Dartmoor Nature Tours

Discover Dartmoor's wildlife with a professional local guide  

August 

August (updated on Thursday 17 August, 2016)

This month was named after the Roman Emperor Augustus, nephew of Julius. Although it was not Augustus birth month it was considered a lucky month for him. The Romans added an extra day to August to make sure that it had the same number of days as July!

The dry weather has continued although rain is now forecast. Despite the daytime temperatures there is a chill in the morning air and a hint of autumn as the bracken starts to turn brown. Western gorse and common heather are in full bloom and this is the most picturesque time of year on the moorland (see picture below, top left).

Dodder (see picture below, top right) has appeared in great profusion on the moorland gorse bushes. Dodder is a true parasite but unlike other parasitic plants, which have green leaves and only extract water and nutrients from host plants, dodder has no leaves and must extract carbohydrates from the host plant.

In late-spring a slender stem emerges from germinating over-wintered dodder seeds, and entwines itself, always anti-clockwise, around the nearest host plant. At this stage it depends entirely on food reserves contained in the seed, for the plant has no green chlorophyll, but once the plant is established, the lower part of the stem withers and falls away, leaving the dodder to depend solely on its unfortunate host, from which it takes sugar and other nutrients through suckers that penetrate stem and branches.

Growth is rapid, and it quickly engulfs host and adjacent plants in a tangled cloak of incredibly fine threads, colouring the landscape with a wine-red mantle.

There are still good numbers of silver washed fritillary butterflies (see picture below, bottom left) plus gatekeepers, meadow browns and small whites in the woodland and small heath and graylings on the moorland.

The silver washed fritillary is a large fast-flying species that comes readily to buddleia bushes and other nectar sources. The female lays her eggs singly on a tree trunk and after hatching the caterpillars hibernate until the following spring when they feed on violet leaves.

Lack of rain has meant a dearth of fungi but I did come across some Pseudoboletus parasiticus growing on some rather dehydrated common earthballs (see picture below, bottom right). When the rain finally arrives there should be a sudden proliferation of fruiting fungus.

Future Events -

SUMMER MOORLAND WALK

Wednesday 24 August at 14.00

Discover the history and wildlife of the Moor. Walk starts from Haytor Visitor Centre and last for about 2½ hours. Cost is £5.00 per head. Sorry no dogs allowed.

FUNGI FORAY AT HEMBURY WOODS

Suitable for beginners and organised in conjunction with The National Trust.

The cost of the 2½ hour walk is £5.00 per head for adults and £2.50 for children. BOOKING IS ESSENTIAL. Please book with The National Trust Office Tel: 01626 834748 (Open Mon-Fri only)

Start Time: Sunday 25th September, 10.30 to 13.00 Start Point Hembury Woods Main Car Park SX 728680