Blog Archive (14) Posts Made in October 2020
Owls, Trees and Pumpkins!
Wednesday, October 28th 2020
A rescued Tawny Owl was brought to the reserve to be ringed before its release back into the wild. It had been found laying in a main road in the Dales, wet and bedraggled. After some TLC from a local 'owl man' it is fully recovered and will go back into its natural habitat over the next few days.
Due to the heavy rain, the Foxglove team of volunteers have been working in the conifer woodland where it is well sheltered. They have been thinning out some of the small Sitka Spruce to allow more light into the forest floor. Once felled, the side branches were trimmed off with a chainsaw - a process known as 'snedding'.
The wood was then graded into different piles; one for woodchips, one for path edges and the brash for the bonfire.
As usual, the amount of brash was surprising!
It was a chilly day and the bonfire was a welcome source of heat for the workers.
Especially for Richard who needed to warm his hands up after carrying several rucksack loads of boulders to a boggy section of footpath.
There was a shocking lack of jacket potatoes but this will be put right later in the week! The end result of the thinning was clear to see and the extra light coming through the remaining trees was significant.
From high up in the woodland, the sounds of children enjoying the pumpkin trail could be heard. This has proved to be very popular and the pumpkins are bearing up well in the wet weather!
More Meadow Management
Monday, October 26th 2020
Cutting and raking of the wildflower habitats is still ongoing at the reserve. This year, cutting has been carried out much later than in previous years as the flowers have flowered later than usual. The area next to Spigot Mere is one of the last meadows to be cut and as it is inaccessible to large machinery it has to be done the hard way; with strimmers and then old fashioned wooden hay rakes!
Incredibly, some flowers were still out, including Sneezewort and Devil's Bit Scabious. Care was taken to cut around them as they are a precious late source of nectar for wildlife.
It was hard going wading through the wet grass with strimmers and is a bigger area than it looks from the path!
Luckily, help came from many different people; mid-week volunteers, work placement students, Interns and for the first time since the lockdown a small team from the PRC (Personnel Recovery Centre) at Catterick Garrison.
Our sincere thanks to everyone who has helped with this important job from cutting and raking to removing the hay, we couldn't have done it without you!
Saturday, October 24th 2020
On Friday, Foxglove Covert LNR received a cheque for £500 from TESCO as part of their COVID grants. During the summer lockdown, the reserve was forced to close for three months and like many other charities who rely on donations from the public it suffered financially. This money will go a long way towards the maintenance of the habitats and the Foxglove team are extremely grateful. They also kindly donated some pumpkins for the half term trail.
It didn't take Olivia (Intern from Teesside University) long to transform the pumpkins into fantastic decorations.
They are now hiding along the Easy Access Trail (Red Route) for you to find!
The Fifth Kingdom
Friday, October 23rd 2020
Neither plant nor animal, fungi has been recognised as a separate kingdom for over fifty years. This time of year is when most of the fungi is found at the reserve. The team of species recorders at Foxglove has discovered so much this month that there are more species of fungi than there are of birds on the observation board in the Field Centre. Like all other living organisms, fungi is named and classified into groups. Until recently, there were relatively few English names for British fungi but the British Mycological Society have been creating new ones to encourage more interest in biodiversity.
This Green Elfcup Chlorociboria aeruginascens is found on the old, rotting wood of broad-leaved trees, especially oak, the wood becoming stained blue-green. This has been used to supply the green colour for making Tunbridge Ware. If you look carefully, you can see some of the stained wood in the top left of the photograph. It was photographed on one of the many log piles.
In the conifer woodland look out for Green-staining Coral Ramaria abietina so named because its branches turn greenish when bruised. A good species to be found at Foxglove because it has been described as growing in 'small trooping groups'!
Similarly looking, is Meadow Coral Clavulinopsis corniculata, however, this prefers grassy habitats.
Yellow Club Clavulinopsis helvola is found among grass and mosses on unimproved grassland and heathland but can also live in broad-leaved woodland.
Another meadow species is Meadow Puffball Lycoperdon utriforme which looks a bit like a white golf ball when it first emerges but then turns dark-grey brown over time.
The large logs of broad-leaved trees that line the access road are a perfect place for Hairy-Curtain Crust Stereum hirsutum. The upper surface of these irregularly-shaped tiered brackets is distinctly hairy. Individual brackets are 2 to 8 cm across and have irregularly wavy edges. The colours, which are zoned and generally paler towards the margin, darken with age. They can be quite colourful and are found all year round.
Primrose Brittlegill, False Saffron Milkcaps, Elfin Saddle, Blackening Waxcaps, Woolly Milkcaps, White Saddle, Conifer Mazegill and Spotted Toughshank are just a few of the other names on the monthly list for October.
Many thanks go to the dedicated team of volunteers who work hard to discover and identify the various species with special thanks to Chris Meek for providing the photographs for today's blog.
