Posts Tagged ‘hatfield moors’

Special ‘Festive’ Offer

November 24, 2018

Forget the media hype around ‘Black Friday’ offers, this is a real offer ….

The name of Peter Skidmore to many is synonymous with The Biology of the Muscidae of the World (Series Entomologica), with Diptera and with entomology in general.  Some readers will be aware that he did a great deal of entomological recording on Thorne and Hatfield Moors SSSI.  What readers may not be aware of is that he was also an entomological illustrator.

In 2006 the Forum were proud to be able to publish a number of Peter’s superb illustrations in An Inventory of the Invertebrates of Thorne and Hatfield Moors Following various complimentary comments about the artwork, the Executive commissioned a print run of 100 sets of ten quality art paper prints each signed by the artist Dr Peter Skidmore and offered as a Limited Edition Set.

These Limited Edition Prints were initially offered at £25 and came with a certificate, information on the species illustrated and background information on Peter Skidmore and presented in a folder.

There are a few sets remaining and the Executive are pleased to offer these at just £10 plus postage and packaging at £2.

LEPs hrk DSCN6079

So, if you are scratching around for something different for a friend or relative with an interest in natural history then these might be just such a gift?

Please send a cheque made payable to Thorne & Hatfield Moors Conservation Forum for £12 to THMCF Publications, PO Box 879, Thorne, Doncaster, DN8 5WU.

Only a few sets remain, so to avoid disappointment make sure that your order can be fulfilled and email first to check availability.



Hot off the Press: Thorne & Hatfield Moors Papers Volume 11

July 10, 2018

Just back from the printers is the latest edition of the Thorne & Hatfield Moors Papers.  Volume 11 is 178 pages plus a further 20 of content details etc. Liberally interspersed with colour photographs, maps and diagrams to accompany some 16 main papers.

To make the information within the volume widely available the Executive are offering it at just £7 plus postage & packaging at cost £2.95 (second class) so a total of £9.95.

Copies can be obtained from T&HMC Forum Publication Sales, PO Box 879, Thorne, Doncaster, DN8 55WU.  Please make cheques payable to T&HMC Forum.  Alternatively copies are available locally from the Thorne Times office.

Main Papers:

Mick Oliver, Colin Howes & Louise Hill: Lindholme Old Moor.  A refugium in a severely damaged landscape.

Mick Oliver: Lindholme: an outline history.

Paul Buckland: The Nature of Lindholme.

Louise Hill: Vegetation mapping on Jack’s Piece, Lindholme Old Moor.

Colin Wall: Some observations on the Bryophytes of Lindholme Old Moor.

Tim Prosser: Using Lidar data to map Lindholme Old Moor.

Colin Howes & Derek Allen: The Lindholme Oaks.

David Williamson: The moths of Lindholme: the Doncaster Naturalists’ Society experience 2013-2017.

Colin Howes: On the Vapourer trail: records of a relict Scarce Vapourer Moth population on Lindholme and adjacent parts of Hatfield Moors.

Colin Howes & Pip Seccombe: Beewolf at Lindholme: notes on a population of Philanthus triangulum (F.) (Hymenoptera: Crabonidae) at Lindholme, Hatfield Moors.

J. Hobart: Is the Minotaur Beetle (Typhaeus typhoeus (L.)) more common at Hatfield Moors than previously thought?

Andrew Grayson: The June 2011 Skidmore Memorial Survey of the Lindholme Hall Estate: invertebrates

Colin Howes: A Note on the Otter Lutra lutra at Lindholme Lake and the Hatfield  Moors Drains.

Colin Howes: A historical review of bat records from Lindholme Old Moor and adjacent areas.

Colin Howes: Hatfield Moors, an oasis in a sandy desert: the effects of Drift geology, soil type and landscape on air moisture at RAF Lindholme and RAF Finningley.

and one book review

Malcolm Lillie: Review: Henry P. Chapman & Benjamin R. Gearey (2013) Modelling archaeology and palaeoenvironments in wetlands: The hidden landscape archaeology of Hatfield and Thorne Moors, eastern England. Oxford: Oxbow Books

Hidden landscapes, Dynamic habitats & Sphagnum?

March 20, 2018

Further to the previous blog post inviting people to the public presentations at our Annual Meeting on Friday 6 April, the Executive are pleased to provide the details of a third speaker.


on Friday 6 April 2018
Moorends Miners Welfare & Community Development Centre, West Road, DN8 4LH

Doors open to the public lectures at 11.00

Lucy Ryan (University of York) “Dynamic habitat selection of the European Nightjar from a Thorne & Hatfield Moors perspective, latest updates”

Kieran Sheehan “The hunt for elusive Sphagnum species on Thorne Moors continues; an update”

Nika Shilobod (University of Plymouth)Rediscovering the ‘Wildscape’: Reconstructing Hidden Landscapes through a Case Study in the Humberhead Levels”.

