Wildlife at Marsden Moor

Close up image of a short-eared owl standing on the moor.

Deep peat covers most of Marsden Moor and provides the ideal habitat for plants and animals that can cope with heavy rainfall, little shelter and acidic soil. The moors are an important place for wildlife, discover below those that call Marsden Moor their home.

Birds

Marsden Moor is a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) on account of the breeding bird population and it is of European importance for some declining upland bird species.

A number of birds arrive on the moors in late February to breed and raise their young. The moors are a treeless landscape where birds nest on the ground which leaves them vulnerable to predators, wildlife and disturbance from people and dogs. It is for this reason that walkers must stay on the footpaths and dogs must be kept on leads during nesting season (1 March - 31 July).

Twite
A small twite almost hidden in the grassland
Twite

Twite

Also known as the pennine finch, the Twite is one of the UKs most threatened birds.
The Peak District and South Pennines are one of the strongholds of this little brown bird. Its diet is comprised entirely of seeds which may be the cause of its decline as seed-rich grassland habitats have declined.

Golden plover
A golden plover
Golden plover

Golden Plover

The golden plover breeds on upland heathland and blanket bog. A major food source comes from craneflies or ‘daddy long legs’ who favour the wetter areas of the moorlands. It is an impressive wading bird with a gold spangled back. 

Merlin
A merlin perches on the ground, alert to any movement
Merlin

Merlin

The merlin is Britain’s smallest bird of prey – a compact falcon that spends the summer in the uplands nesting in patches of long heather. The main prey of merlin are meadow pipits.

Short-eared owl
A short-eared owl
Short-eared owl

Short-eared owl

Short-eared owls fly with slow, heavy wing beats and are one of Britains’ owl species that are more easily seen. They are largely nocturnal but also active during daylight when they can sometimes be seen hunting for voles.

March marks the start of the ground nesting bird season, when species such as curlew begin to build their nests on the moor.
A curlew, which are found on Marsden Moor, West Yorkshire
March marks the start of the ground nesting bird season, when species such as curlew begin to build their nests on the moor.

Curlew

Curlew spend the winter in coastal areas and arrive on the moorland in spring for breeding. A large wader and an iconic bird of the moors, with its distinctive call and long downcurved bill.
 

Snipe
Snipe
Snipe

Snipe 

A medium sized wader with a long straight bill. During the breeding season the males can be heard making a ‘drumming’ sound as their tail feathers vibrate in the wind during rapid descents in flight displays.

Dunlin
A dunlin by water
Dunlin

Dunlin 

A small, elusive wader which nests on blanket bog. The pools provide an abundance of tiny insects and invertebrates for dunlin chicks.
 

Mammals 

Although rarely seen, some mammals live on the moors, including mountain hares, shrews, foxes, voles, weasels and stoats.

Mountain hare
A close up image of a mountain hair against the moorland
Mountain hare

Mountain Hare

Mountain hares, also known as blue hares are larger than rabbits but smaller than brown hares. They prefer areas of mixed heather & cotton grass moorland. Hares shelter in a ‘form’ which is a shallow depression in the ground or heather. When disturbed they can be seen bounding across the moors in a zigzag pattern. The coat of the mountain hare changes colour from brown to white in winter. In milder winters, or after the snow has melted, the white hares are at their most visible and easier to spot.
 

Reptiles and insects 

The moorland supports many species of reptiles and invertibrates which are an essential component of the diet of upland birds.

Common lizard
Common lizard
Common lizard

Common lizard

The UK's most common and widespread reptile. Also known as the viviparous lizard, they can  lay eggs and give birth to live young. They lay eggs in warm climates and bear live young in cold ones. In spring and summer they can be seen basking in the open to absorb heat from the sun.

Green hairstreak butterfly
a vibrant Green Hairstreak butterfly
Green hairstreak butterfly

Green hairstreak butterfly

A small metallic green butterfly, the green hairstreak has a wide range of larval foodplants including bilberry and cross-leaved heath. Adults emerge in late April and are on the wing until early July.

Emperor moth
Close up of an emperor moth against a leafy backdrop.
Emperor moth

Emperor moth 

A large spectacular moth, with peacock-like eye spots on all four wings which look like a cat’s face from a distance. This is a defence mechanism to deter birds. They can be seen flying in April and May.

Emperor moth caterpillar
Emperor moth caterpillar, vivid green.
Emperor moth caterpillar

The fully grown caterpillar is green with black hoops and yellow spots and feeds on heather.

 

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