow Brown 3
Small White 1
Green veined White 5
Large White 6
Painted Lady 17
Red Admiral 3
Common blue 1
Holly Blue 1
Visitors to the reserve today could do their bit for these beautiful insects by creating a butterfly feeder at the drop-in wildlife craft activity. This was a popular session with over twenty feeders being made to take away.
Thank you to Lesley for organising this event and to all of the families who took part.
Moths were trapped overnight in Robinson traps and volunteers carefully studied and identified them before releasing them back into the wild.
Some of the visiting children enjoyed helping with this task and watching the moths fly back into their habitats.
Elsewhere, volunteers were busy carrying out summer maintenance jobs such as painting signs.
Fences were repaired too where Lark and Taurus have been leaning over to try and reach the hedgerow!
The hammering of staples into one of the wooden posts disturbed this spider who suddenly appeared from a crack in the wood!
Finally, you guessed it, Lark made another bid for freedom by nipping through the gate to the hay meadow when the opportunity arose! He has realised that the grass is much greener on the other side. The hay meadow is due to be cut soon and then he will be allowed to graze there in order to 'tidy up the edges'!
He seemed to be full of mischief this afternoon!
Thank you to everyone who supported the reserve today and a special thank you to Peter for his help with some 'extreme strimming' to prepare the net rides for the Meadow Pipit ringing in a conservation area on the moors.
To The Bridge!
Tuesday, August 20th 2019
Team Tuesday were out in force today and worked hard to upgrade a section of the red route. This is the easy access trail and is fit for use by wheelchairs and pushchairs. The surface is some places was a little bumpy and so a fine dust was spread on top to smooth it out.
Around eight trailer loads of fine stone were used in total, luckily the team worked well and soon formed a 'system' to fetch, transport and spread out the dust.
It was a long way to take the stone by wheelbarrow as over 200m of path was improved. The distance increased with each load!
Once delivered, the stone was raked over the old surface and then compacted down with the wacker plate.
It was decided at the start of the day to work as far as the first bridge but as the morning went by the goal posts moved and it wasn't until three bridges later that lunchtime was declared! A great effort and a fantastic result that was given a 10/10 by visitors in the afternoon! After lunch, pruning and pond maintenance jobs were carried out along with other tasks. The final challenge for the day was to retrieve the two Exmoor ponies from the hay meadow as a gate had been accidentally left open. The pair were well behaved and came back quickly although they seemed a little puzzled to find themselves back on the other side of the fence where the grass is shorter!
Monday, August 19th 2019
Members of the Swaledale Ringing Team based at Foxglove have just returned from a fourth bird ringing expedition to Northern Norway. The Dividalen Fugelstation (bird station) is within the Arctic Circle close to the border with Sweden. It is in a valley that is used by thousands of birds on their migration. Whilst there, they ringed almost 1, 050 new birds. Several young Fieldfares were a highlight as they are only found in the UK as adults when they overwinter here. Other thrushes ringed included Redwing and Song Thrushes.
An unusual find was this Greenland Redpoll, much bigger in size compared to its Scandinavian relatives and with a much larger bill.
Tall elevator nets are used that have a pulley on each end so that the nets can be lowered in order to extract the birds. This means that even the high flying species can be monitored.
There are only a few hours of darkness and this is when the Boreal Owls hunt for their prey. Tengmalms, Hawk and Pygmy are the three species that are resident in this area and the team were lucky to catch all three. The Hawk Owl is a stunning animal, similar in size to a Tawny Owl with striking eyes and extremely sharp talons!
In contrast to the large, powerful Hawk Owl, the Pygmy Owls are only the size of a Song Thrush. They hunt for passerines and although small, they are strong enough to lift a large vole from the ground.
Bluethroats were beginning to migrate and showed up in the nets both early in the morning and late in the evening. Twenty Bluethroats were ringed during the week.The blue and red plumage was just beginning to show on this juvenile male.
This species is only rarely seen in the UK.
In total 1, 039 birds of 26 different species were ringed. Sincere thanks to our hosts and volunteers from Dividalen Fugelstation for making this incredible experience possible.
Meandering Around the Reserve
Sunday, August 18th 2019
Lark and Taurus were not bothered by the wind, although their tails and manes were blowing a little.
