Brentor Commons Update – November 2017

Winter has well and truly arrived.  Today there is snow on Dartmoor and even a scattering on the north facing slopes of Brentor itself. One of our regular winter visitors, the snipe, was seen as it zig-zagged away from us along the path from next to the big ash tree calling with its dry rasping “schaap” call.  This is a sighting I look forward to each year at this time.
Looking from the common out over the Lyd valley there was an aerial dogfight between a pair of ravens and a sparrow hawk.  This represents the eternal enmity that exists between corvids (the crow family) and raptors (hawks, buzzards and falcons).  The ravens would not allow the sparrow hawk to soar peacefully over the landscape until they had driven it from their territory.  We usually see the sparrow hawk from our cars hurtling along the lane at ground level but they are just as often to be seen high above us, in a different hunting mode, rather like smaller, long tailed, short winged buzzards.
The brilliant yellow of the gorse is providing at least one splash of colour.  The red bramble stems are also noticeable as they still support quite green leaves when all other shrubs have lost theirs.  One other more subtle and rather subdued colour is the soft green of the lichen that hangs in curtains from the hazel bushes.  It is always good to see lichen in any environment as it is a powerful indicator of clean air, not able to tolerate many of the industrial pollutants of our modern age.

Barry Albrighton
Click here to see earlier monthly Commons updates by Barry Albrighton