Blog Archive (21) Posts Made in September 2020

Autumn Tasks

Wednesday, September 30th 2020

Sunny autumn days are perfect for strimming and raking. This week, work has continued on the special glades around the reserve. They are managed like 'mini meadows' and cut at the end of the summer once all of the flowers have gone to seed. A small corner of the main hay meadow cannot be reached by tractor and also has to be cut with strimmers.

The cuttings will be left for a few days so that most of the seeds have a chance to fall to the ground. After the baling of the main meadow there was still some hay to be raked up. Volunteers tidied the whole area up using old fashioned wooden hay rakes.

Although it is hard work, it is a satisfying job as you can see where you have been!

2020 hasn't been a great year for lots of reasons but it was a good one for the rape seed harvest and the waste from this crop contains protein rich seeds such as poppy which makes fantastic winter wild bird food. Having bagged up several tonne sacks into smaller bags came the challenge of fitting them all into the store. 

Some of the older sacks of seed were spread out onto an area that is sown specifically to create a 'wild bird seed crop'. Flocks of finches will feed on this and some of it will hopefully grow too.

This small habitat improves yearly as it is ploughed and sowed by a local farmer.

It is a favourite spot for Roe deer and earlier this year Tawny Owls nested in the conifer plantation for the first time (Kestrels have used the nest box in previous years). Volunteers have also been working on boardwalk repairs, painting fingerposts, identifying fungi, flowers and moths and fixing the office printer! Our thanks to all involved!

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Staying Safe

Monday, September 28th 2020

There is now an official NHS QR code poster at the entrance to the Field Centre so that you can check in to Foxglove Covert LNR on the NHS Track and Trace App!

When someone enters a venue and scans an official QR poster, the venue information will be logged on the user’s phone. This information will stay on a user’s phone for 21 days and if during that time a coronavirus outbreak is identified at a location, the venue ID in question will be sent to all devices. The device will check if users have been at that location and if the app finds a match, users may get an alert with advice on what to do based on the level of risk. 

All people entering the Field Centre are requested to sanitise their hands using the gel provided and to wear a face covering. The 2 metre rule is still in place too both inside and out!

Stay safe everyone and continue to enjoy your visits!

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Insects In Flight

Friday, September 25th 2020

One of our frequent visitors, Andrew Gillings,  set himself the task of photographing a dragonfly in flight. This is quite a challenge as dragonflies are amongst the fastest and most manoeuvrable flying insects.

Hawker dragonflies have a top speed of about 36km/hour and damselflies about 10km/hour; they can flap their wings at about 30 beats per second.

As well as forward flight, dragonflies are able to fly sideways and backwards and to change both the direction and speed of flight rapidly.

The wings of dragonflies are not flat. Some parts of the wings are more flexible than others due to the arrangement of their wing-veins. This clever design allows the wing to twist and adapt its shape in flight.

Andrew watched two darters ovipositing (egg laying) and was fascinated as they appeared to flick an egg from a few inches above the water which created significant downwash on the surface. If you look carefully at the next picture you can actually see the egg landing!

Immediately after this shot, a Southern Hawker appeared from nowhere and seemed to attack them hitting them several times.  A Southern Hawker had already dropped what looked like a mayfly on a previous flypast so perhaps it saw them as an alternative dinner! This is not surprising as adult dragonflies prey on insects, especially small flies and larger species will also take butterflies and smaller dragonflies. The wings are bitten off and discarded, but the rest of the body is eaten.

Away from the water, Andrew decided to capture a less gruesome and more serene image of a Brimstone butterfly in flight. He was concentrating on the Brimstone so much that he only noticed a bee flying in formation when he put the pictures on his laptop!

Our thanks to Andrew for sharing these incredible photographs, he definitely achieved his goal!

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Pillwort, Poaching and Planning Ahead!

Thursday, September 24th 2020

Plover's Pool was only created a few years ago and is now well established. It is a favourite location for breeding Lapwing in spring and for many species of Dragonfly in late summer. Pillwort (a rare aquatic fern) has been planted here and is growing well.

