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Tuesday, 19 April 2016

A Wonderful Wildlife Week

Every now and then there is a week that is day after day of natural history. 

This last week was just such a one. There was an event planned for every day and the weather was kind.

Great Crested Grebe on her nest

Monday The monthly BTO Wetland Bird Survey was due, and as usual we deferred it for a day to avoid the busy weekend at Tamar Lakes. It is April so the winter visitors had gone and there was only a chance of spring or summer visitors being present. We did hear a single Sedge Warbler staking out his territory and spotted a Great Crested Grebe sitting on a newly constructed nest. There was also one or two Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and a lone Swallow.

Peacock butterfly

After lunch the weather was warm and sunny with hardly any wind. It was the ideal time to walk our newly registered UKBMS butterfly transect. This starts at the Bush Inn at Crosstown in Morwenstow, descends to the Tidna Valley and follows the river to the coast then up the cliff before heading inland along a green lane to Crosstown Green. It was a good decision with butterflies of four species – Speckled Wood, Small Tortoiseshell, Comma and Peacock.

Sunset over the south end of Lundy

Tuesday We had an early start, leaving Bideford quay at 9am for Lundy. The sea was like a mill pond but we saw no cetaceans and few birds. The island was alive with spring birds though – Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps. I spotted a Sparrowhawk at Quarter Wall Pond after a long meeting inside. The return trip was spectacular with a brilliant orange sunset over the island as we returned at 7pm.

Piscicola geometra

Wednesday The first Riverfly survey of the year on the Torridge near Bradford Mill and the first since the July 2015 was planned. In August and September last year, the river was in spate and two metres higher than normal. In the event, the river was slightly higher and faster than normal, but it turned up plenty of invertebrates. It was interesting to record the difference in abundance of the eight indicator species. Stoneflies were particularly abundant with a few extremely large specimens almost ready to become flying insects. The normal Perlodidae were joined by two specimens of Taeniopterygidae. Another unusual species, not part of the survey set, was a fish leech, Piscicola geometra.

Planting Marram Grass
Thursday This was a Bude Valley Volunteers working party day. Following the “planting” of retired Christmas Trees after 12th night in January at Widemouth Bay the plan was to supplement this with the planting of Marram Grass. The trees were already doing their job of accumulating sand around themselves. We were allowed to dig up randomly selected Marram plants and transplant them between two rows of the trees. The expectation is that the Marram will further stabilise the sand allowing and embryo dune to form.

 This will in future plug a gap where the dunes had “blown out” and reduce the chance of sand blowing onto the adjacent coast road.

Picnic at Dexbeer Bridge
Friday The culmination of a busy week – to walk the whole length of Bude Aqueduct. Four of us started from Lower Tamar Lake and walked the whole 5 miles to Vealand Reserve where we then followed the permissive path for a final 700 yards. The weather was again kind allowing us to have our first picnic of the year at Dexbeer Bridge on Councillors Shadrick's memorial table. We shared the area with a pair of Willow tits – confirmed as they responded strongly with identical calls to those Willow Tit lure. We recorded a total of 34 species of birds on our walk including all 5 tits – Great, Blue, Coal, Long-tailed, Marsh and Willow and 4 finches – Gold, Green, Chaff and Bull. We also noted 4 spring plants – Wood Anenome, Wood Sorrel, Cuckoo flower and Lesser Periwinkle together with all 3 mammals so far seen on this walk – Roe Deer, Grey Squirrel and Rabbit.

The only let down was Friday night's Garden Moth Survey which due to the cold and wet attracted not a single moth.

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