Blog Archive (22) Posts Made in August 2023
A fine time was had by all!
Wednesday, August 30th 2023
Another special Family Discovery Day has drawn to a close at Foxglove Covert - and it's been a fantastic day all round. We've been joined by local folk and families from much further afield too. Ever popular activities included pond dipping and mini-beast hunting, but dry stone walling and pipe-cleaner sheep proved to be a big hit too!
Whether you've come to us today to make clothes peg dragonfiles or to enjoy the wonderful variety of moths, we hope you've had a great day and that you'll come back to see us soon.
Thanks to all of the volunteers who made the day possible - including those who helped to make the Field Centre look spick-and-span through their efforts on Tuesday.
Monday, August 28th 2023
The Swaledale Bird Ringers met at the gate for 0700. Jack, down on Salibury Plain, informed us that it was all over by then!! Sophie expained that the birds in the north sleep later!! Hayley had also been up early in Skagen.
Jack sent us a photo of a misty Salisbury Plain.
As the forecast suggested rain showers, and having experienced some of them over the last few days, only a couple of nets were raised so that if a downpour happened the nets were close and could be emptied quickly and furled. We were lucky and the rain stayed away until just before lunch. The newly ringed birds included Willow Warbler, Dunnock, Goldcrest, Blue and Great Tit.
The summer migrants will soon be heading south, but our local birds also are on the move. Coal Tits spend their summer breeding in the conifers on and off the reserve, but as autumn approaches they come back to our feeders.
Once the nets were taken in we started work on the net ride. Like all the vegetation it has grown really well over the last three or four years. The group worked at cutting and then dragging the brash into a neat pile.
It is certainly work in progress as there is much more to do and many other net rides to be looked at over the winter.
Thank you to everyone who carried out the ringing and work. Thanks also to the volunteers Peter and Brian, who have strimmed the net rides.
A reminder that there is a trail around the Red Route asking you to look, count and answer some questions (answers on the back of the card).
Also there is another Family Discovery Day on Wednesday. More details on the Events page.
Saturday, August 26th 2023
Galls are interesting 'things'. They are not everybody's cup of tea but I find them fascinating. Galls are abnormal plant growths caused by insects, like tiny wasps, mites, nematodes, fungi, bacteria and viruses. Galls can also be caused by feeding or egg-laying of insects and mites.
One that we find quite often at Foxglove is Robin's Pincushion Gall. This grows on roses. Each gall contains many chambers and a larva lives in each one over winter. Come spring the tiny wasps, 4mm in length, leave the gall to start the cycle all over again. In late spring you can sometimes see the tiny holes that have been left in the gall as the insects leave.
Another wasp causes a gall in a leaf bud of Oak, the Artichoke Gall or Hop Gall.
The underside of some Rowan leaves have a sputnik like gall growing on them. This is caused by a rust fungus.
Late Summer into Autumn
Friday, August 25th 2023
Our moth results are building into a valuable set of data. A Mother of Pearl moth was recorded this week, a beautiful moth.
Another moth recorded was the Bulrush Wainscot. It is quite a large distinctive moth and a point to help us ID it, is the fact that its abdomen sticks out beyond its wings. As the name suggests it is associated with Bulrushes or Reedmace as it is also known, (Typha latifolia) on which the larvae feed.
The changing seasons brings out different moths and the first of the 'autumnal' moths to appear are the Sallows. Unfortunately this is a moth whose numbers could decrease as its caterpillars feed on the new shoots of Ash buds and then the flowers and leaves. Many Ash have suffered badly from Ash Die Back and have had to be felled. This is a Centre-barred Sallow.
Thank you to the species teams for all the work in recording not only our moths but many other species that live on the reserve.
News from the North
Friday, August 25th 2023
As you know Hayley set sail for Skagen in north Denmark. She has sent some photos of the area.
She also reported that the sunrises are amazing!
The Bird Observatory, Skagen Fuglestation, has a blog that you can follow. https://www.skagenfuglestation.dk/blog
If you scroll down through the blogs, you may see someone you recognise. Hayley has been involved ringing Reed Warblers and they caught a Nightjar, which are amazing birds.
Wednesday, August 23rd 2023
It's not all glamour here at Foxglove Covert!
