Peregrine Chicks Take to the Wing

 

by Steve Waterhouse

 

Peregrine falcons have bred again successfully in the Plym Valley much to the delight of the volunteers and 17 000 visitors who have been following their progress this year. The nest site in Cann Quarry, Plymbridge Woods has been watched by a committed team of volunteers for 10 breeding seasons. This year the peregrines had two healthy chicks which flew the nest on Sunday 10th July.

The chicks will still be calling Cann Quarry their home for now while they test their wings and learn to hunt for themselves. They are still reliant on the parents for food and can be seen (and heard!) around the quarry perfecting their flight skills and nagging mum and dad. They will finally become independent in the Autumn when they will be chased from their natal territory.

For the first 3-4 years of their lives, the juveniles will have no fixed abode but will travel around different areas (Peregrinus is Latin for wanderer, traveller or pilgrim). A young peregrine that is ready to breed will find a suitable territory (the presence of other peregrines will be a good indicator of this) and hopefully a mate.

The Plym peregrine chicks were ringed this year and last. This involves putting small plastic and metal rings on their legs while they   are in the nest and greatly contributes to our understanding of the peregrine’s movements, life history and population status. We hope that the chicks hatched at Cann Quarry will one day go on to breed somewhere else in the country and a glimpse of a yellow ring by an interested observer will lead to us finding out where the Plym chicks spend the rest of their lives after leaving Plymbridge Woods.

 

The public viewing platform and telescopes on Cann viaduct will be in place until Friday 22nd July for a last close up view of the newly fledged chicks. But the volunteers and NT staff will be keeping an eye on the family until the youngsters leave for good in the Autumn. There is still a good chance for you to see the birds flying around the quarry and making a racket so don’t forget to stop and look as you stroll or cycle across Cann viaduct.

Redstart and spotted flycatcher

A spotted flycatcher has been sighted feeding around the river Plym at Plymbridge Woods. Masters of the air, they hunt butterflies and other insects with an audible snap of the bill. Recently the numbers of spotted flycatchers has dropped dramatically, so they are now high on the Red List.

The redstart is breeding near Cadover Bridge at the Upper Plym. This bird is much easier to identify due to their bright orange-red tails. Like the spotted flycatcher, the redstart is a migratory bird, and spends the winter in northwest Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. (Photographs taken by Nigel Climpson)

New posts from the General Manager

I’ve had a couple of weeks annual leave but I have been out on Dartmoor  a lot. This weather is unprecedented and fantastic.

I’ve stayed ‘local’ for my holidays but have been out in the National Park  around a dozen times.

Read about the spooky lifestyle and life cycle of the nationally threatened oil beetle here.

Want a good walk up the River Plym? Try this.

The National Trust’s 10 Tors Team – Wild Tribe has been out training in fabuous weather and fantastic landscapes – read about it here.

Finally I have been trying to uncover a savage murder mystery on the moor – dozens of slain Emperor Moths found on the moor – who dunnit?

Oil Beetles at Plym Valley

Following on from the blog article by our collegues at Hembury Woods (dated 24th March), Plym Valley staff and volunteers have been keeping a close eye on the ground for oil beetles. Over the past few weeks, we have had numerous sightings and have discovered that Plymbridge Woods is home for the Black and Violet Oil Beetles (Meloe proscarabaeus and Meloe violaceus respectively).

The specimen pictured (M. violaceus) was discovered while Rangers were working near the Dewerstone on Dartmoor.

If you are interested in seeing an oil beetle, Colwill Meadow in Plymbridge Woods is an excellent spot to find them. The meadow can be found upstream from Plymbridge on the left side of the river. Don’t forget to report your sightings at www.buglife.org.uk

Have you seen an Oil beetle?

Violet Oil beetle – Meloe violaceus.

violaceus Meloe

If you have seen one of these fascinating beetles then please help Buglife’s national survey of them.

At one time the UK used to have 9 species, but now there are only believed to be 4, the Black oil beetle (Meloe proscarabaeus), the Violet oil beetle (Meloe violaceus), the Short-necked oil beetle (Meloe brevicollis) and the Rugged oil beetle (Meloe rugusus).

