Blog Archive (14) Posts Made in April 2023
Sunday, April 30th 2023
Forecast scrutinised, not bad, mist and drizzle early then dull, cloudy and damp, but no rain. Unfortunately the weather had not consulted the forecast, so we got the mist across Spigot Mere,
the Stone Circle and right across the moor.
This soon turned to heavy rain so instead of doing a trial run for the new CES (Constant Effort Scheme) a net was mended.
This involved lots of pins, thread, scissors and needles. It also meant that the conversation was interesting. 'Do I put a knot here or there?' 'Do I go under or over or both?' 'Pin here or there?' 'Where is the square?' Eventually with hard work and the help of YouTube the holes were mended.
Whilst this net was being mended another was repaired, so the net could easily be strung between the poles. A change of ringers and the mending continued. Also the 'Repair Basket' was sorted out.
Before the rain came down heavily a walk across the bridge at the head of the lake spotted something white. A white Mallard? No, it was not standing like a Mallard then realisation that it was a Little Egret. The camera was stretched to its limit to gain this photo. This species was last seen on 3rd March 2018 and it has not been recorded since then.
Thank you to the bird ringing volunteers for their perseverance with net 'wrangling', all helped by several cups of tea and cake!
Saturday, April 29th 2023
The cool weather is keeping many of the flowers 'on hold'. If you look back at the April blogs of 2021 and 2022 you will notice a big difference. This raises the question were they too warm or is this April too cold?
Bird Cherry shows its leaves quite early in the spring and are they often covered by greenfly. The buds appear and suddenly there are flowers!
One of the apple trees in the orchard has just about opened its flowers.
Bluebells can be seen on the bank along Risedale Beck and many other places across the reserve. At the minute the buds are staying tightly closed.
A reminder of the Dawn Chorus Walk on Monday 8th May, starting at 0530. If you are interested please book your place through the web site or contact the reserve managers.
We are going to trial some new methods of recording to enable us to have more detail about the species that call Foxglove home. The monthly observation board will still be available. More information will be available shortly.
Wednesday, April 26th 2023
On Monday, a team of staff from Natural England lent a hand in dismantling part of the covered boardwalk that leads to the Wetland Hide. The structure is over 10 years old and has recently become a safety hazard to visitors and volunteers alike as the wooden timbers begin to rot.
The group worked hard all morning dismantling the structure.
The planks were carried out of the way and all nails removed in the new outside 'workshop'!
The team enjoyed a guided walk around the reserve in the afternoon and weren't put off by the hailstones!
Thank you for all your hard work.
Friday, April 21st 2023
For many years I have walked around Foxglove in spring waiting for a Bee Fly to land and stay still long enough for a decent photograph. More often then not, I take a splodge! They feed using a long proboscis which they carefully position into a flower to reach the nectar. Yesterday whilst hunting for other species I spotted a Bee Fly. Watching it carefully it landed on a Primrose and began to feed, and then it settled with all of its feet on the flower. A photo and I must admit I was really pleased with the result. I was amazed at the markings on its wing.
Warm sun meant that Jenny and Kate could carry out the butterfly transect. They recorded Peacock, Speckled Wood, Comma and Brimstone. I managed to photograph a pristine Peacock. Usually they look a little worse for wear when they come out of hibernation.
Further around my walk it was a Comma that caught my eye. It stayed still just long enough for a photograph but it was not in the best position! Pesky vegetation!
I am still waiting for a Brimstone to land anywhere within camera range.
The moth traps have been out overnight. Catches are not high but it is nice to see some of the moths that live across the reserve. All the butterfly and moth data is sent to the VC65 recorders, helping to build up the picture of moth and butterfly populations. Jenny was checking the sheet on which the moth traps are placed and was just about to throw a small twig away when she realised that it had legs. It was a moth. Checking its ID it was found to be Red Sword-grass. They frequent damp woodland, mountain moorland and marshy places. In the autumn this moth feeds on Ivy and overripe Blackberries, after which it goes into hibernation. When it wakes in spring it feeds on willow catkins. This moth is not a regular visitor to our traps.
The only difference between the moth and a twig is its massive antennae.
Twig or moth?
