Wildlife Diary 2022

‘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.

The LLP consists of 26 acres nestled on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon, and includes part of the River Ashburn which runs through the woodland valley where the Barn Owl Trust offices are set. Creating rough grassland, re-creating hedge banks, planting an orchard, building a wildlife tower and stone banks, plus two wildlife ponds has hugely increased the biodiversity of this varied landscape.

Find out how we look after our Barn Owl habitat and follow our monthly highs and lows of wildlife sightings, unpredictable weather and practical conservation work.
More about our Wildlife Diary.

Intensively grazed sheep pasture transformed into Barn Owl Heaven!

May

Some of the small bird boxes were checked on the 2nd – 9 were occupied by Blue Tits, 6 by Great Tits, 2 Nuthatch, I Pied Flycatcher and a Mandarin Duck was found on eggs in the duck box near the abstraction pool. Later that day the male was seen on the Flo Pond nearby. A Barn Owl was seen in the Kestrel compartment of the wildlife tower on the same day. It flew out, perched in a tree for a bit, and then flew off.

On the 4th the female Mandarin Duck was on the Flo Pond with several ducklings, the first confirmed breeding on the site.

By the second week of the month we could see seedlings germinating in the crop area, interestingly Fodder Radish and Corn Marigold neither of which were sown this year were the most prominent.

Siskins were heard singing in the remnant hedge part of Kiln Close on the 19th. The Skylark was heard singing on the west side of the airstrip on the 20th. Three small fish were also seen in the river in the abstraction pool and the first Dog Rose of the year was seen flowering on the top edge of Corner Wood. On the 21st the Skylark was heard again and a Mistle Thrush was seen chasing a Sparrow Hawk towards the crop. A great view of the Skylark on the 23rd which is now being heard every day, it was seen landing in the long grass near the airstrip after an impressive song flight, the Guelder rose(Viburnum opulus) was flowering on the Orchard hedge bank.

AprilBroadcasting the seed for the Winter Bird Crop

On the 6th Annie and Clarabell (the goats) who over the winter had free range over all the fields were restricted to North Park and the electric fence around the crop was taken down. The brash from the hedge laying on the crop side of the North Park hedge was burnt up. At least 50 Linnets are still being regularly seen and there are still seeds to be found in the crop.

The two ‘Ingrid’ Almond trees in the Orchard have produced delicate pink blossom and the plum trees and Bullous have been flowering along with the Blackthorn in the hedgerows. Primroses are flowering in North Park and Corner Wood.

Low temperatures at the start of the month. With a mean of 7°C  (9.15°C) before 10th and two nights with temperatures of > -1°C.

On the 10th some of the apple trees in the Orchard were starting to come into leaf and 40+ Linnets were seen over the crop. The first Bluebell and Herb Robert flowers were seen in Corner Wood.

The last of the hedge laying brash was burnt up on the 13th and mowing of the crop area began and continued on the 14th. There was a huge amount of grass there and after mowing  it looked rather like our neighbours pasture. By the 15th there was a clump of Bluebells in full flower above the Oakley Pond in the Orchard. Tadpoles could be seen swimming in the Oakley Pond but not a single one was visible in the Flo Pond. We presume the Brown Trout and Mandarin Ducks feasted on them. However, on the 20th we did spot the first recorded Toad spawn on the edge of the Flo Pond.

Black oil beetle april 2022We have been regularly seeing Black Oil-Beetles on the path in Corner Wood this month and also spotted one on the mown path in North Park. Oil beetles have been identified as priorities for conservation action through the UK Biodiversity Action Plan – meaning urgent work needs to be done to conserve them and their habitats. Oil beetles have an intimate relationship with solitary bees and are therefore dependant on the health and diversity of wild bees. We have reported our sightings to Bug Life.

