Project manager Cat Barlow has started a new blog and you will be able to find her latest updates and photos there from now on. You can find it at http://langholmmoorland.blogspot.co.uk
She recently played host to a student from Moulton College in Northamptonshire. She has written about her experiences in the blog. Find out what she said here.
The moorland feeding station attracts good numbers of birds all year round but in the autumn/winter numbers swell with extra visitors. The feeders need topping up every couple of days to keep the birds satisfied and a small army of project volunteers kept the moorland birds fed over the Christmas and New Year break.
These photos show some of the project's volunteers hard at work. Our youngest volunteer Hannah Menger is checking to see if there is any seed left in the bag! Many thanks to all the volunteers for all their hard work.
Bird feeding station
The Moorland Bird Feeding station has seen increasing numbers of birds in the last few weeks. Even though the weather has been quite mild we've seen good numbers of birds including Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Greenfinches, Tree sparrows and the more common Chaffinches and Tits. In the tops of the trees good numbers of Linnets, Redpolls, Reed Buntings and Crossbills have been seen and heard; maybe colder weather will bring them down to the feeders.
I have been doing some ringing at the site with some volunteers from the Academy and our Chairman Gavin Graham brought his granddaughter Hannah along one morning to get a close up birdie experience. Amongst the birds ringed have been two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, good numbers of Greenfinches and our first Tree Sparrows for the site.
If anyone is interested in helping out with the project, we are looking for volunteers for a variety of activities including topping the feeders up for the ever hungry birds. Please contact Project Manager Cat Barlow on 013873 80914 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations of bird seed are also welcome.
Meeting the Minister
Langholm youngsters were given the opportunity to meet Scottish Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson this week on his visit to the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project. The Minister who was in Langholm to learn about diversionary feeding, muirburn and other conservation practices surrounding moorland management, also had the opportunity to see the importance of the community engagement work of the Making the Most of Moorland project and meet some of the young people involved in the project.
Natalia, Jess and David who are regular volunteers on the Making the Most of Moorlands Project answered the Minster's questions about their volunteer work, how the community as a whole has engaged with the moor and also had the opportunity to ask the Minister questions of their own. Project Manager Cat Barlow said "I'm so pleased we had an opportunity to show the Minister the work we do and also give young people the opportunity to meet the Minister and put their views across".
In the photo you can see from left to right: Jess Bell, Natalia Bell, Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson, 'Making the Most of Moorlands' Project Manager Cat Barlow, David Dickson.
Fun with fungi
The wild food and fungi foray on Sunday 18th September was a great way to forget the dismal summer weather we've had and embrace the plentiful autumn season. D & G Ranger Ross Gemmell and Wild chef John Crouch led the group in the search for edible wild foods through the woodlands and hedgerows surrounding Langholm.
Back at Langholm Golf Club Wild Chef John Crouch used the foraged fungi and wild food to create some delicious dishes using wild meats collected by local keepers. Sauteed grey squirrel with chanterelle mushrooms was a definite first for all the group, but one of the most popular dishes on the day. Goat kebabs - (using meat from feral goat inhabiting Langholm Moorland) were another favourite. Spinach and hazelnut salad with Raspberry balsamic vinaigrette, Bramble muffins and Rabbit with prunes and mustard also delighted the group.
Makeovever for bird feeding station
The Moorland bird feeding station on Langholm moor was host to a Southern Scotland Unit Team Event on September 7th. Around 30 members of Scottish Natural Heritage staff joined myself and D&G Ranger Ross Gemmell for a 'make over' of the moorland bird feeding site on the edge of the moor. The moorland bird feeding station which lies on the southern edge of the moor, on the track to Cronksbank was set up by the project in November 2009 with help from D&G Ranger Ross Gemmell and Langholm Explorer Scouts. The site was created to allow easier viewing of bird life from the moor and surrounding woodland.
