Every year I aim to walk up Tavy Cleave on western Dartmoor at least once at ring ouzel time, and so on 23 April I set off from Lane End.
It was both the date we recognise as Shakespeare’s birthday, and the 400th anniversary of his death, which was fitting as Shakespeare was familiar with the ouzel, mentioning the ouzel and ouzel-cock many times (perhaps he was referring to the ring ouzel’s relative, the blackbird).
I followed the leat to the little hut and then on, over rough ground to the tiny stream with its rowan tree which is like a little bit of Exmoor.
It was just beyond here that I saw a bird perched on skyline rocks, and it was indeed a ring ouzel with its bright, white bib. It is always a thrill to see it, and especially the first of the year.
I continued round the corner to the waterfall which is a special spot because, as I have recorded before, it is here in this romantic setting that Sylvia Sayer’s father, Richard Munday, proposed to her mother, Olive Burnard, in 1891.
Then I returned down the valley and the ring ouzel was perched on the same hillside on a lower rock, where it remained for some time. I hope it has a nest there.
Further down the valley I heard one calling but frustratingly could not locate it. And so I turned back along the leat, in a lovely light, to the car-park.