‘Moor’ missing Hen Harriers?

A glorious day out on the moors, my first of 2015 …. bitter winds blowing from the west but that just adds to the experience and if common sense prevails it makes little difference if you’ve dressed as they say in Yorkshire, ‘like an onion’ (that is to say, with lots of layers).

Sphagnum sp. poss. fimbriatum

Sphagnum sp. poss. fimbriatum

There is still that wonderful feeling of space and of open skies, although in my opinion the views from the platform are no longer as pleasantly panoramic as they used to be.  Despite Thorne Moors being around 4700 acres, or 1900 hectares in today’s currency there is now a clear boundary which previously was not so drastically demarcated but rather a steady realisation.

Disappointingly no magnificent male Hen Harrier, so I made do happily enough with a distant Marsh Harrier seen from the viewing platform as it quartered the reedbeds to the south of Will Pitts.  The other species which is indicative of winter is Whooper Swan and a family party were seen from Bank Top ‘festive feasting’ on farmland just off the reserve.

Piptoporus betulinus , Birch Polypore or 'Razorstrop Fungus'.

Piptoporus betulinus , Birch Polypore or ‘Razorstrop Fungus’.

The ‘moor’ interesting observations were made out of the wind, good numbers of Carabus granulatus overwintering under salix bark along with similarly good numbers of the snail eating Silpha atrata.  But what was fascinating to find were two smooth newt efts.  The smallest you have to wonder about the chances of it surviving through the winter, particularly if it is a long cold season.  The larger of the two shown below is about the same size as one found on 20 October last year under an abandoned plastic piling remnant.

Lissotriton vulgaris

Lissotriton vulgaris

Are there fewer Hen Harriers about in their traditional lowland wintering areas?  What impact the 2013 failure to breed and just three pairs in 2014 bred in England?  Please pass details of any sightings to us via execsec@thmcf.org so the data can be used to monitor change.

For regular updates on what’s about on the Moors visit Thorne Moors Birding Blog 2015, and Hatfield Moors Birding Blog.

In case our recent recruits are not aware of the issues around the decline of the Hen Harrier, then a good source of information can be found via Birders Against Wildlife Crime and Standing up for Nature, Mark Avery’s excellent ‘campaigning’ blog.  Avery also created an online petition “Ban driven grouse shooting” any reader not having signed it already might consider doing so?

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