The SNH staff carried out several tasks at the site including helping to clear vegetation from the site to aid better viewing of the birds. One group built a willow screen or hide with the help of willow weaver Joan Campbell. This will allow visitors to view the birds at close quarters. Other tasks included the creation of some red squirrel feeders - a structure which will allow only native red squirrels to feed whilst excluding the unwanted grey Squirrels. One group used willow and various recycled materials to create a 'bug hotel' - a structure designed to provide shelter and hibernation opportunities to the variety of invertebrate life. Bees, butterflies, earwigs are make up a very important part of the moorland ecosystem and this structure will provide multiple sheltering and hibernation opportunities for the 'bugs' over the winter.
Langholm Walking Festival - wildlife walk
Each year local wildlife expert Mac Hotson leads a moorland wildlife walk as part of the Langholm walking festival. Unfortunately this year Mac was injured so I was asked to lead the walk with the help of Emma Ahart. The previous day had been gloriously sunny and baking hot so we prepared ourselves for a warm walk but it clouded over and the wind picked up to provide cooler conditions for our foray onto the moor. The walk began with a steep climb up onto Whita hill, the windy conditions kept most of the wildlife hidden - sheltering in the vegetation, but we did see a family of stonechats; the young birds clinging desperately to the bracken stems in the wind.
At the top of the hill we met Dr Aly McCluskie, a scientist and Hen Harrier expert, who explained all about the diversionary feeding of Hen Harriers as part of the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project. As we made our way down to Rashiel we were lucky enough to get several views of a male Hen Harrier hunting the hill. At the Rashiel, Aly checked in on a known barn owl nest only to be surprised that one of the chicks was old enough to be out of the box and exploring the barn. The chick sat calmly in Aly's hands while the group gathered round for a closer look.
We lunched lunch down by Tarras river and had the opportunity to learn about the local moth life from moth expert John Wright. A moth trap set the previous night had caught the visually stunning Poplar Hawk Moth (left), the cryptic Buff Tip (right) and the locally rare Saxon and Nutmeg (a first record for Dumfriesshire).
The walk continued along the Tarras for a short way, with a peek into an empty goosander nest (in an old oak tree) and up through the scrub and woodland with the calls of Pied flycatcher, Chiffchaff and Redstart to be heard around us. Bog myrtle came to the groups rescue in help fending off the over-eager midges and the group followed the old railway line back into Langholm for tea and cake (many apologies to festival organisers for our late return).
Award winning Scottish natural history and landscape photographer Laurie Campbell led a workshop with a difference in Langholm last Saturday - no adults allowed.
All of the participants were aged 10 to 18, a first for Langholm and Laurie. Eight young people from Eskdale and Liddesdale had the opportunity to develop their photographic skills and learn the tricks of the trade from one the best nature photographers around.
The young photographers, Laura Ashton Smith, Stuart Stables, James Farrer, Franky Kane, Leanne Donald, Eilidh Gough, Alex Lithgow and Chandler Dumbarton had won their places through a photo competition run by the Making the Most of Moorlands project. The workshop offered advice on getting the best from cameras, field craft skills, how to go about getting the perfect shot and tricks of the trade such as using a fish tank to photograph under water.
The workshop was a great success. It was the first Laurie Campbell had ever run for young people and he was surprised by the enthusiasm and skills of the participants. Hopefully, this opportunity to learn from such a talented photographer will inspire youngsters to develop their skills further and even consider wildlife photography as a career.
What a month..
