King of Spring Returns

May is a month already bustling with weird and wonderful traditional customs celebrating Spring, so was there room in the calendar for a new one? Andy Bailey from Dartmoor’s Moor than meets the eye scheme believes so. On Sunday 19th at 11am, a small crowd started to gather at the entrance to Yarner Wood to mark the start of the Spring Woodland Festival. Andy was joined by a giant flying pied flycatcher, a band of merry musicians and colourful flock of visitors, all gathered together to help parade the ‘King of the Flycatchers’ into Yarner Wood and help to find a Woodland Queen. Andy said, “We are bringing the May traditions up to date by creating a fun way to gather people together to celebrate Dartmoor’s wildlife.”

Pied flycatchers at Yarner Wood – you can read more about this iconic species in this series of blogs – Return of the Flycatcher, Studying Piedflys, Woodland Birds Response to Climate Change (Part 1), Woodland Birds Response to Climate Change (Part 2)

“The arrival of birds like the pied flycatcher from West Africa marks an important time of the year for nature. This is when the woods burst into life, the oak trees come into bud and the trees are full of birdsong. This is the perfect way to mark the cycle of life and the epic journey these birds make. The flycatcher is an iconic species for the nature reserve, these birds have flown thousands of miles, alongside many other species, to breed here. The procession is all part of a day of exciting activities to champion our woodland wildlife, at this year’s Spring Woodland Festival.”

Local school children from Bovey Tracey, Widecombe and Ashburton had been busy creating flags, and winged birds be used in the procession into Yarner Wood. As the musicians lead the way through the gate into the woods – even the red wood ants were there to greet visitors, swarming all over the woodland track that leads into the oak woods! The Flycatcher King flew back and forth along the stream of people as the procession weaved its way down the steep path through the towering oak trees. Gathering around the wooden throne, Andy explained that the ‘King of the Flycatchers’ was the last to return from distant shores, as the other pied flycatchers have been back in the woods since April time. The crowning of their ‘King’ was an opportunity to celebrate all of the Dartmoor’s woodland wildlife today!

Mr Flycatcher will you stay a while in our woods?
The ‘King of Spring’ is crowned and Spring Woodland Festival is open!

As the ceremony came to an end the colorful crowd streamed out of the woods and into the woodland clearing for the start of the Festival. Natural England and the Woodland Trust were there to welcome to people to the woods, and tell them about the packed programme of activities planned for the day, and there was an opportunity to meet all the local and national wildlife organisations that work here on Dartmoor and learn more about their work to conserve wildlife and local heritage.

There were over 300 people at the event and as always, the event had a wonderful celebratory atmosphere. As the Moor than meets the eye scheme is drawing to a close this year we will be celebrating all its achievements over the last 5 years at a finale event on Saturday 6th July. There will be historical re-enactors, woodland crafts, hands on activities, films and talks to celebrate Dartmoor’s Heritage. Follow this link to the Moor than meets the eye website to find out more.

Finally we would like to thank all our volunteers who have given up their time to share their passion for the wildlife with visitors to the Spring Woodland Festival 2019. This year’s event was made possible with funding from Moor than meets the eye and the Heritage Lottery Fund and is part of a programme of projects which are helping to tell the Dartmoor Story, a landscape forged by nature and shaped by human hands.

Written by Kate Smith, Woodland Trust

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