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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January 30th, 2015

Elizabeth Louise Mills

Elizabeth Mills 2015-01-30 13:51:00

The snows back with a vengeance, but it hasn’t put off some of the wildlife. I found two slugs mating and found a caterpillar on one of my chinese cabbages, in the polytunnel. The garden looks very Narnian and the deer have been visiting. We had a brie…

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January 28th, 2015

Height Top Farm

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height top farm 2015-01-28 23:35:00

HEIGHT TOP FARM HOLIDAY COTTAGESImportant notice:Today both Ken and I attended a course in Emergency Life Support.Cumbria and Lancashire # HEARTSTART.

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January 26th, 2015

Elizabeth Louise Mills

Elizabeth Mills 2015-01-26 10:00:00

The snow has been with us for several days and its amazing how busy the garden is with wildlife coming in to feed. The first to come and the last to leave are always the robins and a party of Long Tailed Tits. The pheasants, rabbits and deer leave plen…

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January 24th, 2015

Elizabeth Louise Mills

Elizabeth Mills 2015-01-24 17:39:00

We put wire baskets round some plants to protect them from rabbits and have been putting food in some for voles (so the pheasants don’t eat it). They leave little muddy trails as they come and go in the snow. In the morning there are always fresh deer …

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January 23rd, 2015

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height top farm 2015-01-23 11:17:00

HEIGHT TOP FARM HOLIDAY COTTAGES Still plenty of snow but it is thawing.

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January 22nd, 2015

Height Top Farm

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height top farm 2015-01-22 17:55:00

HEIGHT TOP FARM HOLIDAY COTTAGESHow “PC” our we. This is our snow woman!

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January 20th, 2015

Chris Collett

Blog Post: Ghosts of the Moors

This week we welcome guest blogger Findlay Wilde. A passionate young conservationist, Findlay has spent the past year campaigning for hen harriers. Here, he explains how he first got interested in the bird of prey and what he has been doing to help the species.  Hen harriers.  Aren’t they just magnificent?  Whenever I see one, I feel totally “raptorvated”.  I can still remember the first time I ever saw a hen harrier. I was out on the North Wales moors. The rain splattered my face and the low cloud limited my views over the vast landscape.  Despite the rain, I resolved to walk even further until a grey ghost, elegant and effortless, glided past me within 10 metres of where I stood. I gazed at it for as long as I could, before it was a distant speck, gliding easily on the wind, appearing and reappearing through the sloping hills. I was simply captivated and inspired by such a spectacle of nature.   As a young conservationist, I understand that there are huge problems facing British wildlife. One of these problems is the illegal persecution of raptors, and especially of hen harriers. As more and more information was being shared by the likes of the RSPB, Mark Avery, Chris Packham and Birders Against Wildlife Crime about the declines in our breeding hen harrier population, I knew that this was my next project. I made it my goal to work hard to raise awareness and to try to reach the people who had never even heard of a hen harrier.  After experiencing such a wonderful bird out in the wild, it is horrible to think about how they are being purposely killed.  I continued to learn all about hen harriers, the good and the bad.  People talked about how positive it was to have four breeding pairs in England in 2014 after having none in 2013. But our uplands should support more that 300 breeding pairs of hen harriers, so four pairs is just not acceptable.   