On Saturday 23rd we had our first walk of the year with 10 visitors, 8 of whom were first timers. We were blessed with perfect weather and amongst other things we saw Black Oil-Beetles in Corner Wood, a pair of Stock Dove fly out of the Wildlife Tower and had great views of a Skylark singing overhead as we walked down the Long Path. The Bluebells and Greater Stitchwort in Corner Wood looked magnificent and the patch of Greater Stitchwort at the top of the land is expanding every year.

Using our donated plough on the 20th, 21st and 25th the crop area was ploughed up ready for harrowing and then seeding. During the ploughing up to 100 Herring Gulls and 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 4 Buzzards, 20 Stock Doves and 4 Pied Wagtails were recorded. The harrowing was started on the 26th and continued on the 27th.

The Early Purple Orchids growing in the patch in Kiln Close were counted on the 27th and there were at least 66.

On the 29th we broadcast the seed on the Winter Bird Food Crop area, a 2m nectar strip was sown along the south side – Common Poppy, Corn Cockle, Cornflower and Corn Chamomile whist most of the area was sown with a mix of Triticale, Spring Barley, Dwarf Sorghum, White Millet, Spring Linseed, Japanese Millet, Red Millet, Gold Pleasure and Dwarf Sunflower. We didn’t add Fodder Radish or Corn Marigold to the mix this year as they were so dominant last year and we expect them to have self-seeded. The seeds were harrowed in afterwards, attracting over 40 Herring Gulls and up to 20 Stock Doves were seen there later.

The highest temperature recorded during the month was just 14.9°C (18.7°C 17-year average) and the lowest -1.1°C (0.25°C) with a mean temperature of 9.1°C (9.7°C). We had 24.2mm rain (52.91mm) over 10 days.

MarchMandarin Ducks on Flo Pond

Plymouth Students visited on the 2nd and burnt up a lot of the Blackthorn previously cleared from the roadside hedge to encourage Brown Hairstreak butterflies. Unfortunately it was a damp and drizzly day. Bluebells leaves are starting to appear in Corner Wood and along the Apprentice Path.

By the beginning of March the visiting Mandarin Ducks had decimated most of the Frogspawn in both ponds. They were not being seen every day but were on the Flo Pond on the 4th March. They are amazingly steady when people and dogs walk past. 3 large Brown Trout were seen together in the Flo Pond.

On the 5th just before dusk two ducks were seen flying up the valley, in silhouette they looked like Mallards, shortly afterwards the Heron flew over.  A little later the Heron was on the pond at dusk. It was there again late morning on the 6th,  more Primroses were seen along the Pennsland Lane hedge in North Park and the first Blackthorn flowers were seen. There was also a large flock of Linnets singing in the large Ash tree by the orchard.

9th March 50 Linnets flying over the crop and staff and volunteers continued hedge laying on the North Park hedge. More progress has been made this winter than for several years. Annie and Clarabel (the goats) have really enjoyed the company and browsing on the brash.

On a midday walk on the 10th we were treated to blue sky and sunshine and the wind had dropped. The Daffodils in the Orchard are in full flower and the Heron flew off from the island in the Flo Pond. 3 large Brown Trout were seen in the slightly stirred up water and a few tadpoles were spotted along the edges of the Flo Pond. There were more seen in the Oakly Pond, the Mandarin Ducks probably hadn’t spent as much time there. The Gorse on the rewilding slope by Corner Wood is starting to flower. We are regularly seeing at least 3 female pheasants in the crop and Meadow Pipits flying up from the rough grassland. Lots of bird song in the hedges and trees including a large flock off noisy Linnets who took off over our heads 200+. Blackthorn flowers were noticed on the north side of the Kiln Close hedge. A Great Spotted Woodpecker has been heard regularly drumming all month.

