Monday, 5 December 2016

A volunteer view

Guest blog post by Community Science volunteer Mollie:

I've been volunteering with Moors for the Future for the last few months and it's been a fantastic experience. 

I've learnt a lot about the flora and fauna of moorland environments and got the opportunity to explore different places across the Peak District/South Pennines.

Since the middle of September I have been taking part in the dipwell campaign. The purpose of this is to measure the water table level across different sites in the South Pennines on the same day every week for twelve weeks. There are over ten areas to cover with 2 to 3 volunteers or staff members each so it's a fairly big operation. 

For our group of volunteers we've had the responsibility of monitoring five patches across the Kinder Scout Plateau. As someone who's only ever been up and down a small part of Kinder it has been an amazing opportunity to explore the landscape up there and see it change as we've gone from September through to December.

Kinder river - our favourite spot for a lunch break

We've seen ring ouzel, kestrels, a mountain hare, lots of grouse, flocks of redwing and field fares and one of my favourites, a snipe. 

It's going to be really interesting to see what the data shows about how well water is retained across different sites, as many of them have restoration works happening nearby. Taking part in the dipwell campaign has been a great way to get involved and didn't need any previous experience. I'm hoping to also take part next year to see how the sites are continuing to change and hopefully spot some more wildlife!

You see all kinds of weather on the dipwell campaign!

If you'd like to volunteer with Moors for the Future take a look at our volunteering page:

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

A celebration of the rowan tree

For National Tree Week, Community Science project officer Tom Aspinall has written a blog to celebrate the rowan...

Every time I see a rowan tree my love for them grows! They truly are one of the most stunning trees that we have in Great Britain.

There’s also so much to learn about them beyond their obvious aesthetic beauty...

Of all the trees growing in our country, the rowan is the one able to grow at the highest altitudes. This explains one half of its other common name – the mountain ash. You can walk in the mountains of Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales and find rowan trees growing in the most obscure places such as rocky outcrops and cliff faces – they really are a hardy tree. However, they are a pioneer species and as a result are short-lived and often relatively small, usually reaching a maximum height of 10-15 metres.

The second half of the other common name comes from the close resemblance of their leaves to those of the ash tree. This is another of our stunning native species, but one which favours lower lands than the rowan. The leaves of both these species are compound and pinnate, meaning they are made up of several leaflets in pairs along the main leaf stem with one at the tip, as can be seen in the image of a rowan leaf below.

Whilst these leaves are distinctive, it is the beautiful clusters of small cream flowers that then turn to scarlet red berries that really make the rowan stand out from the crowd. The flowers are a great source of nectar and pollen for pollinating insects such as bumblebees, and the berries are a valuable source of food for many species of birds including thrushes and waxwings. There is no greater sight than seeing a flock of waxwings feeding on the berries of a rowan tree in late autumn.

Illustration (c) Chris Shields

 Ecologically, the rowan is a very important tree in our countryside - but it also has strong cultural significance - in no small part due to the vivid red colouration of those berries. The colour red has long been thought of as the colour to ward off evil and so rowan trees were once planted near houses to keep evil spirits away. Its Celtic name – ‘fid na ndruad' – means ‘wizard’s tree’.

Names can tell us many things, and with all species of animals and plants it’s worth trying to learn and understand the scientific name to gain further insight into the history of a species. Rowan’s scientific name is Sorbus aucuparia with ‘aucuparia’ being derived from the words ‘avis’ for birds and ‘capere’ for catching, describing the use of rowan trees as bait to lure in birds to be caught.

The rowan is one of four plants associated with the uplands that volunteers have been monitoring as part of our ‘Buds, Berries and Leaves’ survey. This survey records the timing of natural events (such as bud burst, flowering, fruiting and leaf fall) over the long term, to see if they are changing.

In this way we hope to be able to monitor the effects of climate change on the vegetation of the uplands. If you’re interested in contributing to important climate change data by walking a regular route and recording what you see, then please have a look on our website for more details:

I hope you’ll agree that rowan truly is a jewel of our countryside and definitely a tree worth appreciating.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Top tips for entering our photography competition

Here are 6 top tips for those thinking of entering our 'Water in the Uplands' photo competition:

1.  Slow the flow

Reduce your camera’s shutter speed to catch the dreamy effect of water in flow. 

A tripod is a handy piece of kit to keep your camera steady, but alternatively use a small bean bag or even a folded up jumper to sit your camera on. 

Use the self-timer function so you can go hands free, ensuring the camera doesn’t move while it’s recording the shot.

2. Beauty in the details

Look more closely at water and you’ll be amazed by some of the little details to be found.

Capture bubbles below a waterfall, reflections in puddles and get really close to discover the world of water droplets.

3. Water in the landscape

Consider the wider landscape and make water a part of the bigger picture.

Think how it has shaped its surroundings whether naturally or by the addition of man-made structures like bridges and weirs.

4. Go abstract

There’s so much potential for creating abstract images of water.

Create patterns from a flowing waterfall or focus on ripples in a calm pool.

