Below are aggregated posts from various wildlife blogs created by people within the Forest of Bowland (bowlandwildlife.org.uk accept no responsibility for any content not created directly by bowlandwildlife.org.uk)

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November 18th, 2014

Blánaid Denman

Blog Post: Scottish hen harrier heads to France

Thanks to a satellite tag and an eagle-eyed photographer, a young hen harrier from southwest Scotland has recently been tracked to our Wallasea Wetlands reserve in southern England. However, that wasn’t far enough apparently, as the intrepid traveler has now migrated all the way to France! Read more about this fascinating journey on our Rainham Marshes blog here . Photo of sat-tagged hen harrier, Wallasea Wetlands, 2014 (c) Tony Orwell

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November 18th, 2014

Elizabeth Louise Mills

Elizabeth Mills 2014-11-18 12:58:00

I have spent the last couple of days excavating a hare skeleton, cleaning it up and attempting to put  it back together. We found the dead hare during the summer and buried it in a container of sawdust with drainage holes in the bottom and a mesh …

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November 12th, 2014

Backsbottom Farm

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More on the Forest of Bowland "highly commended" award

                           Here is the summary of Backsbottom Farm’s commended award:

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November 12th, 2014

Gavin Thomas

Blog Post: Breakfast with Burt

With little new to report on the movements of our harriers in recent weeks it was exciting to hear of a tagged harrier from northern Scotland being sighted in Essex last week, on one of our fantastic nature reserves at Wallasea Island nonetheless! No such great journeys to report on locally, bar Burt’s short trip into Cheshire last month. Highlander, one of the young female harriers from the first Bowland nest this summer, continues to reside in the West Pennine Moors, whilst Burt, the young male fledged from the second Bowland nest, has returned to form wandering widely around the AONB. Whilst doing so, his satellite tag has been providing some excellent data allowing us to pinpoint the various locations he has chosen to feed and roost. Burt and Highlander’s movements over the past three weeks As well as having our eyes peeled on the data coming in from satellite tagged hen harriers, there are also sightings of harriers coming in from a passionate bunch of folk out there looking for harriers on the fells and in the wider countryside. After several fixes in close proximity late one evening revealing Burt’s exact roosting location, one of these harrier watchers was given a tip off and was in position before dawn the next day. Jean Roberts takes up the story…. After a tip-off from Gavin regarding the whereabouts of Burt, I got up well before first light the next morning to see if I could get a sighting of the young hen harrier leaving his roost site. Normally it is very difficult for me to get up so early and in the dark but that morning it was no problem at all – I was full of hope and excitement! This gave way to apprehension after 20 minutes on site staring at nothing, but suddenly, five minutes before sunrise, up popped Burt from his roost, materialising magically above the fell. I could hardly believe it. It was fantastic to see him still alive and well, especially after the disappearance of Sky and Hope, two of the other satellite-tagged youngsters I’d been hoping to follow through their first few months of life. The sudden “jumping up” of harriers from a roost has been documented by Donald Watson in his excellent book “The Hen Harrier” but it was still a surprise to see it. As I watched, Burt started to quarter the hillside for breakfast but a resident crow spotted him and gave chase. Burt effortlessly dodged the crow with some sideways manoeuvres and, with a flash of his white rump, he flew down the hillside out of view. Some minutes later he mysteriously reappeared, having sneaked up the hillside without either me or the nearby crow noticing. With typical buoyant flight and wings held in a shallow V Burt flew agilely down into a dip and disappeared again. I waited a while but didn’t see him again after that. This is both the joy and frustration of harrier watching as I have found out over the years. Harriers appear so suddenly giving you a jolt but, in the time it takes to scrabble for binoculars to get a better view, they disappear again and you’re wishing you’d noticed the plumage details better or whether they had a sat tag or wishing you hadn’t bothered to get your binoculars at all! But the all too brief sightings of Burt had made my day and I returned home in a very happy frame of mind for a celebratory breakfast. It is experiences such as this that spur me on to get more involved in supporting the monitoring and conservation work being undertaken for hen harriers and other birds in my local area. It is good to know that, along with that of others, my information, positive or negative, helps to build a picture of where our harriers are, how many there are, where they are roosting and foraging and dare I say, where they are under threat from illegal persecution.   Male Hen Harrier heading in to its winter roost site – always guaranteed to get the pulse racing and brighten a dull winter’s afternoon! Copyright John Whitting. If you are lucky enough to see a hen harrier, please remember to report it to the hen harrier hotline at henharriers@rspb.org.uk or on 0845 4600 121 (calls charged at local rate).  Reports of sightings should include the date and location and a six-figure grid reference where possible.  Gavin Thomas and Jean Roberts 11 November 2014

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November 5th, 2014

Backsbottom Farm

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Forest of Bowland awards

Thank you Forest of Bowland for awarding Backsbottom Farm the “specially commended” status.

