Thursday, 11 December 2014

December 2014

There has been no change over the last month in the movements of Hattie, Grainne and Annie, the three sat tagged Langholm harriers. Hattie and Grainne (both females tagged in 2013) are sticking to Langholm moor and have been seen occasionally hunting alongside several other (untagged birds)birds. Annie (Grainne's daughter, female tagged this summer 2014) seems pretty settled in her favoured spot west of Moffat, occasionally wandering down to the edge of the Ae forest. We've had another sprinkling for snow here at Langholm today, nothing like some places are getting, but will it be enough to persuade the harriers to move to areas of easier hunting? Last winter was very mild at Langholm, no snow and not a great deal of frost either.
Hattie, Grainne and Annie 10th December

Tom Hutton

Tom Hutton

Tom Hutton

Thursday, 13 November 2014


Along with big numbers of Redwing, Fieldfare and a sprinkling of Brambling, we have been enjoying some wonderful views of Hen Harriers hunting over the moor, including this un-ringed juvenile female harrier.

Juvenile female Hen Harrier

 There has not been much change for the sat tagged Langholm Harriers - Grainne and Hattie are remaining within the confines of the moor and Annie is pretty settled in her patch west of Moffat.

We've not been able to share much information about Miranda because her tag last transmitted in July.This could be something as simple as a dirtied or obscured solar panel or if short term, the great British weather!!. Ground signals coupled with sightings suggest that she is alive and well in County Antrim.  Only a handful other birds were known to be alive after the last known transmission out of 47 birds tracked in England, Scotland and the Isle of Man between 2007 and 2014.


Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Busy Autumn

Local volunteers have been busy this autumn half term building a community bird hide which, when finished, will be erected at the 'Making the Most of Moorlands’ bird feeding station on the southern edge of the moor. We first created the bird feeding station with the help of the Langholm Explorer Scouts in 2009 – with the idea of developing a site where locals and visitors could get closer to the local bird life especially during the winter months. It is already a great site for watching species such as Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Brambling, Crossbill, Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Over the last 5 years we have added to the site developing new types of bird feeder and a willow screen for visitors to use and a bug hotel.
The Moorland Bird feeding station is a great resource for our educational and community activities.

Pupils at Langholm Academy have helped to build different types of feeder, including this covered bird table ( photo JohnWright)

Brambling can be seen in good numbers during the winter (Photo John Wright)

A handsome bird but not our target audience perhaps..? (Photo Tom Hutton)
Our goal for some time has been to build a bird hide, where visitors can watch the birds out of the wind and rain and without causing disturbance to the feeding birds.

We were really keen to give local young people the opportunity to be involved right through the process from beginning to end, and give them the opportunity to learn some real wood working skills from experienced professionals. So far the from milling the logs, to preparing the wood and built the main part of the frame. The young people are working towards a John Muir Award as part of their work on the hide.

The beginnings of our hide (larch donated by Buccleuch Estates)

The sawmill at work

Adam Hogg learning how to use the sawmill

It has been a long process researching, designing and sourcing materials and funding for the bird hide but it is satisfying to see the hide coming together and it will be a really useful resource when completed. We'd like to thank to Buccleuch Estates for all their help with the planning process and the kind donation of larch and NGO Educational Trust for funding to complete this project.

So much volunteer time has gone into this project, the young people we are working with have given up their weekends and school holidays to put in long hours and hard work.
Ralph Phillips making the frame for the cladding

Alasdair teaching Amy how to use some of the workshop machinery

Daniel Lacey, local cabinet maker, has gone above and beyond, he has put so much time and effort in to this project, giving us the benefit of his knowledge and skills, allowing us to use his workshop and equipment -we can’t thank him enough!

There is still more work to do and with our volunteers returning to school and work  it will be a little longer before we can complete the next phase of the construction.
not bad progress for a few days in the workshop..

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Everything is quiet on the Harrier front

No major movements by any of the Langholm girls in the last couple of weeks, Annie is still favouring the area to the west of Moffat and Grainne and Hattie are still content with the Langholm - Newcastleton Hills.

a short video taken today of a juvenile female Hen Harrier at Langholm..

