Show all Events >>

Wildlife Notes

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

Our Latest Publication

Transactions of the Kent Field Club - Volume 20

Transactions  of the Kent Field Club - Volume 20


A variety of topical research projects by KFC members.

Little Barton Farm Wildlife Notes

May 2017

PDF Print
Written by Terry and Susan Dove   

During May we recorded 60.5 mm of rain, the wettest month of the year so far, but insufficient to restore ponds to an appropriate level for the time of year. Only two mornings showed a significant amount or rainfall, these being 20 mm on the 18th, and 21.3 mm on the 19th. There was a generally cool start to much of the first half of the month, and an encouragingly warm spell throughout much of the second half.  Thus, the coldest daily maximum temperature of 10⁰ C occurred on the 7th, while the warmest was 26⁰ C on the 24th. An overnight frost between the 9th and 10th set back our potato crop mentioned last month for a second time, but signs are that they have now recovered and their leaves are looking healthy once more.

As we moved through spring towards summer, the wildflower first-sightings began to increase. Garlic mustard on the 1st was followed by creeping buttercup on the 2nd.  The native yellow water-lily started blooming on the 8th, while on the 14th, yellow flag iris and oxeye daisy appeared. The 15th produced purple vetch, and the 18th red clover; then on the 23rd we spotted bird’s foot trefoil and the white water-lily, with tufted vetch on the 25th. Finally, on the 28th, lesser stitchwort and white clover completed our monthly tally. These 12 records brought our total for the year so far to 32 species. 

Four new butterfly species during the warmer second half of the month brought our total for the year so far to 14. They were the small copper on the 16th, common blue on the 23rd, painted lady (very early for our inland site) on the 28th, and meadow brown in our woodland ride on the 30th. Moths also featured more strongly during the second half of May. Of the 13 species seen this month, only two came to our well-lighted windows and porch. Those attracted to light were the scorched carpet to bathroom window on the 1st and common swift moth on an indoor wall on the 24th. Two caterpillars, both regulars, turned up on successive days: the drinker moth caterpillar appeared on waterside iris leaf on May 12th, and the lackey moth caterpillar on waterside soft rush on the 13th. Apart from that, a latticed heath moth, last seen here in 2012, was in our meadow grasses on the 16th; we rescued a white ermine moth from our lake, dried it out and released it on the 17th; and saw three longhorn moths (Nemophera degeerella) “dancing” among hornbeam and brambles on the 23rd. Three moths among our meadow grasses were the straw dot moth on the 23rd, the grass moth (Chrysoteuchia culmella) on the 25th; and yellow shell moth on the 27th. Two further moths, our old favourite, the silver Y moth found among waterside rushes, and the common white wave moth among hornbeam in the woodland, were seen on the 27th. May proved to be a very good month for emerging dragonflies and damselflies. First damselfly seen here this year was a red-eyed damselfly, which emerged onto an iris leaf on the 4th. This was followed on the 6th by a pre-flight azure damselfly, a pre-flight white-legged damselfly on the 7th, and a fully-coloured large red damselfly on the 10th. Since the latter was much more mature than the others, we had missed its emergence and pre-flight stage earlier in the month. A pre-flight blue- tailed damselfly was observed on the 11th, to be followed by a lull in new damselflies until a banded demoiselle flew round the lake on the 24th, obviously a visitor from the River Beult. We spotted a hairy dragonfly on May 16th, having missed its emergence somewhat earlier, then saw two pre-flight four spotted chasers on the 18th, a mature broad bodied chaser and an emperor dragonfly on the 25th, and a black tailed skimmer on the 29th. With eleven damselflies and dragonflies this month, this brings our total to 12 species for the year so far. Last month, on April 23rd, we reported seeing our first pre-flight downy emerald of the year among waterside vegetation (soft rush). This is the normal method of emergence for most dragonflies, but on 22nd May, we spotted a downy emerald exuvia on the end of a sawn-off oak branch on our ancient waterside oak. Every year since 2012, when our grand-daughter Isabel (8 years old then) discovered one while she was tree-climbing, we have found between one and three such specimens there. This one was 9ft.5inches (about 280cm) above water-level and away from the bank, and we include three photographs to illustrate the incident.

