‘moor’ about?

The sun was shining, the skies were blue and the wilderness beckoned again, so Thursday saw another visit to a very wet landscape.  Dressing like an ‘onion’ with three pairs of socks easily kept the cold at bay.

A pair of delightful dumpy Stonechats were the first good birds of the day, colourful gems on a winter’s day.160218 Stonechat hrk 309

Feeding at the edge of the track and returning to a perch before repeating the exercise again an indication perhaps that there was plenty of suitable food for these seasonal specials.  Their ‘tchack’ call, reminiscent of stones being hit together, was heard frequently as the two birds worked their patch for food.  Stonechats are omnivorous and will search out seed and invertebrates both of which appear plentiful at the moment and is no doubt contributing much needed fuel for these delightful chats, with up to eight birds being logged on Thorne Moors recently.

The Marsh Harriers, two males quartered the moor flushing wildfowl and pheasant in their quest for smaller quarry.  A stunning Short-eared Owl appearing as the light waned, working the western periphery for small mammals able to escape the wet and relocate on the drier balks.

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Big skies, space to breath but just about every point of the compass is seeing the ring of steel tighten and destroy the atmospheric vista?  Conversely these metal monsters were ‘sold’ as a tourist attraction to which people would flock to see such iconic structures …. not forgetting the marketing spin of wind energy being free ?

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There is much discussion about an early season with the Blackthorn in flower already.  The first adders have been seen on both Hatfield and Thorne Moors, 10 February so ten days earlier than last year!  How long before we hear the first Chiffchaff and see the first Sand Martin, two of the early migrants?

Will the ‘silver ghosts’ who have graced our local lowland moors this winter return to their upland breeding moors and be able to successfully fledge young birds into the declining English population?  Whilst the politicians postulate the pros and cons of the UK remaining in the European Union, will 2016 see an outcome to the RSPBs complaint to the European Commission about the damage on Walshaw Moor?  The case is not just about Hen Harriers, but about management of upland moors and we might also remember that they are now extremely topical for their role in flood alleviation?

In the interim, let’s carry on enjoying the magic that the Hen Harrier brings on a cold winters day when, if we put in the hours scanning the far horizon and the extensive reed beds we can be rewarded with a glimpse of a charismatic bird who can for the winter months at least enjoy a safe haven here with us.  Get out there, experience the magic before the species is just a memory and another obituary in a natural history paper.  It was as recent as 2013 that the headlines reported imminent extinction as an English breeding bird, its status is still extremely tenuous.

The defra sponsored Joint action plan to increase the English hen harrier population received mixed reviews and it was Mark Avery who summed it up as the ‘[In]action plan’.

 

 

 

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