I have been out enjoying the glorious weather we've had here in Langholm, got some incredible views of lekking Black Cock. These birds are really impressive when displaying; visually they are stunning, black, white and red, their tails fluffed up, and audibly, the lekking call of the Black Cock is incredible.. I've heard it described as a babbling brook or a bag full of calling Wood pigeons but either way the sound is incredible and can carry for long distances. Dippers everywhere are busy feeding young in nests and the first broods of Mallard are on the river. I saw a brood of 13 mallard ducklings a few days ago but the local Herons will soon see to that. I heard my first cuckoo a week or so ago and the air is full of the song of migrants including Willow Warblers, Chiff Chaff and Wood Warblers. The best experience I've had in the last few weeks has been watching the displaying Hen Harriers on the moor; the male Hen Harrier is quite a bird to look at but when he is displaying, he is breathtaking. He flies vertical zigzags in the air, twisting and turning to show his bright white underwings to best effect. To see more photos like these, visit photographer John Wright's blog
We're well into the breeding season now and birds everywhere are nesting, the moorland birds are particularly vulnerable being ground nesters so please remember if you are visiting the moor to keep all dogs on leads and stick to paths or the road . If you'd like advice on where to watch mooralnd birds please get in touch or join us on one of our moorland activities.
November 12th 2010: Dumfries and Galloway LEADER Programme award. Hooray!
D&G Rural Awards took place on Friday the 12th of November. The event which took place at Easterbrook Hall was hailed a great success by the 130 participants who travelled from across the region to participate.
The Healthier Scotland category was being judged by Sarah Skerratt, Senior Researcher at the Scottish Agricultural College (now SAC). Sarah was looking at the contribution shortlisted projects made towards creating opportunities to improve health within rural communities and projects which helped to establish or strengthen links between communities and the land around them. The project chosen for special recognition was The Moorland Education project based in Langholm. Education Officer, Cat Barlow of the Langholm Initiative was very proud to have her project recognised by LEADER and said "We are over the moon to win this award! It is a fabulous recognition of all the Moorland Education Project's achievements and the hard work and support of our volunteers and project partners. Hopefully this will help put Langholm on the Map! "
November 2010: Pictures for D&G LEADER
A few weeks ago we were asked by D&G LEADER to get a few volunteers together for a moorland photo shoot.. for a photo to grace the front page of the D&G LEADER Good Practice Guide 2008-2010. Judith managed to rustle up a motley crew and we spent a rather grey afternoon on the hill trying to get some 'colourful', 'activity filled' and 'recognisable as Langholm' pictures.. this is what we managed .. Unfortunately it did not make the front page of the guide but the first photo - 'Langholm monument - Ian White' made it into the guide.. full page!
Many thanks to Ian White for these images.
September 25th 2010: Eskdale Show
The Moorland Education Project had a stand at the Eskdale Agricultural Show on Saturday 25th September. Video highlights of the Hen Harrier nest were shown alongside some moorland marvels - collected from the moor such as feathers and shed adder skin - which were a real hit with visitors young and old!
September 22nd: Moorland Fungi Foray
The fungi foray on Wednesday Sept 22nd was a real hit. Dumfries & Galloway Ranger Ross Gemmell led a group of 13 fungi novices on a foray around the woodlands and moorland around Langholm. We found lots of fungi both edible, inedible and downright poisonous!. The rain began to fall hard just as we were getting back into the vehicles.
Back at Langholm Golf Club Wild Chef John Crouch used the wild mushrooms collected on our walk to make some delicious mushroom related meals including a 'mushroom picker's omelette' and a mushroom pasta dish.
September 21st 2010
I have discovered this wonderful BBC video of a hen harrier which they kindly allow people to embed in their web page
August 15th 2010
I recently came across a lizard which had been alarmed and shed its tail as a decoy. This short clip shows just how long the tail will keep wriggling after the lizard has left the scene
August 9th 2010
Langholm's moorland education project is one of three to have been shortlisted for an award celebrating rural life in Scotland. The two-year project, which comes under the Langholm Initiative umbrella, was visited by judge Dr Sarah Skerrat of SAC on Monday. She met volunteers and members of the community who have been involved in the programme before taking a look up on Langholm moor for herself.
The Dumfries & Galloway Rural Awards are organised by LEADER which is currently working with 44 communities in the region and in 18 months has invested £1.5m. All shortlisted projects are listed in a good practice guide which is distributed all over Europe and they will attend an awards ceremony in Dumfries in November.
