I make a point of visiting White Wood above the double Dart valley on Dartmoor at least once a year in the spring. Ever since the late Ian Mercer told me that wood warblers breed here I go to listen for them. This year I was about two weeks earlier than usual, with the advantage that the leaves were not out so birds were easier to see.
It was a lovely sunny day and my friend Hil Marshall and I wandered down the track from Venford reservoir, watching and listening.
There were countless willow warblers, and then we saw a redstart and a tree pipit, which confirmed itself with its flight song.
We entered the wood with its ancient oaks, small at first, then larger as you get deeper in. The track entices you on.
The wooded slopes of the Dart valley showed through the trees; we felt as though we were in the canopy.
About halfway along the track we heard wood warblers whirring, and then we had a fleeting glimpse of one. The song is breathtaking. We kept hearing little bursts of it as we made our way through the wood.
Further on the slopes were covered in mossy rocks. Hil saw a pied flycatcher but I missed it.
I went back the next day, determined to see a pied flycatcher—and I did, near the western entrance to the wood where I have seen them before.
It is a most splendid place.