Golden Plover on Marsden Moor

Birds on Marsden Moor

I’ve seen a wide range of birds on Marsden Moor, whilst out hiking on the hills above my home town. When I say ‘Marsden Moor’, I’m using shorthand for Scout, Binn Moor, Buckstones, Black Moss, Close Moss, Cupwith and the other areas of moorland that horseshoe around the village.

There are other animals to spot too of course – but these can be harder to see. No doubt the odd Stoat or Weasel has been within inches of my boots when I have been off-piste, but I’ve never actually spotted one. Voles, that’s a different matter – one once ran onto one of my boots and sat squeaking for a minute, oblivious to the human attached to it. 

Back to birds: this page is about the many species of birds you can see on Marsden Moor. Birds that (mostly) need a bit of walk to get to see.


I’m not a birder, in that I have very limited avian natural history knowledge.
I definitely have limited camera gear (an old Canon 450D and a 300mm lens that isn’t always great at capturing a bird in flight).
If I see a species, I add the fact here. And a photo or two that I have taken (not stock shots culled from the web, what you get is what you get even if the photo isn’t that great).

As much for me as anyone, I thought it would be fun to list as many of the birds that can be seen in the area (and predominantly centred around the National Trust Estate). I do have a slightly obsessional collector’s mind but I don’t go out looking for new species to tick off a list, I just enjoy watching a wren hopping about in the bilberries, goldfinches flocking around a rowan tree or a kestrel perched on a drystone wall.

Where does my list of birds around Marsden come from?

The list below comes from some information kindly provided by the Marsden Moor National Trust team and some desk research done by me e.g. looking on birding forums for the wider Saddleworth and West Yorkshire area. I live within ten minutes of the boundary of the NT Moors and you can see ‘garden birds’ on occasion on the lower slopes of (say) Scout Moor. So I’m including those species if I’ve seen them away from the village and on the edges of the moors, even if they are not found up on ‘the tops’.

Update, November 2021: 
I started this page in 2017 and then in November 2021 I heard about a book with a similar title to the blog page here BUT with a far more impressive number of bird species that have been spotted by the author.
I won’t be just adding all the new species that are ‘missing’ from my original list to this page but I am using the book ‘the Birds of Marsden Moor’ by Mike Pinder as a bit of a check-list.

A note on ground-nesting birds on the moors:
A lot of the species found on the moors nest on the ground . So please keep your dog on a lead in the nesting and fledgeling seasons (to my mind that’s between March and July). ALSO: DON’T LIGHT FIRES, BBQs OR USE NAKED FLAMES ON THE MOORS.

The photos: if there’s more than one photo, you can click on the thumbnail of each to run a slideshow of the larger sized images.


Seen by me: Very rarely and mostly near Pule hill. The photo here is awful (I know) but the only one I have to date.
If photo taken, where: Taken near ‘Scout’ area of Marsden Moor.

Buzzard above Scout area Marsden Moor


Canada Goose

Seen by me: Yes – often up around Swellands and Black Moss reservoirs.

If photo taken, where:
They’re so ubiquitous I’ve never taken a photo of them on the moors. I need to rectify that.

Carrion Crow

Seen by me: Yes, pretty frequently.
I have even kept an eye on a fledgeling that spent two days wandering around a footpath near our house, not yet ready to fly. I was worried that it was vulnerable to the local cats and foxes but I let it alone (seems that was the right thing to do).

I love the Crows, once you tune into the Carrion Crows you hear a mix of calls, they are pretty vocal – it isn’t all about the slightly abrasive caw caw caw.
I have seen them hassle a kestrel on a few occasions: cantankerous corvids.

If a photo was taken, where: All over Marsden Moor. The photos here are from near pule Hill and also in the Scout quarry area.

Common Sandpiper

Seen by me: No
If photo taken, where:


Seen by me: No (and it’s our ‘village mascot’ – oh well).
Heard: yes definitely, many a time in the trees near our house. And around the moors.

If a photo taken, where:


Seen by me: Yes on quite a few occasions around the Marsden Moor estate. The oft-described ‘plaintive’ cry is just that.. especially on a cold day with wide skies.

If a photo was taken, where: Near Pule Hill, mostly.

Curlew Marsden Moor pair Curlew Marsden Moor flight


Seen by me: Yes, at March Haigh Reservoir, a pair swooping across the water, calling as they flew.
Their call is captured nicely on the Dipper page of the RSPB site.
If a photo was taken, where: Not caught with my camera as yet.

