Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Yarner Wood, 24th April 2012

The weather continues to be dire - wet, cold and windy - but summer migrants are appearing in the UK and so today I persuaded David to take me to Yarner Wood with the promise/bribe of cake in The Brookside Cafe in Bovey Tracey. Davids assistance is required as I can not get to Yarner Wood by public transport and it seems to be the only reliable place in Devon to see one of my favourite birds, the wood warbler, which has all but disappeared in the usual haunts I used to see them in near Plymouth.

After a piece of toffee and almond pavlova (amazing!) and a cup of tea at The Brookside Cafe David dropped me off at Yarner Wood where I had a 2 hour wander around while he went to Trago Mills and Mole Valley garden centres. It was breezey with a few showers but the sun did shine on occassion and I managed to see 6 new birds for the year.

First new bird was a very smart male Mandarin duck on the pond by the car park with a female then seen with the male when I left along with a male mallard.

Male Madarin Duck

Male and female Mandarin Duck

Second new bird was a male pied flycatcher heard singing in the trees nearby and walking through the woods provided good sightings of singing males and 2 females, one of which was carrying leaf matter in to a nest box and it also had a silver ring on its right leg. It is surprising how tame the pied flycatchers appear at Yarner Wood, the nest boxes are very close to the path and the birds show amazingly well at times.

Walking around the heathland and after slipping over twice on the muddy path I saw my third new bird, a tree pipit, singing and songflighting from the top of a pine tree while a second bird was heard singing nearby. A male redstart was also heard singing briefly, my fourth new bird, and later I managed excellent views of a male and female feeding together in a clump of holly bushes.

Having just finished night shifts my eyes were feeling tired and I struggled at times to keep track of the small birds as they flitted through the emerging foliage but I was pleased to find 2 treecreepers feeding on mossy tree trunks, these being new bird number five.

Other woodland birds seen were 2 mistle thrush with 1 later heard singing, 1 song thrush, willow warbler, nuthatch, great spotted woodpecker, coal tit, great tit, blue tit and long-tailed tit, wren, robin, woodpigeon, chaffinch and blackbird. 2 marsh tits showed very well by the footpath as they busily fed in the trees, giving their sneezey call. A raven was heard overhead and a green woodpecker yaffled away noisely. Chiffchaffs and blackcaps were heard but not seen. A peregrine was seen soaring high overhead being buzzed by a swallow before it drifted off fast and out of view.

I had not heard any wood warblers and was starting to feel a bit dispondent as I headed back to the car park via the heathland but then I saw new bird number six, a smart wood warbler, feeding in the birch trees along the path. It threw me at first as I have never seen them in this area before and a willow warbler was busily singing away nearby but its beautiful lemon face and breast and a sharp cut-off with its pale belly soon gave it away and I was very pleased to have finally seen one. Unfortunately I did not hear it singing so I will have to track down more wood warblers in the next few weeks in order to fully get this years fix.

Other wildlife seen included a few bright yellow brimstones, grey squirrels, various bumble bees and a brief view of a small dark micro-moth with very long antennae and a pale mark on its wings flying by, possibly nemophora degeerella. Many red wood ants were seen busily gathering food in large trails leading to busy nest mounds.

Red Wood Ants

And so it was time to head home as David arrived with excellent timing to pick me up just as the heavens decided to open and it had been an excellent 2 hours despite the weather. And we took away 2 pieces of coffee and walnut cake (amazing!) from The Brookside Cafe to have for tea! And I have also now got my new binocular eye-piece and it didn't cost me anything!

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