Springwatch with Greg

Spring is in the air at the farm. As we spend more time on site we have become more aware of the current residents- both the ones we know about and those who are more mysterious. The most obvious are the pigeons who are well established in all the buildings with open windows. They seem unaffected by the seasons…constant cooing, prolific droppings, the odd corpse…ironic that they have chosen to reside everywhere except the dove cote! Before we cleared up the courtyard there was a spread of old feathers down by a wall that reminded me of the plucking sites where peregrine falcons have eaten their pigeon prey around Lake District crags. Recently I noticed a dead pigeon closer to the dovecote but out in the open. Just a small patch of feathers missing on its neck. I assumed it had just pegged out and keen to get on with work, I left it intending to deal with it before the days end. When I returned for lunch I noticed that it had gone. On closer inspection just a few feet away was a pile of feathers and a few yards more at the back of a lean-to shed the freshly stripped and eaten carcass lay amongst even more feathers. I suspect this is the work of a sparrowhawk which I probably disturbed after it had made its kill. I doubt it will have much effect on the pigeon population. The next generation is already flapping around the big barn. The chances are that other nesting birds will resume activity before long.  Remains of swallow and blackbird nests are in several buildings and we have also seen a variety of small birds which might well take advantage of derelict buildings. There is no need to disturb any of their activities for the time being but understanding what we have and how best to preserve a habitat that sustains them will be planned over the next yeOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAar. Our main hope is that a barn owl that has been roosting on the high beam in the dovecote might find a mate and set up home there. We have installed a barn owl box as encouragement. We have already had a bat survey and our planning permission has been granted subject building modifications designed to allow continued bat activity. There is some doubt about which bats and how many might be involved but we will be able to observe any activity over time. Last summer we saw lots of butterflies along the field margins. This mid-January after particularly violent winds a large number of butterfly wings appeared on the upstairs floor in the cartshed. They looked to be of different vintage, some very faded, some relatively fresh with still vibrant colour. No bodies amongst them. We could identify tOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAortoiseshell and peacock and have learned that several types of butterfly do hibernate. They had dropped from the roof beams somewhere but not possible to identify from where. More from Greg on wildlife in the future.




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