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November 2nd, 2014

Height Top Farm

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height top farm 2014-11-02 01:14:00

HEIGHT TOP FARM HOLIDAY COTTAGESJust back from the Anniversary Gala dinner and awards celebrating 50 years of The Forest of Bowland AONB.Held at The Out Barn, Clough Bottom which is an outstanding venue.I won’t bore you all with the pics but can’t resi…

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October 24th, 2014

Height Top Farm

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height top farm 2014-10-24 09:39:00

HEIGHT TOP FARM HOLIDAY COTTAGESLittle acer, losing its leaves . 

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October 23rd, 2014

Backsbottom Farm

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Hen Harriers in The Forest of Bowland

 Following on from the shocking news that “Sky” and “Hope”–the two Forest of Bowland hen harrier fledglings have mysteriously!!! disappeared on their home turf even though the nest had been monitored previously before they flew, it has been announced that a 5 year programme will be launched in the UK . The Hen Harrier Project  will be ” aiming ‘to achieve a secure and sustainable future’ for hen harriers in northern England and parts of southern and eastern Scotland.

Funded by the EU LIFE scheme, this project will include elements of monitoring (at nests and key winter roosts as well as funding a national hen harrier survey in 2016), satellite tagging, habitat management, investigations work (two new RSPB Investigation Officer posts have been funded), community engagement, community consultation and stakeholder engagement.
The project will focus on seven so-called Special Protection Areas (SPAs) designated for breeding hen harriers, two in England and five in Scotland. These are:

Bowland Fells”  …..and others.
                                 Let’s hope this beautiful bird gets the protection it deserves
                                           PHOTOS COURTESY OF ANAND PRASAD

Male

Female

Male

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October 22nd, 2014

Backsbottom Farm

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Our Vietnamese Water Filter

Our farm house water comes from the fells but it is has a lot of orange/red sludge which needs taking out before coming into our tap . All the farms up the valley have spring fell water and are not on mains like the village but ours is particularly pro…

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October 21st, 2014

Height Top Farm

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height top farm 2014-10-21 13:32:00

HEIGHT TOP FARM HOLIDAY COTTAGESAutumn Glory, only five minutes from Height Top.Taken yesterday morning.

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October 17th, 2014

Height Top Farm

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height top farm 2014-10-17 16:49:00

HEIGHT TOP FARM HOLIDAY COTTAGESAt last!!!!!!!!!!!!! He’s started working, lazy boy!! 

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October 17th, 2014

Gavin Thomas

Blog Post: Highlander and Burt – an update

  Apologies for a lack of updates on our tagged harriers – for the past two weeks I’ve been away on a birding trip to Shetland. No Hen Harriers up there due to a natural absence of voles, one of their main food sources, but I was lucky enough to see a juvenile Pallid Harrier – a rare migrant and close relative that breeds mostly in Russia and central Asia and winters in sub-Saharan Africa – quite a migratory feat and one that sometimes results in these birds drifting way off course!   No such concerns for Burt who has continued to remain faithful to Bowland over the past two weeks. Until a few days ago that is…. Yes he’s finally discovered his adventurous side and has started to head south with his last fix from the mid-Cheshire sandstone ridge. Inland Cheshire is not ideal habitat for a harrier but areas of young conifer plantation and small areas of remnant heath where Burt has frequented will no doubt harbour rodent and meadow pipit food, far more than the surrounding grass silage dairying country that dominates the county. The estuarine northwest of Cheshire however is a great area for seeing wintering Hen Harriers, more on this in a future post… If Burt continues south I expect the meres, mosses and moors of Shropshire and Staffordshire may well be to his liking, in fact a pair of hen harriers held territory in Shropshire in 1988 near the Welsh border. Such areas have historically held breeding harriers and should the national population recover, there is every likelihood hen harriers could breed again in suitable habitat in these counties. Map of Burt and Highlander’s recent travels. Meanwhile, Highlander continues to wander the intensively managed grouse moors of the West Pennine Moors and Yorkshire Dales. After the unexplained disappearance of Sky and Hope, it’s good to know that Highlander is still out there holding her own in the uplands. We’ll be following her movements with interest…. Female Hen Harrier hunting over the RSPB’s Burton Mere Wetlands reserve on the Dee Estuary. Copyright Steve Round rspb-images.com If you are lucky enough to see a hen harrier, please remember to report it to the hen harrier hotline at henharriers@rspb.org.uk or on 0845 4600 121 (calls charged at local rate).  Reports of sightings should include the date and location and a six-figure grid reference where possible.

