Tag: hen harrier

Blog Post: Rare hen harrier illegally poisoned in Ireland

The RSPB issued the following press release on 30 January 2020: The female bird, named Mary, had been fitted with a satellite tracking device. The bird’s body was found dead beside a pigeon and meat baits laced with poison. Conservationists unite in co…

The Heysham Brents.

Keen as mustard, I was off to Heysham on Thursday to keep myself up to date on the phenomenon that is ‘The Heysham Brents’.I was at Heysham a good three hours before high tide, to find 60 Pale-bellied Brent Geese and a single Dark-bellied Brent Goose f…

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Blog Post: 7 Bird of Prey Challenge

Ribble Reserves Blog w/c 02.12.19 The Ribble Reserves blog combines news from all our Ribble reserve sites; Marshide, Hesketh out Marsh and the Ribble Discovery Centre. Providing the latest information on sightings, events, shop offers and educational visit Black Redstart – Banks Marsh This bonnie start has been bobbing around Banks Marsh (Ribble NNR) cattle pen over the frosty days. This is quite a scarce visitor locally. Blk RdStart at Banks Marsh Photo Credit: Stuart Darbyshire Seven Raptor Challenge Seven birds of prey still frequent the Marshside reserves and Hesketh Out Marsh . We have seen many people complete the 7 in a day challenge, some picking up the final species as the sun set, and a few dipping out at 5 or 6. Will you take up the challenge before the year is out ? Merlin at Marshside PhotoCredit:WesDavies Sparrow Hawk at Marshside Photo Credit: WesDavies Hen Harrier- Marshside Photo Credit : Stuart Darbyshire Hesketh Out Marsh As birds and GWE Approching HOM Photo Credit:WesDavies Great White Egret on HOM approach Banks Marsh Reed warbler nest Willow bark ap hid Ribble Discovery Centre Recent sightings include some quite exciting birds. There were 36 curlews counted over at Lytham Moss, which is a fantastic number. Curlews are easily identifiable as being the UK’s largest wading bird and have a long curved bill. Perfect for reaching those delicious lugworms in the mud or indeed earthworms in the soil! There has been 3 snow bunting spotted up at Fleetwood marine lake. A beautiful larger bunting, probably migrated down from Alaska or Greenland for the winter. In keeping with the title of the blog there has been several raptors spotted over this side of the estuary also. A juvenille female merlin was observed hunting over the saltmarsh at Church Scar earlier in the week, alongside 50 or so godwits feeding on the estuary. There are also lots of buzzards buzzing around too, frequently being mobbed by crows. It is a theory that this occurs when juvenille buzzards are finding new territories. The crows become unsettled by the intruder in their patch and so try to ward the predator off. A ringed necked duck has also been listed as a spot on Fairhaven Lake. This single male has been observed with the tufties, as is often the way. The ring necked duck is of a similar look to the tufted ducks but has a grey flank, a larger head and an obvious (with binoculars or scope) white ring on its beak. Let us know if you spot it! A male and female pochard have also been spotted. Snow bunting photo credit Ben Andrew RSPB-images Education and Visitor Centre This week has been all about our volunteers. We had our learning team get together, an opportunity to thank them for their service this season, plenty cake and cupsof tea were had. But, we also looked back on our season. We have delivered our education sessions to over 1500 children since April this year and received 95% outstanding feedback. Much of this is down to our team of dedicated learning volunteers. It was also time for our Christmas together! We had a good turnout, with a competitive quiz hosted by Liz and volunteer Ray. Our area manager was in attendance and delivered our successes to the team, which is positive and inspiring to hear. We also had a number of long service awards to present, for 5 and 10 years service in volunteering with the RSPB. The Jacob’s join also went down well! Volunteering with the RSPB can be a rewarding experience and we have many roles across the organisation. It’s a great way to gain experience across a variety of fields whether it be in the retail sector, the education team or hands on fieldwork at Marshside and Hesketh. The RSPB offer all relevant training, uniform and references if relevant. We have many young people who have gained vital experience and have then gone on to secure work within the conservation sector, or have have upskilled to the point of securing other permanent work. We also have students undertaking university courses that require placement and being on the learning team is fantastic experience for anyone wanting a career working with children. Outdoor learning is a hot topic at the moment and where better than to gain experience than with the UK’s largest conservation charity? For further information on roles please contact jo.taylor@rspb.org.uk Volunteer photo credit Ben Andrew RSPB-images Shop After the success of our binocular and telescope open weekend it’s a wonder we have any left! But do not fear there is still time to purchase before Christmas. Our retail manager Ben has superb knowledge and is more often than not on hand to help with any queries you may have. He will also provide honest, impartial advice and is always super helpful! We have still got a fantastic 50% off 10 super suet cakes with meal worms, a sure fire garden bird favourite (they are in my garden anyway!). Perhaps grab a pack to keep those birds well fed over the coming winter, I’m sure they will go down a treat with your feathered friends.