People I meet at conferences, talks, reserves and events frequently ask why I think saving our English hen harriers is so important.  The answer is simple; hen harriers have every right to be dancing in our skies and we have to protect them. I can’t understand how people can allow extinction to take place right on their doorstep and not do anything about it. In 2014, I began “Project Harry” to help the RSPB’s Skydancer project. Harry, a 6ft hen harrier, started off as a tiny thought in the back of my mind. He was built and bought to life for a local scarecrow competition in our village. Harry spent four weeks in our living room while his feathers were drying and he then he spent another four weeks on the roof of our house, number 52 in the scarecrow competition.  There was a poster put up below him, telling people all about the persecution of raptors.  Findlay with Harry the Hen Harrier I quickly realised that Harry was reaching people who hadn’t heard of a hen harrier before and who were shocked to hear about the near extinction of Harry’s English relatives. Harry won the competition and the prize money was given straight to Skydancer.  At this point though, I had no idea how amazing the journey I was going to have with Harry would be. On 10 th August 2014, I took Harry to the first ever Hen Harrier Day, organised by Mark Avery, Birders Against Wildlife Crime and Chris Packham in the Peak District.  It was amazing to see 570 people out in driving rain, coming together to speak out against wildlife crime.  Since then, Harry has been to the Rutland Birdfair on the Wildlife Crime Prevention stand, raising even more public awareness. Visitors to the fair were asked to take selfies with Harry and post them on Twitter to keep hen harriers in everyone’s hearts.   Findlay with Chris Packham at Hen Harrier Day Harry has also been to BBC Autumnwatch, appearing on Autumnwatch Extra.  He was again a great focal point, and it was great for me to be able to talk about hen harriers, persecution and their declines.  Currently, Harry is located at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands, where he is staying for the rest of the hen harrier winter roost.  He is on display for all visitors to see, and every week more Harry selfies appear on Twitter.  The RSPB do monthly Skydancers on the Dee events throughout winter to raise awareness about hen harriers.  On these days, I get up full of enthusiasm and head off to volunteer with the RSPB’s Dan Trotman and his team. During the afternoon we talk to passersby about hen harriers and, when possible, show the birds to them through the scopes.  I really enjoy conversations with all these different people and love watching their faces when they see a quartering raptor close up for the first time.  Sometimes though, I admit I get a bit distracted watching across the marsh myself. Hen harrier on the Dee In December, I used a picture of Harry with a snowy background and made Wishing You A Harry Christmas cards. 500 cards were sold in just two weeks and this raised another £525 for Skydancer. More importantly, it got the hen harrier story in to 500 homes over Christmas. Harry was just one small project, but he has made a very big impact. For a while, social media was filled with images of this 6ft imposing giant. I like to think that Harry has inspired people, and that some of them will do something positive to help protect our wildlife.  This started out as just a small project and look how it’s turned out. Imagine if we did a larger-scale project; imagine if we all worked on something huge together. I have an idea or two of course! I am not sure what will happen to Harry after his winter roost; I hope he can continue to raise awareness, but I am bursting with great new ideas for the future. I feel more and more confident that all of us; NGOs and other organisations can work together to change things. I for one can’t wait to be a part of the movement making a positive difference and filling the skies with dancers. Read Findlay’s regular blog at http://wildeaboutbirds.blogspot.co.uk/ Follow Findlay on Twitter: https://twitter.com/wildeaboutbirds