Many thanks to the team of volunteers who turned out yesterday for a hard day's graft. Together, we dug out, filled in and tamped down the pot holes along the access track which leads up to the Field Centre. The approach road is now much kinder to visitor's vehicles suspension!
Thanks to all for getting a tough job done.
A Quiet Walk
Tuesday, August 22nd 2023
Before I start on my story of a quiet walk around the reserve, Brian sent me this beautiful photo of a quiet morning at Foxglove. If you look closely you can see a second rainbow. This was the peaceful scene before the volunteers started various tasks. Thank you very much for all your hard work, it is very much appreciated.
Continuing on the quiet and peaceful theme, I recently set out for a walk. Walking along looking for things that should not be there in the hope that it might be an insect or other bug, I noticed a movement in the long grass. Stopping and watching intently, using binoculars, I realised that it was a Roe Deer doe's ears twitching, presumably the flies were annoying her. A photograph of course, the brown splodge being her ears!
Tip toeing along the path, hidden by a tree, I rounded the corner and not only was it the doe but she had a kid with her. Another photo but yet again lots of vegetation. By this time she was looking at me and quietly moved away with her kid following her.
Continuing my walk in the blustery sunshine I was amazed to see a Common Lizard perched on a sunny bridge support. It was a long way from our normal sightings, however it was not too far from sightings recorded in the early years of the reserve.
Not a bad start to my walk. Over Hague Bridge hidden by the trees, I peered round, hoping for a Kingfisher sitting really close for an excellent photo. No, but a Grey Heron flew up and I was surprised when downloading the photos that I had actually taken a decent photo.
A movement saw me stop a while and I noticed a very co-operative Silver-ground Carpet moth resting on a leaf, in clear view.
Bees, butterflies and flowers filled the rest of my walk.
Sunday, August 20th 2023
Normally the hawkers and dragonflies are hunting across ponds and meadows and flying quickly and then high up into the air. I could hardly believe it when one sat in front of me and stayed there for ages allowing me to take a photograph. It was a male Southern Hawker, nowhere near water, but near the Orchard. It may have regretted this decision when it took to the air again as it was then chased by one of the fritillary butterflies!
Butterflies were more co-operative and flitted from flower to flower feeding. At one time the Brimstone was a rare sighting on the reserve, but not now, in fact it is seen frequently across many areas.
Last year the Silver-washed Fritillary was recorded for the first time on the reserve. This year we thought we had two or three, recognisable by their very battered appearance. But no, we have several and again they can be sighted in several places. A rest from feeding for some warmth from the sunshine.
Once it was the Brimstone that was hard to find and photograph, now it is the Holly Blue that is being 'chased' with absolutely no chance of a photograph, as it went that way or was blown the other way. We will keep trying. Another butterfly that is elusive at Foxglove this year is the Small Tortoiseshell, although people are seeing several in their gardens. Hopefully both these butterflies will hang around long enough for a photograph.
Friday, August 18th 2023
The Swaledale Ringing group welcomed the Army Ornithological Society to their ringing activities. They joined up with another NE Ringing Group today. Nets were set up to catch and ring Meadow Pipits - Mipits. These are delightful little birds. They can be annoying though, as they sit on fences and walls and on the top of the nets looking at the nets, rather than flying into them! The team need not have worried this morning as over 100 were caught and ringed. This valuable data will be forwarded to the BTO as they continue to monitor this Amber listed bird. These birds are heading south and feeding up on insects and seeds before starting their journey. One characteristic is the very long hind claw, which can be seen in the photo below.
Amongst all the 'Mipits' two Yellow Wagtails, red listed birds, were ringed. These summer visitors like damp marshes, meadows and farmland. They spend a lot of time running about on the ground chasing insects disturbed by the feet of livestock.
Common Lizards Again!!
Wednesday, August 16th 2023
Our Common Lizards are brilliant.
Last year one was spotted with what appeared to be something sticking out of its tail. When the photograph was enlarged we realised that it was old skin. Snakes usually shed their skins from the head down, leaving almost a complete skin. We assumed this would happen in the lizards. Emails went back and forth, books and the internet were searched, to reveal that Common Lizards shed their skin in pieces. Curiosity satisfied.
However Andrew and Jan spotted an almost complete skin. I say almost, because if you look at the right and back of the lizard, it looks like it still has to get rid of the last bit.
They certainly keep us on our toes!
