Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Wild life on the farm.

We all know about the farm animals - the cows, sheep, farm dogs, farm cats, hens etc. who contribute to the economy of the farm (although the farmer may well dispute the use of the words 'contribute' and 'economy' in the same sentence as my hens,) But if we take the trouble to look carefully the farm buildings and land support such a lot of other wild life - both plant and animal.
And it is this side of things which gives me such joy, which takes me back to my childhood days wandering the lanes in our Lincolnshire village with my father - a great lover of nature.

Rarely does the farmer take Tess out for her last 'wee and poo' wander without meeting one or two hedgehogs on the prowl for slugs and snails; quite often he walks the fields and surprises a deer lying in the grass; occasionally a fox slinks along the hedgeback early in the morning on his way home after a nights hunting; there are hundreds of rabbits everywhere. And in the hedgerow the wild roses are beginning to bloom; the hawthorn blossom, the crab apple blossom and the cow parsley have all died back now.

But there is other wildlife which we rarely see. For a week or two now we have heard what we were pretty sure was a barn owl. We have heard him at dusk in the Scots pines by the farm house and yesterday the farmer found the first evidence that he spends a lot of his time here in our buildings. In the doorway of the loose housing was an owl pellet -a pellet regurgitated by the owl and containing the bones and fur of small animals he has eaten. I photographed it for you to see and then, using two cocktail sticks, I pulled it apart to reveal a mass of tiny fragile bones, I suppose mainly of tiny field mice.

And then there is the hedgerow itself - what a wealth of species there are there. In the piece I have photographed I counted spindle, hawthorn, field maple, wild rose, holly, elder, blackthorn - and that was without really seriously looking. And I know for sure that in the tighter bits of the hedge - the holly for example (well-hidden from prying eyes and beaks) there will be nests. At our bird feeders we have chaffinch, yellowhammer, greenfinch, goldfinch, woodpecker, siskin, hedge house and tree sparrow and many of these species nest in the hedge or, like blue, coal and great tits, in holes in the trees in our fields. All this activity is going on under our noses and we walk past barely noticing it. Perhaps it is as well because birds certainly don't like interference in their nesting affairs.

Of course Tess is only interested in one kind of wild life - the rabbit. This same hedgerow has plenty of rabbit holes underneath it and the only sign that they are there is the telltale rabbit runs through the grass. Tess finds them all and makes a bee line down them to see what she can see.

Here today the sun is shining, the cut grass in the fields is drying nicely and there is a sharp wind blowing - just the thing to make it a good silaging day, so keep your fingers crossed that it lasts.


Heather said...

How lovely to have yellowhammers visiting the bird table - I haven't seen one since childhood, but we are lucky enough to have seen all the other species you mention in our garden inspite of living in an almost suburban area.
Fingers crossed for the silage - you should have another good day tomorrow before rain again on Thursday apparently.

Tanya @ Lovely Greens said...

Really lovely post Pat...I love hearing about British wildlife but I especially like the bit about finding the owl pellet. Are owls common in your part of the country?

angryparsnip said...

What a wonderful post today. I love seeing and hearing about the wildlife on the farm.
What was so nice is this morning before I sat down to read blogs, I was at the kitchen window looking at all the birds flying in the early morning before the heat of the day. And I though how lucky I am to live here. Even if I have lost the battle with the packrats. Nasty vermin they have destroyed my tiny veggie garden. Oh Well.

cheers, parsnip

Reader Wil said...

Thank you for the vivid desciption of your walks with Tess.It's so peaceful and wonderful to see and smell the English country side.Have a lovely week, Pat!

Bovey Belle said...

How wonderful that you have a Barn Owl. They are so scarce these days. We have Tawnys around our house - they are VERY noisy when they are teaching the youngsters to hunt!

Interesting to see what the owl had been eating too.

I loved reading about your wildlife, and I agree, how much goes on under our noses and we miss.

Totalfeckineejit said...

Always an education. Loved the owls pellet!

cloudia charters said...

Your simple companionable narrative makes your land take shape in my head and in my heart. I truly feel almost as if I have the memory of a lovely walk through posts such as this one. A gem that should be of interest to students of the region, or simply of nature and agriculture.

Tonight, thinking back over my day, it is quite likely that I will smile over Tess' muzzle and wonder at tiny bones. . . the mystery of a hedgerow. . . spent many Summer afternoons in the shadow of such dappled places.

Aloha from Honolulu,
Comfort Spiral
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The Weaver of Grass said...

Tanya - depends what you mean by 'common', we certainly have a few tawny owls, one or two barn owls and plenty of little owls. They make a noise at night, along with our two bats - there have only ever been two.

Thank you for visiting.

John Gray said...

we seldom see or hear owls here for some reason.....which is a shame.....

ArcticFox said...

With regards to hedgerows.... I think there's a rule of thumb that each species of hedge plant equates to 100 years of the hedgerow's life..... interesting.

I'm certainly jealous of your bird collection that visit your feeders.... my Aunty has similar things - she also lives in Lincs.... but I have to point out (in my usual pedantic fashion) that there is no such bird as a "hedge sparrow" - it's what we now call a dunnock and is in fact not even a member of the sparrow family - I was as surprised as anyone to find that out as well!

Lovely blog post with lots of info about your locale - great owl pellet action too.

ArtPropelled said...

It's such a thrill to find owl pellets. In the countryside surrounding where I live the farmers put up owl perches along the corn fields to help keep the mouse population down..... and it works. Do the farmers do this in Britain?

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks to all of you for visiting and leaving a comment. Yes, Arctic Fox, I did know that a Hedge Sparrow was not in the sparrow family - he is a Dunnock and I think he belongs to the Accentor class and is the only member of it. I love the neat, dapper little bird.

Dartford Warbler said...

A lovely descriptive post. It must be a joy to walk around your farmland. The hedge must be very old with so many species well established.

We do have a pair of barn owls here and we hear them screech more often than we see them, but the tawny`s are the ones who make the most noise.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thank you for calling in. I am pleased to report that we did manage to get all our silage wrapped before the rain came.

Crafty Green Poet said...

lovely there is so much wildlife on and around your farm!