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January 19th, 2015

Height Top Farm

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height top farm 2015-01-19 12:44:00

HEIGHT TOP FARM HOLIDAY COTTAGESThis day is just getting better!

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January 19th, 2015

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height top farm 2015-01-19 12:37:00

HEIGHT TOP FARM HOLIDAY COTTAGESMy favorute kind of weather. Crispy snow and glorious sunshine.

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January 18th, 2015

Backsbottom Farm

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Sheep shelter

Our sheep love the shelter beneath the pines at the cattle grid on Roeburndale West road . The open access up to the fell goes from the gate at the grid all the way up to the top which gives almost 360 degrees view of Lakes and Dales.The open access ga…

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January 12th, 2015

Gavin Thomas

Blog Post: Happy New Year from Bowland

With little movement from Burt and Highlander since my last update (still residing in North Cumbria and the South Pennines respectively), this blog is simply an excuse to share some photographs (all my own unless stated otherwise) and experiences with you of a place that is really special to me. I’m Lancashire born and bred and always knew Bowland as ‘the place’ for breeding hen harriers in England. It’s a misguided view that I’ve since revised, as ‘the place’ for breeding hen harriers should of course, be our uplands as a whole. So here’s my experiences of just one small corner of our uplands over a few months in the spring and summer a few years ago…. When I started work for the RSPB in April 2005 little did I know that the fifteen pairs of hen harriers that nested in Bowland that year would soon be effectively wiped out. Shocking isn’t it, from fifteen pairs to extinction in less than ten years. My first contract was a joy, essentially I was being paid to go birding, well spend four months surveying and mapping the breeding birds on the United Utilities Bowland Estate to be exact. I’d think nothing of seeing half a dozen hen harriers in a day whilst surveying the moors and on one particularly memorable morning that April, I lay in the heather watching two stunning male harriers skydancing whilst three ringtails quartered the moors below. Spending four months combing 42 square kilometres of the estate gave me such an insight into how special these upland areas are for wildlife. No field guides, video clips, CDs of bird calls, photographs nor any other medium comes close to being in the thick of the action, and I learnt so, so much. As well as daily multiple hen harrier encounters, merlins and peregrines were frequently seen, I literally stumbled on my first ever short eared owl nest, the adult flying up from under my feet leaving three young owlets staring me out. They won. The nest subsequently went on to fledge three healthy shorties. It’s also the first time I experienced their spectacular wing clapping display flights. Short-eared owlets on the United Utilities Bowland Estate. Curlews were widespread and as well as frequent encounters with their sprinting chicks (they’re all leg for the first couple of weeks), provided for me what is the ultimate soundtrack to our uplands, that beautiful, eerie, plaintive, bubbling call that accompanies their parachuting song flight that just can’t be beaten. I challenge anyone to lay amongst the heather on a crisp spring morning taking in the stunning landscape whilst your ears are filled with that most atmospheric of sounds and not be moved by it. It simply lifts the soul. Curlew chick. Golden Plover in breeding plumage. I’d also share my ‘office’ with golden plovers on the high plateaus, resplendent in their black, white and gold spangled finery, a bird transformed from the altogether duller subdued golden browns of winter. The song of ring ouzels would echo around the valleys carrying far and wide and making it difficult to pinpoint the songster, usually perched in isolated rowans on the hillsides whilst whinchats, newly arrived from their sub-Saharan wintering grounds, flitted around areas of bracken setting up territories where the resident and closely related stonechats would allow. Incessant singing skylarks competed with the curlews for the audio crown and ‘ tseep, tseep ’ing meadow pipits were everywhere, scattering from tussocks on every transect I walked, occasionally a bird burst from underfoot in an awkward low, almost scrambling flight across the top of the vegetation with tail spread. I quickly learnt that this behaviour meant the bird had come off a nest and was attempting to get me to follow it – a distraction display to lead me away from the nest. Meadow Pipit nestlings With the meadow pipits providing food for harriers and merlins, the insect life that fed the pipits was there in abundance to the point that every footstep seemed to be onto moving ground, a tide of spiders scuttling out of the way as I placed my feet between tussocks of cotton grass, various mosses, bog asphodel and other-worldly carnivorous sundews. Green hairstreak butterflies, so small and inconspicuous amongst the bilberry and almost impossible to follow in flight were simply exquisite at close range when found motionless, still lethargic in the early morning mists before they warmed up enough to take flight. Golden-ringed dragonflies, our largest species, were an unexpected treat found hawking over some of the smaller rocky streams flowing down the moorland valleys. My steps became a little more tentative after the morning I met a hissing adder in one of the boggier valley bottoms. I could go on for hours and hours but you get the idea, the estate teems with wildlife and for much of the spring and summer I pretty much had it to myself. Wherever they were, the general public just didn’t know what they were missing. Bog Asphodel, Round-leaved Sundew, Green Hairstreak, Golden-ringed Dragonfly, Adder. With the wider ecosystem services that such areas provide whether that be carbon storage, flood prevention, recreational walking, hiking, cycling or just taking in the spectacular sights and sounds, it just seems bizarre, selfish perhaps, that anyone would want to damage such places. Not all of our uplands are as diverse as this, especially where the management practises are geared towards intensive production of thousands of red grouse for driven shooting.   The United Utilities Bowland Estate……. ….and an intensive driven grouse moor in Scotland In their own right, our uplands deserve the domestic and international protection they are afforded. Whether it is conserving hen harriers or restoring areas of degraded peat, the uplands remain a high priority for the RSPB and other organisations going in to 2015. It is essential that their protection and that of the internationally important habitats and species they support is maintained and effectively enforced. That way, the natural wonders I was privileged to spend the spring and summer of 2005 with, will be available to everybody, wherever they are, for generations to come. So for me, nearly ten years on from my first steps into Bowland’s magical moors, I saw 2014 as a turning point. Whether it was the return of successfully breeding hen harriers to England, the inspiration that was Hen Harrier Day, or Skydancer winning the National Lottery Best Education Project Award, the year’s many highlights have provided us with many positives to build on in 2015. I begin the year with real optimism, so happy new year Skydancer followers, enjoy the photos and let’s make 2015 even better!

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January 9th, 2015

Height Top Farm

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height top farm 2015-01-09 16:56:00

HEIGHT TOP FARM HOLIDAY COTTAGESIf this rain keeps up we’ll be able to add a new activity for visitors. Canoeing!!!!!

