Monday, 19 November 2012

Avery's Ark (part 1)

I loved watching David Attenborough describe the ten species he would most like to save from extinction on Attenborough's Ark: Natural World Special last week and this (as well as reading a great blog by Amanda Scott) started me thinking, what would I save, which species would I miss the most, what needs protecting the most...

The questions are endless. I'd always want to keep things like blackbirds in my world, but at the moment they don't need as much protection as lots of other things. So I'm going to cop out and pick a slightly easier question. Since I've only just moved to Devon I've chosen ten amazing species that live here, and that I don't often see, that I would love to find, watch and learn about over my first 12 months in the county. I'm splitting them up into two blogs so here are the first five (the rest will come in a second blog later this week):

Derek Harper [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Ash: This lovely tree has been all over the news recently and unfortunately last week the first reported case of ash die back disease was recorded in Devon. Ash is one of the trees I find easiest to identify and I would hate to see it disappear from our countryside. Hopefully I'll be seeing ash all over Devon for years to come, but this year in particular I'll be watching out for it more than normal.

From wikicommons
Leatherback turtle: This creature might not be what springs to mind when someone says "Devon wildlife" but they are there, out at sea, normally during the summer months. Sightings are rare but about 15 are recorded each year in the UK, and it's very likely that many other individuals are never seen. These huge (up to 6 ft!) creatures eat mainly jelly fish (another exciting Devon creature) and I'd love to see one! I have seen turtles briefly in Australia, but there would be something infinitely cooler about seeing one off my native shores. It's unlikely and I'll probably have to find a  sea canoe to get a good chance of seeing one, but a girl can dream, and keep trying. Have a look here and here for more information on their Devon sightings.

Photo by Chris Gotschalk 
Basking Shark: Another amazing marine creature swimming off the coast of Devon. What's not to love? It eats plankton and small fish, it is the second biggest fish in the world (beaten by the whale shark) and  you could see it in the UK. Fantastic! Another great reason to support campaigns to protect our marine environment, it's these large animals that will suffer and disappear if we don't. Nothing more needs saying, I'd LOVE to see one of these.

Photo from
Devonshire cup coral: From the very big to the quite small, this coral is only 2.5cm wide and 1.5cm tall. Anything that has Devon in the name really must go on my list of things to see. This coral was named after the county upon its discovery in 1860 and was thought to be confined to the region, after further study however it's turned up in the North East England, North West Scotland, Wales, Ireland and the Mediterranean. Despite this I'm keeping it on my list because I think anything that has "80 translucent tentacles splaying out of the calcified cup with unique terminal knobs" must be worth a look!

Raft spider: Similar to the Great raft spider (which has been recently reintroduced into the Norfolk Broads) the raft spider is one of the biggest spiders found in the UK, growing up to 8cm from toe to toe (do spiders have toes?!) . These amazing little beasts hunt by sitting on the water (using their legs like a raft) using the surface tension as other spiders do the tension of a web. A deep chocolate brown with a light stripe on each side of their back these are quite pretty as far as spiders go. I have seen them briefly in the past but in Dorset (at the RSPB Arne reserve) and I would love to see them again, in Devon, for a closer longer look. Check out this BBC video, to see how good they are at hunting!
Photo from Orest (Flickr: Raft spider - Dolomedes fimbriatus) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

So there are my first five. My next five can all  fly and are fantastic Devon wildlife sights, but they aren't all birds, can you guess any of them? Answers coming soon...


  1. Could cirl bunting be one of the next five?

  2. You could have done Avery's Aviary (as per our chat in the summer :-) )

    Might have to do Davey's (Lancashire) Ark :-) Hen Harriers would be on it!!! or is it too late for them in Lancashire now?



    1. What a trick I missed with the name of the blog! Maybe I can use it for a future post.

      I look forward to reading Davey's Ark. You have to put Hen Harriers on there, can't think of a single Lancashire species more iconic, more deserving or more desperate for a safe haven and a bit of hope in troubled waters.

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. Lancashire's Ark coming up later in the week - glad to see starlings and 'sea'gulls in your top ten - fortunately, although both are iconic in Lancs, I hadn't chosen them.

    Totally forgot about BNDay - one of my fave themed days but I didn't buy anything on Sunday

    Really hope you're not flooded


    Stay DRY