Thursday, 21 May 2015

Squacco Heron, Beesands Ley

Saturday 16th May and we decided to head off to Dartmeet on Dartmoor for a cream tea on what was a sunny but breezey day. However on the drive there we changed our minds and headed off to another site on Dartmoor instead.

I still had a cream tea and on the walk I heard 2 pied flycatchers and saw a few grey wagtails along the river. With the sunshine a few butterflys were on the wing - a painted lady, a small copper, speckled woods, green veined whites and at least 2 heath fritillary along with 2 speckled yellow moths.

Painted Lady

Speckled Yellow

Heath Fritillary

Heath Fritillary

Heath Fritillary

That evening we went to Cann Woods to look for nightjars. The National Trust are not running their nightjar nights at Plymbridge Woods this year and so I had to go solo - David stayed in the car reading the paper while I wandered around the Woods on my own. I heard a cuckoo calling briefly and saw at least 3 fallow deer and a tawny owl on my wanderings to the area where I usually visit on the National Trust walk. Within a few minutes of arriving at the usual watching place a nightjar started churring away - result! It churred half heartedly while a second bird started churring nearby. In the fading light and after hearing some wing clapping and "guiccing" I managed to see a male bird with white wing patches flying around with a female bird while a male bird churred nearby before it all went quiet. I decided not to wait around for more and headed back to the car as darkness descended and it was quite a spooky walk through the dark and quiet woods.

A squacco heron had been reported at Beesands Ley and so we headed off there on Sunday 17th to have a look for it. Walking along the beach from Torcross to Beesands and 5 adult kittiwakes were feeding close to the shore, flying back and forth and plunging into the sea to snatch at fish. 3 Sandwich terns were further out with 1 bird attempting to rest on a fishing buoy before giving up.

Arriving at the Ley and I immediately found the squacco heron feeding along the reed edge at the back of the Ley - a British life tick! I watched it for a few minutes before it took off showing its bright white wings, it flew across the Ley doing a massive poop along the way before disappearing in the reeds - at least it must have been finding enough food! We had some food ourselves at The Britannia Cafe in Beesands before I headed back to the Ley where I had some more nice views of the bird as it hunted along the reed edges and flew around the Ley, doing another massive poop in flight again.

Distant Squacco Heron, Beesands Ley

Squacco Heron

Squacco Heron in flight showing startling white wings

Heading back to Plymouth and we stopped off at Blackdown Rings, another Iron Age fort near Loddiswell which is smaller again than Badbury Rings but with amazing views of Dartmoor and the coast. There were no cowslips or orchids to be seen, presumably the soil is not condusive to their growth here, but I did see another painted lady flying around amongst the copious bluebells in flower.

And so my weeks leave was over, back to work on Monday and I was not looking forward to it at all after such an amazing week of wildlife.

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