Monday, 23 February 2015

February 2015

For the first time Mother and Daughter, Grainne and Annie, seem to be in sync. Both have made a move north within hours of each other, most likely in response to the change in the weather. They have both moved back to their favored wintering grounds.  Have we seen the last of the winter weather or could another cold snap drive the birds south again?

The mild and sunny weather last weekend also saw the first Lapwing flocks and Skylarks back on the moor.. Wonderful to hear the Skylarks song back in the moorland skies.

Highlights from this winter on the moor

Click on any of these images to see them enlarged.

 A few highlights from the winter included a juvenile Rough Legged Buzzard that visited Langholm moor briefly in the first part of the winter. Rough Legged Buzzards breed in Scandanavia and small numbers of birds winter here in the UK usually in the East. Last Autumn there was an influx with many birds seen in Northumberland and Yorkshire and we were lucky enough to see one here at Langholm. Rough Legged buzzards have a white tail with a black terminal band, pale head, black belly, white under wings with black carpal patch.

Rough Legged Buzzard (JW)

Rough Legged Buzzard (JW)
Rough Legged Buzzard (JW)

Hen Harriers

With 47 fledged young at Langholm last season we had high hopes we would see one or two harriers about over the winter. A great deal of patience and multiple thermal layers have been required to get these views of harriers, but well worth it. Many thanks to John Wright for these photos and ID guidance.

How is your Hen Harrier ID?

Adults Hen Harriers are pretty easy to tell apart, the obvious sexual dimorphism meant males and female harriers were once thought to be separate species but how about the juveniles still in their brown plumage?

Juvenile males differ from females by being slighter in build, if you have several harriers together, you can often tell males from females by their size, otherwise is it down to experience - a good excuse to get out and spend every spare minute watching hen harriers!

Young males also have a pale iris - unless you have an excellent view or superb photography skills, this is not always easy to see. 

Young males also display sparse barring in the outer half of the primaries. Juvenile females have coarser barring as can be seen when comparing these two juveniles.

Juvenile male HH (JW)

Juvenile Female HH (JW)

Juvenile Male Hen Harrier (JW)

Juvenile Male Hen Harrier colour ringed bird (JW)

Juvenile Female Hen Harrier (JW)
The male Hen Harrier could be called adult if only seen from below but the dark saddle and wing bars clearly make it an immature bird (3cy).

Red Grouse

And not forgetting the Red Grouse, I never get sick of watching these beautiful and characterful birds strut and chuckle amongst the heather.

Female red Grouse (JW)

Male Red Grouse (JW)
Male Red Grouse (JW)

Red Grouse in Flight (JW)

Male Red Grouse (JW)

Some other highlights

Moon over the moor (JW)
Around New Year the West of Scotland was battered by gale force winds.. while it was our friends further north that were hit directly by the so called 'weather bomb' Langholm got the tail end.. winds strong enough to bring down an unexpected visitor to the moor. After bouncing and stumbling through the heather the Fulmar eventually managed to get back into the air and head for the sea.
Sketch by John Wright
 A very elusive bird, not a common sight and such a treat to see.. a Goshawk! What a bird!
Juvenile Goshawk (JW)

Juvenile Goshawk (JW)

Number 69 wing tagged Buzzard, seen regularly on the moor

1 comment: