Society News from June 2013

Taw & Torridge Branch Indoor Meetings - updated

Posted September 2nd at 5:16 pm in Events by Mike Daniels

The Taw & Torridge Branch are restarting Indoor Meetings at the Castle Centre, Barnstaple. Start times are :7.30pm. Details for the remainder of 2022 and beginning of 2023 are:

8th November - Philip Marlow, African Game Parks are not just the Big 5

13th December - John Walters, the Secret Life of the Long-tailed Tit

10th January 2023 - Emma Scotney, An Introduction to Bats

14th February - James Fentom, Plovers of St Helena: A study

14th March - Stephen Powels, Tawny Owls

11th April - Ian Gaspar, Bird behaviour: an illustrated talk


Two of our Cuckoos are now in France!!

Posted June 27th, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Two of our Devon tagged Cuckoos have decided that it is time to leave and, Ryder, having been around the Holne area for over a month decided last weekend 21/22 June to make a move and by Sunday evening was on the coast of Brittany and Lower Normandy by Tuesday morning 25 June. He was about 30km (19 miles) east of coastal Saint-Malo and 50km (30 miles) north of Rennes, after completing a distance of 270km (169 miles) including crossing the English Channel at one of its widest points.  

At almost the same time, Tor also revealed his new location in France, although on a similar longitude, he was over 340km (200 miles) further to the east in the region of Lorraine, close to the commune of Arraincourt to the west of the Vosgues Mountains. He is just 30km (19 miles) south-west of the border with Germany. Since the last position received in England he has covered around 770km (475 miles)!

Follow them here  Dart, Ryder, Tor and Whortle

East Devon Branch Fieldtrip, Monday 17 June

Posted June 17th, 2013 at 6:21 pm

Ten members met at Meldon Reservoir Car park and drove on to park below the dam where more sheltered conditions were found. Led by Jonathan Ruscoe the group were given much valued local knowledge of the patch by Roger Jewell of Okehampton. A total of 32 species  were seen during the day including five Raven, several Grey Wagtail, Dipper,  two Treecreeper, Redpoll (in small numbers), both Spotted and Pied Flycatcher and a small party of Swift.  The main interest came from observing the riverside and woodland areas together with the gorse covered hillsides near to the main quarry.

Taw/Torridge field trip -Cloutsham/Horner Wood 9th June

Posted June 15th, 2013 at 12:02 pm

You know you’re having a good day’s birding, when sitting on a grassy knoll on a warm sunny day, eating lunch in good company, with magnificent views all around and a Red Kite flies past.  So it was for our June field meeting to the heart of Exmoor.

Eight of us set off along East Water into Horner Wood, bird sound filled the air, Chiffchaff, Wren and two Blackcap were clearly trying to out sing each other!  A pair of Marsh Tits were soon spotted busily gathering food for their nestlings. Continuing along the valley, the trees, resplendent in their fresh green livery made the sighting of our target bird, Wood Warbler, more difficult, but at least 2 male birds teased us with their calls, it’s good to know they are there.  A Dipper was seen by some of the group flying down stream, and Goldcrest and Treecreeper flitted around in the trees. Above the tree canopy a soaring Buzzard and a group of Swifts were feasting on insects.

Climbing steeply to the top of the hill, the views opened up giving panoramic vistas of Porlock Vale and the Welsh coast.  Walking along the ridge, towards our lunch spot, a Great spotted Woodpecker was active round a nest hole, probably feeding young, and near by a pair of Redstart were busily carrying food to their nest site.  The laughing yaffle of a Green Woodpecker was heard as was the melancholy song of the Willow Warbler.

After a well deserved lunch, we descended back to our cars, stopping to watch a pair of Pied Flycatchers coming and going to their nest with food, seemingly unconcerned by our presence. We then drove a short distance to walk along Chetsford Water to look for Whinchat, one was soon seen, then another singing from the top of a Hawthorn. In the open moorland landscape, Skylark were singing overhead and Meadow Pipits wereactive in the tussocks as a Cuckoo flew past surveying possible nest sites.  Further down the valley by the stream a Reed Bunting, and then three Lesser Redpoll were heard overhead and settled nearby in gorse giving us good views.

Another good day’s birding, total species seen 40.


Our Cuckoos - follow them here

Posted June 12th, 2013 at 10:18 pm

Click on each Cuckoo's name and then zoom in and see how much they have moved around across Dartmoor and beyond.

Dart, Ryder, Tor and Whortle

A Report on the Mid Devon field meeting at North Wyke

Posted June 11th, 2013 at 1:19 pm

The weather continued to be kind for the group of 18 who met at North Wyke on Sunday 9 June, part of the Rothamsted Research Centre. The walk started around the historic manor house of North Wyke with Swift, House Sparrow and several other species, including bats nesting in the old dovecotes and crevices.  It was also pleasing to see House Martin nesting against the eves.  An active pair of Spotted Flycatchers were found to be using a gap in the woodwork at one end of the building for their nest.

Under Jerry Tallowin's guidance we then proceeded to investigate the grounds and then down through several experimental fields.  The Centre is an independent scientific research institute and the longest running agricultural research station in the world. Jerry explained some of the projects being carried out at the Centre as we moved from one area to another and would interrupt himself with "can you hear that Goldcrest? or Nuthatch calling!"  We passed through woodland hearing Willow Warbler and several other species, close to where the Great Spot had been feeding young days before which had now fledged.  Jerry showed us an area of woodland that had been planted solely with different types of willow which were now very established and providing good habitat.  We also visited an area with two ponds with several species of dragonfly zooming around and nearby a Reed Bunting had a nest.