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January 9th, 2015

Elizabeth Louise Mills

Elizabeth Mills 2015-01-09 14:50:00

The high winds woke us up at 5am this morning, though we seem to have got off lightly as we can’t see any fresh tree casualties. It’s wet and dreary so stuck inside, but at least finished off a sheep painting. I also collected some owl pellets to pull …

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January 8th, 2015

Elizabeth Louise Mills

Elizabeth Mills 2015-01-08 12:25:00

So happy that the days are lengthening even if it is just a few minutes each evening. I have the sunset and sunset times pinned up on the wall in the kitchen to cheer me up. It’s that time of year again to start browsing seed catalogues and manuring th…

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December 31st, 2014

Backsbottom Farm

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Green Tourism

Roeburnscar achieved a gold standard from Green Tourism. Thank you to Forest of Bowland AONB for help and encouragement, Treshnish Farm, Mull, for inspiration and Green Tourism for the gold .

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December 22nd, 2014

Gavin Thomas

Blog Post: Special birds in special places

Well, after barely any movement from Highlander in recent weeks, she’s ‘done a Burt’ and gone exploring. On 4 th December she headed about eight kilometres north of her usual haunt and roosted on the Pennine fringe east of Colne. Rather than continuing north the following morning she headed west towards the coast and took in the area around the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve at Martin Mere on the Lancashire plain. I contacted a couple of the staff there to see if there had been any harrier sightings over that weekend but it seems nobody managed to connect with her. She was still in the area early afternoon of 7 th December but she was heading back east and had arrived back in her usual South Pennines haunt by 14:58 – a distance of over 50 kilometres covered in under two hours. Highlander’s movements in December So despite Highlander giving everyone the slip at Martin Mere, Burt has given himself up again in recent weeks. After his trip to Dumfries and Galloway, he was spotted by none other than Norman Holton, our RSPB Senior Sites Manager for Cumbria at our Campfield Marsh  reserve on the Solway. On the morning of the 2 nd December, Norm was doing some work in the eastern part of the reserve and was treated to a sighting of a ringtail harrier hunting close by. He was sharp eyed enough to notice that it was satellite tagged and contacted the Skydancer team to find out where the bird had originated from. At the time Norm saw him, Burt was on his way back south, to an area of north Cumbria where he spent a week or so in late November. He’s remained there, not too far from Bassenthwaite since. Burt’s movements in December So that’s the latest update on Burt and Highlander’s travels and as 2014 comes to an end, I think it’s worth taking a closer look at where these tagged harriers have been spending much of their time since they fledged from their Bowland Fells nests over five months ago. Sadly Sky and Hope were not able to explore any further than their natal areas due to their untimely disappearances back in September, but their siblings, Highlander and Burt, have been able to spread their wings as their confidence and wandering instincts have developed. Between them they’ve graced six counties in two countries, exploring the upland landscapes of Dumfries and Galloway, the Yorkshire Dales, South Pennines and the Cumbrian Fells. When they’ve spent time away from the uplands, the Solway, the Ribble Estuary and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve at Martin Mere have all been visited by these two very special raptors. In case you hadn’t already noticed, all the areas I listed above have something in common. They are all landscapes or sites which have been afforded special protection from statutory designations. From the Bowland Fells Special Protection Area and Site of Special Scientific Interest where they were born, to the Special Area of Conservation of the Solway and Ramsar site of Martin Mere, these are all areas which are nationally or internationally recognised for their important habitats and species. The Bowland Fells Special Protection Area (SPA) – a special place so designated for its breeding hen harriers – Gavin Thomas RSPB Despite few of these being specifically designated for hen harriers it just underlines how important these protected areas as a whole are for our rarest wildlife. Their attractiveness was clearly demonstrated by Highlander for example when she wandered away from the South Pennines – she’d headed straight to Martin Mere, a wetland oasis within the agriculturally improved landscape of the west Lancashire Plain. Similarly when Burt left Bowland, he headed straight to the multi-designated landscape that is the Ribble Estuary before heading north to the Cumbrian Fells, the Solway and southern Scotland. We’re all too aware of the direct threats to our hen harriers but what about the indirect ones? At a time when it seems that nature as a whole is being given a pretty poor deal, it’s concerning that the very legislation that underpins the protection of these special places, the EU Birds and Habitats Directives, are now under review. Whether it’s protected sites, specific conservation measures for species or wider countryside initiatives such as the agri-environment schemes that are supporting farmers’ efforts in managing areas of their farms for wildlife; it is all potentially under threat from a review of the legislation. You can read more about this  here on our conservation director’s blog.  So if you care about nature and special places then it’s well worth keeping an eye on this review and making sure you have your say, especially at a time when the UK Government seems to be giving nature short shrift. Nature, including hen harriers and the habitats they depend on, needs a voice, therefore it is up to us all to ensure that protecting nature is firmly on the agenda of the decision makers. To help this happen click here . In the meantime should you be enjoying a festive foray into the countryside and are lucky enough to see a hen harrier, please 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.

