Wednesday, 29 April 2015

A very busy time

Now that they weather has warmed up we have been busy planting up the crops for the new season. There is still lots to do but here are some of the tasks that the volunteers have been busy with over the last couple of weeks. Click on images for a larger version.







Latest Nature Update

Kestrel on the compost bin
Since Graham Clarkson became a member of Organic Veg Club our contact with nature seems to have grown. Although our efforts to increase wildlife on the site have had their impact there is much more going on than I had realised. Taking a walk across the field with Graham you soon have all manner of wildlife, especially birds, pointed out to you, things you would otherwise have missed. We want wildlife and biodiversity on site to keep many of the food eating pests such as insects that eat our produce in balance, but they are also facinating and beautiful to watch. Graham kindly wrote us the following report of his latest findings with some great images:

It seems that excavating the silted western boundary ditch has attracted curious water voles they've dug some exploratory burrows already! It's unlikely that they'll colonise properly until the vegetation (that gives them cover and food) is established. Some of us have spotted field voles scurrying about the field and we've found skulls of them in barn owl pellets around the place. Hares are still using the site and young rabbits have been spotted at the warren on the other side of the canal. Terry and I saw a weasel running along Meadow Lane recently. A friend of mine, who works as a signalman at Rufford station, reports that he sees foxes there very regularly (just a five minute foxtrot down to the field) - so we're right with our security plans for our hens. Locals are reporting seeing roe deer grazing on Low Meadows early in the morning so do keep your eyes peeled. Bats will be active now and should be seen feeding along the canal. The frog spawn has produced tadpoles in the pond - take a look if you have a moment.

Lesser Celandine
The Ellerbrook bank has been brightened up by the lovely yellow flowers of lesser celandine recently - a real spectacle in the soft evening light. The old country name for this plant is pilewort - take a look at the roots and you'll see why....

Speedwell and forget-me-not add a dash of blue and red dead nettle that colour amongst the fast growing ruderals, especially near bare ground. It'll be great to see the expanse of ground that's be sown with wildflower seeds come into bloom during the summer - it'll be a haven for bees, butterflies, moths and other insects. Butterflies are out and about with brimstone, small tortoiseshell and peacock seen recently; look out for orange-tips once the lady's smock flowers in any damp areas.

Small Tortishell

As the seasons change their has been a great deal of avian activity with winter species that feed in the local fields and overfly the field, such as whooper swans and pink-footed geese, having recently departed north.  They've been replaced by migrants returning from Africa; swallows (they breed in the stables just up the road), sand martins and house martins all flying over. Blackcap, chiffchaff and willow warbler have all been heard singing in our hedgerow (on their way to the local woods and copses) and we should hear whitethroats and sedge warblers imminently.

Wheatear
Wheatears are passing through and eight have been spotted in the field immediately south of us.  I've seen tree sparrows investigating the nest boxes we put up and both blue tits and great tits have set up territory; as has a male yellowhammer with his distinctive 'little-bit-of-bread-and-no-cheeeeeeese' song. Reed buntings are also singing and are taking advantage of the food we put out for them. Blackbirds, wrens, dunnocks and robins can be heard singing in the hedgerow everyday - if you want to learn their songs please do let me know.

Oystercatchers mating
Oystercatchers, lapwings (plenty now incubating in adjacent fields - look out for chicks) and grey partridges are using the field (especially when is quiet) along with the ubiquitous woodpigeons, pheasants and released, non-native red-legged partridges. Mallards and shelducks are using the ponds - hopefully they'll leave some tadpoles.....

A barn owl has been regularly hunting the field (pellets reveal it's been eating mainly field voles) and the two regular kestrels are presumably also taking voles. Several buzzards are seen soaring overhead daily and you can often hear their distinctive mewing calls. Little owls are using a local barn so do keep your eyes peeled. Carrion crows, jackdaws, rooks and magpies are common in the area and use the field but do be alert to the local pair of ravens who are often feeding on Low Meadows at the moment. Curlews are also displaying there and you can often here them in their bubbling display flight.

We're lucky to have some amazing nature around us and it's great that we're working towards keeping it that way.