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Wildlife Notes

Read Terry and Susan Dove's monthly wildlife notes from Little Barton Farm

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Little Barton Farm Wildlife Notes

May 2018

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Written by Terry and Susan Dove   

Total monthly rainfall: was 87.5 millimetres with a maximum day rainfall of 24mm on May 30th. Rain fell on only 8 days of the month, with only one day’s rain between the 4th and 23rd. There were twelve days with 100% cloud cover for part of the day. The maximum daytime temperature on the warmest day was 27° C (27th May), while on the coldest it was 12° C (1st and 2nd).

Because of the earlier slow progress through spring, there was a lot of catching-up to do, particularly with pollinating insects  A ground-frost overnight into the 1st set back our potato crop and reduced our apple crop (including crab-apples) for the coming summer, but despite this, bugle soon bloomed on the 3rd. After a brief gap, oxeye daisy, meadow buttercup, and white bugle flowered on the 9th, followed by creeping buttercup and yellow water-lily on the 10th. This was soon followed by bird’s-foot trefoil (12th), yellow iris (13th), red clover and red campion (14th), common vetch (16th), and sheep sorrel (18th). Finally, scarlet pimpernel bloomed on the 23rd, while pineapple weed and white water-lily bloomed on the 27th with marsh bedstraw and bluewater speedwell to complete the month on the 31st. The 17 wildflower species to bloom this month bring our total for the year so far to 40. Trees and shrubs to flower this month are horse-chestnut on the 1st, elder (17th), holly(19th), and dog rose (25th).

Six new butterfly species this month increased our tally to 13 for the year so far. On the 4th, a large- white butterfly appeared among crab-apple trees in our woodland ride, while on the 8th we spotted our first brimstone in the garden near an alder buckthorn. Purely by chance, as we were getting the car out on May 20th, Susan caught a glimpse of a small green butterfly sunning itself on a Ceanaothus. This proved to be the elusive green hairstreak, which we see very infrequently – the last  being 4th May 2011. A very late small tortoiseshell flew slowly along the woodland edge on the 26th, before a pristine common blue emerged in our flower meadow on the 28th, and our first immigrant painted lady arrived on the 31st.

More moth-related species appeared this month than during the previous four months put together.

We began on the 1st May with a brindled pug moth on the outside of a lighted window, followed on 5th May by a bee-moth on the brickwork of a lighted porch, and a green-oak tortrix caterpillar dangling from a woodland hornbeam. A muslin moth settled on the doormat of the lighted porch on the 10th, then, after a delay, we spotted two lackey moth caterpillars on waterside soft rush, before small china-mark moths began appearing among marginal rushes at a woodland pond on the 21st; about 50 longhorn moths, Nemophera degeerella “danced” around hazel bushes, and a red twin-spot carpet moth tried to hide in a white Spiraea shrub in the garden. Two days later, the first burnet companion appeared among the field-grasses, and at the back-woodland pond we found the green caterpillar of a bright-line brown-eye moth (identified for us by the Kent Moth Group) on the trunk of a goat-willow tree. May 25th produced a Mother Shipton moth in the vegetable garden, followed on the 26th by a cinnarbar moth among field-grasses and the first of many silver Y moths among waterside rushes.  Our tally ended with a yellow shell moth on the 27th, and the grass moth Chrysoteuchia culmella on the 30th.

The first two downy emerald dragonflies emerged on May 1st, before the large red damselfly on the 5th, and the white-legged damselfly on the 6th. Three more species appeared on the 7th these being the azure and red-eyed damselflies and the hairy dragonfly the latter complete with its larval skin (exuvia). The 9th produced the first two of a succession of four-spotted chasers, with the broad-bodied chaser following on the 15th. The black-tailed skimmer on the 23rd and the emperor dragonfly on the 27th brought our year’s total so far to 11 species.

Other insect species to appear were the white-tailed bumblebee in the garden on the 1st, while on the 3rd we saw about 50 of last month’s St Mark’s flies committing suicide by drowning themselves in the front woodland pond. A somewhat infrequent spotted crane-fly visited the pond margins on the 8th, and a scorpion fly settled by the back woodland pond on the 10th. The 13th saw a triple-tailed mayfly among soft rush in the lakeside margins.

