Blog Archive (14) Posts Made in April 2020

An Update on Spigot Mere

Wednesday, April 29th 2020

As a result of the three named storms earlier in the year, the inflow to the newest wetland was seriously eroded. A team of Environmental Engineers from Coxon Brothers has since repaired the flood damage by installing gabions.

A gabion (from Italian gabbione meaning 'big cage') is a cage, cylinder or box filled with rocks, concrete, or sometimes sand and soil for use in civil engineering, road building, military applications and landscaping.

In this case, boulders were used to fill the mesh 'cages', this will allow the water to flow through the boulders without washing them away.

These robust structures should stay in place for many years to come, no matter how much water flows down from the moor. Our sincere thanks to the Coxon Brothers for carrying out such an efficient and professional job! It has already been appreciated by many species such as Oystercatchers and Lapwing.

Black-headed Gulls, Greylag Geese and Mallard have all been observed on the new pool as well as Shelduck.

Pied Wagtails can almost always be seen on the banks of the mere, this small black and white bird is usually seen in towns and cities, dashing across lawns, roads and car parks but they are attracted to water too perhaps to feed on the insects.

Thank you to Mark Geering for sending in the wildlife photographs for today's blog.

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Time to Stop and Stare

Monday, April 27th 2020

Exercise is a good time to look around and I spotted this Crab Apple was in full flower.

The verges and grass areas are not being cut by the council and so the Dandelions are in full bloom .

Although their bright yellow colour is very cheerful now, very soon there will be a mist of white fluffy seeds floating around.

Looking out of the window I spotted an Orange Tip butterfly.

A movement in the hedge revealed itself to be a juvenile Blackbird.  Over the next couple of days I counted four, being fed by both parents.

After a while the female decided that it was time to continue nest building.

After pieces of vegetation it was mud collecting, and my newly transplanted Wild Strawberries pot proved to have the exact type of mud required!

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Water Birds

Sunday, April 26th 2020

At this time of year the wetland at Foxglove is full of bird life. Many wading birds return inland to breed and the wet meadows with their shallow pools and banks covered in short vegetation provide the perfect habitat for several species. Lapwing are a familar farmland bird that has suffered significant declines recently and is now a Red List species. There are lots of different local names for this bird: Peewit and Green Plover are both used widely across England and Scotland, but others include ‘Tieve’s Nacket’ (Shetland), ‘Toppyup’ (Borders), and ‘Lappy’ (Yorkshire).

Curlew, Redshank, Snipe are the other species of wader that can be found here during the breeding season. Moorhen live on the wetland all year round and can almost always be seen from the tower hide. They have a really varied diet and eat water plants, seeds, fruit, grasses, insects, snails, worms and small fish.

There are plenty of Greylag Geese on the reserve too. It won't be too long before their fluffy goslings are in tow.

Today's photos were taken by Mark Geering who has managed to capture a Goose in flight too!

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Garden Birds

Friday, April 24th 2020

Some of the birds that visit the Field Centre back garden are found all year round. Blue Tits have declined in numbers over the years but are still plentiful. It may seem that gardens are quiet at the moment with fewer birds beeing seen. This is because they are busy nesting. Once the young hatch the feeders will be in high demand once again!

A smaller relative of the Blue Tit, the Coal Tit, is common throughout the year too.

Despite their name, Marsh Tits are most often found in broadleaf woodland, copses, parks and gardens. The Marsh Tit is so similar to the Willow Tit that ornithologists didn't realise they were two separate species until 1897! Marsh tits can be attracted to gardens near to woodland by putting out peanuts, sunflower seeds and fat balls.They are often seen on the bird feeders outside the kitchen window at Foxglove.

A species that appears to be growing in numbers everywhere is the Goldfinch.

One of the best plants for attracting Goldfinches is the teasel.  In summer teasels have pale purple flowers which attract bees, butterflies and moths. In autumn and winter Goldfinches feed on the seeds. Nyger seed is also one of their favourite foods and can be fed in special feeders all year round.

Almost a guaranteed sighting at Foxglove on the peanut feeders in the garden are Great Spotted Woodpeckers. 

Although a woodland bird, Nuthatches are also attracted to peanut feeders in gardens. These 'woodpecker-like' birds are adept at feeding whilst hanging upside down!

The Treecreeper is more elusive and is truly a woodland bird but may be spotted in a large garden. It is well camouflaged against tree bark and it is usually the movement of this bird that catches the eye. It is one to look out for on a walk in the woods. They are only thought to travel only about 20km from their territories.

