Blog Archive (14) Posts Made in July 2021
Friday, July 30th 2021
At this time of year net rides and path edges need to be strimmed. It has been such an excellent growing year it is rather like painting the Forth Railway Bridge! Once finished it is back to the beginning and start all over again.
The path to the middle moor gate looks really neat and tidy.
Not only has the grass grown but every branch on every tree and Blackberry has also grown - a slight exaggeration, unfortunately not! So out with the loppers and secateurs to trim those overhanging branches.
Plants like good conditions in which to grow and flourish? Not quite, they like to grow between the slabs around the Field Centre and to make area welcoming they have to be removed. This is not an easy job!
The steps and path down to the weir are not used by the public but often used by the reserve managers and volunteers to carry out feeding the ducks and bird ringing so it too must be kept tidy. After the work on the reeds the remainder of the path had to be cleared.
One Emerald Damselfly was not at all bothered by all the work going on around him and sat patiently in the sun.
Thank you to all the volunteers who continue to work at Foxglove to make it a very special place to visit.
Tuesday, July 27th 2021
Winter work usually involves most volunteers working together on a single task. Summer jobs are so varied that volunteers are often spread across the reserve.
It is important to ensure that the bird feeding station can be viewed from the easy access hide. This means that the reeds, which have grown exceptionally well, must be cut, raked and removed.
The trailer was filled several times before the area was cleared of the cut reeds.
Bob used his expertise to make a repair on a bridge.
Emma did a great job cleaning the veranda and assisting Gerry in cleaning all the light fittings. (I bet some of the spiders weren't too happy!) We are starting to get ready for our QAVS presentation.
Ian also checked the mowers before the net rides were strimmed or mowed.
As always a big thank you to our valued volunteers for using their variety of skills to enhance Foxglove.
Monday, July 26th 2021
Last week, some guest bird ringers from the Army Ornithological Society (AOS) joined members of the Swaledale Ringing Group to train together over a three day period. This enabled the ringers to learn from each other and to ring in several different habitats. The first day was spent at the reserve carrying out the eighth Constant Effort Scheme (CES) visit of 2021. During the day over 100 new birds were caught of which 38 were Bullfinches! As to be expected at this time of year there was a high percentage of juveniles including this Goldfinch.
On the second day, the team headed to an area of maturing mixed plantation on the training area. Another 120 birds were ringed and one that had been ringed last year was retrapped. The woodland was teeming with juvenile Siskin and Redpoll.
Many of the young birds were in their post juvenile plumage such as this Goldcrest with the first hint of yellow showing on its crown.
A real surprise was a female Woodcock. When temperatures are high they are known to try and keep cool by flying in circles and this could explain how it ended up in our mist nets on such a sunny day!
Day 3 saw the creation of another field ringing station! This time at Bellflask Fisheries adjacent to the River Ure where the main habitat is reedbed.
The most abundant species to be ringed were Reed Warbler and Reed Bunting.
A highlight was a Grey Wagtail (a first year male).
The icing on the cake however was a Willow Tit that was caught alongside a few Marsh Tits. These two species are very similar with just a few subtle differences to tell them apart. The black crown on a Willow Tit is less glossy and slightly different shaped to that on a Marsh Tit. The former also has slightly off white cheeks (compared to white ones on a Marsh Tit). It also has more buff flanks and a slight flash of colur on its wing compared to the Marsh Tit.
In total 287 new birds were ringed over the three days.Our sincere thanks to the members of the AOS who travelled a long way to join us, Ian Tunstill for helping to prepare the net rides, the MOD for allowing access and to Brian Morland of Bellflask Fisheries for permission to ring on his site. Thank you to Janet for keeping looking after visitors to the reserve while the staff were off site!
Wednesday, July 21st 2021
It has been said before but we do have a fantastic set of volunteers. They look after Foxglove in all weathers, snow and rain, ice and wind, sun and heat! Peter and Brian spent a considerable time yesterday strimming. It is a very good growing season and all the vegetation is doing what it does best - grow!
All the hard work ensures that the habitats are maintained to the highest of standards so that flowers can blossom.
Harebells are yet another flower that is spreading its range and some were open on the moor.
Betony is now fully open and can be seen in the heath paddocks and on the moor. Bees, butterflies and hoverflies visit these flowers.
The gravel around the Field Centre is also 'growing'. Every seed seems to have found a comfortable spot to germinate, and has grown into a lovely plant, so much for needing special conditions for germination. Emma set about removing them.
An owl box was in need of repair. Bob used his skills and we now have a box that can replace one or be put up in a new area to provide a nesting site for owls.
The moth team had a huge number of moths to identify. The Swaledale Ringing Group were hosting visitors from the Army Ornithological Society and have been very busy ringing at Foxglove and on other sites. Once this blog is written and published it will soon appear on Facebook and other social media thanks to Katie.
A huge thank you to all our volunteers who work so hard for Foxglove.
A Little Round-up of News
Sunday, July 18th 2021
The Butterfly Count runs from Friday 16 July to Sunday 8 August. https://bigbutterflycount.butterfly-conservation.org/ It is important to check our butterflies and some day flying moths to help to keep a check on the health of our environment. Check the link and follow the instructions to record your butterfly sightings.
Jenny has been keeping a check on Foxglove's butterflies. During June 13 Small Heath butterflies were recorded along with 23 Speckled Wood. Her full list will be sent to the butterfly recorder of VC65.
Added to this information the moths recorded in the moth traps are also forwarded to the VC65 moth recorder. Thank you to all the volunteers involved in this work.
The Army Ornithological Society's visit starts next week and the Swaledale Bird Ringers were out at another site carrying on preparation. The duck trap was hidden completely in the reeds, so waders donned and work commenced.
Both members of the team were released on completion of the task - thank you for all your hard work!
Back at Foxglove a leisurely stroll spotted a 'dragon'. Photos were taken and as my ID on dragons is not brilliant I had to wait until I was home and downloaded the photos to confirm that I had seen a Golden-ringed Dragonfly.
These beautiful dragonflies frequent small becks and streams, sometimes in woodland sometimes on moorland. Returning next day I was lucky enough to catch the female egg laying in the small stream. She lays her eggs in the silt, where they hatch out and remain. They ambush passing food. In the colder, unproductive streams in the north, development can take between two to five years.
The Common Darters are beginning to emerge. Unfortunately they do not always sit in the best of places to take a photograph.
Volunteers at Foxglove have been busy with a variety of tasks during the week, repairing an owl box, strimming, cutting back and clearing invasive vegetation amongst other tasks. A huge thank you for all the work you have done, this is very much appreciated.
Thursday, July 15th 2021
The orchids, have yet again put on a splendid show, appearing in new places across the reserve. The Northern Marsh Orchids have completed their flowering and are now setting seed. Common Spotted Orchids are still standing proud, some are the dark pink colour you expect,
whilst some are much paler
Common Centaury usually only flowered on a path near a net ride and along the access road. It, like the orchids, has spread its wings and is growing in one of the heath paddocks.
Walking up to the moor, the white flowered Privet is releasing its powerful scent. Privet, which is often used as hedging is rarely allowed to flower, but at Foxglove we have two shrubs growing. The scent attracts many bees and also, right on the topmost flower, a Red Admiral.
Rayed Knapweed is blooming across the moor and is always alive with bees and other insects. Finally after watching a Small Skipper for some time, it landed on a Hardhead to feed. These flowers are a valuable food source for a variety of insects.
Many moths fly at night but some can be seen during the day. An Antler moth, so named because of the antler marking on its wings was feasting on a Rayed Kapweed. They can arrive in the moth trap in quite large numbers.
And finally a little bit of fun! There are not enough flowers and food on the moor so the bee and the butterfly had to share the same flower!
The Heath Paddocks
Tuesday, July 13th 2021
Our Heath paddocks are home to Heather, orchids and other flowers and provide habitats for many different creatures. Unfortunately they are also home to invasive Silver Birch, Willow and Bramble. Over the years we have brush cut them, dug them up, added Exmoor Ponies and sheep, who actually preferred other areas of the reserve, as they escaped under the fence! The only way to control these species is hard work by the volunteers. It is, though, like painting the Forth Road Bridge, never ending!
Tree poppers are used to make the task a little easier. The ground needs to be soft enough to pull the trees out by their roots, but not too soft so the tree poppers disappear into the ground when force is applied.
Some of the roots are rather long.
It is not easy work but Ros and Hayley were still smiling!
Next week the reserve will be visited by the Army Ornithological Society. They will be carrying out bird ringing activities at Foxglove and other sites. One of the places had to be checked and the net ride cleared of overhanging branches. There was a four-legged volunteer helping or hindering Hedley!
Thank you to all the volunteers who work so hard to keep Foxglove looking so good.
Sightings on a Summer’s Day
Monday, July 12th 2021
Andrew and Jan walked around the reserve on a warm sunny day. The opening to the meadow is enticing,
encouraging you to look closely at the flora as you step through the gate.
This habitat provides a home for a multitude of invertebrates. Bees are busy feeding from many of the flowers.
Butterflies are obvious even though they can move quickly. This Meadow Brown not only stayed still but sat with its wings open, which is unusual.
Lurking in the deep vegetation are many caterpillars, but sometimes one goes walkabout. Some can be very difficult to ID, as is the case with this one. It is probably a moth caterpillar.
