Discover wildlife at Marsden Moor

From rare plant species to a variety of mammals and habitats there's lot to explore on your visit.

The moorland

At Marsden Moor the National Trust cares for over 5,500 acres of unenclosed moorland.

The moorland may look rather barren, bleak and inhospitable but it harbours a vast diversity of birds, mammals and insects.

Deep peat covers most of the moor and provides a habitat for plants and animals that can cope with acidic soils, heavy rainfall and little shelter.

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.

Birds of the moor

The South Pennine moors, of which Marsden Moor is a part, supports nationally important numbers of birds, including the twite and the golden plover.

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.
 

A Twite also known as a pennine finch
A small bird almost hidden in the grassland
A Twite also known as a pennine finch

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. Golden plover is an impressive wading bird with a gold spangled back. 
 

A Golden Plover
A Golden Plover
A Golden Plover

Respecting the nesting season

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, wildfires and disturbance from people and dogs. It is for this reason that walkers must stick to footpaths and dogs must be kept on leads during nesting season (1 March-31 July).

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

A Short-eared owl on the hunt for voles
A Short-eared owl flies across the moorland
A Short-eared owl on the hunt for voles

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.

Curlews are one of the iconic species that come to the moors to breed in spring
A curlew, which are found on Marsden Moor, West Yorkshire
Curlews are one of the iconic species that come to the moors to breed in spring

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.
 

A Snipe
A Snipe
A 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.
 

A Dunlin
A Dunlin by water
A 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 of the moor

Although rarely seen, some mammals live on the moors, including Mountain hares, Shrews, Foxes, Voles, Weasels and Stoats.

A mountain hare sheltering on the moor.
A white coated mountain hare, shelters in the grassland
A mountain hare sheltering on the moor.

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, which is when they’re most visible; when the snow has melted but the hares are still white.
 

Reptiles and insects of the moor

Common lizard

The Uk's most common and widespread reptile. Also known as the viviparous lizard, they can both 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.
 

This common lizard is pregnant
Common lizard
This common lizard is pregnant

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.

A Green Hairstreak butterfly
a vibrant Green Hairstreak butterfly
A Green Hairstreak butterfly

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, those eyes are watching you
Emperor moth, are those eyes watching you?
Emperor moth, those eyes are watching you

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

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

Plants of the moor

Many different plant species can be found on the moors, some of which are rare.