Friday, 27 March 2015

2015 season - Concerns for Annie

A mix of warm sunshine and wintery showers has seen the official start of spring here at Langholm. Migrants like Chiffchaff can be seen and heard alongside our winter visitors - Fieldfare and Redwing. With skydancing harriers seen almost daily and our new hide up and running we have much to celebrate, but sadly we have some bad new too.

 We have concerns for one of the Langholm born Harriers -  Annie (female Hen Harrier tagged in 2014). The last transmission we received from Annie was on the 19th March. The concern for Annie has been reported to the relevant authorities and a team on the ground is trying to locate her.  At this stage I have no further information to share but will do so on this blog if any information arises.

Hattie and Grainne are safe and well on Langholm moor and Hattie as been seen displaying alongside a male harrier.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Celebrations and Skydancing

 On Sunday 15th we celebrated the launch of our new bird hide - 'Laverock Hide'. We had a fantastic turnout, thank you to everyone who came along and all our volunteers who helped out.  Many thanks to Catherine Greer for these photos.

 A bright sunny day on the 19th saw the Hen Harriers at Langholm taking to the sky to begin their wonderful aerial display - Skydancing. Lets hope this is the beginning of another great season.
A few photos taken in previous years at Langholm.

(Photo by John Wright)

 If you come to Langholm to see the skydancing or the rest of the wonderful wildlife on the moor please park considerately, the Langholm - Newcastleton Road is single track and the passing places are vital. Please make sure you leave space for vehicles to pull into pass each other. Thank you

(Photo by John Wright)

(Photo by John Wright)

 Dry, bright days are few and far between in our part of the world so the keepering team were out working hard to burn patches of heather.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Join us for the launch of our new bird hide

On Sunday 15th March we are holding an event to launch our new bird hide at the moorland feeding station at Broomholmshiels, Langholm Moor. The hide is the culmination of months of work by volunteers and will be a fantastic resource for the local community and visitors a like.

Join us for this free event on

Sunday 15th March

Moorland Bird Feeding Station

South-western end of the moor on the Broomholmshiels to Cronksbank Road. NY385 823

 Contact Cat for more details

There is parking onsite for those with limited mobility,  and more parking available at Broomholmshiels Farm (signs will be in place). A free minibus will be leaving Langholm Town square at 10.45 if anyone would like to use that service. Join us for hot drinks and cake.. chat to our volunteers and see what they have been up to.

The story of the Moorland Bird hide

When the Moorland Education Project began in April 2009, we were keenly aware that the project needed a focus for activities during the quieter Autumn and Winter months when the majority of moorland birds move away from the moor. A bird feeding station seemed like the answer and since its humble beginnings in November 2009 has grown into a great educational and wildlife resource. There have been fifty six different species of bird recorded seen or heard at the site and over 2000 birds ringed with the help of several project volunteers.

Since 2009, there have been several hundred activities linked directly to the feeding station and countless visitors to watch the birds. It has been an excellent resource for the Making the Most of Moorlands Project and is used regularly for school, youth group, volunteer and public activities.

The feeding station has been the focus of various practical conservation activities with youth groups, schools and even a group training event with Scottish Natural Heritage.

Several project volunteers regularly visit the site and photograph the wildlife, Tom Hutton and Sandy Gill in particular have been fantastic in allowing us to use their photographs for publicity, recording activities, sharing on Facebook, the project blog and local press.

For several years we have been thinking about building a more permanent weatherproof shelter at the feeding station to improve the visitor experience and allow people to get closer to the birds without causing disturbance. It has been quite a challenge to secure the funding, planning permission and materials for the hide but it is very satisfying to finally be able to welcome visitors to the hide.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

mixed finch flock

The feeding station has been a useful ringing site allowing us to learn a little more about the avian visitors to the site
When local man, professional cabinet maker and project volunteer, Daniel Lacey, offered to be involved in the project, we knew we were in for a top quality bird hide. Daniel has not only helped design and build the hide, he has gone above and beyond, welcoming us into his workshop, allowing us to use tools and machinery and sharing his wood working skills with our younger volunteers. Daniel has given an incredible amount of time and effort and we can’t thank him enough.

Thanks to help from staff at Buccleuch Estates we managed to secure planning permission for the project to go ahead and back in October we began the hard work of preparing the wood. Keen to get volunteers involved with every stage of the hide building process, our team joined us from the very beginning. The work began on a very wet day in October milling the wood from the felled Larch trees. The group learned how to move the massive logs onto the saw mill and how to use the machinery safely to create the planks that would become the cladding for the walls of the hide. Working with a small group allowed us to get our young volunteers to get one to one guidance on technically difficult and potentially dangerous tasks. One of the project aims is to help young people to gain tangible skills and experience that would benefit them in their future careers. The young volunteers were able to learn directly from skilled professionals how to use the saw mill to cut the wood, how to move the wood safely and how to use the workshop machinery to prepare the wood for construction.

Our young volunteers have been working towards John Muir and Saltire awards –putting in around 30 – 40 hours each of volunteering time. They have volunteered after school and in the holidays, working around exams and their other commitments. I’ve been so impressed by their dedication and enthusiasm.

Once the wood had been given time to ‘settle’ it was time to get the hide in place. On site build began in January which presented its own challenges. The team has worked safely and sensibly in icy, windy and wet conditions. I can’t thank our volunteers enough for putting in hours and hours of hard work in challenging conditions, many hot cups of tea and a few packets of biscuits were consumed!  

This bird hide project would not have been possible without the incredible community support that we have received, we hope that the local communities around the moor will make use of the hide and help to take care of it. I’d like to thank everyone who has been involved especially all our volunteers, we couldn’t have done it without you. Many thanks to Buccleuch Estates for donations of materials and help with the planning process.

Thank you to our funders for making our work possible – Scottish Natural Heritage, the Holywood Trust, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and NGO Educational Trust. 

See November 4th Post for details of  the  first phase of construction, milling the wood and the workshop indoor work...

The raw materials donated by Buccleuch Estates October 2014

 At the end of January we began the on site construction, our volunteers have been amazing braving freezing temperatures, ice, snow and 35mph winds.. a Health and safety challenge to say the least!

Volunteers measuring out the post holes and beginning to dig


Our volunteers worked in snow and ice to complete the project

Midway through construction we knew the views form the hide would be something special

Adam and Alasdair preparing the floor of the hide

Work experience student William learning some woodworking skills from Daniel

Bug Hotel
As well as building the hide, volunteers have moved and rebuilt the bug hotel. The local Barn Owls have adopted the feeding station  - using the hide and fence posts as a perch and leaving their pellets behind each morning for us to find.

Barn owl pellets

Not quite our target species for the bird feeding station but you have to admire her flexibility

Our moorland efforts were rewarded with lovely views  a skein of  'pinkies' (Pink footed Geese)
Over the last six years we have run over 400 activities and engaged with over 12,500 participants. So proud of this phenomenal effort – wouldn’t be possible without the hard work of our volunteers and support of the local community. 
We hope that the bird hide will be a valuable asset for the communities surrounding the moor and act as a focal point for visitors to the moor. We hope to run several events in the coming months and years to help people identify the different species and photograph the local wildlife.

We are very proud of what the project has achieved over the last six years and would like to continue that work into the future. Securing funding for community / education work like ours is becoming increasing difficult and local donations however large or small can be really valuable in helping us achieve…. If you would like to help by donating, please find a donations form on our website  or at the Langholm Initiative Office.

 Nothing new from Hattie, Grainne or Annie, all safe and well.