Hanging around the ponds was this dragonfly.
Unfortunatley this photograph was not taken at Foxglove but at Harewood House, which as the crow flies, or should that be as the Red Kite flies, is not too many flaps of the wing! You never know one or two may visit Foxglove, lift your eyes to the sky occaisionally and you never know what you may see.
Thank you to Andrew and Jan for sharing their photographs with us.
On the Wing in the Sun
Sunday, July 11th 2021
Warm is good but sun is better as the insects fly, although that does cause problems as they then are so active they don't always sit still!
A movement and a tiny flash of blue indicates that the Common Blue is on the wing. Amazingly they can disappear before your eyes and then appear elsewhere!
Small Heath Butterflies have been recorded on the reserve across the years but never in large numbers. This year sightings are much increased. These small brown/orange butterflies fly erratically before landing on flowers to feed.
The summer butterflies are on the wing. Meadow Browns are to be seen across the middle moor meadow.
Dark Green Fritillary butterflies are larger than many and are conspicuous with the highly patterned wings.
Damselflies and dragonflies can be seen not only near water but hunting in the sunny glades. Watching them fly across the water is fascinating. Some of the chasers defend their territory and really fight off other males. Whilst watching some of the fights a female was egg laying, which is probably why one male was watching over her.
No damsels were harmed in the taking of this photograph! They did all sit still all at once!
Friday, July 9th 2021
One of the most spectacular sights at Foxglove during the early summer is the wildflower meadow. This has been carefully manged over several years as a haymeadow. The good news is that due to the hard work of staff and volunteers this area has spread.
Yesterday, Martin Hammond, an Ecologist, surveyed this area on behalf of North Yorkshire County Council. He explained that the special mix of Purple Moor Grass with other wildflowers made this an internationally rare habitat and one of European significance in terms of biodiversity
One of the flowers that flourishes here is Meadowsweet. This pretty flower is a member of the rose family that favours wet habitats, such as ditches and damp meadows. It is the food plant for lots of species of moth caterpillars, and the flowers are visited by many other invertebrates including bees, hoverflies and ladybirds. Once pollinated, each flower develops into a globular fruit with spiral grooves.
The bad news is that hundreds of invertebrates will be deprived of this vital food source this year at Foxglove as sadly many of the flower heads have been deliberately removed by a thief! They haven't just snipped off a few flower heads but they have 'harvested' large swathes of the flowers leaving behind only the stems which are of little value to the wildlife that relies on them.
This is the second year that this crime has taken place and it has happened in more than one place on the reserve. What a great shame it is that notices have had to be put up in the reserve to remind people that it is an offence to pick wildflowers!
You should not pick any plant on a site designated for its conservation interest, such as Nature Reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI's) in Britain and Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI's) in Northern Ireland. Permission for picking from these sites requires prior consent from the appropriate statutory conservation agencies (English Nature, Natural Resources Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage or the Environment and Heritage Service, Northern Ireland).
It is illegal to pick, uproot or remove plants if by-laws are in operation which forbid these activities, for example on Nature Reserves, Ministry of Defence property or National Trust land. Foxglove Covert LNR falls into two of these categories!
Extra measures are in now in place to protect the flora from further damage. If you have any information about this crime then please get in touch with the Reserve Managers.
Let’s Learn Moor
Wednesday, July 7th 2021
A big event organised by Countryside Learning invites primary school children to spend a day on a moor to learn about uplands habitats, the work of gamekeepers and farmers, the emergency services who protect the uplands, mountain rescue, National Parks and the management of the moors. Following its success on the North York Moors, Let’s Learn Moor is being rolled out across 5 further moors and the aim is to have 2000 plus primary school children out on various moors during Let’s Learn Moor week. Today a small team from the reserve went along to take part in this huge event; an opportunity to meet over 340 children and their teachers and explain all about the Local Nature Reserve and its wildlife and the importance of the upland moor habitat. The first challenge of the day was to put up a gazebo in the breezy conditions!
Fortunately, there was plenty of time to set up!
With everything in place the first of ten school groups could be welcomed. Each school was allocated half an hour at every activity station.
Apart from visiting the Foxglove Covert stand the pupils could learn about heather management, falconry and beekeeping plus much more. Honey farmers from Pear Tree Honey Farm showed the children a portable observation hive and let them have a taste of their delicious produce.
During the half an hour session with us the groups did a round robin of 3 different activities. They had a demonstration of how a mist net works for bird ringing (using toy birds) and found out why bird ringing is important in conservation.
They also learned about our work with owls especially the Barn Owls that occupy the many old barns in the Yorkshire Dales.
The second challenge was a 'who am I?' animal game.
Finally, there was a chance to do some sweep netting to find out about the invertebrates that live amongst the heather. Spiders, centipedes and ants were the main finds of the day!
