Wildlife Diary 2020

‘Barn Owl Heaven’!
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’.

March

Yellowhammer In The LLP Wildlife Diary March 2020A Skylark came out of the grass at the top of the field and gave a burst of sub-song as it ascended on the 2nd. On the 3rd two Mistle Thrush were foraging in, and calling over, the top field whilst a Grey Wagtail was in song down towards the Ashburn.

The number of birds in the bird crop had started to drop off noticeably by the start of month so that by the 6th there were only about 100 Linnet and a handful of Chaffinch, despite there being seed still available. We can only assume the birds are already moving onto territory after such a mild winter. However, it was quality not quantity, when a first winter male Yellowhammer was seen foraging in the grass adjacent to the crop on the morning of the 6th. This constitutes only the third record for the LLP after individuals in the crop in 2019, and as far back as 2009.

A count of orchid rosettes was conducted, again on the 6th, in the small area of hay meadow management that has hosted a single flower spike until last year (see the April 2019 entry for how this increased to four!). We were utterly astonished this year however to count at least 35 plants. Not all will flower of course but it’s a huge increase and just goes to show what the right management can do at the right time in the right place.

Three Meadow Pipits were song-flighting in the top of the field on the 17th when there were still over one hundred mixed finches in the crop.

February

By the end of the first week there were subtle signs that the number of birds in the crop was beginning to decrease, with only about 400, mostly Linnets, recorded on the 7th. By the 21st there appeared to have been a clear-out as only about 60 birds were apparent, although that count may have been prejudiced by a male Sparrowhawk that spent much of the time making fly-pasts and sitting in a nearby Ash.

On the 19th a small group from Plymouth University students helped burn up the brash from the North Park hedge-laying.

A pair of Mallard was on the pond on the 21st as a Skylark flew overheard calling, both constituting first records for the LLP this year.

January

LLP Ponds Frogspawn LLP Wildlife Diary January 2020The first frogspawn was noted in the Oakley Pond underneath the Kingfisher Wall on the 8th, some 19 days earlier than the average date for the last 12 years.

The second Winter Bird Walk on the 9th was blessed with perfect weather for a change! In warm, dry, still, sunny conditions 16 interested visitors walked around the LLP, stopping at the bird crop to marvel at the sheer spectacle of the large finch flocks flying around. An estimated 500 Linnets, 50 Chaffinches, at least 10 Greenfinches, 5+ Goldfinches, 3 Reed Buntings, 20 Blackbirds, and several Dunnocks and Wrens were backwards and forwards in and out of the North Park hedge adjacent to the crop the whole time the group were there. In addition 2-3 Green Woodpeckers were heard yaffling up and down the valley, with Great Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch in adjacent woodland. There were also 5 Redwing and 6 Starling overhead, and 2 Red Admiral were on the wing in the Spring-like conditions.

Peak counts of 70-80 Chaffinches and over 30 Greenfinches were recorded in the bird crop on the 17th, along with 300+ Linnet, 3+ Reed Buntings (2 females, 1 male) and singles of Goldfinch, Robin and Blackbird, whilst a male Sparrowhawk kept the flocks busy.

After several postponed attempts due to the wet weather the first hedge-laying took place on the 22nd, when about 7 yards of the North Park hedge was laid.

As the month drew to a close there were at least 500 birds still frequenting the bird crop.

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