Monday, 31 May 2010

Bank Holiday rarity!

Relax, I'm just talking about the sun. It was beautiful on the Lizard this morning. The 1st summer Hobby showed up again but not long enough for me to improve on my photos taken in very average light yesterday, when Dougy and I watched for it hunting over Ruan Pool for over half an hour. The summer-plumage Black-tailed Godwit that Dougy also saw wasn't around today.

There were lots of dragonflies and damselflies on the wing today. Here are shots of a teneral (= recently emerged) Broad-bodied Chaser and a male Beautiful Demoiselle. The best area to see lots of the latter is along the western boardwalk.

Meanwhile the short boardwalk behind the old scrape (the one in front of the large hide) is great for Common Lizards. Walk along slowly on a sunny day and you can get very close without disturbing them.

The Hereford cows' dreams came true this morning when the bull arrived. When they saw him coming down the ramp out of the trailer they all went charging across to greet him, but he did his "Treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen" act, turned his back and got stuck into some serious grazing. That lasted about five minutes before he realised he was in heaven. For a while he didn't know which way to turn, but he left me in no doubt that he didn't welcome any paparazzi clicking away while he was at work. That photo (right) was taken with a standard lens and, just for a moment, I was ever so slightly worried! My advice is to give him a wide berth until he's used up some of that adrenalin.

Our contractor has buried a flexible pipe in the bank of the pond formerly know as the dead pond (see a previous post), to allow us to maintain a low water-level. The bit sticking out needs pruning but I'm showing this photo first to demonstrate how the colour of the pipe has been carefully chosen to blend in with the environment....

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Stripping and clipping (in more ways than one)

This is one of our hay meadows, photographed yesterday. When this was a working dairy and beef farm, fertiliser was applied to the fields and they had a limited flora. Since then we have been managing them with the aim of nutrient-stripping, with some being used as hay meadows and others being grazed. Nutrient levels have fallen dramatically: the hay yield in 2003 was 68% of that the previous year. In 2004 it was 58% and in 2009 just 38%.

Alongside this, there has been a considerable increase in bioversity in these meadows. Later in the summer they will be full of Yellow Bartsia.

Note the hedgerows in that top photo. There are several kilometres of them on the farm. A Hedgerow Importance Test was kindly conducted on a wide selection of the hedges last summer by Shanelle Edelman, a student at the University of Exeter. Most of them had an overall score of 8 or above, which means that they are precious! We'll need to give some of them a trim soon as they're getting a bit leggy.

The contractor has now finished excavating the old trackway (see post on 15th March). All we have to do now is wait a year and two and it should be full of Pygmy Rush and other astonishingly rare plants! Whilst on the job, he seems to have run ever so slightly wide in one particular gateway, but all credit to him, he replaced the gate immediately.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Some more potential firsts for the farm (ahem....)

As suggested by a fellow blogger and on the pretext that all these could conceivably turn up at the farm (though in some cases surely not in these plumages) and as I've nowhere else to display them (and anyway it's my blog so I'll post what I like!), here are some more of my recent photos from northern Illinois. Normal service will be resumed tomorrow.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Back on the Beat

Having had to settle for peering at those boring North American wood warblers for the last two and half weeks, I returned in trepidation to learn what rarities I had missed at the farm while I was away. Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt and Woodchat Shrike have all turned up during previous absences. Well this time, I've got away with it, with Lesser Whitethroat being the best of recent sightings (and they are annual here anyway).

The reserve is looking beautiful after the dry weather. Orange-tips are clearly having their best ever year and Green-veined Whites are also flying in profusion. I also saw Small Copper, Peacock and Wall Brown today.

Visitors told me they had collected over 50 exuviae of Emperor dragonfly but only seen one in flight. So where did they go? Broad-bodied and Four-spotted Chasers are on the wing and Black-tailed Skimmers are just starting to emerge.

I haven't had time to do a full bird survey this Spring, but minimum numbers of warbler territories are as follows: Grasshopper (3), Sedge (8), Reed (3), Whitethroat (6), Blackcap (4), Willow Warbler (28), Chiffchaff (5). We also have four singing Song Thrushes and two pairs each of Bullfinch and Reed Bunting.

It's great to see cows doing what comes naturally to them: suckling their calves. These Herefords will be with us all summer.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

It's only a hobby....

Yes it's a genuine contender for worst bird photo of the year, but at the speed they fly you don't have much time to fiddle with camera settings. Our first Hobby of the Spring appeared briefly over the willows before wheeling away and vanishing as suddenly as it appeared.

In spite of the poor forecast, there was plenty of blue sky over the farm this morning, encouraging a Cuckoo and seven species of warbler to belt out their songs - Grasshopper, Reed, Sedge, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler.

So did anything irritate the warden today? Well yes actually. See left - this happens surprisingly often and I really don't understand why some visitors can't comply with simple, polite requests. It seems hard to believe but maybe they just don't notice the signs. Click here for my idea for a solution!