Blog Post: Skydancer from Russia with love

The RSPB's Bowland Project Officer James Bray gives the lowdown on Bowland's special new visitor. RSPB staff and volunteers on the United Utilities estate in Bowland are out in the hills monitoring and protecting birds of prey every day of the week in all types of weather. We have been spending much of our time looking for returning hen harriers over the past few weeks in some rather un-spring-like weather so yesterday I was elated when I looked up and saw a mature male harrier skydancing low over my head. The bird disappeared out of sight down a gulley very quickly so I headed to a different position for a different view, happy that another male hen harrier was back on the estate. Over the next few hours the harrier was skydancing and hunting the slopes, mostly at very long range in a welcome bit of heat haze. I gradually got better and b...

Elizabeth Mills 2017-04-24 16:37:00

While out walking noticed lots of bees buzzing around a sandy bank. I think they are Ashy Mining bees.There was also another different type of bee but it flew into its hole and wouldn't come out again, just kept coming to the entrance to peer at me.There were fights to mate with females going on.Love to know what this is....

File: Hen Harrier Foodpass #4

With a long lens I was fortunate enough to witness this foodpass, high in the Antrim Hills. As he flies off, you can she she is still screaming at him, perhaps to encourage him to bring more food back quickly. Sadly this nest ended in disaster, when a Fox got the youngsters. ...

File: Hen Harrier Foodpass #2

With a long lens I was fortunate enough to witness this foodpass, high in the Antrim Hills. You can see that the food has just been dropped by the male & she is reaching up to grab it. She was very vocal during the whole process.

Too much going on!

Big things have been hapening with the Clitheroe Naturalists, they now have a facebook page https://www.facebook.com/CNSociety/ and they have revived the Clitheroe Wildlife facebook group they will also be sending out email newsletters if you would like to be included email clitheroenaturalists@gmail.com and if that’s not enough they have published their summer outings programme as a pdf It has been a hectic few weeks, at this time of year there is just so much going on I find it difficult to keep up this is the time of first, first Bumble Bee first Hoverflys, you get the picture. The most enjoyable thing for me is the return of sound to the garden, the fantastic symphony of bird song in the early morning and evening but more important to me is the hum and buzz of insects. This time of the year is always a rush in the garden as th...
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Blog Post: Guest Blog: Music on the Marr hen harrier t-shirt competition

Richard Johnstone is the organiser of the Music on the Marr folk festival, which takes place in Cumbria each summer. Here he tells us why the hen harrier has been chosen as the symbol of this year's festival and how the artistic amongst you could see your very own hen harrier design emblazoned across the chests of  hundreds of this year's festival goers.  Each year in late July, the lovely North Cumbrian village of Castle Carrock, nestled under the Geltsdale fells, hosts Music on the Marr, a three-day music festival showcasing outstanding folk and roots acts from near and far. The moors above the village partly comprise the RSPB's Geltsdale reserve, one of the very few recent breeding grounds of the hen harrier in Northern England. Each year the festival produces a new commemorative T-shirt and has on this occasion decided to feature the...

A wonderful weekend

Two important first in the garden, first butterfly a Comma so not the one I was expecting, which confused my poor brain no end. Also first Bee fly which I have to admit I find more exciting presumably Dark-edged Bee-fly, Bombylius major. Both of them on Primula denticulata one of the best early flowers you can grow in your garden. A trip to Stocks Reservoir resulted in a small number of Toads in amplexus and a larger number of males waiting, no spawn seen though the water was very cloudy from a pea soup green algae bloom. Garden also filling with soft toys! which the cat is starting to catch. Blue and Great tits are checking out the nest boxes but but don’t think we have any takers yet. Bee fly Comma Butterfly Toads at Stocks Reservoir ...
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A beautiful day in the Forest of Bowland

We went for a walk around Stocks reservoir and then up to Cross o Greets.We could hear lots of male toads croaking for females and some females with males clinging to their backs were heading for the water. I had some dried up honey in the cupboard and put it out for early flying Queen bumblebees and wasps, this one seems to have the same approach as I have with cake - in with the face and begin.Toads are gathering to spawn up at Stocks ReservoirFantastic views - Cross o GreetsFields are filling up with lambsThe day ended with a lovely sunsetI bet the honey tasted good after hibernating all winterand someones creaky old bones probably feel a lot better....

