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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

July 2018

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Written by Terry and Susan Dove   

Total monthly rainfall was 36 mm with a maximum daily rainfall of 15 mm on July 30th. Rain fell on only 6 days during the month, and there was 100% cloud-cover during 6 days of the month. Maximum temperature on the warmest day was 32°C (27th July).  Maximum temperature on the coldest day was 18°C on the 29th. There were 17 days when the daytime temperature reached 25°C or more, and woodland ponds in particular were losing water rapidly. By the end of the month, pastures were turning brown.

Ten new species of wildflowers bloomed this month, bringing our annual total to 70. To our surprise a new type of yellow-flowered thistle showed itself in astonishingly large numbers on all parts of the property on July 1st, and, after some research we identified it as a bristly ox-tongue. It was most prolific around the entrance to our property and we presume it came in with a visiting vehicle or piece of farm machinery. It quickly became a candidate for pulling, mowing, and de-heading, along with creeping thistle and ragwort. Hedge woundwort and fleabane flowered on the 2nd in our wildflower meadows, to be joined by knapweed on the 5th. Redshank flowered among our soft fruit, while small quantities of ragwort mingled with our other wildflowers in the meadows (8th). On the 10th July, pale persicaria appeared, as did gypsywort in our woodland ride. The final two wildflowers to bloom were rough hawkbit in the fields, and water plantain in a woodland pond on the16th.

One new butterfly, the gatekeeper, appeared appropriately beside a field-hedge gate on July 7th, to bring our annual total butterfly species to 22 so far. Six more moths brought our total to 35, beginning with the magpie moth near gooseberry bushes on the 12th, while on the 19th we found the first of many straw dot moths among field grasses. The 21st produced our first shaded broad bar moth in the woodland ride, while on the same evening a micro-moth of the Crambus species (probably C. perlella) appeared in our lighted bathroom. A common footman moth flew into the same room the next evening (22nd), and, finally, a copper underwing settled on a handwash dispenser on the 23rd.

Two other insect-species appeared during the month, these being a migrant hawker (our 19th dragonfly species of the year) at our back woodland pond on the 16th, and a black shield bug (looks like Troilus lubidus) on reed-mace at the same pond on the 18th.

Finally, on the 25th July, a kingfisher turned up at the front woodland pond; two fallow deer jumped the fence out of our wood into a neighbour’s field, and we saw the first of several ripe blackberries to appear before the end of the month.


June 2018

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Written by Terry and Susan Dove   

Total monthly rainfall was 4 mm with a maximum daily rainfall of 3 mm on June 7th. There were 3 days with recordable rainfall during the month, and only 12 days with 100% cloud cover during part of the day. The maximum temperature on the warmest day was 29°C on June 26th, while on the coldest day it was 16°C on June 4th. Altogether there were 21 days with 20°C or more.

The 20 wildflower first-sightings we recorded this month brought our total to 60 for the year so far. The woody nightshade in our woodland pond on the 2nd was followed by tall melilot, tufted vetch, and wild woodland honeysuckle on the 6th. The 7th produced white clover, before creeping cinquefoil on the 8th, and large quantities of selfheal flowered in our woodland ride on the 11th. Meadow vetchling bloomed on the 14th, together with field bindweed among lakeside rushes then hedge bindweed followed on the 16th. We then discovered dark mullein (17th) and nipplewort (19th), plus agrimony, weld, and marsh willowherb (20th). On the 21st, we found selfheal in an unusual colour-form (white), one of three different species to exhibit this tendency during the month. On the same day we saw yarrow in bloom, and on the 25th marsh woundwort. The last two wildflowers to bloom this month were great willowherb and water figwort  beside a pond (29th).This is the first time ever we have discovered water figwort, and we can only assume that it came in on the plumage of a wild duck or similar creature.

The fine weather encouraged 8 more butterfly species to put in an appearance this month. Meadow brown appeared among grasses on June 1st, and vast numbers have followed since.  Large skipper, another grass-lover, emerged on the 2nd, then there was a long wait until the 18th, when a very late red admiral, normally one of our earliest butterflies, arrived at last,  the same day as our first white  admiral appeared beside our back woodland pond. Also, next to the same pond, we found a pristine purple hairstreak just after breakfast on the 26th, perched on bramble in bright sunshine. The 25th produced two more grass-loving species, small skipper and marbled white, with a remarkably smart

silver-washed fritillary to follow in our woodland ride on the 26th. With our annual butterfly total now at 21 species, we should mention another unusual colour-pattern on the 7th, when an extraordinary common blue butterfly turned up next to our lake on the 7th. Seven new moth sightings bring our total to 29 species so far, starting with a brown china-mark moth beside our lake on the 1st, and a common white wave moth on yellow iris on the 3rd. A cream bordered green pea moth on grasses near woodland followed on the 7th then indoors on the 15th we found a common swift moth on bathroom tiles. On the 18th, we disturbed a white plume moth and a blood-vein moth while weeding a gooseberry bush, and finally, on June 26th, we saw a six-spot burnet moth among permanent grasses.

On June 3rd we spotted our first common blue damselfly of the summer. Despite their name they are far from common here, and difficult to spot because of their tendency to remain out over the water, where they are susceptible to swallows feeding their young. On the 15th we spotted the first of many common darters, while on the 19th we found an exuvia for the brown hawker which reappeared over the lake from the 30th onwards. June 23rd was warm enough to entice a male banded demoiselle away from its natural home along the River Beult, and both a male and a female emerald damselfly appeared in separate parts of the lake the next day (24th). On the 26th we found a southern hawker exuvia at our back woodland pond, and also saw our first ruddy darter of the year. A dragonfly was also responsible for producing the remaining unusual colour-form of the month, as, on 2nd June we saw and photographed a female emperor with colours resembling a lesser emperor, egg-laying among the water lilies which it did for two days. The problem is that the nearest recorded site for this somewhat rare species is at Dungeness, and the lesser emperor habitually oviposits in tandem with the male. We now have to hope that we can find a lesser emperor exuvia over the next two years to be able to record it as a lesser emperor instead of an emperor!

Three other insects remain to be mentioned, these being a 24-spot ladybird on hop leaves (7th June), the crane-fly Tipula lunata (new to our site on the 10th), and another crane-fly that looks like Nephotoma quadripharia on the 13th (identified from our photos by Laurence Clemons, with thanks).

Our final record is of a family of blackcaps (which to our shame we thought were great tits!) spotted in our garden Juneberry tree on the 18th by two young bird-watchers who do our fencing and coppicing. We won’t be making that mistake again.


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. 


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