Pillwort is a specialist of bare pond edge habitats. It is not a good competitor and only thrives where there are few other plants. One of its key habitat requirements is poaching and grazing by livestock. This is the best form of sustainable management because it creates bare ground which the plant needs. This is where Thor and his gang come in! They are currently grazing in this area and should help the Pillwort to spread. Today however, they were mainly lazing around perhaps they knew that it was going to rain heavily this afternoon.

The Foxglove team worked hard all day repairing boardwalk, strimming orchards, creating net rides and collecting more chaff for the hoppers. When the rain started, a suitable 'inside job' was bagging up the seed (waste from a local Oil Seed Rape crop) into smaller sacks for storage. A tedious task but one which will ensure a good supply of feed for the wild finches over the winter months. 

It will all be worthwhile when the feeders attract flocks of birds such as Chaffinches, Bullfinches and Redpoll. 

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Bales, Bells and Bridges

Tuesday, September 22nd 2020

During the weekend, the hay on the wildflower meadow was baled. This year, due to the dry summer, only 7 bales were made compared to 12 last year!

The end result is a very impressive, tidy meadow. The hay is removed because wild flowers thrive on impoverished soil. If soil fertility is too high the grasses and the strongest wild flowers tend to out-compete the more delicate species. The field edges could not be reached by the tractor and these will be left as they are to maintain important wildlife corridors.

Managed in a similar way is the Bluebell bank on the moorland. However, this area is unaccessible by tractor so the cutting falls to staff and volunteers with brushcutters! 

The Bluebell bank wasn't as spectacular this year compared to previous years and this is thought to be due once again to the dry weather conditions in the summer. The flowers made a brief appearance before wilting in the heat wave. Hopefully, next year they will put on a better 'display'.

With some people strimming and others raking and removing the cuttings, the job was completed in just one day.

The team did a fantastic job and even managed to mow carefully around a few late flowering Harebells!

The skies darkened in the afternoon but it stayed dry and blustery throughout; Gerry's jokes kept spirits high (the old ones are the best)!

Meanwhile, back in the workshop, Roger continued to paint the fingerposts. With many more scattered around the site it is a bit like painting the Forth Road Bridge!

Whilst on the subject of the mammoth tasks, Bob has probably constructed the equivalent of the Forth Road Bridge by re-building most of the woodland pathway!

Never a dull day on the reserve!

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Warm Days

Monday, September 21st 2020

As autumn progresses the number of warm days decrease, so when there is one the invertebrates make the most of it.  Ladybird sightings have been low, not just at Foxglove but in gardens too.  It was a treat to see this Seven-spot Ladybird.  Both the adults and larvae feed on greenfly, making them friends of gardeners.  The adult hibernates over winter in cracks and crevices.  Sometimes they can be found in Gorse and Teasel heads.  The red colouring is a warning to predators that the ladybird does not taste very nice!

Cucumber Spiders are usually found in the centre of the reserve on leaves of trees, where it is well camouflaged, so it was unusual to see this one on a grass stem on the far moor. She had bent grasses and spun her web, but she was also guarding an egg sac, which you can just see under her front legs.  Before this area is cut, the stem will be carefully removed and placed in the hedgerow.  The spiderlings will hatch in the spring.

Warm days with sunshine bring out the bees making the most of the last summer flowers.

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Hawker Dragonflies

Sunday, September 20th 2020

Friday was fairly warm although at times the breeze was cool.  Keith and June visited the reserve to have a look at our dragonflies and damselflies.  On the wetland a Common Hawker was spotted on a fence post.  You can see that it was having a 'wash and brush up'.

What you can't see on Keith's photo is all the background and surroundings.  As usual it did not land in the best of places.

Stealth and patience meant good photos were taken.

Foxglove does its best to provide just the right habitat, large or small, for the many species that live within its boundaries.  Instead of the lovely vegetation surrounding her, a Water Vole latrine was the favoured place for a Southern Hawker to lay her eggs.  She had found an area of soft wood.  These eggs will result in adults in two to three years time.

