Fantastic Fritillaries

Fantastic Fritillaries

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…

Moth trapping in The Upper Plym

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.


Treecreepers Play Hide and Seek at Lydford Gorge!

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….

Tree creepers at Lydford Gorge 2

Young Birdwatchers


Micro ornithologists


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).

Castle Drogo’s late summer garden spectacle.

Helenium's add vibrant colours to the late summer display


The last few magical days of  late summer sunshine have coincided with the garden at Castle Drogo reaching a seasonal  peak.  The  herbaceous borders are delivering their grand finale  before the onset of autumn with a beautiful display of bright yellow, orange, blue and lilac.

To capture the full experience an early morning or late afternoon visit will definitely be the most rewarding time with the added  bonus that you are likely to have the garden to yourself.

9.30am will be the best time for photography, with the dew lying like sparkling diamonds on the petals, leaves and closely cut lawns and the birds, bees and butterflies harvesting nectar and enjoying the early sunshine. From 5.00pm onwards the garden has a peaceful, restful atmosphere and the low light of the late afternoon sun creates real drama. The colours and contrasts of the flowers, lawns and pathways  are richer, the light and shade patches of the terraces and arbours accentuated. In the still air you can savour the romantic scent of roses and you will probably hear the rustle of  voles as they scurry through the borders and catch a glimpse of them as they disappear into their homes in the cavities in the granite walls.

Don’t miss out on this incredible gardening moment.  Be inspired by the drama of the seasons currently being played out on this amazing out door stage set; a sumptuous yet secret garden set in the wilds of Dartmoor.

At 9.30am I often have the garden all to myself!





Seen an elephant fly?

This handsome chap is a elephant hawk moth, so called because the caterpillar has one end that looks like a trunk. The kids at Lydford primary school hatched out ‘squidgy’ last week after 5 moths of caring for him as a pupa. Squidgy was a Christmas present to the kids from the rangers at Lydford gorge and along with their teacher Sue have done us proud.

Elephant hawk moths are native to the UK, my girlfriend and I found this one in the early autumn looking for a place to pupate, squidgy had a releasing ceremony last Friday and is once again a ‘wild’ moth!

Plym Peregrines: Out of the Quarry and onto the Web

Peregrine falcons in the National Trust’s Plymbridge Woods can now be seen live on the web. Peregrines nesting in Cann Quarry have been protected by a volunteer watch and the National Trust for the last eleven years following deliberate poisoning in the year 2000. Up to 20 thousand visitors every year peer through telescopes on a viewing platform set up by the Trust to get views of these magnificent birds and now many more will be able to view the peregrines from the comfort of their own homes.

There are several excellent webcams set up on the nests of urban living peregrines but few show views of birds nesting on a natural nest site as the National Trust’s does. A natural and rural environment comes with many challenges. As well as the complication of getting power and an internet connection to a camera far from mains electricity, there is also the issue of positioning a camera in just the right spot. The Plym peregrines have used several different ledges in the disused quarry over the years. Fortunately, this year the pair chose a nest ledge underneath the camera, allowing the best possible view. The peregrines also seemed to hold off beginning to lay their three eggs until the day after the camera went live on the web. This has resulted in their breeding cycle being slightly behind that of other peregrines in the country.


“The camera is a great addition to our on going efforts to protect the peregrines”, says ranger Beth Hamblin. “And we can’t wait to catch the first close up views of the chicks when the eggs hatch in late May.” She goes on to praise the work of the team behind the camera, in particular Dave Manford from Access Technology and volunteer Kevin Roberts and who have worked tirelessly to overcome the technical issues. Thanks is also due to the Wrigley Company Ltd for kindly agreeing to host a radio receiver and broadband line at their factory in Estover; thereby playing a pivotal role in getting the peregrine cam pictures out of the quarry and on to the web.

The live images from the National Trust’s camera can be viewed on