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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.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

July on the Farm

Barn Owl Hunting

There was a great start to July with a Red Kite being spotted over the farm and village on the 1st, 2nd and 9th of the month. There has been a red kite spotted a number of times recently and it is probably a young bird, hatched last year being chased away from existing territories by established pairs. It may be that it is scouting potential breeding sites for next year? On the 6th I ringed a single Barn Owl chick in one of the owl boxes on the farm. To only have 1 chick from a brood of at least 3 is a little disappointing but fingers crossed that it will fledge. There have been barn owl sightings through the whole month in and around the village so hopefully the chick is getting enough food. On the 11th the Buddleia by the weighbridge burst into flower providing a great nectar source for butterflies and bees and 12 Red Admirals were counted along with Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Large White. On the 10th at Great Ashfield a suspected breeding Spotted Flycatcher was seen in the farmyard and for a number of days after carrying food back to a clump of Ivy. Whilst out walking on the 11th there was Yellowhammers singing every 30/40 metres along every hedge on the farm hopefully indicating many pairs breeding successfully. We will have a better idea of how they are doing when we start ringing in the winter and can see how many young birds are present. We also had our last farm visit on the 11th and had Swifts Swallows and House Martins over us as we travelled through the village and a hedgehog scuttled across the road as I returned home that night. On the 14th Brian’s dog Flo, found a Little Owl’s nest in the workshop and by the end of the month the two chicks had fledged.
Purple Hairstreak

  The Suffolk branch of Butterfly conservation visied the farm on the 19th and had a very successful day searching for and recording butterflies. They were able to record 19 different species with the highlight being Purple Hairstreak. I had already recorded Brimstone and Orange-tip which are spring species, so we are up to 21 species for the year which we are delighted with.

Keith Aldous reported a Peregrine Falcon in Westhorpe on the 20th and Mike Shave has seen a clutch of Grey Partridge chicks a number of times. The Turtle Doves have been much quieter this month, hopefully due to them concentrating of bringing up their young but we will keep any eye out for any young birds.  As the harvest progresses we open up more of the cropped land and usually from our machines get a good view of what is being pushed out of the crops. There was 5 foxes (1 adult & 4 cubs), a Roe deer and fawn and 2 muntjac in the Oil Seed Rape next to West Farm, 2 foxes, and a muntjac next to the hall and another couple of fox cubs nest to the farmyard. There has been hundreds of young pheasants in the rape and wheat fields and a number of young French Partridges as well. One of the benefits of our Environmental Stewardship Options and habitat work is that there is always cover on the farm after the crops are combined. Areas of wild bird seed mix, grass margins, large hedges and scrub give these young birds a place to hide from predators rather than other farms where the crops are their only refuge. It always amazes me how many smaller birds feed in the Oil Seed Rape fields even when they have been sprayed off there a Blackbirds, Dunnock, Whitethroat, Robins and Reed Bunting feeding on the insects and spiders in the crop. Another busy month on the farm and on the wildlife front. As harvest progresses there will be much more to report for August so keep reading!

Pyramid Orchid on Westhorpe Village Green

On a wet day Brian and I took the opportunity to walk over the village greens and were able to record over 40 species of grasses and wildflowers and we will leave the green for as long as possible before taking a hay cut to allow as many seed to shed as possible. The hay cut is an essential process in the management of wild flower meadows as the removal of the grasses allows and second flush of wild flowers and prevents the grasses becoming too dominant year on year which, in time will smother out the wild flower species.

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