Golden Eagle

Okay.. only slightly tongue in cheek. As in, I have read a couple of accounts (one referencing an old book I have (Bygone Marsden, Whitehead 1942) of Golden Eagles having an eyrie on Shooters Nab (also referred to then as Shorters Nab), around 1700-1750.
An in-depth article checking the veracity of that is in the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union from 1987, it makes a convincing case.

Golden Plover

Seen by me: Yes but only a few times up close, over the years.
If a photo taken, where:
The first photo was taken near the Swellands reservoir area. I had to crouch / shuffle in a clough (with Brodie dog tethered to me, not easy!), so I could get in front of these lovely birds and slowly stand to get a couple of photos. It was well worth the backache.
The second and third photos are of a small flock of Golden Plover up on the Shooters Nab area of the moor. 

Golden Plover on Marsden Moor

Golden Plover on Shooters Nab in Marsden Golden Plover on Marsden Moor at Shooters Nab


Seen by me: Yes. Often in the garden but also in flocks on the edge of the moor, where the tree line thins and the heater and grasses or ferns take over. None on the high ‘moor proper’.
If photo taken, where: Scout Moor (lower edges).

Goldfinch on the edge of Scout Moor Marsden Goldfinch on the edge of Scout Moor Marsden Goldfinch on the edge of Scout Moor Marsden

Grey Wagtail

Seen by me: Yes on occasion
If photo taken, where: Blackmoorfoot conduit, Scout moor area.

Grey Wagtail Marsden Moor Grey Wagtail Marsden Moor


Seen by me: yes – everywhere. The Grouse is ubiquitous on the moors around Marsden, a ‘cash crop’ that (from all I have seen myself, heard or read) diminishes the populations of other birds – particularly raptors. They’re great birds to observe but too much of one species isn’t great, to my mind.

If photo was taken, where: This selection of grouse photos comes primarily from above the Scout area of Marsden moor and from the Wessenden Valley and moor.

House Martin

Seen by me:
If photo taken, where:

Hen Harrier

Never seen by me to date (Aug 2019) in all the years I have walked the moors. Ah well. The fact that Marsden Moor has grouse on it may explain the lack of Hen Harriers (I’m not saying there are not any, just very few imho):

House Sparrow

Seen by me: Yep.. near the house.. which has the moors not that far away.
OR – were they hedge sparrows? To be checked!
If photo taken, where:


Seen by me: Yes, constantly in the village (they hang out like bored teenagers around The Mechanics Institute). But you also find them on the lower reaches of the moors, flocking in spring. Like a raucous badly choreographed small murmuration.
If a photo was taken, where: Up near Scout Quarry

Marsden wildlife birdlife Jackdaw flock

Jackdaw flock Scout quarry Marsden Moor

Jackdaw Crow Hill Marsden


Seen by me: Yes, a handful of times on open moorland or sitting on a post or quarry ledge.
If a photo taken, where: The first photo is a Kestrel at Scout Quarry.

The next two photos here are of the same Kestrel sat near the Deerhill catchwater near Shooters Nab. 

Kestrel Scout Quarry Marsden Moor


Seen by me: Yes (only once so far – they are on the RSPB red list)
If a photo was taken, where: on the edge of Binn Moor, a male Linnet on one of the ‘beast gate’ bridges that go up on to the higher moor.

The photos below (of the same bird, seen when I was out on a walk with my son Joe) are a bit blurry. But as that’s the only time I have seen a Linnet on the moor, it’ll have to do.

Male Linnet Marsden Moor

Male Linnet Marsden Moor


Seen by me: Yes
If a photo was taken, where: I have seen some Lapwing around the lower edges of the moor, rather than up, on it, as such. And on both sides of the valley (e.g Cupwith area, as well as Scout). I think they prefer agricultural land though. This one was actually flitting up to the edge of Scout Quarry. Scout Moor from Deerhill reservoir, so I’m including in the list.

Little Owl

Seen by me: Yes, by the banks of Butterley Reservoir in a tree near the White Forest Trail


Seen by me:
If photo taken, where:

Meadow Pipit

Seen by me: Lots of times, all across the moors
If photo taken, where:  This one was taken near the base of Pule Hill, in June, so looks like it was collecting food for its young.  I maybe need to add a better photo one day but they’re pretty nervy if you get too close.
Meadow Pipit Marsden Moor



Seen by me:Yes, in the ‘White Forest” conifer plantation near Butterley reservoir.
If photo taken, where:
Sadly, no photo!