Final tree and shrub indicators of spring are as follows:

Full leafing:

  • 1st May - beech
  • 10th May - ash 


  • 4th May - elder
  • 9th May - Holly 
  •  19th May - Dog rose

Other incidental observations:

  • 10th May - breeding female common lizard 
  • 19th May - mayfly among waterside vegetation.
  • 28th May - very importantly, the return of a turtle dove a little late this year, but welcome no less as it purred among the trees.



April 2017

PDF Print
Written by Terry and Susan Dove   

For a month famous for April showers, an amazingly low 5 mm was recorded here. Only 7 days produced any measurable rain, with 1.6 mm falling during the 24 hours ending on the morning of 27th April. Increasing evaporation and transpiration at this time of year has left pond levels even lower than they were last month. Maximum daytime temperatures ranged from a very warm 22⁰ C on the 9th to a raw 10⁰ C on the 26th. There were dense fogs on the 2nd, 3rd, and 8th; a strong wind-chill on the 17th and 18th, and sharp overnight frosts on the 19th and 27th, the former of which appears to have wiped out much of our Victoria plum crop for the year, and the latter to have set back our potato crop! 

Wildflowers which bloomed this month were greater stitchwort, around the woodland and field margins on the 6th; cow parsley, yellow archangel, and ground-ivy on the 10th; and herb-Robert on the 12th, meadow buttercup on the 24th, and bugle, another woodland plant, on the 29th. This brings our wildflower tally for this year so far to 20 species.

Two more butterflies brought our species count for the year so far to ten. On the 11g we spotted a green-veined white on lesser celandine in the ride, while on the 15th we found two red admiral butterflies in the middle of the wood. We fared rather better with moth-related sightings, however, with 9 species, bringing our cumulative total to 13 in the first four months of the year. We began on April 2nd with the micro Agonopterix arenella on the outside of a lighted window. This was followed by an early garden carpet moth on the 5th to a lighted porch. Also to light, this time to the outside of our sitting-room window on the 9th, was the streamer moth, not noticed on our site before. April 10th produced a brimstone moth inside a lighted porch lampshade. On April 13th, the first batch of green oak tortrix moth caterpillars appeared, hanging from oak and hornbeam in the wood. After a lull, a pyralid bee moth appeared to light in our bathroom, while the next day we saw about 30 longhorn moths  on and “dancing” above hazel shrubs in the ride. We then found a caterpillar of the brown oak tortrix moth, dangling from a woodland tree by a thread in the wood on the 28th, before spotting a burnet companion on a garden bay tree on the 30th. Other insects include the white tailed bumblebee on gooseberry (2nd April), common carder bee on white deadnettle (3rd), and a queen wasp on the 7th; an alder fly on pond-side rushes, about 60 St Mark’s flies in the woodland ride, and the crane fly on soft rush on the 11th; a very  early downy emerald dragonfly on soft rush (23rd), and a queen hornet flying round the house on the 30th. 

Wild-bird first sightings include a treecreeper on a woodland oak (April 6th), a pair of swallows on the telephone cable (19th), and a cuckoo) in the wood on the 20th. Our reptile shelters produced two more sightings this month. On 2nd April we found our first slow worm of the year, accompanied by hordes of black ants, while on the 12th we spotted our first grass snake.

Finally, our tree and shrub indicators of the development of spring are as follows


  • 1st April - Field maple  
  • 8th April  - Oak  
  • 16th April - Ash 
  • 24th April - Beech

First leafing:

  • 4th April - Elder
  • 6th April - Field maple
  • 13th April - Oak
  • 19th April - Ash
  • 28th April - Beech

Full leafing:  

  1. 7th April - Hawthorn 
  2. 7th April - Silver Birch
  3. 7th April - Hornbeam  
  4. 9th April - Poplar 
  5. 9th April - Horse chestnut 
  6. 15th April - Field Maple
  7. 29th April - Oak

First flowering:

  • 16th April - Hawthorn
  • 18th April - Horse chestnut

February 2017

PDF Print
Written by Terry and Susan Dove   

February’s rainfall was a moderate 47 mm, but this still left our ponds about 30 cm below normal levels for the end of the month. Our maximum daily recording over a 24-hour period produced 10 mm on the morning of the 28th. Maximum daily temperatures ranged between 2⁰ C on the 11th, and 15⁰ C on the 20th. A cold snap from the 8th to 13th produced light snow-flurries on the 11th, and saw the return of the solitary fieldfare to our garden for its helping of apple chunks, but it quickly moved on. There were fresh to strong winds from the 22nd to 27th around Storm Doris on the 23rd.

Our wildflower sightings were the first of the flowering snowdrops on the 3rd, when the temperature was a mild 10⁰ C, and the very first wild primrose on the 27th.

We identified only two moth species this month, these being a pale brindled  beauty to light on an indoors ceiling on February 16th, and a dotted border moth on the outside of a lighted porch door on the 18th. We saw no butterflies during the month.

Bird first-sightings for the year included about 15 common gulls circling our lake on the 2nd, followed by about 150 redwings in a neighbouring field alongside our wood on the 6th. Two buzzards hovered over our wood on the 8th, and have been regular sightings since.  A kestrel was seen hunting across the field nearest our house on the 12th. With January’s 33 bird species this brings our total for the year so far to 37. First signs of life beneath our reptile shelters were a pair of woodmice on the 8th, and these have remained in occupation during our periodic discreet inspections throughout the month.

Indicators of an approaching spring amongst our trees and shrubs began with hazel catkins releasing pollen, and the woodland honeysuckle showing its first leaves on the 3rd. Elder budburst was evident on the 16th, followed by hazel budburst on the 19th; while both were showing their first leafing  by February 28th.



January 2017

PDF Print
Written by Terry and Susan Dove   

Rainfall in January was comparatively low for the time of year, producing only 40.5 mm during the month. Our highest daily rainfall was 13 mm, recorded on the morning of the 30th, but there was no recordable rainfall between the 17th and 28th. This still leaves our pond water-levels unusually low for the end of January. Maximum daytime temperatures ranged between 0⁰ C on the 26th and 11⁰ C on the 8th and 11th.  Ponds were partly frozen from the 3rd to the 6th, and almost totally frozen from the 11th until a thaw set in on the 28th.  All ice was completely melted by the 31st.

We recorded 33 species of wild birds during the month, 24 of them on the 1st.  Our full list has been sent to the BTO. Other sightings on the 1st include a generous multitude of mole hills on lawns and fields; various assorted rabbits and squirrels in the woodland; and the remaining red deadnettle still flowering from 2016. January 6th saw our first collared dove of the year visiting the ground around our feeding station. This was followed on the 9th by a colourful cock-pheasant enjoying the same facilities. On the 11th an unexpected male brimstone butterfly crossed our garden during bright sunshine and a heady 11 degrees, before disappearing over the hedge. Dusk on the 13th saw a fox attempting to raid our grandchildren’s hen coop, where their five hens were shut up for safety, and in accordance with avian flu regulations. On the 16th we were visited by a greylag goose, while the 18th found over 50 mallard ducks, about eight-times the resident population, all swimming around a narrow strip of unfrozen water around the main island, and preventing it from freezing over completely. A cold but sunny day on the 19th encouraged three long-tailed tits onto our peanuts, and our first kingfisher for some while to fish from the island willows into the unfrozen strip of water around the island.  An afternoon walk in the woodland enabled us to see a secretive goldcrest silently flitting through the hornbeam coppice. Our final bird species of note were the drilling-sound of a lesser-spotted woodpecker in the woodland, and a lone fieldfare in our garden on the 21st, the latter possibly attracted by the chunks of apple we put out for the ground-feeding birds during frosty weather. This Fieldfare adopted our garden as home until the 28th, when, with the weather starting to get warmer, we counted 18 bird- species for the ‘Big Garden Bird-watch’.

<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 Next > End >>

Page 4 of 4


Wind Powered Web Site! Hosting by   Website by Aye-aye Design  |  © Kent Field Club