Keith and June's report gave us some interesting information -

'A Brown Hawker was recorded.  We had a brief but better sighting of a male Migrant Hawker on the wetland this afternoon. This is a new species for the reserve. Only saw it in flight and no time for a picture. It was a surprise as the more suitable habitat is the Phragmites beds in the Scrapes and on the main lake but they were relatively quiet for dragonflies.

Plover's Pool had a number of Black Darter males present. Liking the conditions with the increased vegetation.'

Caring for the habitats at Foxglove is always a balancing act to ensure that we do our best for the flora and fauna that live there.  Plover's Pool has much vegetation in it and a discussion has started about looking at how we manage it.  Now we have the additional information that the Black Darters like it as it is.  Watch this space.

Brown Hawker records were checked and it has only been seen at the time it was first recorded, in a survey in August 1995.

Common Darters were also flying and can often be seen as you drive up the access road as well on vegetation away from ponds. 

Thank you to Keith and June for thier updates on our 'dragon' populations.

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Calling All Foxglove Covert LNR Supporters!

Saturday, September 19th 2020

We are currently busy generating support from local Co-op members and asking them to give us their online vote for the Co-op's Local Community Fund scheme.  It's easy to do ... simply log on and follow the links supporting your local causes.  You'll find us in the SPACES category.

This online link can also be used  if you would like to become a Co-op member and will therefore give you the opportunity to vote for us.

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Wonderful Webs

Friday, September 18th 2020

A strange sight greeted the staff as they drove along the main access track this morning; the vegetation on the heathland had been cloaked in white. At first it looked like frost.

On closer inspection it was clear that it was the work of thousands of spiders. The early morning mist had left a dew behind which highlighted their webs beautifully. 

Most of them were sheet webs draped over the plants but amongst them were some stunning orb webs too. These webs are primarily associated with the family Araneidae, or orb-weaver spiders.

Nothing had been left undecorated, from the Heather to the fence rails and Juniper trees!

Later in the day another batch of healthy Pillwort (a rare aquatic fern) was received. Elizabeth had grown it at home on her windowsill!

It was soon planted around the shores of Spigot Mere, some of the wetland pools and Plover's Pool where it is already thriving.

A GPS location was recorded for each tray that was planted and this data will be sent to staff at the Freshwater Habitats Trust who monitor Pillwort on national level.

This is what it looks like once it is well established.

Thank you to everyone who has helped out at Foxglove this week. Volunteers have repaired boardwalk, recorded species (moths, mammals and dragonflies), raked hay, strimmed glades, planted Pillwort and painted signs. 


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Rowing Up

Thursday, September 17th 2020

More autumn sunshine meant perfect conditions to continue with the haymaking in the wildflower meadow. The swathes of hay left by the tractor on Tuesday had dried well on top but underneath they were damp and green. Using wooden hay rakes, the grass was turned over so that the other side of the long piles was exposed to the sun.

The number of rows was reduced by raking each one into an adjacent one. In modern times this is done using machinery however today it was done in the old fashioned way; a process known as 'rowing up'.

It was hard work in the hot conditions but with several determined staff and volunteers it was completed in only a few hours.

The end result was a satisfying pattern of rows that are ready to be baled by a tractor at the weekend. The forecast is good so the grasses will continue to dry over the next couple of days. The raking not only helps to turn the cuttings over to dry, it also helps to scatter the many varied wildflower seeds which will grow next year.

Thank you and well done everyone! Same time next year?

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Habitats and their Inhabitants

Wednesday, September 16th 2020

Dragonflies and damselflies were hawking over Plover's Pool.  Their flight amazing to look at.  One settled and stayed settled!  A photograph was taken and it was a Black Darter.  It was first sighted in August 2003 in the Scrapes. This is only the eleventh time it has been recorded.

Plover's Pool is an ideal habitat for 'damsels and dragons', as it has plenty of vegetation for both adult and larvae to shelter in and climb up as well as mud banks on which the adults can sunbathe.

At the other end of the moor Spigot Mere is also attracting its fair share of 'damsels and dragons', although it is a different habitat, with much less vegetation, however the Pillwort that was transplanted here a few weeks ago is doing very well.