Blog Post: Hen harrier Ada disappears

Today, Northumbria Police and the RSPB have issued an appeal for information following the sudden disappearance of yet another satellite tagged hen harrier, a female bird known as Ada. Ada being tagged as a chick this summer Ada hatched on a nest on th…

Recent Sightings & Connecting Young People to Nature

 While there are still a few bearded tits entertaining the crowds as they visit the trays, I think it’s fair to say that ‘gritting season’ is certainly coming to an end. As we’d expect by the beginning of November fewer bearded tits are being seen gathering grit and they become increasingly, typically elusive once more. As always, if you hope to see these dazzling reedbed dwellers, morning is best (as with almost all birds) and avoid coming on days that are windy or very wet.

Should you have missed this year’s gritting activity, don’t despair as these birds will still be present through the winter and can, with patience and luck, often be encountered in the reeds along the Causeway or on the path to Grisedale . Learn their distinctive call and you’ll be in with a good chance of finding your own ‘beardies’! Keep up to date with sightings by checking our Facebook group. Photo of bearded tit by David Mower.

Thanks to all of the photographers and birdwatchers who have passed on their information regarding colour-ringed bearded tits – this information is invaluable in the study of these rare birds and helps us better understand, and consequently conserve, them. There is still plenty of time to email us your observations. Please send ring combination info to johnwilson711@btinternet.com

Just as the bearded tit bonanza draws to a close so too does the red deer rut. Once the stags have asserted their authority and gathered their harem, things rapidly quieten down on the reserve. It takes a lot of effort and energy to bellow and challenge other male deer so once the need to do so is over the dominant animals wind down and concentrate on the serious jobs of mating and relaxing. The deer will still be seen from time to time as they stray from the sanctuary of the reed beds so it’s always worth keeping an eye out.

As winter continues to creep ever near, we also see the arrival of two Leighton Moss specialities; bitterns and marsh harriers. As most readers of this blog will know both these species breed here during the summer. Research has shown that young bitterns usually disperse in their first autumn and these birds are replaced by bitterns arriving from further afield. As a consequence, we can have many more bitterns on the reserve in winter giving visiting birders the opportunity to see them at any point on the site – cold, icy conditions can often be ideal for seeing these cryptic herons as they emerge from the reeds.

Following a successful nesting season our breeding marsh harriers and their young departed in late summer; some of these will have migrated to southern Europe or Africa while others stay here in the UK. Last winter we had five marsh harriers spend the winter months with us and already this year eight have turned up; it would be fascinating to know where these individuals spent the summer months!

 Other highlights in recent days include a couple of spoonbills which touched-down on the Eric Morecambe Pools on Wednesday (and are still present at time of writing), continued sporadic reports of hen harrier, a well-watched red kite, the very unseasonal garganey and the pair of scaup at Lilian’s. Added to this of course is the annual arrival of lots of wildfowl with numbers changing on a daily basis. Cetti’s warblers (photo by Mike Malpass) are becoming increasingly vocal and birds may be heard just about anywhere on the reserve.

As many of you will know, Leighton Moss hosts multiple school, college and university visits throughout the year. Engaging with young people is absolutely essential for the future of nature conservation and we are committed to connecting children and young adults to nature through learning. Here our Learning Officer Carol Bamber summarises the year so far… 

End of a busy season with high praise

It’s been another successful summer at Leighton Moss for school, university and youth group visits. Since April the team have delivered outdoor learning sessions to 70 groups, engaging with over 2,250 participants – that’s a lot of pond dipping, minibeast safaris, Living Things and their Habitats trails and sensory walks, as well as discovering brilliant birds, plus lectures and guided walks to degree-level students.