During the week the volunteers have been busy with species recording and habitat management. There were some new measurements on show yesterday. The distance between the posts had to be from finger tip to finger tip across Carl and the hole for those posts had to be as deep as Hayley's arm! Thank you to all the volunteers who have been involved on the reserve. Your work is much appreciated, helping to prepare Foxglove for the seasons ahead.
Spring Sun Winter Wind
Wednesday, April 19th 2023
It was a beautiful day yesterday, in the shelter away from the bitter northerly wind. Despite the not spring like weather nature is doing what it does best and coming out of winter. As you drive onto the reserve there is a flowering Cherry on your right. You could also look for the Robin which often frequents the grass around this tree.
Gorse can be classed as a weed when it grows where it is not wanted, but when it is in flower it makes a spectacular show. Many insects and spiders enjoy the prickly protection. Birds can also nest in it.
The moth trap has had variable catches as has the Field Centre, particularly the front of the building. One morning there were 7 moths hanging on tight. First for this year was a Streamer which has lovely markings and is easily identified. Photograph for blog, except it did not co-operate but eventually settled on a log where, although colourful, shows its excellent camouflage.
Last week I noticed Marsh Marigold flowering in its usual place in the Scrapes. This is not a common flower on the reserve and although in garden ponds in can spread and become large and unruly ours does behave.
Walking along the boardwalk automatically checking for something bright yellow, it wasn't there. Double checked, found some leaves but no flower!
Later in the day I saw a pair of Mallard in the pond, so I think I have found the culprits!!
And finally. I spotted this fungus and it reminded me of the Walt Disney film Fantasia where the little fungi danced!
Last Photos from Gibraltar and Shy Moorhens
Sunday, April 16th 2023
The ringing team are home from Gibraltar. During the last day a beautiful Turtle Dove was caught. These birds are summer migrants to the southern areas of the UK, wintering in West Africa, south of the Sahara. Unfortunately their migration route sees many of them being shot, impacting on the poppulation which in this country has seen an estimated 98% decrease since 1970. They pair for life and breed in mature thorny hedgrows. Seeds of cereals and weeds make up the majority of the Turtle Dove’s diet. Chickweed and Fumitory are enjoyed and they will also take spilt grain and seeds of oilseed rape.
Another bird ringed was the Serin. These birds may be found occaisionally along the south coast. Their diet includes seeds and small invertebrates.
The ringing team at Foxglove are involved in the BTO project to find out more about Moorhens. They have been colour ringing them and asking people to report any sightings of colour ringed birds. Andrew and Jan spotted some Moorhens but they were being shy and hiding their legs! The first one looks as though he is checking them over through the undergrowth,
whilst the second kept its legs firmly underwater!
Please keep looking for the colour ringed Moorhens and report any sightings in the Field Centre. Your help is much appreciated.
Winter or Spring?
Thursday, April 13th 2023
It was yet another cold day, although the sun did shine and there was a little bit of blue sky. This area of Willow Carr looks rather bare at the minute but with a little more sun and warmth it will soon green over.
The moth traps yielded very few moths, which is not surprising as the overnight temperatures were very low. Butterfly transects should be carried out from the start of April. Unfortunately this has not been possible due to the weather and so far very few have been recorded on the observation board.
Walking along the incorrectly named Syacamore Avenue - Norway Maple Avenue does not quite have the same ring to it! Norway Maple is in flower. It is a delicate flower.
Being curious I looked at other parts of this branch and could not decide if this was the green bud or where a flower had been blown off. On a closer inspection I realised it was full of insects! It is not a very good photo but it does show at least three species of insects.
Whilst we are not recording butterflies the bird ringers in Gibraltar have spotted this beautiful one, a Spanish Festoon. Its distribution in Europe is confined to southern France, Spain and Portugal, whilst its southern range can extend into the northern countries of Africa. The larvae feed on a plant called Dutchman's Pipe, Aristolochia baetica.
It was too windy for ringing over the last couple of days so eyes have turned skywards, watching the many birds flying over. Long distance photos caught this Griffon Vulture,
and this Egyptian Vulture.
