Managing our wildlife haven – known as the Lennon Legacy Project or LLP – for Barn Owls, has created diverse habitat for a wonderful array of native plants and flowers, insects, butterflies, birds and mammals.
Find out how we look after our Barn Owl habitat and share the monthly highs and lows of wildlife sightings, unpredictable weather and practical conservation work.
More about our Wildlife Diary.
If you would like to visit the LLP, please book on an event or wildlife walk.
‘Transforming intensively grazed sheep pasture into Barn Owl Heaven’.
A Red Kite was watched flying south over the field at low altitude down the valley towards the town at lunchtime on the 14th.
A preliminary visit to check the LLP small bird boxes on the 1st revealed two male Pied Flycatchers in song along the Ashburn, several pairs of incubating Blue Tits, incomplete clutches from both Great Tit and Nuthatch, and a sitting Grey Wagtail in the Kingfisher Wall. There were also 8 House Sparrow nestboxes seemingly in use dotted about the barn with two having clutches of 4 eggs.
The winter bird crop seed had started chitting by the 4th and continues to green up.
Singing Pied Flycatchers had increased to 3 individuals by the 3rd and were all still in song by mid-month – one can only hope some females turn up! The Grey Wagtail was still incubating in the Kingfisher Wall, and the Skylarks were still around the top field.
The first monthly Dormouse box check took place on the 22nd. Rather amazingly the first box that our licensed volunteer Tony checked revealed a Dormouse and nest! What’s even more extraordinary is that box number 2 about 20 yards away had another Dormouse and nest!! And the 3rd box had a nesting Blue Tit!!! All-in-all, a total of 4 Blue Tit nests and 3 active Dormouse nests were recorded across the LLP – a fantastic result for the 25 new Dormouse boxes erected in the winter (see January and February below).
The Grey Wagtails appeared to be doing okay in the wall, or at least hadn’t been predated, by the 23rd.
Up to 4 male Pied Flycatchers were in song until the month’s end but weren’t using any of the small bird boxes. This was presumably due to an absence of females, although brief views of a bird inspecting a nestbox on the 27th might have been a prospecting female a tad late to the party. Nevertheless, we’re lead to believe that nest building can still take place into early June so we”ll carry on checking for a few more weeks yet.
A count of the bulbs in the orchard on the 5th revealed at least 17 daffodils in flower with a further 32 plants not in flower this year. This included both snowdrop and daffodil leaves.
Three Skylarks were chasing each other around the top of the field at the beginning of the month and were still very vocal until at least mid-month.
On the 12th it was just about warm enough for Week 2 of the butterfly transect. This recorded 4 Peacock, 2 Comma, and 1 each of Small Tortoiseshell and Green-veined White. A Green Woodpecker was yaffling in the background and two pipits were in the grass at the top of the field but eluded specific identification by generally showing badly and staying silent when accidentally flushed.
Also on the 12th, the winter bird crop area was flail mowed for a third and final time. This area was then ploughed on the 18th, on the first beautifully warm, dry day of the spring, leaving a generous field margin against North Park hedge.
A Dipper, only the second record of this species this winter, was in song on the Ashburn for much of the day on the 18th and again briefly on the 20th.
A Pied Flycatcher was briefly in song in Corner Wood at lunchtime on the 19th and the winter bird crop area was twice harrowed in the afternoon. The very next day the Conservation Team sowed the AB9 bird seed and wildflower seed by hand. This was a mix of triticale, barley, wheat, mustard, linseed, forage rape, dwarf sorghum, white millet, Japanese reed millet, red millet and gold of pleasure, as well as Cornflower, Corncockle, Corn Marigold and Poppy. It was then harrowed over a final time a day later.
Subsequent monitoring of the area has revealed use by birds already including a flock of the red-listed Linnet, a pair of Mistle Thrush and the amber-listed Stock Dove, as well as Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit and Chaffinch.