Light buffet lunch

Please make use of the lunch time to network and to pick up publication bargains. The Centre has been booked until 3pm so people will be able to network amongst themselves.

There is no charge for the talks but a donation in lieu for refreshments and light buffet lunch will be used towards the purchase of more research equipment (particularly the tags needed to track the nightjar activity).

To help with the administrative aspects of the day please book a place for the public lectures and lunch by contacting or write to T&HMCF, P O Box 879, Thorne, Doncaster, DN8 5WU

Birds & beetles: updates on research @Thorne & Hatfield Moors

February 21, 2017

We recently posted advance notification about the Forum’s Annual Meeting on Friday 31 March 2017.  We are delighted to provide the titles of the two talks by researchers currently working on Thorne & Hatfield Moors SSSI.

“Dynamic habitat selection of the European Nightjar from a Thorne & Hatfield Moors perspective”  Lucy Ryan (University of York).

“Gimme shelter: Role of refugia and impact of restoration on insect conservation on Thorne Moor”  Ashley Buchan (University of Edinburgh).

Lucy’s talk in 2016 was very well received and in no small part down to the enthusiastic and informative delivery by a researcher clearly passionate about her subject.  This year will see her providing us with an update on her research which will continue through the 2017 season and also involve the 2018 season.


Nightjar chicks: fantastically camouflaged and not easy to spot when they remain motionless to avoid predation.

Ashley is looking at invertebrates and the succession assemblages across a host of areas ranging from parts of Thorne Moors which saw peat extraction cease in the 1950s through to the early 2000s when the Government of the day bought out the extant planning permissions from Scotts (UK) Ltd for some £17.3m  Ashley’s work has involved looking at characteristic species of particular habitats and how these habitats change over time.  This work along with Lucy’s will hopefully inform management planning for these important sites.

The talks, which are scheduled to take place after the formal business (Forum members only), are open to the public but places do need to be booked, contact the to register an interest.  There is no charge for the talks but a donation in lieu for refreshments and light buffet lunch will be used towards the purchase of more research equipment (particularly the tags needed to track the nightjars activity).

Copies of the two recently produced faunas Checklist of the Lepidoptera of Thorne Moors 1837 – 2014 and The water beetles of Yorkshire will be available for purchase along with other Forum publications.


April 24, 2016

Addiction is, according to an online dictionary definition, a medical condition that is characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences. It can be thought of as a disease or biological process leading to such behaviours.

So are those of us who expend countless hours searching out and observing the enigmatic Vipera berus thus afflicted?  Adderholics?

Locally, that is to say the Humberhead Levels supports a reasonable population of the reptile.  But with increased pressure from Open Access and engineered management works currently being undertaken on Thorne & Hatfield Moors the population is potentially at risk.

The Adder, the UK’s only venomous snake is a reptile favouring open predominantly dry habitats.  Heathland and commons, moorland, sea cliffs and chalk downland, open woodland and woodland rides, road and rail embankments  are also used.

The images above of a male adder show two key aspects, namely the dark rostal and its head pattern – a unique feature to all individual adders.  Images: H R Kirk.

Adder M&F GB mw - web

The image above shows the general colour difference between the male and female adder.  Note also the paler brown as opposed to dark rostal indicative of a male adder.  Image courtesy of Martin Warne.

The two images above show (left) a female adder approaching sloughing, indicated by the opaqueness of its eye and (right) a sloughed skin discarded amongst vegetation.  Images: Martin Warne (adder) & H R Kirk (sloughed skin). 

Examination of local historical data (pre 2000) and moderately recent data appears to indicate a decline in adder numbers.  As Thorne Moors particularly becomes wetter through the implementation of a Water Level Management Plan currently being delivered by Doncaster East IDB and Hatfield Moors is the focus for increased public access, what are the ‘new’ or ‘modern’ implications for this sensitive species?  What monitoring is being undertaken by either of the Public Bodies currently undertaking significant management works?

Nationally too there is concern about decline in adder populations, see abstracts from Herptofauna Workers Meeting 2013 via

The  photographs above were taken using  a zoom lens. The adders were not disturbed. The interests of the adders, a protected species must come first.

Enjoy it while it lasts?

February 10, 2016

The natural environment it would seem is under siege?  Management of upland moors at the moment is very topical not least for the potential flooding implications if not undertaken appropriately and in the public interest?  What is appropriate and who gets to define ‘public interest’?

Government Ministers have written to the chancellor to persuade him not to let nature laws impact on development.  One of those is the Minister for the Environment!

Let’s set aside for this post at least, political hot potatoes and spend a day on our local moors whilst we are still able to enjoy what were once vast wildernesses.  Now they are in the centre of what is rapidly becoming industrialised farmland, with approaching around 100 massive turbines visible from various points of the compass.