Along the banks of one of the streams in the Scrapes Devil's Bit Scabious grows and at this time of year attracts many butterflies, including the Brimstone.  These butterflies hibernate over winter and can be seen nectaring during spring before laying eggs for the next generation.

The Scrapes is a series of ponds running through Willow Carr.  This area has to be managed carefully with the willow being cut on a rotational basis.  Unfortunately some of the open areas amongst the ponds are colonised by invasive Silver Birch.  On one of these Birch, Sawfly larvae were feeding on the leaves. The eggs are laid at the top of the branch or stem and the larvae eat their way down!  When relaxed and feeding they lie or curl along the leaf edge.

When threatened they move quickly, wriggle and form an S shape.

At the lake, the grass on a sloping bank is cut short so that the wildfowl can come out and feed.  The seed is scattered and then the person doing the feeding is watched and when judged to be a certain distance away the Mallards and Moorhens come out and feed.

Each habitat, whether large or small, is carefully managed for the benefit of its flora and fauna.

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September Sunshine

Tuesday, September 15th 2020

It was an early start for Ian who began the day by cutting the wildflower meadow. Due to the heat wave at the start of the summer, the growth on the meadow has been significantly less than in previous years. There isn't even enough cut grass to make it worth baling so it will be hand raked in the old fashioned way!

It was a tidy job and the cuttings will be left to dry before the big raking task begins next week. This whole process will help to scatter the wildflower seeds and reduce the fertility of the soil to hopefully make this habitat even more spectacular next summer.

Our thanks to Ian who has done this job for several consecutive years now and managed to complete today's mowing by coffee time! 

At the same time, volunteers continued to work on the adjacent wetland to remove unwanted gorse and rushes, another 'raking' task!

Late in the morning this young frog was spotted, most likely leaving the water to find a suitable place to hibernate during the winter.

The cut gorse was carried to a fire site in 'dumpy sacks', quite a challenge over narrow bridges and bunds.

Brian was ready and waiting and it didn't take long for the mountain of brash to disappear! The Hebridean sheep were not at all bothered by all of the activity. If only they would eat more of the invasive plants!

After lunch, an effort was made to control the spread of Bullrushes by removing some of the seed heads before the thousands of tiny seeds have a chance to be dispersed by the wind.

Dragonflies and damselflies were making the most of the autumn sunshine too and a small 'bubble' of staff and young people from the CPL (Centre For Personalised Learning) enjoyed some tranquil time watching Common Darters lay their eggs on the surface of the water.

With 100 acres, it is easy for staff and volunteers to spread out and socially distance. Roger worked alone in the workshop to re-paint some of the finger post signs that were in need of some TLC. Once prepared and stained, a steady hand was required for the delicate writing!

Meanwhile, Bob found yet another 'can of worms' in the scrapes when he investigated a bit of 'spongy boardwalk'. At least it kept him out of mischief for longer!

Our sincere thanks to all of the staff and volunteers who worked so hard today in the hot sun to make it yet another extremely productive day on the reserve. What a fantastic team!



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Monday, September 14th 2020

The moth traps have been set on a Tuesday evening as long as the weather has been suitable.  Thanks to the reserve managers and volunteers who set them.  Autumnal Rustic moths appear in the autumn.  When they first emerge they have a red sheen to them.  This fades as they age.  The larva can be found between October and May, feeding on low growing plants such as Heather, Bluebell and bedstraws,  Adults fly from August to  October.

Angle Shades moth can be found all year round, but mainly from April to early July and then again from late July through to November.  There are probably two generations, with the second being swelled in numbers by immigrants.  The adult feeds on flowers including those of Common Reed (Phragmites australis).

Some moths can be found out and about.  Hidden in some Gorse was a Bulrush Wainscot.  Larva of this moth, as its name suggests, feed on the inside of Bulrush stems.  It moves to new stems as it grows, leaving clear entrance and exit holes.  The adults do not feed.

Another moth that can be seen during the day at this time of year, is a Silver Y.  It can be identified by the fact that it rarely sits still, with wings always beating very quickly.  This one was flying and nectaring from Devil's Bit Scabious.  The proboscis is deep inside the flower.  These moths are immigrants.

