Saturday, 1 November 2014

Dartmoor - Running waters !

A short break to Devon gave me the opportunity to search for one of my favorite birds. 
The White-throated Dipper (Cinclus cinclus), also known as the European Dipper or just Dipper.

We were staying in a newly converted barn on a farm on the edge of Dartmoor, highly recommended, and very comfortable and a perfect base for exploring Dartmoor and the surrounding area of Devon.

Our first trip out took us to Lydford Gorge, a beautiful natural walk, which follows the River Lyd through one of the deepest gorges in the country, complete with a thirty metre high waterfall known as the 'White Lady'

Plenty of woodland birds seen, including Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Great Tit, This is where I caught sight of my first dipper, a very fleeting sighting, but demonstrated its characteristic whirling wings as it flew up stream not to be seen again.

But a more confiding Grey wagtail that was accompanying the Dipper remained, giving me some nice photo opportunities.

I have always thought that the bright yellow colouring was a bit conspicuous, but you can see in these photographs how the bird blends in with its natural surroundings, especially the yellow leaves that litter the undergrowth along the banks of the stream. 
 The breeding male has a black throat that is edged by whitish moustachial-stripes.
A few years ago during a particularly hard winter, one of these was seen in our garden, foraging for food around my old fish pond that was being enlarged at the time.

The next opportunity that presented itself was another beautiful walk from Castle Drogo to Fingle Bridge. 
It wasn't long before I spotted another Dipper, and this time I managed to get some photographs showing it off in its natural surroundings.

The white-throated dipper is closely associated with swiftly running rivers and streams or the lakes into which these fall. It often perches bobbing spasmodically with its short tail uplifted on the rocks round which the water swirls and tumbles.

It acquired its name from these sudden dips, not from its diving habit, though it dives as well as walks into the water.

On our final day in Devon , we took our dog for walk in a provincial park called Simmonds park in Okehampton before we made the long drive home.
This park is bordered by a lovely river  running along its boundary called the East Okement River, unbelievably there was another Dipper, it was a fast flowing river very typical habitat, very approachable, but no camera with me, how annoying is that.

Plenty of Buzzards and the occasional Red Kite were seen along with two sightings of a Raven, quite a few flocks of Redwings also seen.

The moors were disappointing, completely enshrouded in a thick mist, making visibility very poor, quite easy to understand how people get lost on the moors though.

Very enjoyable break in Devon, which included some nice coastal walks around North Devon coastline near Tintagel and Sandymouth.

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