Dartmoor Nature Tours

Discover Dartmoor's wildlife with a professional local guide  


March 2017 (updated on Thursday 1st March)

March was called Martius by The Romans after the god of war, and Hyld Monath (loud or stormy month) by the Saxons . There is an old saying that if March comes in like a lion it goes out like a lamb but we never know what lies ahead!

In fact, February 2018 went out more like a polar bear as The Beast from the East brought bitterly cold temperatures and snow from Siberia to the British Isles. Then on March 1st the snow finally reached Dartmoor as warm moist air from the south met the cold winds from the east and this was the view from my office window on St Davids Day (see picture below, top left).

Nature certainly has to be adaptable and it seems like a couple of weeks ago birds were singing and the primroses were flowering. The Arctic weather will certainly put the brakes on things but beneath the snow the flowers such as Lesser Celandine (see picture below, top right) will still be there but the birds will be sheltering and trying their best to find enough food to keep warm.

Winter Birdwatching Walk

Conditions were ideal for the last winter walk on Sunday morning, February 11th, and the bright sunlight meant that the birds were seen in glorious full colour. Mistle Thrushes were in full song and at the hide there were excellent views of Coal Tit, Marsh Tit, Long-Tailed Tits, Blue and Great Tits and Siskins. The most striking however was a male Bullfinch in glorious crimson (see picture below, bottom left).

As March progresses and the weather warms up, more birds return to Dartmoor. Species such as wheatear, meadow pipit, skylark, stonechat and yellowhammer are found on the moorland and rough grazing land and the first chiffchaffs will start singing from the woodland edges.


Throughout history humans have used fire as a means of managing vegetation especially on heathland, moorland and similar open landscapes. Swaling is the local word used on Dartmoor to describe this type of management. The object of swaling is to maintain the open landscape and provide fresh grass for grazing animals.

The aftermath of swaling can make the landscape very unattractive (see picture below, bottom right) and is a controversial issue but unfortunately without it, arsonists would have a field day and instead of smaller controlled fires of tens of hectares we would end up with fires extending over hundreds and thousands of hectares. After swaling the ground vegetation soon recovers and the short vegetation created provides ideal nesting conditions for meadow pipits and skylarks.

Future Events - Spring Birds Walk

The next birdwatching walk will be on Sunday March 25th. The walk will start at 09.30 hours from the Trendlebere Down Lower Car Park when we hope to see the first arrival of Chiffchaffs and other returning migrants. Charge is £5.00 per adult

This is a walk of 2 miles and lasts for 3 hours. The objective will be to find as many different birds as possible!

Telephone (0785 8421 148) or e-mail me at enquiries@dartmoornaturetours.co.uk if you need more information about any of these events.