Thank you to Janet for providing the first two photographs.  It is not always easy to get the moths to sit just where you want them!

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What An Achievement!

Sunday, September 13th 2020

The CES (Constant Effort Site) scheme uses bird ringing as a tool to monitor the population of our common breeding songbirds. At roughly 120 sites spread throughout Britain and Ireland licensed ringers erect a series of mist nets in the same positions, for the same length of time, during 12 visits between May and August. Year to year changes in the numbers of adults caught provide a measure of changing population size, and the proportion of young birds in the catch is used as an index of breeding success which is then used to inform government.

At Foxglove the scheme has been running since 1993.  This year has been the 28th consecutive one during which the team have never missed a single visit.  Endless complementary comments have been received from around the country from Skokholm to Cape Wrath to Norfolk - as people have recognised the determination necessary to see this project through.

2065 birds were ringed throughout 2020 with 2479 being the highest number ever caught (2006) and 1295 the lowest (1993);  the team quickly came on and levelled out from year 1.


Our most sincere thanks go to all of the Swaledale Ringing Team members for making 2020 a success - it could not possibly have been done without you. In total over the 28 years, 3528 hours have been spent ringing 54625 new birds! 

None of this could be completed without the valuable help of the regular volunteers who work so hard all year round to maintain the habitats and net rides. From strimming and pruning to inputting data, making cups of tea and counting the bird bags at the end of the day, it all matters!

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Saturday, September 12th 2020

Jan Gillings, one of our supporters, was inspired to write this beautiful poem about the reserve: 

I sit,

amongst swaying reeds

breathing in the wind

rustling fills my ears

down in the beds

I sway, in time to the melody.


l sit,

hearing the cries

of buzzards overhead

learning the skies

swoops and dives

l yearn their freedom.


I sit,

holding my breath

making no sound

as a dragonfly hovers near

whirring wings assail my ears

l watch, mesmerised.


I sit,

awaiting the flash

of brilliant blue

eyes open not to miss

his catch of silvery fish

l marvel as he swallows.


I sit,

amongst trunks

of ancient trees

rugged bark with crevices deep

giant boughs envelop me

l long to climb.


I sit,

eyes on the feeders

of seeds and nuts

will he come today, hang upside down

his beak to fill?

I wait until.


I sit,

beneath lofty pines

the path scattered

with wind strewn cones

seeds for future trees

l crunch with my wheels.


I sit,

drinking in beauty

filling my senses

reining in my pain

restoring my soul

l sit, l smile.

Jan visits Foxglove Covert regularly and says she wanted to share how this wonderful place makes her feel. Andrew, her husband also has a talent for photography and took these stunning pictures. This one is of is Marsh Woundwort which comes out a little later than Hedge Woundwort.

Common Blue Damselflies are the most widely distributed and often most abundant of all the dragonflies, found in a wide range of habitats with either still or flowing water. They are usually to be found flitting over the water in the scrapes along the red route during the summer months.

Andrew managed to capture this one in flight!

Another great shot is this of a Common Darter.

He assures us that no glue was used in the making of these photographs!

Thank you to Jan and Andrew for sharing their experiences and expertise.

If you have a photograph or poem that you would like us to publish on here then please email it to

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More Wetland Work

Thursday, September 10th 2020

It was the turn of the islands in the wetland pools to be strimmed.  Getting onto the islands takes a little ingenuity.  There are no bridges, and no planks of wood long enough to span the water, so ladders are used.  Hayley braved the crossing first.

Followed by Abigail

Ian was tackling the Gorse and Hawthorn shrubs.

By the end of the day the wetland was looking much better, although there is still some strimming to be done.

Bob completed the work on the boardwalk and Hayley carried out a stock check.  As always the varied skills of the Foxglove Volunteers support the reserve in so many ways.  A huge thank you to them all.

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A Very Busy Day

Tuesday, September 8th 2020

The wetland is a major habitat that requires careful management.  The grass sward needs to be controlled. The Hebridean Sheep did eat some of it but not enough, so the volunteers stepped in with strimmers to strim.   This is a massive job and all credit to them for managing to clear a vast area over the last few days.   

And more strimming ...

