Saturday, 9 May 2015

Exmoor yields its wonders - Day 1 from Rockford

LAST weekend we visited the truely magical Exmoor National Park, staying in the hamlet of Rockford, with the constant sound of the river rushing past the front door.  The coast is walkable from Rockford, but we did not go that far on this occasion.

One of the highlights of the weekend for me was the wonderful Horner Wood which is part of a National Nature Reserve. This is a truly ancient woodland with gnarled oaks and masses of wildflowers and interesting birds - but more of that in the next blog.

My main targets for the weekend were pied flycatcher and redstart, and I was not disappointed.  Stepping out of the Rockford Inn and into the woodlands along the Brendon Valley we walked to Watersmeet.  The moment we stepped into the woodland I heard wood warblers - tricky to see and photograph (but worth the effort), their high pitched song gives them away.  These are summer migrants that favour sessile oak in the west of Britain.

Another distinctive song gave away a target species: a pied flycatcher.  This was my first ever sighting and so I was truly exciting.  It had found a wonderful broken branch to sit on and provide a classic pose;


We continued along the valley and down to the river.  There's a healthy population of dippers breeding along the valley, feeding in the clear water.

And in a habitat where you find dippers you also find grey wagtails, this one was quite obliging:


At the great little NT cafe at Watersmeet, where the local birds have become very tame, this blackcap burst forth with its strident song:

Of course ancient semi-natural woodlands are also famed for their wild flowers.  It was a bit early for the bluebells, but these early purple orchids were spectacular, and were growing right next to the path:

We loved this walk and this area and I highly recommend it - The Rockford Inn is a great place to stay too!

1 comment:

  1. Some wonderful captures there, well done. Ancient woodland at its very best, complete with the rarest of birds.


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