Monday, 11 December 2017

Crisis + Christmas + Countryfile + Craven!

This month saw the final Crisis 'Creative Conservation' course trip of the year. Creative Conservation is attended by Community Science volunteers who are members of Crisis South Yorkshire's Skylight training programme.  Each month we take a trip somewhere in the Peak District, and undertake a Community Science activity such as surveying Bumblebees, Sphagnum moss or brushing up on our navigation skills.

This time it was a festive celebration taking a ramble around Blacka Moor on the outskirts of Sheffield, stopping for mince pies, before ending up at the Moorland Discovery Centre on the National Trust's Longshaw Estate.

We timed it just right - and arrived back as John Craven and the BBC Countryfile crew were filming a piece about Christmas Trees for this year's Christmas show - to be aired on Christmas Eve.

If you watch it, look out for us as we may be 'extras' in the background of John's piece to camera. He was kind enough to join our team photo afterwards!

Friday, 17 November 2017

Adventures in the Uplands - photo competition top tips!

The Uplands of Great Britain provide us all with a fantastic opportunity for exploration and adventure. With the theme of ‘Adventures in the Uplands’ you have the opportunity to highlight exciting but responsible use of the wild places you explore - be they mountains, moorlands, upland woodlands or bogs.

Here are a few tips to help you on your way to creating images of your adventures:

1.    Find the lines

Many striking images rely on ‘lead-in lines’. This could be any kind of line that the observers eye can follow through the image, providing impact and focus to the picture. Footpaths are a great example to be found in the uplands.

2.    It’s all in the detail

A great photo of the uplands doesn’t have to be a landscape. Observe people’s activities and focus on the details of what they’re doing.  Maybe it’s the water splashes while playing in puddles or a climber’s grip as they hang on for dear life!

3.    Find the interesting perspective

Don’t be afraid to look at a scene from many angles and perspectives to make your picture stand out from the crowd. Also think about using the light to create interesting effects like silhouettes.

4.    Go wide

One of our favourite things about the uplands is the wide open views they provide. Consider creating panoramic pictures to take in the entire landscape.

5.    Shoot mono

Black and white images can help bring out the texture in a scene in a way colour images can’t. Try thinking in monochrome to create really eye-catching photos. 

To find out more and to enter the competition, visit the Moors for the Future Partnership website. Good luck!

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Making conservation engaging - a volunteer view

Guest blog post by volunteer Jackie Wragg

A crucial part of any conservation effort is public engagement. Over the summer I have volunteered with Moors for the Future Partnership to aid them in this effort. Is my motivation totally selfless? Not at all. Although I take great fulfilment from raising awareness and inspiring people to value the habitats and rally for the cause it isn’t the only benefit. It’s the invaluable experience to hopefully lead me into my future career in a rewarding role in conservation. This experience is the key to my dream job!

Comma butterfly photograped at Longshaw Estate
The unaccommodating yet spendid Green Leafhopper!
Over the summer Moors for the Future Partnership performed a “takeover” of the Moorland Discovery Centre at the Longshaw Estate every Thursday. Volunteering here gave me the opportunity to set up and run a range of activities many of which were aimed at engaging children in the different species that can be found in our local uplands.
The staff are so appreciative of the help and keen to listen to new ideas and put them into practise. The chance to be part of a team setting up an engaging experience for members of the public is something I would not have access to without volunteering. Not to mention the chance to take children out on a bug hunt in the surrounding area and the opportunity for a spot of wildlife photography at the same time. I have developed a serious obsession with getting the perfect picture of the beautiful yet unaccommodating Green Leafhopper (Cicadella viridis) thanks to seeing so many of them during my time at the Moorland Discovery Centre. They’re so quick it’s almost impossible to capture their splendidness on camera!
In addition to this “Bogfest”; an event I was truly proud to be a part of. I was chosen to provide a port-of-call for visitors to this international gathering in partnership with the IUCN at the Moors for the Future Stall. This was a fantastic opportunity to network with people working within the field and also provided some experience of working to engage different audiences such as professionals and landowners.

