Great news to know that the increasingly rare High Brown Fritillary is still flying at Hembury woods as the High Brown is very similar to the Dark Green Fritillary we were lucky to have two national butterfly experts in Jeremy Thomas and Dave Simcox visiting the site who could positively identify them on the wing. Continue reading…
Within conservation there are often difficult decisions to be made around management options. One of these is developing on the side of the gorge below Castle Drogo.
For many years Piddledown common has been managed to benefit the Fritillary butterfly. Continue reading…
At Lower Cadworthy Farm in the Plym Valley, we are monitoring moth populations using a Skinner Trap.
The mercury vapour bulb is very bright, which attracts moths. The moths are able to move down the sloped transparent panels into the trap, but are unable to escape. It works almost like a one-way valve. The moths hide in the crevices in the egg boxes and are then extracted and identified in the morning, when they are less active. As the weather warms up, we are catching more moths and a greater variety of species.
Left to right: hebrew character, great prominent and brindled beauty
Any moths we find particularly interesting or captivating will be posted on this blog, so watch this space. You can build your own Skinner Trap with instructions downloadable online.
Whilst doing clearing the decaying stems of dead Laurel we noticed the antics of these birds whilst bringing food to their young. The nest was well concealed and protected behind a mature ivy stem. The ‘fast food’ came in the form of small spiders, flies and other insects. These are easily extracted by the Treecreepers fine long curved beak from deep within the folds and ripples of the bark of nearby trees. Another interesting characteristic which may be observed of these birds is how they fly to the base of trees and spiral climb upwards before flying to the next. Also please note their amazing camouflage when their back is turned to you! The Gorge is simply alive with signs of Spring at the moment with many different bird species keenly feeding babies, wildflowers of various colours, and the trees leaves still with that lovely almost flourescent green which passes too quickly!
Please click on video link below….
On Saturday 18th May a small group of Air Cadets from 2443 (Okehampton) Squadron helped Rangers to build steps on the path to the White Lady Waterfall. The cadets aged from 14 – 17 (taking a break from their usual activities of flying, shooting and sports!), are working towards their Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award. Part of which requires the completion of community service. Their time was spent carrying tools and materials to the site, then replacing old redundant steps with smart new ones which are easier to use. The ‘short and steep’ path’ allows direct access for anything up to 60,000 visitors per year! So the 220 ‘odd’ steps require regular maintenance. The cadets worked hard and built some of excellent steps for visitors to explore the wild flowers and beauty of that part of the Gorge.
On Friday at Lydford there was a small rockfall at Lydford Gorge. The river path was shut for a while while Steve the ranger literally swung into action abseiled down to the fall cleared away some loose soil and stone and checked the site was solid and safe. The path was then reopened a great relief the day before a busy, sunny bank holiday weekend.
Lydford is a really wonderful natural site it is steep and rocky, trees cling onto the slopes, water is running and dripping and seeping everywhere. The upshot is the site is quite active trees fall over, soil slips and rocks fall. We have a very thorough system for making the place as safe as possible tens of thousands of pounds are spent every year with expert geologists and specialist rock face teams checking the rock faces and putting in netting in places where falling rocks could be dangerous. We have a weekly safety inspection to check at the paths, handrails, life buoys etc when the gorge is open.
Luckily most of the activity happens in the winter when we get the most wind and rain however occasionally something happens in the open season this is when speedy action by the ranger team can deal with the incident make sure everything is safe and let our visitors come back into the gorge to make sure everybody has an enjoyable visit and nobody is disappointed.
Members of the National Trust’s ‘Wild Tribe’ 35 mile Ten Tors team relax after the first day of their final training session. The team who, along with the ‘Wild Tribe’ 45 team, train with Torquay Boys Grammar School and are supported by NT staff and Rangers, were preparing for the annual Ten Tors event that begins on the 11th May.
Starting at Two Bridges, at just after 7am, the team visited Beardown Tor, Lower White Tor, Sittaford Tor, Shilstone Tor and Sourton Tor before arriving at their overnight campsite at just after 6pm.
An early start the following morning enabled them to visit Chat Tor, Lynch Tor, Great Staple Tor and Great Mis Tor before arriving back at Two Bridges in the early afternoon.
Wild Tribe 35 mile team members, from left to right: Charlie, Tom, Alfie, Finley, Gullie and Callum.
A group of budding young ornithologists came on a guided walk around Plymbridge Woods yesterday. We focused on bird survey techniques and species identification, and finished with a look at our spectacular pair of resident peregrine falcons. We had fantastic views of both peregrines, who are looking particularly nesty. We saw some other great birds including a great spotted woodpecker, mandarin ducks and dippers. The kids’ bird i.d. skills were very good and I’m sure there were a few future Audubons and Humbles among them. Well done folks. If you’re children are interested in joining the young birdwatchers, we will be doing more activities on the 8th and 28th of August and the 29th of September. Please call the office for more details (01752 341 377).
This Sunday Pete Davies led a small team of volunteers in Plym Bridge Woods, reinstating some of the local archaeology. The wall which follows the Plymouth to Dartmoor tramway along the Western edge of the woods has slowly fallen foul of time and misuse, causing the majority of it to fall away degrading the aesthetic value and leaving loose shale on the path. Under instruction from Pete; Jim, Steve, Tony and the two Joes removed any loose shale and unstable rocks from the top of the wall and meticulously replaced them, reinforcing the base where necessary. The centre was filled in with the loose shale and soil which had slowly built up alongside the wall. Aside from the biting wind the weather was pleasant and didn’t hinder the team, allowing them to make serious headway into improving the site.
The work undertaken on Sunday was the first of many steps; the wall runs for miles and will be a long term project. The important thing is that the first Plym Valley Conservation Volunteers meet was a success. For the first day it was a respectable turn out and everybody enjoyed themselves which bodes well for the future.
The next meet will be on Sunday 12th May 2013 and will involve post and rail fencing in Plymbridge Woods. The group will be meeting at 10am in Plymbridge carpark; if you’re interested in helping out this would be greatly appreciated.
The nation wide Easter trail event that took place on Good Friday was a great success for us down in the Plym Valley. With more than 200 people following clues along the canal path that eventually lead to the “Easter village” at the end of the trail.
The village was a way of creating the kind of atmosphere you find at most village fate’s; a warming community spirit that aimed to keep people engaged in the event long after the trail had finished. This seemed to work as some families remained on site for 2 or so hours after they’d completed the trail, a resounding success.
Despite being cold, the event went off without a hitch with everyone really enjoying themselves. Alison from Opal came down with a volunteer encouraging children to forage for spring plants as part of the activities which also included the Easter bunny handing out chocolate eggs, games on the lawn and a sizeable craft tent thanks to Fred at Parke.
A lovely day had by all.
Plym Valley team