Blog Archive (15) Posts Made in April 2021

Shoots Of Spring

Thursday, April 29th 2021

One of our regular visitors, Andrew Gillings, set himself a photography challenge to capture the delights of Spring. Here are some of his favourite photographs…

If you feel inspired why not set yourself a similar task and send us your best shots to publish here. Many thanks to Andrew for sharing these beautiful pictures.

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Spring Flowers

Tuesday, April 27th 2021

The cold nights and cool days are probably not what we would like for spring, after a long cold wet winter, but it does mean that the spring flower show lasts longer.  Every flower is important as a provider of food for a myriad of insects.  Butterflies coming out of hibernation need the nectar whilst the bumble and honey bees are busy collecting pollen.

Primroses are now covering the banks along Risedale Beck but their pale lemon yellow flowers can be seen in many different places, where you least expect them.

Marsh Marigolds are much bolder with a bright yellow flower.  There are not many of these across the reserve so it is always lovely to find a new clump, although as this one is on an island judicious pruning was not possible.

Globe flowers used to grow on the reserve but dispeared so over the last three years we have tried to re-introduce them wthout much success, until this year when the first flower has opened.  These single flower clumps will slowly expand until we have a mass of nodding flower heads.

The Cherry trees are also in flower, so it is well worth a look up as blossom can be spotted in amongst other trees and shrubs.

And finally many thanks to the reserve managers and volunteers who are 'rubbing their tummies and patting their heads' trying to sort out the water levels on the wetland.   Not an easy task when hindered by the Water Voles.  Five Greylag Geese looked on, well camouflaged against the winter vegetation as Sophie and Gerry checked outlets and pipes and holes and more pipes!

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Working In The Spring Sunshine

Monday, April 26th 2021

A group from the Personnel Recovery Centre in Catterick Garrison gave a helping hand last week; they edged pathway on the woodland walk and removed excess pond weed from around the pond dipping platforms. 

Regular volunteers were also hard at work in the spring sunshine; repairing damage caused by the elusive Water Voles (who managed to tunnel through a wetland bund causing the water to flow in the wrong direction and thereby lowering the levels in some pools and creating a flood along a footpath)!

Down in the centre of the reserve, repairs were also carried out to a leaking bank to help keep the water levels as high as possible in this dry period. As usual, the job was a lot bigger than expected and work is ongoing!

Other tasks carried out included clearing drainage pipes, sweeping boardwalks, painting signs and identifying species. Thank you to everyone involved!

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A Beautiful Day

Friday, April 23rd 2021

Warm sunshine, no wind and blue sky greeted the volunteers yesterday.  They all went off in different directions to carry out a variety of tasks, from repairing a pond dipping platform, putting in new dams to correct water loss, digging channels to make the water go where we want it to go and not where it chooses and repairing some steps in the woodland.  Many thanks for all the work completed yesterday.

The trees surrounding the lake are beginning to show their spring colours.  There are now three pairs of tufties (Tufted Duck) on the lake along with Mallard, Grey Wagtail, Little Grebe, Moorhen and Grey Heron.

No wind at Spigot Mere meant that reflections could be easily admired.

The previous night was relatively mild so the moth traps were set.  A total of 71 moths were trapped, manily dull brown and some quite worn, but two Early Thorns were recorded.  Soon, weather permitting, the moth species will change and bring a bit more colour to the traps.  There is plenty of food for the larvae of this moth as it feeds on Hawthorn, Blackthorn, both birches, Silver and Downy as well as Alder and Honeysuckle.

Primroses cover the bank down from the wetland and a few minutes standing quietly saw that there were several Bee Fly Mimics (Bombilius major) flying around.  the emphasis on flying!  The photos taken have a delightful splodge in middle.  These insects are also known as Large bee-fly and Dark-edged bee-fly.

The flies mimic bees and uses it to its own advantage, allowing close access to solitary bee and wasp nests in order to deposit its eggs. They flick their eggs as close to the nests as possible.After hatching, the larvae find their way into the nests to parasitically feed on the grubs. Nature is fantastic!

