Mid-Devon visit to Meeth, 28 July

On a breezy morning with occasional showers six members of the Mid Devon group enjoyed a mornings stroll through both the Ashmoor and Meeth Quarry reserves of the Devon Wildlife Trust. Whilst there were plenty of birds about they were doing their best to remain hidden, very little birdsong was evident.

Despite apparent lack of birdlife we had a good selection of listed sightings by the time we stopped in the warm sun for a picnic lunch beside one of the many ponds. Here we had a good view of a darting Kingfisher, other small birds were also busy feeding in the tree tops, including three members of the Tit family and Willow Warblers.

Through the Quarry reserve we had Green Woodpeckers calling as they flew around a favoured feeding area. Apart from Canada Geese the water was almost bird free except for several active Little Grebe and a distant Kingfisher seen fishing from a lakeside perch. By the remote settling pond area where few visitors walk we were lucky enough to see two adult otters cross the track only a few feet ahead of us, both otters and humans were taken by surprise! In the fields on the opposite side of the lake a fox was sighted heading home with what looked like a pheasant for the family! This sparked a discussion as to whether the bird should be added to our list! Other notable non birding wildlife was the sighting of several thumb nail sized baby toads hopping across the walkways.

Before reaching the cycle track we found a butterfly hotspot where several species were enjoying a sheltered sunny corner. There were stunning Silver Washed Fritillary, Gatekeepers and Ringlets feeding on the flowering thistle heads. Wood Whites and Damselfly were also abundant.

 After two hours in the quarry area we crossed the Tarka Trail, entering the Ashmoor reserve from the viewing platform entrance. Here the terrain changes to a culm grassland habitat, quite wet after all the recent rain but accessible along the way-marked track. The meadows here are covered in great swathes of wetland flowers with more butterflies, damsel and dragonflies attracted to this section. Looking skyward a Sparrowhawk and Hobby were seen flying over. When we reached the new pond a Sandpiper took fright and flew rapidly away, no one was able to agree as to its exact identity, Green or Common?

A very rewarding morning’s stroll, with a total of 23 species on our list.

It is worth mentioning to those who have yet to visit Meeth that the paths here are well maintained with good directional signs. Apart from the birds and insects there is an incredible array of wild flowers. A naturalist’s paradise.

The next Mid Devon meeting is at Fernworthy on Tues 15 September, we look forward to seeing you there.                             Digby Greenhill