Wide and varied habitats and creatures
There are many different types of intriguing and beautiful creatures that inhabit the moorlands and woodlands of the Peak District. The Dark Peak area itself has some specialities not found in other parts of the National Park. The Peak District is the most southerly point at which the mountain hare has been spotted in the UK.
Red grouse (Lagopus lagopus)
'Go-back, go-back' is the distinctive call of this reddish-brown game bird, which can be heard on the heather moorlands all year round. It inhabits the moorlands because of the lack of trees on the landscape and the wealth of heather shoots, seeds and flowers that it feeds on.
Mountain hare (Lepus timidus)
The mountain hare is shorter than the brown hare, with shorter ears and legs, and inhabits the moorlands to graze on the many plants. It uses depressions in the ground for shelter under heather and rock outcrops. To prepare for winter, it sheds the black/grey summer coat, replacing it with a distinctive partially white coat but keeping the black-tipped ears.
Cotton grass (Eriophorum angustifolium)
The common cotton grass is very deceptive. It looks like a grass but is actually part of the sedge family. It has long slender grass-like leaves but is mostly recognisable by its seed heads of fluffy masses of cotton, which are designed to be dispersed by the wind. This plant is of great importance in preventing peat erosion.
Weasel (Mustela nivalis)
Known for their ingenuity and cunning, weasels use pre-defined hunting routes to track down their prey. As the prey scurries away to its burrow, the weasel's slender long body is well adapted to follow into the smallest of spaces. It sets up a den in a burrow, rock crevice or drystone wall. You can see the weasel active both day and night.
Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)
A short, shrubby, perennial bush, the bilberry's head blossoms into pink bell-shaped flowers in spring. It has stems that can stand approximately 50cm high and are covered in bright-green, oval-shaped leaves. In autumn, the pink flower of the bilberry ripens into a bluish-black fruit producing single or paired berries instead of clusters.
Meadow pipit (Anthus Trivialis)
Often mistaken for a song thrush, the pipit can be identified by its olive-brown upper parts with dark streaks and dull pink legs. It can be seen all year round in the Peak District, mostly on the ground rummaging for insects or in their nests of dry grass. Listen for its distinctive short and repetitive song.
Short-eared owl (Asio flammeus)
Sharp yellow eyes survey the open and rugged countryside of the moors. Swooping a few feet from the ground, the short-eared owl plunges feet first into the vegetation as its prey scurries away to safety. This hunter can be seen by visitors to the moors both day and night, but will be seen more frequently during the winter months.
Water vole (Cricetidae Arvicola terrestr...
As a small, brown-bodied, long-tailed and fat-faced creature, the water vole is usually mistaken for a gluttonous rat. They dig out their burrows in the banks of a stream or canal, then line their nests with grass before heading off along the upland waterways in search of grasses, bark and roots to feast upon.
Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum)
An evergreen shrub that grows in carpets and low hummocks on acidic peatlands. Its distinctive pale purple flower appears in May, followed by a bounty of dark-purple-to-black juicy berries which contain large seeds. To spot the crowberry, look out for the reddish stems and dark green needle-like leaves that cover the grounds of the moorlands.
Alport bird hide
Since 2002 we have put a bird hide on the top of the Alport Valley, which returns every March before nesting season and is taken off the moor for winter. Birds spotted from the hide include peregrine falcons, kestrels and other raptors. The hide overlooks Alport Castles and is situated a couple of metres from the public footpath on the way round to the Upper Derwent Valley. The current hide is a converted Anderson shelter as this has proved more durable than previous incarnations of the hide.
Lots of the fun 50 things to do take you exploring the world of the wildlife kingdom. Have a look at the great activities below and go venture into the Peak District to try them out.
17. Set up a snail race
34. Track wild animals
35. Discover what's in a pond (check out our Down by the pond event at Longshaw)
36. Make a home for a wild animal
40. Go on a nature walk at night