Linnean Society Field Trip to Devon

Leanne Melborne reports from this year's Linnean Society field trip to Slapton Ley in Devon

Published on 28th August 2019

This year’s field trip, in association with the Field Studies Council (FSC), took place in Slapton Ley, Devon. As always you can never rely on the British weather, thanks to the torrential pour down our Friday evening walk around the nature reserve ended up being cancelled. Instead our tutor, Andrew, gave us a brief introduction on the natural history of South Devon and as the rain continued we ended the evening with a bit of team building in the local pub.

View of Lannacombe Bay

View of Lannacombe Bay

Luckily the weather improved on Saturday and we spent the day near East Prawle, an interesting village where the local café and pub all have pig themed names.

Apparently the names come from a shipwreck that left a lot of pigs on the beach. The villagers thought it would be too much hassle to save them so sadly left them on the beach to die. Miraculously, these pigs were then found on the village green the next day having made their way up from the beach all on their own.

Jane with Kelp

From East Prawle we made our way down to the rocky shore learning about the geomorphology on the way. We were also on the look-out for Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus), a bird related to the yellowhammer which is mostly confined in the UK to south Devon. The coastline around East Prawle is one of the better known sites for these songbirds. Once we made it down to the rocky shore, Andrew took us through the different species we would find on the shore including a lot of different Fuci species. We learnt how to tell the difference between topshells and periwinkles – topshells have a round operculum and a mother-of-pearl coating on the inside of the lip of the shell, whereas periwinkles have a tear drop shaped operculum and no mother-of-pearl coating.

After lunch we took a walk to Prawle point, the southernmost point in Devon. The coastline is absolutely stunning and we took the opportunity to take more photos as well as more bird spotting. We spotted a buzzard and the Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) – the call of the stonechat sounds like two stones hitting each other. In the evening we took part in some bat spotting, Slapton hosts 14 out of the 18 bat species found in the UK. So with our bat detectors we set out for the night. We didn’t see all 14 species but we definitely heard three with our trusty bat detectors. The piperstrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), the lesser horseshoe (Rhinolophus hipposideros) and the Noctule (Nyctalus noctula). There is a lesser horseshoe maternity roost in the village so we spent quite a long time sitting under the roost and seeing the bats emerge for the evening. While on the hunt for bats we also spotted glow worms. All in all a really interesting day spotting the wide range of wildlife south Devon has to offer.

learning about coastal vegetation

The team learning about coastal vegetation

Sunday was also another lovely sunny day. The day started off visiting Slapton Sands and looking at coastal vegetation. This included the Sea radish (Raphanus raphanistrum) and the under-recorded sea rocket (Cakile maritima). After lunch we ventured into the Slapton Ley nature reserve and spotted Strapwort (Corrigiola litoralis) – Slapton Ley is the only UK habitat for this species. On our walk through the reserve we spotted Butcher’s broom (Ruscus aculeatus) –an indicator of an ancient wood. Overall it was a lovely weekend with excellent weather (in the end). We learnt a lot about the different species you can find in south Devon and also the species more local to Slapton. We also found out more about the amazing conservation work the FSC is doing. It was also lovely just spending the weekend with fellow natural history enthusiasts.

By Leanne Melbourne, Events and Communications Manager

The Group

If you are interested in getting involved next year then keep an eye out for our Spring–Summer 2020 brochure for where our next field trip will be.