April 2020 Farm and Wildlife Diary – Charles Sayer

1st: Redwings in the trees around the house first thing this morning. Cracking summer adult Med Gull with the Black-headed Gulls – always seems to be an April passage of Med Gulls. Early beech tree coming into leaf and a Blackcap singing. Oil seed rape starting to flower.

3rd: Nine Chiffchaffs between tern raft lake and Sparham pools.

4th: Calving has slowed down. 5 Snipe and a Green Sandpiper on the meadows. Fieldfares moving through.

5th: 4 Little Gulls on the tern-raft lake. 1st Holly Blue: lots of Bee Flies.

6th : 2 more Little Gulls, Swallows and Sand Martins high over the valley.

7th : Arctic tern. Willow Warbler. 8 pairs of Buzzards visible from the farm: [Bylaugh Park, Sparham Hole, Elsing Heath, Lyng Eastaugh grove, Weston Park, Walcis farm, and 2 pairs here]. Little Owl on Sparham Hill meadow.

8th & 9th : Mending breach in river bank – caused by relentless winter rain. Then able to gently flood the meadows by use of sluices and inlet pipes installed under a stewardship scheme last year. A Green Sandpiper, Lapwing and a few Mallard were using the area within a day. Saw a pair of Marsh Tits – getting scarce now – and later found the likely nest hole, about 3ft above the ground in a pollarded willow. The hole was right in the middle of where I made the cut about 5 years ago. The heartwood has rotted leaving a nest hole. Dog has rolled on a dead mole and has been told to self-isolate indefinitely!
Irrigation starting on the next-door farm: Remember the winter deluge?

12th : Easter Day: silence – no church bells, just bird song. The cattle broke a fence and got out: meals on wheels delivery to a dependant disrupted by sharp breaking for a pheasant, resulting in an unusual dish of roast chicken and salad all mixed with a creamy pavlova and raspberry coulee. Grandson’s Easter drone flew to the height of a soaring buzzard – we never did find it: The other dependent has developed an abscess on one of her few remaining teeth. Amidst the carnage saw a cracking Ring Ouzel, and the Little Owl seen going after rabbits in holes at the base on an oak tree.

13th : Streuth! – the drone has been found in a garden in Lyng – a WhatsApp wonder! 2 Ring Ouzels today. 2 new calves.
One of the few bonuses of the lockdown is the detailed study of the home patch. Local records should be the best ever. Nigel has seen Black Kite and White Stork over his house. 40+ hirundines over Lyng included Swallow, Sand Martin and House Martin.

14th : Sedge Warbler and another Med Gull. Red Campion, Marsh Marigold and Cuckoo flower are out. Drilling Maize for bio-fuel.

16th : Cuckoo calling over the meadows. Ist Early Purple Orchids out on Sparham Hill roadway. Also Stitchwort, Primrose and Dog Violets – a beautiful mix: the night sky is crystal clear. Builders are back laying drains. They need to work and we want the job done. We have got them in separate areas with their own individual equipment: one builder’s son [a doctor in London] was applauded home from work by his Twickenham street neighbours – quite emotional.

17th : Green Hairstreak and Red Admiral. 1st St Mark’s flies: 2 Little Gulls. Linnets are very noticeable on dandelions now. About 50 or 60 in 2 flocks: This happens every year at this time. [232 sub-species of dandelion apparently!]

20th : Three colonies of Green Hairstreaks located yesterday: a Whimbrel by the lakes. Crops are crying out for rain: winter barley going spiky and erect under drought stress. Strong easterly winds and soil blowing on freshly worked land.

21st : Third session doing clearance work on the tern island. Wheatear around rabbit holes on Walcis Hill [calving field]

22nd : Muck carting from cattle sheds: Whitehroat and Small Copper seen.

23rd : Black tern, 2 Cranes and several Garden Warblers. First dragonfly: a Hairy Hawker.

24th : Wheatear back around the rabbit holes after disappearing for 2 days.

25th : Serviced the tern rafts: Barn Owl nesting in new box nearby. Pied Wags have hatched on my roof. Reed Warbler at Sparham Pools and an Osprey overhead: lots of Garden Warblers singing. Hedge plants and young trees planted this year are all dying with drought: spent the evening watering: 60% of new trees along the HS2 route have already died of neglect – you cannot just plant woods without an aftercare plan. It does take a lot of water: 1’’ of rain is 27,150 gallons.

28th : First Swifts [for me] Poor mothing weather lately but a Chamomile Shark 3 nights ago was just the second record here.

29th & 30th : 32mm of rain: relief. 3 very frisky Black terns stayed for a few minutes on Lyng GP, and disappeared. Digging marl for cattle shed flooring: spreading muck where the bird food strips are going. Yesterday a cow went down with milk fever after calving and was unable to get to her feet. A bottle of calcium seems to have done the trick and she is up today. Over 120 Early Purple Orchid spikes among Cowslips.

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