The moorland education project is entered into the Healthier Scotland category. As the name suggests this category welcomes entries for projects which contribute towards creating opportunities to improve health within rural communities and projects which help to establish or strengthen links between communities and the land around them.
I would like to thank everyone who gave their time on Monday for the judge's visit. It was great to see so many volunteers and project partners showing their support. The award is about engaging the community in their environment and that is perfect for this project because that's what we do. We had to answer a series of questions to explain how we meet the criteria in the Healthier Scotland category and when we were shortlisted, it was an opportunity for the judge to see the project and meet the various partners and volunteers. We also took her onto the moor where she met some of the moorland demonstration project staff and looked at the set-up we had for the hen harriers. We have involved the wider community; not just the schools but the Guides and Scouts and other youth groups, like Duke of Edinburgh awards.I think we also stood out a little bit because of the hen harriers and the cameras we have projecting the nest onto the big screen at the Buccleuch Centre.
The judge was impressed with the width and depth of all the activities we've been running from moth hunts and food foraging to meeting farmers and gamekeepers.
LEADER has said they are very pleased with our success and as long as we looked at some different aspects, they'd be happy for us to continue in some vein.
July 20th 2010
Children at Playcare enjoyed a Moorland Mayhem activity on July 20th. The group investigated the life cycle of the Golden Ringed Dragonfly in the ditches and streams of the Tarras valley. We spotted several adult dragonflies hunting up and down the streams and found two nymphs which live in the silt of shallow ditches and streams. The group also found several exuvias (the hard shell of the nymphs body left behind when the adult emerges onto the wing) after a lot of searching. The Moorland Mayhem Activities are a regular event every Tuesday throughout the school holidays. Other activities have included bird box making, and stream dipping and nature safaris.
The Marvellous Moth activity on July 17th was also very successful despite the wet weather. Dumfries & Galloway Biodiversity Officer Peter Norman set out several live moth traps on the moorland on the Friday evening and the traps were checked on Saturday morning. The traps caught thirty one species of moth.. (not bad for a wet July day) including Elephant Hawk Moth, Lesser Swallow Prominent, Burnished Brass, Peppered Moth and Green Carpet. Please see the Gallery page for photos.
July 6th / 7th 2010
The Moorland Education Project has received funding from 02 'It's your community' Fund for money towards bird boxes for the local moorland. Local D&G Ranger Ross Gemmell joined the group to help lead two days of bird box making on the Kiln Green. Over 50 children visited us over the two days to make bird nest boxes. A huge thank you to Langholm Academy students Alex, David, Bethan and Justin who helped out with the event and helped erect the bird boxes on the moorland.
July 3rd 2010
The Badger Surveying Workshop on Saturday July 3rd went very well, Dumfries & Galloway Badger expert Andy Riches led the group in visits to woodland and field habitats to compare the visual signs of badger occupation. The group examined footprints, spoil heaps, latrines and tunnel shape to determine whether badgers were resident. It is hoped to follow up this event with a 'badger blitz' in November - an organised day where volunteers survey as much of the surrounding countryside as possible to locate badger setts.
June 2010: Newsflash
Pictures of the hen harriers are now on the website: Click here to see some short video extracts taken from the camera.
May 29th 2010
I have just finished a stream dipping session with 43 beavers and 16 adult helpers.. Fantastic.. Lots of mayfly, stonefly and dragonfly nymphs.
May 27th 2010
I am happy to announce that 3 of the Hen Harrier eggs have hatched so far.
