Dartmoor Nature Tours

Discover Dartmoor's wildlife with a professional local guide  

August 

August (updated on Wednesday 2 August, 2017)

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!

Not a good start to the month due to the unfortunate position of the Jet Stream which means we are getting unsettled weather dominated by low pressure systems coming in from the Atlantic. 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.

The wet weather at the end of July and beginning of the month means there could be a sudden proliferation of fruiting fungus and it is worth looking out for the fruiting bodies of ceps (Boletus edulis)in the Dartmoor woodlands. (see picture below, bottom right).

Future Events -

SUMMER MOORLAND WALK

Sunday 20 August at 09.30

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.

Please phone me on 0785 8421 148 for further information or e-mail enquiries@dartmoornaturetours.co.uk