Blog Post: Guest Blog: Stunning hen harrier chase on Isle of Man

Peter Christian is a birdwatcher and photographer with a keen eye for detail. Here, he describes how he was lucky enough to capture an incredible photographic series of a hen harrier in pursuit of a meadow pipit, providing a rarely glimpsed view into lives of these extraordinary birds. All photographs are kindly reproduced with Peter's permission and remain his copyright.  As a keen birdwatcher and hobby photographer on the Isle of Man, it's thankfully not too uncommon to encounter Hen Harriers. On a walk on an upland track recently however, I witnessed something I've never seen before.  Initially distant in the valley below I spotted the unmistakable presence of a male Hen Harrier. A striking bird to say the least. What's more, it was hunting a Meadow Pipit - wow!  They looked to be heading my way, so I grabbed the camera and tried ...

Blog Post: When the Sun Shines on a Moorland Field Trip

What a busy few weeks it has been! Darting around the country, playing with puppets, constructing moorlands from playdough, refereeing Skydance Olympic competitions... Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. Popping into primary schools to deliver hen harrier workshops and assemblies is a lot of fun. Occasionally, though, I feel especially lucky to have my job. I’m speaking about those days when the sun shines on a moorland field trip.     Towards the end of May the primary 4/5 class from Finzean School joined me in an upland area of the Forest of Birse in Aberdeenshire to find out more about the hen harrier and the moorland as a habitat after my visit to their primary school earlier in the month. And what an excellent day it was too. We scoured the skies with our binoculars, and the moorland vegetation below for invertebrate life...

Greendale Wood

Had an enjoyable evening "walk"(273m) arranged by Clitheroe Naturalists around Greendale Wood, Grindleton. I think the poor weather forecast put people off as only three of us turned up. The weather threatened all the time with the odd spot of rain and roll of thunder but we managed a good couple of hours searching for plants, insects and birds. We now have a nice initial list of species that hopefully will allow naturalists in 20, 50 or even 100 years time to see how the woodland has changed and developed over time. More importantly for me I got to see some really lovely insects. All identifications are merely my best stab at it, please feel free to say if they are wrong.Forest Shieldbug Pentatoma rufipes (final instar) found feeding on Hazel.Common Froghopper Philaenus spumarius these were abundant on nettles and other vegetationFlower bu...
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Blog Post: Happy hen harrier family

Great news for a Friday - a recent routine check of DeeCee's nest in Argyll, carried out by RSPB staff under full appropriate licences, has revealed a healthy brood of five chicks! Hen harrier DeeCee's healthy brood of five chicks. Can you spot the tiny youngest in the middle?  You'll need to look really closely to spot them all. Like many birds of prey, hen harriers lay their eggs a day at a time and they hatch consecutively in the order in which they were laid. This means that the eldest of DeeCee's chicks has at least a five day's start on the youngest, and being bigger, is able to gobble up the lion's share of the food that the adult male brings to the nest. Field voles are a vital food source for hen harriers throughout the breeding season but numbers of voles naturally vary widely from year to year, often showing what's known as boo...

Mobile Chicken House

This mobile chicken house means that the field doesn't get muddy and eroded and the grass still grows. The chickens are off the ground from predators in their hut, the wire can have left over food put on to it without attracting rodents and the whole thing can be moved by tractor so food remnants will fertilise the ground.There's also no need to go out at night to lock up the chickens as they have a predator proof ladder!the frame ...
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Comment on Hen harrier Class of 2016: an update

I'm so pleased that some of the birds are still with us. Lets also hope that the recent events in Scotland will reduce the persecution there, but be prepared for that not to happen. Can I also ask those in Scotland to write to their MSPs to ensure the law is changed to allow  video evidence in court. ...

Blog Post: Hen harrier Class of 2016: an update

As I sit at my desk with every window in the office open and the sun beating through the glass, it feels as though the year has abandoned any thought of Spring and skipped straight to Summer. Long may it last! It’s also a reminder (as if I needed one) that we are rapidly approaching the thick of the hen harrier breeding season, and my thoughts are naturally with our five remaining satellite-tagged females from 2016. What will these young birds, barely even a year old, make of their first true summer and will they survive to see another autumn? The news of a hen harrier shooting allegedly witnessed in broad daylight only weeks ago, near Leadhills in Southwest Scotland, has done little to calm my nerves. For now however, I am delighted and hugely relieved to say that all five birds are alive and doing well. Not only that but against all t...

Blog Post: Guest Blog: Join Bo the hen harrier at Cloudspotting Music and Arts Festival 2017

Originally from London but a resident of Lancashire for 17 years with a love of the surrounding countryside and wildlife, Helen Ficorilli is the Programme Director of the Cloudspotting Music and Arts Festival, which has taken up residence in the Forest of Bowland over the last seven years. Here she tells us why a female hen harrier has this year been taken up as the emblem for this annual event.    Cloudspotting Music and Arts Festival returns to Gisburn Forest within Forest of Bowland AONB for it’s 7 th outing for the last weekend of July.  More pocket sized than boutique, this unique festival has captured the imagination and support of regional and national plaudits which include The Guardian, The Big Issue, Radio 6Music DJs and the high number of returning family audiences.  In a location managed by the Forestry Commission Englan...

