What birdlife might I find in the Teign Valley and on Dartmoor?September 1, 2020
Teign Valley and Dartmoor Bird Watch
It is our usual habit to take our first cup of tea of the day down to the bank of the River Teign which runs along the end of our garden. This morning I saw not one, but two kingfishers; a rare sighting! They nest close by but are rarely seen. That iridescent turquoise plumage glinting in the morning sun, sets you up for the day! Another magnificent, though infrequent visitor early in the morning is the elegant grey heron.
Also, usually resident, are a pair of dippers, the emblem of the Devon Wildlife Trust. Their underwater feeding antics fascinate. They are joined by the balletic antics of the wagtails, pied, grey and, in the summer months, yellow wagtails who winter in Africa. Finally, our troupe of dabbling mallard ducks appear, working their way along the river looking for food.
Back in the garden we feed our myriad of garden birds on sunflower hearts and fat balls, together with a garden full of seed heads and a smorgasbord of insects and invertebrates. The greater spotted woodpeckers love the fat balls and bring their young to feed on them. At this time of year there are family-flocks of goldfinches, green finches and siskins feeding on the sunflower seeds while the chaffinches, pied wagtails and wood pigeons hoover up below. We have seen the occasional intrepid chaffinch or robin have a go at landing on the seed feeders themselves! The stealthiest visitors by far are the Zorro-masked nuthatches approaching beak down. They are joined by marsh tits, great tits, blue tits and the occasional long-tailed tit. All recognisable characters; we have named some of them: Charlie the chaffinch, Ziggy and Waggy, a pair of pied wagtails who proudly showed off their babies recently, the blue tit family born in a nest in a hole in the window frame next door while, watching over us all is Rockie the robin. We have been horrified as, at breakfast, or over an evening G&T, a sparrow hawk has swooped in and stolen a juvenile blue tit!
In and out of the flower beds and across the lawn dash Mr & Mrs Blackbird, the dunnocks and the elusive wrens. While in the skies above the crows and buzzards continually bicker, the buzzards riding the thermals until they become mere dots high in the sky. In the summer months we love to watch the swallows and house martins swooping and diving in their aerobatic supper bug hunt. At night times and early in the morning we hear, but almost never see, tawny owls out hunting.
As you head up to Dartmoor, the landscape and the birdlife changes. You can spy birdboxes low down on tree trunks in Dunsford Wood to attract spotted flycatchers. Higher up on the moors are many birds species that have declined elsewhere: the cuckoo, the rare thrush-like ring ouzel (a disorientated juvenile once landed in our garden and stayed for a couple of days!), red grouse and snipe. During even a short walk on Dartmoor, it is not long before you see, or more likely hear a stonechat in the gorse bushes or a ‘sweet soaring’ skylark exploding skywards from its nest in the heather. The buzzards continue soaring high above!
Many of our guests at The Old Dairy love the varied birdlife and are happy to sit and just watch. We provide binoculars and identification books for those who wish to use them.