South Devon Branch Walk to Challacombe Farm – 5th June 2023

Picture the perfect walk on Dartmoor and this day was almost that! It started off with a classic Dartmoor cool morning, so that a coat was necessary, even on this Summer’s day. However, soon afterwards, with the sun beaming down from an azure sky and the birds in full song, things rapidly improved.

After listening to Skylarks by the car park, the group of 5 birdwatchers proceeded down the gully towards the disused mines and Willow Warblers suddenly became the most common species. Then a glimpse of an orange-breasted bird with a white supercilium revealed a Whinchat, closely followed by a distant Cuckoo calling from the hilltop and another classic Dartmoor summer visitor, a Tree Pipit.

As the Tree Pipit performed its aerial parachute display, so the group then observed a Reed Bunting perched in the treetop. The path became rather more like a stream, which was ideal for birds desperate for a drink.  Then there was a flash of reddish pink as one of the birds flew to a concealed perch and after a little deliberation this was identified as a Crossbill in its spectacular summer plumage.

After a brief coffee stop, with Whitethroats calling from the bush and Garden Chafers – a type of beetle, flying everywhere, not one, but 3 Wheatears were spotted, all of them with Chafers in their beaks, ready to feed young birds in a well-concealed nest nearby. Sadly, one bird had a damaged leg, but it seemed to manage very well in spite of this impediment.

Challacombe Farm provided the usual birding feast, with Spotted Flycatchers zooming in and out of the beautiful mature Oak trees, whilst House Martins and Swallows swooped around also catching flies.

After an uphill climb, the summit overlooking the starting point was finally reached, with more excellent views of Buzzards, Whinchats and Wheatear on the way. Finally, the group returned to the car park, only to find that the ponies had decided to turn it into a paddock, with foals posing for the cameras.

Overall, 40 species were seen and heard (see list below) on this beautiful summer’s walk.

Nick D’Agorne – Group Leader

Stock Dove
Common Woodpigeon
Common Cuckoo
Herring Gull
Common Buzzard
Eurasian Green Woodpecker
Common Magpie
Eurasian Jackdaw
Carrion Crow
Common Raven
Eurasian Blue Tit
Great Tit
Eurasian Skylark
Barn Swallow
Common House Martin
Willow Warbler
Eurasian Blackcap
Garden Warbler
Common Whitethroat
Eurasian Wren
Common Starling
Mistle Thrush
Song Thrush
Eurasian Blackbird
Spotted Flycatcher
European Robin
Whinchat
European Stonechat
Northern Wheatear
Dunnock
House Sparrow
Pied Wagtail
Meadow Pipit
Tree Pipit
Common Chaffinch
Eurasian Bullfinch
Common Linnet
Lesser Redpoll
Common Crossbill
Common Reed Bunting