Blob on a rock, masquerading as a male Ring Ouzel
Friday being a day off, Na asked if I could do her the favour of accompanying her onto the moors to do some work. We started with a quick check of the Pied Flycatcher boxes: two more of the females caught and their rings checked; one ringed as an adult in May 2008, the other a bird ringed back in 2005 on western Dartmoor, which we've also caught once at Meldon. Nice to see that experience pays off!
We then headed up onto the moors to check on work being done to investigate the decline of Ring Ouzel on Dartmoor. If you don't know them, they're effectively the montane version of the bog-standard European Blackbird - they don't have quite as nice a song, but they look pretty classy. A larger bird than blackbird, with a big crescent of white across the chest and rather silvery wings - there's a picture of one at the start of this post. Dartmoor used to have them in some abundance when I was a child, but they've gradually declined and disappeared from many of their haunts. We managed to bump into no fewer than five Ring Ouzel, as well as finding Grey Wagtails with dependent young, Wheatear all over the shop, a handful of Cuckoo and a singing male Redstart.We also managed to find such nice things as Emperor and Purple Bar moths, caterpillars of the Drinker moth and a small patch of Beech Fern:
Purple Bar moth
Beech Fern Phegopteris connectilis
Saturday was again a birdy day. We spent a while doing some nest recording (two lovely Willow Warbler nests, each with six eggs) and found a pair of Tree Pipit already feeding small young. They seem to have been in the country for such a short time, and yet they will soon have raised their young and be thinking about heading off again. Such a short season... We also saw good numbers of Pearl-bordered Fritillary; this is a site where the numbers have been climbing steadily over the last couple of years, in defiance of the recent long-term national decline. Hooray...
Some pictures from the weekend.
Looking up the Okement river, up on the North Moor
Common Cottongrass flowering
Hare's-tail Cottongrass going over...
Common - or Viviparous - Lizard clinging to the toe of Na's boot
Black-a-tor Copse from the walk back over Kitty Tor
Looking downstream along the Okement river, above Black-a-tor