This is in sharp contrast to Willow Warblers which are migratory birds, breeding in Europe and migrating to southern Africa for the winter. They arrive back in the UK in April and many of them breed at the reserve each year. This is an incredible journey for such a tiny animal weighing only 7g (the same as a twenty pence coin)!

Another summer visitor that has just returned after a long migration is the Blackcap. The male has a black cap, and the female a chestnut one. Its delightful fluting song has earned it the name 'northern nightingale'. Although primarily a summer visitor birds from Germany and north-east Europe are increasingly spending the winter in the UK.

Our sincere thanks to Mark Geering for providing the photographs for today's blog.

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Red Kites

Thursday, April 23rd 2020

Andrew Gillings, a Foxglove supporter, is a fan of Red Kites and has kindly shared some of his best photographs with us (they were all taken before the current restrictions) and not at Foxglove although over the years there has been the odd sighting of a Red Kite passing over the reserve.

This magnificently graceful bird of prey is unmistakable with its reddish-brown body, angled wings and deeply forked tail. They are huge birds with a wingspan of nearly two metres, but a relatively small body weight of 2 – 3 Ibs. They were saved from national extinction by one of the world's longest-running protection programmes. They have now been successfully re-introduced to England and Scotland and it is estimated that there are 1,600 breeding pairs in the UK. Red kites are listed under Schedule 1 of The Wildlife and Countryside Act. 

At one time confined to Wales as a result of persecution, a reintroduction scheme has brought red kites back to many parts of England and Scotland. Central Wales, central England - especially the Chilterns, central Scotland - at Argaty and along the Galloway Kite Trail are the best areas to find them. In England the reintroduced birds can be found in the Buckinghamshire/Oxfordshire area, Northamptonshire, Yorkshire, Gateshead and Grizedale Forest in Cumbria. Foxglove is located halfway between the Gateshead and the Yorkshire release sites and so observations are likely.

These pictures were taken at Gigrin Farm Red Kite Feeding Centre in Wales and close to Harewood House in North Yorkshire.

Kites eat mainly carrion and worms, but they are opportunistic and will occasionally take small mammals too. Feeding stations such as the one at Gigrin with purpose built hides provide great opportunities for photography as the number of kites visiting the feeding station can vary from a 300 to 600 or more depending on the weather and the time of year.

Our sincere thanks to Andrew for allowing us to use his striking photographs.

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Spring Has Sprung!

Wednesday, April 22nd 2020

Although the reserve remains closed, there are signs of spring everywhere. The Blackthorn blossom is at its best just now especially along the red route.

Willow is also in flower and is stunning against the blue skies.

In the Willow Carr, the air is full of song from Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs.

The trees that were donated by Bettys Tearooms are beginning to poke their heads above their protective tubes! The mini hedge outside the field centre is doing exceptionally well.

On closer inspection, the trees are really healthy.

A variety of species were planted and all appear to have been a success.

The orchard trees also donated by Bettys Tearooms are growing well too.

These orchards will provide valuable food for winter thrushes such as Blackbirds, Fieldfares and Redwings in the future.

The reedbed that was cut earlier in the year by staff and volunteers is beginning to grow back already.

If you look carefully, you can see plenty of green shoots appearing. Below these, the water is teeming with tadpoles.

Out on the wetland, there are plenty of birds breeding and the first young of the year for the reserve are two delightful broods of Mallards.

There are ducklings scrabbling about on the banks and scooting over the pools!

They seem to be most complacent and have been wandering far from their parents!

All of the above are thanks to the dedicated team of Foxglove volunteers who have worked so hard over the winter months to improve and maintain the mosaic of habitats that make up the reserve. The sad part is that due to the current restrictions, they are unable to visit and to see for themselves what an amazing difference they have made to a very special place. However, it will all be here waiting for when the situation improves.

A quick update on the owl: the Jackdaws buried her several times but have finally got the message and she is doing well with five eggs so far. It is time to leave her undisturbed and hope that she is successful in raising some chicks. Lastly, the beetle that was on the last blog has been identified as the Bloody-nosed Beetle, also called Blood Spewer or Blood Spewing Beetle (what lovely names!) Timarcha tenebricosa. The larvae of which feed on bedstraws.

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Wildlife Photography

Sunday, April 19th 2020

A few weeks ago a request was put out for photographs of wildlife. Since then, many stunning pictures have been emailed in or shared on social media. The following were sent in by Andrew Gillings who can't imagine ever seeing this combination of birds in one shot again! This was taken at Llanerchindda Farm Guest house in Wales before the current restrictions were in place.

Andrew also sent in this photograph of a beautiful Yellowhammer. This species is found in open countryside and hasn't been recorded at Foxglove yet. They are often seen perched on top of a hedge or bush, singing. Its recent population decline makes it a Red List species.

