Blog Archive (16) Posts Made in January 2020
Wednesday, January 29th 2020
A team from Risedale Sports and Community College have been helping out with a habitat management and conservation work over recent weeks. One of the jobs they did was to carry long tree trunks from where they had been felled to a new location where they will be used as path edging.
They also built a new habitat pile from trees that had been cut down due to overcrowding and disease. As always they showed great teamwork skills and have made a positive difference to the reserve.
Thank you Risedale Rangers!
Tuesday, January 28th 2020
Visitors to the Foxglove will notice some changes as they drive along the main access road; staff and volunteers have been busy thinning around some of the more special trees alongside the track.
Trees that were planted a few years ago had become completely overcrowded and were struggling for nutrients. In some cases their growth had been stunted.
Several days have been spent in this part of the reserve removing young Birch trees and Gorse to free up the space for species such as Rowan and Cherry. This woodland management technique involves cutting away some of the excess trees to allow a dominant individual the space to carry on developing and flourishing. In addition, it will allow more light to reach the ground and therefore encourage more wildflowers to grow.
Further along the road, a couple of large Birch trees that were at risk of falling onto the track were felled. This was a careful operation and a rope had to be used to pull the tree away from the perimeter fence.
Not only were these tall Birch a potential hazard, they would also have made millions of seeds that would compete with the Willow too. Thinning work will continue here over the next few weeks for the same reasons outlined above.
Our thanks as usual to the fantastic team of Conservation volunteers who also fixed some steps in the woodland, repaired part of the lake tower hide platform and provided amazing homemade cherry cake!
On Monday, students from the Dales School worked on improving a section of footpath. The surface was then compacted with the wacker plate to make it super wheelchair friendly. The pupils enjoyed learning about the different tools and seeing the transformation from a rough uneven surface to a new smoother one. They will complete the task next time they visit.
Monday, January 27th 2020
One member of the bird ringing team lives close to Salisbury Plain and has recently been catching Redwing and Skylark. He has emailed a couple of photographs of a Skylark to be shared on the blog.
These small brown birds are well known for their beautiful song. Their unmistakable song-flights can last for up to an hour and the birds can reach 300m before descending. Skylarks nest on the ground and usually lay three to four eggs. The chicks become independent after only two weeks and parents can have up to four broods in a breeding season.
Moths and More
Saturday, January 25th 2020
After several weeks, Tuesday night's weather was suitable for the moth traps to be put out. We did not expect too many moths but were pleasantly surprised with 15 moths of three species. However it did take a little while to get back into identifying them!
We initially had names like Pale Beauty, Something Brindled, Pale Brindled until we collected our thoughts and confirmed the ID of this Pale Brindled Beauty.
Early Moth was also caught. The larva of this moth feeds on Blackthorn and Hawthorn. The adult can be seen from January to March.
The Chestnut moth overwinters as an adult and is on the wing from late September to May. It becomes active in mild weather and feeds from Ivy flowers, willow catkins and overripe berries.
Later the Wednesday team headed out around the reserve and found Scarlet Elfcup growing in its usual place but also found some growing in the woodland.
We also recorded an Orange Ladybird, spiders and more fungi. A single Herb Robert flower was able to be added to January's flower list.
Quickly taking a photo of the volunteers examining a lichen on a piece of tree branch, I thought it a good photograph, until I realised that it looked like Chris getting ready to hit Pauline on the head!
This was soon remedied!
Thank you to everyone who helped on Wednesday. Thanks also to the Reserve Managers who put out the moth traps for us.
Orchards and Hedges
Thursday, January 23rd 2020
Finally, the six hundred trees kindly donated by Bettys Tearooms are all planted. This has been a huge job made easy by many volunteers. The mid-week volunteers finished planting the fruit trees on Tuesday. Gaps in the existing orchards were filled with the new apple trees.
Organic matter was added to the holes in order to prepare them.
Once in the ground, the trees were staked with a sturdy pole at a 45 degree angle to support them whilst they start to grow.
There was also a spot of careful yet necessary pruning to encourage new growth.
In some cases, where the water table was high, the holes filled with water and a technique known as mound planting was used. This is when a hole is made but the tree is planted in the pile of soil from the hole so that it is raised above ground level. This method was implemented ten years ago when the orchards were first created and proved to be a success.
By the last tree, Gerry refused to dig anymore!
