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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September 18th, 2014

Anna M

Blog Post: Skydancer Glams It Up

Skydancer has won Best Education Project in the National Lottery Awards 2014. We were shortlisted from over 750 projects across the UK. Last Friday representatives of the Skydancer team, including past project officer Blánaid Denman, and a gamekeeping student from Askham Bryan College, put on their party frocks to film the glitzy award ceremony in London. Skydancer’s Amanda Miller and Blánaid Denman at the National Lottery Awards This ceremony will be broadcast on BBC One this Friday, 19 th September, at 10.35pm.  This will be a great opportunity to share our messages about the plight of the hen harrier and the positive work we are doing to help its conservation.  It is also well-deserved recognition for all those who have worked hard to make this project a success. In August we spent a fantastic day making the film that will be shown at the awards ceremony. Families from Macclesfield and Leighton Moss Phoenix and Wildlife Explorers clubs were thrilled to meet presenter Chris Packham and learn all about hen harriers with the Skydancer project. Even more special was the appearance of hen harriers flying over the moorland, as if on cue, to accept the award. Chris Packham making the BBC Lottery Award film in Bowland – Photo: David Tolliday The star-studded awards ceremony is hosted by John Barrowman with Jade Jagger, John Torode, Tinchy Stryder among the celebrities presenting the awards. Plus, there are performances from Ella Henderson and Pixie Lott. Past project officer Blánaid Denman says: “Hopefully, this award will help us make a difference to breeding hen harriers in England. I want to thank all those who have supported the project, the people who have taken part and everyone who voted.”

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September 15th, 2014

Bleasdale Cottages

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Bowland by Day and Night

It’s something of a tradition that when my birthday comes around a day out is called for, usually to a destination outside Lancashire. This year we decided to stay in Bowland. We got the electric bikes out and set out from Bleasdale taking Oakenclough …

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September 15th, 2014

Gavin Thomas

Blog Post: Pastures new.

Hi there Skydancer followers. I’m temporarily stepping into the breach whilst still keeping one eye on the day job of working with Bowland’s farmers to help conserve wading birds. If you’re not already aware of the project please take a look here as it’s not only harriers keeping us busy in Bowland. Firstly I’d like to wish two special ladies well: Jude obviously who’s been a pleasure to work with and a fantastic asset to the team. I know for a fact everyone who’s worked with Jude and been involved with hen harrier conservation will miss her. Jude has headed north of the border to take up a new adventure with the spectacular gannets of Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth. The second special lady is Highlander, one of the harrier chicks fledged from the first nest on the United Utilities Bowland Estate this year. She’s been heading north and east too and since leaving Bowland has wandered to the West Pennine Moors, not too far from here  where the RSPB has also been rather busy trying to improve the prospects for our precious upland habitats and species and then finally on into the Yorkshire Dales where she remains as I type. Highlander’s track since leaving her Bowland nest site. So what of the other harriers from this year’s Bowland nests? Well in the past week, Highlander’s sister Sky has been wandering widely but remaining within Bowland. From the second nest, Burt has still not ventured very far from northern Bowland (Jude was spot on when she described him as sedentary!) whilst his sister Hope has a little more wanderlust having seemingly been visiting every nook and cranny of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty but still reluctant to leave Bowland. With the settled, warm, sunny weather here at present and a plentiful supply of voles and meadow pipits on the fell who can blame them. I can assure you that it’s far more thrilling to see a Hen Harrier in the flesh than watching their movements on a computer screen so why not get out there and try and spot one! With a good breeding season up on the fells and harriers arriving from further afield, now is a very good time to try and see one of these majestic birds quartering our stunning uplands. If you are lucky enough to see one, 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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September 8th, 2014

Backsbottom Farm

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Battery Farming

Sometimes our windmill is going round with a good old blast of fresh air but the batteries don’t want to give anything out so a bit of detective work shows us we have a dodgy batteryThe battery fluid indicates no chargethe dogy one in the middle of the…

