Wildlife during the Pandemic

Blog post by Gert Corfield
It’s been a difficult year for reasons that need no explanation! Here’s a brief review (and it’s brief because of the limitations in getting to the farm in spring!) of the wildlife activities on the farm.
Before the lockdown, a number of nest boxes were installed in February. Barn Owl Boxes, boxes to encourage Blue and Great Tits, Robins and one amongst the climbers to the main farmhouse in the hope a Spotted Flycatcher might take residence. Monitoring these on my part never materialised as in March all travel, other than an hours or so walk from home, was forbidden.
It wasn’t until mid May when this relaxed somewhat that I ventured to the farm in anticipation of what was about. Yellowhammer was in song and Warblers had returned with good numbers of Common and Lesser Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and a couple of Willow Warbler. The Swift had returned, but I missed Cuckoo although Jo had confirmed hearing it earlier in the Spring.
Black Cap
Visits were infrequent as we all, I think, started to find our feet again and were hesitant to venture too far.
The summer passed and it wasn’t until late summer when the lock down eased significantly that I made more visits. Deploying the moth trap over a few nights brought incredible results with over 60 species in one night. 8 Elephant hawk-moths were around the trap one morning. The spectacular Oak Eggar moth was a first and Gold Spot and Ruby Tiger moths were in numbers I could only dream of in my garden at home! One one morning I had to ask a friend for help in recording the numerous moths we uncovered when opening the trap! Naturally all were released without harm.
A few superb Mother Shipton Moths were flying during the day and I managed to photograph one individual showing it’s wing pattern from which it gets its name as it resembles Old Mother Shipton, a 16th century Yorkshire witch!

 The Mother Shipton Moth

Oak Eggar (left) and Canary Shouldered Thorn
Tray full of moths
 Poplar Hawk-Moth
On the Butterfly front it was a particularly good year for the small Tortoiseshell and Meadow Browns, Ringlet and the ‘Whites’ were abundant thanks to a good spring no doubt. On one visit mid July I was taken aback by two Silver Washed Fritillaries feeding on bramble flowers. A new Butterfly for the farm!
Silver Washed Fritillary
A late August visit during which a Butterfly walk would normally have been held to find the rare Brown Hairstreak, I found a total of eight individuals displaying over the usual ‘master tree’ and another Ash tree close by.

Brown Hairstreak ‘Master Tree’

More recently, I have been carrying out bird counts in an effort to keep more consistent records of species and numbers on the farm, principally to compare with surveys when I first started surveys over 10 years ago.
Redwings and Fieldfare have now arrived in force and very recently a new addition to the farm bird list – a Hawfinch! Flying over with it’s distinctive call I got a good look at it – undoubtedly a bird passing through. The farm bird list now stands at 86 species. Hopefully more consistent surveying and the ability now to visit more freely (as at the time of writing!) will help to discover further species. For example, whilst Whinchat has been seen a few times now, I have never seen Stonechat on the farm which I have no doubt passes through on passage.
With winter approaching, Woodcock will arrive, the winter thrushes strip berries and clear fallen fruit and maybe the odd Brambling but whatever shows itself let’s hope we continue to be able to get out whilst we can.
Photos -Gert Corfield

Moths before Lockdown

Moths caught on the farm by Gert Corfield, identified and carefully released last month before lockdown . A reminder that all the wildlife is very active and thriving. The moth trap’s eerie light caused quite a stir in the locality, making an appearance on the neighbourhood WhatsApp !
Some great moth info can be found on Butterfly Conservation West Midlands Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/butterflyconservationwestmidlands/

Photos by Gert Corfield, moths: Satellite and Clouded Drab

Spring has sprung!

Blog post by Gert Corfield 

A glorious morning! Carrying out a  spring bird survey produced 39 species with up to 9 Chiffchaff calling their name – a good number and showing that these birds have well and truly arrived from their North African winter home. Also nice to see were a Treecreeper, a Red-Legged Partridge, 2 Coal Tit, 4 Yellowhammer (one briefly singing its summer song of ‘a little bread and no cheeeese‘ !), 3 Buzzards, a Female Kestrel  and a good number of Chaffinch, Linnet and Reed Bunting.

