Thursday, 19 December 2013

18th Dec Harrier Update

Many thanks to Stephen Murphy for this update.

Dear All, 
The recent dour weather has reduced the efficiency of the satellite tags hence the amount of data from the birds. Grainne’s transmitter has not been able to pull in enough light in recent weeks. Therefore, despite not featuring below, it is not because she suddenly disappeared off the map. I hope the next few clear crisp bright mornings will bring her back on line. 
At this time of year the young hen harriers are usually in distinct home ranges and the area of land they utilise generally contracts. They will now be adept hunters having worked out where the prey is and how to catch it. They will also have a good spatial awareness of the landscape/topography knowing how to use its physical properties to sneak up on prey and where to roost. 
I have been lucky to see hen harriers in both lowland and upland sites in the last fortnight in great company. Many of the birds are returning to the roost well fed, most birds sporting massive noticeable crops.  Does their strike rate increase in these wild windy and wet conditions?  The harriers seem to revel in the wind and it could actually help them as we have recorded successful stoops on small passerines struggling to get airborne or whilst trying to fly into the wind. 

Miranda is in County Mayo. I type this as severe westerly’s rip across the country and 70-80mph gusts, driving rain and sleet are buffeting the trees outside and howling down the chimney. It must be bad as the two televised cup football matches were temporary halted by the referee due to horizontal white out sleet and swirling gale force winds.  

Hattie is still the “homely girl” the least travelled of all satellite-tracked birds.  

Friday, 6 December 2013

Harrier update

Not much change this week, Grainne and Hattie still staying local to Langholm,

and Miranda has spent time near to Carrowmore Lake.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Miranda in Mayo

Apologies for the delay in posts, severe internet broadband problems here..

Miranda is continuing her interesting journey and is currently in Mayo on the west coast of Ireland. This map shows her estimated route over the last four months.

Miranda 5th July to 21st November 2013

Miranda 21st November
 Homely Hattie and Grainne are static in comparison with Miranda but just as interesting from an ecological perspective. What has got into Miranda that has not (yet) got into her sister Grainne and neighbour Hattie?
Hattie and Grainne 10 day home range to 20th November 2013
 Take a look at these two graphs (and especially the scale on the y axis) Hattie has barely been 8km from the nest but Miranda is now around 500km away.
Hattie and Grainne maximum distance (km) from nest over time

Miranda maximum distance (km) from nest over time

many thanks to Stephen Murphy NE for all this information.

Our fabulous friends in treland are keping a close eye on Miranda as well as their own tagged bird Heather, check out Hen Harrier Ireland for more information

Monday, 25 November 2013

we are having serious internet/broadband problems, will get HH update as soon as possible
we are having serious internet/broadband problems, will get HH update as soon as possible

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

D&G Rural Award Healthier Scotland Winners!!!!!!

I am so pleased to announce that the Making the Most of Moorlands project has won a D&G LEADER Rural Award 2011-2013. We were short-listed for the Healthier Scotland category back in the spring and welcomed judge Amanda Byrne to Langholm in June. Amanda met some of our fabulous project volunteers and was treated to a few snippets from the moorland musical including 'Grouse free diet'. On the evening of 15th November I attended the awards ceremony in Dumfries with project volunteer David Dickson and was delighted for the project to be named winner of its category. We are also featured in the Good Practice Guide which is distributed across Europe. Thank you so much to all our project volunteers and project partners and funders, this award is a reflection of all your enthusiasm and hard work and support.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Scotland Small?

I was asked to speak to the Langholm Archaeology group on Wednesday evening about the biodiversity found on Whita - the well known hill on the east side of Langholm town maybe best known for its monument. 

Whita hill and monument as seen from Moricambe Bay on the Solway, Cumbria.
At first  I worried that I would struggle to find enough to speak about but - being used to working with moorland and its marginal biodiversity in general, but when I sat down and began to make a list of species I had seen on Whita alone it was vast.  

I was sent this lovely poem by Hugh MacDiarmid which I think sums up Whita beautifully.

Scotland Small?