With the sun now hot on our backs we explored the wild flower hay meadows alongside the River Taw where Dipper and Kingfisher are seen regularly and we wandered around the two small nature conservation areas which had excellent mixed hedgerows before making our way back up to the wonderful setting of the old Manor where we picnicked in the grounds as the Swifts flew around us.

After lunch Jerry rounded off the meeting by ringing a brood of Blue tit pulli for the group. A very interesting  and enjoyable outing with good company.

Four Dartmoor Cuckoos have been tagged!!

Posted June 6th, 2013 at 11:41 am

To catch a cuckoo… or four  (our Press Release)

Tagged Dartmoor Cuckoo May 2013 Charles Tyler

Spring has returned to Dartmoor, and with it, one of the season’s most evocative sounds: the call of the cuckoo. Sadly, in most areas of the UK, the cuckoo population is in decline. To help find out more about this enigmatic bird in order to try and halt this decline, we, Devon Birds have teamed up with Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) to fund the satellite tagging of four Dartmoor cuckoos.

Despite the cuckoo being one of Devon’s most iconic birds, very little is actually known about it, and the reasons for its decline are unclear. So, before steps can start to be taken to conserve this enigmatic bird, more is needed to be learnt about its ecology.

In Devon, the cuckoo is now rare across much of the county, but the population on Dartmoor has remained stable.

To get a better picture of the movements of Dartmoor’s cuckoos on their incredible migration, small numbers of birds are being fitted with satellite tags so their journeys and behaviours can be followed closely.

The tagging is part of a national project, managed by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) that has been running since 2011.  In mid May, the BTO’s specially licensed cuckoo-catcher came to Dartmoor to put satellite tags on four cuckoos that DNPA ecologists had identified with the assistance of local birders.

“Catching cuckoos involves some field craft!” explained Naomi Barker, Devon Birds' member and Ecologist for Dartmoor National Park Authority.

“Once a cuckoo’s song-post has been identified, one needs to put up special cuckoo-catching nets around it; ideally this needs to be done first thing in the morning before the cuckoo wakes up. Within the netting area a decoy cuckoo is erected and then a cuckoo tape-lure is played to attract the target cuckoo into the net.”

Malcolm Burgess with tagged CuckooThe team managed to catch the four targeted cuckoos in two days. They were all healthy and large enough to have a tag fitted.

“This exciting project looks to address a worrying decline in a much-loved Devon bird,” said George Harris, Chairman of Devon Birds.

“But more than that, it is an international investigation at the forefront of modern ecology and one we are proud to be involved with. While efforts are being made to protect cuckoo habitat here on the moor, getting a better understanding of their worldwide life history is necessary if we are ever to answer this very big conservation question.”

Only male cuckoos are tagged, as female cuckoos are smaller and the tags may be too heavy for them. The males are all still on Dartmoor, but are expected to leave for Africa in June or July.

Each cuckoo was named so it could be identified individually as part of the project. It was felt that names with a Dartmoor connection were appropriate for this investigation hence the team came up with: Dart, Whortle, Tor and Ryder.

NB You can follow them on their travels through Britain, Europe and Africa . We shall be giving regular updates on this news section.  Since being tagged you can see they have already been active over large areas of Dartmoor. Click on their names above to find out where they are and where they have been so far.

A Report on the Plymouth Indoor Meeting Mon 10th June

Posted June 4th, 2013 at 11:41 pm

The second meeting of the Plymouth Branch was held on Monday 10 June at Spurgeon Hall, Mutley Baptist Church attended by 41 people.   The move to the larger hall certainly allowed for more comfort and easier parking.

George Harris, our chairman, reminded us to look at the website to follow the migration of the four Dartmoor cuckoos on their return journey to Africa.  The were caught and fitted with monitoring tags in May this year and are currently being tracked zigzagging across the moor.  The devices were sponsored by Devon Birds and DNP and will give information of the cuckoos' route and time of their migration south later.

The speaker for the evening was Dave Norman, co-author of Where to Watch Birds in Devon & Cornwall & Isles of Scilly".  Using his extensive knowledge gathered over 50 years of birding he encouraged us to:"Expand our birdwatching horizons by exploring sites in the area".  He described helpful viewing points on estuaries and coastal habitats of the South and North Devon coast as well as parts of Dartmoor, as described in his essential book.  Dave's excellent photographic skills were used to highlight well known seasonal species of birdlife as well as rarities.  Dave commented that time spent at migrant landing points, particularly very early in the morning, can result in abundant numbers of unexpected birdlife.

The next meeting will be on Mon 9 Sept with Josh Marshall describing "Fighting Wildlife Crime in Devon and Cyprus".


Mid Devon Walk Sunday 9 June at North Wyke

Posted June 4th, 2013 at 11:34 pm

The next meeting for the Mid Devon Group will take place at North Wyke this Sunday 9th June, starting at 9.30 am. 

The Grid Ref for North Wyke is SX660984.  Please meet in the Rothamsted ResearchCentre visitors’ car park at North Wyke – this will be signposted.

The walk will be around the grounds and house of North Wyke, then through woodland, alongside hay meadows and the River Taw through two small nature conservation areas. After a picnic lunch, if members wish, we could visit another part of North Wyke estate.   Leader: Jerry Tallowin tel no 01837 840032 (evening), for more details.

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