We saw no new migrating wild birds this month, so sadly the collared dove failed to arrive here this year.



April 2018

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Written by Terry and Susan Dove   

Total monthly rainfall: was 71.5 mm with a maximum daily rainfall of  12 mm  on 30th April; recordable rain fell on 16 days during the month, and there were 17 days with 100% cloud-cover  during some part of the day. Stormy weather into the 30th brought down many leaves, twigs, and small branches. Maximum daytime temperature ranged between 4°C  on 30th April and 27°C  on19th April. The month could be described as having a six day mini-summer amid a wintery spring.

This weather combination produced 13 new first wildflower sightings for the month to bring the total to 23 for the year so far. They consisted of the first of many flowering dandelions on the 3rd, cuckoo flowers around the lake on the 5th, and marsh marigolds beside a garden pond on the 7th when we also saw a flowering bluebell in the wood, with another 23 to follow within 2 days. The wood anemone appeared on the 9th, closely followed on the 10th by the wood violet; large quantities of ground ivy began flowering in the fields on the 11th, greater stitchwort in the ride and woods on the 14th, and lesser stitchwort around the field margins on the 15th. A rise in temperature from mid-teens to 23°C on the 18th encouraged the yellow archangel and vast quantities of garlic mustard to bloom, followed by a brief lull until cow parsley on the 24th and herb Robert on the 25th completed our total for the month.

April produced our first seven butterfly species of the year, starting with the first of several peacock sightings in the garden on the 6th. Orange tip butterflies started to appear among the cuckoo flowers on the 14th; comma butterflies in the woodland ride on the15th; small whites in the garden among Hebe bushes on the 18th; holly blue around the garden, especially on muddy patches near pondwater,  on the 20th; then speckled wood on fallen leaves in sunshine on the woodland floor. The final sighting was a green-veined white among celandines in the woodland ride on the 24th.

Only three moth-related species appeared this month to bring our total first-sightings to 8. We rescued a common quaker moth from a woodland pond on the 14th to save it from drowning, then saw our first green oak tortrix moth caterpillar “dangling” from a hornbeam on the 24th, before spying a single longhorn moth (Adella reamurella) nectaring on a woodland bluebell on the 28th.

Usually this moth is seen in large numbers flying around woodland hazel or hornbeam in sunny weather, but the weather here was cloudy and cool (9°C).

Large numbers of other insects appeared during the month, including our first blue-tailed damselfly on the 26th. Other insects in order of appearance were:  pond skater and lesser water boatman on woodland ponds, and devil’s coach horse indoors by stored logs (5th); whirligig beetle on ponds and common carder bee on white deadnettle (7th); seven-spot ladybird on bramble (10th); a red-tailed bumblebee queen  belatedly on the woodland edge (16th); alder fly on lakeside soft rush and a

queen wasp indoors (19th); crane fly, Tipula oleracea, on waterside rushes, and hornet flying close-by (20th);  crane fly, Tipula maxima (21st) on waterside rushes, and St. Marks fly (24th) in the ride.

Other creatures recorded were a grass snake on the front woodland pond and a smooth newt in the back woodland pond on the 5th, two pipistrelle bats flying round the back garden at dusk on the 10th, and a great crested newt in the garden pond on the 11th.

Two migrating wild bird species arrived during April, these being the cuckoo on the 20th and a swallow on the 25th to bring our running total to 44 for the year so far. Breeding of the water-birds so far has been less than successful, mainly due to the depredations of the crows and magpies, possibly assisted by the increase in the number of raptors in recent years. Canada geese, moorhens, and mallards have all had eggs stolen from their nests, and one mallard with 12 ducklings on the 22nd has not been seen since. 

As the month ends, almost all woodland and hedgerow trees and shrubs are now displaying the amazingly fresh full-green leaves associated with spring – the exceptions being a few oak and ash trees which are behind others of their species. Progression throughout the month has been as follows:

Budburst, horse chestnut ( 7th), beech (18th), oak (19th), ash (20th).