 Here are some recent quotes from participating group leaders:

‘What a wonderful day we’ve all had! So much learning that could never have happened inside the classroom.’ Reception class teacher

‘This has been an incredible child-led experience. You have ticked so many curriculum objectives in a very hands-on way.’ Year 3 class teacher

‘Thank you so much for the session. It was just right for our first visit.’ Specialist School teacher

‘As always, this was an excellent trip. Lots to see – pupils interested and engaged.’ Year 8 science teacher

‘Brilliant introduction to the RSPB and the wider conservation industry. Related well to the students’ aspirations.’ University lecturer

‘A really good evening and very engaging activities provided for the group.’ Cub Scouts leader

Wow! 99% of respondents on our evaluation forms rated our educational offer as ‘very good’ or ‘outstanding’. It’s a massive team effort, we thoroughly enjoy what we do and we appreciate the urgent need, now more than ever, to connect people of all ages with wildlife and the great outdoors in a fun and interactive way. 

If you are interested in booking an educational visit to Leighton Moss at any time of year, please contact Carol on (01524) 703015 or carol.bamber@rspb.org.uk

Floods recede & sightings surge!

 I’m very happy to report that the water levels have almost returned to normal (whatever that is!) and there is now access to all the hides (except Lower Hide which remains closed to the public) for those visitors who may have forgotten their wellies. Obviously the pools are still holding more water than we’d expect them to at this time of year but that doesn’t seem to be deterring the wildfowl – duck numbers continue to climb with each passing day. Lilian’s Hide is great at the moment with two scaup still present along with pochard, tufted duck and scores of shoveler, teal and gadwall. Little grebes too are easy to see here as are mute swan family flotillas.

Elsewhere, the bearded tits have been entertaining the crowds as they come to gather grit from the trays at Causeway and along the path to Grisedale. With a camera streaming live footage of the trays to the café, visitors can enjoy a spot of lunch or cake and coffee while watching these amazing birds preparing for their winter diet of seeds!

Red deer are another focus of the season and the stags can be heard roaring from deep in the reed beds, particularly in the mornings and again at dusk. Our Facebook group page has been inundated with fabulous photos of impressive males as they display their imposing antlers. Occasionally a couple of the boisterous testosterone-fuelled stags will clash with one another, providing a breath-taking spectacle for those lucky enough to be in the hide.  

 With autumn truly upon us it’s no surprise to see redwings and fieldfares around in recent days. These attractive Nordic thrushes are a real treat to see as they pass over in flocks or descend upon hawthorn hedgerows in search of the plentiful berries. Other highlights this week include a couple of very late swallows and a ring-tailed hen harrier which was photographed jousting with a male marsh harrier at Grisedale on Wednesday morning.   

It really is a magical time of year to visit Leighton Moss, as one of our wonderful Live Interpretation volunteers, Kathleen, knows only too well. Here she shares with us her experience of being on the reserve during the recent floods…   

A walk through the Leighton Moss flood.
Leaving behind tick list, camera and the like, I pulled on my wellies and set off, happy to enjoy the unique experience, using only eyes, ears and nose! As I waded off in the direction of Grisedale Hide, it quickly became clear that normality had been flipped; nature had reclaimed the space and I was the intruder, confined to a narrow path. Progress was very slow through the deep water, and I envied the ease with which the two ducks, whose patch I was entering, swam along the path ahead of me.
Navigating the route needed more thought than usual, and there was more time to observe and to chat to the robin on his usual perch. Was he/she confused by the strange conditions, or didn’t they much affect life in the trees?
I was startled by the call of a water rail from the reeds beside the path – not because this isn’t a regular occurrence, but because it seemed to be much closer than usual.
Emerging out of the trees I was greeted by bright sunlight glinting on the water.  Looking more closely at the path surface beneath I could clearly see pond life which had escaped from its pond-dippable pools – whirligig beetles and pond skaters, amongst other things, busily rushing to and fro. Dragonflies skimmed over the reed tops in the sunshine; nothing had changed for them.
Now I was assailed by the quiet rustle of stems, and an exaggerated, overwhelming wet smell of reedbeds. What a surprise to see a single meadowsweet stem in full flower at the edge of the almost-invisible path!
Looking ahead it was hard not to smile at the sight of one of the benches stranded amongst water – as though it had floated out from its normal position. Adding to the surreal moment were a couple, relaxing on the bench in the sunshine, with lower legs and feet stretched out into the water. The only life visible at the grit trays was a confused dunnock, normally a ground feeder, forced to hop along the wooden fence rail looking for food. Perhaps my hope for bearded tits on the trays was a bit greedy, though…
With a feeling of relief (wading through water certainly flexes a few unused muscles) I reached the hide.
And what a great sight from within:  wigeon, teal, shoveler, mallard, gadwall, a very fine male pintail, tufted ducks. A splendid red deer stag briefly emerged from the edge of the reeds, then quietly vanished from whence he came, followed by a deer hind. A female marsh harrier quartered the reed tops nearby.  She seemed agitated; had the high water level created fewer or more hunting opportunities for her?
After a brief rest it was time to wade back, passing Cetti’s warbler, robins, dunnock, marsh tit, coal tit, great tit, blue it – and not forgetting a stunning nuthatch.
Was the reserve closed by the floods?  Not at all; it simply offered up a truly magical experience.
Kathleen Robertshaw

