Wildlife & Management Log 2021

This is the archive of Wheatland Farm’s conservation management diary for 2021. It will grow as we maintain the main page as a rolling 12 month record. Older years can be found here: 2020, 2019, 2018,   2017/16.

March at Wheatland Farm

29 March. Cut a patch of phragmites at the wildlife pond, using the hedge trimmer and scythe. These are the ones the starlings partially flattened. We cut some underwater, and some at ground height. But there are plenty left on both sides of the pond. Some of the reeds cut from the water had roots at nodes, and these we took to the corner pond in the lodge field, where last year we got a few started. If the new ones take too, it will accelerate the project. A chiff chaff was singing by the pond – first of the year.

21 March – there’s a heron at the fishing pond by Otter Cottage.

20 March – putting dormice boxes up at the Winkleigh Community tree project and doing a bit of burning of cut bramble.

15 March. Alex here, repairing the fence around the turbine and fixing the pedestrian gate at the fishing pond. Replaced sleepers on the bridge at the lodge field pond

12 March path weeding and hooking reeds out of the wildlife pond.

8 March Alex here working on some hedge management and brash burning, then helped Ian and Andrew Roberts raise the new barn roof. Working on weeding the lodge path.

7 March. Mowing at the community trees in Winkleigh.

6 March. Cutting rush patches in the turbine field – all but 3 of the circles that were too wet still. Treated the lodge path moss with algon – basically vinegar and not harmful to wildlife.

1 March Ian put up the kestrel box he made from offcuts. Maggie took the brush cutter and topped the labyrinth – we will re mow it this year. Also did a first cut of the late lawns in front of Balebarn Lodge. This mower cuts high anyway, so just takes off the top of the long grass at this time of year. Cut a patch that had been left tall over winter (lots of figwort stems) and also cut the low nutrient section on the northern edge of the main wildlife pond. Brambles are taking hold here, and that’s not what we want.

February at Wheatland Farm

28 February Heron seen twice at the ponds today.

25 February. Another bright and sunny day. We did more clearing on the wildflower patch near Wheatland Farmhouse, and burnt arisings in the orchard. Much wood had piled up here – so we had a big fire to tidy the excess, but left the old lichen covered apple tree cuttings as they looked like a biodiverse habitat for invertebrates an small mammals. We cut some young invasive damson saplings down, but left the standing deadwood they surrounded (originally a birch, we think). Also cut down birch shoots that were springing up around a previously felled tree – but left the stump for fungi and insects. Slightly surprised to see a tree bumble bee on the snow drops – usually it’s buff tailed bumble bees only at this time of year. We took brambles out of the old fruit cage (no longer caged…) but left the logan berries, raspberries and straggling black currant and gooseberry plants. Even if we don’t get around to using them much they provide good food sources for blackbirds and other garden birds in high summer when the ground can be very hard to probe for worms.

Tree bumblee bee on snowdrops, February 2021 at Wheatland Farm’s Devon Eco Lodges

23 February. Windy but no rain. It was windy enough to dry the grass sufficiently for the brush cutter mower, so Maggie did a first cut in the lodge field, cutting the ‘late lawn’ on the southern edge and the patches near Beech Lodge. We will probably move the path that leads through the eco lodge field again this year, so Ian’s mowing effectively strips nutrients from a strip of grassland.

22 February. Finally, a sunny day here at Wheatland Farm in Devon! We knew it would be a good day for seeing the first bumble bee of the year, and sure enough, not just one buff tailed queen out and about, but three. Maggie started clearing the old vegetation from the wildflower patch near the Wheatland Farmhouse. Ian and Alex put up a new fence around the sewage tank beyond the car park.

9 February. Burning brash – in the field below Balebarn Lodge where we did some pollarding and coppicing a few weeks ago. Also by the replacement shed, where we were also able to pull up the arisings from yesterdays work at Otter Cottage. In principle, we try to deal with cuttings close to where we take them.

8 February Alex working with us. Replacing a fence in front of the fishing pond and clearing the bank behind Otter Cottage of brambles – with the scythe. Ian coppiced a willow here. Alex strimmed brambles from behind the scrapes in the field below Balebarn Eco Lodge. Cold weather is forecast.

