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October 2nd, 2015

Elizabeth Louise Mills


While I was sketching some pine cones something scuttled out and went between the leaves of my sketchbook. It was a tiny pseudoscorpion. They live in leaf litter and inject other tiny creatures with paralyzing venom delivered from their tiny pincers an…

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September 14th, 2015

Bea Ayling

Blog Post: Hen Harrier talk at RSPB AGM

Guest blog by Jeff Knott, Head of Nature Policy The last time I gave a talk on hen harriers at an RSPB event, it finished with me and a colleague ripping our clothes off on stage. I suppose it’s not surprising I’ve not been let anywhere near a stage since! But after what I can only presume is a collective bout of amnesia in the events team, I’ll be back talking about hen harriers at the RSPB AGM and Members’ Day on Saturday 10th October at the QEII Centre, London. You can book your place online here . While I’ll certainly be covering the ongoing plight of one of our most threatened birds of prey and the pernicious effect of illegal persecution, the talk will also be focusing on the reasons we can be positive and why I honestly believe we will save our hen harriers. I can’t tell you too much more detail right now. We’re busy preparing things at the moment and I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise, but I can promise it will definitely be memorable – we’ve got a trick or two up our sleeves that should make it unique. I’ll again be joined by a glamorous colleague and I doubt what we have planned has ever been attempted at Members’ Day. I promise to keep my clothes on this time though. Probably. No more details for now…If you want to see what we have planned, you’ll just have to be there .

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September 9th, 2015

Bea Ayling

Blog Post: We’re hiring for hen harriers!

The LIFE+ Project is advertising two Community Engagement Officer posts, based in northern England and Edinburgh. We are looking for two self-motivated, inspirational people with excellent communication and interpersonal skills to deliver school and college workshops and field trips, community group talks and attend community events. We want to engage with the shooting and land-owning communities communities across the seven key Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for hen harriers in northern England and southern and eastern Scotland that the project focuses on – a large geographic area! The aim of the roles is to raise awareness of the habitat, ecology and threats to the hen harrier as well as the measures to protect these amazing, but declining birds of prey.  For more information, and to apply, please visit:

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September 4th, 2015

Bea Ayling

Blog Post: Sad news from the Isle of Man…

Back in July, we blogged about Hetty, a young hen harrier on the Isle of Man, satellite tagged as part of the LIFE project with Manx Birdlife. Unfortunately we have some sad news to report. Transmissions from her tag showed our Investigations Team that she had stopped moving and so they went out to the Isle of Man this week to look for her. Sadly, as expected, she had not survived, and was found only 2km from her nest site. We cannot speculate about the cause of death at this stage, but her body had been heavily predated. Her remains have been sent for post mortem and we are anxiously waiting for the results. This case highlights the potential hardship hen harriers face trying to survive alone when newly fledged from the nest, whether that is difficulty finding food or avoiding adverse weather, predation or illegal persecution. Any hen harrier making it to adulthood to breed is a feat of endurance. Luckily in this case, we had the technology in place to allow us to find Hetty and investigate the reasons for death. We will share the results in due course. We’d like to thank Lesley Cowin who named the bird in memory of her late father Sydney Cowin who bequeathed an amount of money to the local charitable trust, the Society for the Preservation of the Manx Countryside (SPMC) which part funded the costs of the satellite tagging procedure, and we hope we can work with Manx Birdlife again next year. We’d hoped to feature Hetty’s movements on the LIFE Project website, alongside some other birds tagged this year. This has been delayed because we have been waiting for the birds to move away from the areas where their nests were. We think we should be good to go in a couple of weeks, and we look forward to sharing the travels of these fantastic birds. Watch this space…!

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August 22nd, 2015

Backsbottom Farm

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Hen Harrier Day

Not many people will know that the Hen Harrier is critically endangered with approximately 4 breeding pairs in England and slightly more in double figures in Scotland. To highlight the plight of this beautiful bird, many Hen Harrier days took place aro…

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August 17th, 2015

Backsbottom Farm

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Natural Beekeeping on the farm

We were very lucky to be given 2 colonies from Aaron and John, local beekeepers who practice natural beekeeping–allowing the bees to build honey combs without a rigid structure. Because of the cold, long spring they have to be fed at the moment as the…

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August 13th, 2015

Bea Ayling

Blog Post: Jenn’s Big Bird Bungee Jump – update!

  By Jennifer Lane   Phew!! So as some of you know, this weekend I bungee jumped 300ft to raise money for hen harriers in Bowland. And… it was INCREDIBLE!   We’ve raised a wonderful £543.00 so far. Thank you so SO much to everyone who has donated to this great cause – you’ve been absolutely fantastic !   There’s still chance to visit my JustGiving page and donate: And for those who want a bit of a chuckle, here’s it is: (listen out for the squawk…)   Thanks again everyone J … And here are some great photos of Jenn making the jump, courtesy of Carl Lane.

