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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

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)


December 2017

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Written by Terry and Susan Dove   

Total monthly rainfall in December amounted to 118.5 mm with a maximum daily rainfall of 26mm on the 27th. The maximum temperature on the hottest day of the month (30th) reached 13°C whilst the  coldest day (11th) was only 3°C. The welcome rainfall for this month brought our total annual rainfall to 595.5 millimetres,  the lowest total since 2011, and well below our ten-year running average of 759 millimetres.

Surprisingly we saw no moon between December 12th and the 25th (14 nights) despite stars being visible on several of those nights. During that time, thin ice formed across our lake on the 15th, 17th, and 19th, each time more-or-less thawing on the following days.

December is often a somewhat uneventful month for flora and fauna. Of the wildflowers blooming into this month, the sow thistle was seen until the 2nd, common daisy the 3rd, and dandelion the 4th. The oxeye daisy survived into the 23rd – leaving one tall melilot to last until the 30th and several red deadnettle to continue into 2018.

Creatures still active during December were the woodmouse beneath a reptile shelter on the 6th; seven winter moths flying in the woods at dusk on the 23rd; a common shrew under another reptile shelter on the 24th; and, on the warmest day of the month, a great crested newt beneath a reptile shelter near our woodland pond on the 30th December.

Two first-sightings appeared towards the end of the month. We noticed new young honeysuckle leaves appearing on the 21st, and a determined cormorant attempted to fish our lake while we were walking the dogs, but eventually decided to try a more peaceful site!

Finally, on the 21st December we ventured off the “beaten track” in our woodland to discover severe grey squirrel damage to several honeysuckle plants. We hope this does not adversely affect our white admiral butterfly population in the coming year. We also spotted a dead oak tree which had become a “woodpecker larder”, and some colourful fungi on an overlooked log-pile (see pictures).



November 2017

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Written by Terry and Susan Dove   

The total monthly rainfall was  49.5 mm with a  maximum daily rainfall: 14 mm (11th). Maximum temperature was 15°C  on the 1st  and  3rd, while the  coldest day was 5°C  on the 30th. We recorded fog on the 2nd and 3rd, and frosts on the mornings of the 6th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 25th, 26th and 30th; during the afternoon of the 30th there were some snow flurries which failed to settle.

There were only a few first-sightings during the month, including an exceptionally rare brief sighting of a stoat’s head poking out of a hole in a railway-sleeper bridge to our wood on the 3rd, and a few fairy ring champignon fungi on the woodland floor on the 15th. Apart from that there were only three late-season species of moth, a mottled umber on a lighted porch window (11th), a December moth on a wall below the outside light (20th), and a winter moth on the porch door (25th).

Our wildflower species continued to decline, with the last dark mullein on the 3rd and rough hawkbit on the 4th. We then lost the knapweed and herb robert on the 12th, and nipplewort on the 19th. This leaves us with the occasional red deadnettle, dandelion, common daisy, sow thistle, tall melilot and oxeye daisy going into December.

With the month providing somewhat inhospitable weather for dragonflies and butterflies, we only saw the migrant hawker dragonfly until the 2nd, and common darter until the 10th. Also on the 10th we had our last sighting of the red admiral butterfly. 

Despite this being a season of bird migration, we have not added to the previous 47 species of wild birds recorded so far this year because they were here in the spring. On the 22nd we were visited by 17 canada geese, which now come and go as they please. There were also 22 mallard ducks, but this number usually swells when the ponds freeze over. In the last week we noticed a huge increase in birds visiting our feeders, with blue and great tits in perpetual motion on the peanuts and fat-balls, and even the resident jackdaws behaving like tits on the peanut feeder. Every few minutes a nuthatch landed upside down and disappeared with a whole peanut in its beak, while goldfinches swapped positions with blue tits on the niger seed. On the ground, chaffinches picked up the spilt niger seed, while dunnocks, like little mice, furtively mopped up the crumbs from the bird seed