Tuesday, August 15th 2023
On Saturday the Yoredale Natural History Society ( https://www.yoredalenaturalhistory.com/ ) came for a visit. Chris took them for a walk around the reserve. They spotted Alder Tongue (Taphrina alni) on the cones of an alder tree. This fungus causes chemically induced galls on female alder catkins and cones. The green ‘tongues’ soon turn red with time and can persist for several weeks.
A Cream Spot Ladybird was also recorded. These ladybirds frequent hedges and deciduous trees feeding on greenfly. They overwinter in leaf litter. The walk ended on a high, with the appearance of Brimstone butterfly and two Silver-washed Fritillaries in the orchard and Common Lizards.
Thank you Chris for leading this walk and for recording all your sightings. The Common Lizards are just showing off now!
Tim, another visitor to the reserve recently, recorded the Green Leafhopper, Cicadella viridis. As their name suggests they do hop, quickly! They feed on the sap of various reeds and rushes. They prefer dampish areas, so this one was quite happy in the Scrapes.
Thank you for sharing your photos.
Sunday, August 13th 2023
At long last the weather was settled enough to be able to raise the mist nets, although initially there was light rain but it soon cleared up. The Swaledale Ringing Group welcomed guest ringers this morning. There was a mixture of birds ringed, including Nuthatch, Dunnock, Robin, Chiffchaff and Chaffinch. It was also nice to see a Blackcap. This was a male as it had a black head, the females have a brown cap. It will not be too long before the summer migrants head south on their long journey.
The Bullfinches are still being ringed! This one was a late youngster and was still in its juvenile plumage.
Thank you to all the bird ringers who helped with the session.
At the minute no blog can be complete without its photograph of one of our lizards! They had been conspicuous by their absence as the wind was cool and sun 'did not have its hat on!' We checked the sky on a regular basis, looked for shadows to no avail. Then there was a little more warmth, less cloud and out came the sun, followed quite quickly by the Common Lizards! This one, probably a female, was a little shy and was not leaving her hidey hole completely.
Binoculars and cameras are needed to search for the fritillary butterflies. Unfortunately the ones we keep seeing and photographing are rather battered but it does not stop them flying very strongly. And consequently disappearing!
Tim managed to take this photo of a Silver-washed Fritillary last week. Thanks for this.
One butterfly that looked pristine was a Comma feeding on the thistle flower.
Keeping Your Eyes Open
Saturday, August 12th 2023
Walking around Foxglove, no matter what the season, it is important to keep your eyes open and look for things that look different or should not be there. Sometimes this means that a quiet approach to a 'thing' means that you are ready to photograph a piece of mud, of a dead leaf, or better still a dropping! A movement often gives away a creature and in this case it was a beautiful Common Toad.
It was not an adult, proably two or three years old. Its warty skin is clear to see as is its bronze/gold eye. The boardwalks are good places to hunt as many insects appreciate the warmth of the wood. Vegetation growing along both sides provide shelter, hiding places and yet more food. Common Toads hibernate and as they emerge from hibernation they head to their spawning ponds. Once this is finished they head onto land and live there during the summer and are not often found back in the water.
Something a little smaller was easily noticed, a bright red spot on green grass. It was a Seven-sopt Ladybird.
Thank you to Tim for these phtotgraphs.
Out on the moor the wind was slightly on the strong side causing insects to hang on tight to the vegetation. A small moth that we can catch in our traps was Pyrausta purpuralis and it was clinging tight to a dandelion type flower. This is a small moth which prefers grasslands. We often see it flying on the moor. The caterpillars feed on Water Mint.
Another insect flying across the moor and stopping on vegetation was this female Common Darter. August sees many of these darters flying almost anywhere on the reserve. Weather permitting they can be seen right through until October.
Weekend opening hours Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th August
Friday, August 11th 2023
The reserve will be open on both Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm, but please note that the Field Centre will only be open to the public on Sunday.
Enjoy your visit!
We are recruiting!
Thursday, August 10th 2023
Thank yous and Bye Bye
Wednesday, August 9th 2023
Today Foxglove held a Family Day where there were various nature themed activities for the children. These days do not happen on their own, but require a great deal of work by staff and volunteers. At the end of the end of the day we all had a well earned cup of tea and cake. It was also an opportunity to say 'bye bye' to Gerry.