They are publically owned, that’s by US, you and me?  They are managed by Natural England, the government advisers on nature conservation.  They also advise developers via their Discretionary Advice Service (revenue generation business).  There are others involved in their management and there is a lot of activity on site now.

February ‘fill dyke’?  There has been a fair amount of precipitation but there have been bouts of fine weather in which to get out there and enjoy the ‘last days of wilderness’.

160209 Roe b&h hrk 250

It was the bright white ‘targets’ which attracted my attention.  The buck’s antlers resplendent in heir velvet.  A second very inquisitive buck located later in the day and in another area kept checking my progress along the track before nonchalantly trotting off again.  At the risk of being accused of anthropomorphism, did he satisfy himself that I posed no threat to his territory?

The rut for Roe deer starts in July but the does will not give birth until May and June after a nine month gestation of which four involve delayed implantation.  Bucks will aggressively defend territories from the start of Spring in February/March until August.  The Roe is one of our native deer, the other is Red, with records dating back before the Mesolithic (6,000 -10,000 years BC).

There is certainly a wealth of wildlife out there at the moment for visitors prepared to look for it.  Birds of prey are showing well with good numbers of Marsh Harriers and a smaller contingent of Hen Harriers.  The magnificent male, that ‘silver ghost’ with its white rump and ink-dipped wing tips guaranteed to lift a winter’s day.  Peregrines, Short-eared Owls, Merlins, Buzzards, Kestrels and Sparrowhawks as supporting cast reward effort.  Wildfowl too with up to 10 male Goosanders being logged, the occasional Pintail and Goldeneye, rafts of others including Gadwall, Teal, Mallard, Tufted and Pochard.  Plenty of passerines amongst the sheltered spots.  The unexpected bonus yesterday was a Little Egret flying in and along the northern boundary!


Just be careful where you walk and watch out for contractors vehicles whizzing along.


Big skies and space, or a cluttered horizon?  Get out there and experience the exhilarating, discover the nature of the place and its wildlife before its become a chapter in a historic review ….

In the interim visit Hatfield Moors Birding Blog and Thorne Moors Birding Blog and check out what has been seen and what with effort you might hope to see.

Large Heath: an iconic species of Thorne & Hatfield Moors.

June 12, 2015

The Large Heath, Coenonympha tullia is a butterfly of wet heaths, bogs and moorland and one of the Humberhead Levels key species.  This stunning image (courtesy of Martin Warne) was taken today and shows reduced spotting with a single forewing spot and with evidence of six hindwing spots but only three showing dark centres.  These characteristics are suggestive that this may be a specimen at the extreme range of the South Yorkshire population, readers are invited to discuss …. likewise offerings of photographs to illustrate the current diversity on Thorne and Crowle Moors, and indeed Hatfield Moors if the introduced population still survives there would be gratefully received via (all images will be acknowledged as copyright photographer and only used with permission).


150612 Large Heath mw

Large Heath, Thorne Moors

Image: Martin Warne.

The first Large Heath of the year were recorded on Thorne Moors week commencing 8 June.  Some 21 were recorded today so moderate numbers on the wing, when will they peak?

Large Heath has responded well to the re-wetting of Thorne Moors, where a remnant population hung on amidst the ravages wrought by drainage to faciltate peat extraction in the 1970 through to the early ‘noughties’.  Readers are recommended to read the paper “An update on the status of Large Heath butterfly on Hatfield Moors” (Kirk & Melling 2011) in Volume 8 of the Thorne & Hatfield Moors Papers.  The paper relates the fortunes of the species on neighbouring Hatfield Moors SSSI.


Don’t forget to book your place for the series of interesting, informative and potentially controvertial presentations 31 July (Crowle Community Hall) “The Flood Untamed”  Wetlands and flooding …. topical?

Another diary date is Hen Harrier Day Sunday 9 August, #HaveYouSeenHenry?

Hoverflies & floods ….

May 17, 2015

Readers may have heard of Pan Species Listing, it’s basically ‘twitching’ across disciplines.  That’s an incredibly simplistic analogy because there is much to recommend it if it is undertaken within the guidelines promoted through the Pan Species Listing website.

We try to encourage readers and the public in general to take a closer look at the wildlife around them and as well as appreciating the amazing diversity available on our own doorsteps to learn to identify it.  Occasionally we offer Wildlife Training Workshops with specialist tutors to introduce people to new disciplines, especially entomology or the more difficult botanical disciplines (grasses, sedges & rushes), bryology, lichens or mycology.

So it is pleasing to periodically report interesting finds.  Phil Lee the voluntary LWT – Isle of Axholme Group Wildlife Records Officer has an uncanny knack of being in the right place at the right time ….