Although this Buzzard was photographed at Harewood House, these majestic birds of prey have been recently observed displaying and calling over Foxglove. 

This feeding Peacock butterfly was also discovered close to Harewood House. There are many of these on the wing at the reserve at the moment. The recent sunshine has created perfect conditions for butterflies. Small Tortoiseshell have also been seen in good numbers so far.

The following photos are of invertebrates, the first is of a beetle (yet to be identified). Please get in touch if you can assist with identification.

Finally, does anybody think they can identify this bee which Andrew believes to be a very rare visitor to the north of England?!

Answers on a postcard please (or comment on Facebook)! Our thanks to Andrew for sharing these wonderful wildlife photographs.

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Spring Flowers

Friday, April 17th 2020

The Wednesday Group of volunteers are usually very busy during April as spring unfolds at Foxglove.  We decided that during our time out from our homes for exercise that we would record the flowers that we saw.  They had to pass the 'flower test'!  They had to be in flower, no buds only allowed.  We live in different areas but it was interesting to find that many of the flowers we recorded were also found in Foxglove.

Primroses are in flower and recorded by several people.  The banks of Risedale Beck are covered in the beautiful pale yellow flowers.

Common Dog Violet always gives a lovely show of purple.  The markings on the lower petals are a 'honey guide' for insects, ensuring that they take the right path to the nectar and in so doing get covered in pollen.

Blackthorn flowers have covered the hedges in south County Durham for several weeks but have only now appeared at Foxglove.  It was also recorded by one volunteer around Richmond.

Forget-me-nots are not the easiest group of flowers to identify.  Flower books and hand lens are often needed to ensure the correct ID.

Jack-by-the Hedge or Garlic Mustard (crush a leaf and it will smell of garlic) can be seen growing in profusion along hedgerows, but at Foxglove it is quite a rare flower.  Orange Tip butterflies lay only one egg per plant, as the caterpillars eat the seed pods.

One flower photographed not too far from Foxglove is Wild Pansy.  This does not grow anywhere on the reserve as we do not have the habitat that it prefers.

Not a flower but reliant on them is the Bee Fly.  It is very difficult to photograph as it rarely stays still, but after several of the volunteers had sent in records, Janet was the first to get a decent photo!  Its long proboscis enables it to find the nectar in Primroses and violets.  It searches for nests of bumble bees and flicks its eggs into the entrance where the larvae hatch and feed on the larvae of the host bee.

Thank you to everyone who took part in the 'flower walk' and sent in photos.

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Buried Alive!

Thursday, April 16th 2020

One of the large nest boxes at Foxglove is favoured by Barn Owls and last year four healthy chicks fledged from it. This year both the male and female adult Barn Owls had been seen flying in and out and there were fresh pellets on the ground below. However, earlier in the week, it was noticed that it looked a little different. Barn Owls do not “build” a nest as such but lay their eggs directly onto the previous years’ nest debris – a compacted layer of owl pellets.  The female might also make a scrape in the debris and break up a few recent pellets creating a soft layer for egg laying. The 'mess' on the ledge outside appeared to be the work of Jackdaws who use twigs and wool for their nests. On closer inspection, the Jackdaws had completely filled the wooden box with fresh material so much so that it was overflowing!

It was decided to remove the new material as sometimes Jackdaws can build their nests on top of a Barn Owl one. Bit by bit, the sticks and sheep wool were carefully teased out. To everyone's surprise there wasn't just an egg or two but a live Barn Owl! She had been completely buried and was trapped in her own home.

Hopefully, with the weather being warm and dry she will be able to fly out and find some food. We won't know until much later in the year if she has a successful breeding season. This is not uncommon and there are several videos on Youtube of footage taken in similar boxes when there has been a conflict between Jackdaws and Barn Owls. For more information about Barn Owls visit the Barn Owl Trust  and the Hawk and Owl Trust websites.

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Easter Wishes

Sunday, April 12th 2020

In line with Government and MOD guidelines, the reserve remains closed until further notice. Thank you for staying at home and continuing to support the reserve via social media. Check out our Facebook page for lots of wildlife banter, quizzes, wordsearches and photographs. There is plenty to keep people busy and engaging with nature is a wonderful distraction from current affairs.

Blackthorn is now in full bloom and the white flowers are a delight to see against the back drop of blue sky. Here is a photograph taken on the green trail close to Risedale Beck.

Chairperson, Lesley Garbutt, has sent a special message today to wish all of our supporters, volunteers and Reserve Managers a Happy Easter and hopes that everyone is well and keeping safe. 