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September 5th, 2014

Anna M

Blog Post: The private life of hen harriers

Now is the time of year when hen harrier chicks have fledged the nest. Adults and juveniles may stay close by for the winter, while others can move to communal winter roosts in coastal areas, wetland or reed beds. Some have been known to go as far as France or Spain. This video “ The private life of hen harriers ” is an oldie but a goodie, a film following the eggs through to fledging. It was filmed under special licence, by remote cameras, at a secret location in North Tynedale in 2008. This is footage of the last known successful hen harrier nest in Northumberland. If you are lucky enough to see a hen harrier, please call The Harrier Hotline number on 0845 4600121 (calls charged at local rate). Reports can also be e-mailed to henharriers@rspb.org.uk. Reports of sightings should include the date and location of sighting, with a six-figure grid reference where possible. All filming was carried out under licence by Cyaneus Photography. The hen harrier is a Schedule 1 species. Disturbance of these species may only by undertaken by licensed individuals. This footage was obtained under a licence provided by Natural England.

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September 5th, 2014

Elizabeth Louise Mills

Elizabeth Mills 2014-09-05 12:58:00

It’s dusk  when we walk Bramble in the evening now and dark by the time we get home, seranaded by the Tawny Owls in the woods. It’s harder to get up in the mornings too, dark and chilly with mist curling down the hill. The leaves are turning yello…

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September 1st, 2014

Alison Kelsall

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Wildlife viewings

All viewed from the cottage:-House martins, blue tits, crow, house sparrows, robins, bats.Thank you to the Fletcher Family from Staffordshire for making a note of these sightings.

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August 29th, 2014

Jude Lane

Blog Post: Hope and Burt are still in Bowland!

As promised, here is the second of what I hope will be many updates from Bowland’s sat tagged harriers. Hope and Burt, sister and brother, fitted with sat tags on the 28th July have been flying for about 4.5 weeks now. They are a full month younger than Skydancer and Highlander and those four weeks are very obvious when looking at the downloads from their satellite transmitters. Where Skydancer and Highlander are now very independent and have almost cut the ties with their nest area, Hope and Burt are still very reliant on the area from which they fledged. You can see from the maps below, both Hope and Burt, although they are making forays away from their nest site, are still returning to the nest area presumably when they maybe haven’t eaten for a while and decide their best bet is to head back to where they know they can catch prey or where they know they might still come into some reassuring contact with one of their parents or siblings. It is especially apparent when looking at Hope’s data that her flight paths are almost creating the shape of a star as she makes explorations in all directions of the compass from the nest area. In a few weeks time she probably wont be creating these patterns anymore and she’ll have decided on an area, with a good food source and suitable roosting areas, to settle down in for a while. But … you never know. The first rule with hen harriers is … never second guess a hen harrier, as we learnt so well with Bowland Betty . An interesting observation is how much further afield Hope is travelling in comparison to Burt. Is this a male/female trait or just a difference between these two individuals? Male birds tagged by Stephen Murphy in the past have gone as far as France and northern Spain. Only time will tell us where Burt will decide to head.   Hope’s locations over the last 5 days. Burt’s more sedentary activity!  

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August 29th, 2014

Backsbottom Farm

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Ingleborough

Limestone PavementThe walk up –we usually take the path from the Hawes-Ingleton Road Ingleborough in the backgroundClints and GrykesRibbleshead Viaduct further on towards Hawes

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August 29th, 2014

Backsbottom Farm

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Ingleborough

Limestone PavementThe walk up –we usually take the path from the Hawes-Ingleton Road Ingleborough in the backgroundClints and GrykesRibbleshead Viaduct further on towards Hawes

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August 27th, 2014

Anna M

Blog Post: Is it a buzzard or is it a hen harrier!?