Sericomyia lappona Crowle Moors pl 8.5.15

Friday 8 May saw him ‘sauntering’ along the boundary lane of Crowle Moor north where he came across a couple of hoverflies new to him.  Reference to Britain’s Hoverflies An introduction to the hoverflies of Britain by Stuart Ball and Roger Morris led Phil to conclude that the species above was Sericomya lappona and this was subsequently confirmed by John Flynn through the lincs_ento_group.  S.lappona has previously been recorded from Crowle Moors in 1988, by Bill Hoff and Roger Key but no other Lincolnshire records apparently.  The other, below, is a Pipiza but can not not be determined to species level even with the excellent image taken by Phil.

Pipiza sp. Crowle Moors pl 8.5.15

The moral of the story as ever, is to be open minded and take an interest in the common and then when something a little different appears it is likely to register as having potential for an interesting record.  There is plenty of help out there avialable from like-minded people and a veritable plethora of societies and organisations focusing on wildlife and natural history.
Those records are needed, they evidence species movement (increase or reduction in range) and the health of sites.  It would seem reasonable to assume that the various statutory agencies and authorities undertake survey and monitoring but increasingly it seems to fall to the amateur naturalists to gather raw data.  The theory then would be that the Public Bodies use the data as evidence in defence of sites under threat of development?  Theories and reality, sadly all too often at the opposite ends of a spectrum?
Another issue which warrants investigation is perhaps the future of Local Records Centres?  That for Doncaster is based within DMBC, yet the vast majority of data held there has been provided by amateur naturalists.  That for northern Lincolnshire and Lincolnshire in general is held and managed by the Greater Lincolnshire Nature Partnership, so arms -length from statute and retaining a level of independence?  The issue as ever, information is power but information is also valuable creating something of a dilemma when it comes to sustainability?
Also around in moderate numbers are Yellow Wagtails as they seek out food for their brood of youngsters.  This stunning image showing a parent bird with a substantive meal – is it a noctuid larva?  Thanks to Martin Warne for sharing this behavioural image.
Yellow Wagtail Thorne Moor 27042015
For readers seeking their annual fix of our iconic crepuscular gem the Nighjar, they arrived on the same day 13 May on both moors, although perhaps the one logged at 04:15am on Thorne Moors was the first recorded for the year?
Advance notification:

Friday 31 July 2015

‘The Flood Untamed.’

Jeremy Purseglove revisits the story of his classic book which is being re-issued in June.

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Anyone interested in attending this presentation (which will also feature two other talks) please contact for more details.

Open Access : a free for all? Are NNRs at risk of becoming country parks?

February 27, 2015

Is Open Access * on National Nature Reserves creating a new type of country park?  As Local Authorities are increasingly introducing bans on dogs in public places because of risks associated with excrement and young children, are dog owners being driven to use NNRs and Natura 2000 sites as canine toilets?

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It might not be so bad if they were all responsible owners (hats off to the gentleman above) and took the deposits home with them or kept their animals on the lead?  The Countryside Code  and masses of other literature encourages responsibility but ….


Further along the path were redshank, meadow pipits and skylarks all desperately feeding in order to build up reserves to see them through winter to breed and delight us all again in spring.

NNRs are supposedly the best examples of habitat types, to quote JNCC

National Nature Reserves (NNRs)

NNRs contain examples of some of the most important natural and semi-natural terrestrial and coastal ecosystems in Great Britain. They are managed to conserve their habitats or to provide special opportunities for scientific study of the habitats communities and species represented within them. In addition they may be managed to provide public recreation that is compatible with their natural heritage interests.

NNRs are declared by the statutory country conservation agencies under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. In Northern Ireland, Nature Reserves are designated under the Amenity Lands Act (Northern Ireland) 1965. In Scotland, whilst SNH remains the statutory designating authority, decisions to declare new NNR are shared with a Partnership Group of interested organisations.

So why risk damage by opening the flood gates and encouraging conversion to country theme parks?  There are public footpaths a plenty around the country, but again they also require dog owners to behave responsibly and perhaps they have been utilised by other users and dangerous?

Dogs: ‘man’s best friend’ are our companions but they can wreak havoc when out of control.  A recent incident on a ‘nearby’ NNR in Lincolnshire has seen a family devastated after dogs attacked their flock of sheep.  The Louth Leader reports in lurid detail the shocking outcome of a dog attack.

081119 Dead adder HM

On Hatfield Moors, dead adders (above) have been found reputedly ‘sorted’ because they bite dogs.

Walkers have been attacked and bitten on Hatfield Moors but the land managers, Natural England dismissed the incident as an accident.  Bad enough it was an adult, but children are smaller and are they able to withstand canine enthusiasm or attack when animals are off the lead?  Mumsnet clearly have plenty to say on the issue.  This incident, as well as resulting in physical injury, caused distress and ultimately the individual has now we understand stopped visiting Hatfield Moors NNR.