5.  Winter wonderland

Winter is a great time to photograph water as the cold takes hold to create ice and snow.

Get out early after a cold night and capture incredible ice formations clinging to plants and rocks.

Alternatively take a break from sledging after a big snowfall and capture incredible winter scenery.

6.  Life giving water

There are many plant and animal species that rely on the habitats provided by the water in our uplands.

Capture beautiful creatures in their watery homes or look at plants like Sphagnum mosses that keep our blanket bogs saturated.

Tom Aspinall

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Autumn cloud inversions

Autumn is a fantastic time of year to witness some stunning scenery and landscapes - and perhaps one of the very best sights is a cloud inversion:

Above is the view of Edale valley from Mam Nick yesterday. Inversions like this need specific conditions to form. They are most likely to be seen in early morning when a layer of saturated cold air becomes trapped underneath a layer of warmer air higher up the valley sides.

The inversion was still visible from Kinder Scout later yesterday morning as Community Science volunteers headed to the Environmental Monitoring site:

Looking back towards Edale - Rob Westrick

Remnants of cloud still visible in Edale from higher up the hill - Rob Westrick
From the plateau cloud could be seen still clinging to the Hope Valley in the middle distance; while the crystal clear upper layers of air allowed a stunning view for miles:

View from Kinder - Richard Walker

Monday, 17 October 2016

Photo competition 2016 - 'Water in the Uplands'

We're very happy to announce that this year's Community Science photo competition is now open for entries.

The theme for entries this year is 'WATER IN THE UPLANDS'  - intended in part to draw attention to the wide-ranging positive effects of re-wetting blanket bogs. As ever you are free to interpret this theme as you see fit - using as much creativity and imagination as possible!

This year there are age-based categories for photographers to enter - 'Adults' or '15 and under', and we have kindly been donated some fantastic prizes:

The winner of the adults category will win this amazing HD nest box camera system worth £99 - donated by Gardenature.

The winner of the 15 and under category will win this (appropriately) waterproof camera worth £130 donated by Harrison Cameras.
The deadline for entries is 31st Dec 2016. For full details of how to enter, please see our webpage. Good luck!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

A journey bee-yond bee-lief

Blog post by Tom Aspinall:

The morning after a long day of field work at the Roaches in the south-west Peak District it dawned on me that upon arriving home in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire the evening before, I had not unpacked my rucksack.

I got to work removing my lunch box and the tools I’d been using only to hear a very strange sound emanating from the bottom of my bag.

At first I thought it may be air escaping from my half-drunk flask of tea but removing that did not stop the noise. Deciding something must have made a temporary home in my bag I took it outside and with trepidation emptied the contents on to the ground. To my surprise out popped a beautiful, fresh-looking, queen, white-tailed bumblebee!

Having travelled nearly 40 miles in my bag the previous day I imagined the poor bee was hungry and as she seemed unable to fly I fed her up on some sugar water which she seemed to enjoy as you can see in the video below.


After she’d eaten I placed her on an open flower so that she could warm up and hopefully get some sweet nectar inside her. Unfortunately the weather had different ideas and the torrential downpour that followed forced me to move the lethargic insect to a sheltered spot underneath some winter heather.

Bumblebee on the step - close to death
The following afternoon I thought I should check on my garden guest. Disappointment followed as I found that she hadn’t moved an inch and didn’t look any more active than before. I again moved to her into the sun on the open cosmos flower so she could warm up and eat. She had other ideas and after a couple of hours I found her on the garden step looking close to death.

One final attempt to rejuvenate her was needed so with garden gloves on I lifted her up and put her on the flower head of a nearby lavender plant. 

She quickly started lapping up nectar from the tiny flowers and once all were exhausted her little legs were waving at me to help her to the next one. I repeated this several times and while her energy looked to be increasing she still didn’t seem able to fly.

With hope dwindling my partner then had the great idea of pulling the lavender flowers together and trapping them against one another to form a network of bridges so that I could have a rest and the bee could make her own way between the flowers. This was the move that made all the difference! 

Just a few minutes later, to our astonishment, the bee lifted into the air and buzzed away. Her four day ordeal and epic journey had not, as I had feared, been the end of her and I like to think she’s now found a safe hole nearby to hibernate for winter so that she can visit us again next spring.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Bleaklow timelapse sequence

These fixed point photos, taken over the last 13 years, show the return of vegetation to Hern Clough on Bleaklow, Derbyshire - one of the sites where Moors for the Future Partnership have carried out conservation works:
2003 - the site is largely bare peat and exposed mineral soil  
2005 - after initial treatment with heather brash, lime, seed and fertilizer the grass 'nurse crop' is in evidence. Note the empty brash bags awaiting removal.

2008 - repeat treatments have allowed the nurse crop to become established, knitting the peat surface together.

2010 - the nurse grasses have almost completely covered the bare peat, and there is evidence of other plants becoming established.

2013 - the area of exposed mineral soil is noticeably reduced and there are signs of dwarf shrubs like heather growing.

2016 - the dwarf shrub coverage has increased as can be seen by this heather in flower.
Watch a video of the re-vegetation so far...