Wheatear – the polite name for white arse

When I had my walk around the Upper Plym I saw quite a few Northern Wheatears. They are one of the first migrants back to this country with the first ones arriving in mid March.

WheatearWheatear on a rock near Trowlesworthy

Tweet of the day WheatearLovely illustration of a wheatear by Carry Ackroyd from the book ‘Tweet of the Day’

Wheatear is a polite derivation of the original name of the bird – used to be called the white arse! The picture above shows how appropriate the old name is. Anyone who has ever seen a wheatear will normally see the white patch before focusing on the grey back.

4 Penny farthings in Exmouth

A ‘digital acquantance’ I know, Alistair Cope has just completed a cycle with his son and a few chums from Bristol to Exmouth on penny farthings to raise funds for the charity Headway.

I went down to Exmouth to see them in – the weather was terrible and I managed to miss them cycle in but did catch up with them finally in the Bumblebee Cafe. Here are a few pictures.

SebHere’s Alistair’s son Seb who was kind enough to pose for a picture

SaddleA wet Brook’s saddle

Two penniesTwo pennies

Two lightsVintage lamps

Lights and hornsA horn and a bell!

One lightWhite penny

One pennyBlue penny

SpokesModified raised peddles – easier than lowering the saddle!

An epic effort in pretty poor weather – you can donate to Headway via Alistair’s giving page here.

Oak eggar caterpillar

A few days ago I photographed a caterpillar near to my home in Exton. I then spent the next few days looking for my moth caterpillar book which I seemed to have misplaced during the move over here from Exeter last year. Eventually success and along with a little help from Andy Foster at the NT we have narrowed the caterpillar down to an oak eggar.

Oak eggar caterpillar 1Oak eggar caterpillar – early instar, as the beast grows, sheds its skin and gets bigger its appearance changes

Oak eggar moth 1Here is the adult male moth once it has metamorphosed – they are on the wing in July and August

Porter book

If you want to identify caterpillars then this is the book – it has all macro moths and butterflies caterpillar illustrated – 850 species in total

Dartmoor sheep and lambs

Three weeks ago I posted some photographs of the newly born lambs at Parke in Bovey Tracey. I was up on the high moor yesterday in the Plym Valley on the Trust’s land and here the lambs are only just being born – a reflection of the higher altitude and harsher climate. As well as birthing later Dartmoor sheep only have one lamb and these are born on the moor. ‘Lowland’ sheep are often born in a barn and often have two lambs.

On the day after I photographed lambs at Parke I also photographed the Dartmoor sheep being put up onto the Moor.

Sheep have been farmed on Dartmoor for at least a thousand years if not much longer. Today the breed of sheep which dominates the Moor is the Dartmoor Scotch Blackface. The older endemic breeds of the Dartmoor Greyface and the Dartmoor Whiteface have now become much less common. See here for more history about Dartmoor sheep.

Here are a few photographs of some Dartmoor Scotch Blackface sheep and lambs.

Sheep and lamb 1Mothers are very wary and protective of their lambs

Sheep and lamb 3Lamb suckling

Sheep 2

You can’t quite see it but there is a lamb in the bottom right of the picture stuck in the gulley – it was damp and cold so I went and pulled it out – it immediately ran back to its mother hopefully having learnt a lesson

Lamb 4Laid back and chilling

Lamb 5

And then the lamb spotted me – looks indignant!

Lamb 6

Not all Blackface sheep have black faces …

Over the coming months I will try and photograph some Dartmoor White and Greyfaces too.



The Parke Cafe Robin

My offices are at Parke in Bovey Tracey and yesterday I managed to snap this robin standing on one of the picnic tables.

Parke robinNote it has a mouth full of insects – this male has a nest nearby and is about to go and feed his female or a nest of hungry chicks!

Parke CafeOpposite my office is Home Farm Cafe  - proving really  popular over Easter


New Parke picnic benchesNew picnic area is being installed in advance of a ‘walker’s cafe extension which will give a bit of extra capacity and cater for dog walkers

Parke menuHere’s the menu!

 Parke is a busy place these day as 4 organisations are based there – press these link to find out more:  Home Farm Cafe The National Trust  - Parke The Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust and of course The Dartmoor National Park Authority.

Spring blossom, buds and chard!

With spring comes all the blossom – it is interesting to think why blossom is almost universally white or at least a pinky white when so many of the non tree flowers are yellow. The reason must be that both colours are attractive to pollinating insects.

BlackthornHere are the distinctive flowers of the blackthorn

ApplesAn apple tree flowering in the Walled Garden at Parke

VinesThe vines are Parke are also slowly coming to life

Vines 2Leaves and buds beginning to emerge

ChardAnd finally the chard! What a beautiful flash of colour! What a disappointing tasting salad!