Friday, 23 May 2014

Muckle Toon Adventure Festival (MTAF)

A huge congratulations to the organisers of he Muckle Toon Adventure Festival for a great event over the 16th - 18th May , to all our wonderful volunteers for your help and a big well done to all those who took part.

The Making the Most of the Moorlands Project was involved in several ways - with a project stand at the base camp with information about the moor and the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project, and children's moorland art activities.

A male Hen Harrier

Zola pointing grouse in the heather

A cock Red Grouse
We ran several stream dipping session on the Tarras water on the Saturday, getting thirty kids and their parents guddling about for invertebrate life (and the occasional fish).

young Trout (I think.. I'll admit my fish ID is a little rusty) 

Cased Caddis fly larvae

A dawn guided walk on the Sunday was a great success with wonderful views of Whinchat, Wheatear, Curlew, Lapwing, Snipe, Common Sandpiper, Hen Harrier, Short Eared Owl to name but a few and the feral goats put in an appearance too!

The group stopping to admire the goats and a lovely male Whinchat singing away from a tuft of heather

 Feral goats
Red grouse broods have been hatching all over the moor, it has been wonderful watching families of grouse moving through the vegetation.. just the heads of the Cock and Hen visible most of the time keeping watch for predators.. and occasional views of tiny grouse chicks bouncing along.  MSc Student Kat Fingland is working at Langholm this season on her study looking at Red Grouse breeding success.

Red grouse chick

Cock (male) Red Grouse with his radio collar

Can you spot the grouse nest?
  A good reminder to please, please keep your dogs on leads April - July on the moor.. there are many species still on eggs and young birds can not fly far if at all for several weeks.

Kat Fingland ... good luck with your studies

Short Eared Owls doing well on the moor this season - some nests are almost ready to fledge, some still on eggs.

Harriers (including Hattie and Grainne) sat on eggs, we'll keep you posted as the season goes on.

Monday, 12 May 2014

May 2014 on Langholm Moor

There is a real 'in-between seasons' feel on the moor at the moment, summer migrants are back and fighting for their place on the moor but beautiful warm sunny periods are interspersed by very heavy rain and even hail showers to remind us of that old saying -
'Ne'er cast a clout till may be oot' ..  
Swifts, swallows, sand and house martins are all busy hunting invertebrates in the skies, the Pied flycatchers and Redstarts are back in the nest boxes and some on eggs already. The song of the Cuckoo, Grasshopper Warbler and Whinchat have been added to the moorland dawn chorus and Green Hairsteak butterflies and Emperor moths can be seen flitting across the heather.
 Click on any image to see it enlarged.
Green Hairstreak Butterfly (John Wright)
Male Adder (John Wright)

Grainne (2cy female Hen Harrier)

 This fantastic photo of Grainne show her sat tag clearly, although it can be incredibly hard to see from a distance.

As mentioned in previous posts the vole numbers this year on the moor are high; we are seeing larger than normal brood sizes with the Barn owls, more sightings of Short Eared Owls and the numbers of Hen Harriers are also up.  Currently we have six nesting females with four males in attendance. There are several other birds of both sexes about which have not settled yet, so things could still change. 
Curlew squabbling on the moor (David Palmer)
 Curlew and Lapwing behaviour and calls suggest that some nests have hatched and young waders begin their life on the moor.

Osprey flying north over the moor (John Wright)

Ospreys across Scotland are already back on territory and incubating eggs by now, so it is likely this osprey spotted flying across the moor was a two year old bird returning from its African wintering grounds for the first time to investigate 

Friday, 9 May 2014

May on the moor

May is proving to be a fantastic month on the moor, the weather is little unpredictable with rain showers never far away. The harriers are keeping us on our toes, some are settled but new birds keep appearing. Harrier, Merlin and Short eared Owls views have been fantastic, the high vole numbers this year mean the raptors are making the most of this food source.. fingers crossed the vole numbers stay high and we have a bumper year of young harriers, short eared owl and merlin.
 We have been enjoying some incredible views of Short Eared Owls - hunting, displaying and involved in territorial disputes..

Short Eared Owl (John Wright)

SEO (John Wright)

SEO (John Wright)

SEO (John Wright)

Male/Cock Red Grouse

Female/Hen Red Grouse
Whether it is a Hen Harrier, an Adder or a Red Grouse a first sighting is always special, especially when a pair pose so nicely for us to compare. The group of works experience students that joined me on the moor this morning saw not only Red Grouse but hen Harrier, Merlin, Buzzard, Curlew, Lapwing, Wheatear and Whinchat.. not bad for a first moorland visit.
Whinchat (Laurie Campbell)

Wheatear (Laurie Campbell)