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Annie visits a big forest with a tiny name

Until recently Annie was staying put in her favoured spot in South Lanarkshire but in the last 5 days has made a move south to the big forest with a tiny name - Ae Forest.  Annie has moved about 13km  south back in to her home region of Dumfries & Galloway  and has been exploring an area about 20km north of Dumfries.

Annie, Grainne & Hattie's movements 8th - 15th October

No change for Hattie and Grainne, staying home on Langholm moor.

Hattie and Grainne

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Sad day - No signal from Sid

Sid was the name given to a young male Hen Harrier that was tagged on the 3rd July 2014 and fledged his nest on Langholm moor a few days later.
Sid's last journey
After the last blog post, when Sid's tag showed his journey south to near Hawes, North Yorkshire, a comment was left on our facebook page about fear for the safety of the harriers once they left the boundaries of the Langholm Moor. A fear I shared, if only they could stay within the confines of the moor where so many pairs of eyes are watching over them. Hattie and Grainne, two female harriers that fledged (and were tagged) in 2013, who both stayed all last winter and bred here at Langholm this year, are the exception.
 The journeys the young harriers take is an exciting aspect of their lives for us to follow but also the most dangerous for them. The natural risks faced by the young harriers, in their first winter particularly, are high, not to mention the added risks created by humans.
The last map I shared on this blog of Sid's movements was his last. Sid's tag has ceased to signal. The police have been informed and the area of the last known signal has been searched. The area of the last signal is mainly white-moor (Molinia grass), there are areas managed for grouse to the North and East. The area has been searched but no signs of Sid or his tag were found. There were signs of foxes in the area (sighting of foxes, scats etc) so there is potential that Sid was predated as he roosted but no direct evidence for that. Sadly I don't have a great deal more information to share, if  I do I'll post it here.
 Annie, Hattie and Grainne are all transmitting as normal.

Hattie, Grainne, Annie 2nd October

Monday, 22 September 2014

Langholm Harriers

Annie, Grainne and Hattie have made no significant movements in the last week but within the last couple of days Sid has made a determined journey (approx 117km) south across the border in to Northern England. He has currently in the beautiful county of North Yorkshire, near Hawes.



Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Sid makes a U-Turn

In the time it has taken me to write the blog (below) and upload photos, Sid's latest data have come in. He is not following in Miranda's footsteps and heading west across D&G, he has done a U-turn and is heading back towards the Scottish Borders.. !!

Sid's U-turn 14th - 1th September

Langholm Harriers 16th September

It may be mid September but it is feeling more like mid July here in Langholm. We've been experiencing sunny, warm days,  even managing 23 degrees one day. Barely a drop of rain means the rivers are the lowest we've seen them in a long while and the moor is about as dry as it gets (which admittedly is still pretty wet). It has been about a month since we've seen swifts wheeling overhead but the swallows and martins are still actively feeding young. Finches and pipits moving about together in large flocks feeding on the thistles and meadowsweet.
 Vole numbers appear to still be pretty high, It is hard not to tread on them as you walk through the heather, grasses and rushes. Several pairs of Barn owls are on second broods (some feeding large chicks, some still sat on eggs). On the Harrier front the girls (Hattie, Grainne and Annie) have not made any major changes in recent weeks but Sid (the young male tagged at Langholm this year) is heading west.

Sid the day his sat tag was fitted
After spending a few weeks in the Scottish Borders between Langholm and Kielder Reservoir Sid  made a pit stop on Langholm moor before continuing South West..  Is this just a foray to the west of the moor or could he be heading further afield across Dumfries & Galloway, even following Miranda's route from 2013, Isle of Man and onto Ireland? Watch this space...
Hattie, Grainne and Sid (137859) recent movements

From the southern part of the moor  (Whita Hill) you can see as far as the northern end of the North Pennines AONB,  the northern peaks of the Lake District, the tip of the Solway and the Criffel at Dumfries.. This would have been what Sid saw and maybe what enticed him to explore a little further.
View from Southern tip of the moor across to Lake District and Solway

Annie is favouring ground in the very south of South Lanarkshire


Thursday, 4 September 2014

Langholm Harrier update

4th September

A couple of stunning shots of the moody skies over Langholm by local photographer Tom Hutton.