I intend to do much more volunteering for Moors for the Future. There is no doubt that people who volunteer are valued greatly and I look forward to more events where I can be a part of the Moors for the Future mission.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Analysing otter spraint

Guest blog post by Community Science volunteer Barry Soames.

Moors for the Future have a new Community Science Project, looking for signs of mammals in the uplands, the Tails of the Uplands Survey. (Follow the link for details of how to get involved and training courses available.)

Barry analysing a spraint sample
A key target species is the otter, one of our most attractive and endearing mammals, which nearly disappeared from England in the 1960s and 1970s, but which is now starting to recover across much of the animal's former range.

As I have had an interest in looking for signs of otters for over 20 years (when working in Scotland), I decided that I would like to get involved.

Evidence for otter presence is indicated by a number of signs, one of which is their droppings, known as spraint. As well as indicating presence, analysis of spraint can help us find out what the otters are eating. Traditionally this was done by examining spraint under a low power microscope, and identifying bones (and other undigested material, such as fur and feathers).

However, nowadays, more sophisticated methods are available using DNA analysis. It is interesting to compare results of both techniques, and I have been examining samples from which DNA has been extracted and sequenced to identify prey items. The genetic analyses were performed at the Molecular Ecology Laboratory at the University of Sheffield as part of the Otterly Amazing project run by the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust.

The first step in identifying prey remains involves cleaning the spraint. Otter spraint tend to be surprisingly sweet smelling, with the remains embedded in a sort of oily matrix. To dissolve the matrix and leave the cleaned bones, I used denture cleaning tablets. The spraint is dropped in an inch or two of hot water in a beaker, a denture tablet added and then left overnight. After the spraint has been cleaned in this way, it is then filtered to leave just the bones, and any fur.

Sample '119' contained mainly fish bones
Not all the droppings collected were otter spraint, for instance at least one specimen seems to be mink. I found out that my cleaning method only really works well with otter spraint, other droppings often had to be teased apart using tweezers.

Once this is done, the harder part comes in - identifying a small pile of assorted bones. To do this, I started with a very useful Mammal Society publication, "A Guide to the Identification of Prey Remains in Otter Spraint" This small booklet is mainly aimed at identifying fish bones, and concentrates on those bones which have the clearest differences between species. Much of the booklet deals with caudal vertebrae (the parts of the backbone in the tail), with additional clues coming from parts of the jaw, particularly pharyngeal teeth (teeth found on the gill arches).

This sample was probably mink scat, with mammal remains, in particular field vole, having been identified from the teeth and jaw remains.

So far I have identified bones from minnow and bullhead, as well as crayfish shell. It is noticeable that the prey identified so far has been of small fish, compared to the larger fish found when, several years ago, I examined spraint from rivers in Scotland. Not all the material examined was from otters, with one sample consisting mainly of fur with a few bones. Parts of jaw and teeth found in this sample enabled identification of field vole. (This dropping would seem to be mink).

If you would like to see some of the results, I have a page on my website for results.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Dog's Vomit!

A great find from a Community Science volunteer - This yellow blob is actually 'Mucilago crustacea' a slime mould known as dog's vomit (or dog's snot)! 

It was photographed by Julian Barber as he helped with the annual vegetation monitoring at our site on the Roaches in the South West Peak. 

Dog's vomit encrusts over vegetation -  starting off this almost luminous yellow colour, before turning white and then black within 24 hours as the spores mature.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Photo competition display - on tour!

Images on display in Bakewell Gallery

A display of the winning, runner-up and selected short-listed photos from our 'water in the uplands' themed photographic competition is now touring venues throughout the summer and into autumn. You can visit the exhibition at the venues below; and we will add more dates to the list when new venues are confirmed.

26th May - 9th June: Gallery Oldham
9th June - 23rd June: Totley Library
23rd June - 7th July - Bakewell Tourist Information Centre
7th July - 21st July - Sheffield Central Library
21st July - 4th August - Marsden Moor Exhibition Centre (National Trust)
4th August - 18th August - Brownhill Countryside Centre, Greater Manchester
18th August - 1st September - Hayfield Library
1st September - 15th September - University of Sheffield -Western Bank Library
15th September - 23rd September - Edale Visitor Centre and 'BogFest'