The River Dart isn’t just a great place for people to relax and enjoy – it is also home to a wide range of birds, fish and other animals – including some you might not expect. So grab your binoculars and join us as we explore the natural world of the River Dart!
Unsurprisingly for a river, the Dart is home to a great many fish. Especially prevalent are salmon, trout and even mackerel, making it incredibly popular with fishermen – both human anglers and predatory animals alike. Indeed, the eco-system of the Dart area is almost entirely centred on the fish population of the river.
The Dart and its surrounds are home to a high population of fishing birds. It’s not unheard of to see a graceful egret lazily glide its way up and down the river, nor to see an osprey diving to catch a fish for lunch.
A sight many bird watchers hope to catch is that of a dipper flitting around the area. These birds congregate around fast flowing and cold rivers and streams, making the Dart an ideal home for these rare creatures.
Back in the water, visitors to the river at the right time of year are likely to see grey seals swimming alongside boats or sunbathing on docks. During high tide these true seals can often be found far inland as they venture up the river looking for their lunch – something seals and people seem to have in common!
When not playing around in the river, the seals can be found on their colony on the Mew Stone – an uninhabited (save for the wildlife of course!) island near the mouth of the Dart that was once used as a ministry of defence gun battery. This is a great place to spot these charismatic creatures, but they are best viewed from land with a pair of binoculars to minimise any disruption to the animals. If you are viewing them from the water, it is vital that you minimise any noise or other disturbances as this can affect their resting time and result in lower fitness and reduced health in the seals.
Grey seals aren’t all that you might spot in the cool water of the Dart. Dolphins are also regular visitors to the Dart estuary – again lured in by the promise of a brown trout supper. Basking sharks also make appearances on occasion. These bigmouthed sharks are the largest fish that can be found in British waters and are a sight to be seen when conditions are favourable. Unlike the fish-eating dolphins however, the basking shark are more interested in eating microscopic krill than anything else.
Krill aren’t the only microscopic creatures of interest living around the Dart. Believe it or not, the nutrient-rich sediment of the estuary is home to billions upon billions of different bacteria that help break down organic material deposited by the tide. The Dart’s mudflats support a myriad of species including worms, snails and shellfish. The mudflats, along with the fish in the river itself, are one of the key sources of food for wildlife in the area.
If you’re an animal lover then the River Dart has so much to offer. Rare birds, cheeky seals and giant basking shark await those who take the time to look. The best part however? Galmpton Touring Park is the only touring park in the area that overlooks the river – making it an ideal base for your animal spotting expeditions!