These are fairly large beetles that can be up to 40mm long and can be seen anytime between April and August. The female lays hundreds of eggs in the soil close to a solitary bee nest. The eggs can take a year to hatch upon which the larvae climb plants, such as Lesser celandine, to wait for a visiting bee whereupon they hitch a ride back to the bee’s nest where they spend the rest of their development feeding upon bee eggs and pollen. Linked as they are to declining bee species this is one fear as to causes for the decline of all oil beetles.

Its vital this survey is undertaken as only 3 of the 4 species listed have been seen recently and these are all declining. The Short-necked oil beetle (seen below) was thought to have been extinct in Britain since 1948 till it was seen in 2007 at Wembury in South Devon, and that place on this very day is where the new survey is being launched. If you want to take part go to the following link to register. My thanks to John Walters for these fantastic photos.

Introducing…Nick Baker

Wotcha, I’m Nick Baker; In case you think you’ve seem me before, I’ll put you out of your misery. I’m the Wildlife chap, best known for my broadcast work, on TV, Radio and in the written media. So what you may ask am I doing working for the National Trust? Well it is a good question, my wife puts it down to a mid-life crisis but I of course have other reasons and motive.

I’ve just taken on the post as seasonal part time ranger here at the Teign Valley property on Dartmoor; although best known for the imposing pile of granite we all know and love as castle Drogo, for me the attraction is Whiddon Deer park and the hanging Oak woodlands and heathlands that make up the Teign gorge. I live locally and this property and me go ways back.

Nick BakerIt started for me over 18 years ago; The Highbrown Fritillary was my first reason to visit the slope below the castle, sadly it no longer flies here, but if it does well elsewhere at other sites in the valley we live in hope that it will return, the NT are still working to keep the door open for them to return and still maintain habitat that is suitable; a subtle mix of Bracken and Dog Violets. It was also my ‘back yard’ when I first moved to the area and lived at Sandy park, I was on the dole then and the inspirational woodlands kept me happy and I like to think gave me the right attitude to life; and maybe even was responsible in a little way, getting me in the right frame of mind for the career that then unfolded. I even filmed several pieces for the Really Wild Show in the Teign valley itself.

I had always had a soft spot, for a particular location, and the soft centred, romantic part of me used to think what a great place it would be to get married. The place I refer to is an avenue of Beech trees here they form a natural leafy cathedral, framing the gateway to the deer park and a pair of granite sculptures by local artist Peter Randall-page. In 2009 I’m pleased to say I finally realised the fantasy one sunny May’s morning and a gathering of friends and relatives joined me and my wife (Ceri) as we tied the knot amongst the Blue bells and the beneath the fresh green canopy. The link with this magical place continues to this day, not only is it a regular place for walks with the family, I harvest the Sloes and Crab apples for Jam, Jelly and Gin and we even filmed my favourite tree for the BBC’s Autumn Watch here last year.
Anyhow now it’s a slightly weird but fine thing that I have joined the team responsible for the management and maintenance of this wonderful place. I figured it makes sense after so long appreciating the end product, to actually get down to the nitty gritty. I wanted to understand and learn about the tasks and skills required to maintain the countryside and of course try and get the message across to people that the NT is so much more than ‘Cream Teas and Country Houses’; although of course it is very good at those too.

So far it’s been a bit of a baptism of fire – I’m currently learning all about Chainsaws and how to use them and I’m worrying myself about how I actually enjoy using them! I’ve even been caught surreptitiously looking at some of those websites late at night, you know the ones – Husqvarna and Stihl. I’ve also entered a world where you’re not a man (or indeed a woman) unless you own a nice Billhook. So I’ve got me one of them too, and enjoy polishing it and bringing it into work where we discuss it’s pedigree (It’s a Morris – nice and local from Dunsford b.t.w) all I have to do now is learn how to use it! If my attempt at laying a section of hedge at Parke is anything to go by I’ve got a lot to learn.

This seems to be my lot at the moment, it’s a steep learning curve, but I’m having a blast (even if I can’t reverse a trailer yet or indeed get my hinges straight) I’m looking forward to the ‘bug season’ though where hopefully I can put some of my actual field skills to good use and maybe even share a little with the rest of the team here in the Teign valley.