7 February. Again pulling typha from the main wildlife pond here at Wheatland Farm.

6 February. First frogspawn of the year at Wheatland Farm!

1 February – pulling typha from the main wildlife pond. Two hares and a woodcock seen on Popehouse Moor. Maggie had gone to check out the close sound of mechanical machinery – it was Denzil working on a ditch further down the stream.

January at Wheatland Farm

31 January – a heron lifted off from the fishing pond by Otter Cottage as we trundled by with a barrow load of firewood. The nuthatches are shrilling from the trees – they think spring is nearly here.

27 January. Continued pulling bullrush. Hi Line came back to finish clearing under the power line. This included felling an ash in the lodge field. We don’t like to see them go, but if they come down on wires that’s serious, and close to the wires they are difficult to fell ourselves.

26 January Pulling bullrush from the main wildlife pond, below Balebarn Lodge, and dragging it away on a tarp for composting. It floats, so we hope some of the beasties that live amongst it vacate when they are disturbed, and before we finally haul it out of the water. In any event, to pond management would mean no pond in the long run. Went out to find Hi Line, the power company’s subcontractors, in the farm yard. Unexpected – they were supposed to give us a day of notice. They’d turned up, struggled to make sense of their instructions, so cut down the one tree left standing amidst the trees by Balebarn Lodge. Not a thought to wonder whether one had been left for a reason. Not a thought to knock the door and ask. Then they’d stopped for lunch. After their lunch (and yet another explanation by us of what needed doing, what needed taking care of etc) they left immediately to drive back to Bude. You’ve got to wonder.

25 January Alex and Ian have been taking down die back ash at the eastern edge of the lodge field. Perhaps we were lucky we’d pollarded these trees a few years back, as ash is so dangerous to climb when it has got die back. At least these weren’t too high. Working among the trees reminded us to roll out the old piece of culvert that’s been there – we hope to make a huge ‘bug hotel’ out of it. Not because bugs are particularly short of habitat at here, but partly to compensate for the ‘tidy up’ of the old mower shed, and partly as an educational / decorative feature for guests at the lodges. Lovely news – Wheatland Farm has been given a Pledge For Nature Award from the North Devon Biosphere organisation.

24 January – some snow, but just a dusting in this part of Devon. There’s more on the high grounds, but hardly enough for a snow ball here at Wheatland Farm .

18 January – Alex has been doing land work, strimming around the ‘secret pond’ and managing back the brambles at the top of the fishing pond. Maggie has been pulling bullrush from the fishing pond, leaving a central island where the moorhens can nest safely.

17 January. Kingfisher visited the fishing pond by Otter Cottage today – spotted as we cleared a path to the back corner in order to start pulling the bullrush on this side.

13 January. Pulling invasive bullrush from the fishing pond between Otter Cottage and Balebarn Eco Lodge. It is cold, deep and slippery. We use chest waders, but cold shock is a risk, as is the difficulty of climbing out with chest waders full of water, so a second person on the bank, or nearby, is an important safety precaution.

11 January. Day of work with Alex, mostly burning the arisings from last week’s coppicing.

7 January. Continued the winter task of pulling bullrush rom the fishing pond by Otter Cottage. They come up more easily in winter than in spring, even if the water is cold. Today we were breaking the ice to get in. The trick is to pull not yank, and get as much root up as possible.

5 January. The birds are still enjoying the feeders, including a marsh/willow tit that was hungry enough to feed while someone was only a few feet away. Wood peckers and nuthatches are still frequent visitors along with sparrows, tits, robins and Wheatland Farm’s tame blackbird.

4 January A heron was visiting the big wildlife pond. Winter work continues, including managing the withy bed in the field below Balebarn Lodge and pulling some typha from the fishing pond by Otter Cottage. It’s cold, but drier than previous days. The typha is already putting out new shoots from its rhizomes. Our aim is to leave an island of typha (bullrushes) in the middle of the pond where moorhens can nest, but clear more of the edges so when visitors return post lockdown birds are not nesting right by the bank where dogs might disturb them.

1 January. A hard frost in this part of Devon, with thick ice on the bird bath and minor ponds. The big ponds have also iced over, but it won’t last.