Wednesday, October 21st 2020
Looking for something to do over the half term break? Why not have a go at our Pumpkin Trail? Come along with your family bubble and follow the clues around the Easy Access Trail (red route). This path is wheelchair and pushchair friendly. No booking required, just bring a pencil!
See the events page for further details.
Things In The Pipeline!
Tuesday, October 20th 2020
Many of the ponds at Foxglove are artificially made and are fed by water diverted from streams and becks. Routine checks and maintenance ensure that they all function properly. On checking one of the ponds off the beaten track, an issue was discovered and it soon became clear that there was an obstacle in one of the sections of pipe. To all of our surprise, it turned out to be a giant tree root! Once removed, the pond quickly filled to its usual level. Thank you to Peter and Gerry for braving the icy waters and pulling it out!
Also in the pipeline is a new Pumpkin Trail for Halloween. Olivia, an Intern from Teesside University has been busy putting together some interesting facts about wildlife and making some fun clues that will be put out on the Easy Access Trail (Red Route) over the next few days.
The clues will stay in place over half term so why not pay a visit and enjoy some 'screen free' family time in the fresh air. Watch this space for further details!
Volunteer Round Up
Sunday, October 18th 2020
Volunteers were busy throughout last week carrying out a variety of different conservation tasks. In some areas of the woodland, Gorse had almost taken over and was crowding out some of the specially planted native trees. Armed with loppers, some of the dedicated mid-week volunteers cut down as much of the unwanted Gorse as they could.
This then had to be carried to a central bonfire site. If it had been stacked up, the pile would have been huge! It was 'green gym' at its best with some people clocking up thousands of steps on their phone Apps!
This work will benefit both the older Larch trees and the younger trees that are still growing inside tree protectors. Small Ash trees that had suffered from Ash Dieback and diseased Sycamores were also removed.
In some places trees had become completely surrounded and would have struggled to survive.
Further along the Discovery Trail, students from Askham Bryan tested out their woodwork skills by edging the footpath with timber; quite a task on such uneven ground.
Down in the Scrapes, Bob found yet another wooden structure in need of repair; this time a set of steps used by the bird ringers on their net rounds.
This was much appreciated especially as it is on the way to the net rides where Redwings can be caught in good numbers. With flocks continuously passing overhead, some of the bird ringers (also volunteers) made the most of the opportunity and put up the mist nets on several mornings. It was easy to keep 2m apart and to wear a face covering but not so straight forward trying to read tiny numbers through misted up glasses!
So far 58 of these stunning birds have been caught and ringed since the beginning of October at the reserve.
Amongst the birds caught and ringed were several Goldcrests, Bullfinches and Reed Buntings and a couple of Continental Blackbirds. These are easy to identify as they are much darker, slightly larger and have a darker bill than the resident ones, like the female shown here. Blackbirds move about much more than many people realise. They disappear from gardens in September and October for two reasons; firstly, they will be hiding away to recover from moulting and secondly, they move out to the fields in search of food. When they return from November onwards, they are in bigger numbers.
Clare Simm, of the BTO Garden Ecology team, explains the reason for this significant increase: “Large numbers of Blackbirds migrate from Sandinavia and continental Europe to spend the winter here in Britain and Ireland. A few of our Blackbirds migrate too, but generally only moving within Britain, often moving south and west during the autumn, pursuing the milder weather.” Ringing is one way to learn more about these fascinating movements. Several birds that were originally ringed in Norway have been controlled (caught again) at Foxglove and vice versa.
Volunteers have also written letters to welcome new Friends, updated social media, resolved technical issues, identified moths, greeted visitors and much more. Their skills and talents never cease to amaze us!
Read All About It!
Wednesday, October 14th 2020
A sharp-eyed supporter noticed an article about our recent bird ringing surprise in the Darlington & Stockton Times.
Thank you to Philip Sedgwick for including a short piece about the reserve.
Sunday, October 11th 2020
A quiet area of the reserve, less visited by people, is the woodland walk on the Explorer Trail. In some places the route is difficult to follow so to make life easier, staff and volunteers edge the footpath to highlight the way. In some places, the edging has become a part of the habitat as shown here where the logs have become covered in bright moss. These will be left undisturbed.
However, in other sections of the trail, the logs have become dislodged over time or rotted away completely and needed to be replaced. In other places, logs were used for the first time. Old, rotting logs that were removed were placed close to the footpath to create habitat piles as they will no doubt be full of beetle larva and other important invertebrates. To replace them, Grey Alder trees that were struggling to grow below the main canopy were felled and then pegged into place using small wooden stakes.
There were two benefits to carrying out this work; not only was the path made clearer but the woodland was thinned at the same time (another advantage was less distance to carry the logs)! Although only a few small trees were cut down, the additional sunlight reaching the forest floor was significant.
It was a fun challenge to match the shape of the timbers to the contours of the land and the end result had an 'Andy Goldsworthy' look about it!
This habitat is especially peaceful and a very special one to work in.
