Thursday, 20 February 2014

Favour to ask

Kate Fraser, a Biological Sciences Student at Newcastle University, and Langholm Lass gave generously of her time in the spring and summer of last year volunteering for the Making the Most of Moorlands Project. The project would like to reward her for that hard work by spreading the word about project Kate is currently working on.

As part of her final year at Uni Kate has creating a website (and poster display) on the topic of the evolution of bovine TB and the badger culling controversy.  Kate has recently finished a first draft of the website and is seeking feedback that she can use to help improve the site. Kate would really appreciate it if you could check out the website and fill out a questionnaire. 

And the questionnaire can be found at:

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Latest sat tag update Valentine's Day

The birds have done some travelling around their home ranges in recent days, whether this was by choice or was an effect of the tempestuous winds is hard to tell!
Both of the Scottish based birds transmitted well today. Grainne was active this morning heading west towards her favoured foraging ground. Hattie is transmitting  from her usual roost, the exact place we were fortunate enough to film for the BBC Winterwatch programme in December along with two other young untagged females.
Miranda last transmitted on the 11th February from approximately 10km south-east of her long established home range in Co Mayo. It will be interesting to find out with the next batch of data whether she returned to the area. It will be even more interesting to see what she does in the coming days and weeks, whatever she opts to do will add greatly to the knowledge.
Between 2002 and 2012, several tracked birds (all females) returned to the natal areas earlier than expected (including Bowland Betty, into Bowland from Yorkshire in February 2012). Could this be the first sign of Miranda getting the philopatric urge to return? Maybe her “Heart is in the Highlands” she could be a 'Heilan' Lassie' and only has eyes for a “Highland Man”. Robert Burns 1759 – 1796.

 many thanks to Stephen for this update.
Satellite tracked hen harriers as of 14th February 2014 

Miranda, 10-day range to 11th February 2014 


Hattie 10-day range to 14th February 2014 

Grainne 10-day range to 14th February 2014 

Friday, 14 February 2014

A very wet Langholm

While Langholm Moor is hammered by constant rain, these Red Grouse in County Durham have snow to contend with. Just an excuse to show these lovely photographs and be reminded what a beautiful bird the Red Grouse is in its own right.

A BBC Winterwatch  team came to visit at the end of last year and filmed a piece for January 2014 programme. Lolo Williams interviewed Stephen Murphy about his satellite tag work with Hen Harriers. Grainne and Hattie both got a mention and Grainne did us proud by showing up to be filmed hunting voles on the moor. If you missed it follow this link

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Hello again (February 2014)

Back from a fantastic trip to West Africa. I've seen some of our migratory moorland birds (including Wheatear, Whinchat and Sand Martin) in their African wintering grounds.. As I watched them in desert, scrub and wetland habitats I was reminded that such small birds make an incredibly long and difficult journey each and every year. I will look at them in a renewed light when I see them return to Langholm Moor this summer.

 Did you see Stephen Murphy on Winterwatch in January, speaking to Lolo Williams about the Hen Harrier tagging work he has been doing? Fantastic stuff, we are proud to work with  Ste and be part of that important harrier work.

 Thank you so much to the fabulous Eimear Rooney for updating this blog with the progress of the three Langholm tagged Harriers in my absence.  I am amazed to be here in February writing a blog with three out of four tagged Langholm Hen Harriers still alive and well - long may it continue.

 Latest Harrier update from Stephen:

All is well with the birds. Nothing much to report other than it is notable that the habitat and extent of the home ranges of each of the 3 birds is very similar; despite Miranda residing 453 kms from her nest and Hattie and Grainne only 5km!
Both Irish and Scottish sites are upland heather and grass dominated, comprising two main roosts at the extremities of the range, measuring approximately 4km x 3km.

Miranda, Hattie and Grainne, 29th of January to 5th February 2014

Miranda 29th of January to 5th February 2014

Hattie and Grainne 28th January to 7th February

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Satellite tagged bird update 31st Jan 2014

Hattie Grainne and Miranda, 29th-30th January 2014

Nothing new really, but this is interesting in itself. Miranda is loyal to a definable home range in County Mayo and Hattie and Grainne have rarely ventured beyond 7 km from their nests in Langholm.
Hattie and Grainne (below 22nd -30th January) are occasionally roosting communally but with little crossover in hunting range.

Grainne is hunting approximately 5-6km to the south of the main communal roost, concentrating on the heather clad slopes around her old nest and the birch and gorse scrub to the southeast. The mild weather has seemingly held some smaller passerines on the hill, presumably also reducing the overwinter mortality of the small mammals. Despite apparent high densities of prey species there is ongoing evidence of grouse predation in Grainne’s foraging range. Goshawk, peregrine and buzzard are also frequenting the area along with an adult male and at least one juvenile untagged female hen harrier.

Hattie’s chosen foraging area is away from the Langholm grouse moors, approximately 7km northeast of the roost in a mainly whitemoor area with clear felled areas (trees removed c5yrs ago). In December, she was arriving at the roost about 1540 hrs. This will get progressively later each day as the daylight lengthens. Seldom does she roost away from the main communal site.

Grainne is less particular about where she roosts, using at least three separate sites across her range including in recent days the communal roost "owned" by Hattie. Two of Grainne’s roosts are similar in habitat and topography to the English roosts, resembling a flat/saucer shaped wet Juncus area, usually less than a hectare in extent surrounded on at least two sides and shielded from the north by "low whaleback" hills.

Miranda is worthy of a special mention in this update. Using the logic that arrived at the name McPedro, she should now be called Mirandagh having now spent more time in Ireland than Scotland.

Resume of Miranda’s stay in Mayo

Miranda has now been in Ireland for approximately 14 weeks, spending the majority in Co Mayo (9 weeks). The following summarises her stay so far and highlights some important areas within her recent settled home range.

Miranda, nest to wintering ground in County Mayo July 2013 – January 2014

Miranda returned yesterday evening to a roost near Carrowmore, Lake County Mayo. This is at least the third night over the previous 9 weeks she has roosted to the west of the lake (according to the satellite data). As she can only be tracked for 6-8 hours every 3-5 days (at this time of year), it would be reasonable to assume she is using the site considerably more than depicted below.

County Mayo 19th November 2013 to 30th January 2014

19th November 2013 - The first fixes plotted in Co Mayo were near Foxford, roosting on a mountainside above Lough Roosky. She was here at 05.39 hrs and active before dawn.

Brief stop near Mallaraney19th November 2013 at 13.01 hrs, 53.4 km from the roost near Lough Roosky

The following transmission came in on the 21st November, roosting approximately 32 km to the north of Mallaraney, 8km south-east of Belmullet. She now has a distinctive home range composed of a selection of roosting sites and regularly revisited foraging areas. It seems that she is now settled and spatially aware of the surrounding landscape.

County Mayo, clumped fixes show key roost sites and foraging areas used between the 21st of November and 30th January 2014.