We took with us a dispay made by volunteers of wading birds that visit the moors in the summer months to breed. The Swaledale Ringing Group are currently working in partnership with many local gamekeepers to ring Oytercatcher, Lapwing and Curlew chicks (such as the 3 shown here).
Our sincere thanks to Hayley and Elizabeth for giving up their day to help, Jo and Roger for staying back and looking after the Field Centre and to the staff from the Yorkshire Dales Moorland Group and Countryside Learning for inviting us to take part in this grand day out!
Tuesday, July 6th 2021
Over the past two weeks school children from Sacred Heart RC Primary Academy in Northallerton have visited Foxglove Covert on three separate days. They did some pond dipping, went on a minibeast safari and played in the dams at the outdoor classroom. All visits began with an introduction and an explanation of the reserve's name; the Foxglove flower and then the word 'covert' which means a safe and secure place.
Safe and secure for over 2, 600 different species of wildlife! Only last week a new grass species was added to the ever growing list of plants and animals found on the site.
The wildflower meadow is looking spectacular at the moment and well worth a visit before the flowers go over and the grass is cut for hay.
Further along the path, the Bluebells have gone over but the stone circle contrasts well with the conifers behind it.
The majestic Grand Fir in the centre of the photo is one of our favourites as the needles have an unusual fruit scent (the jury is still out as to which fruit)!
These were some of the sights enjoyed by more valued visitors; Zabi (Member Pioneer) and Will (Store Manager) from the Co-op who came to see for themselves how the reserve has benefitted from their 'causes' funding. Our thanks to Hayley (Relief Reserve Manager) for being their guide for the morning.
The two new strimmers that were purchased with this money have been put to good use already. Last week they were used to cut back invasive Bracken, revealing wildflowers beneath that were struggling to reach the light.
Apart from carrying out the many necessary outdoor tasks, volunteers have been catching up with indoor jobs such as making displays, preparing for an event, stock taking and getting the newsletter (Undergrowth) ready for posting.
Thank you to all of the supporters who are part of the Friends scheme who will be receiving their copy very soon. Please let us know if you are willing to help us cut down on resources and costs by receiving future copies via email. This latest edition has been kindly edited by Katie and is a bumper edition with lots of articles to bring you up to speed with recent events.
Sunday, July 4th 2021
Once a month there is a small family Forest School for Richmond Home Educators. So far this keen group have been getting familiar with the reserve and have done some pond dipping. The theme for this month was owls and the children spent some of the time dissecting Barn Owl pellets to learn more about the owl's diet.
They found bones of various small mammals such as Bank Voles and Shrews. Many thanks to volunteer Nicola for sharing her expert knowledge on the identification of these. These pellets were collected by the Swaledale Bird Ringers from the ranges at Warcop near Appleby where the small rodent population seems to be more abundant than the local one.
Forest School is all about being outdoors and so the remainder of the session was spent in the woodland having a go at some 'Andy Goldsworthy' inspired artwork. On the way there we had a look at some of the owl boxes in the conifers.
Using only materials found on the forest floor the budding artists created pictures of owls and other plants and animals.
There were flying owls, perched owls and even some with a nest of eggs!
A lot of thought was given to the specially adapted features of the owl such as the disc shaped head with large eyes, sharp beak and talons!
Here are some more of the masterpieces!
There was even a sheep inspired by the wool from a Jackdaw nest that was discovered in one of the owl boxes!
A fun time was had by all!
One or Two Moths!
Thursday, July 1st 2021
The moth traps were emptied on Wednesday morning. A quick look seemed to suggest one or two moths, but during the morning the one or two became lots and lots!
Those that we wanted to photograph were kept separate. Thankfully the morning was cool so the moths in the containers and in the traps were calm. Identification is a team effort. Some moths are easy to ID, whilst others are known to some of the moth-ers and some require checking. Our moth books are definitely required!
The grand total was 377 moths across 59 species. There may be some micros to add to these numbers.
Photograph time and some moths co-operate, some fly off, but that is nature, you can't require it to do as you tell it! A grand idea was to photograph two Blood-vein moths together as they were different sizes, which is unusual. One flew one way the other another, but the wall was in the way and so it sat quietly for a photograph to be taken.
We record more Alder Moth caterpillars than adults so it was nice to find one in the trap. The larvae do eat Alder leaves but also eat leaves from other broadleaved trees.
An exquisitely marked moth is Buff Arches.
And finally, a favourite amongst all the moth-ers is the Spectacle moth, which lives up to its name.
Thanks to the staff and volunteers who organised the putting out of the traps and to Chris who arrived at Foxglove for 5am to cover the traps to ensure that all the moths stayed where they should!