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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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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November 30th, 2014

Backsbottom Farm

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Dead Wood–no, not the series!

To some people trunks and decaying logs covered in fungi suggest disease and neglect rather than part of sensitive woodland management. Far from being undesirable, deadwood provides essential habitat for birds, the insects and beetles they feed on, and…

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November 28th, 2014

Backsbottom Farm

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Bats Waking Up

A colony of pipistrelle bats have always loved to make their home in the spaces between the boarding of elm planks on the farm. Watch the video and you’ll see one yawning and another preening it’s wing ready for the evening feast of midgies. Earlier on…

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November 28th, 2014

Gavin Thomas

Blog Post: The Dee’s the place to be

I was only a kid, ten or eleven I think, but I can still picture it now – my first ever hen harrier. My mum used to take me there on Sunday afternoons hoping to catch a glimpse of a bird I’d dreamt about seeing in real life after drooling over the plates of it in my Mitchell Beazley bird book, a present given to me by my mum and dad for my eighth birthday. I still own and treasure that book. Hen Harrier plate in my treasured Mitchell Beazley book. It was a red-letter day putting that tick next to it! Less than an hour from my inner city Liverpool home I’d stand there gazing out over what seemed like another world – the Welsh mountains providing the backdrop to a seemingly vast, wild place that was devoid of people and teeming with birds. After several failed attempts, that first sighting was just so, so special. Those slim wings and long tail just weren’t right for a buzzard, it wasn’t flying right and the tail had striking thick dark bars. Then a sharp twist in the air as it flushed a skylark out the marsh and there it was, the characteristic flash of a white rump. I’d seen my first hen harrier. I was simply elated as I watched the bird for several minutes as it hunted effortlessly over the saltmarsh in the mid-winter, late afternoon gloom. That bird over that habitat underlined to me even then what a fantastic place it was. I was at the RSPB’s Dee Estuary reserve in Cheshire. So here’s a guest blog from a lucky lad called Dan Trotman, who’s the Visitor Development Officer on that very reserve where I first caught the hen harrier bug: ‘One memory that has stuck with me from my early days at the Dee Estuary reserve is my maiden voyage to Parkgate with my manager in September 2010. We were hoping that I’d see my first ever hen harrier. At the time, I didn’t quite appreciate how significant it would have been had we caught sight of the lone ringtail, the only one that had so far returned to the marshes after the breeding season that summer. Four years on, I need no reminding how lucky I am to have the opportunity to see them regularly on the Dee every winter. It’s likely that the birds we see here are from the nearby Welsh breeding population, as well as further afield, but this is no compensation for their shocking demise in the uplands of England where they should be present in their hundreds. The vast saltmarsh off Parkgate promenade is well-known as a winter roost site for hen harriers. Since the late 1980s, the Dee Estuary RSPB team have delivered regular events to showcase these spectacular raptors and the other birds of prey such as peregrines and merlins that grace the reserve in the winter months. The opening of the new Burton Mere Wetlands visitor facilities in 2011 was intended to make the wildlife spectacle of the wider estuary more accessible to the public, and one of the species that has delighted visitors most in the winter months is the hen harrier. Over the coming months we are running Skydancers on the Dee , a series of events aimed inspiring people about these amazing birds and highlighting their plight. Most people have never seen a hen harrier but we can change that here! So far this autumn, a total of three hen harriers have been on the Dee; one grey adult male, who has moved on after a brief stay in October, and two ringtails that are still present and thrilling visitors to our Burton Mere Wetlands reserve on a daily basis. This winter has so far been very mild so hopefully, more harriers will arrive, should the winter weather harden. True to the unpredictable nature of wildlife, rather than using their traditional roost on the saltmarsh off Parkgate, one of the ringtails appears to have been roosting at our Burton Mere Wetlands reserve on a few occasions. One of the two juvenile marsh harriers that are currently also on the reserve is doing likewise – in fact it’s a novelty for us to have marsh harriers so late in the year and to see both species in the air together. The harriers have also roosted on Burton Marsh some nights so it seems that you have to be in the right place at the right time this winter! Our team is keeping close tabs on these birds so whether they are at Parkgate, Burton Marsh or Burton Mere Wetlands we’ll be doing our best to ensure visitors to the Dee are rewarded with a sighting. So why not join us this Sunday, 30 November, between noon and dusk to learn more about these birds and the Skydancer project. There are harriers around so you’ve every chance of seeing one of these fantastic birds hunting over the marsh and hopefully dropping into roost around sunset. If you can’t make it this Sunday, there are further events on the Dee each month until March. For full details, click here .

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November 27th, 2014

Height Top Farm

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height top farm 2014-11-27 17:29:00

HEIGHT TOP FARM HOLIDAY COTTAGESI wanted to say, “what a difference a day makes”, but wasn’t here at the right time yesterday so guess which one was Tuesday and which was today, “Lancashire Day”.

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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.

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