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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, 16 December 2010

Westhorpe Buzzards

On 16th November 2007 a Common Buzzard was seen and recorded in Westhorpe. This caused great excitement as a new bird for our farm list (which now stands at 90 since the commencement of our HLS scheme) but was not thought of as anything other than a fortunate visit however, a pair spotted on the 2nd April above our woodland with the breeding season approaching gave rise to the hope that they might be a pair searching for territory. Sightings started to become more regular and by August although I had no firm evidence I was fairly confident that they had bred and then towards the end of August I was able to watch an adult repeatedly dropping into the wood followed by a juvenile in what looked like a flying and hunting lesson. As we still did not really know how many had fledged or where the nest was this was a challenge I set my  self for the following year. It became apparent that this pair was resident during the winter and spring as they could be seen most days including guest appearances on a number of farm walks and educational visits and even our postman had confessed to going home and looking up buzzards in his bird book as he had seen them so often.

On 1st May 2009 to my relief I found a nest. It was similar to a squirrel’s drey, mostly made up of leaves 45ft up an Oak tree in a ‘V’ against the trunk and a thick branch. With the climbing expertise of Reg Woodhart we were able to record a single egg on 15th May, a freshly hatched chick on 21st May and on 8th June 2009 I ringed the first Buzzard in Suffolk since 1999 and only the 3rd ever in the county. The pair of Buzzards are still seen on and around the farm most days and even though there was no confirmed breeding in 2010 we are all hopefull for 2011.
I feel this represents success on two fronts, firstly for Buzzards as their movement eastwards is well documented but their establishment of a breeding territory over ‘normal’ Suffolk farmland is pleasing. There is not the high density of rabbits as on the sandier soil areas such as The Brecks and on the coast but the high Brown Hare population is aided by 160 acres of herbage grass grown for seed and under and around the nest have been the remains of leverets as well as rabbits, pigeons and moorhens. The second area of success is for us and our own HLS scheme and that we are able to sustain a new pair of Primary Predators. There is regular evidence of Foxes, Sparrowhawks, Kestrels and Tawny and Barn Owls so the new habitats created and improvements to existing ones must be providing plenty of opportunity for the increase of populations of mammals and birds. The fact that only a single chick was raised may be down to the amount of food available so now on the farm any shot vermin or roadkill is left out for the Buzzards. Their presence whilst searching for the food left out especially on freshly drilled Oil Seed Rape fields has proved to be a much cheaper and quieter Pigeon deterrent than bangers!

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