We’d like to think that the vast majority of dog owners are responsible.  It may be that despite miles of public footpaths to walk, they too fear for their safety as other countryside users disregard access permissions and create dangerous circumstances?  Incidentally neither of the recent issues relating to hedgerow management and green lanes have received full responses from the Public Bodies contacted.

Please, everyone …. be considerate of other users of the countryside, treat others as you would expect to be treated yourself?  The natural environment is a resource for us all to enjoy but more importantly it is a refugia for ever diminishing wildlife?  How would we all feel if a pack of dogs visited our gardens and wreaked havoc  with our garden pond or bird tables and feeders killing the goldfinch and other much loved visitors?  This is effectively what happened to the Lincolnshire family mentioned above?

* Another ‘page’ being rebuilt by GOV.UK


The archaeology of hidden landscapes

October 10, 2014
Dr Ben Geary & Dr Nora Bermingham investigate the Hatfield Trackway in 2005.

Dr Ben Geary & Dr Nora Bermingham investigate the Hatfield Trackway in 2005.

Isle of Axholme and Hatfield Chase Landscape Partnership

Reconnecting People with their Landscape and Cultural Heritage

Invites you to a Free Public Talk on


Recent Work on Hatfield & Thorne Moors & Other Peatlands

Dr Ben Gearey, Department of Archaeology,

UCC, Cork, Ireland

Friday, 24 October 2014 6.15 pm

Trinity Academy, Church Balk, Thorne, DN8 5BY

Located to the north of St Nicholas Parish Church


If you attend please tell the organisers where you heard about the event please.

Hatfield's Neolithic Trackway in 2011 "In situ" preservation or abandoned in a changing landscape?

Hatfield’s Neolithic Trackway in 2011 “In situ” preservation or abandoned in a changing landscape?

Unusual sites for interesting species?

June 17, 2014

There are some days you just need fresh air and space to breathe, yesterday was one such day.  So, in the spirit of the Nick Baker’s ‘lunch hour’ sessions* I decided to try a visit to Hatfield Moors for a change ….

Heading out of the car park with its ‘raised bed rally restricting bollards’ I followed the well trodden path through the ‘heathland’ area (ex mineral workings reverting to birch scrub) thinking that I might check on the unusual Salix and Pyrola finds made in 2009 (see Volume 8 of the Forum’s Papers).  There was absolutely no chance of relocating either species as the birch had become so dense.

One of the most interesting records from the brief visit was that of Lariniodes sclopetarius in the Ladies!  A sizeable female had taken up residence, clearly a very literate spider to observe the gender code as well as noticing the fact that the convenience next door had been / was disabled ….

140616 Hatfield Moors hrk 227

There was certainly plenty of bumblebee activity and they appearred to outnumber honeybees feeding on the plentiful bramble flowers.  Bombus hypnorum was also present but in low numbers compared to the other species.

Sadly I wasn’t quick enough to get a shot of either the Brown Silver-line or the male Cuckoo as they flew tantilisingly close, nor the Speckled Wood butterflies.  There were still a fair few spikes of Common Spotted Orchid around, but many past their best so not particularly photogenic.

* With apologies to those readers who didn’t watch the recent endeavours by the BBC to engage, educate and encourage the public to get out more …. Springwatch!

Today’s ‘wildlife’ find was that of an early evening stroll and the discovery of a Pebble Prominent larvae munching a poplar leaf along a substantive hedgerow.  Even as an early instar (c. 9-10mm) the brown dorsal stripe was evident and particularly so through a hand lens.  Which proves that closer inspection generally reaps reward.

Campaign corner:

Readers of environmental blogs such as that of Dr Mark Avery will have sensed disquiet about the performance of the ‘guardians of the natural environment’, a recent posts asks “What’s up at Natural England?”  It might be that there has been a good response to the Government consultation on the General Licence and that Ministers are pressurising the recently ‘ish’ appointed Chair of NE?  There were some well considered responses and we await the Government’s evaluation and report on the ‘consultation’.



Migration Massacre on Malta …. an update

May 4, 2014

Well, let’s hope that it’s been a busy time I guess for the MEPs who had conservation minded constituents contact them after they’d been suitably motivated by Chris Packham’s video diaries posted via his website.  He also asks that we Tweet our MPs and ask them to attend the debate in Parliament this Wednesday 7 May ….

The House of Commons will debate “UK policy on protection of migratory birds in Malta” on Wednesday 7 May in Westminster Hall, 4.30 – 5.00pm.


OK, so we don’t all Tweet  – in which case then email them or phone their constuituency offices.  If they ask what this has to do with us then think of that Nightjar being released, will it make it back to the UK and possibly Thorne or Hatfield Moors?