A pair of Mallards has been seen on the ponds over consecutive days towards the end of the month.
A small group of international volunteers from Ambios attended on the 8th and burnt up the brash from the North Park hedge. More orchard apple trees were pruned the same day, with another batch on the 9th.
After the appalling red warning ‘Beast-from-the-East-meets-Storm-Emma’ weather last week, lots of birds are back in song again; all three thrush species, three tits, Siskin, Chaffinch, Grey Wagtail, Treecreeper, Robin and Dunnock.
Apple tree pruning continued in the orchard on the 9th, running into the following week. Skylarks had started singing at about this time and were in song throughout the month, and on into April.
Another group of volunteers from Exeter visited on the 13th and did a wonderful job of finishing the laying of the hedge above the workshop, as well as cutting scrub out of the hedge in front of the solar panel arrays.
On the 15th a new camera post was set up looking towards the proposed site for the winter bird crop. This area was subsequently flailed a day later, and again on the 25th in preparation for ploughing, raking and drilling next month.
Another 9 metres of the North Park hedge was laid on the 7th, whilst the Hazel stand in Force Orchard was coppiced.
The pond abstraction system continued to cause problems with a slight blockage on the 9th that was probably the result of mud washed downstream, but this was easily rectified.
On the 16th a Roe Deer was sitting in grass by the roadside polebox as the first of the spring’s Skylark’s was in song above the lower part of field. Scrub was strimmed around the roadside polebox, outside and around the back of the orchard top hedge, and around the wildlife tower. Another 8-9 yards of the North Park double comb was laid.
More Dormouse boxes were erected on the 20th, raising the total number on site to 25. Two more small mammal nests were found; one was probably a Wood Mouse nest, though a Common Shrew was in occupation in the box at the time of its check. Five more are planned for an adjacent woodland site where Honeysuckle is common.
The February group of volunteers from Plymouth University came on the 21st and tidied and burnt up the brash from the hedge-laying behind the barn, and along North Park, as well as the bramble strimmed in various places the previous week.
The apple trees on the upper slope in Forde Orchard received their annual pruning on the 22nd, when a Dipper was heard on the Ashburn for the first time in over a year. A pair of Stonechats was on the vole quadrat posts just above the orchard the same day.
The orchard and slope by Corner Wood was brushmowed on the 12th.
The abstraction system got a bit of attention on the 19th as the ingress had slowed into the Flo pond. Brushing off the pipes in the river and wiggling the pipes in the reservoir seemed to do the trick and full bore was re-established in quick time. What looked like an old Grey Wagtail nest was found in the nearby implement shelter.
The first clumps of frogspawn had appeared by the 21st, and by the 23rd there were huge clumps of it in both the Flo and Oakley ponds. Comparative spawning dates are below, showing that this is the second earliest since 2008:
- 21st January 2018
- 30th January 2017
- 24th January 2016
- 27thJanuary 2015
- 24thJanuary 2014
- 30thJanuary 2013
- 19thJanuary 2012
- 4thFebruary 2011
- 9thFebruary 2010
- 28thJanuary 2009
- 23rdJanuary 2008
It seemed a good idea to check the friability of the Kingfisher pipe mortar, and this was found to be eminently excavatable. We just need a pair of Kingfishers to take up residence now.
Another 6 yards of the North Park hedge was laid on the 23rd with the help of a volunteer (thanks Ollie). The first Celandine was in flower, and a very early Small Tortoiseshell flew over the hedge at lunchtime. Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush and Blackbird were all noted in song during the day.
Pond management at the end of the month involved pulling Reed Mace from the Flo pond, an important measure to maintain open water.
As part of our Dormouse site enhancement work 18 boxes were erected around the LLP. During this work another Dormouse nest was discovered in an existing box in Corner Wood; leaves cut into small pieces and mixed with fine pieces of Honeysuckle bark, with whole leaves on top. A Woodcock was flushed from Corner Wood nearby.