Value

Saw a Wren collecting moss with Wrens the male makes several nests and then tries to temp a female, and a pair of Kestrels looking round the outside of the barn possibly prospecting for nest sites. More flowers are now out in particular Dogs mercury plus the leaves of wild garlic are starting to show. Still no insects to speak of. Saw three baby bunnies in the garden today, as did the cat! The frog spawn has now transformed into a ball of wiggling tiny tadpoles. Saw the Gray wagtails again. Found a possible Blackbird egg in a friends garden it was broken and on the ground so could have hatched. I often ponder things and my latest is, what is more valuable or more important to preserve a site with small populations of one or more rare species or a site with large populations of common many species? Which is more deserving of our resources....
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Blog Post: A new season & hopes for the class of 2017

It’s that time of year... hope and trepidation playing on my mind in equal measure. The breeding season just beginning, and with it, all the excitement and uncertainty of what lies ahead for our hen harriers. Often it feels as though little has changed from year to year, but our recent adventures in satellite tagging have given my reflections this year a new focus. For months now, our remaining satellite tagged birds have been sticking tightly to their chosen wintering grounds – Aalin in Shropshire, DeeCee in the Cairngorms, Finn in Ayrshire, Harriet in the Lake District, and Wendy on Mull. Who knows, perhaps that immobility has been the secret of their success? Being young and immature, it’s unlikely (though not impossible) that any of our young harriers will attempt to breed this year. But experience shows that won’t stop them se...

Should we stop placing such high value on rare species?

Attended an interesting talk by Martin Colledge on Gisburn Forest Past Present and Future organised by the Friends of Bowland. One of the things he highlighted was a meadow restoration project at the Gisburn Forest Hub. This meadow now has an abundance of common meadow species but he said apologetically no “rare species”. I think he said this because he believed there was a lot of  “hardened naturalists” in the audience. I think it is sad that there is, I am afraid to say, a well deserved perception that naturalists value rarity above all.  I have to say I strongly disagree with ascribing this high value to rarity,  if a species is rare it is by its very nature less ecologically significant than an abundant species (excluding apex predators). I believe this attitude damages wildlife conservation because it devalu...

March

On the 9th a Gray wagtail singing at the back of the house. Yesterday loud chattering in the trees and when we went indoors about 30 Siskins descended on the feeders. Today we are back down to 6 or 7 Siskins so presume we have seen migration in action. Regularly hearing and seeing at least one pair of Curlew. More and more plants starting to bud and a few now in flower such as the lungwort Pulmonaria  we eagerly await the bursting into flower of the Primula denticulata as these provide excellent early nectar for any early flying insects coming out of hibernation or emerging from pupa. Had a meeting yesterday with some fellow members of the Clitheroe Naturalists about how we could promote the group and bring in new “younger” blood. One of the things discussed was having one or more “Wildlife Wanders”. My idea for...
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Blog Post: Hen Harrier Hotline relaunched

  As spring has now almost sprung, we’ve relaunched our Hen Harrier Hotline with the hope of finding out where these seriously threatened birds of prey might be breeding in England’s moorland.   If you are out hiking or cycling in the hills, please keep an eye out for one. If you are lucky enough to see a hen harrier, please get in touch.    The Harrier Hotline number is 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. A description of the bird’s behaviour would also be useful.   Many of you will be able to spot a hen harrier half a mile away in poor weather conditions. But for those of you who are less familiar with the bird of prey, here is a reminder o...