March 2020 Farm Diary – Charles Sayer

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1/3: Finished my first effort of hedge laying. 20 metres/day is the most you can expect to do. It will improve the hedge no end, but I would only win the ‘effort prize’ as it is not to a high standard.

2/3: Preparing for a Covid 19 outbreak: How is our personal/farm Bio-security? How do we cope if we are a man down? Have we got enough essential supplies? [spares/stock food/ fuel/medicines] Barn Owl hunting over the meadows: 2 Pintails on the edge of the lake: Redwings [50+] moving through: 15 Teal on flooded flashes.

4/3: Lapwing, 12 Snipe and 15 Teal. 5/3: 40 Siskins teasing Alder cones – the first of the year. Counted 210 rings on a hedgerow Oak which fell to the latest storm – a bigger storm with C19 is on the way.

6/3: Culled some Muntjac – not always popular, but hedge and tree planting do not fit with a deer population. 2 kilometres of hedges renewed this year, and about 1000 trees. The deer browse the tops, trash the protections and then the rabbits finish the job. 10/3: 3 Red Kites over the farmyard, and another by cattle yard. 2 Mandarins in the stream.

11/3: First Chiffchaff at 7.00am. Drilling Spring barley: Very good seed bed after the winter rains [‘an ounce of March dust is worth a peck of gold’]. The barley is grown for malt but the price is dropping as the pubs will soon be closed: 75 Linnets scavenging behind the drill.

12/3: Green Sandpiper on flashes: Also 2 Little Egrets and a Great White. Quite a few Herring Gulls: 25 Redwings and 100 Fieldfares. A migrant Stonechat for a few minutes on the Horse Meadow: we only get 1 about every 10 years, so a good bird for us.

13/3: Ran the moth light and got Shoulder Stripe, Hebrew Character, Small and Common Quakers, Clouded Drab, Oak Beauty, Early Grey, Grey Shoulder Knot, Satellite and March moth.

16/3: 6 Buzzards soaring over the yard. First Shoveler of the year: Stitchwort and Moschatel flowering: Lesser Celandine, Primrose and Violets putting on a good show. Preparations for a lock-down continue. Working out our caring strategy: we have a 96 year old who needs constant attention, a 90 year old in Norwich, an asthmatic 70+, and ourselves. We have got an isolation room earmarked.

17/3: Brimstone, Cetti’s Warbler.

18/3: Got within 15 yards of an Otter between Sparham Pools and the river.

19/3: Great White Egret dismissed from the area by a Herring Gull. Lots of gulls in general on the lakes: 200+ Black Headed, 30+ Commons, 15 Herrings, 5 Lesser Black Backed. Fencing meadows: 31 trees or boughs have gone through in the winter storms. Heard 3 Chiffys.

20/3: First Kingfisher of the year. Disturbed a Woodcock. 4 cows calved today. 1 set of twins.

23/3: 6 calves today. Lock-down imminent: Crucial that we ‘distance’ on the farm and treat everyone as if they have the plague. Saw the Mandarins again. 1st Comma: Grey Wagtail on the meadows: Barn Owl nesting in the farmyard.

24/3: Lockdown for all but essentials: Kingfisher again. 2 adult summer Little Gulls, Lyng GP. 14 Snipe on the marsh – a bit of migration. Great White Egret again.

25/3. Orange tip. Ceased all building on the barn conversions: The builders came to make the site safe, then departed. Sugar beet being drilled. There is an eerie silence: virtually no vapour trails.

26/3. 1 Calf born in the night, 4 in the day: moving them out to grass with the cows as soon as possible: they are healthier outside – more space = less disease. [Social distancing in animals!] Blindingly obvious really, but will we change from factory farming? We need the best of the old school [extensive/organic] with the best of cutting-edge new science and technology. Released a Western Conifer Seed bug from the bedroom: 1 spent last winter there too: they must like low temperatures. Whitefont Goose on the lakes: Cherries coming into blossom: Heard 4 Song Thrushes from the farmyard – an increase of 3 since wearing a hearing aid!

27/3. Saw a pair of Buzzards mating: female on the top on an oak tree: the male flew over, dropped on, flapped wings and was gone: A real brief encounter. 25 cows and calves outside. Weather is turning cold as ever when the Blackthorn is out. [‘blackthorn winter’]

28/3. 35 Fieldfares, 1 Redwing, 70 Starlings, 35 Linnets on the Walsis calving field.

30/3. Turned 13 young stock out to grass. 2 calves over the weekend, 2 more today. 170 Fieldfares yesterday, were all gone today. A Pochard on the lakes was the first of the year. Roe Deer and fawn in the middle of Lyng. Tawny Owl calling outside the window last night.

31/3: 2 more calves: Shoveler, Teal and Snipe passing through. Let’s hope April brings relief: C19 has made the floods a distant memory.

KEEP GOING: THERE IS LIGHT AHEAD

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