May 11th 2010
A fantastic trip out this morning with Langholm Primary P5 stream dipping in the Tarras. A cold but sunny day and we experienced a few half-hearted snow showers - which was a bit of a suprise! We found some great beasties including this fabulous Stonefly Nymph lurking beneath the rocks. We found several different types of Cased Caddis Fly Larvae and a young Brown Trout. The Mayfly Nymphs were out in force and Diving Beetles and Freshwater Shrimps made an appearance too (see our facebook page for more Photos). We spotted some Feral Goats on the hillside and a family of Dippers on the river - fishing for minibeasts just like us! A few water filled wellies and many smiling faces returned to school just before lunch. thank you P5 for a great morning!-
May 6th 2010
The Dawn Chorus Walk on Saturday April 17th was a great success, excellent views of Hen Harrier (male and female), Merlin, Short Eared Owl, Raven, Roe Deer, Buzzard, Red Grouse, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks. The Langholm Explorer Scouts made hot tea/coffee and bacon & egg sandwiches for all - which was a welcome treat on a cold morning.
More summer migrants have joined us - the swifts are back with their high pitched calls and high speed passes, I spotted this male Pied Flycatcher (which is one of my favourite birds) by the Tarras river and heard my first Cuckoo of 2010 last week. I spotted these Feral goats quite close to the road across the moorland, which is unusual as they are usually spotted on higher ground.
This fabulous Ground Beetle (Carabus nitens) was an exciting find. With a beautiful metalic sheen - it is very specific to moorland/peat bogs/heathland and not often seen. We found it walking across the road. Moorland bird species are well on with their breeding routine and Red Grouse, Merlin and Hen Harriers are all now sitting on eggs. So we're asking all visitors to the moorland to stay to the road and main paths and keep all dogs on a lead - nesting birds are very sensitive to disturbance (especially by dogs). The Ravens which nest very early in the year, are ready to fledge whilst Swallows and Sand Martins are just beginning to nest build. Keep an eye out for the day flying Emperor moths which have emerged from their over-wintering pupae and are looking for mates.
April 14th 2010
One month on from my last diary entry and Spring has well and truly sprung. Some lovely sunny days have prompted the moorland wildlife to begin their annual task of reproducing. The Skylarks and Meadow pipits are singing away as are the Red Grouse and Curlew. Harriers are back on the hill and things are looking good for a nest again this year. Frogs are spawning in every available ditch and pond. This photo shows both frog and toad spawn. Frog spawn is usually clumped and toad spawn forms long thin strands. Fingers crossed the nightime temperatures stay up as frost kills of frog and toad spawn. Migrant visitors have arrived, Swallows and Sand Martin have returned to our skies and Wheatear and Whinchat are once again perched on rocks and heather.
Why not join us on Saturday morning (April 17th) for a Moorland Dawn Chorus Walk. It's an early start (6am) but well worth it! Beautiful bird song followed by tea/coffee and a bacon sandwich. The event is free, but booking is essential.
March 14th 2010
I have been desk bound recently with paperwork and not had time to get out on the moorland as much as I'd like - but this weekend I abandoned the housework and escaped up onto the moorland to fulfil a wish I've had since moving to Langholm last April - to climb Tinnis Hill. It is not the highest peak around but this pale 'lump' is visible from the A7 on the drive up from Carlisle and every time I see it I think I must climb that.
The weather was glorious and as soon as I got out of the car I was surrounded by skylarks singing their hearts out - this is one of my favourite sounds in nature, talk about uplifting! Tinnis Hill is just over a mile from the road but not the easiest walking unless you can find a quad bike track to follow. My little dog Cricket was in his element jumping grass tussocks and following scents.
From the Top of Tinnis Hill I had excellent views of the Moorland and the black patches from the recent heather burning activity of the keepers make quite a pattern on Whita. Heather burning is vital for managing the moorland - encouraging new growth, providing food for many moorland species. The views are fabulous in every direction; I could see the Solway, the northern peaks of the Lake District, Cairnsmore of Fleet hills and the Pennines towards Kielder. Sitting on top of Tinnis I had fantastic views of a female merlin hunting a skylark, ravens displaying (I love their quirky upside down flight), buzzards circling and the passage of pink-footed geese heading north. Spring is here and I am really looking forward to this season on the moor.
Click here to read the monthly diary of Simon Lester, Head Keeper for the Langholm Moorland Project