Challacombe Farm Walk Report-18th May 2024

As the group of 12 assembled at the farm entrance, the air was filled with birdsong, with Pied Flycatcher and Redstart vying to be the best introduction to Challacombe Farm. Mark then took us on a tour of his farm and shared his passion for ‘farming with a difference’, focussing on what management practices were best for wildlife. From ponds to meadows, Mark had been able to utilise income from various grants and subsidies to ensure that he maintained a viable income, at the same time as creating a rich diversity of wildlife and rearing a mixture of cattle and sheep. Meanwhile, the birds did their best to outperform Mark, with a male Redstart perching on the fence, House Martins collecting mud from a puddle in the road and several Garden Warblers singing from the depths of the undergrowth.

Nik then continued the walk, sharing with us the typical Dartmoor bird species along the route up the valley past Soussons plantation. A cuckoo perched at the top of a conifer set the scene, constantly calling before dashing off, being chased by a Pipit. Then a Tree Pipit with its distinctive song was identified, closely followed by a smart male Reed Bunting. Whilst looking to the skies, the group then looked at their feet to study the specialist features of the Sundew in the boggy margins to the woodland.

The ascent over Headland Warren was very rewarding, with at least 5 Whinchat singing from their territories. On the descent back towards the farm a lone Wheatear appeared on top of a stone wall, adding to the growing list of species. Finally, on entering Challacombe Farm boundary a Nuthatch was seen busily flying back and forth to its nest hole.

With 44 species seen and/or heard on the walk, in the beautiful sunshine for most of the time, this was truly a memorable visit to a very special location.

 

Nick D’Agorne

 

Species List

Common Pheasant
Common Woodpigeon
Common Cuckoo
Herring Gull
Grey Heron
Common Buzzard
Common Magpie
Eurasian Jackdaw
Carrion Crow
Common Raven

Eurasian Blue Tit
Great Tit
Eurasian Skylark
Barn Swallow
Western House Martin
Willow Warbler
Common Chiffchaff
Long-tailed Tit
Eurasian Blackcap
Garden Warbler
Common Whitethroat
Goldcrest

Eurasian Nuthatch
Eurasian Wren
Common Starling
Song Thrush
Eurasian Blackbird
European Robin
European Pied Flycatcher
Common Redstart
Whinchat
European Stonechat
Northern Wheatear
Dunnock
House Sparrow
Pied Wagtail
Meadow Pipit
Tree Pipit
Common Chaffinch
Common Linnet
Lesser Redpoll
European Goldfinch
Eurasian Siskin
Common Reed Bunting