Thursday, April 28, 2011

Fooled again in April

I went to Lee Abbey in North Devon to prepare for my assisting in leading a holiday there in August.On the way there, I saw too many buzzards to count and the expected Exmoor ponies. Once I had settled in my room and had a wash, I had a wander round. Steve showed me how to get to the beach, passing cats ear, bush vetch, dog violet, a few blue bells, navelwort and red campion on the way. We saw fulmar, raven, the inevitable herring gull and a pied wagtail. The view looking out at the Bristol Channel was outstanding, clear blue sky, a vast calm sea and wall to wall sunshine.
 The evening meal was fish and chips ( sustainably sourced fish). Many of the guests then went to the beach again for marsh mallows toasted over an open fire, washed down with hot chocolate. As the sun sank below the horizon, the view became even more awesome. The vivid red of the sky with the background chorus of chaffinch, blackbird and goldfinch reminded us all again that " God's eternal power is clearly seen in the things He has made" to quote Romans.
Andy Lester and I started on our return to the main house. We had a bat detector and were going to try to see which, if any were present. Passing by the small house we paused, both of us recognising the unmistakable shriek of a Barn Owl. As we searched for it, the occupant of the house came out and said it was his captive bird. Although disappointed by not seeing a wild bird, we had at least identified the call correctly
We continued up to the main house and did hear another owl, this time a local tawny owl. We got the bat detector out and were able to identify soprano and common pipistrelle as well as nathusius pipistrelle on 38 khz.
 The following morning up early I walked carefully towards the cliff. Swallows, fulmars, herring gulls, wrens, blackcaps, chiffchaff and goldcrest were all very vocal. Steve showed me a now discontinued footpath where our initial frustration was soon dissipated when we found an early purple orchid.

 Back to the higher footpath and lots of sea campion. A whitethroat was determined we would hear him and a willow warbler joined in as well. Other birds on this section were peregrine and raven. Later in the afternoon Andy and I walked to the pond and heard grasshopper warbler with a pied flycatcher making a small contribution to the massed avian choir. We had a few butterflies, peacocks, speckled wood and green veined white, but the best saved itself for last - a Holly Blue. A fitting end to my two day visit. I eagerly look forward to my week here in August.

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