Whilst working, the team found several beautiful fungi including this False Saffron Milkcap.
Other wildlife found here include Roe Deer, Tawny Owls, flocks of Coal Tits and Goldcrests. Why not explore this area on your next visit!
Please Support Us
Friday, October 9th 2020
We are still 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. Just click here!
If you don't live locally, you can still choose Foxglove as your cause by quoting the reference number: 35823
So far you have raised:
Thank you for your support!
Red, Yellow, Gold and Green
Wednesday, October 7th 2020
There was a pleasant surprise in store for some of the bird ringers this morning when a Yellow-browed Warbler was caught in one of the mist nets. The Yellow-browed Warbler is a strongly marked bird with distinctive wing bars and eye stripe. It is only just smaller than a Chiffchaff and not much bigger than a Firecrest, with which it can be easily confused if seen briefly. This is only the second time that this beautiful species has been ringed at Foxglove. The closest breeding grounds for this bird is the Russian Urals however, it is a frequent - and increasing - vagrant to Britain and Ireland. They are most often spotted on the East coast where they join flocks of Coal Tits. They winter mainly in tropical South Asia and South-east Asia, but also in small numbers in western Europe. On migration they will feed in any cover they can find although they seem to have a preference for Willow and Sycamore both of which grow on the reserve.
Redwing have started to arrive on their migration from Scandinavia and the first one of the year was ringed at Foxglove today. Redwings like hedges and orchards as well as open, grassy fields. They will come to parks and gardens. Often they join with flocks of Fieldfares.
Another stunning bird was this adult, male Redpoll. They are only slightly bigger than a Blue Tit and are streaky and brown with patches of red on their head and in the case of the males, their breasts. They used to be winter visitors to the UK but now breed here.
Several young Goldcrests were ringed during the morning. Some of the smallest birds in the counttry (this one weighed only 5.0g)! Such a tiny bird would seem to be no candidate for long distance migration. However, ringing has shown regular movements from countries around the North Sea and Baltic into Britain for the winter. One has even reached us from Russia and several from Poland, though Norway, Sweden and Finland are their usual points of origin. It seems amazing that any of them can survive two journeys as well as the cold weather but some clearly do, as several Goldcrests ringed here in winter have been found back home in Fennoscandia.
Posts, Pathways and Prizes!
Tuesday, October 6th 2020
The final few waymarker posts on the Explorer Trail were installed today. A few additional ones have been put in place to help guide visitors around the perimeter pathway also known as the green route.
In parts of the woodland, it was tricky to dig around the tree roots.
Down on Risedale Beck, dams that had been damaged in the storm on Saturday were repaired; a definite 'wader job'!
Up in the woodland, a start was made on re edging the pathway using timber from excess trees. Each peg was cut off at exactly 45%!
Paths were also cleared of autumn leaves.
Gerry made a quiz for lunchtime and the winners were Jo and Roger, now the proud owners of a trophy (until next week)!
Another fun and productive day at Foxglove!
Monday, October 5th 2020
Several attempts have been made at 'squirrel proofing' the bird feeding stations at the lake edges. However, it seems that one particular Grey Squirrel is always one step ahead and Andrew Gillings managed to capture it in mid-air as it appeared to 'fly away' from the feeders!
This area is one of the main attractions for visitors and behind the scenes a lot of work is put in to keep it looking at its best. Newly appointed Intern from Teesside University, Olivia and work placement student from Askham Bryan, Sam, spent this afternoon strimming the duck feeding platform.
It was their first day with the Foxglove team and we hope that they both enjoy their placements at the reserve.
Moorland and Meadow Management
Sunday, October 4th 2020
Autumn colours are brightening up all areas of the reserve; this Beech tree on the orchard was looking spectacular against the blue sky at the end of last week. The orchard consists of various native apple trees and is designed to provide food for winter thrushes. It won't be long until flocks of Redwing and Fieldfare start to arrive from their breeding grounds in Scandinavia.
The stone circle was also looking splendid in the autumn sunshine.
Mowing and raking continues to be the main job on the reserve. The final corner of the wildflower meadow was cut and is ready to be raked on a dry day.
Regular visitors will notice some new waymarker posts that have been installed here to encourage walkers to stay on the path and to mark out the way when the Bluebell bank and meadow are in full bloom.
This has been an ongoing task with each post being carefully installed at a well thought out location! It has involved a lot of preparation and carrying of heavy tools, cement, water and equipment but the new posts look fantastic and Ian has checked every single one with a spirit level!
Further along the moorland, invasive Gorse has been removed from the edges of Plover's Pool.
Gathering Gorse isn't the easiest of jobs as it is extremely spikey and unpleasant to handle, it's difficult to believe that the Exmoor ponies enjoyed eating it!
As well as the work mentioned above, volunteers have helped with much more including carrying out bridge repairs along Risedale Beck…
...and painting fingerpost signs.
Foxglove is very lucky to have such a great team of dedicated volunteers.