Langholm hills Tom Hutton

Langholm Monument Tom Hutton

Hattie and Grainne are staying home

Since fledging from nests in summer 2013 Hattie and Grainne have not wandered far from the moor.  Typically as the weather gets colder in the autumn and their avian prey moves to lower ground, so do to the harriers. The winter of 2013/2014 was very mild and this could have influenced Hattie and Grainne to stay on the moor rather than move away as we might expect.   Hattie and Grainne are running true to form at the moment and have remained on the moor since raising their broods this season, but whether that could change if the weather turns colder .. we'll have to wait and see.

Annie (Grainne's daughter - female fledged 2014)

Annie's return home to Langholm moor in mid August was brief. After just a day or so Annie flew north West towards Tweedsmuir  near where she had visited earlier in August and then onto Wintercleugh, South Lanarkshire. It would be so interesting to know what is driving Annie to explore when her mother, Grainne, has never left Langholm moor.

Annie's movements 17th August - 9th September


 Sid is the young male harrier that was tagged in July 2014 on Langholm. Many thanks to RSPB for this data. It is great to know Sid is alive and well and has been spending much of his last month or so on the east side of the moor near Newcastleton and venturing east over the border into Northumberland towards Keilder. In the past it has typically been the male birds that have ventured further afield (for example McPedro, who wintered in Spain) but so far Sid is staying fairly close to home. 

Sid's movements in the second half of August (blue dots)


Miranda is proving to be a real Enigma.  After sporadic data transmissions over the winter (likely due to poor weather conditions) it is several weeks now since data was last received from her tag. Colleagues in Ireland have done great work in trying to locate her, and there were some potential sightings of Miranda  around 10 days after that last transmission. I'm told it is possible that moulting feathers may be covering the solar panel on the tag interferring with recharging, if we hear more or if  her tag begins to signal again we'll post here.

 If you enjoy following the movements of the satellite tagged Langholm harriers you now have the opportunity to do the same with tagged harriers at Bowland   and Peak District

Monday, 25 August 2014

Annie didn't stay long

There is a definite Autumnal feel to the air and we weren't far from a frost at the weekend, which was a bit of a shock for August. I had a fantastic day on the moor on Friday with students from Langholm Academy - learning about the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project as part of their Environmental Science module. It is so refreshing to work with young people of this age group as they question every aspect of the management, and rightly so. From young people with countryside / farming / shooting background to those who have had little engagement with the moor before.. I always ask them what they want from their surrounding landscape?  and how do they see the moor in 20 or 50 years time?. a very engaging and thoughtful group. Weather permitting we'll be out this week getting our hands dirty taking a closer look at the vegetation on the moor and the techniques used to manage it.

Langholm Harriers

 Annie's return to Langholm moor last week was brief, she stayed just a day or so and made a loop back east to Catcleugh Reservoir in Northumberland before headed west again to ground near Tweedsmuir in the Scottish Borders.

Hattie and Grainne (2013 tagged females) are running true to form and sticking within the boundaries of the moor, hunting mostly on the rough grassland. As far as we know Miranda is doing ok in Northern Ireland but data from her tag has been irregular. We are still waiting for information on Sid (the male 2014 tagged chick's) progress but will post here when it arrives.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Annie comes home

Annie 18th August

We've just been notified that Annie (2014 tagged female harrier) has returned home to Langholm.  Her signal shows she has arrived back on the northern edge of the moor  and not yet visited her old nest site.. but we'll be keeping an eye out for her. Maybe she has come back home to feed up on voles or just to check the moor is still there.. who knows. I can't imagine she'll hang around long, it will be interesting to see where she explores next. (click on the image to see it enlarged).

Friday, 15 August 2014



 After the incredible weather we have enjoyed over the last couple of months, the rain has returned to remind us here at Langholm not to get too comfortable! In between the heavy rain showers, it is the perfect time to get out and enjoy the moor. It is at this time of year that heather moorland comes into it own and wows us with stunning displays of violet..  Sadly the rusty brown colouration of heather affected by the heather beetle grub has made an appearance at Langholm again this year; not as extensively as in previous years but it always seems to be by the roadside so is often the first view you get crossing the moor. If you look a little further afield and there are some wonderful views to be enjoyed.