The Woodpecker box near the top bridge in Corner Wood has been used for many years by Nuthatches, on the 11th we noticed that they are thinking about breeding there again. They’ve replastered the entrance hole with mud again. On the 12th the Hawthorn in the North Park hedge started coming into leaf, the Celandines were out in force at the top of the field by the Holly hedge. Another first for the LLP on the 13th when 2 Herons were seen at the same time flying up from the Flo Pond and later on the same walk a Roe Deer was seen running across the field from the roadside polebox area.

The first Brimstone Butterfly of the year was seen in North Park flying towards Corner Wood on the 14th and there was a Roe Deer in the crop. It was a repeat performance on the 15th with another Brimstone sighting in the same place and a deer seen in the crop again. An inspection of the crop showed there is still a lot of seed remaining, still seeing 100+ Linnets most days.

The first Chiffchaff was heard in North Park on the 17th and the Spindle was coming into leaf. A Peacock Butterfly was seen on the 18th, 5 Brown Trout were spotted in the Flo Pond, the largest about 12” long and in North Park the grass was full of Celandines. First Red Campion was in flower and the first Skylark of the year heard on the 21st. Another Chiffchaff was heard near the Polebox in the roadside hedge on 22nd whilst we were still hearing the one in North Park. By the end of the month the grassland near the Holly hedge was dotted with Celandines.

On the 30th we had great views of a large Roe Deer mid-afternoon. It saw us and took off along the roadside hedge towards the Polebox, went through the hedge into Kiln Close and then came back over the hedge into the main field near the solar panels and then ran right across the top of the field disappearing near the Holly hedge.

The new weather station recorded a mean temperature of 7.9°C for the month (17-year average 6.73°C) with a high of 17.2°C (15.3°C) and a low of 1.1°C ( -0.7°C). We had 9 days with rain totalling 56.2mm (94.96mm) and an average wind speed of 2.8mph with a gust of 35mph recorded on 12th.

Hedge laying North Park March 2022

Hedge laying North Park March 2022

February

Hear 500 Linnets on the Barn Owl Trust reserve.

Plymouth students tree planting feb 2022 mateo ruiz

Plymouth students tree planting

On the 2nd Matt (SCO*), Pip, (ACO*) and volunteer Rick planted 10 trees in the rewilding area by Corner Wood, 2 Almond trees (Ingrid) in the Orchard and then cut back Blackthorn along roadside boundary below polebox. There were about 250 Linnets and 20-30 Chaffinch in the crop. * SCO – Senior Conservation Officer, ACO – Assistant Conservation Officer

The following day Mateo (CO*), Pip and 6 Plymouth University Student volunteers planted another 16 trees and cut back more Blackthorn. *CO – Conservation Officer.

On the evening of the 5th there were unusually no frogs visible on the Flo Pond. However when we shone a torch further up the pond we discovered why. Two ducks, probably Mandarins flew up from the water and dispeared in the dark.

On the 8th Mateo went to strim the orchid patch but found rosettes up already. He counted 6 but they were still very small and presumably there were more still covered by grass.

Mandarins on the Flo Pond Feb 2022A new weather station was installed on the 9th and on the 12th the first Primrose and Celandine were seen flowering on the path in Corner Wood.

On the 14th a pair of Mandarins were seen on the Flo Pond. They were there again on the 15th, 16th 17th and on the 18th during Storm Eunice. On the 18th we also discovered that the mobile aviary (where we had been providing food for the Barn Owl released at the begining of November) had blown over. It was pulled up with the tractor and moved to a more sheltered spot. You can see a video of the recovery here. The owl came back in for food that evening.

The Mandarin ducks were absent from the pond when we visited on the 19th but back on the 20th and 21st when they were seen sheltering from Storm Franklin in the lee of the ‘island.

A few of the Snowdrops planted in the Orchard in 2015 came up this year and by the end of the month they were going over. Some of the daffodil bulbs planted at the same time are starting to bud. We planted them around every tree in the Orchard but most of them disappeared without flowering.