First leafing, hawthorn (2nd), hornbeam (7th), silver birch and field maple (12th), wild cherry (14th), horse chestnut (16th), poplar (19th), oak and beech (20th), ash (22nd).

Flowering, blackthorn blossom (2nd), poplar catkins (7th), wild cherry blossom (14th), hawthorn blossom (24th).



March 2018

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Written by Terry and Susan Dove   

Total monthly rainfall was 93.5 mm with a maximum daily rainfall  of  14.5 mm on 31st March. Recordable rain fell on 20 days during the month, and there were 22 days with 100% cloud cover.

The lake was full by March 4th, and the woodland ponds reached maximum water-level by the 11th. Permanent pastures were waterlogged at the end of the month. Maximum daytime temperature ranged from 13°C (11th and 26th March) to -1°C (1st March).

The lake and ponds finally thawed completely on the 6th, following the freeze-up from last month and the first two days of March. Storm Emma on the 2nd only produced fresh rather than storm force winds here, so we escaped the really bad weather experienced further north and west.

Dog’s mercury and groundsel were recorded on the 14th, and lesser celandine on the 16th bringing our total wildflower species to 10 for the year so far. Only two insect-pollinators were seen, these being a buff-tailed bumblebee on the 8th, and several bee-flies among celandines on the 26th.

Another poor month for butterflies left us without any sightings for the year so far. The last time this happened by the end of March was 2010. Moths too were hard to find, but we twice spotted a shoulder stripe moth, on a lighted window pane on the 23rd, and on brickwork beneath a wall-lamp on the 26th. So far this year we have seen 5 moth-species.

Bird sightings on the 8th and 9th March brought our total to 42 species. A young swan, the first sighting of this species since January 21st 2007, arrived on the 8th where it posed regally on our lake for almost two days. On the 9th, about 100 fieldfares, mixed with maybe half that number of redwings, settled on our woodland tree-tops, and also on a neighbouring field for most of the morning.

March 15th saw the first toads spawning in the shallows of the lake, to be joined by several common frogs four days later (March 19th). The only other creatures we recorded during the month were 4 woodmice beneath one of our reptile shelters on March 6th, when the temperature was 11°C.

During the month there was some notably faltering progress on the development of trees and shrubs.  Buds burst on two elder trees on the 9th, and on hazel bushes two days later (11th). Hawthorn followed on the 22nd, dog rose and hornbeam (24th), poplar (26th) and wild cherry (28th).

Of all these, elder (on the13th) is the only one to reach first-leafing stage. 



February 2018

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Written by Terry and Susan Dove   

Total monthly rainfall was 55 millimetres with a maximum daily rainfall of 8 mm on the 9th of February. Rainfall figures include contributions from the heavy snowfalls of the 26th to 28th, and minimally from the light flurries of the 4th and 5th. Recordable rain fell on 15 days of the month.

Maximum daytime temperature was 10°C on February 15th; the lowest temperature  recorded was  -2°C  on February 28th. Overnight frosts occurred on the 23rd to 28th and on 8 other nights. Woodland ponds were totally frozen on the 8th, 10th, 12th, 24th, and 25th to 28th, while the lake was only completely frozen on the 28th.

The cold weather, especially during the second half of the month, prevented much wildflower activity.  We observed English  bluebell shoots up to 3 centimetres long in our woodland on the 5th; speedwell flowers in the fields and garden on the 12th; and the first wild primrose flowers on our south-facing roadside verge on the 15th.

Once again no butterflies appeared during the month, preferring to await warmer conditions. However, by torchlight, we were able to identify one oak beauty moth flying and settling into a hornbeam hedge soon after dark on the 20th.

We did manage to identify four wild bird species we failed to see during January, although nowhere near the numbers which visit the coastal estuaries at this time of year. A black-headed gull over the lake on the 21st was followed by about 50 redwings in the fields on the 25th. The 26th produced a fleeting view of a timid goldcrest in a woodland hedge, while a jay among the woodland hornbeam appeared on the 28th.