This morning, the remaining 170 shrubs were planted as a hedge on the edge of the reserve. This time a team from Help for Heroes carried out the work and although the whole day was allocated to this job, it was completed by late morning! They then painted benches, pruned Hawthorn and helped manage the Willow Carr.
The newly planted hedge will act as a vital wildlife corridor between the reserve and the adjacent MoD training area.
Thank you to everyone who has assisted with the tree planting, and of course to Bettys Tearooms who made it all possible.
An Interesting Catch!
Monday, January 20th 2020
At the weekend, some of the bird ringers visited a different site where there are plenty of reed beds. The sunrise over one of the lakes was spectacular; the water was so still that the trees were reflected in it perfectly.
Most of the birds ringed were common garden birds but there were also many Reed Bunting. Here is the summary:
During the morning there was much excitement as the landowner caught a huge Pike. Apparently, these fish can grow up to a metre in length and can live for up to twenty-five years. This one was estimated to be around eight years old.
Weighing in at 32lbs, it was quite a sight to see up close! The colours were incredible; blue, green and pink.
Close up you can see how big and powerful the jaw is. Being excellent predators, they feed on other fish, frogs and small mammals or ducklings.
It was carefully measured and weighed. Photographs were taken too because Pike have unique markings that can help identify them as individuals. It was then returned to the cold water. If it is caught again in the future, it will be possible to see how much weight it has gained.
A Beautiful Day
Sunday, January 19th 2020
The temperature had dropped overnight so there was ice and frost in parts of Foxglove, but the sky was blue and the sun shone, so it was a beautiful day without rain and wind! Photographing on the dull winter days makes species and places look dull. The blacks and greys of winter change when the sun shines.
Initially I thought that there were no Mallard to be seen, after 18 were counted yesterday. I then spotted some hiding behind some reeds. Unfortunately I could not remove the reed in front of them. You can see that the male is standing on the ice and has a ring on his right leg.
Some areas of the reserve were free from frost whilst others were coated white. I was amazed at the delicate structure of these ice crystals.
There were also patterns on the ice on the Scrapes ponds and they remained there for most of the day, even though the air temperature had risen to six degrees.
Later in the afternoon the sun started to set and the sky clear of light, fluffy white clouds, foretelling a cold night to come.
A Busy Week
Thursday, January 16th 2020
A lot has been happening at Foxglove lately! Volunteers have been as busy as ever working on all kinds of jobs. Roof repairs to one of the stores was a real priority.
A second delivery of trees was collected from Thorpe Trees, courtesy of Bettys Tearooms. This time there were some large apple trees which will fill in the gaps in our two orchards. These require much bigger holes than the other species!
They included Lord Derby, Laxton Superb and Blenheim Orange. Hopefully they will provide important food for wildlife such as thrushes in the future!
Staff and young people from Northdale assisted with the planting after having filled some of the bird feeders and feeding the ducks.
Up on the moor staff from Sam Watson Fencing replaced old broken post and wire fences along the ancient hedgelines.
Although it has been a busy week there was still time for celebrations as it was both Elizabeth and Ian's birthdays.
This was unfortunate for the Reserve Managers as there is a new rule in place!
Monday, January 13th 2020
Along Risedale Beck there are two ponds that are created by diverting water from the Beck. In both cases the water gathers behind a dam and enters the pond through a pipe. The water is later returned to the Beck through a different pipe. The pools were created over twenty five years ago and due to vegetation succession they had become almost completely filled in. In addition, the old pipes had moved over time and water was no longer flowing into them. Recently, they have both been dug out and re-profiled by the Coxon Brothers.
Now refilled with water, they will soon become beautiful features and important habitats once again.
The muddy banks will soon green up and in the summer, with a bit of regular maintenance, they will stay full even in the driest conditions.
Most of the trees that were cut back around the edges were Alder or Hazel and these will grow new shoots and continue to grow in the future. Alder is known as the swamp-dweller or water-lover; the wood of this tough tree doesn’t rot when waterlogged, instead turning stronger and harder.
Alder is the food plant for the caterpillars of several moths including the Alder Kitten, Pebble Hook-tip, and the Autumnal. The catkins also provide an early source of nectar and pollen for bees, and the seeds are eaten by the Siskin, Redpoll and Goldfinch. These interesting trees are found the whole length of Risedale Beck explaining why the latter three species are observed daily at the reserve.
An Impromptu Ringing Session
Sunday, January 12th 2020
On the last net round, about 4pm, taking the nets down there was a surprise in the nets, a female Crossbill.