Continue Reading » Blog Post: Highlander and Burt – an update...

October 17th, 2014

Height Top Farm

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Went to the JAC meeting

Forest of Bowland AONB JAC meeting in a beautiful place, the centre of the “Kingdom” — at Dunsop Bridge Village Hall
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October 15th, 2014

Chris Collett

Blog Post: Hen harrier-inspired music

This week we’ve got a guest blog from Laurence Rose, former RSPB Northern England Director and a composer, who talks about his hen harrier-inspired composition, Skydancer.   I first saw hen harriers skydancing in the late seventies.  It was in the Forest of Bowland and the memory of the birds, and the place – which I came to know intimately in later years – is still vivid.  I remember watching the effortless and buoyant flight of a male harrier and noting how it seemed to trace a gently undulating line that matched the shape of Tarnbrook Fell.  Then a sudden burst of energy and a rocketing flight as a female appeared from nowhere.  Both birds rose to describe a sharper curve, she twisted, he swerved and a speck of prey flew between them.  Then, a serene separation as sudden as the dance itself. On another occasion, I was walking Clougha Fell, across the valley.  It was June and the air was still and warm and peat-scented.  My path took me past a gritstone outcrop where I was greeted by a sudden wind that threw ice crystals in my face before subsiding back to nothing.  For years I was fascinated by these lines and rhythms.  The shapes of the fells against the sky, how they change with the light.  And the patterns of energy as the wind plays around the rocks or the birds play along the wind.  As a composer, I never stop thinking about line and rhythm.  Seeing it in a landscape is half way to writing it in a score:  just add notes!    Last weekend the London Contemporary Chamber Orchestra (LCCO) premiered my Skydancer , a short piece that is a direct response to the grandeur and the minutiae of the fells and their inhabitants.  For me, the most important rhythms in music are the big ones, the ones that define the structure of a piece and the flow of energy across its span:  the landscape.  Rhythm at a smaller scale, like the movements of birds or the sounds of the weather, characterise the moment.  The LCCO had asked for a piece “playable by a good amateur orchestra.”  I knew Skydancer would be borderline.  I needed it to progress in gradually-shifting, hazy harmonies; no block chords to signpost the route.  Bursts of energy had to be in the form of complex cross-rhythms, as they always are in nature.  Difficult stuff, but “good amateur orchestra” turned out to be an understatement: it was an impressive performance. I just don’t write music that is about something, or so I always tell people.  The decision to give this piece a title that even hints at what composers pompously call an “extra-musical idea” wasn’t easy.  My music is supposed to be what it is and no more – notes on a page, or in the air if someone actually plays it:  abstract music, like in the old days.   But I heard that the RSPB Skydancer project had been nominated for (and has now won) this year’s national Lottery Award for Best Education Project.  At the same time, momentum behind the inaugural Hen Harrier Day was picking up, while news of yet more atrocities against this wonderful species continued to filter through. Having written a piece that owes so much to my early experiences of fell-walking in what remains of England’s hen harrier country, I couldn’t really not call it Skydancer .   

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October 8th, 2014

Dick G

Comment on Sky and Hope: A plea for information

Surprise! Surprise ~ lost in the middle of Grouse Shooting country! :-( This, despite all the high profile, nationwide, negative publicity recently, regarding the persecution of our rare Birds of Prey by those involved in the UK’s Red Grouse industr…

