Mary Tant’s Nature Blog

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Read an extractMary Tant's latest Rossington mystery – A Deadly Plot – was published on 17th March 2016.
Visit your independent bookshop or friendly crime specialist for a copy – or order it from the local library.

May 2017

4 May 2017

Flowering hawthorn and mountain ash billowed in creamy waves over the foamy ribbons of cow parsley along the edges of the road to the West Country. Here and there green turf glades opened out, often brightened by clusters of magenta pink orchids.

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Friday 5 May 2017

Devon’s Teign gorge has become green since I was last here, the trees coming out in spring leaf bright against the paler heights of Dartmoor in the background.

Teign gorge

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Saturday 6 May 2017

The Dartmoor babies are here. Gangly, long-legged foals stagger after their mothers on the moor. Darker calves sheltering in the heather are harder to spot, unlike their black and white striped Galloway brethren. And lambs are in the fields, woolly tails wriggling frantically as they suckle their mothers. The air is full of their bleating, high and light, and their mothers’ deeper response.

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Sunday 7 May 2017

On the edges of the Dartmoor woodland gorse is bright, faintly scenting the air. It gleams like a border of golden braid above a tapestry in blue and white where bluebells and greater stitchwort thread the grass.

Bluebells and greater stitchwort

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Monday 8 May 2017

The translucent green leaves of beech trees roof a Dartmoor woodland. It’s like standing in a huge wide open hall, the roof held up by pillar-like trunks, and floored in vivid blue.

Woodland beeches

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Tuesday 9 May 2017

Swifts circle high above the Dartmoor cottage garden, their screams ringing down from the heights as they swoop and dive after the insects. This is an ideal spot for them, the river below, the sheep and horses around providing a plentiful feast of food.

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Wednesday 10 May 2017

Blubells were on the fringes, and a few violets of the scrub that screened the slopes inside a Dartmoor hillfort, veiling the short grass of the centre. This revealed a host of wild flowers:
Yellow pimpernel

Yellow pimpernel

Pink rest-harrow

Pink rest-harrow

Blue milkwort

Blue milkwort

Purple/Blue bugle

Purple/Blue bugle

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Thursday 11 May 2017

Late in the afternoon the sunlight rests of the spot of bare earth on the edge of a Dartmoor churchyard. It’s a tiny space, created when a stone was overturned, but it’s just right for a sunbathing slowworm. Sadly, there used to be two of them, because I found one nearby that had been cut in half, probably by a strimmer.

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Friday 12 May 2017

In the sunlight, the Cornish sea at Phillack shone in a turquoise band, that edged the deep blue mass of water that stretched to a bright blue line on the horizon. Only an occasional white lace edge showed, as a wave crested and sank far out from shore. The tide was receding, churning up the sand below its shallow waters as it went.

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Saturday 13 May 2017

Bluebells are still in flower here in Cornwall, late in the season, still turning the slopes of Constantine woods a faint blue.

Constantine woods

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Sunday 14 May 2017

The mud flats shone brightly at the tip of one of the Helford creeks. As I passed, a female mallard hurried out of the shelter of the bank and across the mud, closely followed by a horde of very tiny ducklings.

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Monday 15 May 2017

A dozen or more gannets dived, straight down into the sea, from a great height. They emerged time and again to rise and dive again, gradually working across St Ives’ bay.

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Tuesday 16 May 2017

Buttercups lined the pathway at Godolphin, threading brightness through the thick green grass. Animal tracks are conspicuous, here through the grass, and in wide worn routes over the hedgerow banks.

Godolphin buttercups

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Wednesday 17 May 2017

The sky above the sea was a uniform mid-blue, stretching in a curving arc over St Ives’ bay. Seagulls hung low over the shore line, or landed and hovered expectantly on the water’s edge, waiting for the tide to turn.

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Thursday 18 May 2017

It’s a scene of rural peace, here near Godolphin, in what was once a frenetic scene of mining activity. A small stone house stands at the top of a slope, looking down over small fields edged with hedgerows.

Rural peace

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Friday 19 May 2017

Returning along a sunken Cornish lane late at night we saw a tiny sandy fox cub curled up at the foot of one of the steep banks. As we stopped the car he got up, bleary-eyed, and began to potter along the foot of the bank. He finally reached a lower section and scrambled up it. I could only assume he and his siblings had been playing above and he’d tumbled down. He seemed just like a very young puppy, far too small and bumbling to be out on his own.

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Saturday 20 May 2017

A shelduck stares up from the mud flats of one of the Helford creeks.

Helford shelduck

A bridge across another creek is the favourite morning and evening resting spot for a large Muscovy duck, that is seemingly unperturbed by the proximity of the passing traffic.


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Sunday 21 May 2017

A group of sanderlings hovered on the sea’s edge, their legs busily moving them to and fro across the wet sand. Their reflections gleamed back at them as they moved together in a tight knot.

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Monday 22 May 2017

Driving out in the morning we saw a sad little body in one of the sunken lanes. A russet fox cub lay dead below a bank, his fur and black-tipped ears vivid in the sunlight. Had this one tumbled down too, or were the cubs in the habit of prowling the lanes in the dark?

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Tuesday 23 May 2017

A little owl flew low across the late morning sky, pursued by a determined crow.

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Wednesday 24 May 2017

On Helford river there are brief bursts of action as small boats sail or motor towards the harbour. Here on the shore, lingering on one of the small beaches the rock pools are silent and still, waiting for the return of the sea.

Snails cluster together above the water on the exposed top of a stone.


Sea anemones are dark red jelly-like blobs among a grouping of shells, left quite stranded on a rock on the dry beach.

Sea anemones

Only one sea anemone is open, still underwater in one of the pools.

Open sea anemones

Crustaceans cling to the rocks, inadvertently forming patterns, sometimes among seams of quartz in the granite.

Crustaceans 1 Crustaceans 2 Crustaceans 3

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Thursday 25 May 2017

In the late evening, I was gardening at home and startled a large yellow frog near the chives. He moved away very silently and carefully and was soon out of sight.

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Friday 26 May 2017

Bertie, my back garden male blackbird, has come to feed occasionally since I got home yesterday, and Bella, the female, came last thing in the afternoon today. She fed and bathed quickly, her usual behaviour when she’s sitting on eggs. This has come as a relief, as I found the shrub where she had been building her nest had been disturbed and cut back while I was away.

I was afraid she might have lost a clutch of eggs. But I think she builds more than one nest at a time, so hopefully the disturbance to the shrub was done before she laid her eggs and she was able to move her base.

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Saturday 27 May 2017

A spiralling whirling column of swifts, fast moving dark sickle shapes high in the sky above the back garden.

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