Scotland small? Our multiform, our infinite Scotland small?
Only as a patch of hillside may be a cliché corner
To a fool who cries 'Nothing but heather' where in September another
Sitting there and resting and gazing round
Sees not only the heather but blaeberries
With bright green leaves and leaves already turned scarlet
Hiding ripe blue berries; and amongst the sage-green leaves
Of the bog-myrtle the golden flowers of the tormentil shining;
And on the small bare places, where the little Blackface sheep
Found grazing, milkworts blue as summer skies;
And down in neglected peat-hags, not worked
Within living memory, sphagnum moss in pastel shades
Of yellow, green, and pink; sundew and butterwort
Waiting with wide-open sticky leaves for their tiny winged prey;
And nodding harebells vying in their colour
With the blue butterflies that poise themselves delicately upon them;
And stunted rowans with harsh dry leaves of glorious colour.
'Nothing but heather!' - How marvellously descriptive! And incomplete!

-- Hugh MacDiarmid

Green Tiger Beetle (Laurie Campbell)

Adder (Laurie Campbell)

Ladies bedstraw and Wild Thyme (Laurie Campbell)

Lousewort (Laurie Campbell)

Stonechat (Laurie Campbell)

Male Hen Harrier skydancing (John Wright)

Tuesday, 12 November 2013


Miranda's movements are proving a real joy to follow.  In stark contrast to her sister Grainne, Miranda is exploring and covering considerable distances. After enjoying the delights of Co. Antrim and Co. Down Miranda is now back in Co Donegal.
Miranda soaring the skies of Co. Donegal
 many thanks to Daniel Maloney for this picture.

Miranda the day she was fitted with her tag at Langholm

Grainne and Hattie have not moved from their favoured patch on Langholm moor and we've been lucky enough to get some lovely views of them hunting . There are still good numbers of meadow pipits and reed bunting about, maybe  - when colder weather hits and the small birds move on Grainne and Hattie will follow, who knows?

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Hen Harrier update 5th November

Miranda is continuing her tour of Northern Ireland and is currently between Belfast and Strangford Loch. In the last ten days Miranda has moved around 251km.

Grainne 10 day range to 5th November 2013
Grainne is contrast to her sister is not moving far from her home range.

Hattie 10 day range to 5th November 2013

Hattie has seemingly found rich pickings as her home range is contracting and she has become more predictable, mirroring Grainne’s home range. They roost close to each other and on several occasions in recent days both were tracked synchronously in the same “airspace”.  
If a bird stays within a certain area for say several days it is safe to assume that catchable prey is available.

Monday, 28 October 2013

28th Oct Sat tag update

Hattie and Grainne seem fairly settled on Langholm moor, no significant movements. There are still good numbers of meadow pipits and other small birds about so maybe plenty of food to keep them fed? Miranda on the other hand is not looking like settling down at all. On the 27th October, Miranda moved east into Northern Ireland and is poised on the coast near Glenariff, Ballymena, Moyle. Could she be  preparing for a trip back to Scotland?

Miranda has been stopping off in some beautiful areas such as Lough Inshagh, Donegal, but not been tempted yet to spend more than a few days in any one area. It will be really interesting to see where she goes next.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Bad news about Blue

Sad, sad news .. we have serious concerns about Blue (the young male Hen Harrier satellite tagged at Langholm this summer). Blue’s satellite tag signal has ceased to transmit. The signal ended suddenly, without indication in the data of why it should do so. The most likely explanation is illegal persecution. There are other possible explanations, such as a natural death or some kind of tag failure but they are considerably less likely.
The matter is now in the hands of the police.  

Monday, 21 October 2013

Miranda's amazing journey continues

Latest update just came shows Miranda has moved north to Leahanmore in Glenveagh. 

Miranda flying the flag for Scot/Manx/Irish relations

 Miranda has moved north and is now near Longford. 

Not much change since last update for the others; Hattie and Grainne are settled on Langholm Moor and Blue is down in Shropshire.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Miranda first satellite tracked Langholm bird to go to Ireland

Is is so interesting watching the journeys of all four of the tagged Langholm harriers as there is still so much we don't know about them as a species. Miranda has proved to be a perfect example of that. What is driving her we still don't know but following her progress is such a privilege. 
Will Miranda settle in Ireland or keep moving,? who knows? we'll update this blog as soon as we have news.
Check out Hen Harrier Ireland Blog for some great information about the work being done in Ireland to conserve Hen Harriers. 

