Wildlife Review 2021

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  

 

Brown Hairstreak

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

 
Buff Tip – with it’s classic ‘broken twig’ camouflage caught in the woodland area
 

 

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.

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!