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October 8th, 2014

Chris Collett

Blog Post: Sky and Hope: A plea for information

 Regular readers of this blog will be aware that we have been trying to find out what happened to Sky and Hope, two young hen harriers that fledged from nests in Bowland this year. We were tracking the movements of these birds by satellite but their tags suddenly stopped transmitting last month, within days of each other. No bodies have been recovered. Satellite technology is normally extremely reliable so it is most likely that Sky and Hope were either victims of natural predation or illegal persecution. Lancashire Police and the National Wildlife Crime Unit were notified about the disappearance of these birds. However, without any sufficient evidence to work with, they are currently unable to progress any investigation.   If you spend time in the Bowland area you might be able to help. Has anyone been talking about the fate of the birds locally? Gamekeepers, in particular, spend more time on the moors than anyone else and could have come across something. If you’re a member of this community, do you know anything about the fate of the harriers that you’d be willing to share in complete confidence?  We are offering a £1,000 reward for any information that leads to a conviction, should it emerge that one or both birds were illegally killed.  Here are the facts:  Sky’s last transmission was at 7.33pm on Wednesday 10 September at Summersgill Fell, west of Thrushgill, in the Forest of Bowland.  Hope’s last transmission was at 10.51am on the Saturday 13 September at Mallowdale Pike, also in the Forest of Bowland, 2.5km south-west of Sky’s last position.   Blue squares show location of final transmissions from Hope (left) and Sky (right) If you have any information about either birds, please contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or call the RSPB’s confidential hotline on 0845 466 3636.  

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September 30th, 2014

Chris Collett

Blog Post: Silver lining

As we are currently recruiting a new Skydancer Engagement Officer , I am acting as temporary caretaker for this blog. My name is Chris Collett and I’m the RSPB’s communications manager for Northern England. It’s is my job to get our conservation projects in the pages of our regional newspapers and magazines, and on TV and radio. Last week, I was kept very busy with the story about the missing Bowland hen harriers, Sky and Hope. As you are probably aware, these young satellite-tagged birds, stopped transmitting last month and have vanished without a trace. There has been a huge amount of interest in Sky and Hope from the national and regional media. Our Head of Investigations Bob Elliot was interviewed on the Today programme on Radio 4 and the story was covered on the BBC News website and in the Daily Telegraph.    Regionally, there was a report on BBC North West Tonight and several pieces on BBC Radio Lancashire, as well as many column inches in the local papers. We also had a huge response on Twitter and Facebook, with loads of people expressing their sadness about the missing birds. The Skydancer project is all about inspiring people about hen harriers so this level of media and public interest is heartening. The disappearance of Sky and Hope has been devastating for the Skydancer team, particularly for the staff and volunteers who protected them around the clock on the United Utilities Bowland Estate when they were chicks. However, the fact that lots of people care enough to be upset by the news, gives us cause for optimism.  The English hen harrier remains teetering the brink of extinction as breeding bird but I believe it can and will recover. Generally, nature conservation works on the principles of democracy. If enough people call for a species to be saved, there is a much greater chance it will be. 

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September 26th, 2014

devonotter13

File: Skydancer’s on Mull and the Outer Hebrides

To see these beautiful birds on the Scottish islands was truly magnificent.One of the many Highlights for us both were the first sightings of Hen Harriers, a Ringtail spooked Lapwings nesting in the Machair then decided to give us a fly pass over the p…

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September 25th, 2014

Anna M

Blog Post: Missing: Sky and Hope

Missing: Sky and Hope Last week we were in high spirits, celebrating our National Lottery Award for Best Education project. This week though, we received some news that has left us devastated. It has emerged that two of the hen harrier chicks that fledged this year on the United Utilities Bowland Estate have vanished. Gone without a trace. Female birds Sky and Hope had both been fitted with satellite tags so we could monitor their movements over the next few years. Sky being fitted with a sat tag. Photo by Jude Lane � Hope. Image by Jude Lane But both of these tags stopped transmitting with a few days of each other. It is unlikely that this is due to technical difficulties as this technology is generally very reliable. This leaves two possible explanations: fox predation or human persecution. We have searched for the birds but haven’t found them. We may never know exactly what happened to them. After months of protecting these chicks and their siblings with 24 hour nest protection, this is a cruel blow indeed.   And we are not the only ones who are gutted by these disappearances. Sky was one of five chicks that had been officially named and adopted by pupils from Brennand’s Endowed Primary School in Slaidburn.  When we told head teacher Charlotte Peregrine the bad news, this was her response: “As a rural school we cherish our beautiful and unique environment at every opportunity. We felt really honoured to be part of the Skydancer project and wanted to help support the plight of the hen harriers. Naming the chicks and visiting the nesting site was really exciting and we have been following the progress of Sky & Highlander (another of the tagged chicks) intently at school. “The children are truly upset about the disappearance of Sky and everyone at school is hoping that their worst fears are not confirmed. We will continue to follow the progress of Highlander and only hope he will remain safe and live a long life” And here is what some of the pupils had to say when they heard about Sky: “Sky was my favourite hen harrier, I felt happy when I saw him fly” Max, aged six “I feel very worried that they might not come back” Charlotte aged eight “I’m sad because I was one of the children from Brennand’s Endowed who went to see the Hen Harriers nesting and see them fly. To know that two of them are missing makes me really sad” Matthew aged 11 “I feel it is such a tragic loss for such a rare and endangered species” David aged ten “I feel very sad and miserable. What if they have been shot, it is hunting season” Sadé aged nine   Where Sky had been adopted by Brennand’s, Hope had a special place in the hearts of our Wildlife Explorer and Phoenix groups from Macclesfield and Leighton Moss. Young people from these groups had named Hope while making a film in Bowland with Chris Packham about Skydancer’s National Lottery Award. Speaking to the BBC on the subject, 16-year-old Macclefield group leader Kat Mayer, 16, said: “It’s really disappointing, because the ones that were radio tagged could have spread awareness through the blogs and social media so people could have learned about them and been able to follow them.” Her brother Will, 13, added: “It’s really upsetting. It wasn’t our bird, but it was a bird that we were close to because we had named it.”        