Monday, 14 October 2013

Satellite tag update - Miranda crosses the sea

Things are getting really interesting with the Langholm four. Blue is really keeping us guessing; after a long flight south which had us hoping for a European journey, he did a u-turn and headed north to Doncaster. He is currently Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire and we can only guess where he will be tomorrow.


Grainne and Hattie remain in the Langholm area.. which one will be the next to explore?

Miranda's trip across the sea
Miranda has surprised us all by being the first sat tagged bird to cross over the sea to the Isle of Man, a flight of 46km from her last known position. Here's some really interesting background information from Steve Murphy, Natural England:

'In 2007 we tracked five birds on the Isle of Man, all of them remained on the island. A male was tracked there for over a year and a female was tracked for two and a half years. We also fitted a handful of birds with wing tags; there were two sightings of wing tagged birds that could have been from the Isle of Man (Altcar, Mersyside and near Newcastle Airport in winter of 07/08) but these apart there is little evidence of the island exporting birds.
         The Isle of Man birds almost sedentary existence allowed us to record their daily foraging routes and roosts, unlike the English birds the young males tried to hold territory throughout the winter around where they fledged, the females went to a 'girls only' club on the Calf of Man.
Miranda headed straight for this place her first night'.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Miranda explores D&G

It looks like Blue, the young male, was just teasing us with his journey south, he has done a U-turn and headed north again, now near Newark on the River Trent.
Meanwhile Miranda, one of the females has left the Leadhills area, where she has been for a few weeks now, and has made a move south west across the region.

9th October 13:49 near Caerlaverock

9th October  14:21 Miranda moved west across Lochs Ken and Stroan before heading along the Glenkens Valley and south-west across Loch Skerrow bound for the coast.

Monday, 7 October 2013


Blue is on the move

With the exception of Miranda who made a move to Leadhills a few weeks ago, the four Langholm- tagged Harriers have stayed fairly close to home. On the 4th September Blue (the young male harrier) was recorded roosting near Langholm, by the 6th September he was 435km away in Wiltshire..  could this be a stop-off before making the leap over the channel? A lot of information has been learnt and is still being learnt from satellite tagging; for example the males typically move greater distances and often make that move at the end of September/ beginning of October.. Blue has done both those things, will he follow in the footsteps of another Langholm bird, McPedro, and head for Spain or remind us that nature loves to break the rules and surprise us?  Either way it is very exciting to be able to follow the journey of these young birds.
a previously posted map from Sept 23rd 
Blue 6th October

McPedro's return  journey in 2011

Monday, 30 September 2013

Autumn on the moor

Apologies for the lack of maps for Harrier update, technological issues, I'll get maps up as soon as I can. No major changes from last week, Miranda evidently likes the area north of Leadhills, she has now been there about 10 days. Recently quite flighty, she has visited Kielder, Northumberland, then a brief flight home before heading 60  odd km north west. Miranda is now quite predictable in her landscape use, not flying out of an area measuring approximately 10 x 4 km.
Blue remains in and around Eskdalemuir and Grainne and Hattie are still on Langholm moor, favouring Roan fell.

A different view of Langholm moor taken from Moricambe Bay on the Solway. Many thanks to John Wright for these photographs.

 It is feeling very autumnal on and around the moor, colours changing and fungi. like these Fly agaric, popping up all over the moorland edge.

Violet Ground Beetle

Many of the small birds Siskins and Redpoll in particular are moving in large flocks around the Silver birch woodland making use of the abundance of natural food and the Rowan trees are having a bumper berry year which will be good news when the Fieldfares and Redwing arrive back.  We've been enjoying some fantastic views of raptors on the moor too, several of the young harriers are still around and this young osprey was spotted on its migration south a couple of weeks ago. The young male osprey was following the path of the Tarras when it was mobbed by a Goshawk. Osprey is not a raptor we see on the moor very often so a real treat and Goshawk is a bird that always gets my heart racing. I was sat at the moorland bird feeding station yesterday when a female Goshawk dropped in over the trees and flew just a couple of metres above the ground towards me.. banking just metres over my car and away.. that sight must strike fear into the hearts of the small birds feeding there but left me buzzing with adrenaline.. what a bird!!

Juvenile male Goshawk mobbing a juvenile male Osprey

many thanks to John Wright for these photographs.