Thursday, 17 May 2012

Challacombe Down

Yesterday's Devon Birdwatching & Preservation Society meeting was at Challacombe Down, which is just North of Widecombe in the Moor, Dartmoor. The grid reference shown as the starting point was in the middle of nowhere, so I was quite pleased when I got near to find Ian, the day's leader, confirming that I was in the right place and that everyone was just up the road parked behind the bushes! Sounded very suspicious!

There were 11 of us, including several people I hadn't seen before joining us from other DBWPS branches. It was an amazing morning. We took nearly 3 hours to walk less than a mile! We walked along a footpath in front of Challacombe Cottages & back along the road & saw 34 species. The first bird of the day was a Hobby that flew slowly over the car park as we were getting ready. A Redpoll made a very brief appearance & was followed swiftly by a beautiful male Redstart. We then had a pair of Garden Warblers, one carrying nesting material. They provided lots of excellent views, circling around us through the bushes & trees. We even had a brief wing-quivering display.

Watching Garden Warblers
A couple of Reed Buntings were using the pond
I then missed a pair of Spotted Flycatchers that were seen coming out of a hole in a wall, and another that had been seen on a fence, I was a bit miffed as it was a bird I haven't yet seen this year. I needn't have worried though as the place turned out to be alive with them. I have no idea how many there were, but there were lots! One pair were paying considerable interest to the spare tyre on the side of an abandoned horse box, maybe they were eyeing it up as a nest site. There were also several Pied Flycatchers, including a pair using a nest box.

We went back to the cars for lunch & whilst we were eating a Cuckoo flew by! Very nice! We then headed  onto Challacombe Down, some of us taking the high route whilst some took the low (there could be a song in there somewhere!).

Lovely views...and the weather wasn't bad either
On the top route we saw a few Wheatears & someone saw a Whinchat, although I missed it. We also saw a Tree Pipit parachute onto the top of a small tree. That was the first one I've ever seen, or should I say the first that I know I've seen. A Meadow Pipit also appeared which was handy for comparing the two. There isn't a lot of difference, although having them both there it was quite obvious which was which.

The splinter groups converge
We had fantastic views of a Cuckoo perching on the tops of small trees & a fence. Someone said that there's always a Tree Pipit in a particular dead tree, well nearly always....... I asked to be shown the tree anyway so I'd know where to look in the future, & blow me down if one didn't parachute down and land in it whilst we were all looking at it. It then gave us a great display, repeatedly climbing & parachuting down again onto various trees.

The Tree Pipit tree is just visible in the centre on the skyline
Some of the group headed back to the cars, and some of us carried on for a walk through the Soussons Down woods. We found several Siskins, heard & very briefly saw a Blackcap & Whitethroat, and saw another gorgeous male Redstart, but there wasn't much activity.
Heading back having added 11 species....
We were nearly back to the cars, walking parallel to a small stream that was largely hidden by bushes, when David mentioned that you'd have to be really lucky to spot a Dipper. About 10 seconds later a Dipper flew past! What's more, it then flew back the other way! A very nice bird to finish on. That made it 46 for the day, with 2 added to my Year List, making it 188 + 2

No comments:

Post a Comment