Wintery Exmoor

Robin Jan 2013

Julie and I were at Slimbridge Wetland Centre on Monday. We love going there and had a great time. We’d really like to thank Slimbridge for inviting us and a lovely lady called Penny Muxworthy for sorting all the arrangements.

I was there as a guest speaker with Mike Dilger. He’s such a nice chap and very down to earth. Mike is travelling all over the place giving talks to raise funds to help save the spoonbill sandpiper, a lovely little bird that is in danger of becoming extinct. You can find out about it at www.bbc.co.uk/nature/15692417.

The best part of the day was when we went out to watch Mike feed the birds in the evening. About 50 of us gathered in a large hide looking out over about 2½ acres of land, including the pond. It was all floodlit and looked amazing.

Mike had a wheelbarrow of food. He whistled to the birds and they all came to him to be fed. It was incredible to watch. There were about 2000 birds came in, all different sorts but mainly geese. They then stay there to roost which is good because it keeps them safe from people trying to shoot them.

I was also lucky enough to see bittern while we were there. They are very rare and difficult to spot as they hide in the reed beds and are very well camouflaged.

Do go to Slimbridge if you get the chance, it’s a wonderful place.

It was nice to get out and about as I’ve been unwell recently. I’m feeling a bit better now and I’m having some tests done soon to find out what the problem is. Julie has also had a bad back so we’re a right pair. Because of this I’d like to request that we don’t have any more phone calls please. It’s lovely that people want to speak to me but I do get a huge amount of calls and I’m finding it a bit much. Thank you, I much appreciate it and am sure you understand.

If you do need to contact me for something important, you can always email me via the contact page on this website.

We’ve had lots of snow up here on Exmoor, with drifts of five or six feet. It hung around for about eight days but is almost gone now. Snow seems to do the ground good and people are predicting an early Spring.

It’s been a hard time for the Exmoor ponies as they live off the bracken on the moor. I saw some the other day standing by some gorse, the only vegetation not under the snow. But the Exmoors are hardy animals and they’ll get by. I always remind people not to feed them, even in bad weather, as it’s important they eat only their natural food.

I’ve been doing some work up on the land, putting in a couple more rough roads so it’s easier to get around. That opal colour on the pond I told you about has gone now and the water is all brown again. All very strange.

I’ve also been out filming, as usual, and taking still shots of some of the lovely smaller birds that are around at the moment. It takes a lot of patience and it took me three days to get the shots I’ve included on this page, going out for about 4 hours at a time. I managed to get a few shots with two birds in, which is very difficult as they just don’t stay still.

I’ve finished cleaning out all the nest boxes now. I hope you’ve done yours as it won’t be long before the birds are nesting again. At Slimbridge they’ve actually got mallards sitting on eggs already.

I think I might have a tawny owl nesting in one of the owl boxes. They nest earlier than barn owls. I tapped the pole the box is on the other day and a tawny flew out.

Before the snow came we had all that rain and we suffered pretty badly down here in North Devon and on Exmoor with flooding. You might have seen on the news that about half of the famous Tarr Steps bridge was washed away. Now that takes some doing with those massive slabs weighing a ton or two each.

It has happened before, though not so badly. They had quite a job finding all the stones and putting them back in the right place last time but when they’d finished they numbered the stones in case it happened again. At least it will be a bit easier this time but it is still a huge task.

Hopefully the job will be done by the time my Exmoor Safaris start again in March as Tarr Steps is part of the route. The safaris are getting booked up quickly now so don’t hang about if you’d like to join me. October is almost fully booked already. Have a look on my “Safaris” page and choose a date that suits you. I’m really looking forward to getting out on the moor with all you lovely people.

Well I think that’s all for this month. Next time I talk to you the days should be opening out a bit and there will be some real signs of Spring about. God bless and see you again soon.