Volunteers have been busy identifying moths, checking the butterfly transect, making information cards about Foxglove and adding to the sales table. Outside they have been filling bird feeders, checking for any damage after the strong winds and removing some of the screen to the wetland hide that had become unstable due to the weather it has suffered over the last 12 years. (It can be bleak up there even in summer!) A huge thank you to everyone, your work is really appreciated.
More Flowers and More from Gibraltar
Tuesday, April 11th 2023
Although the weather is not what you would call spring-like, flowers are still opening.
Dandelions are not the most welcome flower in a garden. At Foxglove some are just joining the other yellow flowers on show. They provide an important food source at this time of year. I spotted this one and as you can see there are some tiny beetles right down in amongst the petals.
Wood Anemones have shown their delicate white flowers in the usual place near the wetland. I took this photo in the morning but when I returned it had dulled in and the flowers were almost closed.
Walking along Risedale Beck something white caught my eye and on closer inspection was found to be Wood Sorrel. Just a few had opened but there will be more to come. Some of the flowers are clearly marked with purple lines. These are lines that insects can see, probably not in the same way as we can, that guide them to the nectar.
Out in Gibraltar the team continue to ring a variety of birds. These are Woodchat Shrikes, the female is on the left and male, more brightly coloured is on the right. These birds like open woodlands and feed on insects.
There are also sightings of butterflies, like this Speckled Wood. Painted Lady butterflies have also been seen.
This is a Striped Hawkmoth, which is a migrant to our shores as it is unable to survive our winters. It is recorded most years around the UK in small numbers, mainly in the south-west, southern England and southern Ireland.
Saturday, April 8th 2023
Foxglove only has one reptile on its species list, the Common Lizard. These secretive creatures are usually spotted during the summer, but not often. Last summer, however, was a bumper year with many volunteers and visitors having the great pleasure of creeping up and photographing them. Secretive yes, but some were very brave and were spotted in places where they would not have been expected, in the car park and on a busy boardwalk. One even kept Bob company whilst he was working. During the winter whilst browsing some photographs I noticed something a little different on one of the lizards. On closer examination it appeared to be old skin. Where would we be without the internet and email. Discussions, over the ether, took place, as I assumed like snakes, that they sloughed their skins whole starting at the head. apparently not, they slough their skin in pieces.
There were also sightings of young, sunbathing with the adults, although there is no parental care. Thank you to Janet for the photo.
It will have to be much warmer and sunnier for longer, before our lizards make an appearance from hibernation. They are cold blooded and need the warmth and sun to heat their bodies.
Back in Gibraltar, warmth and sun is not in short supply. A lizard was spotted and I must admit it reminded me of a certain green lizard that is seen in Death in Paradise. Unfortunatley 'Harry' as he is known, is a computer generated lizard but he is based on a real lizard - a Guadeloupan Anole.
Another reptile spotted was this gecko.
If walking around later in the year you spot a Common Lizard please let us know. If you can describe where you saw it that would be very helpful as it will assist with our habitat management in the coming winter.
Spring is Springing!
Saturday, April 8th 2023
Spring is Springing - just. Up on the moor you still need not only a winter coat but probably hat, gloves and scarf! There is one warm spot and that is the hill underneath the fence by the far moor gate. On close inspection it is becoming covered in Common Dog Violet. This is always the first place to spot these tiny purple flowers. They can eventually be found almost everywhere across the reserve and that includes steps, boardwalks and gravel paths! This is a very important plant as the Dark Green Fritillary and the new species recorded last year, the Silver-washed Fritillary lay their eggs on the leaves.
Another sign of spring is the flowering of Blackthorn. The first trees to flower are along Risedale Beck followed by those near the entrance gate and then all the others across the reserve. The flowers appear first and then the leaves,
unlike May or Hawthorn which comes into leaf first then flowers later in the spring, usually mid to late May, depending on the weather.
The species team, staff and other volunteers hunted for Primroses from January, ever hopeful of seeing something yellow somewhere. This year not a flower was seen until late March now many sunny glades are filled with them. The volunteers worked hard to clear the area around the Cascading Ponds during the winter. Light can now reach the ground and it is sprouting Primroses! It is well worth taking a few minutes on the bridge or path to 'stop and stare'. It will be interesting to see which flowers appear as the seasons progress.
