#FactFriday its the time of the week where we introduce a new (slightly winter themed!) animal; the moutain hare (Lepus timidus)
Unlike the brown hare and European rabbit, the mountain hare is native to the UK. They are found in moorland in the Highlands of Scotland, Southern uplands, Peak District and some Scottish Islands. They are classified as near threatened in the UK.
Like several other species in the Highlands, mountain hares have a brown/grey summer coat which turns white in winter dependent on the temperature.
In Ireland, there is a genetically distinct subspecies of mountain hare, Lepus timidus hibernicus.
Mountain hares look similar to brown hares. One way of telling them apart is their ears. Brown hares have long ears whereas mountain hares have shorter ones. Additionally a brown hares fur is… well… brown while a mountain hare has more grey fur (and white in winter).
Small and furry, this weeks #factfriday is all about the great yellow bumblebee (Bombus distinguendus).
Historically, this bee was found through most of the UK but now it can only be seen in the far North of Scotland and a few areas of Western Ireland.
They are distinguished by their mustard-yellow bodies with a wide black band inbetween the wings.
The Great yellow bumblebee emerges late in comparison to other bee species. Queens are usually seen from mid-June and will feed onnectar before searching for a suitable nest.
Queens will use old mouse nests, rabbit burrows and other holes under grass tussocks as nest sites. Nest density is estimated to be no more than 1 to 2 nests for every square kilometre of suitable habitat.
This week’s #FactFriday is all about the Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus).
The Hen Harrier is one of the UK’s most threatened raptors due to declines in their habitat and persecution from gamekeepers as a crucial part of their diet comes from grouse chicks.
Males are a blue-grey colour with a pale underside and black tips to their wings. Females are a mottled brown colour and are often called ‘ringtails’ due to the distinctive banding on their long tails. They have a large wingspan of up to 1-1.2 metres and feed mainly on vertebrates such as voles and small birds.
They can be found on upland heather moorlands of Scotland, including many of the Hebridean islands, Wales, Northern Ireland, Northern England, and the Isle of Man.
During the 19th century, Hen Harriers were eradicated on Scotland’s mainland due to the popularity of game hunting estates, but in recent years there has been greater protection of these magnificent birds of prey. However, not enough is being done to protect these birds and numbers are continuing to decline.
The Hen Harrier is currently included on the Red List meaning that they are of the highest conservation priority.
This weeks #factfriday we’re getting slimy and introducing the slow worm (Anguis fragilis)!
While slow worms may look exactly like a snake, they are in fact legless lizards through which convergent evolution has acted, making them look so similar! They can be identified as lizards through the ability to shed their tails and blink.
These reptiles can live up to 20 years and are found in heathland, tussocky grassland and woodland edges.
Slow worms are smaller than snakes and have smooth, golden-grey skin. Males are paler in colour and sometimes have blue spots, while females are larger, with dark sides and a dark stripe down the back.
Is it a bird? Is it a butterfly? No its a six-spot burnet moth for this weeks #factfriday !
These little guys are part of a group of many burnets including the five spot burnet and the new forest burnet which look very similar, however, they are the only British burnet with 6 spots. They are more rarely found with yellow spots.
They are common in Scotland and you can spot them in the daytime when the sun is out, in grasslands or meadows, feeding on flowers like thistles, knapweeds and scabious
They may look pretty but the red spots on the burnets wings signal to predators that these moths mean damage. When attacked they release hydrogen cyanide