Mark Avery too has joined Packham and is also encouraging his readers to take up the issue, he also (quite rightly in my opinion) reminds readers on a regular basis about the fact that Hen Harriers, Red Kites and other birds of prey are being shot and poisoned in this country still.  2013 was the first year since 1960 that Hen Harrier had failed to rear a chick in this country!  Astonishing given the amount of funds spent on HLS on privately owned upland grouse moors?

MEP update

I wrote to the six Yorkshire and Humber MEPs via ‘write to them’ website on 25 April.  So far I have received email replies from Rebecca Taylor, Timothy Kirkhope and Edward McMillan-Scott and a letter from Linda McAvan.  Nothing, as yet, from Andrew Brons or Godfrey Bloom.  All are fairly similar but I suppose to some extent that is inevitable and they seem to mirror those received by other MEPs across the country as reported by readers on Mark Avery’s website.  What I do find somewhat disappointing is that when they were replied to, with specific questions, typical of many a politician, the reply evaded the actual point I raised or directly asked!

If you are interested in reading the series so far received then we have set up a new page on the website blog “CAMPAIGN: Malta Massacre on Migration” and they can be found there.  Any new correspondence received relating to the Malta saga will also be placed there.

If you’ve been motivated to contact MEPs then feed back the responses to Packham, Avery or through us at athe Forum.  Critical mass as elections loom for MEPs in May and a for those 650 still in the Westminster village.  Let’s send them all a message that the natural environment and conservation really do matter.

In the interim, please TWEET (!) your MPs if you are able to ….


The signs are ‘Add'(er)ing up to Spring’s arrival?

March 7, 2014

It’s beginning to feel that winter flew with that magical ‘Skydancer’ on 15 February, I do so hope that he finds a mate and is successful in his endeavours to breed.  Last year, 2013 saw only two pairs of Hen Harriers attempt to breed in England but sadly both failed, and we reckon to be a nation who loves and values its wildlife?

So, spring is here?  It must be, the adders are out of hibernation and being seen in moderate numbers.  The first males were seen on Hatfield Moors on 18 February and on Thorne Moors the following day where up to 15 males have been recorded basking.

140225 Thorne  SH 0053

The image above, taken by Steve Hiner on 25 February this year shows four basking together.

130506 Adder DW

Female (above), in breeding condition (2013).

Adders (Vipera berus) are the UKs only venomous species of snake and they are also viviperous (give birth to live young).  Treated with respect and caution they are not dangerous.  Typically, in the breeding season the males have black markings against an off-white background with a steel grey underside.  The females have dark brown markings against a light brown or straw coloured background with a dull underside .  Having said that, both sexes are very variable and melanistic specimens are known from Thorne and Hatfield Moors.

130502 male Adder DW

Male in breeding ‘colours’ (2013).

The image shows the flattening of the body which creates a greater surface area to receive the warmth of the sun.  One magical piece of behaviour to witness is the ‘Dance of the Adders’, this ritualised combat is designed to impress and attract a female.


A young adder sloughing its skin as it continues to grow (2013).  

Image: Steve Hiner.

Please do pass all reptile and amphibian sightings with details to us, the data all helps us to understand the habitat preference and utilisation patterns through the season across both sites.  For more information on local groups who actively promote the study and conservation of these special creatures, see ARG UK.

Signs of winter.

December 5, 2013


Winter is with us?  The herds of winter swans graze the low lying fields on the periphery of Hatfield Moors.  Amongst the Mute and Whoopers, moderate numbers of Bewick’s can be found.  At the moment there are in excess of a 100 Whoopers and amongst them a handful of Bewick’s present in an area known locally as Alderfen, on the eastern edge of Hatfield Moors.  See here for a more detailed account of numbers.

Whooper Swan herd 0097_lowrespcr

Other signs of winter aside from the obvious shortening of daylight hours and increased visitors to garden birds tables are the geometrid moths fluttering across the tracks alongside  Hatfield Chase drains where hedgerows and trees are still extant as field boundaries.


I mentioned in a recent post that Natural England had revoked the licence to cull badgers, but all the signs are that there is still intent to reconvene and revisit the killing fields.  So, can I ask readers to spare a thought for the ongoing ‘battle for the badgers’?  I am prompted to raise the matter again, in part, because I recently received a link to watch a u-tube upload of Bill Oddie  and Simon King at the recent Bristol badger march.  Bill’s was well, just what you’d expect from good old Bill, Simon’s erudite and eloquent but between them they pretty much summed up the situation.


Further to the videos might you consider ‘badgering your MPs’ if you’ve not already done so, would you ask them to sign EDM 661 ?  Interestingly it is sponsored by MPs from four parties!  Congratulations, does that means that common sense does exist in ‘the House’?  Conservation does not have to be party political …. it is good for all aspects of society, everyone benefits from a health environment and we are but one species in the mix that inhabits the planet.

