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'

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Community Science wildlife records 2016 - an overview

During 2016, Community Science received sightings of 6324 individual animals via our 'casual record' surveys; that is: birds (curlew, red grouse and swallow); butterflies (peacock, orange tip and green hairstreak); mountain hares, brown hares and rabbits; and ring ouzel and redwing.

The majority of sightings - 4322 - were from the birds survey, but 300 butterflies were seen along with 893 hares and rabbits, and 809 ring ouzels or redwings.

The map below shows the distribution of these records across our project area - the Peak District and South Pennines. The blue line is the boundary of the Peak District National Park, and the purple shape is the SAC (Special Area of Conservation) designated as internationally important for the habitats it contains - including blanket bog.

The light blue dots show where sightings of these individual animals came from (note that each dot could represent more than one individual animal, for example if someone saw 10 swallows in a particular place) and it is interesting to note that generally, the sightings broadly match the SAC shape, especially in the Dark Peak area.

The red dots, added for comparison, show where we distributed freepost postcards asking for people to send in sightings (sightings were also submitted via our website and the MoorWILD app). These hint at the correlation between location of sightings and distribution of postcards - underlining the limits of 'casual' surveys such as these.

Nevertheless, there are some useful and interesting things which the data can reveal: During 2016 the casual ring ouzel sightings helped to inform where surveyors looked when conducting an extensive breeding bird survey of the Eastern Moors area. The distribution of hares, and the correlation between mountain hare coat colour and snowfall has fed into a PhD on the subject of 'seasonal crypsis' in that species.

In the longer term, we'll be able to see if the dates certain species are first sighted in a year (for example emergence of green hairstreak butterfly, or the return of curlews to their moorland breeding areas) are shifting - and whether this fits into a pattern of earlier springs which are predicted to occur as our climate changes.

To find out more about current climate change research, please see some of the links we've gathered together on our webpage.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Work placement with Community Science

Guest blog post by Ellie Shaw
I chose to come to Moors for the Future Partnership for my work experience, working with the Community Science team I have seen and taken part in a large range of activities and developed lots of skills.

I have listened to talks about what Moors for the Future do and how they do it and have attended a bumblebee training session in Todmorden where, with a few other members of the local community, we learnt how to identify and record the different types of bees. 

In the afternoon we tried to put what we had learned into practice and went for a walk around the local area, despite there being a lot of flowers and plants, we saw relatively few bees, 5 or 6 early bumblebees, some tree bumblebees and a Common Carder queen bee which I found on a car.

I also helped at an event at Chatsworth where we, myself, Joe and some casual members of staff, set up and ran the teachers preview event in the stick yard to raise awareness but also as a practice for the following weekend. 

As well as various information boards and activities such as matching the caterpillar with the butterfly we had various demonstrations, one showing the blocking up of gullies by pouring water down tubes, one smooth, one grassy and another grass and model gullies demonstrating how the work MFFP do slows down the water and allows sediment to build. We also took peaty water and poured it through a bottle filled with sphagnum moss to show how well it cleans the water.

With school I had to set myself three goals for the week, to improve on analysing figures, improve on problem solving skills and build on my knowledge of using online programs. I feel as though I have achieved all three, I have learnt to analyse records of sighting and been able to input them into iRecord using other programs to help me find the needed information and I have built on problem solving skills through many things such as helping to organise and set up events.

It has been a great week which I have really enjoyed. The range of different things I have seen and done has given me plenty of ideas about what I want to do in the future and a much larger awareness for what is around me. Thank you.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Buds, Berries and Leaves survey: A volunteer view

Guest post by Community Science volunteer Jeff Kessler: 

So, here I am slowly walking up a steep hillside. I’m a bit short of breath & the wind’s cold and has a bit of a bite to it but do I care? No, because the sunshine is glorious & the views are just stunning. 

The other side of Luddenden Dean is a patchwork of fields & woodland; steeper lower down then a shallower slope higher up as it becomes the shelf. Above that is the moor, bleaker but still beautiful & full of life, albeit not quite as showy as some other habitats.

Volunteers undertaking a Buds, Berries and Leaves survey...

I’m on my way from Jerusalem Farm car park to the beginning of the Midgley Moor transect to do the Buds, Berries and Leaves Survey. It’s an easy task, I just have check & record whether the specific plants being surveyed have buds, berries or leaves on them. 

I’ll then pass on the data to Moors for the Future, who’ll use it to learn about changes in the timing of events in the plants’ life cycles; important information to track the effects of climate change. I don’t need to be a botanist, or even know that much about plants to do this, I got the training I need in a day & I know I can contact the Moors for the Future Community Science team if I need any advice.

So, what do I get from doing this survey work for Moors for the Future? I’ve learnt more about certain plants & the moorland habitat, & have now started to work on my general plant id skills & understanding of ecology; I get the satisfaction of contributing to scientific investigation of the natural environment & how to protect it; I get lots of fresh air & exercise; if I’m lucky I’ll see a kestrel or other bird of prey!

All round, well worth doing!