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August 11th, 2015

Bea Ayling

Blog Post: We want to dance in the Peak District – Hen Harrier Day 2015

Guest blog by Helen Byron, Area Conservation Manager I’m just back from a weekend of hen harrier events in the Peak District, which the RSPB was delighted to support.  On Saturday night, we were at the Palace Hotel in Buxton for Hen Harrier Eve: celebrating the hen harrier , an event organised by Mark Avery. A packed room of almost 300 heard readings about the Peak District, a landscape for harriers, by local duo Stone and Water; saw the RSPB Skydancer video introduced by RSPB’s Amanda Miller and strongly endorsed by the RSPB’s Chief Executive Mike Clarke who was at the weekend’s events.  There was a conversation with Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller; a presentation about birds of prey and their part in our culture from author Mark Cocker; a fantastic video mash up from young campaigner Findlay Wilde, who also announced that he had convinced Ecotricity to sponsor satellite tags for the LIFE+ Project; a video montage of the recent travels of Henry the Hen Harrier; and a passionate speech by Chris Packham.  And all this delivered from a life size model of a grouse butt made by Findlay and with an appearance by Henry the Hen Harrier! A great time was had by all! Photos: Guy Shorrock, RSPB Sunday morning saw around 500 people, old and young, and various dogs including poodles, which greatly pleased Chris Packham, congregate in the stunning Goyt Valley for Hen Harrier Day 2015 – and this year the weather was glorious!   Charlie Moores from Birders Against Wildlife Crime, the event’s organisers, hosted the event which opened with a talk from Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s CEO Jo Smith celebrating the Peak District and confirming DWT’s commitment to hen harriers, followed by a rousing speech from RSPB’s Jeff Knott, stirring words from Mark Avery and closing with an engaging speech by Chris Packham.   The passion in the crowd for the plight of the hen harrier was abundantly clear.  You can get a flavour of the speeches, the posters and bird kites that accompanied it on the BAWC YouTube channel  here . Photos: Guy Shorrock, RSPB After the rally in the Goyt there were stalls in the Buxton Pavilion gardens where people who’d been at the rally and others new to hen harrier issues could talk to BAWC, DWT, RSPB and others and enjoy family activities in the splendid sunshine. Photos: Guy Shorrock, RSPB Hen Harrier Day/weekend 2015 in the Peak District was much bigger than in 2014 – the RSPB was delighted to support it and my colleagues and I were so pleased to be part of it. Expect even more next year!!

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August 7th, 2015

Bea Ayling

Blog Post: Smell LUSH and save hen harriers!

Today, the high street cosmetics store Lush has launched a hen harrier bath bomb, proceeds of which will go to the Hen Harrier LIFE+ Project to help fund our satellite tagging operation from next season! Satellite tagging allows us to learn more about their ecology and to find out where they might be at risk.  The bath bomb was named by TV presenter Chris Packham, ‘Skydancer – Far From The Madding Guns’. This follow-up campaign by Lush, comes ahead of Hen Harrier Day this Sunday 9th August ( ) and the start of the grouse shooting season on the Glorious Twelfth to help inform the general public of the decline in hen harrier numbers over recent years. Jeff Knott, the RSPB’s Head of Nature Policy, said: “We are delighted that Lush has come up with this imaginative way of raising awareness about hen harriers and getting their customers involved in their conservation.  Everyone who buys a bath bomb will be making a valuable contribution towards bringing this amazing bird of prey back from the brink of extinction in England.” Please pop into your local Lush store this weekend and help save our hen harriers!

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August 4th, 2015

Elizabeth Louise Mills

Slow to grow

Things seem to have been really slow in the garden this year. My leeks are still pencil thin, the runner beans are tiny and the sweetcorn and squashes are only just starting to flower. On the plus side the swallows seem to have done well having at leas…

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August 2nd, 2015

Backsbottom Farm

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Goldfinches love seeds

Goldfinch on common sow thistle                              Photo courtesy Anand PrasadGoldfinch courtesy …

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August 1st, 2015

Backsbottom Farm

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Keeping Some Thistles for the Bees and Goldfinches

The camping barn field is full of diversity for wildlife Unidentified species of bumble bee

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July 30th, 2015

Backsbottom Farm

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Hen Harrier Day

Want to join in ? Why not check out the  Hen Harrier Day website. The day will be  highlighting the cause for concern of the decimation of the Hen Harrier–the Forest of Bowland’s iconic bird of prey logo. For our area here is the link https:…