WILDLIFE MP of 2013?

Mark Avery has posted an interesting survey on his excellent blog Standing up for Nature”, he asks readers to vote for the Wildlife MP of 2013, there are quite a number of comments and some quite interesting ones.  He has nominated six, and whilst these might be subjective choices they do make you think about what MPs do actually deliver for the environment, and surely that can only be good?

Observations of late lepidoptera on the Humberhead Levels.

September 28, 2013

Recent autumnal weather has been such that it has seen Red Admiral, Speckled Wood and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies enjoying the last of the nectar available to them and this supplemented with fallen fermenting apples and juice from blackberries.  Nettle-tap moths too have been observed feeding on ivy flowers.

I’ve been doing a little more investigation into the occurence of Dryobotodes eremita Brindled Green since my last post. One correspondent reminded me that I was at a moth night on Hatfield Moors in September 2011 when 2 came to light, so effectively these were the first for Hatfield Moors, if Skidmore (2006) accurately records previous observations.  The species was known from Thorne Moors in 1962, unless anyone else can update any later dates?

Thanks also to John for sharing his images which feature in tonight’s post.  If you compare them with the specimen shown on 20 September post, they illustrate well the variation in ground colouring of the species which can occur.  Interestingly the two specimens shown here are from the same area.  Reminiscent of relatively recent occasions when I have observed two and three colour variations of Peppered Moth at the same site, the black, white and an intermediate.


130922 Brinded Green brown variant jh 3980


That above shows a brown ‘background’ colour, below shows a green base.  Interestingly these specimens are Humberhead Level ones, suggesting that the species is another under recorded one.

Brindled Green 2 jh 3884


The stunning image below, illustrates another uncommon species to Yorkshire, although it is recorded more frequently in Lincolnshire.   Again the specimen is a Humberhead Levels record so ‘eligible’ for inclusion on the blog and thanks to Phil Lee for submitting it.  Acleris  cristana is a delightful little moth, it is another species which is variable in colouration but the forewing hair tufts, clearly visible in the image below and they are the give away and clinch the identification.  Described on the UK Moths website as a scarce but distinctive tortricid, occuring mainly in southern England.  Another record subsequent to determined effort, keep them coming!


1054 Acleris cristana 1 Langholme Wood 21.9.13


Click on the images to enlarge them and see the detail referred to in the text of the post.

Images by John Hartley & Phil Lee.

HELP: Please sign our on line petition STOP & RETHINK

August 14, 2013

Readers may recall our post about blogging being good for conservation ?  Well, driven by frustration the Executive have now used another on-line campaign tool in an attempt to draw to the public’s attention some rather ‘quiet’ activity being undertaken by Natural England.

In 2011, senior directors within Natural England proposed Open Access under the Countryside Rights of Way Act across all their freehold National Nature Reserves.  Remember that these sites are ours, i.e. public.  Remember too the local campaigns ‘fought’ to secure the sites for posterity, particularly those here at Thorne and Hatfield Moors, were driven by grassroots activists, see the recent page created to provide a campaign chronology.   So, National NATURE Reserves, surely the clue is in the name?


The sign above accurately reflects, in the opinion of the author of this post, what ought to be the ethos of NNR raison d’etre.


The Forum’s Executive have sought answers to many points but those below have yet to receive responses in sufficient detail.

  • Has Natural England secured sufficient funds in order to finance in perpetuity the monitoring, and management of of Natura 2000 sites to ensure that any conditions and restrictions necessary to protect the special interest as a result of Dedication for Open Access under the CROW Act can be maintained in perpetuity?
  • Can Natural England confirm that where it cannot be determined at the outset, that a Project to Dedicate Open Access on a National Nature Reserve which is a  Natura 2000 site, will not have the potential to have a likely significant effect on the special interests for which the site is designated, then a full Appropriate Assessment as required by the EU Habitats Directive/Habitats Regulations 2010 (as amended) and involving the public where appropriate will be conducted to inform the acceptability of conditions or other restrictions necessary to ensure there is no harm to the special interest of the Natura 2000 sites before any dedication takes place?
  • Can Natural England confirm that as Dedication of Open Access under the CROW Act cannot be carried out conditionally that full funding and resources are in place and legally binding to ensure that the monitoring, management and controls necessary to protect the special interest of National Nature Reserves which are Natura 2000 sites in perpetuity, must be guaranteed in perpetuity at the moment of dedication, otherwise the Dedication cannot proceed?

Then there is the matter of open and transparent public consultation, that is to say demonstrable implementation of a democratic process.  Senior Directors offered to arrange a closed meeting in June but since we proposed including the public there has been prevarication and laterly a deafening silence.

