Sarah, our retail Manager at Lydford recently asked me if I had any photographs that might be suitable as labels for some of new new food products. I’m glad to say she chose a couple of my images – one for a chutney and the other for fudge!
I was at Killerton yesterday for a meeting and spotted a dozen or so ladybirds running around on the window frame in our meeting room. This is not just any ladybird it is the Harlequin ladybird Harmonia axyridis – the most invasive ladybird species on earth.
The harlequin ladybird was introduced to North America in 1988, where it is now the most widespread ladybird species on the continent. It has already invaded much of northwestern Europe, and arrived in Britain in summer 2004. There are originally from Asia.
The harlequin is a large ladybird which occurs in a large number of colour forms and patterns. The following four photographs show four different colour/pattern forms taken at Killerton yesterday.
Harlequins are aggressive predators of other insects such as aphids but they also eat other species of ladybird and as a result there are concerns that they will have an impact on our native species. You can find out more about the spread of harlequins in the the UK and how to identify them here.
If you want to know about our native ladybirds see here.
Yesterday the National Trust’s Dartmoor Team held its Start of Season meeting. We had around 80 staff and volunteers attend – a great turn out. The idea of the meeting is to get everyone together before the main ‘season’ begins to celebrate our achievements during 2013 and get everyone geared up for the priorities in 2014.
The meeting was opened by Toby Fox the Trust’s Assistant Director Operations who outlined the national and regional strategy for 2014. Making more of the outdoors is a key job this year.
I then spent a few moments just reviewing what a wonderful set of places we look after and described some of the quintessential wildlife and historic features we have on our patch.
We then had excellent presentations from a number of the Dartmoor team – we heard about new chutneys, the use of helicopters, the increase in lycra, lots about fritillary butterflies and Finch’s 200th anniversary.
Fay from Lydford then hosted a lovely Dartmoor quiz which got everyone thinking and ultimately arguing!
Ater lunch we had a quick trip around the Walled Garden followed by a presentation from Ali Kohler from the Dartmoor National Park Authority – lots of opportunities for us to work together and how are those radio tagged cuckoos going to get on ….
Heather Kay the General Manager from Castle Drogo then gave us an update on the Drogo project and reminded us all
DROGO IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS.
Finally Dave Rickwood from the Woodland Trust outlined how the WT and the NT were working together to restore Fingle Woods for wildlife and people – our most exciting and major project!
I thought it was a great day – thanks to everyone for coming and for all the work you do for the National Trust and for Dartmoor
- here’s to 2014
A sure sign that spring is on the way ……
The name primrose actually derives from the Latin prima rosa meaning ‘first rose’ of the year (although it is not actually a member of the rose family). According to the charity Plantlife it was chosen as the County flower of Devon.
As well as having a good 10 Tors walk / training session on Saturday managed to also see some classic Dartmoor birds.
We were heading back to Oke Tor from Steeperton and we going through a piece of boggy ground and put up about 15 snipe – indeed a couple only flew when I was about a metre from them. Snipe nationally have really declined as breeding birds due to the drainage of their traditional breeding grounds. However on Dartmoor they seem to be holding their own with maybe 100 breeding pairs. See Roger Smaldon’s ‘The Birds of Dartmoor’ for further details.
On our way from Okement Hill to Steeperton Tor we saw two red grouse flying through a heathery area. Red grouse were introduced into Dartmoor by the Victorians as a game bird. They struggle on Dartmoor and today around 18-30 pairs are thought to survive. The Moor around Watern Tor and to the north is a good area to see them.
Finally again on our way to Steeperton we saw a murmuration of starlings – this is a flock of many hundreds of birds swooping around in various aerobatic patterns. I have never seen this during the day and quickly this flock landed on the ground and stayed there to feed. I have written in the past about the huge murmuration at Okehampton camp. This year the birds arent roosting at Okehampron camp and instead they appear to be going to Princetown.
My colleague Pete Davies, Area Ranger in the Plym Valley was also out on Saturday with our 10 Tors Wild Tribe teams and managed to photograph a big flock of starling near High Willhays – this might have been the birds we saw but the flock looks a little smaller.
We’ve been out today looking at the south Devon coast to see the impacts of the recents storms. First port of call was Slapton Ley which seems to have survived pretty well. Closer inspection of the Memorial Car Park does show that quite a bit of the car park has been washed away.
Next stop was Beesands – damage here was more extensive especially at the northern end of the village.
Finally we went to Hallsands. The loss of the road just in front of the houses is very dramatic and has left these houses very exposed.
Tackling erosion on the coast in the face of climate change and sea level rise is a real challenge- click here to see the National Trust’s approach
If we had believed the weather forecast we would have seen rain, sleet and snow! Instead we saw sunshine all day. 10 Tors training today started at the Dartmoor Inn near Lydford – we sent our teams off east towards Great Kneeset and then on to Watern Tor and Cosdon Hill before they returned back west ending up at Meldon Reservoir or Prewley Moor depending on which route they were on.
Tony, myself and Paul were check pointing today; we have been to Ockerton Court near Okement Hill – a place I have never been before where there is a natural pool – perhaps the largest on Dartmoor.
Ockerton Court Pool
From there we headed to Steeperton Tor which gave us a commanding view of the landscape where theoretically we could watch our various teams cross the moor.
Steeperton Tor from Ockerton Court
From Steeperton Tor there is a great view north down the Taw Valley with Belstone Tor in the distance on the left & Cosdon Hill on the right
Taw Marsh below Steeperton Tor
Tony – on the phone checking how all the teams are doing
The end of the day for some of us – back at Meldon carpark