The snow that fell during the second week of January was certainly badly timed in terms of getting any practical Sphagnum planting done, but in terms of timing (happening a week after the project launch) gave me a chance to introduce the new volunteers to some of the conditions we will be working in on this project...only one drop-out, but to be fair she wasn’t feeling well before we left, and the climb up in sub-zero temperatures did nothing to help.
Early February, the snow was gone, but replaced by gale-force winds and LOTS of rain. This didn’t stop some of our hardiest volunteers who got absolutely covered in peat in the worthy cause of planting Sphagnum in earnest as there’s a lot to do in the next 3 years!
Last Tuesday was probably the worst day with only one hardy volunteer who braved the 40mph wind and ‘stinging’ snow-showers to join me on a bit of a search across my restoration sites to look for suitable sphagnum planting areas. It was all made worthwhile when during a very short lunch bread (believe me you don’t want to sit around and eat for too long in that weather, we were rewarded for our efforts as we had the pleasure of watching a Short-eared owl hunting on the riverbank not 20 metres from where we were sitting as well as seeing the first Golden plover on the bog this year.
Last week was also useful time spent planning what we’ll be doing during bird breeding season from April to mid-July; clearly taking up large groups on to the breeding areas of our rare birds is a big NO NO! so other tasks are needed to keep everyone busy and me out of mischief. Ad part of this WREN funded project, the aims are fairly simple:
These last two will require some good surveys now, during and at the end of the project to measure if we have been successful in achieving our targets; therefore the aim is to carry out breeding bird and water vole surveys across all of my five treatment areas.
On top of this, I’ll be touring Britain in search of areas abundant in Sphagnum where there’s potential for sustainably harvesting some of what’s there and replanting at Dove Stone, where over the years, these essential peat-forming species have disappeared from the Peak District. If you’ve got any going spare, please let me know!!!
The brambling was back today in amongst about 20 chaffinch together with the now resident reed bunting (hope I've not tempted fate). Other visitors included a jay, male bullfinch, siskin, greenfinch, goldfinch, blackbird, blue tit, coal tit, great tit and a small flock of 6 long tailed tits. There were two wood pigeons and several male pheasants together with a splendid treecreeper feeding off the fat cake feeder.
Activity at Ashway Gap was very limited with no sign of the peregrines.
Reports again of sightings of raven at Birchen Clough.
The lone Reed Bunting must like Binn Green because he's still around. Additionally there were Jays, chaffinch, goldfinch, blue tits, coal tits, great tits, blackbirds, robin, siskin and a mistle thrush.
There have been reports this week of 3 pairs of golden plover on Saddleworth Moor close to the A635 above Binn Green, ravens at Birchen Clough and a male bullfinch at the feeding station at Binn Green.
Tremendous close up views of two kestrels hunting just off the main footpath south of the Ashway Gap picnic area. It was an excellent chance to see how they controlled their position with apparent ease in the very strong winds this afternoon.
Following the successful mountain hare walk at Dove Stone last Sunday I was told of another sighting of a hare off the track up to Chew reservoir this afternoon.