Wildlife sightings and conservation management around Wheatland Farm Eco Lodges
Seen some good wildlife? Tell us or tweet us @WheatlandFarm, with a pic if possible! Remember, what gets noted depends a lot on where people are – so have a good wander around the farm at all times of the day (and night?).
This page also acts as the Wheatland Farm management diary – and so tells you what’s going on too. Lots of the stories here have more info and pictures in the Buzz section of the Wheatland Farm website.
18 November, a red admiral and a queen buff tailed bumblebee making the most of late autumn sunshine and the ivy growing opposite Otter Cottage. We are bramble bashing near the fishing pond, clearing several year’s growth and also maintaining the overflow between the fishing pond and the secluded pond. Ravens calling.
17 November Great Spotted Woodpecker on the peanuts
16 November – those leaves just keep on coming down along the lodge path.
13 November – we brought in the chess table for the winter, and put it in the barn where the piano wind chime is. Took a scythe to the long grass under the young trees by Beech Lodge – should have done it earlier really, but now at least the snow drops will be able to push through.
8 November Common Carder Bee in the orchard behind Wheatland Farmhouse.
7 November, a kingfisher at the fishing pond by Otter Cottage, and a red admiral along the hedgerows. Pied wagtails are gathering in small flocks. Pretty little fungi are growing in the orchard behind Wheatland Farmhouse. We think they are some kind of wax cap.
29 October – a chance to mow the labyrinth. We’re now sweeping up leaves at every opportunity.
22 October grey wagtails are around – that’s a new bird species for Wheatland Farm
16 October. Southern Hawker, still looking splendid, resting on brambles near Balebarn Lodge. An afternoon bee walk turned up no bumblebees, but we did see a single common carder on a late thistle earlier in the day. Cutting grass in the field below Balebarn Lodge with a scythe as it’s now too wet for anything else. Patches where we know there are devils bit scabious and birdsfoot trefoil staring to establish need a late cut. Ravens calling. One pied wagtail on the wire, but as yet no roost gathering.
8 October. A migrant hawker, apparently egg laying, near the fishing pond outside Otter Cottage – not a terribly good choice for her perhaps, because of the voracious fish.
6 October – a dragonfly count found only one common darter at the big wildlife pond – the season is drawing in.
4 October – plenty of red admiral butterflies.
2 October. Migrant hawker dragonflies at the wildlife pond below Balebarn Lodge – this time we even got a picture! Ravens calling their ponk ponk call. Red admiral butterflies are enjoying the fallen apples, a comma butterfly has been basking on the wall of the workshop, and a speckled wood butterfly wandered into Wheatland Farmhouse through an open window. After a few wet days, we’re enjoying a day of Devon sunshine.
30 September Southern hawker dragonfly out and about between the rain showers, and a kestrel overhead.
28 September. Weasel by the Wheatland Farmhouse back door! Red admiral butterflies enjoying the apples. Two crows mobbing a bird of prey calling kek kek kek kek kek kek. Sounded a lot like a goshawk. That could be wishful thinking, but worth noting here anyway. Swallows still seen.
24 September. We got the post mortem report on a young buzzard back from the Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme. This was a young bird we found on the ground back in March 2018. The report says it died of starvation – no sign of death from rat poison, so that’s a silver lining.
22 September Warblers still at the farm – a willow warbler / chiff chaff was hunting out insects on the pergola woodwork at Otter Cottage.
20 September. Still plenty of butterflies – speckled wood, and a few small tortoiseshell.
19 September – Mowed the labyrinth below Balebarn Lodge and pulled some weeds.
18 September – mowed long grass in the orchard with the max strength mower. Left some ‘fresh’ grass for the butterflies but tackled the patches left over winter last year. Pulling creeping thistles near the wildlife pond. Kestrel seen overhead.
17 September Kingfisher seen again – this time at the big wildlife pond.
16 opened gate to Lower Newland Moor now Popehouse Moor is looking fairly well grazed again.
15 September Hummingbird hawkmoth visiting the honeysuckle in Otter Cottage garden.
13 September pulling thistles in the lodge field. Kingfisher seen at the fishing pond.
12 September mowing patches in the lodge field with the long grass mower.
9 September Planted a few native wild daffodils in Wheatland Farm’s garden – given to us by Kim in Hollocombe from some the squirrels dug up in her garden.
8 September Common darter, southern hawker, migrant hawker and even a common hawker (not so common actually) at the wildlife pond, plus common blue damselflies. Common blue butterflies still around in decent numbers.
7 September – time to do a bit of judicious weeding around the lodges. Every time we think how much easier it would be to spray – but that’s something we’re committed to keeping to an absolute minimum at Wheatland Farm.
3 September – scythe the grass patch at the back of the farmhouse where snowdrops and crocuses come in early spring (and support early bumblebees).
2 September – more patch mowing. Ian has been taking the hedge trimmer to encroaching brambles along the southern border of the lodge field.
1 September – mowing the southern patch in the lodge field. We’ve decided to keep this a ‘graze until August’ patch next year, and see if we can encourage late flowering plants like birds foot trefoil, devil’s bit scabious and ox eye daisies.
31 August 8 species of dragon/damselfly at the pond. A good number of common blue butterflies on the bank by the wildlife pond – at least 5.
30 August 7 species of bumblebee seen on the bee walk, done with Kim’s help. Ian says guests have been seeing the barn owl in the past few days.
