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Cousins working together on our family owned farm with the aim of running a commercial modern farm producing high yielding, high standard crops while maximising wildlife diversity. Brian is said to be the farmer and conservationist, whereas Patrick is a conservationist and farmer. This mix has given a new direction for the farm, building upon the work that our fathers and grandfather has done to improve the overall success of the farm business. The farm has gone from strength to strength with the farm being recognised at a national level winning the coveted National FWAG’s Silver Lapwing Award for farming and conservation in 2009 and then Patrick and Brian were named Countryside Farmer of the Year by the Farmers Weekly in 2010.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

In the bleak midwinter…..bare a thought for our top predators!!


As the Christmas carol goes……  
‘In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.’
It certainly has been a cold few weeks with our country freezing to a halt with to much snow, not enough salt and frozen pipes. Even our giant birds were grounded at Heathrow and Gatwick (much to the annoyance of a friend of mine trying to do a quick sun migration to watch a bit of cricket down under!!)
On the farm I have been working hard trying to keep all our small farmland birds fed and watered.  Think I have taken nearly two ton of wheat out around the farm to keep there vital fat stores up so they don’t die in the harsh frosts. Also by us getting out and about we are keeping puddles and the occasional pond surface broken so that fresh water is available to the birds for drinking and washing in so disease does not take hold in some species.
I came across an article in the Daily Telegraph yesterday saying a small Blue tit can lose 5% of its body weight over night in the cold weather just trying to stay warm, I think I will have to try that diet after Christmas!! But all joking aside hopefully we can keep as many of these small birds alive through to the spring, so fingers crossed.
However it’s not as easy for our top predators in these winter conditions. The owls and raptors are really struggling to find enough food. The snow cover has created a white blanket over the long grass making it very difficult for the Barn Owls and Kestrels to find mice, shrews and voles who may have ventured out of there warm nests. I have seen Barn Owls and Little Owls hunting and scavenging all the way through the daylight hours in unusual places as well, I feel sorry for them as we can not put food out for them so they are on their own. Just hope that all our stewardship habitat work is up to standard and is provide enough natural food so they can get through the winter.
Patrick’s famous Buzzard it being looked after very well, Pat has been picking up all road kill and has a freezer full of rabbits caught earlier in the year and he has been leaving them out for it to find close to our bird hide so that I maybe able to brave the cold and get some good pictures of it close up.  Sparrowhawks are also enjoying easy pickings as large flocks are finding our scattered food and opportunities to strike are increased with birds worrying about food not about what may be watching from it perch in the near by tree.
I have seen ground predators out and about mainly foxes and stoats. They have been leaving their tracking in the snow and it is amazing how close you find them to your house sometimes!
Come the long awaited thaw whenever it arrives hopefully we will have kept lots of our small birds alive and we can only hope that the owls and raptors have survived on their own survival skills! BWB  

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