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July 29th, 2015

Bea Ayling

Blog Post: Hen Harriers need YOUR help

Last week, I headed down to Bowland to meet the team involved in the LIFE project nest protection on the site. I was keen to meet them to hear their perspective on this season’s happenings. Much of the Forest of Bowland is designated as a Special protection Area as the Bowland Fells SPA (European importance), and this is primarily for its breeding Hen Harriers, with a designation of 12 breeding pairs. However, in recent years successful breeding pairs have been way below this number, with 2 pairs in 2014, and none in 2012 and 2013. Last season, two satellite tagged fledglings (Hope and Sky) also disappeared from Bowland after their tags failed to transmit . These tags are very reliable and it is high unlikely that this was due to technical difficulties, as this technology is considered very reliable. This year, five healthy adult male hen harriers went missing in England resulting in the failure of the nests they were provisioning. Four of these males where from the Bowland from the United Utilities (UU) estate: this is extremely unusual and the reasons for their disappearances are yet to be explained and police continue to appeal for information. A 2008 government-commissioned report by Natural England found that it was very unusual for male hen harriers to abandon an active nest in most places. However, it also found that nearly 7 out of 10 of the nesting attempts which failed on grouse moors, did so following the disappearance of an adult. Although this year’s nests were being watched 24/7 by our team of dedicated volunteers, it is nigh on impossible to follow and protect males who travel far and wide to hunt from the nest, leaving the female to care for and protect the eggs/chicks at the nest site. It’s sad to think that the loss of the 4 males at Bowland this year has resulted in the loss of so many potential hen harriers, indeed the team at Bowland were devastated by these disappearances, as were UU. I really feel the urgency now to raise awareness of the plight of the hen harrier. Luckily, through the LIFE Project we are able to satellite tag and track birds, giving them protection away from their nest sites, which should help provide evidence if any tagged birds go missing. Others feel the same! RSPB staff member Jenn Lane is bravely undertaking a bungee jump  on the 8 th August to help raise the profile of hen harriers. Please donate to her cause here: . Funds raised will go towards the RSPB’s work on hen harriers High street cosmetics chain Lush is also getting involved. They campaigned in stores last year – and this year wants to follow it up in stores in the week of the Glorious Twelfth. Pop into your local store to find out more! Finally you can also do something too! Hen Harrier Day is on Sunday 9 th August and events are taking place across the UK, with the main event at the Goyt Valley in the Peak District. The more people we can get to come out to these events the better so we can gain more media coverage so people will take notice. Find out about your local event here: See you there!

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July 27th, 2015

Elizabeth Louise Mills

Lidl wildflower mix

The border where we sowed a really cheap wildflower seed mix from Lidl is full of colour and life. As usual the ox-eye daisies are taking over the garden but I don’t mind as its my favourite flower and the bees and hoverflies love it. I have had a love…

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July 27th, 2015

Elizabeth Louise Mills

Ebb and Flo

Ebb and Flo left us on 27/06. They set off on a walk and refused to be turned back, we followed at a distance and they headed straight for one of the ponds, they even knew where there was a gap under the wire fence. There was already a female duck with…

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July 24th, 2015

Alison Kelsall

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Nature Diary

Heron by pond, swallows and sparrows, pheasants, plenty of farm animals.Highlight of the week – kingfisher at Scorton Picnic Area!Thank you to the Eade family for making a note of these sightings.

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July 23rd, 2015

Chris Collett

Blog Post: First hen harriers tagged as part of the LIFE+ project

  Bea Ayling (Hen Harrier LIFE+ Project Manager) In June and July, a number of hen harrier chicks across England and Scotland were satellite tagged as part of the RSPB’s new Hen Harrier LIFE+ Project. The project seeks to better understand the movements of these magnificent birds to help identify areas where they are most at risk.. This need became particularly pertinent in the 2015 breeding season when 5 nests failed in northern England due to the well-publicised, unexplained disappearances of the healthy male adult birds. As the new Project Manager (covering for Blánaid while she is off enjoying her own brood), I am on tenterhooks to see how the 2015 breeding season pans out having started the role smack bang in the middle. I am particularly excited about being able to track our birds online!  A couple of the project’s satellite tagged birds will be made public here: . The latest tag went on a female chick on the Isle of Man, named Hetty. It’ll be fascinating to see where she disperses to for the winter as hen harriers are known to range far and wide. Maybe she will encounter some of our other tagged birds across the sea in England and Scotland! Maps of her movements should be available on the website in the next few weeks. Hetty and her brother prior to ringing and tagging. Photo credit: John Hellowell I really hope that allowing the public to follow our tagged birds’ helps raise awareness and understanding of hen harriers, encouraging recognition that hen harriers are an intrinsic part of the UK’s uplands, and that we’re all responsible for their protection.  

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July 22nd, 2015

Cobden Farm Bed and Breakfast

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Cobden Farm Bed and Breakfast 2015-07-22 09:55:00

A meeting of our White Star hens.The question is: do they know they are all the same colour?We have lots of different coloured hens mixing and living together – ginger, black, black and gold, blue-grey.And the White Stars.There are four of these.And he…

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July 17th, 2015

Backsbottom Farm

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Pipistrelle Bats Going out for Dinner

Photo by Stefan

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