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.
Wheatear on a rock near Trowlesworthy
Lovely 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.
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.
Here’s Alistair’s son Seb who was kind enough to pose for a picture
A wet Brook’s saddle
A horn and a bell!
Modified 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.
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 – early instar, as the beast grows, sheds its skin and gets bigger its appearance changes
Here is the adult male moth once it has metamorphosed – they are on the wing in July and August
If you want to identify caterpillars then this is the book – it has all macro moths and butterflies caterpillar illustrated – 850 species in total
The Shavercombe is tributary of the Plym and has its source around 1km from Hen Tor. SX5965
Shavercombe Tor is not much more than a collection of rocks overlooking the Valley
The Valley is quite steep and deep about half way down
And contains this lovely little waterfall
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.
Mothers are very wary and protective of their lambs
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
Laid back and chilling
And then the lamb spotted me – looks indignant!
Not all Blackface sheep have black faces …
Over the coming months I will try and photograph some Dartmoor White and Greyfaces too.
My offices are at Parke in Bovey Tracey and yesterday I managed to snap this robin standing on one of the picnic tables.
Note 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!
Opposite my office is Home Farm Cafe - proving really popular over Easter
New 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
Here’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.
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.
Here are the distinctive flowers of the blackthorn
An apple tree flowering in the Walled Garden at Parke
The vines are Parke are also slowly coming to life
Leaves and buds beginning to emerge
And finally the chard! What a beautiful flash of colour! What a disappointing tasting salad!