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Bovey Tracey Local Group
Throughout the year this group arranges a series of indoor and outdoor activities that are open to all and are advertised in Devon Wildlife Trust's events leaflet and on the events webpage.
Our indoor events, which start on Tuesday 21st October, will be at a new venue, the Methodist Church in Bovey Tracey. The Methodist Church is on the corner of Le Mollay-Littry Way and Station Road, the car park is at the rear of the church and is approached from Le Mollay-Littry Way. The hall abuts the carpark, and the hall entrance faces the road.
Nearby reserves in the Bovey Tracey area are Bovey Heathfield, Chudleigh Knighton Heath, Little Bradley Ponds and Emworthy Mire. Practical workdays take place every Wednesday at one of these reserves, for more information click here.
Walks and talks
Bees at Buckfast: a visit - Sunday 20 July
Clare Densley, the apiarist at Buckfast, first provided us all with refreshments, then went on to give a fascinating and informative talk about bees and beekeeping.
In 2010 the monks at the abbey decided that they did not wish to continue with commercial beekeeping, instead moving to an educational focus. Clare was pleased about this, as she is able to work much more in harmony with the bees. After a brief account of the evolutionary history of bees (they evolved from an ancestral wasp), Clare described their life history, including the three types: queen, worker and drone. Each worker bee carries out different roles during her lifetime, initially carrying out maintenance tasks within the hive, and only later going out on pollen and nectar collecting sorties.
then dressed ourselves in bee-proof suits and went off to watch a hive
in action. Clare dismantled a hive, explaining that she had chosen the
most pacific brood. We were able to see many of the features that Clare
had described, including seeing the resident queen and watching bees
hatching from their honeycomb cells.
It was a very rewarding afternoon, and particularly pleasing to witness Clare’s obvious love of bees in the way she spoke about them and, especially, her calm and gentle handling of them at the hive.
Claypit Safari - Thursday 5 June
After donning our protective gear and being given a comprehensive health and safety briefing, the group were treated to a two and a half hour whistle-stop tour in three Landrovers, taking in seven different sites. Our hosts, Kevin, Keith and Darren from Sibelco, gave up their free time to demonstrate a real passion for the work that they do in balancing the need to extract the clay economically whilst caring for the local environment and communities.
A visit to the bottom of one vast 160 acre quarry revealed layers of distinctly different seams of clay dating back 30 million years. Some of the clays found here are the only such deposits in the world.
Amongst the wildlife highlights we saw were sand martins nesting in the clay banks, southern marsh orchids, six spot burnet moths and a fleeting glimpse of a grizzled skipper butterfly. We heard how the quarrying stops for the nesting sand martins, and tales of nightjars nesting and kestrel rescues. We visited ponds and heathland created to offset the impact of the quarrying. Sibelco work closely with the Environment Agency, DWT, Natural England and other agencies to ensure the impact of the quarrying on the environment is both managed and monitored.
Our thanks go to Kevin, Keith, Darren and all at Sibelco and, of course, Linda Corkerton on our DWT committee, for arranging a fascinating trip.
A Secret Garden at Haytor - Saturday 31 May
A party of 16 members and friends were shown around a pinetum very close to Haytor, containing over 1,000 specimens of conifers from all over the world. Having recovered from the pleasant surprise of finding such an amazing collection so near a well known tor, the visitors were given a most interesting talk on conifers from the days of dinosaurs to present day development by gardeners, especially the Japanese.
The collection was
started in the 1980s and the various shapes and colours of the now well
established trees create a really beautiful display. If anybody thought
conifers were boring, this collection changed their minds. There is a
possibility of a further visit in the autumn, when many of the trees
will be showing their autumn colours – not all conifers are evergreen.
Mill Bottom, Lustleigh - 5 May
It was a beautiful day for the visit to Mill Bottom, one of the first reserves, purchased in 1969. Dr Frances Billinge, together with two DWT colleagues, led this joint meeting with the Devonshire Association Botany Section. Over 60 people came to have a wander amongst spring flowers in a tranquil setting.
The walk started along a country lane bordering the historic mill leat, before entering the reserve, which is on a disused railway line. Mill Bottom is a small broadleaved woodland with an abundance of bluebell, sanicle, yellow archangel and early purple orchid. We heard about the management of the site, that otters are known to be in the area, and that seven species of bat, including lesser horseshoe, forage here. The meeting was concluded with a cream tea kindly hosted by Mr and Mrs Carnell in their delightful garden.
Many thanks to Andrew Bakere and his colleagues David and Stuart for their hard work preparing the site for our visit. If members wish to visit this permit-only reserve, please contact Andrew at DWT for permission. If you would like a species list from the day, including a list of species known to grow there, please let Kevin know and he will send it to you.
Dawn Chorus, Woodah Farm - Sunday 4 May
In the middle of the night on 4th May at Woodah Farm, Doddiscombesleigh, 25 members stood in the dark waiting for the first tweet of International Dawn Chorus Day. A robin was first, but it was a skylark that really started the show. A song thrush lived up to its name, with a bravura performance in a nearby tree, and a blackcap didn't seem to want to stop. The cockerel at a nearby farm sounded a more domestic note. There were no unexpected birds, but a wonderful chorus was provided by the locals: blackbirds, wrens, white throats, chiffchaffs etc.
