Moor to Coast

A Dartmoor footpath

08/11/2012 - 16:23

In recent months our expeditions have scaled down. For the last few walks, we have confined our wildlife-watching to a specific area. In the past, I often felt a sense of frustration and impatience. There was an incompleteness about going nowhere in particular I could not warm to. Perhaps I have started to see the error of my ways and learned to appreciate the old adage that it should be about the journey and not the destination.


It is certainly true that you do not see the natural world unfold by traversing vast distances and seeking to carve up the map. Perhaps I might have witnessed the odd marvel on very lucky days. but mostly I was apt to wonder just how much I might have missed by trying to be everywhere at once. The act of slowing down is akin to suddenly walking unblinkered. You don't have to watch your step as much. Instead I can scan the lanes and hedgerows for species we haven't seen or recorded before.


On such a day, one leisurely evening in September, we ascended a footpath near Moretonhampstead, paused at the top to admire the views and eventually made our descent. The window of best available light had arguably gone and it appeared quite dark under the trees. Pink purslane flowers looked subdued. On the camera they looked dingy and grainy. 




Orange Ladybird (Halyzia sedecimguttata)


With wood ants nearby, this ladybird was not in the mood to hang around and strike a pose. It hurried on and we backed away. 




Common Carder Bumblebee (Bombus pascuorum) on Musk Thistle (Carduus nutans) 


We came out from under the shade and went up a fairly steep meadow towards the remnants of an Iron Age fort. The wet weather has probably left things further behind than an average year. A few species are still in flower and the bees are grateful.



Unidentified moth on Musk Thistle


This moth was there and gone in an instant.



The bumblebees looked like they were in a climbing race but had fallen asleep. The air was quite cool and they were probably conserving energy. On the flower head there are three Common Carders, and (I think) a Red-tailed bumble on the left. The fact that these thistles 'nod' their heads forward must have made them harder to climb.



Beefsteak Fungus (Fistulina hepatica)


This bloody, tongue-like projection stopped us in our tracks.



Lichens on branch


The closest match for the species in the centre is probably Parmatrema perlatum. There is another species to either side but with literally hundreds of possible candidates, any search could be a lottery without a jackpot.



Forest Bug (Pentatoma rufipes)



Lady, obediently awaiting instructions


We often wonder what sort of working dog Lady might have made. At least she looks the part. Here she was looking at the sheep and horses in a distant field.


Looking down on Moretonhampstead


We stood awhile, drinking in the pure air and the tranquility.



Lichens and sloes


Lichens adorned many of the trees like Christmas decorations. They are a good indication of the air being clean and relatively unpolluted. I was once told that if we were able to travel back thousands of years then the air would be too pure for our lungs and we would not be able to survive.



Crown Rust (Puccinia coronata) on Yorkshire Fog (Holcus lanatus)


With the excessively damp conditions, there are arguably more rusts, smuts and fungal infections around than after a dry summer. I found out that Crown Rust grows on the leaves of Yorkshire Fog so I am assuming that it can also be prevalent on the stem and the flowers of the grass.





Just before we came back to the footpath, the light lifted and we spotted another Orange Ladybird. Sherry had more luck second time around.



This one was in less of a hurry. There were no wood ants around to send it into a state of panic. It made slow progress along the edge of the nettle leaf. We thought it a good place to finish our survey and continued down the lane and on to the end of our short but thoroughly rewarding walk.


Add a Comment


Email (not displayed):