Sexton Beetles

A recent moth trap caught some black Sexton Beetles Nicrophorus humator, we normally get the black and orange ones N vespillo. By lucky coincidence the cat caught a young rat, so we put them together in a tub and watched the result see below. I was trying to get a time lapse sequence but they did most of the burying overnight. However I was lucky enough to be watching/videoing when there was some activity and then one beetle abandoned the rat. It quite obviously wanted to escape the container so I let it leave. This was a surprise as the information I have found says  both parents tend the larvae, unless the one I filmed was a rival that had turned up? It can be seen towards the end of the video that at least one beetle was still under the rat. These like all the others we have caught had phoretic mites. Several different fly species vi...
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Mulching the Garden

We're lucky to have had Caroline and Charlie ,our fantastic French volunteers, to help in the garden. Here they are mulching the Keder polytunnel and greenhouse with compost made from rotted down bracken. Our vegetable polyculture beds are a mixture of the no dig and hugel methods. No dig is particularly beneficial for the soil as the earthworms do the digging when the mulch is put on top and there is little disturbance to micro-organisms.Caroline filling wheelbarrow loads of compostCharlie in the Keder greenhousepulling out old nasturtiums which will go back into the compost heapsCaroline piling on the composthandfuls of compost go on top of the greenhouse beds...
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Slow the Flow – Check Dams on Fell

As part of the upland restoration work being undertaken by Rod these check dams are shown being put into ditches which in time will slow the flow of rain water down towards the river. Recent flooding around the country have shown that our uplands are severely depleted in water retention capacities. A healthy river needs healthy uplands which absorb water and slowly feed the rivers instead of fast runoff resulting in floods which damage the environment, towns and villages. Here are some photos showing Rod, and our lovely French volunteers Charlie and Caroline working with the various components like sheep wool, river rocks and rushesriver rocks being placed across a ditch--Charlie, Rod and Carolinesteady there they're getting heavier so hurry with that photothe finished "wall" across the ditchthank you Charlie and Caroline you did a great jo...

Blog Post: Another shot hen harrier… how many more?

This is not the news I wanted to wake up to. Just weeks after the Crown Office discontinued a high-profile case against a former gamekeeper for the alleged illegal killing of a hen harrier despite clear video evidence, another hen harrier shooting has come to light. Police Scotland issued an appeal this morning, for information relating to the lethal shooting of a hen harrier near Leadhills, South Lanarkshire. You can read the response from RSPB Scotland here . Fortunately and exceptionally, “a number of witnesses” have apparently come forward but whether that’s enough to secure a prosecution remains to be seen. After all, if video evidence , clearly showing a hen harrier being shot out of the sky and its body retrieved by a man with his face in full view of the camera, isn’t enough to secure a conviction or even a court case, it...

Comment on Alleged hen harrier shooting case dropped

I am absolutely appalled at this decision. Someone in the criminal justice system has decided that the RSPB may not monitor raptor nest sites in Scotland, but if they do and detect criminality, that even viewing of a criminal act that this evidence can not be used in court. I have written to all my MSPs and although I was not able to be reasonable in my screed, I shall persist and if necessary meet each one to get a face to face response.  The organised criminal activity of driven grouse shooting has people in many places prepared to assist those who break the law, and the law needs to be changed to make this loophole closed to the organised criminals and their supporters. I shall draft a proposed change to the law to show how simple this would be. I believe that the RSPB should do the same. I would urge RSPB members in Scotland to contac...

Comment on Alleged hen harrier shooting case dropped

Jesus Christ.  I can only assume that the individuals behind this decision are part of the grouse shooting community.  Absolutely diabolical.

Blog Post: Alleged hen harrier shooting case dropped

In case you missed it, RSPB have just published film footage of a former gamekeeper allegedly shooting a hen harrier on Cabrach Estate, Morayshire, in June 2013, retrieving the body, and cleaning up the feathers after himself. After almost four years of waiting, court proceedings were dropped two weeks ago by the Crown Office, who indicated that after considering all of the relevant material, they couldn't use RSPB Scotland video evidence to support the prosecution in court. However, it's only today that the Crown Office has explained the rationale behind this decision. Here' s the official response from RSPB Scotland: We do not agree with the opinion from the Crown Office that we were attempting to gather evidence for a prosecution. We installed a camera to monitor a protected breeding bird’s nest site, core business for a conservation...

Bluebells Spring Wood

On Friday evening we went for a walk around Spring Wood in Whalley, the bluebells were fantastic and the wild garlic is starting to show too.The pond we made from an old header tank with the holes filled in has been a great hit with the frogs, there were four in it this afternoon. We think they are avoiding all the rowdy teenagers (tadpoles) in the main pond. There are lots of jobs to do in the garden now so the only one who gets to sit down and enjoy the warmth is the cat. Its a hard life....

Spring Wood Whalley plus a close encounter with some mining bees

Interesting chat yesterday with Jayne Elizabeth Ashe the assistant development officer on the Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership project and a few others about how to kick start some wildlife recording in Spring Wood Whalley and possibly having a bioblitz or other wildlife events there. One thing that did come out was the realisation that probably a lot of recording is already being done, informally by regular and other visitors but none of this is being shared. So if you or anyone you know has been recording or photographing the wildlife in Spring Wood let us know or email Jayne jayne.ashe@lancashire.gov.uk Recently came across a colony of I presume Andrena cineraria – ashy mining-bee just outside of Slaidburn. Andrena cineraria – ashy mining-bee Andrena cineraria – ashy mining-bee Andrena cineraria – ashy mining-be...

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. ...