Along Risedale Beck another bank was in full sunshine with the flowers open and enjoying feeding was another Bee fly and it sat still.

Finally wandering back to Spigot Mere Greylag Geese were calling. A stealthy approach saw two sitting on the island but then a sense that I was being watched and over the bund was another Greylag just checking me out.  A quick click with the camera and a quiet get away.

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Interesting Finds

Wednesday, April 21st 2021

The Honey Bees in the observation hive are fed with a special sugar syrup (called Ambrosia) during the winter months but this morning they were observed fetching back large pollen sacks which is a good sign and means that they can now make their own food from natural sources. Primroses are in full bloom along the banks to Risedale Beck, they were especially bright today in the spring sunshine and no doubt a perfect place for the bees to forage.

The first Bluebells have begun to flower too. So far there are a few individuals dotted about but in a few weeks there will be large swathes of them around the reserve.

Wood Anemones are also a vital source of early nectar for invertebrates such as bees and hoverflies at this time of year. They are named after the Greek god Anemos, who sent the flowers ahead of him in spring. They are slow growing and spread via rhizomes (horizontal underground stems).

On the wetland, Great reedmace (Bulrush) seed heads appeared to be dancing in the breeze! 

Whilst checking the water levels in this area, a cluster of Horse leeches was discovered close to one of the outflow pipes. These fascinating creatures are not the same as the blood sucking medicinal ones. Instead they feed on smaller animals such as midge larvae and snails but sometimes move onto land in search of earthworms. They are usually brown or black but can be green like the one in the centre of the photograph.

Finally, volunteers working in the woodland were curious when they found this False Morel fungus. Twenty of these were discovered in a group (possibly for the first time at the reserve) alongside the path on the green route.

You never know what you might discover when you explore at Foxglove; every day is a learning day!

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An Update

Tuesday, April 20th 2021

Ahead of the CES (Constant Effort Site) bird ringing, the bird ringers got together for the first time in several months to make sure that everything was ready for the busy season ahead. Chiffchaffs have been heard singing for a while at Foxglove, they have now been joined by Willow Warblers and Blackcaps as they have returned safely from their wintering grounds.

Volunteering is picking up again due to the easing of restrictions and today some got well and truly 'stuck in' repairing a section of footpath that was poorly drained.

Blocked drainage pipes were re-discovered and rodded; a muddy task! New pipes were added too and drainage channels were installed to prevent the pipes from blocking in the future.

With the bird breeding season beginning, focus has turned from habitat management to site maintenance. Volunteers carried out step repairs, edged and surfaced woodland paths and rebuilt dams. The water levels are very low and a lot of effort is being made to encourage as much water as possible into the many ponds; debris was cleared from this beck that feeds into the Scrapes.

In addition, preparations are being made for when the Field Centre re-opens on the 17th May and a new addition is this clever handmade display for bird feeders on sale.

Whether you have made a display, helped with bird ringing, cleared out a ditch, identified a species, rodded a pipe or edged a path, your contribution is appreciated!

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Stake and Chips!

Friday, April 16th 2021

Visitors who haven't been for a while will notice a big difference at the Outdoor Classroom where the removal of diseased Ash trees has opened up the area. There are usually lots of Bluebells here in the summer so hopefully these will spread now that more light is reaching the ground.

The tidy up operation was a mammoth task with most of the brash being made into woodchips.

In this area the woodchips were scattered thinly around the bracken where they will soon decompose.

The team of newly qualified 'woodchippers' have also been busy in the woodland where they have shredded brash from conifers that were thinned out during the winter months.

These woodchips were perfect for path surfacing so were loaded up and moved by wheelbarrow to the wettest parts of the woodland trail.

Some of the brash was used to line the footpath first to prevent the woodchips from sinking!

The finished section of path looked very inviting!

Conifer trunks had also been saved to edge the paths further along the green route. The long lengths ensured that the volunteers stuck to social distancing rules!

The poles were installed and pegged into place with wooden stakes. This is a great way to define the path and reuse materials from the reserve.

The work is ongoing but already has made a good difference to the woodland walks. Thank you to everyone who has helped out over the last few weeks.

