Trip reports

Soussons Down and Challacombe Farm, Dartmoor

Soussons Down and Challacombe Farm, Dartmoor
Challacombe Down Malcolm Dowty

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

In warm weather and under blue skies twelve of us met at the car park near Warren House Inn on Dartmoor. For some, this was the first time they had visited this location. After a few of us embarrassingly struggled to identify a Wheatear perched at the top of a nearby tree, we set off - aiming to arrive at Challacombe Farm in time for lunch. We were soon struck by the sheer number of singing Willow Warblers, almost all easily visible at the tops of nearby trees. Less expected, though, was a singing Reed Bunting beside the stream alongside the track. After a while our search for Whinchat, a target bird for the trip, was rewarded with excellent views of a singing male. Stonechats were seen and Garden Warbler was heard. Although we saw Meadow Pipit, our search for Tree Pipit, was unsuccessful despite much listening and staring at the tops of trees and bushes. Throughout this time, Cuckoos were heard but not found. Buzzard and Kestrels were seen overhead.

After stopping briefly at the remains of the old Golden Dagger tin mine we continued towards Challacombe and, on the descent to the farm, scanned the trees for another Cuckoo which Malcolm eventually found - giving good if distant views through telescopes. Challacombe Farm did not disappoint. House Sparrows, House Martins and Swallows abounded, some martins collecting mud from the farm pond. A splendid male Redstart sang in full view while we ate lunch, posing conveniently for those with cameras. A Pied Wagtail and two Mistle Thrushes also kept us company, as did a Marsh Tit. As we were about to move on we saw a Nuthatch and watched a Treecreeper which was, surprisingly, nesting in the gable end of an old farm building.

Soon after leaving Challacombe we were struck by an extensive and spectacular carpet of bluebells covering the eastern slopes of Challacombe Down. Stonechat, Reed Bunting, Whinchat and many butterflies were all seen as we returned via Headland Warren Farm.

In addition to the birds seen, the weather, landscape and special characteristics of Challacombe Farm made for a memorable day on Dartmoor.

Rob Wilkinson