Gerry's many varied skills, over the time that he has worked at Foxglove, have made a huge difference to the reserve. His humour, smile and encouragement on less than lovely weather days have kept the volunteers at work! Many, many thanks for all your hard work. Our best wishes follow you to your new job. Good Luck.
Another thank you is for all the volunteers who helped prepare, run and tidy up the activities after the Family Day. It was a long day where many familes enjoyed themselves. Some of the children had the opportunity to look at our Common Lizards who were not really disturbed by their admirers! It was good to see that we had a male, the green one and a female the brown one together to compare. Several of our lizards are sort of mucky coloured!
Although the sun did not 'put its hat on' there were some butterflies around. This Red Admiral, number one in the recent Butterfly Survey, (orgnaised by Butterfly Conservation) was feeding on Hemp Agrimony.
At the end of the afternoon there was a hatch of ants, the second this year. These are the males and females leaving their nests to mate and set up new colonies. We tend to think that we do not have many ants nests on the reserve, but judging by the numbers of ants flying, we do! Ants are the food of the Green Woodpecker.
There is a Butterfly Trail on your left and a Bee Trail on your right as you walk around the Red Route. There are sheets to go with these trails in the classroom in the Field Centre. No need to book come and enjoy the walk around, finding out about the butterflies and bees that live in Foxglove Covert.
Thanks again to all the volunteers who helped today, your work was truly valued.
When the Sun Comes Out
Tuesday, August 8th 2023
I wonder what it must be like to live in a country where it always rains at 12 and dries up at 2. What do they talk about? Back to our weather and yesterday it was very much dash out to see what was around when the sun came out! The orchard was the place to be. A beautiful Peacock butterfly landed and started feeding allowing me to take a photograph. It even spread its wings so I could see the 'eye' on its underwing. These 'eyes' are used to scare a predator.
Another butterfly was also flying around quite quickly but initially it would not sit still. Food was on its mind and it landed on a Knapweed and stretched out its proboscis, deep into the flower. It was not the only visitor to that particular flower, a bee was feeding from the other side. These are the butterflies that I usually chase around the reserve saying 'It went that way or this way or it disappeared!' Thankfully this Brimstone co-operated!
A Chinese Character, a small moth that looks very much like a bird dropping, did not want to sit on a leaf so flew onto the wooden trunk. Better than nothing, so a photo was taken.
Another one was much more obedient and sat still on a leaf.
A Slender Brindle moth was also recorded.
After trying to take the photographs of moths it was moths 7 me 2!
Weather and Flora and Fauna
Sunday, August 6th 2023
Our flora and fauna is getting on with the 'fantastic' assortment of weather we are having. The sun did come out this morning but the wind had a real nip to it and people were back to wearing coats! Bees were busy collecting pollen, this one was on Knapweed.
Another was on Betony.
A 'blob' on a Silver Birch leaf turned out to be a shieldbug. It was well camouflaged and the red colours stood out, making it appear a very strange shape!
Whilst still supposedly the height of summer the fungi are already making an appearance. The Parasol fungi in the Stone Circle have appeared again, but this year they are massive!
The spawning seasons of both Common Frog and Common Toad did not reach their usual activity and we were concerned that there would be few young, but several young Frogs and Toads have been seen. This young Toad was obviously searching for small insects amongst the moss.
And finally, people have noticed that the Common Lizard has appeared on the Monthly Observation Board, but it is a while since any have made it onto the blog. In the sun this morning this one was sunbathing resting her (probably) feet and head on her tail!
Volunteers at Work
Thursday, August 3rd 2023
Volunteers had a variety of jobs to do today. The sink at the bottom pond dipping platform had had new surrounds fitted and these were neatly painted, Unfortunately the rain decided to 'un-paint' them! Out came the paint and brushes and the task repeated. Hopefully that is it and the job will not have to be done again.
Elizabeth, Emma and Jules also worked on some boardwalk. Gerry commented on what an excellent job they had done.
Once that job was completed the area around the outdoor classroom was attacked - yes everything had grown, rather like Topsy! Minibeast hunting will be held here on Wednesday 9th August on the Family Day. (Please check the events page for more details.)
Brian and John were also busy tidying up at the bullet catcher and slashing Bracken. Thank you for all your hard work today.