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A Warm Welcome!

Wednesday, April 14th 2021

This week, due to the easing of restrictions, we were able to welcome back a regular group from the Northallerton Personalised Learning College. The students were pleased to be back at the reserve and out in the fresh air and sunshine.

It was the perfect opportunity to look for some early signs of spring and where better to start than in the Scrapes where there is plenty of Toadspawn. The group collected some fresh pondwater and a small amount of Toadspawn to put in the classroom aquarium. 

Once it had been collected in a clear container, everyone could have a closer look at the long ribbons of jelly with black dots. It will be interesting to watch these develop over the next few weeks before the young Toads are released back into the ponds.

Parts of the reserve are now open to members of the public again however, only the outdoor trails, carparks and toilets are open for now.  It is hoped to reopen the Field Centre and hides at the next phase of the government's roadmap on May 17th. You can hear more about this in an interview with Dales Radio on a podcast. Thanks to Jennifer Scott, the member pioneer at Leyburn Co-op, who invited us to attend her slot to explain how the Co-op Local Community Fund  has helped Foxglove during the pandemic. The money has made a huge difference! We are still part of this scheme and it's easy to do ... simply log on to your Co-op account and follow the links supporting your local causes.  You'll find us in the SPACES category. If you don't live locally, you can still choose Foxglove as your cause by quoting the reference number: 35823

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Red, White and Blue

Monday, April 12th 2021

Scarlet Elf Cup was found growing on an old log pile down near to Risedale Beck. In European folklore, it was said that wood elves drank morning dew from the cups!

Once again, Barn Owls are breeding on the reserve. Last year, the female was buried by Jackdaws several times who covered her with twigs and sheep wool (their nesting material). This year, a close eye will be kept on the box to make sure there are no intruders! This owl was ringed by the bird ringers last week and had an especially bright white chest. Associated with the night the Barn Owl has also been called the Ghost Owl, the Church Owl even the Death Owl. This one was more sleepy than scary!

Although not in flower yet, the Bluebells on the bank in the woodland are looking promising with plenty of green leaves. In a few weeks time this area will be a beautiful sight. In folklore, Bluebells were said to ring when fairies were summoning their kin to a gathering; but if a human heard the sound, it would be their death knell. Not surprisingly, it was considered unlucky to trample on a bed of Bluebells, because you would anger the fairies resting there!

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Relaxation of Restrictions April 2021

Sunday, April 11th 2021

Following the Government Roadmap guidance, the car parks, outdoor trails and toilets will reopen from MONDAY 12 APRIL (The main part of the Field Centre and viewing hides will remain closed for now).

Government guidelines mean that anyone entering the Field Centre must wear a mask and check in to Foxglove Covert LNR on the NHS Track and Trace App or fill in their contact details on the sheet provided.

Hand gel will be provided in the entrance way to the toilets.

The two metre rule will still apply everywhere on the reserve.

Opening times will remain as follows:

Mid-week 9:00am - 5:00pm

Weekends and Bank Holidays 10:00am - 4:00pm

All organised groups must book in advance by contacting a Reserve Manager on 01748 830045 or 07754 270980 or by emailing:

The safety of our staff, volunteers and visitors remains paramount and the Management Group will keep the situation under continuous review. Should the situation change it may be necessary to consider further appropriate measures. 

The Management Group and staff thank you all, for your continued support.

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A Special Thank You

Wednesday, April 7th 2021

The members of the Management Group would like to thank the staff and volunteers who have been hard at work for the past few months preparing the reserve for the re-opening on 12th April.

The only volunteers who have been able to help during the latest lockdown have been those issued with a security pass as they do not have to book into the guard room. However, after April 12th we look forward to welcoming more volunteers both old and new to assist with the day to day running of the reserve. 

Over the last fortnight work has focused on the final tidying after the Ash Dieback works…

...and bridge repairs (or as in the case here, bridge replacement)!

Bird feeders have also been kept topped up to help out our feathered friends during the current cold snap!

Much of this in freezing temperatures and wintery showers!