I was followed by Taurus hoping that I might just have a treat hidden somewhere, but when nothing appeared he began feeding on the grass.
Bees and hoverflies were out in force flying from flower to flower to feed. Devil's Bit Scabious is a favoured flower.
Wild Angelica and Wild Carrot (below) have large, mainly flat, umbels of flowers and these are often covered by many insects of all shapes and sizes.
Warm damp weather is ideal for the growth of fungi and some are begining to appear.
This polypore fungus grows around anything in its way.
Saturday, August 17th 2019
Setting off for a walk around I did not think that there would be much on the wing due to the very strong wind. I was wrong. However trying to photograph those on the wing proved interesting. Photographs include vegetation and no insect, totally out of focus vegetation and of course hands and fingers trying to hold the flower still! But some insects did co-operate and I was able to obtain some lovely photos.
I have seen Brimstone butterflies fly this way and that way but never close enough even to get a splodge, but I was lucky today.
Speckled Wood butterflies have not been common over the last few weeks but almost every sunny glade had at least one sunbathing.
I wondered what sort of leaf was waving in the wind, until I realised that it was a Common Blue butterfly hanging on tightly to a stem. It did not move as I crept closer to get a macro shot.
Hand rails of bridges, especially along Risedale Beck, can often reveal some interesting creatures. I spotted a tiny Pale Tussock Moth caterpillar crawling along. These moth caterpillars used to be a pest on hop crops in south east England. The pickers called them Hop Dogs and some claimed that they could cause a severe allergic skin reaction. We do not have hops on our species list but we do have a wide variety of deciduous trees and plenty of Bramble on which the caterpillars feed. They can take up to two months to reach a size of 40mm and they are then ready to pupate.
Saw-wort blooms in a hidden away part of the reserve and provides nectar for many butterflies and bees. Where once there was only one clump of this plant, now there are several.
Before More Rain
Thursday, August 15th 2019
Everything is continuing to grow! Volunteers spent some time on the heath removing invasive species. These include Bramble, Willow, Gorse and Silver Birch.
There were several small Oak seedlings which were dug up and replanted. I always stop and wonder how they came to be there, a Grey Squirrel hiding acorns for the winter and forgetting where they were, or was it a Jay, doing the same thing.
After much hard work in the sunshine, five trailer loads of brash were removed and the heath was looking so good.
Work on the back garden fence and gates also continued.
The overhanging branches in the back garden were trimmed and the pond was also given some tlc.
And finally before the rain arrives the lawns were mown.
Thank you to our volunteers for all their hard work.
A Wet Day
Wednesday, August 14th 2019
There is one thing to be said for our weather at the minute and that is, that it is changeable. I am not sure if the weather hasn't consulted the forecast or it is the other way around. A forecast of a dull day with some sun later in the afternoon turned out to be a thoroughly damp, soggy, wet day. The moth traps caught very few moths overnight so it did not take us long to ID them. As we had time we set to on indoor jobs. Some volunteers inputted species data whilst others sorted photographs for displays. Volunteers also supported the nest box building activity. Thank you to everyone who helped today. Foxglove volunteers have such a valuable and variable range of skills that help to keep the reserve looking so good.
Out in the rain for a quick walk it was obvious that everything had water droplets! Wild Carrot is a biennial and consequently does not always grow in the same place each year. There are several flower heads near the heath. Some of them have the red centre petals.
Seed heads are already beginning to develop. When I looked at this one it looked 'odd', as the bowl shape is full of water.
Instead of being covered in insects this Devil's Bit Scabious was covered in water droplets.
When you get the 'right sort' of weather a hidden world can appear. A spider's web was spun on a stem of Hawthorn.
Cutting, Strimming, Painting, Sawing and Pulling!
Tuesday, August 13th 2019
Hayley and Emma were busy cutting back yet more branches overhanging the access road and main paths. This is almost like painting the Forth Railway Bridge!
The fence surrounding the back garden was given some protective stain. At the same time a path was cut through the long grass avoiding the orchids that are setting seed.
Ragwort is poisonous to stock and some had grown around Plover's Pool so was pulled up and removed. Where there is no stock we leave this flower as it is excellent for bees, butterflies and day-flying moths, not forgetting the Cinnabar Moth caterpillars.