With the morning warming up, 7 Brimstone were on the wing coming out of hibernation and quartering the hedges finding nourishment on the Blackthorn blossom. 3 Comma and a Peacock Butterfly also showed well.

A cluster of 16 Spot Ladybird with a 7 Spot (and a Wolf Spider lurking) which have overwintered in leaf litter were warming up in the sun.

Lesser Celandines, Primroses and WhiteSweet Violets made up the botanical spring cast.

Butterfly Walk

Blog post by Gert Corfield
On the 11th August, the farm hosted another Butterfly walk, timed to coincide with the emergence of the Brown Hairstreak.
The moth trap was set the evening before but after weeks of hot weather the night saw cold and clear conditions with the result that not a single moth deigned to visit the trap!
Mothless for the next morning’s guests, we set off late morning to sunny but windy conditions.
The first Butterfly Spotted was a Large White and we left the farm track a small brown Butterfly settled quickly on a hawthorn hedge. Thinking it was a Gatekeeper it turned out to be a freshly emerged female Brown Hairstreak!
It lingered for a while giving everyone the opportunity to have a good look and take photographs.
We ventured on to the margins where Knapweed was still in flower and Common Blues, Brown Argus and Meadow Brown which have seen a good year did not disappoint. A few Small Copper also showed well as did Large and Small Skipper.
Unfortunately, Painted Lady and Clouded yellow which had been present the previous week did not make an appearance but the showy Brown Hairstreak more than made up for it.
The full list of Butterflies seen in order of abundance where;
Small White
Green Veined White
Large White
Meadow Brown
Common Blue
Brown Argus
Large Skipper
Gatekeeper
Small Skipper
Speckled Wood
Small Copper
Comma
Ringlet
Red Admiral
Small Tortoiseshell
Peacock
Brown Hairstreak

 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Wild Hollowfields!

We were thrilled to have accomplished actress Eloise Secker leading a theatre workshop on the farm! With her skilful, yet playful approach to Shakespeare and intuitive response to the group, Eloise made this workshop an absolute joy with fantastic feedback from everyone.

Eloise Secker is an actress and theatre maker from Norfolk. She has worked in the industry for over 10 years for companies such as the Royal Shakespeare company, the Young Vic Theatre and the BBC among others. We’re really looking forward to future events on the farm with Eloise!

 

 

Celebrating International Dawn Chorus day!

Blog post by Gert
On Saturday the 12th May the farm hosted another popular early morning bird walk. This was in celebration of International Dawn Chorus day, although we started at a more reasonable time of 7.30am!
As it turned out this was a good time as the number of birds singing were not as overwhelming as it might have been earlier in the day, allowing a better appreciation of individual bird song.We were treated to the songs of Yellowhammer, Blackcap and the clear song of the Chiffchaff. Whitethroat was very active and sang well from the mature hedgerows and we were treated to hearing a Lesser Whitethroat at close quarters although unsurprisingly for this secretive species it didn’t show itself!
The Cuckoo eventually performed at the end of the walk. It’s been very vocal all spring, probably eyeing up Dunnock nests to lay it’s egg in.
Ravens were cronking, once again nesting in one of the pine trees and Skylarks sang throughout the walk. We also had the opportunity to study the song of the Willow Warbler and get clear views of it through a scope where we were able to see the slight differences in identification to a Chiffchaff, although it’s song being the best way to separate the two species.
The biggest surprise, however, was a Whinchat perched on one of the hedges clearly showing it’s obvious white eye stripe. A bird of the uplands and a migrant, it had probably only recently arrived and was passing through, so we were very lucky to pick it up. It’s also became a new species for the farm’s bird list at number 83!
We ended the walk with a look at the hay meadow which was just coming into it’s own and were treated to a handsome Roe Deer buck looking at us looking at him.