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December 20th, 2014

Height Top Farm

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height top farm 2014-12-20 14:46:00

HEIGHT TOP FARM HOLIDAY COTTAGESWe have our fingers crossed,  please let it snow so that….”It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”.

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December 8th, 2014

Elizabeth Louise Mills

Elizabeth Mills 2014-12-08 12:44:00

Over the last day and night we have had high winds, sleet, snow and hail and now we have bright sunshine. The mice have moved back in for the winter, it wouldn’t be so bad if they kept the same hours as us, but they sound like they are doing re-modelli…

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December 5th, 2014

Gavin Thomas

Blog Post: Burt’s on the move.

Autumn and early winter is a great time to look for hen harriers in England. With so few nesting attempts in the country and so few birds out there in summer despite the hundreds of square miles of suitable habitat, the autumn sees numbers swell as harriers begin to disperse from elsewhere. As well as birds from Scotland, Wales, Ireland and the Isle of Man, harriers are also arriving from abroad. The east coast of England is a particularly good area to encounter them and there have been multiple sightings in recent weeks. It’s possible some of these birds have originated from the near continent, Sweden and Finland for example but without recovering a ringed bird or seeing a bird fitted with wing tags it’s impossible to know for sure. This is where satellite tagging is so useful in learning more about the detailed movements of these birds. With a Scottish tagged bird already making it to northern France, we’ve been hoping our tagged Bowland birds might give the Scottish bird a run for her money. Highlander however has a long way to go to even come close as she seems to have taken on Burt’s sedentary nature and remains faithful to the Pennine moors between Burnley and Bradford. Burt however is now proving quite mobile and has already taken in a new country, Scotland to be precise. Since my last update, when one of our volunteers managed to ‘twitch’ Burt leaving a roost site in Bowland after his satellite tag gave us some fantastic location data, Burt has been on the move. On 18 November, another great series of fixes placed him on the north Ribble marshes where he roosted overnight. These marshes are a fantastic place for wildlife and it’s likely Burt would have found a plentiful food source here in the rough grassland and saltmarsh, an area where many finches, buntings, pipits and larks overwinter and doubtless plenty of small rodents are present. In fact Burt wasn’t the only hen harrier in the area at the time, as on the opposite side of the estuary, a stunning adult male bird was delighting visitors to our Marshside reserve . It seems Burt escaped their attentions though! Ringtail hen harrier hunting passerines over saltmarsh – thanks to Andy Davis for the cracking pic! Despite the estuary’s appeal, Burt didn’t linger and headed up to northern Cumbria where he spent a week on the northern fringe of the Lake District between Carlisle and Bassenthwaite. His next foray was even further north across the border into southern Scotland where he found an area of grass-dominated moorland and conifer plantations west of the M74 near Moffat to his liking. It would be interesting to know whether he encountered any other harriers in this part of the world as he wasn’t too far away from Langholm Moor where a far more natural population of hen harriers successfully nested this year – no fewer than 47 young fledged from 12 nests to be exact! You can find out here exactly why hen harriers are doing so well on this particular moor. Burt’s movements over the past few weeks So as November gave way to December, Burt remained north of the border. Any guesses where he’ll go next? Will he continue north and follow the remarkable track taken by the sadly late Bowland Betty , or will cooler weather halt his travels further north? Will he head south and if so how far? He’s got some way to go if he wants to match the travels of this  remarkable hen harrier for starters. I’ll keep you informed…. 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.

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December 3rd, 2014

Backsbottom Farm

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Fungi as yet unidentified in Roeburndale woods

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