Four days away in the rolling moors, valleys and woodlands of Dartmoor were hopefully meant to comprise some of our usual south west stop offs along with some opportunities for me to explore some areas for interesting insects, churring Nightjars and hopefully and a visit to the beach.
The weather had other ideas and thwarted my efforts at every turn with various combinations of wind, murk, low cloud and drizzle and a nice steady precipitation to accompany the entire journey home on Tuesday. Was I a frustrated, grumpy bastard? Umm... yes
The Shepherds hut at Michelcombe was in a secluded valley at the end of a bridlepath and would best be described as ‘quirky’ with a touch of ‘what I found on the skip last week’. The fridge was nowhere to be seen and was in fact round the corner in a barn and I did have to use a chair, a wooden spatula and some elephant tape to seal a gap in the conservatory roof where a panel had slid down. At least there was a toilet unlike the poor buggers in the lower field in the tents and poor man’s huts who would had to crossed a wet field and then ford a stream before climbing up the path to the toilet block – I would not have fancied this in the dark!
Anyway all of that aside it was warm and comfortable and I actually had my most productive spells ambling up the lanes and paths beyond the farm. Bullfinches flicked away from me with family parties flashing white bums and beady eyed brown headed youngsters while tits flocks were roving the lush hedges and Siskins sang from the Larches. Nuthatches were vocal and common but it was the volume of Song Thrushes in both senses that shone through with their strident melodies ringing out loud and proud above all else especially as the evening drew in.
|My Darkling Thrush|
Spotted Flycatchers were feeding invisible young from a large garden oak and a new barn conversion roof with a flappy tarpaulin kept the local Swallows on their toes sending them into mad raptor alert dreads every time it caught the wind to a chorus of fervent twittering.
|Greenfinch above it in the same Oak|
Numerous streams tumbled through the area, some culverted to follow the lanes, others randomly entering a garden to pop out the other side and although there were no Dippers, there was a pair of Grey Wagtails on every one and thus some harmony returned to my world.
|Young Grey Wagtail|
Florally, the lanes were amazing and as I was looking for Hoverflies and such like I also spent quite an amount of my attention trying to sort out the various umbilifers and other plants. The ferns alone were prolific and I picked out at least five or six species in the hedge banks.
|Male or Female fern - not sure which|
|Lords & Ladies|
|Black Bryony - not related to White Bryony in any way!|
|Burbage - Torilis japonica|
|Common Valerian - Valeriana officinalis|
|Common Valerian - Valeriana officinalis - the leaves|
|Enchanter's Nightshade - Circaea alpina|
|Fool's Watercress - Apium nodiflorum|
|Water Forget-me-not - Myosotis scorpioides|
|Germander Speedwell - Veronica chamaedrys|
|Foxglove - Digitalis purpurea|
|Hedge Woundwort - Stachys sylvatica|
|Wood Avens - Geum urbanum|
|An amazing flower spike of Wall Pennywort - Umbilicus rupestris It was over two foot high!|
|Herb Robert - Geranium robertianum|
|Tutsan - Hypericum androsaemum|
|Marsh Thistle - Cirsium palustre|
|Monkey Flower - Mimulus guttatus|
|Hazel and the Fly|
Fly wise it was disappointing with several commoner species of hover including Eristalis tenax, Episyrphus balteatus, Myathropa florea, Cheilosia illustrata and Syrphus ribesii but I did find a rather fine Volucella bombylans warming itself in sheltered spot one morning and a Chrysogaster solstitialis on some White Clover and Hogweed.
|Red Admiral - almost the only butterfly|
I did find two chunky heavy horses – not sure of the breed – in one of the top fields.
They were both youngish lads and trotted over to say hello when I called. They were popular with the Clegs and Stable Flies but looked in fine fettle.
I expected Tawny owls to keep me awake but the nights were silent and to be honest I had the best three night’s sleep I have had in a long time.