The light was going as we took photographs of this spectactular bird. They are rarely caught in mist nets as they feed in the tops of the conifers eating the seeds out of the pine cones and only come to the ground to drink. This one was obviously heading for the back garden pond. You can see the cross bill, some birds are right crossed whilst others are left crossed, which is ideally suited for twisting out the small pine seeds. In theory you should be able to identify a cone eaten by Crossbills! We have never succeeded!
They were last recorded, from the Observation Board in March 2019 and before that January, February and April of 2017. A very special catch.
Earlier in the day we caught a Greenfinch, quite a rare bird these days.
A slightly different angle for this photograph!
Thursday, January 9th 2020
With drizzle on the weather forecast, it was decided to catch up on maintenance jobs around the reserve. The team split into smaller groups in order to achieve as much as possible during the short winter day. The first task on the list was to fill a gap with gravel between a new boardwalk and a stone path. One wheelbarrow was more than enough and some of the surplus was used to fill potholes on the main track.
Our mammal track expert got well and truly 'stuck in' as she prepared a replacement clay pad for one of the mink rafts that had been washed away by heavy rain. The soft clay is hidden inside a floating wooden box that attracts curious mammals who then leave their footprints behind. This is a great way to record which mammals are living on the reserve.
Staff and volunteers also got well and truly 'stuck in' on the red route where a small repair to the boardwalk turned out to be a much bigger problem than it looked! Several supporting timbers were replaced with new beams before the decking could be put back in place.
Repairs were carried out on the bridge at the head of the lake too.
In the afternoon, the team did even more odd jobs, including cleaning bird feeders, tidying up the workshop, sweeping and brushing leaves from wooden bridges and filling the big bird feeders (hoppers). Another productive day thanks to the Foxglove Volunteers!
A Slower Pace
Wednesday, January 8th 2020
The Wednesday volunteers worked at a slightly slower pace than yesterday, but achieved a great deal. A walk around the reserve added several species to the January observation board with photographs taken as a record. 'Our' Hazel tree was covered in tiny red female flowers,
whilst the male catkins were open ready to shed their pollen.
Along Risedale Beck the catkins are still very small and closed.
Blackthorn buds are 'in waiting'. This is the first Blackthorn that flowers on the reserve.
Lichens come in all shapes and sizes. This on was growing on an Ash tree.
In the afternoon more events were added to the Events Page of the web site, displays were sorted and the photos returned to their correct place and a stock check was completed. The multitude of skills Foxglove volunteers exhibit helps the reserve to be well looked after in so many different ways. A huge thank you to everyone for all your hard work during the week.
Risedale Rangers visited the reserve and continued with the tidy up from yesterday. A reward for all their hard work was a good feast of toasted Marshmallows!
Tuesday, January 7th 2020
Foxglove has the largest area of Willow Carr in Swaledale. This is managed by coppicing in blocks; there are five compartments and each is cut down to the ground every ten years in rotation. The result is healthy Willow of different ages to benefit the maximum number of wildlife species. Last year an area was cut and so this winter coppicing is not on the main list of jobs. However, next year's coppice block has become choked with Birch saplings. In an effort to make next winter's task easier, the Birch is being removed to allow the Willow to flourish.
The trees were relatively small and the brash was separated from the thicker trunks that will be useful eleswhere. This involved a lot of dragging however, with ten volunteers to help you could soon see the where the group had been and there were plenty of new glades for wildflowers.
Thank you to everyone for their hard work today, what a difference it has made!
Out on the moorland, the team from Coxon Brothers were also hard at work; they have been landscaping the pool at the end of the main wetland. This will link into Plover's Pool and will really improve the habitat for wading birds.
Pond restoration by the Coxon Brothers also continued along Risedale Beck and the second pond now has a new inflow pipe.
The dam that creates the depth of water around the pipe has been rebuilt to ensure that the pond is kept full during the summer.
It is quite a feature from the footpath, as are the newly restored ponds that were previously overgrown and drying out.
A Fantastic Turnout
Sunday, January 5th 2020
Almost thirty people gave up their Saturday to attend the first weekend Winter Worky Day of the year! With such a large turnout it was possible to tackle more than one habitat management project and the group was split into three teams each with a knowledgeable volunteer leader.
