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

Saving a Rare Species – The Plight of the Elm

East Dartmoor Woods and Heaths National Nature Reserve is just one of over 200 NNRs across England, and Natural England designate these areas to “protect some of our most important habitats”. These conservation areas are widely varied but, here in the woods of East Dartmoor, a team of volunteers is helping to conserve a tree that, over recent decades has become scarce and, while being worthy of protection itself, it also holds the key to the survival of a rareRead more

Pearls of Wisdom

Thursday was definitely not ideal butterfly weather- cold and wet –which was a shame after such a beautiful start to May. But a brave bunch of us gathered in the beautiful location of Yarner Woods at the Woodland Centre to meet Megan Lowe from Butterfly Conservation and to learn more about the ecology and field identification of two of our early rare moorland butterflies the pearl bordered and small pearl bordered fritillary Over the sometimes torrential rain which threatened toRead more

Understanding Dartmoor’s woodlands

At this time of year the suggestion that a bunch of naturalists should spend time indoors is usually met with derision. Why be inside when you can be out and about watching Spring burst into action. So it was with a little trepidation that we decided to hold our first Woodland Festival Lectures programme at the National Park headquarters at Parke on Saturday right in the middle of the season. We needn’t have worried. There was a real appetite toRead more

A bird in the hand…

Scientific monitoring is a core function of National Nature Reserves (NNRs). Bird monitoring undertaken here at East Dartmoor NNR aids management of the breeding bird assemblage which is one of the reasons the site is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Natural England has a duty to maintain and enhance the breeding bird assemblage within the reserve, and to be able to do this it is crucial to have accurate bird data. Bird ringing is a means of identifyingRead more

Woodland birds’ response to climatic change

The RSPB is investigating the impacts of climate change on the breeding success of woodland birds including the declining Pied Flycatcher. In this blog Malcolm Burgess, from the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, shares the findings of his latest research work carried out in Yarner Wood. The onset of spring is getting earlier. Understanding the effects of this on woodland phenology and on the breeding success of woodland birds is being investigated across northern Europe, including in the UK. We know thatRead more

An Open Canopy – The Science of Woodland Restoration

This winter some weighty timber is being felled and extracted from Houndtor Woods in the Bovey Valley, and cutting the bulky stems is just one part of the complex operation. These Douglas fir and spruce trees were planted over 50 years ago to produce timber and have now reached a size where they can be converted into high quality structural beams, though the challenge is to extricate the cumbersome cut stems from steep terrain along twisting forest tracks. The operationsRead more

Ground Level Research in the Woods

As we descend into the depths of winter us humans may be thinking of how to keep ourselves warm. At home, we possibly have the option of turning up the heating or putting another log on the fire. If we are venturing out, we might put on a pair of gloves or perhaps dig out that Christmas jumper from last year; other suitably fashionable options are available. If you are setting off for a winter walk in the woods, you’llRead more

Bovey Barbastelle Bats – the Research Continues (Barbastelle Diary part 10)

After a busy summer of bat tracking last year, the colony of rare barbastelles in the Bovey Valley is providing further interest to scientists. This time, Dr. Orly Razgour, a research fellow from the University of Southampton has started to survey these East Dartmoor bats as part of her European-wide genetic research project on bat responses to global climate change. So far, Orly has been gathering information on barbastelles from Morocco to Sweden and, for a few nights in August,Read more