Adult male and female hen harriers look very different, sexually dimorphic. They both have long wings and tail with a white rump (a great ID feature). They fly with their wings raised in a shallow ‘V’, flying close to the ground when hunting. The male is blue/grey above with white underparts and black wing tips and trailing edge. Male Hen harrier The female is very similar to the young, to keep them camouflaged while on the nest. The collective term is ‘Ringtail’ due to the brown bands on their tails. They are brown above with barred wings and a streaked breast. Their face has an owl like appearance. Female Hen harrier A buzzard may be confused with a hen harrier; one way to help with this is look at what habitat it is in. In the breeding season hen harriers are found on the upland heather moorlands of Wales, Northern England, N Ireland and Scotland (as well as the Isle of Man). In winter they move to lowland farmland, heathland, coastal marshes, fenland and river valleys. Buzzards are the most frequently seen medium-sized birds of prey. They have broader wings and shorter tails than the harriers or red kites. Their plumage can vary from a uniform dark brown to much paler colours. Underneath they have dark shoulders with a pale mid-wing and adults have a dark trailing edge. A good ID feature is a pale band around their chest and no owl like face. Buzzard If you see a hen harrier, please call The Harrier Hotline number on 0845 4600121 (calls charged at local rate) .  Reports can also be e-mailed to henharriers@rspb.org.uk .  Reports of sightings should include the date and location of sighting, with a six-figure grid reference where possible.

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August 27th, 2014

Anna M

Blog Post: Great turn out at Glendale Show

Thank you to all the people who dropped in for a chat and some hen harrier arts and crafts at Glendale Show on bank holiday Monday. Some great conversations were had with lots of children and adults as well as a hunter from Malta with her daughter and…

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August 26th, 2014

Elizabeth Louise Mills

Elizabeth Mills 2014-08-26 10:05:00

The Swallows have had a really good year. We had two or three pairs that we knew of in the barn and now there are at least 40 skimming around the yard and fields. Whether they are all ours or have been joined by other juveniles in the area I don’t know…

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August 23rd, 2014

Backsbottom Farm

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Oyster Catchers

The swales on the fell are now host to many birds and so not only are they attracting wildlife, they are holding the rain water which then sinks down into the water table instead of flowing into the river and creating floods. The new tenants surveying…

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August 22nd, 2014

Jude Lane

Blog Post: Tracking harriers – introducing Bowland’s Burt, Hope, Highlander and Sky

So we’ve had a few technical IT issues here but we are now up and running and I’m extremely pleased to be able to bring you the first update from some of the young harriers satellite tagged this year on the United Utilities Bowland estate. So far so good for the two young from the first nest, Sky and Highlander , who have been flying for about 7 weeks now. You can see they are still very active in Bowland but are starting to branch out and explore right across the AONB. (c) RSPB. Sky and Highlander 19th Aug 2014   I also have the pleasure of introducing Hope and Burt, two of the tagged harriers from the second nest. They were named by children from the local RSPB Wildlife Explorer groups and were fitted with their tags on the 28 th July.       (c) Jude Lane, RSPB. Burt (top) and Hope (bottom) having their satellite tags fitted by Stephen Murphy, Natural England. Burt and Hope have been flying for less than 3 weeks but are already become adept at the technique of food passing. Their parents are still dilagently practicing with them after almost three months of complete dedication to their brood of four, little known to them, incredibly important young hen harriers. As the weeks pass they too will start to explore further and further afield and who knows, in a few weeks some may even have got as far as  France .     (c) RSPB. Burt and Hope 18th Aug 2014   Over the following weeks, months and hopefully years you will be able to follow the progress of these four birds here on this blog. I was privileged enough to be present when they were all satellite tagged by Stephen Murphy from Natural England. It’s hard not to form a bond with such superb birds especially when you have held them in your hands. I hope that you will also come to know them from these blogs. You never know, maybe you’ll even be lucky enough to actually see one of them (if you do give us a call on the hen harrier hotline ). Either way, enjoy learning about their travels and please pass on the link to this blog to friends, family, schools and any one else who you think will enjoy getting to know these iconic birds. What I think we are all hoping is that like Grainne and Hettie from Langholm , Sky, Highlander, Burt and Hope will all be back in the English uplands raising broods of their own next summer. Fingers crossed.

