Tuesday, 26 May 2015


Nearing the end of May, we are still waiting hopefully for summer to arrive. The sprinkling of Roan trees on the moor have finally begun to green up after looking decidedly lifeless for many months. New life can be seen popping up all over - from the first Red Grouse broods, to broods of Lapwing and Oystercatcher, Owls and Thrushes.
 Despite the cold and wet and occasionally snowy conditions Hattie and Grainne (two female Harriers hatched and tagged at Langholm moor in summer 2013) have both incubated successfully are now feeding young chicks. Diversionary feeding begins as soon as chicks hatch and both females are readily taking the food from the posts while their mates bring in an array of natural food including voles and small birds.

Hattie and Grainne are among five active harrier nests on the moor this season. After the monumental twelve breeding attempts last year it is easy to be disappointed, but five nests is still brilliant and there are a few birds about with potential to settle. With a bit of luck and a herculean effort from the keepering team here at Langholm to control the ever increasing fox numbers we could still be seeing good numbers of  harriers fledge Langholm this year (I will resist the temptation to count any chickens/ harriers before they have hatched).
Check out the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project site for official updates and news.


Hattie's nest (Sonja Ludwig)
The group of volunteers who worked towards a John Muir Award as part of their efforts building the new moorland bird hide received their certificates and celebrated with a visit to the hide and a close encounter with some Tawny owl chicks. So proud of you guys, well done James, Amy, Alasdair, Ralph and Adam!

Young volunteers receiving their well deserved John Muir Discovery Awards

Ralph helping to ring a brood of Tawny owl chicks in a nest box

We have been working with Langholm Academy over the last month or so introduce their S1 group to the wonders of the moor. It is a tricky time of year to explore without disturbing nesting birds but we have managed to discover a few hidden corners of the moor and learnt about moorland management and wildlife from freshwater invertebrates such as the Cased Caddis fly and Golden Ringed Dragonfly Nymph to the wonderful Whinchat, Goosander and Buzzard.
 Last week the group learnt all about nesting birds; where they nest, when they nest, the materials they use to build their nests, how they keep hidden during incubation and the dangers they face. With the help of some chicken and quail eggs the group had a go at building their own nests from hay, straw, wool and bracken and learnt just how tricky it is to find the right spot and build a safe nest for their eggs.

not many nests can boast a supportive stone wall, like this one!

Here is a fine example of one of the weird and wonderful nesting sites the group learnt about.

Oystercatcher nesting on a stone wall ( Tim Chamberlain)

 Pied wagtail nest - under a bridge but still very exposed spot

young Song Thrush
First owl rescue of the season - Tawny

The Academy group also learnt about what to do if you find a young bird (generally best to leave well alone as adult birds will most likely be lurking nearby ready to feed them). Sadly this young tawny had wandered into a busy garden/ farm yard where it was in real danger of a close encounter with a dog or a vehicle, so it was returned safely to its nest tree. Young Tawny owls usually leave the nest before they can fly - doing something called 'branching' - exploring the branches of the nest tree and surroundings.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

May 2015 Waiting for summer to arrive

It is mid may and the moor still has a very wintery feel. The first grouse broods of the year have been spotted and it is several weeks since we ringed the first Short Eared Owl chick of the year but we are still regularly getting frosts, hail, torrential rain and very strong winds. The moor feels like it is several weeks behind the rest of the surrounding countryside and definitely not as far along as this time last year.  The young grouse face a challenge finding enough insects to eat in these cold temperatures and with the first harrier broods due to hatch soon we have fingers crossed that summer is not far away.
'The Owl man' has been back for another stint of SEO watching and he has shared some great photos  of his time on the moor along with some amazing shots of SEO in snow at the end of April.

Langholm Moor (Bryan Benn)

SEO (Bryan Benn)

SEO hunting in snow April 2015 (Bryan Benn)

SEO in snow April 2015 Bryan Benn

Short Eared Owl chick in nest (Bryan Benn)
Waiting for a school group to show up a few days ago, I heard that familiar sound of young birds food begging, after a quick search with my binoculars I spotted this brood of Stonechats fresh out of the nest with fluffy heads and stubby tails, they were surprisingly agile (and difficult to photograph) already.

Brood of Stonechats

Road kill Red Grouse

As if we needed a reminder to go steady on the roads at this time if year - I watched as this female Red Grouse was killed on the road a few days ago, -  in good breeding condition, (you can see the egg she was carrying crushed beside her) her mate waited patiently at the side of the road.  Sadly dead wildlife including Black Grouse,  Lapwing, Skylarks, Adders and Toads are all too common a sight on the roads. The moor roads are important driving routes for many rural people, but please take a little extra care over the next couple of months as tiny chicks and egg-carrying females need a little extra time to get out of the way and our wildlife needs all the help it can get.

Lapwing chick
Check out this surprise visitor in an old Buzzard nest at Langholm..

Thursday, 7 May 2015

May 2015

Has anyone lost a tripod - one was found in our moorland bird hide at Langholm over the weekend of 2nd and 3rd of May? Please contact cat@langholminitiative.co.uk if it is yours.
Spring is well under way at Langholm with most species on eggs (Red Grouse), small young (Grey Wagtails and Tawny Owls) or even fledged young for the early nesters like Ravens. We have experienced some mixed weather to say the least -  a couple of weeks of sunshine and summer like temperatures (18 degrees) in the middle of April -  only to be brought back to earth with hard frosts   (- 8 degrees) and then wind and torrential rain at the beginning of May. The skydancing activity from the Harriers is tailing off as they settle down and we are looking forward to the surge of activity when birds are feeding young in the nest.
Please remember how vulnerable breeding birds are at this time of year. It is important  to keep dogs on leads, and the safest places to be while birds are nesting are on roads, tracks and well trodden paths - nests are generally well camouflaged and hard to see. 

Grey wagtail nest

Tawny chicks

Lapwing nest

Red Grouse nest
Raven (Laurie Campbell)