We don’t have all the data for this month as the weather station wasn’t working properly but during Storm Eunice we did record a 45mph gust of wind and during Storm Franklin 50mph. Our previous highest gust was 49mph in January 2018.

January

Frogspawn in oakley pond

The first Frogspawn arrived on the 4th, in time for the first frost of the year

 

The month began with unusually mild temperatures (mean of 11.6°C) for the first three days (the average normal January mean temperature is 6.19°C). However, this changed on the 4th with the mean dropping to 5.1°C and a heavy frost overnight into the 5th.

The first frogspawn of the year was seen in the Oakley pond on the 4th. The earliest date recorded since 2008.

Frog Spawn dates

4th January 2022  24th January 2014
14th January 2021  30th January 2013
8th January 2020  19th January 2012
20th January 2019   4th February 2011
21st January 2018   4th February 2011
30th January 2017   9th February 2010
24th January 2016 28th January 2009
27th January 2015 23rd January 2008

The mean date prior to this year was 24th January.

On the 6th 30+ Linnet and the same number of Chaffinch were seen in and around the bird crop at lunchtime and 1 Reed Bunting was heard. On the 10th the top of the field was covered in low cloud and as the sun tried to break through, the raindrops on the rough grass tussocks glistened like jewels. A flock of 60+ Linnets were seen on the 11th and two female Pheasants emerged from the crop.

More Frogspawn had arrived in the Oakley Pond by the 12th and there were also several patches in the Flo Pond. The morning brought a frost and this was the first ‘blue sky’ day of the year. Several small flocks of Linnets were seen over the crop and in the hedgerows and a flock of 60+ were singing in the large Ash tree by the Holly hedge and could be heard 300metres away. As we approached they flew off towards the crop in several smaller groups.

On the 13th two female Pheasants flew up out of the crop and several small flocks of Linnets were seen. The Heron was seen flying up from the Flo Pond and did a slow circuit of the valley: it is visiting regularly as evidenced by the large number of white droppings on and around the pond. Two separate flocks of approx. 40 and 60 Linnets were seen over the crop on the 14th and on the 15th about 30 were flying over and glittering in the late afternoon sunshine. Corn Marigolds were still flowering in the crop on the 15th an in the evening the 8” Brown Trout was seen in the Flo Pond and numerous Frogs were sitting amongst the spawn in both ponds, their white throats and eyes reflecting in the torch light.

Like in December, a lot of the days have been very grey and overcast, but on the 19th as the sun tried to break through, a rainbow appeared over the land. Two separate flocks of Linnets were seen over the crop, 30 and 40+.  On both the 23rd and 24th a large flock of Linnets were perched in the large Sycamore tree by the Orchard gate at about 8am singing their hearts out, and on the 24th 300-400 were flying over the crop and were seen for some time, wheeling around in the air and occasionally settling in the crop, the hedgerows and even in the long grass.

Llp hedgelaying [david ramsden] 290122 (a)Winter Bird Walks took place on both the 14th and 21st of the month. More hedgelaying of the North Park hedge on the 25th and 400+ Linnets and large numbers of Chaffinch were seen whilst this was happening.

Lots of Frog activity mid-afternoon on 27th in both ponds so we went back during the evening in torchlight and had great views of them. Expecting lots more frogspawn soon despite the drop in temperature this evening. A cold clear starry night. Approximately 60+ Linnets over the crop during walks on the 26th and 27th. More frogspawn did arrive and on the 30th the Heron was seen flying off the ponds again and Tony Utting spent the morning photographing the Linnets.

We recorded just one day with rain during the month with a total of 6.2mm. We then discovered that our weather station had stopped recording rain data sometime during the month. Data from a local person showed 57mm of rain in the month just 39% of our 16 year average. Across the UK the Met Office reported 50% of average January rainfall.

The mean temperature was 7°C  and across the UK this was recorded as the sunniest January ever, however, here we had less sunshine than usual as we were swathed in low grey damp cloud for much of the month.

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