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August 21st, 2014

Anna M

Blog Post: Front line diary – They came, they danced, they thrived

Ever wondered what it would be like to be involved in round the clock protection of a rare breeding bird? With just three pairs of hen harrier nesting in England this year (there should be well over 300) we are at a point where their nests are so precious they need to be monitored 24 hours a day. This is the last posting of a series of guest blogs from our Over Night Protection Staff in order to give you some idea of what it is like to be on the front line protecting England’s hen harriers. From the Amor twinkle of their father’s eyes to the fully fledged nine, yes I said nine, cheeky young hen harriers that are now making their way around the United Kingdom and beyond in a bid to survive and thrive well what can we say? The outcome of this year’s project couldn’t be better and I am sure that we all hope the success will carry on for years to come so these jewels of the sky will once again become a common site across our stunning moorland landscapes for all to enjoy. Photo (c) Chris Beever. Female and male hen harrier at Bowland. So as another Skydancer season comes to a close just as the shooting season on the moor starts, and as all involved in watching and protecting these magnificent birds of prey breath a sigh of relief that the young male and female harriers are venturing to new parts, and of course as all of the staff involved reach critical levels of blood loss due to the onslaught of the mighty midge, I suppose its time to start winding down the project and reflect on a stunning experience for all involved. From the first signs of the harriers in the harsh late winter battling their way through the elements to their courting grounds, to the dazzling displays of the males as they strut their stuff dancing in the Bowland sky in the early spring, to the first signs of new life, we have been there and seen it all and enjoyed every minute. From the volunteers who braved the upland moor extremes of weather, often walking miles to get to the observation points in the wind and the rain, all of which I may add should receive an award for there dedication, to the people like us – the species protection officers that have been living, thriving, diversionary feeding and enjoying our job during the day and night within this stunning but often wet and windy landscape deep in the forest of Bowland. Spending time on the moor gives a whole new outlook of this threatened habitat from the bleak lifeless days of early spring to explosions of colour and life of the early summer, and seeing not only the hen harriers thrive but also the other local wildlife population multiply due to the presence of a dedicated team of volunteers and staff of the RSPB only goes to show that with a little help and understanding, the moors will be a haven for wildlife and a stunning place to visit for years to come. There is a growing amount of politics involved with the processes and daily running of the upland moors in our stunning nation but this year’s project has proved that if all parties are willing and an understanding is reached the wildlife occupants of the moor will bounce back, and if that means that myself and my colleges have to brave the elements to complete diversionary feeding then so be it! Let’s just give nature a chance. Photo (c) RSPB. Highlander (left) and Sky (right) as named by pupils at Brennand’s Endowed Primary School in Slaidburn. So alas, it is time for me and the rest of the team to pack away the biscuits, eat the last of the cakes, take down the cosy two and a half star B&B`s (The Hides) and retrieve what is left of our equipment that has partly been devoured by the local mouse population and head back to our semi normal lives around the country until it’s time to once again wait in anticipation for the hen harriers return to our upland moors in 2015. A last word must go out to all of the people who have supported this project from the youth hostel staff and other accommodation providers who have made the protection staff welcome and comfortable to the school kids who have give our harriers names and the education staff that have showed an interest to the project, not forgetting the people of Slaidburn who have made us all welcome and to the shooting tenant and staff that have assisted the project with open arms and minds.       This has been an experience to remember and be proud of, I am sure that all involved are as proud as me and the team to have been a part of such a worthwhile project. Please keep checking on the Skydancer website to hear updates about the harriers and don’t forget to look after your local feathered friends this winter. So until next year its good bye from them (the harriers) and good bye from us (the watchers), toodaloo! Photo (c) Chris Beever, end of season volunteer BBQ

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August 18th, 2014

Blánaid Denman

Blog Post: Skydancer has won a National Lottery Award!