There also appears to be an avoidance to ensure compliance with the Habitats Directive.  We are not yet convinced that the Chinese Walls that NE insist will ensure there will be no Conflict of Interest between regulatory compliance and access staff interests are of the appropriate material.  The Board paper NEB PU28 03, para 3.7 suggests that whole project costs will be in the region of £40,000 but correspondence received has already indicated an annual figure of around £73,584 not inclusive of the £40,000 which is available for ‘establishment’ of Open Access is necessary.

Many NNRs are in unfavourable condition status and some in unfavourable declining, including parts of Thorne and Hatfield Moors SSSI, so why therefore when access already exists on these sites would anyone divert money from ensuring that we comply with achieving favourable conservation status to encouraging inappropriate access across dangerously deep peat bogs awaiting those unfamiliar with the complex nature of the sites?

Why place at risk the SPA interest of the site?  See the post “Skylarks under foot as gates opened?”  Factor in that there has already been one dog attack on a member of the public on Hatfield Moors.  This was reported to the police because previous approaches to Natural England were dismissed as being trivial.

So, please consider signing the Forum’s petition on the 38 degrees Campaigns By You website.  Please help us to spread the word, help us to ensure that Thorne and Hatfield Moors are safeguarded for future generations.

Perhaps finally (for this post), to add that we are not oppossed to appropriate access on NNRs, de facto open access already exists here at Thorne and Hatfield Moors SSSI.  We simply seek proper process, open and transparent consultation based on science and underpinned by the acceptance that these sites are the gems in the nations natural crown jewels.  We simply ask STOP & RETHINK.

Open Access – open and transparent?

August 13, 2013

We just added a new page to the blog see Battle for the Bogs: Campaign Chronology.  Hopefully it will provide a bit of background to the seemingly never ending struggle to conserve the unique and special places which are Thorne and Hatfield Moors SSSI.  They have been variously described as ‘wastes’ and it has been suggested that they are in fact ‘bogs in the wrong places’ because of the level of precipitation hereabouts.

The fact remains that they are here, they are special places and they are valued by local people as well as being recognised at an international level for the habitat type and species interests.  They have in recent years been recognised as being capable of making a significant contribution to regulating climate change because of their carbon sequestration capabilities.

None of the above is rocket science, locally we’ve known just how special these places are.  The problem seems to be getting those whose statutory duty it is to safeguard and protect them to listen.  As Iolo Williams said in his State of Nature address, they seemed to be categorised as ‘resources’ and as such are to be used and abused.  Where else in the UK would a Neolithic Trackway, discovered in 2004 be left preserved ‘in situ’, later to be abandoned to deteriorate because the agency charged with its care appears to have neglected their duty of care?


The image above was taken in 2005 when lots of people took and interest in the amazing discovery which astonishly had not ended up in bags of ‘organic multi-purpose composts’ destined for the garden centres.  Many of us who had witnessed decades of plunder had wondered what else had been bagged before discovery.  The image below is just two years later, when interest had drifted, got distracted and left it to the care of the statutory agency ….

There are other images which show the ongoing deterioration of the site, but they are depressing – do we need reminders of ‘moor’ failure?

Watch this  space for ‘moor’ revelations, coming shortly ….

Some spectacular orchids but ‘moor’ observations sought

June 26, 2013

Whilst not exceptionally rare, the images below illustrate well a trio of relatively common orchids to be found on Thorne Moors and also its near neighbour Hatfield Moors.

There are others to be found, contact us c/o and let us know what you discover.

The delightful Ophrys apifera  which mimics its namesake. Bee Orchids can be white as well as the more usual colouration shown below.

Bee Orchid IMc 3702


Dactylorhizia praetermissa or Southern Marsh Orchid, a species of damp grasslands, marshes and fens.


SMO IMc 3626


Dactylorhiza purpurella or Northern Marsh Orchid another species with similar habitat preferences to D. praetermissa. An extremely variable species even by Dactylorhiza standards and introgression by other members of the genus makes identification difficult and hybrids need close scrutiny and are probably only really determined through analysis of their DNA, not really an option out there in the field.


NMO IMc 3702  (2)


For viewers with a botanical interest and particularly for orchids, an excellent site full of first hand observations can be found here.

So, with better weather tempting more people out onto the moors let us know your interesting orchid observations. Contact us via

Images submitted by Ian McDonald.

BIRDING SITE GUIDE - Birding Site Guide

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Hatfield Moors Birding Blog

Bird and other wildlife information service for Hatfield Moors, South Yorkshire, UK © HMBSG 17/11/2010

Mark Avery

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

a new nature blog

I write about politics, nature + the environment. Some posts are serious, some not. These are my views, I don't do any promotional stuff and these views are not being expressed for anyone who employs me.

UK and Ireland Natural History Bloggers

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?