August on Langholm moor

Healthy Heather in full flower (Tom Hutton)
Heather affected by Heather Beetle (Tom Hutton)
Heather Beetle grubs (Laurie Campbell)

Young Harriers hunting on the moor (Tom Hutton)

As we've mentioned in previous posts Hen harriers have had an incredible breeding season at Langholm with a total number of 12 nests. We can confirm (thanks to    that there were 12 females, and 9 males (6 monogamous and 3 bigamous). Ten of these nesting attempts were successful and fledged 47 young (brood sizes between three and six), which is more than in all previous breeding seasons since the start of the project combined. The two failed nesting attempts were deserted during incubation (one secondary female and a very late nesting attempt). 
Hattie and Grainne (both female birds fledged from Langholm in 2013 and both bred this year) are still exhibiting their strong bond to Langholm moor and are showing no signs of varying from that pattern. Annie (Grainne's daughter), however,  has exhibited the opposite pattern of behaviour from her mother, leaving the natal area around a month after leaving the nest. This opportunity to follow a mother and daughter is throwing up some really interesting questions -  such as what drives one harrier to leave the moor after a month and another to stay for a year? We have not  yet received data about Sid (male chick fledged from Langholm this year) but look forward to seeing what he is up to and will share this data, here, as soon as we can.
 Annie has flown 85km East and is currently in Northumberland, south west of Wooler.
Hattie, Grainne and Annie 10th - 15th August
Miranda did not breed this year but is doing is ok in Northern Ireland.. her tag is not behaving quite as expected (so we can't bring you a map at this time) but visual sightings confirm she is safe.


Thursday, 31 July 2014

An incredible season at Langholm

Well the breeding season is drawing to a close.. although no one has told the barn owls (two pairs have begun on second broods already). The great weather and high vole numbers have made for an incredible season at Langholm moor this year but birds are now beginning to move away. The diversionary feeding of the Hen Harriers is coming to an end and young harriers are beginning to disperse across the moor. Grouse counts are under way and the decision whether or not to shoot grouse this year is not far off.
A total of 47 young hen harriers have fledged Langholm Moor this year.. which is phenomenal ..  now comes the time when they leave the safety of Langholm and venture off on their own.  We can only watch and hope as many as possible can survive their first winter and breed next year.
It is also time to say goodbye to the wonderful RSPB seasonal staff, Anna McWilliams and Kirstie Hazelwood, it has been a real pleasure working with you and to the hard working MSc students Kat Fingland and Sarah Emerson  .. good luck with your write up and all the best for the future..

Name a Hen Harrier

Thank you to everyone  who entered our 'Name a Hen Harrier' competition, we received some wonderful suggestions. I was glad to pass on the decision to the wonderful team at the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project, as there were so many great name suggestions.  
The chosen names are:

Female      Annie (made up of letters from her mother Grainne's name)..

Annie (Grainne's daughter)

 Male          Sid - (named after a character from the animated film Ice Age.. apparently Hen Harrier chicks up until about a week or so old look like this Sloth character called Sid), below is a short video clip.. you decide!

'Sid' male chick having his harness checked for a good, comfortable fit

Follow the Langholm Harriers

So this year we'll be following 5 satellite tagged Harriers from Langholm moor: Grainne, Hattie and Miranda (females all tagged in 2013) and Annie (female) and Sid (male) 2014.
Hattie and Grainne have made no major movements away from the moor, Miranda is still safe in Northern Ireland.  We'll be working with some fab folks in Ireland and Northern Ireland to bring you more detailed info on Miranda's movements
Annie is the offspring of Grainne; this is only the second time the satellite tagging of Hen Harriers harriers from successive generations has been done and we've been wondering whether the movements of mother and daughter would show any similarities.. One of the things I love about harriers is that they remind us again and again how unpredictable they are.  Annie has caught us on the hop and left the moor already, having flown north west just a few days ago.. 
24th -30th July Langholm Harrier movements

Many thanks to Stephen Murphy (Natural England) for this info.

Sid is wearing an RSPB tag and we looking forward to receiving an update on his movements soon.

The decision was taken this year to colour ring the other young harriers, so watch out for black rings with yellow text..