It’s four days later and I’m still buzzing…! Having been shortlisted from over 750 projects across the UK, I’m absolutely delighted to announce that Skydancer has officially won Best Education Project in the National Lottery Awards 2014! Fuelled with coffee for an early morning drive to Bowland, the Skydancer team and I thought we’d be spending the day with the BBC, filming a short clip of the project in action to be shown alongside all the others at the Lottery Awards ceremony in September. Little did we realise that just a few hours later, standing in a car park on the edge of the Bowland Fells, Chris Packham would be announcing Skydancer as the winner and presenting us with a very real (and surprisingly heavy) National Lottery Award! We had a great day out filming with families from Macclesfield and Leighton Moss Phoenix and Wildlife Explorers clubs. Miraculously the rain held off and as if they knew what was happening, two hen harriers even put in an appearance flying high over the moorland as the true stars of the show! Following hot on the heels of the success of Hen Harrier Day, this award is wonderful recognition of the importance of education and growing community support for a conservation issue like hen harriers. In the last three years we’ve delivered hen harrier talks to over 2,180 people in 53 community groups across the North of England; we’ve attended 19 events and shows generating over 950 conversations about hen harriers and giving out over 2,000 “hen harriers are brilliant!” stickers; we’ve run assemblies, workshops and field trips with 2,081 primary and 389 secondary school pupils, and hosted debate workshops with over 100 gamekeeping and countryside management students. For me, that final point is one of the most important achievements of the project and something that we will continue to strive towards through the new Hen Harrier LIFE+ Project, shooting and conservation communities working progressively together for the benefit of hen harriers. I’ve written before about what wonderful advocates for modern, enlightened gamekeeping the staff at Askham Bryan College are (see here ) and I’ll be proud to have them join us at the award ceremony in London, in September. In the meantime, there are far too many people deserving of thanks than I could ever possibly list here, but there are a few deserving of special mention – the Heritage Lottery Fund, United Utilities and the Forestry Commission for funding and supporting our work from the very beginning; all the enthusiastic teachers and staff who have encouraged their pupils to learn more about hen harriers and started them off on the Hen Harrier Hero Awards ; our community engagement volunteers who spend their spare time going into schools, and coming to events and shows, talking to anyone who’ll listen about hen harriers; all the night staff, volunteers, and partner organisations that worked tirelessly to protect this year’s handful of hen harrier nests in England; the Alnwick Garden and Circus Central for creating and staging the Hen Harrier Circus Show; the BBC Springwatch team for plugging our Hen Harrier Hotline; and anyone and everyone who has taken the time to spread the message about hen harriers that little bit wider. Most importantly, I’d like to say a massive THANK YOU to all 7,500 of you who voted for us to win this National Lottery Award. In so doing, you have helped bring national media attention to the plight of the hen harrier and sure, isn’t that the whole point? The National Lottery Awards Ceremony will be shown on BBC1, on Friday 19 th September.

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August 12th, 2014

Blánaid Denman

Blog Post: Hen Harrier Day in Pictures

In case you weren’t able to make it along to one of the three incredibly inspiring Hen Harrier Day events on Sunday (or even if you were!), I thought I’d share with you an overview of the Peak district event in pictures. For a fuller account of the day, see our Investigations blog here . All photos (c) Guy Shorrock and Blánaid Denman Enjoy!

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August 10th, 2014

Macaris

Comment on Tracking the future of hen harriers

Fantastic to have some good news at last!  Great work from everyone involved in the monitoring and protection. Next challenge is to keep the fledged chicks and their parents safe as they fly further afield. Really pleased to see the RSPB launching a nationwide campaign on this issue too.

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August 9th, 2014

Bleasdale Cottages

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Good Summer

Our Forest of Bowland Holiday CottagesA long overdue update; the swallows have had a wonderful Summer, I was called into Hare House last night to remove one that was flying high in the hallway.It didn’n take many minutes using a childs fishing net. We …

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