Bird's eye view

Raven © Daniel Plunner

Blanket bog birds by the season
– what to expect through winter, spring, summer and autumn.

You don’t automatically think of the noise of a blanket bog; in fact quite often there is no noise. When there is, however, it is fantastic - the sound of the skylark, high above the fell, singing its little heart out; the curlew, calling on the wind as if to beckon you to embrace its world; the golden plover is mysterious and haunting - a faint whistle that appears from nowhere and disappears as quickly. These are just some of the delights that our upland birds bestow on our moors.

Obviously, not all the year is graced with birdsong. As the seasons progress, the birds subtly change - yes there are some residents, but also some welcome visitors.

Red grouse © Beth Thomas

Red grouse © Beth Thomas

Winter

We imagine winter will be snow and cold; this year, however, it’s been relatively mild.

The red grouse are always about and happy to shout about it. The raptors can be seen hunting in the daytime also. A fleeting glimpse of the short eared owl hunting or the flash of a merlin racing across the landscape all add to the bleakness and foreboding nature of the moor at this time of year. Red kite, the opportunist and a regular visitor, soar above the landscape, looking for carrion. Ravens flap overhead, their harsh calls clear in the air; sometimes, they are only soughing wings and calls out in the mist. Flocks of golden plover accumulate as if to stay warm. When disturbed they fly up and around in mumurating fashion only to land again further in the distance. Snipe huddle in the clumps of rush, only flushed out if you step too close.

Spring

Nature’s resurgence of life, works wonders on the uplands; the rough clumps of decaying grasses beginning to grow once more. With the new life comes new food and an increase in temperature. Pairs of birds begin to be seen. Geese find the solitude of the moors to their liking – greylag set up home. It’s not all big birds though, the smaller birds come back after the winter - skylark and meadow pipit return to sing and chatter across the heather.

Meadow pipits © Beth Thomas

Meadow pipits © Beth Thomas

Summer

The abundance of food: where else but quality blanket bog would be home to so many insects? There are even carnivorous plants to eat the abundance of bugs. The golden plover is wary when breeding and rarely seen, a stark contrast compared with the wintering flocks. The warmth flowers the heather and the moors turn purple, the cottongrass headsmottle the landscape with white fluffy cloud patches. The moors come alive with busy birds rushing to feed their growing families before winter sets in once more and the weather cools and changes the environment again.

Short eared owl © Kevin Tappenden

Short eared owl © Kevin Tappenden

Autumn

Autumn comes early on the moors; the season is short. Raptors continue to patrol and can be regularly seen. The snipe snuggle back down into the rushes once more as if they know the onset of the cold winter and the moorland harshness returns.

Out surveying in this wonderful habitat, we are lucky enough to experience the moors in all their grandeur. The vast expanse of English wilderness is to be savoured; the tranquillity it offers makes the soul come alive. The birdsong is amplified amongst the silence and the rare glimpses of these aerial natives gives a wonderful perspective and overview of the whole area. The silence allows your imagination to fly above the ground, enhancing the features and highlighting its beauty. How wonderful our peatlands are – I think so and so does our birdlife – whatever time of the year.

Snipe © Kevin Tappenden

Snipe © Kevin Tappenden