The volunteers then headed to the woodland, where a bridge needed some attention.
There was plenty of advice given to Richard as he repaired the boardwalk.
Our volunteers worked hard and by the end of the day some tasks could be crossed off the 'Job List'! Thank you very much, all your effort is really appreciated.
The winner of our 'Guess the Number of Sweets' competition was Mrs Kerry Bell with a guess of 380. Thank you to everyone who supported us.
Cascading Ponds and Risedale Beck
Sunday, August 11th 2019
Volunteers have been working on the Cascading Ponds and their work is achieving its purpose, to help prevent erosion. The reserve receives most of its water from the moors and rainfall can cause the levels to rise quickly. This was shown by the bubbling water cascading over the falls of the ponds. They also provide habitats for a variety of species.
Common Frogs and Toads were found here earlier in the year and now 'dragons and damsels' (dragonflies and damselflies) can be seen flitting across the water.
Roe Deer sometimes walk across the area and the Kingfisher was seen here recently before heading to the Lake.
Risedale Beck also rises quickly after rain and often the water is coloured brown. This dam which creates deeper water so that the pipe can take water into the pond, next to the beck. If the flood is very high then the dam can have some of the stones washed away.
Some members of the Swaledale Ringing Group have headed to Dividalen for a week. There is no communications so we will have to wait until their return to hear which birds they have ringed. They were there last year and there is information about their visit on the blog https://www.foxglovecovert.org.uk/blog/northern-norway.
Friday, August 9th 2019
It was the 10th CES (Constant Effort Scheme) of 2019 and a start time of 0500. The sun rose with the promise of a dry, warm, sunny day.
Net rounds were carried out and many birds were returned to the ringing room. In total 251 birds were processed. The majority of the birds brought in were youngsters. Bullfinches, Chaffinches and Robins were all starting to moult and grow in their coloured feathers. Coal Tits visit Foxglove for the winter and some are already beginning to return. They will always find plenty of food available for them.
Some adults that were processed gave us some smiles. A Long-tailed Tit was first ringed in December 2016, so was at least two and half years old. A Great Tit was ringed as a juvenile in June 2014, and a Chaffinch was four years old.
There were some surprises too. After seeing some Marsh Tits earlier in the year one arrived to be ringed. They are on the Red List of UK Species, meaning that they are of the highest conservation priority, needing urgent action.
A Whitethroat, a rare vistor to Foxglove, was also ringed.
As the bird ringers returned from net rounds they commented on the number of butterflies, mainly Peacocks and Painted Ladies. They were as usual feeding on the Hardheads.
But there is always one. A Small Skipper decided that the seed head of a grass was much better!
Thank you to everyone who worked at Foxglove during the day, those in the ringing room and those carrying out a variety of habitat management tasks. A special thank you to Team Thursday who weeded out the Heather paddocks in the morning and then gave the reed bed a much needed 'short back and sides' to open up the footpath through the scrapes!
Many thanks too to Abbie and Kate for stepping in last minute to help with the wildlife craft activity on Wednesday. More of these are planned in the next few weeks, no need to book, just pop in. See the events page for details.
All your hard work is very much appreciated and makes a huge difference to the reserve. Finally, the latest Undergrowth newsletter is available. Friends of Foxglove will receive theirs by post but you can view it (in two parts) on the website too.
Flowers and Moths
Wednesday, August 7th 2019
Volunteers were busy today dealing with species. The flower walk records all the flowers in bloom. Hardheads or Black Knapweed is flowering across the reserve and it almost seems that every clump of these flowers has several Painted Ladies feeding from them.
Another late summer flower is the Devil's Bit Scabious.
When the ringing team were at Cape Wrath they saw Grass of Parnassus in flower. At Foxglove it does not flower until mid August. One flower was open but there are several in tight bud just waiting.
The moth team would like to thank the Reserve Managers for putting the moth traps out on a Tuesday night. It is much appreciated. Scalloped Oak fly during July and August.
Canary-shouldered Thorn begins its flight season in July but this is our first of the season. We can catch these moths right through to October.
Many children went home with bird feeders for their gardens from the event held this morning. Thanks to Kate and Abigail who helped.