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Marvellous Moths

Wednesday, April 8th 2020

Moths can be found all year round; some are day flying (or diurnal) and others are nocturnal. Of the latter, certain species are attracted to light. Lepidopterists (people who study or collect butterflies and moths) make the most of this and use special mercury vapour moth-traps to catch them for recording purposes. There are other techniques such as 'sugaring' - attracting them to a sticky mixture (usually painted onto trees) and 'wine-roping' - using a mixture of red wine and sugar, soaked onto a length of rope and draped into foliage. However, you don't have to be an expert to have a closer look at moths as many are lured to artificial lights on buildings too especially when the weather is warm and dry. A quick check around external lights and windows in the morning can lead to some interesting finds. The lights outside the field centre seem to be very appealing to the Foxglove moths! They are surprisingly fun to identify with a myriad of intricate patterns to explore. Different species have different 'flight seasons' which is useful when trying to identify them. There are lots of good moth books available and there is also plenty of help online such as the 'moths on the wing by month' pages by the Yorkshire branch of the Butterfly Conservation Trust. Another useful resource is the UKmoths online guide. Many moths are quite variable in appearance, so don't just look for an exact match. If you don't find what you're looking for you can also contact your Vice County Recorder - you can find their contact details on the Recorders website.

Here are a few to look out for this month in North Yorkshire:

Hebrew Character, named after the black mark in the centre of its forewing, which is unique amongst spring-flying moths.

The Twin-spotted Quaker is tawny coloured and has two black spots on the inner edge of its forewing. These common moths come to light and sugar, and feed at sallow catkins.

The ash grey Early Grey is rough in texture and has a beautiful marbled appearance. This species feeds on honeysuckle and is therefore often found in gardens.

Some species such as this Pine Beauty rest with their wings folded tightly against their body. When sitting head down on the tip of a shoot, this small moth closely resembles a pine bud.

Early Tooth-striped moths have a single generation (some species have two) and are only on the wing in April and May. They can be found at rest on tree trunks and posts during the daytime and fly from dusk.

Finally, Clouded Drab is also commonly found in back gardens feeding at sallow catkins and Blackthorn flowers.

If you find any moths in your garden we would love to see your photographs on our Facebook page, happy mothing!

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Keeping Busy

Tuesday, April 7th 2020

Several of the Foxglove volunteers are busy working from home to benefit the reserve. From inputting important species data, filling out grant forms and writing articles for magazines to updating social media, the variety of specialist skills and knowledge is impressive. Elizabeth has been creating some activity sheets for supporters of all ages which will be shared both on here and on Facebook thanks to Katie's computer wizardry! Here's one to start you off! All of these photographs were taken at the reserve.

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BTO Garden BirdWatch

Sunday, April 5th 2020

Stay connected to nature, learn about your garden wildlife and contribute to important scientific research without leaving your home. The BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) is giving everyone free access to BTO Garden BirdWatch during the COVID-19 lockdown. You can help with research into garden wildlife by joining the Garden BirdWatch community.

The BTO has run the year-round Garden BirdWatch scheme since 1995, and thousands of people across the UK contribute their sightings each week.

Gardens are really important habitats for wildlife, but we need to understand how and why populations of garden birds and other wildlife are changing, and how we can help them.

You can help by keeping a simple list and recording which species visit each week, helping the BTO to learn about how wildlife uses the food, shelter and other resources in our gardens.

The more we can understand about how birds and animals use our gardens, the more we can improve our cities, towns, villages and individual gardens for wildlife. Thank you to Tim for today's photographs!

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Nature Notes

Saturday, April 4th 2020

Signs of Spring are beginning to appear at Foxglove and whilst the reserve remains closed to the public, the wildlife continues to thrive. Bluebells are pushing through on banks that were strimmed earlier in the year by staff and volunteers.


Amongst the Hazel trees on the banks alongside Risedale Beck, Primroses are adding a welcome splash of colour.

The name Primrose derives from the Latin prima rosa meaning 'first rose' of the year. 

The list of flowers grows each day with Wood Anemone being a new addition. This star shaped flower depends on the growth of its root structure rather than the spread of its seed. For this reason, it is a good indicator of ancient woodland.

The wetland is coming alive too with the return of Toads to many of the pools. Snipe, Greylag Geese, Mallard, Moorhen, Lapwing and Curlew are all staking out their breeding territories.

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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.

Wildflower Walk

Sunday 30th June 2024 | 10am-12:30pm

Enjoy a guided walk around Foxglove Covert to admire and learn about the beautiful wildflowers that can be seen throughout the reserve.

Booking essential. £3 donation per person. Free to Friends of Foxglove.

The walk will start from the Field Centre at 10am.


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