Walking back to the farmhouse, the horizon was red with the rising sun and, following tea and a bacon buttie, a walk around the farm offered magical views of the Teign Valley and Stanicliffe Copse, which was thickly carpeted with bluebells and ramsons. Many thanks to David Price, who led the event, and to Richard Jenkins and Stewart Gilmore, volunteers at Woodah, for their support. Apologies to the many we had to turn away; we do have to limit numbers, but perhaps next year...
Dunsford Wood - Saturday 27 April
A brave band of 12 ignored the wet weather forecast for the first outdoor event of the spring at DWT's Dunsford Wood Reserve, and was rewarded with a riot of spring flowers sparkling in the sunlight and showers. Andy Bakere, Reserves Officer, led the group along the riverside and glade tracks through this ancient oak woodland and, although the daffodils had mostly gone, there was wild garlic, dog's mercury, stitchwort and wood avens in abundance. Peeking through this display were clumps of yellow archangel and cuckoo pint making a most colourful floral carpet.
Andy gave us an understanding of past and current management of the reserve, including observation of coppiced trees, a nest box monitoring scheme, as well as butterfly, invertebrate and flora surveys. Although this reserve is at its best in the spring, it is worthy of a visit at any time of the year when, as we were, you may be lucky enough to find a violet oil beetle or green longhorn micro moth, with antennae four times the length of its body. With the recent acquisition of the adjoining Fingles Wood by the Woodland Trust, and plans to open paths to the upper valley slopes, this is certainly a reserve to re-visit.
Shine a light: The impact of night lighting on wildlife - Wednesday 12 February
Dr Fiona Matthews, senior lecturer in mammal biology at University of Exeter drew our attention to a source of anthropogenic environmental pollution that is not widely acknowledged, namely the artificial lighting installed to light our way in the darkness. We were shown charts documenting the spread of street lighting over the last century or so and satellite images of Europe with large areas of nighttime illumination. Dr Matthews explained some of the difficulties involved in researching the effects of artificial lighting on wildlife, including the different forms of lighting, each with a distinctive wavelength pattern.
Dr Matthews’ main interest and enthusiasm concerns bats. She explained that some bat species, such as pipistrelles, may benefit to some degree from artificial lighting, in that the many insects drawn towards the lights serve as a convenient buffet for the bats. Other species are ‘light shy’ and are likely to be adversely affected, in that they avoid otherwise suitable feeding habitats. Greater and lesser horseshoe bats are of this type, and we were shown the results of research comparing lit and unlit habitats that confirmed their avoidance of the former. Such findings are of value in relation to planning proposals for new housing or commercial developments, which almost inevitably involve artificial lighting (a recent housing development in Chudleigh being a commendably light-free example). Even though such schemes may not be on ecologically sensitive sites they may block vital corridors between feeding sites for bats. We were reminded that we all can play a role in limiting nocturnal light pollution, and may wish to reconsider the use of security lighting, for example.
Dartmoor's wildlife: bugs, butterflies & birds - Wednesday 8 January
On yet another of this year's wet January
evenings, Bovey Tracey DWT Local Group welcomed a capacity audience for Professor
Charles Tyler, of Exeter University. While Professor Tyler's professional
speciality is fish contaminants, his private enthusiasms are photography, and
the scenery and wildlife of Dartmoor.
He described his presentation as a photo-essay of a journey around Dartmoor, and after a brief introduction he showed us around its various habitats: moor, farm, woods, water, bog. Designated a national park in 1951, noted for the range in elevation and a mild climate, it is a special landscape, with 41 Sites of Special Scientific Interest, as well as traces of human activities over the centuries. Changes over the years in climate, vegetation and human use have resulted in the loss of species, and he cited red squirrels,black grouse and red kites as recent losses and, longer ago, mammoths. Some are returning, and while we may see red kites again, we are unlikely to encounter mammoths on Haytor.
Charles had a wonderful collection of photographs, admirable for the composition as well as subject matter. Many hours of patient waiting for the right moment with the right light to capture his subject have been richly rewarded, whether the flight of a flock of golden plovers, an adder basking in sunshine, a slug-eating beetle, leopard slugs, wasps burying weevils, a silver-studded blue butterfly, or a young cuckoo in the nest. Particularly fascinating were the sand wasps, which catch caterpillars and bury them in holes, and the extraordinary potter wasps. I was also interested to learn that jays help the spread of oak trees by burying acorns, while squirrels bite the ends off their buried nuts, so they don't germinate.
Most of us who enjoy the moor only ever catch a glimpse of the wildlife that makes its home there as we pass over it. It was a privilege to see photographs of what we miss, and an encouragement to be vigilant for what we might see on our own visits there - a reminder to enjoy our adventures with ears and eyes open. Charles ended by looking to the future of the moor, reminding us of the continuing pressures of climate change, farming, burning and tourism, and the need for protection of this special habitat
The future of our marine environment
There was a good attendance at the last meeting
for the year on 4th December, and the audience was rewarded with a most
informative talk by Harry Barton, Chief Executive of Devon Wildlife Trust, on
the state of marine conservation around Britain. Obviously it’s part of the job
for any CEO to be a good speaker, but his enthusiasm was also very obvious, and
the informality of his style and the ease with which he spoke were both
engaging and very well suited to the local group meeting.
With the aid of excellent photographs, he told us about the areas which the government have chosen as Marine Conservation Zones, and those which DWT and other conservation groups would like to see protected by legislation. He showed us some of the plants and creatures which are particularly at risk, and graphically described the threats tothe marine environment from various quarters, such as pollution, fishing and climate change. I was particularly fascinated by the beauty and diversity of the marine species around the Devon coast, many of which look far more exotic than I had imagined would live in our waters.