Blog post by Gert Corfield
After the optimism in 2020 that the pandemic would come to an end thanks to falling statistics and vaccinations, 2021 started with another national lockdown at the beginning of January!
The ‘stay at home’ order eased at the end of March 2021 so I was able to make my first and long awaited visit to the farm at the end of that month. Despite on-going cold and damp weather spring migrants were starting to arrive with Chiffchaff and the first Blackcap singing on the 31st. It was also a relief to see a couple of Yellowhammer, these having been scarce during the limited visits I was able to make in 2020.
Lime Hawk-moth – there were a couple of these spectacular moths caught in the woodland strip next to the brook during late May
When I visited the scrape in one of the larger fields, there was already a couple of Snipe using it and most excitingly a new species for the farm – a Green Sandpiper. A passage wader, on its way to breed in northern Europe. It is hoped that the scrape will attract more waders in the future and encourage breeding.
Other passage birds seen were a Wheatear which stayed a couple of days on one of the fallow fields and a couple of Whinchat – a perky Robin sized bird (and part of the same family) which breeds in the northern uplands. A Yellow Wagtail passed through as well – these once common farmland birds are becoming scarcer, but I suspect more pass through than I pick up. Hopefully one day they too will stay to breed, especially if the scrape areas are more constantly damp throughout the year.
During the peak spring season, Lesser Whitethroat and Common Whitethroat arrived in good numbers again with both species breeding successfully at approximately 10 pairs each.
Whitethroat with a beak full of insects for its young
As well as the more common woodland species breeding throughout the farm, other highlights included a pair of Raven, Barn Owl, Redstart and Willow Warbler.
A further new species was added to the farm list in late autumn with a few Brambling being seen with a large feeding flock of Chaffinch and Linnet at the wild bird seed mix planted in one of the fields. This brought the total list of species recorded at the farm to 88.
On the Butterfly front the wide wild flower margins and mature hedgerows attracted the usual large numbers of Butterflies throughout the year, albeit some species arriving quite late due to the cold spring. Large numbers of Meadow Brown and Ringlet were noted and encouragingly increased numbers of Small Tortoiseshell, which have been struggling in recent years nationally. The highlight was the discovery of a new Butterfly – a Small Heath on the 7th June. Now confined mainly to upland areas in Worcestershire such as the Malverns, it was a real surprise to find one on one of the larger meadows on the farm.
Small Heath Butterfly – a first for the Farm
A Silver Washed Fritillary was again found feeding on bramble flowers on one of the hedgerows. Brown Hairstreak were seen about the ‘master tree’ on one warm warm day at the end of August. With Small Heath, the list of Butterflies now stands at 28 for the farm.
Silver Washed Fritillary
I made a number of visits to set a battery operated moth trap to record moths present as I had no doubt that there would be quite a diversity of moths found on the farm. As readers will know, this is a harmless exercise, where moths are attracted to a low voltage blue actinic light over a box with egg trays where moths then settle as well as on vegetation around the moth trap for the night. These are recorded early in the morning and then safely released.
Needless to say on some some mornings I was quite overwhelmed by the number of moths present – sometimes with large numbers of May bugs and on occasions Hornets!
The recording of moths not only informs on the health of the environment but also the availability of food for other species such as bats and birds. The sheer number found on some mornings confirms that the farm is in healthy state. During the year 57 new species of moth were added to the list bringing the total to 151 species. In itself a modest total from over 2000 species present in the UK, but this has been from a limited number of trapping sessions in between lockdowns. Going forward moth recording is hopefully going to be more frequent.
Some of the moth highlights were;
The Herald – a hibernating species, caught by a flowering Blackthorn Bush on the 1st May
Scorched Wing – which does its name proud and a first for me
Leopard moth-again named appropriately and fairly scarce.
Finally a nationally scarce species the catchily named micro moth Ochsenheimeria Taurella with only a handful of records in Worcestershire. A tiny moth that frequents flowery grassland areas – in the farms case the wide grassy flowery margins planted adjoining the fields where it was trapped.
Another interesting and successful year and the farm continues to surprise with the diversity of wildlife present.