Sometimes you can see and hear the bees around the Primroses but on careful inspection these furry bee like insects are not bees but are a species called a Bee-fly. They have a long proboscis to enable them to obtain nectar from the base of the flower. Although they look lovely they have a dark side! When ready the female hunts for ground nesting or solitary bee nests. Once located she flicks her eggs towards the entrance, and when they hatch, the larvae can then feast on the larvae of the bee! They are not the easiest of insects to photograph.
And finally whilst walking around the Red Route keep your eyes open for Freddie and Freya Frog. They will probably be in unusual places for frogs. This is Freya. They are part of the Spring Trail.
Thank you to Andrew and Jan for the photographs on today's blog.
Ringing in Gibraltar
Friday, April 7th 2023
Modern technology is wonderful! A request for more bird photos and in they popped into my inbox! The first to appear was a Nightingale. This bird is on the BTO Red list meaning that it is considerd at an increasing level of conservation concern. Although a brown bird it is its song that makes it special.
The next to appear was the Bonellis Warbler. This is a bird that frequents woodland, nesting on the ground. It is an insectivorous feeder.
A Wood Warbler has also been ringed. This bird is yet another on the Red List. The distribution map shows Foxglove between two areas where this bird can be seen. It enjoys insects and spiders!
And finally a Whitethroat. These birds are not found at Foxglove but are ringed at other sites where the Swaledale Ringing Group visit. This one might be retrapped at one of these places?
There are a few more photographs that will appear on the blog over the weekend. Also some signs of spring from Foxglove - watch this space.
Thank you again for the photographs all the way from Gibraltar - as I said at the start of the blog modern technology is wonderful!
Thursday, April 6th 2023
Moth trapping usually begins again in March but the weather has been so poor it was not until April that the traps have been out. the catches have been variable but we have caught some lovely moths. Interestingly Red Sword-grass was caught and it was last recorded in 2014. This moth is one that hibernates under loose bark, amongst a stony outcrop or some other sheltered place. In the autumn it feeds on Ivy flowers and overipe Blackberries and when it reappears in March to late May it feeds on willow catkins.
As a photograph was needed of this moth it was taken in the container. It did not co-operate when released!
A lovely moth caught is Shoulder Stripe. The caterpillar feeds on Dog Rose. A sheltered spot was almost found to take a photograph, but the wings were blown about a little.
Whilst we have been trapping in the less than spring like weather some members from the Swaledale Ringing Group have been trapping in Gibraltar. It is just a bit warmer there - they have promised to bring some warmth back with them! They are there to ring birds but more of that in another blog post. One of the moths they caught was Cream Spot Tiger Moth. This is similar to our Garden Tiger. The wings are brown and cream.
Its underside is red!
Thanks to everyone, here and abroad, for the photographs and the identification of moths.
Sunday, April 2nd 2023
Earlier this year, windblown trees in the woodland were skillfully cut into planks by tree surgeons from Yorkshire Tree Specialists.
A massive effort by a group from the Personnel Recovery Centre moved the planks all the way to the workshop. Definitely a 'Green Gym' day! The planks were then cut in half and transported by staff and volunteers to the Outdoor Classroom where over 100 diseased Ash trees were felled and extracted earlier in the winter.
The extraction of the Ash timber damaged the path to the Wildflower Meadow and the whole area is very muddy. The newly cut planks are now being used to re-edge the damaged path.
Thank you to everyone who has helped so far!
Trails and Bridges
Sunday, April 2nd 2023
The Spring Trail at Foxglove is now out around the Red Route (Easy Access Trail). Come along this Easter and have some family fun as you search for the hidden clues and test your knowledge of spring wildlife by answering the fun quiz. No need to book, just turn up!
Staff and volunteers have also been busy completing essential maintenance work on some of the infrastructure on the reserve. This has included adding extra vertical support beams to the bridge near the Lake Hide. These beams were made from windblown trees on the reserve which were kindly cut into planks by volunteers at the Hunton Steam Gathering.
Extra mesh has also been added to the structure and the bridge is open once again.
Thank you to everyone for your hard work completing this important task.