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Sunshine and Snow Showers

Wednesday, April 7th 2021

With the recent arctic blast, the reserve has had a few flurries of snow and hail. 

Not very much settled on the ground.

Along the path to the beck Gorse is in flower. Folklore states that when gorse is out of bloom, you should not kiss your loved ones. But, as the different species of gorse bloom throughout the year, it can usually be found during every month. It will be a welcome source of early nectar for the Foxglove honey bees!

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First Moth Trapping Results

Tuesday, April 6th 2021

Weather forecasts were scrutinised, several as they can all give different temperatures and wind speeds but last Tuesday night was looking good, so the traps were set.  Nearly one hundred moths were recorded. 

One moth was identified as Dark Sword-grass.  This was confirmed as the first migrant of the year in the county and the earliest record in VC 65.

As an immigrant this moth has been recorded in every month of the year, but it is mainly seen between July and October.  It is thought that those that arrive in early spring lay eggs and the larvae develop probably feeding on herbaceous plants.  These larvae swell the number of autumn immigrants.  However breeding has not been confirmed.

A moth that always gives pleasure, as its name is indicative of its characteristics, is the Yellow Horned Moth.  Unfortunately this one has tucked away his yellow antenna!  The larvae are quite specific feeders eating Silver and Downy Birch.

As the name suggests the larvae of Pine Beauty feeds on pine needles, especailly the fresh growth.  The adults feed from willow catkins.

Hebrew Characters are easily identified even though their characteristics may vary.  They can arrive in large numbers in the trap from March to early May.

Thanks to the moth team for identifying the moths and to Chris for the photographs.

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Tawny Owls

Monday, April 5th 2021

Tawny Owls have been monitored by the Swaledale Ringing Group for 30 years and this work is ongoing. The group look after over 100 large nest boxes which are not just used by owls; some are inhabited by Kestrels, Barn Owls and occasionally Jackdaws and squirrels too! Some of the boxes were checked last week to see what stage the Tawny Owls are at and most seem to be sitting on eggs already with many having up to 3 eggs. The owl shown here was a new one that was ringed for the first time.

As to be expected, most of the adults found on the nests were already ringed. One of them (in the photo below) was first ringed back in 2007 and had been caught several times since. Another was ringed as a chick in 2008 and hadn't been caught since. This kind of information on survival and longevity is extremely valuable to the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) who analyse it to identify patterns and trends in the owl population.

At the end of the year data is also submitted to the Hawk and Owl Trust who kindly provide some of the nest boxes.

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Water Droplets, Ferns and more Work

Thursday, April 1st 2021

The weather forecast did not suggest rain or drizzle but that is what appeared this morning.  Although this made it damp underfoot it did give rise to water droplets on the vegetation.

This willow was coated in tiny water droplets.

Primroses also caught the droplets.

Foxglove has many shady damp places that give a variety of ferns ideal conditions to thrive.  Three ferns do not grow in profusion at Foxglove.  One is the Hart's Tongue Fern.  It is noticeable by having solid leaves and lines of sori on the underside.  This clump can be found along Risedale Beck.  We did find more, rather a lot more, growing in the shrubs along the access road.  Once found, never to be seen again, as we have been unable to find it, even after very careful, thorough searches.  We will have another look in spring when new fronds grow.

Two other ferns were found today, Common Polypody growing on a dead tree and Hard Fern growing in the Willow Carr.  It is good to note that they have all survived the winter. 

Pillwort, a rare aquatic fern, was also checked and it is hopeful that it too has survived in various places.  Unfortunately there was other vegetation and dead plants in the same areas so it was difficult to confirm that the Pillwort was still growing.  As it warms up so we should be able to see new growth.

Volunteers started the day by unloading the seed order and then re-loading it into the seed store.  Not an easy task.

Then it was back to clearing up, but this time it was not brash but logs that had to be moved.  Some were just the right shape to be carried,

whilst others were a little more diffcult.

It can never be said that volunteer work is not varied, it was back to brash that had to be removed along the access road.  It looks like Ian has magical powers to move the brash!

Hayley was busy repairing the quad bike track through the heath.

Many thanks for all your hard work.

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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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