Finally, following the spotting of active badger latrines in our woodland last month, we photographed badger hairs beneath a woodland-boundary fence on February 25th.



January 2018

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Written by Terry and Susan Dove   

Total monthly rainfall was 96.5 mm with a maximum daily rainfall of 10.5 mm on the 4th of January.

During the month recordable rain fell on 20 days, and there were 17 days with full cloud cover. This had a beneficial effect on our pond-levels, and gives us a chance of full ponds by springtime.

Daytime temperature reached a maximum: of 13° C on the 4th and 30th.  A minimum temperature of 5° C was recorded on the 8th and 21st.. The month was mild with overnight frosts only on the 19th, 27th, and 30th. Three storms hit us during the month, and all brought down tree branches, especially in the wood. Two of them, named by the UK, were Storm Eleanor, overnight into the 3rd, and Georgina, approaching mid-day on the 24th. Both reportedly produced winds in the south-east up to 60 mph. The most destructive for us was the storm, belatedly named David, overnight into the18th, which brought down 36 medium and large-sized branches around the perimeter of the wood, many of them lodged in oak trees which had previously suffered damage during the hurricane of October 15th 1987. 

With January forming part of the dormant season for flora and fauna, wild birds formed most of the first sightings for the year so far. Altogether we saw 36 species during the month, 28 of which were on January 1st. The flock of 17 canada geese, which had regularly visited our lake during December 2017, dropped off a pair on January 12th, probably to nest on an island. On the 16th two buzzards circling high above the field adjacent to the wood, were “dive-bombed” by three determined crows protecting their own territory. Much to our surprise, the buzzards moved on. Three days later we were alerted to a raucous riot in the woodland treetops as a murder of crows, nowadays called a flock, and about 20 in number, perched unsteadily among the tree-tops, desperately flapping outstretched wings to maintain some semblance of dignity and balance. Finally, on the 29th, we heard a lesser-spotted woodpecker drilling into a woodland tree, having previously seen both the great-spotted and green woodpeckers on January 1st.

Other sightings involved flowering species including the red deadnettle on the 1st (still in bloom from 2017); a gorse bush in flower from the 5th, and some white deadnettle from the 7th; common daisies on the 14th, and first snowdrops on the 25th.

There were no butterflies seen during the month, but we were fortunate to see a winter moth by torchlight, close to our woodland at dusk on the 2nd (a survivor from December 2017). On the 14th we saw a spring usher moth resting on the trunk of a hornbeam at the woodland edge, while on the 25th, a pale brindled beauty moth, disturbed by us as we walked, came to rest on the woodland floor.

We made only two further observations during the month.  Hazel catkins, which had been slowly developing for at least two weeks, reached a mature stage by the 10th, and the badger latrines became obviously active on January 23rd.

Bird first-sightings at Little Barton Farm, Bethersden, TN26 3JS during 2018.  


Bird records; numbers are the highest seen during the month


1 to 3 at a time 4 to 10 11 or over

 Coal tit (1st )
Wren (1st )   
Dunnock (1st)
Grey heron (1st )
Great spotted woodpecker (1st)
Nuthatch (1st)
Pheasant (1st) 
Greenfinch (1st)  
Pied wagtail (1st)
Grey-lag goose (1st)
Chaffinch (1st)
Green woodpecker (1st)
Collared dove (4th)
Song thrush (11th)
Canada goose (12th)
Tawny owl (14th)
Buzzard (16th)
Sparrowhawk (18th)
Lesser spotted woodpecker (29th)  

Blue tit (1st)
Starling (1st) 
Blackbird (1st) 
Magpie (1st)
Jackdaw (1st)
Great tit(1st) 
Long-tailed tit (1st)
Moorhen (1st)  

Wood pigeon (1st)
Mallard (1st,  30+) 
Carrion crow(1st)
House sparrow (1st, 20+)
Starling (1st)
Common gull (1st; 16th 30+)
Goldfinch (1st)
Robin (1st)

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