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Friday, 25 July 2014

Close of curlew monitoring

With the onset of summer (a real summer no less, with actual sunshine!) many birds are on the move already, and wader migration peaks earlier than most. Curlew are no exception, and it’s been a good week or two since I’ve heard one over the moors – the majority of birds have finished breeding and are moving to lowland and coastal feeding grounds.

Big Moor looking green, and light on curlew, late in the season.

Our nest and productivity monitoring has therefore come to an end and I’ve swapped fieldwork for data analysis – what have we learnt?

The curlew population on the Eastern Moors appears to be stable – both this year’s standardised and more intensive survey efforts indicate around 20 breeding pairs, similar to previous surveys dating back 10 years. The productivity analysis supports this view, with curlew producing just above the number of young which is needed to maintain a stable population. This is good news at a time when the national (and international) picture is one of decline.

A chick trying (and failing!) to flatten itself to the ground during a productivity survey.

However, this comes from a sample of a small population – we found nests for six pairs of birds, plus an additional three pairs where the young were located but not the nest. We therefore know the nesting outcomes for around half of the Eastern Moors population – but a small number in absolute terms.

Of the six pairs whose nests were located, two pairs failed to hatch chicks (due to egg predation) and one pair the chicks were predated shortly after hatching. In a fourth pair the eggs were predated, but they successfully hatched three chicks in a second clutch.

Foxes predated two clutches of eggs and the chicks shortly after hatching, with a badger taking the third clutch of eggs. I previously blogged about a possible crow-predated nest, however after looking at both predated and recently-hatched egg remains this is much more consistent with the latter.

Recently hatched eggshell remains.

We found curlew across a range of habitat types across the Eastern Moors, with a wet grass/rush dominated area generally being preferred as a nest location and fewer birds in heather dominated areas. Surprisingly birds often nested (successfully) in areas close to roads and footpaths, areas which may be considered relatively disturbed, even with much less-disturbed habitat available - there seems plenty of scope for the area to support a larger population.

Undisturbed habitat among the cotton grass in the middle of Big Moor.

It’s difficult to draw any wider conclusions based on one year’s intensive survey effort of a small population, and with a 2-3 year time lag before birds return to breed (assuming fledglings return) data needs to be collected over a number of years to see the impacts of year-to-year variations in productivity – which may not necessarily be reflected in breeding population size.

The wider South Pennines is one of the few areas in the UK where curlew numbers are not declining, and the Eastern Moors appears to be following that pattern. It’s important we keep monitoring and looking at ways in which we can maintain, and hopefully increase, curlew numbers – a little help to buck the wider downward trend.

Kim L.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Snipe and other Ramsley residents

4 snipe in Ramsley old reservoir this morning.  I seem to see at least 2 every time I go there - which is quite often!
2 lapwings also seem to have made this their home.
Dragonflies are a little disappointing so far but I have seen 2 emperors in the long pool and several 4 spotted chasers.  Graham advises seeing a blue tailed skimmer and a golden ringed in Ramsley.  What I really want to see is the chunky broad bodied chaser, but time is running out!  Not seen one anywhere on the Eastern Moors this year.  Anyone else seen a dumpy blue dragonfly that looks like a mini jumbo jet?

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Bring out the WILD CHILD

The Eastern Moors Partnership are teaming up with other partners to bring free 'Bring out the Wild Child' forums for people working with children and families across Derbyshire and Sheffield.

This September we are inviting people to join us at one of four forums which will include a screening of the much talked about Project Wild Thing film, the chance to learn some wild time activities from the Wildtime App and workshops for sharing ideas and enabling discussions around the main issues preventing children and families from spending time outdoors in nature, and how we might work together to tackle them.  

All forums take place from 1pm-5pm and are FREE.

Thursday 4th September - University of Derby, Kedleston Road, Derby, DE22 1GB
To book contact Derbyshire Wildlife Trust on 01773 881188 or email  

Thursday 11th September - University of Derby, Buxton Campus, 1 Devonshire Road, Buxton, SK17 6RY.  To book contact Derbyshire Wildlife Trust on 01773 881188 or email

Friday 12th September - Weston Park Museum, Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TP. 
To book contact Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust on 0114 2634335 or email  

Monday 22nd September - Chesterfield College.  To book contact Derbyshire Wildlife Trust on 01773 881188 or email

To bring this opportunity to Derbsyhire and Sheffield, we have teamed up with Project Wild Thing, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust, National Trust, Derby University, Peak District National Park Authority and Derbyshire County Council.

David Bond's “Project Wild Thing” film looks at how children are becoming increasingly detached from nature through lack of 'wild play' time. It follows the publication of the Natural Childhood Report by Stephen Moss, commissioned by the National Trust in 2012.  The report and film have sparked the Wild Network campaign which aims to get children and their parents outdoors having fun together in nature through 'wild play'.   More information about ‘Project wild thing’ can be found at:

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Woodland survey training

In the last 15 months the EMP volunteers have faced storms, ice, snow, bogs and molinia in their mission to collate information about our beloved Moors.  Today Kim and Alex lead us on a new challenge to penetrate the birch and bracken jungle that is Jack Flat. Armed with little more than clipboards we confronted the millions of midges that inhabit this area so that we could learn how to measure everything that didn't move. 

We checked out the flora, looked for signs of fauna and discussed the terrain.  

We measured the height of trees and the width of their trunks, we looked at pieces of dead wood and measured those as well.

 Some of us learnt new terms like windthrow and browseline and we discussed the difference between frayed stems and browsed stems.

 In spite of all the decaying matter and fungal infection we had an educational few hours analysing just one 25m square. Kim and Alex are to be credited for putting up with willing but sometimes amateur students. It is now up to these hardy volunteers (and wardens) to implement this knowledge elsewhere and build up a comprehensive perspective of the woodland areas throughout the Eastern Moors.
Luckily we have 3 months to work on this project so we can pick and choose the days to do it. Hopefully this means we can avoid the worst of the summer weather and, of course, avoid the plagues of midges.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Work experience on the Eastern Moors

I’ve been doing my work experience with the Eastern Moors Partnership. There’s been a lot of things for me to do, like dry stone walling, fencing and vegetation monitoring also there’s been a lot of smaller jobs like changing bridleway signs and helping to collect cut grass. Also all the people who work and volunteer here are friendly and wont leave you with nothing to do.  This week has been really fun and I’ve learnt a lot a lot about the local wildlife by doing things and asking questions as its a really interesting and nice place to be in. I’ve seen a lot of the local wildlife that you wouldn’t see in city like red deer and swallows.