Thursday, 27 March 2014

March 2014 

A biting easterly wind made it very cold, but still a fantastic day on the moor .. an early start to see what was about at the feeding station was made even more delightful by being serenaded by Lapwing, Curlew calling and Snipe drumming overhead. Superb views of the harriers skydancing over the hills, Peregrine, Raven, Buzzard, Merlin and Kestrel.. Red Grouse are pairing up all over the moor and excellent views of Black cock and the elusive Grey hen topped off the day. Even a surprise Snowbunting sighting.. aren't moorlands amazing?!

Monday, 24 March 2014

Skydancing in full swing!!!

A beautiful day on Langholm moor.. began with a frosty morning serenaded by Curlew, Lapwing, Red Grouse, Skylark and Meadow Pipit, as  I did a spot of ringing a the moorland bird feeding station. Lovely views of my first leveret of the season suggests spring is a little earlier than usual this year, and yet we still have Brambling at the feeders.


The stunning Hen Harrier display, began a week or so ago, tentatively at first but now two males are seen regularly full on skydancing.
 These photos (taken last year by John Wright) show the intricate moves the males make when they are displaying, flying huge loops in the sky twisting and turning to attract a mate. Click on any image to see it enlarged.
If you would like an opportunity to see displaying Hen Harriers and other fantastic moorland wildlife - we are running some guided sessions over April as part of the Wild Seasons Spring Festival. Every Sunday in April 9am - 1pm . Please contact Cat Barlow on  or 013873 80914 for details.

Please remember that Hen Harriers and other raptors are legally protected. If you watch from the roadside you will be able to get good views of them without causing any disturbance. Please be considerate when parking and keep dogs on leads - ground nesting birds are particularly sensitive to disturbance.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Latest update

 Many thanks to Stephen Murphy for this update:

All is well with the trio of 2013 Langholm birds. In recent days, they have started to range further from the roost hence home ranges (HR) are gradually expanding. Interestingly, all are still using the same series of roosts first visited in autumn 2013. The birds at Langholm are favouring rushy Juncus dominated areas and Miranda is roosting up in the Irish heather and grass.

The HR’s of Miranda, Hattie and Grainne in the last 20 days were approximately7km x 7km, 7 x 3.8km and 14.6km x 7.8km respectively. Grainne’ s range increased significantly on the 11th of March as she ventured out of her usual quarters and spent the afternoon on a mountainside west of Kirkstile, after crossing the busy A7 Edinburgh road. This is approximately 8km from her favoured roost and nearly15 km from the northern extremity of her winter range. She was tracked active over a small area (presumably hunting) around 1500 hrs and was back in the main roost by 18.00hrs.

It will be interesting to find out if these 9-month old birds attempt to breed in 2014. Proportionately more young birds bred in Bowland (2002 -2010) than in the populations studied by Balfour and Watson. This usually involved a yearling pairing with an adult, but in 2007, a yearling pair bred successfully. The yearling females that bred were mostly successful and surprisingly adept at rearing broods of 5 or 6, and many of the brown male parents were excellent providers. Would these young birds get this opportunity to breed in a stable population at carrying capacity?  

Young Harrier just before fledging Laurie Campbell

Male Hen Harrier hunting over the moor

We'll keep you updated with Miranda, Grainne and Hattie's progress.. Keep watching this space.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Langholm Harriers

The young hen harriers are remaining in their long established home ranges in County Mayo, Ireland and Langholm, Scotland. We will update you if and when a bird decides to move significantly.

 Some fantastic frog photos from our project volunteer Andy.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Skydancing action in the skies above Langholm moor

What an antidote to three months of miserable weather.. skydancing harriers.. !!
A couple of hours away from the funding paperwork to enjoy the moor in the sunshine today produced superb views of both male and female Harriers and a sprinkling of Merlin. 

many thanks to John Wright for these images
The display of the male was tentative and not up to the full on skydancing we can expect to see in the coming weeks but still sent a shiver down my spine. What a bird!
Just as I left I was lucky enough to get close views of a male harrier hunting and catching a vole.
I'd like to give a great big welcome to the seasonal RSPB staff joining the LMDP this year, Kirsty Hazelwood and Anna McWilliam, looking forward to working with you.

Langholm Harriers

Many thanks To Barry O'Donaghue for this update
'Nothing new or startling to report in terms of the movements of the young Hen Harriers being tracked across Britain and Ireland – all are at their usual locations in Cork, Mayo and Langholm. The tags on all four birds - Heather, Miranda, Hattie and GrĂ¡inne are transmitting data as I write and are showing the birds to move around in their usual haunts.  The weather today is crisp and bright, wonderful for powering up the solar panels. With the longer days and hopefully improving weather, we should get data in consistently, all going well.

These weeks are exciting! Any time now they could move to breeding mode. In Ireland we can generally expect to see Sky Dancing from as early as Saint Patrick’s Day if we get the weather. In fact I’ve had sky dancing at roosts in January and February but Saint Patrick’s Day normally marks the start of a new breeding season in Ireland at least. Birds may continue to remain at normal time roosts for as long as they want, but generally these roosts are exited by the early parts of April (unless the roost is also a breeding site)'.

Miranda, Grainne and Hattie 12th March 2014

Male Hen Harrier (John Wright)

No signs of skydancing yet but we are waiting eagerly..

Monday, 10 March 2014

A beautiful sunny spring day on Langholm moor

I heard today that we had passed 100 consecutive days of rain in Langholm, well that is not all that unusual to be honest, but it does make you appreciate the sun when it finally reappears.
Up on the moor today, blue skies, barely a breath of wind surrounded by the sights and sounds of spring:  Lapwing and Curlew making the first tentative displays, my first bumble bee of the season, the chuckle of Grouse and a fleeting view of a harrier.. heaven, just heaven.

 Frog spawn, no longer a novelty (but still a delight) fills every puddle  and the first signs of tadpoles forming can be seen.

We've been busy getting some new Barn owl boxes up on the moorland edge, and our first pair is on three eggs already.