East Dartmoor’s Mires

East Dartmoor National Nature Reserve contains a diverse mosaic of habitats across its 365 hectares. One habitat type that can sometimes be overlooked amongst the larger, more conspicuous woodlands and heaths are the mires. Mires are wet and acidic habitats dominated by layers of partially decayed vegetation, known as peat, often 0.5 – 3.0 m deep. Hidden amongst combes or on the open moors, mires include rain-fed blanket bogs and valley-positioned fens which receive their water and mineral-supply from bothRead more

Hours of Frustration and Fun: The Joys of Moth Trapping

“Hours of Frustration and Fun” – this was the description given to me by a ‘mother’ last month, at a moth identification event in Yarner Wood.  In the world of Lepidoptera a mother (moth er) is someone who records moth species – either in the field or in a non-lethal light trap. There are approximately 2,500 species of moths in the UK – compared to 59 species of butterfly – and unbeknown to many owners an average garden can host 100Read more

Counting butterflies

As the butterfly season draws to a close, butterfly surveyor Janet Ritchie reflects on the 2017 survey season and the all important Dartmoor weather… The regular butterfly transect through Yarner Wood takes place every week from April 1st to September 30th. The same timed walking route is used for long-term comparisons over the years. One of the main weekly considerations is the weather, the temperature has to be between 13-17 degrees and not when it’s windy. This keeps us focusedRead more

Sharing Expertise on Woodland Bats

During a long mid-summer day, with the woodland canopy glowing green in the sunshine, it was a perfect day for a walk in the woods at East Dartmoor National Nature Reserve, but this time, it was a walk with a difference. Conservation experts from around the SW had been brought together by the Woodland Trust to share the knowledge built up through recent research about a colony of barbastelles, a rare woodland bat species. Over recent years, this colony hasRead more

Graylings

August is the perfect time to go in search of a master of camouflage – the Grayling butterfly. In this blog, Natural England volunteer Janet Ritchie, shares her enjoyment of surveying for this summer butterfly and describes some of their unique characteristics. …To me, one of the interesting things about the month of August is looking for Grayling butterflies on Trendlebere Down. There are two transects I cover, the bigger one just below the top car park, and the smallerRead more

Bovey Valley Woods 2016/17 Review

The summer months are a perfect time to reflect on the woodland management work over the last year.  Matt Parkins has written this review reflecting on the management work to restore the ancient woodland in Hisley and Houndtor Wood. Looking back on the work programme he reports how areas of the woodland in the Bovey Valley have been transformed – light has flooded back into Houndtor through thinning the giant conifers and new views have been opened up in HisleyRead more

Saving a Rare Species – White-letter hairstreak

Following on from the good work of the East Dartmoor NNR volunteers to find and plot the wych elm trees in Rudge and Hisley Woods, a group of conservationists got together to learn more about a rare butterfly. The white-letter hairstreak is dependent on various species of elm as a food plant and the wych elms of the Bovey Valley Woods were believed to support a colony of this specialist tree canopy species. Though there have only been a fewRead more

Earthworms at Yarner

“It may be doubted if there are many other animals which have played such an important part in the history of the world as these lowly organised creatures” – Charles Darwin, The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms (1881). This is the quote that Matt Shepherd opened World Earthworm Day at Yarner Wood with. But why are earthworms so important? Matt is a specialist on soil biodiversity for Natural England, he explained that worms are integral membersRead more

Life in the Canopy

Since its designation in the 1950’s the diverse habitats and wildlife of East Dartmoor NNR have been studied by scientists with an interest in ecology.  But to study life in the canopy, takes both a strong head for heights and some highly specialised equipment. However a team at Plymouth University have become highly skilled at working in this challenging environment. Each year Biological and Environmental Science students from Plymouth University, visit the tropical forests of Borneo, to study the highRead more