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.