Wildlife Diary January 2024

We began the month as we ended December – unusually mild, wet and windy with the first 4-days bringing a total of 106.6mm of rain. On the 7th the temperature dropped dramatically, and we had frost and ice. The ground at the top of the Main Field and through all the gateways is now incredibly poached by the cattle after so much rain.

Staff were back at work on the 3rd but with no internet in the office during the morning, the Conservation Team went out and laid a small stretch of hedge between the Utility Area and the Main Field. There was a lot of bird activity behind the Utility Area in the hedge between Kiln Close and the Top Field – 20 Goldfinch, 6 Greenfinch, plus good numbers of Chaffinch, House Sparrow, and Blue Tit. A beautiful Fox was seen foraging in Top Field, which disappeared into the crop. A Fox was also picked up on a trail camera, crossing the river (Apprentice Path woods).

On the 5th Harry and Josh felled a cluster of 4 small Ash Trees with Ash dieback on the roadside edge. On the 8th Harry found Hair ice just before the top bridge in the woods, it had dropped below one of the Beech trees. Hair ice is a rare type of ice formation where the presence of a particular fungus in rotting wood produces thin strands of ice which resemble hair or candy floss. The conditions required for the formation of hair ice are extremely specific, hence the relative scarcity of sightings. To form, moist rotting wood from a broadleaf tree is required with the presence of moist air and a temperature slightly below 0 °C.

By the 9th the cold weather had arrived, and the cattle troughs were frozen over, with ice around 10-15mm thick, that all had to be broken up for the cattle to drink. Hair ice formed again on the same fallen branch. More hedge laying took place in the Orchard on the 12th. Mateo used our thermal scope to observe a pair of Tawny Owls active near the Tawny Owl box in Corner Wood on the 14th. A Red Fox was seen almost daily for a week, running across the LLP. On the 16th Harry and a small group of volunteers burnt up the brash from the hedge laying. A wild Tawny Owl was seen in the trees above the mobile aviary, where a rehabilitated Tawny was released later on the evening of the 19th. The first Frog spawn of the year was found in the Oakley Pond on the 20th and on the 21st there was spawn in the Flo Pond too. This is much later than the last five years, possibly due to the very cold spell we’ve had for the last couple of weeks. The water in the Oakley Pond was bubbling was Frog activity.

On the 22nd a pale Buzzard was seen in the orchard, stopping on the Flo Pond island and some of the lower branches nearby. Our Grazier cut our roadside hedges on the 24th and a Grey Heron flew up from the Flo Pond where it had been hunting for Frogs, and a Buzzard flew up from the grass in North Park. The Heron was picked up by the camera on the Flo Pond, twice with Frogs, dipping them into the water (almost as though it was cleaning them). Three Mandarin Ducks were also seen, two males and one female.

The 13 Belted Galloway cattle who have helped with the winter management since their arrival on the 19th December, were removed on the 25th January. Snowdrops were emerging under the Apple trees in the orchard. The remainder of the stored apples were scattered under the trees there. Early in the morning a Grey Heron was seen on the camera, it was being very vocal on the Flo Pond Island.

On the 26th a Grey Heron was seen again in the orchard, and an hour later flying high over the ponds. It is being seen by the ponds frequently. Harry is having to plug holes in the stream bed between the ponds most days and to brush the out-take pipes in the river that feed the ponds. The trail camera picked up a Fox in the early morning passing the Flo Pond, and a Grey Heron taking off. A mean temperature of 9.5°C on the 28th probably accounted for two Ladybirds that were seen out of hibernation on a Holly branch, and a Red Admiral.  The Heron was still around at dusk on the 30th and seen flying off the Oakley Pond.

We had fewer days with rain, just 14, than average (18) during January, but total rainfall was 24% higher than average at 187.2mm (151.49) with over 30mm (1+ inches) on the 1st, 2nd and 21st. The mean temperature for the month was 5.3°C, our 19-year average is 6.17°C.

Snowdrops in Forde Orchard

Frog Spawn dates

 20th January 2024  27th January 2015
   7th January 2023  24th January 2014
  4th January 2022  30th January 2013
14th January 2021  19th January 2012
  8th January 2020   4th February 2011
20th January 2019   9th February 2010
21st January 2018   28th January 2009
30th January 2017 23rd January 2008
24th January 2016 22nd January 2007

 

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