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September 23rd, 2014

Blánaid Denman

Blog Post: Gamekeepers at the Lottery Awards

After months of build-up, excitement, and suspense, it finally happened – Skydancer appeared on the National Lottery Awards Show last Friday night at 10.45pm (11.30pm in Scotland)! In case you missed it (and let’s face it, I doubt if anyone in Scotland could keep their eyes open long enough following a sleepless night of referendum results), you can catch it on BBC iPlayer here until Friday. After that, you’ll still be able to watch the short film we shot with Chris Packham in Bowland on YouTube here . Skydancer receives a National Lottery Award for Best Education Project 2014.  It was an amazing feeling to see the work of the project celebrated on a national stage and especially to see hen harriers put firmly in the spotlight. After the award ceremony, the project team and I received loads of lovely feedback from other projects, celebrities, and guests, with one person even commenting, “Watching your film, I feel like I actually learned something tonight.”  For a project whose main aim is to raise awareness, what more could we possibly ask for than that? Those of you that did see it may have noticed the young man who came up on stage with me to collect the award. Perhaps my speech was too long, or perhaps too rambling (I didn’t think so), but the only pity of the night was that any mention of him or why he was there was cut from the final edit of the show.  For me, his presence was one of the most important points of the night, so I want to take a moment to offer some explanation here. The young man in question is Ryan Mort, a level 3 Gamekeeping student from Askham Bryan College in York. He is one of over 100 gamekeeping and countryside management students who’ve taken part in Skydancer workshops over the last three years, debating, discussing and exploring the issues of hen harriers and grouse shooting from all points of view (read more here ). The student feedback from these workshops has been fantastic with comments including: ” If I was an upland keeper, I would consider ways to promote hen harriers .” ” Extremely informative ” ” I believe now that with the right attitudes and the right methods, hen harriers and gamekeeping can coexist .” ” Didn’t know much about hen harriers before but know a lot now. Found it very helpful and it changed my opinion slightly as I seen it from another point of view .” Askham Bryan staff and students following a Skydancer workshop, June 2014. At the end of every workshop, we take a vote in favour or against encouraging hen harriers to nest alongside grouse shooting. At the final workshop I ran back in June before leaving Skydancer, for the first time ever (and that includes when I’ve done these workshops with general high schools and youth groups) we had a unanimous vote in favour of hen harriers – from a roomful of gamekeeping students. Brian Sweeney, who runs the gamekeeping course at Askham Bryan, was also with us at the Awards. Brian is a fantastic advocate for what he terms a modern, enlightened approach to gamekeeping – game management that supports a whole suite of biodiversity, including birds of prey like hen harriers – and he has played no small part in the success of these workshops. Illegal persecution and intolerance remain the biggest threats facing hen harriers today. However students like Ryan, and the positive influence of Brian and his colleagues, give me real hope for a generational shift in attitudes towards these magnificent birds.  Who’d ever have predicted that a member of RSPB staff and a gamekeeping student would be standing side by side to collect an award for education work to promote hen harrier conservation? It is not the whole solution but it is a significant step in the right direction and to me, that is definitely something worth celebrating. Ryan Mort, Brian Sweeney and Blánaid Denman at the National Lottery Awards, 2014. � We would love to hear your thoughts on the blog and all things Skydancer. To leave a comment, simply register with RSPB Community by clicking on the link at the top righthand corner of the page. Registration is completely free and only takes a moment. Let us know what you think!

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Beacon Fell Country Park

Woodland, moorland and farmland. Visitor Centre several car parks. Many well marked paths. Mainly conifer plantations but also heath and moor. Grid ref. (SD566418)

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