The most visible signs of autumn into winter are the trees and hedges. It must be said that they vary in their progress not only between different species but also within the same species. Thus, at the time of writing at the end of November, there are some oaks recorded as “bare”, while a small number of others still retain a fair proportion of their leaves. Our observations show that some oak trees had a full brown tint to their leaves on the 4th, hazel had turned yellow by the 9th, and some hawthorn, beech and silver birch had reached their full respective brown, copper, and yellow by the 11th. Finally, some field maple were bare on the 2nd November, and some hornbeam and wild cherry on the 5th. This was followed by the horse chestnut (14th), hawthorn (17th), oak (21st), hazel (22nd), silver birch (23rd), and beech (30th).                                                                               


October 2017

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Written by Terry and Susan Dove   

The total monthly rainfall in October was 30.5 mm with a maximum daily rainfall of 6 mm  on the 20th.. The hottest day of the month (16th) reached 21°C whilst the coldest days(30th and 31st) fell to  13°C. October was a rather windy, cloudy month with 18 days having  100% cloud cover for at least part of each day, and a further 6 days having at least 75% cover. It was generally mild with overnight frosts on the mornings of the 28th and 30th. 

As usual during October there were few first-sightings to be seen. We recorded the crane fly Tipula paledosa on the 14th, having failed to see it with the more plentiful Tipula maxima during spring. Similarly, we noticed a pine ladybird (also called the 4-spotted) on the 15th  (see photo) having failed to see it in spring, when the more plentiful 7-spotted ladybird was first active. Our final first-sighting was a grey moth of the Epirrita sp. on the 25th,  three of which we disturbed in the wood and were almost certainly November moths.

Wildflowers have died back progressively throughout the month until there are now only a few species left in bloom, We lost bird’s foot trefoil on the 6th, watermint on the 9th, and fleabane on the 11th. Later in the month we saw our last red clover on the 28th, plus yarrow and white deadnettle on the 29th. We have also continued removing creeping thistle flower seed-heads throughout the month, and seem to have now completed this task for the year. We believe we have 9 flowering species left on site.

Butterflies are very dependent on the presence of sunshine and wildflowers, and have thus declined accordingly. Our last small white was on October 5th, followed by green-veined white and common blue on the 14th. Next day (15th) came our last small tortoiseshell and peacock, speckled wood on the 17th , and large white on the 19th. We have not seen the comma since the 25th or small copper since the 27th, but the red admiral has been prominent throughout the month, especially around an apple tree in our garden where drops are still plentiful.

Dragonflies too have only appeared in small numbers during the month, and we have had to be very diligent in hunting them down. Cloudy skies mean only fleeting glimpses of sunshine, so they are in hiding for much of the day. Our last ruddy darter was on the 19th, and southern hawker on the 20th (see photo). This leaves us with small numbers of common darters and migrant hawkers going into November.

This has been a stuttering month regarding autumn colours on our trees and shrubs. As early as the 1st there was considerable leaf-fall due to strong winds The effect of this was to remove the autumn-tinted leaves from the trees and deposit them on the ground. Thus, the trees which started their autumn colours early soon become bare, while those which coloured later continued to look green instead of a combination of green, yellow, orange and brown. Our photographs of the poplar and the oak, taken on October 16th (mid-autumn) dramatically show the result of this process.

On 11th October the first ash trees were showing full autumn colouring, with some of the hornbeam following on the 16th. Horse chestnut leaves turned their familiar full brown by the 25th, and wild cherry leaves were red by the 31st. First trees to lose all their leaves were the poplar and ash on the 16th. This coincided with the deposition of sand from the Sahara and pollution from the forest fires in Spain and Portugal during the remnants of Hurricane Ophelia, which turned our sun dull red. Some elder were also bare by the 28th.

The unidentified wave moth referred tin the September report was later identified as a willow beauty.


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