Tuesday, August 6th 2019
Tuesday volunteers have been busy carrying out a variety of tasks. Peter, Ian and Bob continued work on the Cascading Ponds. It was very hard work in the summer sun.
The blog has mentioned that the volunteers have been pulling thistles and cutting back overhanging branches. Warmth and rain are encouraging growth all over the reserve. Much of the brash has been taken to the bullet catcher where Brian used his fire lighting skill to produce a controlled fire.
Bob set too, to repair a small piece of the boardwalk.
Emma and Sophie gave the bus shelter some tlc,
while Richard attacked Brambles and overhanging branches around the Stone Pile car park.
Decorating the door hangers in the Activity Room has been very popular with the children, so Ian needed to cut more.
Catherine carried out the butterfly survey today and numbers were a little lower than she expected, but it was windy and the butterflies prefer calmer conditions. After huge counts of Ringlet butterflies their numbers were reduced as they have come to the end of their flight season and only one was seen today. Peacocks are still flying and 26 were recorded. Painted Ladies topped the list with 32. In total ten species were recorded and 90 butterflies in total.
Many thanks to all the volunteers who worked really hard to carry out and complete so many different tasks around the reserve.
Plenty to See
Sunday, August 4th 2019
After their excursion to Spigot Mere yesterday, Lark and Taurus were checked to make sure they were where they should be, Plover's Pool. A sigh of relief when they were both feeding quietly.
During the hot summer of last year the flowers bloomed but did not stay in flower for long. Although we are having some lovely warm sunny days, it is not the intense heat of last year and also there is rain at times. Some of the last species to join the observation board are Common Centaury
and Harebell. Usually there are just a few of these delicate flowers on the moor but this hugh patch is unmissable. Many flowers provide nectar and pollen for invertebrates or provide places for carnivores to await prey. Right in the centre of the photo is a ladybird, no doubt hoping for some juicy greenfly.
Hemp Agrimony mainly grows around the Scrapes ponds and is a valuable nectar source for butterflies and other insects. A Comma was enjoying a feed.
A damselfly alighted on a branch, an advantage of having tiny feet, you can fit them between the prickles!
Dragons and Damsels
Saturday, August 3rd 2019
The weather was just right for our Dragonfly and Damselfly walk this afternoon. Plover's Pool is an excellent place to just stop and stand and stare and be amazed at their antics, as they hawk across the water.
Keith and June, supported by Tony, shared their knowledge as well as catching some of these fantastic insects, although it must be said that probably the dragons, particularly, out smarted those with nets. Some were caught and expertly handled so that everyone could see the detail on the dragons.
This one was a Black-tailed Skimmer. Unfortunately they do not always sit in the best places for photographs to be taken, so apologies for the thistle. I will let it off as it is yet another new species for the reserve.
In the morning Keith and June had also recorded Golden-ringed Dragonfly and Keith was able to take this beautiful photo. Thank you.
We also saw Broad-bodied Chasers along with Emerald, Common and Azure Damselflies. Whilst watching all of these beautiful insects I was wondering why Lark and Taurus were not being curious. I peered around the trees but no ponies. I was beginning to wonder if they had been moved.
As Anne, Barry and I headed to Spigot Mere to check on the Pillwort I realised that Lark and Taurus were enjoying standing on the island in the middle of Spigot Mere.
A phone call to Gerry confirmed that they should not be there. Out came our own 'horse whisperer', Sandra. Armed with apples and carrots she lead them back to Plover's Pool where they should be. Thank you very much! A reminder please to close all the gates.
Whilst looking for dragonflies and damselflies we also noted the butterflies and the list included Brimstone, Dark Green Fritillary, Small Copper, Common Blue and the butterfly making all the headlines, Painted Lady.
Everyone enjoyed the walk around the reserve hunting for the dragons and damsels and seeing so many other species. Thank you to Keith and June for leading this walk for us.
As an extra piece of information our Pillwort is growing really well in Plover's Pool and Spigot Mere. Anne and Barry took GPS readings and recorded the approximate size of each area. We will watch these carefully over the next few weeks and hope that they continue to thrive. Thanks again to Anne and Dave for their valuable work supporting us with this rare fern.