Fast-flow­ing river and ex­pan­sive hill­sides in the heart of Ex­moor

Bird Watching (UK) - - Go BIrding - SI­MONE STANBROOK-BYRNE

EX­MOOR, A LAND of ex­posed, weather-beaten heights and deep combes, has been shaped by na­ture and peo­ple for cen­turies. Des­ig­nated a Na­tional Park in 1954, it strad­dles the county bound­ary be­tween Som­er­set and Devon, with the larger part of the moor be­ing in Som­er­set. The River Exe rises on the Exe Plain at the heart of Ex­moor, me­an­der­ing its way through Som­er­set and Devon be­fore find­ing the sea on the East Devon coast. The higher-reaches of the young river, just out­side Winsford, are fast­flow­ing and flanked by trees – a haven for birds in­clud­ing Pied Fly­catcher and Red­start.

The rock-strewn river bed is a favourite haunt of Dip­per, where they can scut­tle un­der the wa­ter and find a re­li­able sup­ply of cad­dis fly etc on which to feed. Other wildlife is abun­dant: the river sup­ports Ot­ters, though it’s a rare treat to see them, and Ex­moor’s wild Red Deer, our largest land mam­mal, may be present on the steep hill­sides flank­ing the val­ley. They will see you be­fore you see them. Stags of­ten sport a head of mighty antlers which are shed ev­ery year and re-grown in time for the au­tumn rut. They are de­light to watch so keep a look out for them.

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