Mistle Thrush

Seen by me:Yes, lower down on the edge of the village and at the Allotment. And also nesting in a quarry on the moors (thanks to friend, Steve, for spotting it).
If photo taken, where: Quarry on the moors.

Mistle Thrush Mistle Thrush Marsden Moor


Seen by me:
down on the canal, not up on the reservoirs.
If photo taken, where:


Seen by me: Yes. Maybe not a moors bird as such but I’ve spotted one on top of Pule Hill Quarries, searching out the crevices.

If photo taken, where:
I’ll load a photo from the garden not from the quarries on Pule Hill.


Seen by me: Yes.. a few times along the reservoir edges in various places.
If a photo was taken, where: Butterley Res.

Oystercatcher Marsden Moor Wessenden reservoir Oystercatcher Marsden Moor Wessenden reservoir


Seen by me: Not to date


Seen by me: Yes, on the flanks of Pule Hill.
These photos were taken a distance away so are a tad grainy (as many of mine are) as the 300mm lens struggles to capture birds in flight.

Redshank in flight on Marsden Moor Redshank in flight on Marsden Moor Redshank in flight on Marsden Moor

Reed Bunting

Seen by me: Yes. I had to double-check but I am sure these two are a male and email Reed Bunting, seen on the slopes of Pule Hill in mid-June.
Checking online says they have been seen over at Castleshaw and they’re not that rare that I can see.. but I haven’t actually seen that many myself. Or maybe I’ve confused the black cap of the male with a Stonechat?

If photo taken, where: Flanks of Pule Hill (note, I had to take two photos to get both birds In (wrong lens on the DSLR for wide-angle).. so a bit grainy (as always) and a composite shot of male and female in the same ‘sheep scrape’.

Composite photo of Reed Bunting on Marsden Moor

Ring Ouzel

Seen by me:


Seen by me: Yes. of course in the garden but also on the fringes of the moors.
If photo taken, where: To add!

Short-eared Owl

Seen by me: Yes. On a few occasions in various parts of the moors.
If photo was taken, where: This photo was taken near ‘Scout’. I was off-piste and mooching about when this owl arose from the dry grass and circled around to give me a good look.

Short Eared owl on Marsden Moor as seen by halfwayhike hike blog


Seen by me: Yes, on Scout Moor area and up near Shooters Nab.
If photo taken, where: Near the Blackmoorfoot conduit. Males have the darker heads, as seen in one of these photos, at Shooters Nab Quarry area.

Stonechat on Marsden Moor

Female Stonechat Marsden Moor


Seen by me:
If photo taken, where:


Seen by me:
If photo taken, where:

Tufted Duck

Seen by me:
If photo taken, where:


Seen by me: I think I saw one once but these birds are pretty rare now across the moor, so as yet I don’t have a photo of my own to share.


Seen by me: Yes, in late spring (when they arrive from Africa, I think).
If photo taken, where: On the mid flanks of Pule Hill. On my smartphone so the images are not so great. 

Wheatear Marsden Moor Wheatear Marsden Moor

Willow Warbler

Seen by me: Yes
If a photo was taken, where: on the lower parts of Scout Moor and up to Ellen Clough (the path that’s called Corn Lane). Strictly on the moor? Well, no but the moor comes down to the field edge and I think, as the valley and lower cloughs of the moor are re-treed, we’ll see more Willow Warblers higher up on the hills.

Willow Warbler Corn Lane Marsden

Willow Warbler Corn Lane Marsden


Wood Pigeon

Seen by me: Yes, all over the place! But only on the flanks of the moorland, that I’ve seen.

If photo taken, where: I need to add one.

Whooper Swan

Seen by me: not as yet, alas. But friends have told me that they have seen Whooper Swans at both Redbrook and March Haigh Reservoirs. Quiet enough stretches of water (well, March Haigh Res is) to support the swans as they stop over to and from Iceland,


Seen by me: No. You can see them on the moor as attested to by friends and the ‘Birds of Marsden’ book(M Pinder) but I’ve never seen one. Those that are resident here are likely joined over winter by others from Finland and Russia.


Seen by me: Yes

If photo was taken, where: varied sightings across the moors, often jumping about on rocks or into crevices, even high up.

Wren on Marsden Moor

Are there any species in the Marsden Moor estate area that you’ve spotted that I have missed out?

Please drop me a note!