Blog Post: The colour ring code

Assistant Investigations Officer – Jack Ashton-Booth – from the Hen Harrier LIFE Project, talks us through the secret to uncovering a hen harrier’s history. The seasons have turned, and the autumn skies have grown big, blue and crisp. As our hen harrie…

Blog Post: Hen Harriers in Birdcrime Report 2018

Every year our investigations team release a report listing the crimes against birds of prey in the UK. Last year, in the Birdcrime 2017 report, we revealed that there had been 68 confirmed incidents of bird persecution. Sadly, in 2018, that has increa…

Blog Post: Tagging success in Scotland this summer!

Our project team have fitted more than 10 young hen harriers with satellite tags this summer in Scotland. We have worked hard this summer to tag birds from the Scottish Borders up to the Scottish Highlands, with the generous support and assistance from of a variety of partners, volunteers, landowners, their managers and staff, and licenced taggers from the raptor conservation community. One of this year’s Scottish youngsters (image courtesy of Steve Downing) Hen harriers are one of our rarest and most persecuted birds of prey. The satellite tags allow us to follow the lives of the young birds as they strike out on their own. The last British Isles hen harrier population survey in 2016 put their numbers at just 575 territorial pairs, an overall significant decline of 24 percent since 2004. Estimates suggest there should be over 1,500 pairs of hen harriers in Scotland alone, yet only 460 pairs were recorded in 2016. Before tagging could take place, we monitored hen harrier nests across the country to understand more about how their breeding success varies year to year and why nests sometimes fail. The information gathered from birds tagged in previous years has revealed important information about how they spend their first few years of their lives. Two of the birds tagged in Scotland last summer headed over to Ireland for the winter before returning this spring, and one of the chicks tagged this year is the offspring of a female tagged in a previous year by the project, providing an opportunity to follow the species through two generations. Tagging also reveals some worrying turns of events, with some birds either suddenly or inexplicably disappearing or being illegally killed – almost always on or close to grouse moors. Earlier this year RSPB Scotland appealed for information on the disappearances in areas managed for grouse shooting of two birds tagged by the project – Marci, tagged in 2018 at Mar Lodge and last recorded in the Cairngorms National Park near Strathdon, and Skylar, tagged in 2017 in Argyll who disappeared close to Elvanfoot. In May this year, Rannoch, tagged in 2017, was found dead in an illegally set spring trap on a Perthshire grouse moor. Dr Cathleen Thomas, Senior Project Manager for Hen Harrier LIFE, said: “It’s a real privilege to work with and follow the journeys of these incredible birds of prey and the sight of one of them skydancing never fails to take my breath away. “However, very few people get to experience such a spectacle as the British Isles are missing 80 percent of the breeding hen harriers they could support. These birds face enough natural challenges in their first few years of life trying to avoid predators and learn how to hunt without the added pressure of illegal killing, shooting and trapping by humans. “With Scotland being the stronghold for the British hen harrier population, tagging these young birds here and understanding what is happening to them is crucial for our efforts to create a more secure long-term future for the species.” An independent enquiry commissioned by the Scottish Government is currently undertaking a review of the environmental impact of grouse moor management and possible options for regulation. RSPB Scotland is calling for licencing of the industry to be introduced to bring an end to the continued illegal killing of birds of prey, including hen harriers as well as golden eagles, red kites and others, which is threatening some of the country’s most iconic species.