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Thursday, 29 May 2014

Curlew ups and downs

Since I last blogged on our curlew project we've been battling both the weather and ever-sneaky curlew behaviour to find more nests. Rachel and I even spotted a pair mating, "Aha!" we thought, but despite many hours watching these two they're not giving up the nest location just yet. We're therefore still monitoring just the two nests, after the failure of the first two.

There were three eggs in the morning when I found our fourth nest, and on returning to set up the camera that afternoon, a fourth had been laid - our first full clutch so far. With 28-30 days incubating time we should expect the eggs to hatch around the 14th June - fingers crossed!

A full clutch of four eggs in our fourth nest.
Mixed news from our other remaining monitored nest  - as you may have seen from our facebook page, our first chick hatched on 21st May which was great to see - but unfortunately the other egg failed to hatch from this clutch of only two.

Success! Our first chick shortly after hatching.
For the first few days after hatching the adult birds were very visible alarm calling and chasing off crows in the nest area - a good sign of the continued presence of the chick. However when I visited yesterday there was no sign of the birds - hopefully they have just moved on from the area as the chicks are very mobile very quickly. We will be carrying out follow-up surveys over the coming weeks to pick up these signs of adults with chicks, to try and get a rough idea of chick survival rates, and presence of chicks from nests we've not managed to find.

Kim L.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The lousewort

Crossing Jack Flat yesterday I came across numerous patches of a pink ground hugging plant unknown to me.  Not surprising, as I am no plant specialist, but I cannot remember seeing this one before, and yet it was very prolific.
Research soon established that this was the lousewort - Pedicularis sylvatica -
not a rarity by any means but an interesting plant all the same.  A lover of acidic bogs in sunny areas, this plant is semi-parasitic, taking nutrients from the host plants around it.

The name lousewort refers to the lice and liver-flukes that often inhabit the places in which the plant grows, sometimes infesting grazing animals, and occasionally humans.

The plant is evidently a useful skeletal muscle relaxant and has been used herbally to help 

overcome back and neck pain. Not too sure whether I would want to try it!

Monday, 19 May 2014

Large red damselfly and 4 spotted chaser

Last year I could not understand why we were not seeing these 2 insects until June.  After some research and 3 early morning visits to Ramsley, I now have the answer!
Both large reds and 4 spotted chasers are emerging during the second half of May, but straight away they leave the water's edge and fly off to mature in the nearby woodland.  They do not return to the water until they are ready to fight and breed. In fact some insects may travel several miles, searching out new habitats.  In this way the population gets crossed with other breeding colonies, ensuring the strength of the gene pool.
The first water's edge sightings may therefore not be until June. It is somewhat galling that we are up to 2 months behind the South of England and therefore have a somewhat shorter dragonfly and damselfly season.
Here is a link to my more detailed article and photographs of the damselfly emergence.

Below is a photograph of a 4 spotted chaser just after emergence, and its exuvia (the final cast skin).

Friday, 16 May 2014

Curlew on camera

Our curlew nest monitoring project is slowly building momentum as we move through the breeding season. We have been monitoring three nests since the first week in May using small motion-detecting night vision video cameras. The footage we’ve recorded so far has given us a great insight into life on the nest, as we have watched the parents building up the nest cup and taking turns in sharing incubation responsibilities.

A female curlew on the nest.

Doing a spot of nest repair.

Eggs are laid every day or two, with a full clutch usually comprising four eggs. The birds do not start continuous incubation until all eggs are laid, in order that they hatch at a similar time. We have recorded lower than average clutch sizes for our birds, with two pairs incubating three eggs and one pair managing only two.

Two curlew eggs under the watchful eye of our nest camera.

Unfortunately the two pairs with three eggs did not make it beyond a few days of incubation before they lost their eggs to predation – night time visits from a fox and a badger ending their first breeding attempts. Pairs losing their eggs early on will usually attempt a second brood so we’ll be keeping an eye out for these birds again.

Clear views of a badger helping itself to an egg.
Windblown grass doesn't quite obscure this fox making a quick visit.

There were a couple of other slightly unexpected visitors to one nest, though these didn't do any harm!

A wandering meadow pipit in the night.

A sheep which thankfully decided against eggs for breakfast.

The third nest is still going well with both birds sharing the incubating. So far it seems that the female will incubate during the day and the male through the night, with the male spending slightly more time on the nest overall. Fingers crossed this pair makes it to full 28-30 days of incubating. The short video below shows the birds changing shifts with the female (larger with a longer bill) flying off and the male arriving and settling down.

I’ve just found a fourth nest this morning which will get a camera this afternoon so we’ll be able to follow the fortunes of both these nests over the coming days – with hopefully more to come!

Kim L.

Thursday, 15 May 2014


When it comes to reusing items that people have thrown away then nature can teach us a few things! 
On a cold morning when the stone walls are like ice and even the fence posts still carry a chill, then there is one place to warm up quickly in the early rays of the sun.
Here it is.... a rusty drinks can lodged in the wall! 
Now I am in no way condoning leaving cans about for the lizard's benefit but in this case our lizard friend has a warm new basking site!

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Setting the gold standard

At first sight this is not an article about the Eastern Moors.  Well it isn't... but they do get a great mention in the second column! According to the Friends of the Peak District, Eastern Moors have set the standard by which all similar organisations will be judged!
 I think a word of congratulation is due to all staff and volunteers for making EMP a success.
I for one, hope it continues that way..

This article is copied from the Spring 2014 edition of the Peakland Guardian and is published by the Friends of the Peak District in association with the CPRE South Yorkshire.

Saturday, 10 May 2014


I wonder how many cuckoos we have on the EM? I have heard them on Jack Flat and Ramsley Moor, but nowhere else yet. Anyone got any other locations?