An area of woodland close to the outdoor classroom was in need of thinning. This is the selective removal of trees, primarily undertaken to improve the growth rate or health of the remaining trees. Overcrowded trees are under competitive stress from their neighbours. Some Silver Birch and Alder were removed to allow more space and light for other trees. Most of the volunteers worked here as there was a lot of brash to drag and process. This is the view from the path at the start of the day.
The site is difficult to access with a chipper so the brash was burned on a bonfire. It took some lighting as the wood was very green but Steve developed a great 'fanning' technique with his yellow gloves!
We had two chainsaws on the go and many helpers so progress was evident almost immediately.
Our thanks to Ian and Tony who did all of the felling.
With the substantial amount of the dragging and carrying it was a perfect workout and there was no need for anybody to go to the gym!
Wood was graded into different sizes and the logs were kept for future use as path edging, habitat piles or firewood.
The stumps were deliberately left high as staff will return to cut them lower and poison them to prevent them from growing back which would defeat the object. They were just the right height for a well deserved rest!
Here is the view from the other side showing the end result. It will be interesting to see how many new wildflowers grow up here in the spring. Well done Tony's 'Treecreeper' team!
The second team (Ken's Kingfishers), completed the removal of Gorse at the top of the moor. They had a much less sheltered and windier place to spend the day.
They also made excellent progress and even managed to clear a bank of more Gorse with just loppers and pruning saws.
The purpose of this task was to create room for a new hedgerow.
This was the responsibility of the third team; Peter's Penguins! They did a sterling job in the cold wind digging through rough ground.
Working in pairs, the trees from Bettys tearooms were planted along the inner boundary of the reserve.
This new hedgerow will act as another vital wildlife corridor between the reserve and the wider Army Training Area.
The team planted a handful of Black Poplar, Whitebeam and Hornbeam nearby too and the top of the moorland has been completely transformed thanks to their hard work.
Our sincere thanks to everybody who came to help improve the various habitats, you have made a huge difference! If you would like to join us next time please check out the details on our events page.
Thursday, January 2nd 2020
Dry days are good ones to be out working on the moor. In order to plant up some of the remaining trees (donated by Bettys Tearooms), Gorse was removed from the moorland boundary. Several volunteers braved the cold winds to help with this particular project. This photograph was taken at the end of the day and you can see the huge pile of cut Gorse in the background.
A surprising amount was taken down to make way for the new hedgerow.
After lunch, a start was made on planting a variety of species in the new space; Wild Cherry, Spindle, Dog Wood and Buckthorn were some of the species chosen.
Nearby, on another part of the moorland, a job that was started a few weeks ago was finally completed. It was very satisfying to tick it off the list!
A small hedgerow was also planted behind the Red Oak at the front of the Field Centre. First, the area had to be cleared of overhanging branches and brambles.
The end result may look a little odd now but in a few year's time it will be a colourful feature and a great habitat too.
Staff from Coxon Brothers were working on one of the ponds by Risedale Beck. It has been quite a challenge for the digger driver to get to the pond nevermind re-profile it!
This artificial pool had become completely choked with vegetation and the inflow and outflow were not functioning properly meaning that it could dry out in the summer months. It will be restored and once it recovers it should provide a home for many invertebrates and amphibians once again.
All the Firsts
Wednesday, January 1st 2020
The first day of a new decade and our first event of the year, a New Year's Day Walk. Our route took in Risedale Beck, the lake, Sycamore Avenue and then across the moor, before heading back to the Field Centre for a cup of tea. We walked along the felled conifers and spotted what we thought were yellow leaves near the top of the hill, but had to go and investigate and the yellow leaves were indeed yellow, not leaves but petals of Primrose. A first flower to be put onto the January observation board and the first flower in that area.
Usually when we find Primrose in flower this early in the year there is only one flower, but there were several and more clumps full of buds.
We also recorded the first female Hazel flower. A Treecreeper was spotted and later in the ringing room two were processed.
Some members of the ringing team opened the garden nets for the first time this year and 128 birds were processed. It is always interesting to look at the species caught. Twenty two new siskin were ringed. Only one Chaffinch was caught, after the garden was full of them towards the end of last week. One of the Blue Tits retrapped was initially ringed in 2013. Long-tailed Tits also made an appearance in the ringing room.
It was a beautiful day for the walk and perfect for ringing. Thank you to all the volunteers who helped and supported Foxglove today.
Down on Salisbury Plain,
Jack, another member of the Swaledale Bird Ringing Group, has also been ringing. He ringed some Linnets.