Dartmoor Bird Survey

Almost a lost domain!  And being a BTO volunteer I had access to it today. What a gift!  It was for the second half of the Breeding Bird Survey that I am privileged to carry out in this isolated spot in the middle of southern Dartmoor for the BTO.

DSC03147 DSC03154DSC03163But bluebells and marsh marigolds aside, the numbers of bird species don’t make great reading: after I had added my bird-count to the BTO website I looked up figures for past years. The last survey in 2008 shows there was a whole lot of birds we didn’t hear or see: grasshopper warbler, sedge warbler, spotted fly catcher, gold crest, greenfinch, linnet, snipe.

Admittedly, I am an amateur at this and your ear needs to be really fine-tuned to catch all the songs but. on turning to my great little BirdGuide app which plays the songs of birds beautifully, I can honestly say I never heard those.  In addition, on the first occasion, I did have two RSPB friendly helpers  and this morning one accompanied me.

We heard lots of willow warblers, black caps, wrens, gold finches, house martins, swallows and wagtails and many other birds but not those other ones. The numbers of meadow pipits and sky larks had increased but where were all the bog-loving birds?

The farmer enthuses about birds too and does what he can to help them survive, planting small trees where we heard at least a willow warbler, pointing out two pairs of increasingly rare house martins. I wondered if I glimpsed a pied fly-catcher in his stand of willow but this was not corroborated!

In 2008 the BTO volunteer recorded 45 species of birds in his two visits while we recorded only 27.  It wasn’t the best weather to listen out for birds today but it wasn’t blowing a gale, well, not then anyway!

Just to warn you:  birds will only be singing for a few more weeks. It’s great to listen, realising there’s far more in the hedge row than you can see.

And here are some pictures of the lost domain…..

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About Rebecca Gethin

Rebecca Gethin is a poet and a novelist. Cinnamon Press published her third collection, All the Time in the World in 2017. Another pamphlet is forthcoming with Three Drops Press. Her second novel, What the horses heard, was published by Cinnamon Press in May 2014. Her second poetry collection - A Handful of Water - was published by Cinnamon in 2013. Her first - River is the Plural of Rain - was published by Oversteps Books in 2009. Her novel Liar Dice won the Cinnamon Press Novel Writing Award in 2010 and was published in 2011. She lives on Dartmoor and writes occasional pieces about wildlife and nature. Her poems appear in a variety of poetry magazines and in several anthologies.
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6 Responses to Dartmoor Bird Survey

  1. E.E. Nobbs says:

    Enjoyed hearing about your adventures & observations, And nice to see the photos. P.S. I’m no birder, but those large 4 footed ones look like horses …. 😉

  2. Thank you for reading though the stats aren’t good, even in a place like this….except for the sky larks. (And the young ponies who were grazing a boggy area were so sweet and rather beautiful : very wild but very inquisitive and wanted to be brave enough to say hello but clearly had never been handled.)

  3. My camera isn’t good enough to take pics of birds 😂

  4. And anyway we heard most of them!

  5. mavisgulliver says:

    Was there a word missing, Becky? Spotted house martins? Did you mean spotted flycatchers and house martins. That aside it’s interesting to know what’s happening at the other end of the UK. I hope the birds you missed reappear. Good to see the photos too.

  6. OOOPS, yes, Mavis. thanks for pointing that out. Will correct. can’t even blame FB!

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