After strimming the cuttings had to be raked and placed in large sacks to be removed, so that the soil remains poor in nurtrients to encourage wild flowers.

Once full, the sacks were dragged to the collection area.

By the end of the day the volunteers who had carried out much of the strimming were still smiling.

The day had started collecting the wandering sheep and moving them back to Plover's Pool.  Ian knew exactly how to encourage them to move sensibly - food!

A small task required Bob's attention, but it grew into a larger task.  Some of the wood on the boardwalk needed to be replaced.

A huge thank you to all the volunteers who give their time to work on the reserve.  It is much appreciated.

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Monday, September 7th 2020

As part of the everyday duties the sheep have to be checked to see that they are happy and contented and all is well.

It is important to count that there are 15 of them.  This can be difficult as they lie in the Heather and are almost completely hidden.

However when some are spotted on the access road you know that there are not 15 in the paddock!

After a quick nibble of the Beech hedge they wandered back to the quad bike track. 

With careful, gentle herding they walked down the track towards Gerry, whilst the gate was opened and they walked quietly back into the paddock wondering what all the fuss was about!

All in a day's work!

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Saturday, September 5th 2020

Autumn has arrived, although some people wait until the equinox on the 21st September.  The weather has changed and there is a definite nip in the air morning and evening.  A walk around the reserve also reflects the changes that autumn brings.  Blackberries are providing food for a whole range of animals, from deer to mice to insects.  Surprisingly some Brambles are still in flower, but these are unlikley to set seed.

It is several months since the Blackthorn was covered in white flowers.  Now the blue berries, sloes, can be seen.

Guelder Rose has white/cream flowers in early summer.  These have set seed and the trees are covered in red berries.  On guided walks, I informed people that nothing ate these berries and they were often left on the tree right through till spring.  Nature can always prove you wrong, as we then watched a Blackbird having a good feed!

 Another red berry to be seen across the reserve is Hawthorn.  In a few weeks the winter thrushes will arrive and enjoy a feast.

Not all the trees have had a good year.  Last year the Beech tree at the beginning of the Sycamore Avenue (which should now be called Maple Avenue - slight hiccup in ID!!) was covered in Beech Mast, but there is none this year.  The Crab Apples and apple trees in the orchard have done well.

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Busy Volunteers

Friday, September 4th 2020

Foxglove Volunteers work hard and have a variety of skills.  Some of the jobs they do are technical and require thought and careful execution.  Some jobs require a great deal of hard work, like strimming the wetland.  This is an essential job at this time of year to ensure that the sward, which has grown tall, is cut back.  After a long hard day Peter was still smiling.

Nick, also worked hard, was still smiling!

Not only do the grasses, rushes and sedges have to be cut they also need to be raked and placed in dumper bags to be removed, and today that was a job for Jo.

Another job that is essential and is hard work is the bagging up of the waste seed from the oil seed rape crops, provided by a local farmer.  This food sees many birds, especially the finches, through the winter months.  Once the large sacks have been emptied then all the smaller bags are taken to the seed store.  The job does not end there as all the bags from last year that have not been used yet have to be taken out of the store and the new bags placed in first then the others returned.

There was not only a trailer full but the back of Ian's pick up was also full!

And finally another of our volunteers, Alison, who looks after our bees, has been busy making beeswax candles.  There are only a limited number of these for sale, at £4.50 each, in the Field Centre.

A huge thank you to all our volunteers for the commitment and varied work that they carry out.

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Tuesday, September 1st 2020

In the warm sun the butterflies appear.  Brimstone butterflies are quite flighty and trying to take a photograph can prove interesting, but I was lucky enough to find one feeding.

Speckled Wood numbers were low at the beginning of the spring and summer but their numbers have increased in recent weeks and they can be seen flying in any sunny glade around the reserve.  They come to rest on vegetation, in the warm sunshine.

Two year ago Small Tortoiseshell butterflies were hard to find but last year sightings increased and this year there are not many days when you don't see them flying around.

Painted Lady butterflies are migrants from the continent.  Some years there is an influx of these butterflies and last summer they were all over the reserve, but not a one this year.

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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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