The cows have left now. They're going indoors for winter warmth, and they won't be back until the spring.
Why am I going on about cows in a wildlife blog? Because without traditional farming practices, and traditional breeds, we'd lose much of the wildlife that has thrived in our farmed countryside for centuries. As farming intensifies, wildlife usually feels the squeeze.
Wheatland Farm is part of the Devon Wildlife Trust's Grazing Links programme, which gets non-farmers who own culm grassland (eg us) together with farmers who have traditional breed cows (or crossbreeds, as here). Simon Berry from the Wildlife Trust, himself a farmer, helped convice our neighbouring farm to work with us, brought the cows in a horsebox in April, and helped with the paperwork.
But they've done their job in the nature reserve, and it's time to let it rest. Everything is autumn quiet here. It's been so still the last few days you can hear the tisk and pitter as the leaves fall. In the wood the low light makes the leaf colours vibrant, and on the moor the grass glows a tawny golden orange before the white of winter. The shapes of the trees are revealed, and you can watch the squirrels' liquid run along the branches, accompanied by a cacophany of protest from the blackbirds. As late
But this time the cows were too heavy for the horsebox, so we had to do it the old fashioned way and drive them up the lane. I resisted the urge to burst into song and yell 'Rawhide!'. The more 'Devon' approach seems to be to walk infront of the herd shouting "Cow Cow Cow" to encourage them to follow you. Whatever works I say.
All the neighbours turned out to stand in gateways and keep the little herd on the move. The cows themsleves didn't seem too bothered, stopping for the odd munch of fresh grass along the verges.
So they've gone back to Higher Punchardon Farm, just up the road, where they'll first be tested for TB and then shown their winter quarters. I'll miss them, particularly the endearing way they stick their tongues up their noses!
as 2nd November we saw a hawker dragonfly on the moor - not sure which kind. My ID guide suggests only migrant hawkers fly this late in the year, but then it has been pretty mild...