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

Otter Survey – Time to Share Some Skills

Otters are very secretive and elusive animals. We know they live along the River Bovey but, how many are there? And where are they? Occasional sightings and short clips of video from stationary trail cameras only provide partial answers to those questions. So, how do we find out where they are at any particular time? Well, the answer is, legwork! By monitoring the signs otters leave behind, we can slowly build up a picture of where they move around theRead 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

Protecting the Bluebell Woods from Big Old Foot

Quietly unfolding in the woods around us is one of nature’s spectacles – for just a few weeks in May, Dartmoor’s woodlands are carpeted in a haze of bluebells.  This spring the Woodland Trust has looked to the latest technology, to encourage families to explore some of the best bluebell woods, using downloadable Follow the Fairies family trails. Many of Dartmoor’s woodlands have a mystical quality and at this time of year the woods are carpeted in a thick layer of mosses and ferns and lushRead 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

Up with the birds

Fresh off the back of the Woodland festival lectures was a chance for people to get out and visit the National Nature Reserve and see some of the wildlife we’d been talking about the day before. Billed as a Beginners guide to the Dawn chorus this was definitely a more gentle way to ease us into the joys of early morning birdsong with a relatively leisurely 7am start. We were greeted by gentle sunshine easing through the trees and creatingRead 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

Finding Treasure: Heritage and Wildlife of the Bovey Valley

The wildlife of the Bovey Valley has adapted to human influences for thousands of years, and today, there are many clues in the landscape showing where and how our ancestors have lived, side-by-side with nature for millennia. Remains of stone buildings from prehistoric and medieval times are scattered through the valley and recent studies have recorded where enclosures and boundaries defined different land uses. Further work by archaeologists continues to tell the story of human habitation in the Bovey which,Read more

Students Spring into Action

Just six weeks on from their last visit, the students of the University of Exeter were back in the woods to continue their conservation task at the East Dartmoor National Nature Reserve. In that short time the seasons had changed and, on a cool morning, some spring time wildlife was waiting to welcome the students. Their aims for the day were to clear undergrowth around some of the archaeological features in the valley; two ancient farmsteads are being gradually revealedRead 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