Harrier chicks wearing colour rings

We've enjoyed some great 'Wildlife Detective' activities this summer; including one cloudy morning  - which meant perfect conditions for the reptile refuges .. Common Toads, Common Lizards, Slow Worms, Voles, Common Shrews, Ant nests made for a very exciting morning.

Olivia investigating a Slowworm and Callum discovering a predated pheasant egg

Callum getting up close and personal with a Common Toad

We've had a month of fantastic 'Watching the moorland skies' events - great to meet lots of new folk and fantastic views of the birds:  Hen Harriers, Short Eared Owls, Merlin, Kestrel, Grouse, Curlew, Stonechat, Whinchat and Hobby to name but a few.  Yesterday evening (July 30th) was our last guided watch event this summer; Short Eared Owls, Buzzards, and Kestrels all put in an appearance but it was the first time in months I've spent time on the moor and not seen a harrier..

As we near the 'Glorious 12th' - the beginning of the Grouse shooting season in August, the press and publicity surrounding the Hen Harrier and Red Grouse moor conflict increases..
So are 'we' any closer to resolving it? I think if there was an easy solution then we wouldn't still have a problem..  Check out some of these links and decide for yourself..

 What is Hen Harrier day 2014?

RSPB are calling for Licencing of Grouse moors,  see what Martin Harper has to say -   

Download your free Grouse Shooting and Hen Harrier guide from GWCT here:

If you would like to sign the e-petition asking for the Defra Hen Harrier Joint Recovery Plan to be published follow this link:

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Why did the furniture maker name his creations after a skylark?

no this isn't the beginning to a bad joke.. but an excuse to champion one of the project's most dedicated volunteers -   Daniel Lacey a local furniture maker and big supporter of he Making the Most of Moorlands Project has been inspired by moorland wildlife in naming his latest pieces..
Daniel is a regular volunteer for the Making the Most of Moorlands project, giving hours of his time to maintain the bird feeding station, designing and building new pheasant proof feeders, designing a bird hide, building and erecting barn owl boxes, offering up his workshop for Langholm Scouts nest box workshop and generally being a very helpful person!

Daniel designed and built this easy to clean ground feeder at our Moorland Bird feeding station - which has helped attract wonderful species like Brambling

Langholm Scout group hard at work building nest boxes for Pied flycatcher and Redstarts 

Daniel sharing his woodworking skills with the next generation

Daniel asked for some help naming his new creations;  as I know Daniel has a deep love for wildlife and the natural environment I suggested using the BTO species codes used for bird ringing..  who wouldn't love a SPOFL.. (Spotted Flycatcher), or a MEAPI (Meadow Pipit).. ? Check out some of Daniel's wonderful work below.

Daniel has offered to make a donation to the Making the Most of Moorlands project for every sale he makes.. so the education and community work we do here, will benefit from his work.. how generous!

This piece is called SKYLA - after the Skylark

BAROW - named after a barn owl

BLAGR - Black Grouse

PIEFL  - Pied Flycatcher

If you are interested in learning more about Daniel's work visit his website or visit the CLA gamefair this weekend at Blenheim Palace.. where Daniel is exhibiting.. 18th - 20th July

We are currently working with a local jeweller and chocolatier to inspire some more moorland creations so ... watch this space.

 It is a wonderful time to visit the moor and watch the harriers and the other wonderful birds on the moor. You can safely watch and photograph the birds from the road but please remember a licence is required to approach the birds or photograph them off the road. These are very rare birds and this is an excellent opportunity to watch them at close quarters safely.
Why not drop into the Eskdale Hotel on Langholm high Street to see nest footage from one of the Harrier nests at Langholm.

 The Hen Harrier nest camera stars of 2014 have now fledged and are spending very little time in the nest.. so the Display in the Eskdale will be showing highlights from this season from incubation, hatching and growing chicks, so if you missed anything drop in and  watch the Langholm Hen Harrier story. 
 We will shortly begin sharing the movements of our satellite tagged birds here too.
  .......or join us for a Guided watch - 'Watching the Moorland Skies' -  every Wednesday evening 6pm - 8pm  in July. NY3986 , look for the Making the Most of Moorlands Banner or contact for more details