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NATURE NOTES


N Notes ature


year.


Looking Back A


s we get to the end of the year one can look back and make a judgment on how wildlife fared over the


The very cold and delayed spring was clearly a big


problem for many of our migrant birds with the early arrivals suffering badly and many birds were found dead from starvation. The long spell of northerly winds also made it difficult for the later arrivals, with many birds arriving in poor condition and not willing to breed. This was particularly true for pied flycatchers on the edge of Dartmoor and only the returns from monitoring the nests will tell of success or not. Many early breeders failed but once the weather turned to warm settled conditions things certainly improved and many species got at least one brood if not two away. This was particularly true of our local swallows who raised broods of six and three birds respectively. survival rates for fledglings seem to have been good with many young greenfinch and goldfinch around. the early butterflies also suffered badly in the spring but the summer turned into one of the best butterfly years for a long, long time with fantastic numbers of all the later species such as small tortoiseshell, peacock, red admiral and gatekeeper. The scarcer migrants also fared well with many clouded yellows being seen and even, rarer, long- tailed blues with one occurring at Dawlish Warren. With winter finally here even the tardy summer


migrants have gone and the familiar wintering species have arrived, ranging from redwing and fieldfare in the hedgerows to the first divers and grebes off the coast. One or two more unusual birds appear to have settled in Devon e.g. great grey shrike at Colaton Raleigh, common and long-tailed duck at Bowling Green Marsh, Topsham. For details of sightings go to the Devon Birdwatching and Preservation Society website at http://www.devonbirds. org/news/bird_news/devon_bird_news. Long tailed duck


Redwing


WHAT TO LOOK OuT FOR With the leaves off the trees and Christmas coming it is a good time to spot mistletoe with apple trees the favourite host although it will occur on other trees such as poplar and lime. Fairly scarce in Devon it becomes commoner as you head east and is par ticularly abundant in Somerset and Gloucestershire. This semi parasitic plant, which possesses its own chlorophyll and hence is not totally dependent on its host as it can photosynthesize, is also associated with the mistle thrush which eats the white berries and helps to disperse the plant. This large, cold plumaged thrush is more numerous in winter when the resident bird numbers are swelled by migrants from Scandinavia and fur ther afield. Look for big numbers of wintering duck such as wigeon, shoveler, teal and pintail on appropriate habitat such as Exminster Marshes, Bowling Green Marsh and Slapton Ley.


Mistle thrush


Great grey shrike


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