Meanwhile Becky, Kate and Jenny were identifying the moths. More about that on another blog post over the weekend.
Kate carried out her butterfly survey and recorded 13 species, with Meadow Brown being the most common. She also recorded Silver Washed Fritillary but as it would not sit still, no photo. Later in the afternoon John saw one in the orchard, then another, great excitement. Books were treble checked and the ID confirmed. I was lucky enough to get them to sit still for photographs. They are a little nibbled around the edges!
Ragwort is poisonous to livestock but a large variety of insects, butterflies and moths feed from it. Bees collect the pollen. This one has a rather large pollen sac.
Cinnabar moth caterpillars feed on the leaves and flowers. I have inspected nearly every flower head and have found none of these moth caterpillars, until today. There were several on some Ragwort. The caterpillars are not harmed by the poisons in the plant but take them in and use them as a warning to any insects or birds likely to think of them as prey. The yellow and black are warning colours.
Thank you to the Thursday species team for all the work carried out today. Thanks to the Wednesday species team who also identified moths and found a wax cap on the moor in an area cut specially to encourage them to grow there. Fingers crossed that this might be yet another new species for the reserve.
More Photos from the BBQ
Wednesday, August 2nd 2023
Foxglove Volunteers are fantastic turning their hand to many different tasks and yesterday it was thank you time. A purchased cake said thank you.
There was also plenty other cake to be had! There were some grapes and strawberries for the healthy option!
Thank you to everyone who baked to provide these delicious cakes. (Not all were baked.)
Hayley cut the cake…
followed by Gerry.
The volunteers chattered through lunch, catching up with people they had not seen for a while.
It was also good for the staff to catch up. They had worked together for many years, looking after Foxglove, the volunteers and ensuring that Foxglove was always looking good.
Thank you again to everyone for all the work carried out over many years.
Wednesday, August 2nd 2023
As mentioned on yesterday's blog the Jenga challenge took place. Overnight more photos have arrived of this nail biting competition.
The classroom was quiet as Hayley made her next move.
Then Nicola. Oh the concentration!
Then back to Nicola as quiet descended over the watchers. A round of applause for that move.
And another move for Hayley, everyone was holding their breaths!
Back to Nicola. The tension was building, could she make another safe move?
Unfortunately not. A huge round of applause for both competitors and for the champion Hayley.
Thank you for the photos.
Volunteer and Bye Bye BBQ
Tuesday, August 1st 2023
Staff and volunteers were hard at work this morning. Gerry was explaining all the jobs on the board - not sure if he was expecting them all to be done today!
Elevenses saw everyone in the Field Centre having a cup of tea or coffee and of course biscuits. The typical summer weather meant indoors was preferable to outdoors. Then it was back to work. Some volunteers started on the food preparation for the BBQ, whilst others continued with the habitat work.
It may not have been weather to suit humans but it certainly has been weather to suit the growth of any plants! Out on the moor after a fantastic flowering season the Gorse has done what Gorse does best and has grown! Some of it was cut down. A very prickly job.
Bracken is 'knocked back' yearly and this usually helps a little to control it. This year it seems to have forgotten that it was bashed last year and the year before! Strimming, brush cutting, slashing and scything hopefully will get it under control. This was carried out very carefully as there are Juniper trees growing in this area.
Then it was BBQ time. Our volunteers are muti-skilled and it was from strimming to chefs for Peter and Brian.
An orderly queue was formed as everyone collected their lunch and took it back to the Field Centre - yes the typical British summer weather continued!
After the meal we said bye bye to Hayley. Everyone had contributed to her pressie of a rule and scales to help with her ringing adventure in Denmark. She also received a lovely card, specially made, and signed by all the volunteers. Hayley has been a valuable member of the team carrying out many, many varied tasks in sometimes very interesting weather! More recently she has been Gerry's PA! Thanks Hayley.
Gerry thanked the volunteers for all their hard work they do now and in the 31 years of Foxglove's exisitence.
Today was yet another example of 'Foxgloves's Fantastic Volunteers'. Work was carried out, food prepared and cooked, and then everything was cleared away, washed and put away. Thank you very, very much. One last thing to do - a challenger for Hayley's first place in the Jenga competition. Nicola set too with a vengeance.
However I can report that Hayley's position at the top of the leaderboard is still safe!