Welcome to the July issue of The Harrier

Posted August 1st, 2017 at 2:18 am in Welcome

Greg Bradbury took this photo of a pair of Wood Sandpipers at RSPB Bowling Green Marsh on July 30th. If you are in the vicinity, call into the hide as they could well still be there. It's now that time of year when early migrants are starting to return to our coasts. There are good numbers of Black-tailed Godwits to be seen, some still in summer plumage, and there was a Spotted Redshank at the weekend at Goosemoor. The weekend before, I was surprised to see two Whimbrel on the coast at Prawle. So, it's only just August and the autumn migration has started - just 145 days to Christmas...

This is the last issue of The Harrier in its current form. We're now aiming to bring you news more regularly on a dedicated Harrier website. More information will follow in a few days. In the meantime, enjoy this issue and catch up with all the news from July.

Kevin Cox, (ex) Chair, Devon Birds

Change at the top

Posted August 1st, 2017 at 1:32 am in People

"Where did you say the bird was?" Once again, Cox demonstrates his consummate skill as a birder by looking in completely the wrong direction.

Kevin Cox has stepped down as Chair of Devon Birds at the last Council meeting on 26 July. The role will be taken over on an interim basis by Jerry Tallowin, currently Devon Birds' Conservation Officer, who will hand over to Shaw Edwards, Membership Secretary, at the next AGM.

Kevin is stepping down early as he has been nominated to take up the role of RSPB's Chair of Council in October. He said, "It's been a great privilege to serve as Chair of Devon Birds over the past sixteen months and to see the Society go from strength to strength. We now have our highest ever membership and we are doing more for bird conservation than ever before. I've most enjoyed meeting members from across the county, on our reserves, at field and indoor meetings, and on bird surveys. Devon Birds is surely one of the most active and engaged county bird societies in the country and I'm pleased that Jerry and Shaw have stepped up to take over at the helm. We couldn't be in better hands. Although my new role at RSPB will keep me fully occupied, I shall remain an ardent supporter of Devon Birds."

Moorland Bird Adviser appointed

Posted August 1st, 2017 at 1:14 am in People

Fiona Freshney has now started work as the Dartmoor Moorland Bird Adviser, working with commoners and landowners to help improve habitats and management for upland birds. Many Devon Birds members will know Fiona as she has organised a number of surveys, including most recently for Ring Ouzels. Fiona knows Dartmoor well and her ecological and conservation experience will be invaluable in helping to improve habitats for birds across the moor. She will also be looking for volunteer help in the future to assist with the project and all bird records from across the National Park will be vital.

Fiona says, "In my new role as 'Dartmoor Moorland Bird Advisor' (a post hosted by RSPB but financially supported by a wide range of organisations, including Devon Birds), I will certainly be referring to your records when out and about meeting land managers, attempting to work with others to get positive management for birds on the moor. Robust, current data is vital to underpin conservation efforts so I shall be trying to find ways of collecting further bird data for particular sites and species over the next few years.

As a result of the Moor than Meets the Eye Project the eastern quarter of the moor is well covered and there is recent data held for other specific sites (e.g. Holne Moor, Brent Moor) and species, but we still have gaps in knowledge. Where gaps are identified, and particularly where any land management change is planned, I intend to organise future volunteer surveys. These might be species-specific surveys or broader scale. I hope some of you will find the time to get involved again; your input welcomed!"

For more information, or to offer help, contact Fiona at Fiona.Freshney@rspb.org.uk

Help find our House Martins

Posted August 1st, 2017 at 12:54 am in Conservation

The Dartmoor House Martin Project is going strong and there's still time to log your sightings of active nests on the website: www.dartmoorhousemartins.org

You've missed this year's series of talks by naturalist John Walters in Ashburton, Princetown and Yelverton but there's still time to join John when he hosts a couple of evening walks to see the birds and discover more about them in Buckfastleigh and Lydford. Look out for dates and details on the Dartmoor National Park website: http://www.dartmoor.gov.uk/ or on our What's On pages.

What do Dartmoor Cuckoos eat?

Posted July 31st, 2017 at 12:52 am in Conservation

A hungry Dartmoor Cuckoo, photographed by Charles Tyler 

Cuckoos across Devon have experienced a significant decline over the past few decades and it's likely that there are now no breeding birds anywhere except Dartmoor and Exmoor. On the moors, Cuckoos that parasitise Meadow Pipits are still holding on but those that used to lay their eggs in Dunnock's nests seem to have disappeared.

One explanation might be the lack of food for returning Cuckoos, particularly big hairy caterpillars such as those of Drinker Moth and Fox Moth. The best way of telling what Cuckoos eat is by collecting faecal samples from adult and juvenile Cuckoos and testing the DNA. But that's easier said than done. To find out just how tricky it is, read Stuart Croft's fascinating blog on the RSPB website here:


Photo of the Month

Posted July 25th, 2017 at 11:16 pm in Photo of the Month

Mark Dyer's photo of a Lesser Redpoll captured on Dartmoor in June shows just how gorgeous these little birds are in full breeding plumage.

Roadford WeBS counter needed

Posted July 24th, 2017 at 9:58 pm in People

As part of the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) a small team of birders have been counting waterfowl at Roadford Reservoir since it flooded in 1989. We now need to recruit another counter to help with the counts as soon as possible.

The Wetland Bird Survey is a nationwide survey of waterfowl on coastal and inland sites carried out to monitor populations of waders and wildfowl. The counts are monthly and at Roadford usually take around 2 hours, starting around 8.30 am. We take it in turn to count different parts of the reservoir. Roadford is the most important inland site in Devon.

If you might be interested, please contact Tony John on agwj97@yahoo.co.uk or 01822-852172.


Mist nets at South Milton Ley

Posted July 18th, 2017 at 6:39 pm in Reserves

Alan Pomroy writes: The width of the boards along the mist net ride across the main reed bed at South Milton Ley has now been doubled along the whole 48m length of the ride. The resultant walkway is more stable and safer than it’s ever been and the boards should have a life expectancy of well over 10 years. At the same time, all of the bamboo mist net poles have been replaced with galvanised steel ones so no more rot, splits, snags or splinters! The metal poles should last indefinitely.

Trevor Beer MBE 1937-2017

Posted July 18th, 2017 at 6:28 pm in People

Trevor was a prolific writer having written 14 tourist guides from birds, flowers and other natural history topics to castles, beaches and footpath walks. His other books included “The Beast of Exmoor, fact or legend”, “Devon's Wild Mammals”, three editions of “Nature Watch”, “Tarka Country” and “Tarka Country revisited”. However he was probably best known for his regular articles in the Western Morning News, Exmoor Magazine, Devon Life Magazine, the North Devon Journal, North Devon Gazette, Cornish Guardian, West Briton and Country Lovers Magazine.

Whilst doing all this he took in and healed over 4000 sick and injured wild birds and animals. He was elected Wildlife Champion for North Devon Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 2005 having already been awarded an M.B.E. in 2002 for journalism and environment.

He was a Fellow of both the Zoological Society and of the Royal Entomological Society. He founded the RSPB North Devon branch, The Taw and Torridge Estuary Forum as well as the Taw and Exmoor Branch of The British Naturalists' Association and was a founder member of the Society for Wildlife Art for the Nations. He had been a council member of The Devon Bird Watching and Preservation Society in the 1980's.

In recent years he found it difficult to get out and about even travelling by car, although he managed the occasional trip around Anchor Woods.

Trevor Beer – wildlife artist, columnist, author, naturalist and environmentalist – a true countryman, whose greatest wish was to protect wildlife habitats.

Brian Sims

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