23 August Pyrausta purpuralis (mint moth) near wildlife pond. Many dragonflies at the pond too. Swallows mobbing a sparrow hawk over the orchard again.
21 August barn owl seen hunting at dusk in the Lodge field.
20 August 8 species of damsel/dragonfly at the pond. Huge elephant hawkmoth caterpillars nearby, plus the kingfisher seen several times at the fishing pond.
18 August Kingfisher spotted at fishing pond by Otter Cottage.
15 August sparrow hawk being mobbed by swallows over the old Wheatland Farm farmyard.
13 August having just thought that there weren’t many small copper butterflies this year, we spotted a gorgeously bright one just below Balebarn Lodge.
12 August Dragonfly watch at the wildlife pond found southern hawker, migrant hawker, emperor, common darter, common blue damselfly, azure damselfly, emerald damselfly, blue tailed damselfly.
4 August 2 more ‘big butterfly counts’ found the following species in the lodge field and the field below Balebarn Lodge: Clouded yellow (first for the year), meadow brown, small white, speckled wood, common blue, gatekeepers, small skippers, ringlet, green veined white, brimstone, painted lady, comma – and a silver Y moth. The fish pond near Otter Cottage is turning a bit milky – it did this last year in late summer so we think it is some kind of seasonal bloom.
1 August managing ash die back along the lodge path. Dragonfly counts: emperor, southern hawker, Damselflies: azure, common blue, blue tailed. The grass is ‘going over’, but when you walk through it, clouds of moths rise up.
31 July First southern hawker dragonfly of the year seen, in the lodge field. Cutting back a fallen willow tree over the fence near Honeysuckle Lodge. Gathering dock heads before the seeds fall. Scything brambles along the north/south track in the lodge field. The brimstone butterfly emerged!
25 July Humming bird hawk moth around the farm house – a rare sighting here. Common blue butterfly and a silver washed fritillary on Popehouse Moor (plus red admiral, comma, skippers, speckled wood, peacock, brimstone, green veined white, large white, meadow brown, ringlets). Management work incl. scything in the lodge field (one side of the path to Beech Lodge, and the ‘circle’ in front of Honeysuckle Lodge).
24 July Dragonflies: Emperor, golden ring, broadbodied chaser, common darter. Damselflies: azure, common blue, blue tailed. Great spotted woodpecker on the feeder at Honeysuckle Lodge while we were pulling creeping thistle. Sparrow hawk in the old farm yard. Started a monthly Bee Walk for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.
23 July Scything verges in the lodge field. Collecting ox eye daisy and yellow rattle seeds, and cutting back flower heads in the old farm yard.
17 July Red admirals, gate keepers, meadow browns, ringlets, small skipper, small white, large white. Willow tits (or were they marsh tits?) on Popehouse Moor, and also seen visiting the feeder at Otter Cottage.
15 July first common blue butterflies of the year seen in the orchard. Marbled white spotted there too.
11 July a rogue Himalayan Balsam plant spotted in the new wildflower patch by Wheatland Farmhouse – and pulled out. Must have come in with the digger. We will have to be vigilant. There’s a fledgling song thrush in the bushes along the lodge path. First emerald dragonfly of the season has emerged from the pond. Masses of butterflies are enjoying the sunshine, including a painted lady and a red admiral engaging in regular skirmishes over the nettles at the far end of the orchard. We started cutting long grass in the orchard – it’ll be a long piecemeal job.
10 July Checking cows on Popehouse Moor – one marbled white butterfly, one silver washed fritillary. Also saw a marbled white in both the field below Balebarn Lodge and the main lodge field. Scything the bank to the side of Balebarn, and a buffer strip along the main path in the lodge field. Female emperor dragonfly hunting over the lodge field. Lots of dragonflies at the wildlife pond. Lovely red poplar beetle in the young trees by Beech Lodge.
9 July scything bank in front of Balebarn Lodge, and adding some more oxeye daisy and hawksbit seed for more flowers in future years. Watering the new wildflower area with well water. Excited to find a marbled white butterfly below Balebarn Lodge – probably a male. Ian took the battery down to the electric fence on Popehouse Moor, and saw two more marbled whites and 2 silver washed fritillaries. A good day for Butterflies!
5 July masses of spiky peacock butterfly caterpillars on the nettles near the wildlife pond – where a couple of weeks ago we consistently saw an adult peacock butterfly.
4 July Brown china mark moth at wildife pond – interesting this species has aquatic larvae. ‘Gardening’ around the lodges turned up a dark arches moth. Abundant dragonflies at the pond – 9 species incl one migrant hawker – a bit early for those. Emperor dragonflies are laying eggs into the water weed. Ian getting Popehouse Moor ready for the cows.
2 July: 5 emperor and at least 7 for spotted chasers at the wildlife pond below Balebarn Lodge. Also many azure, common blue, blue tail damselflies. Working on clearing the grass along path from the pond to the lodge field. Mowed the labyrinth.
1 July unknown moth spotted near Balebarn Lodge. Looks like a magpie, but not quite.
June 2019 #30DaysWild
30 June Wild escape for the last of this year’s #30DaysWild – but to Dartmoor. Butterflies at Wheatland Farm: painted ladies, 1 speckled wood, red admiral, large skipper, ringlet, meadow brown.
27 June Little Green Bug
26 June Taking a day to lobby our MP in London for wildlife.
25 June Scything along the drive. Plenty of painted ladies flying on Popehouse Moor SSSI, the turbine field and around the Wheatland Farm wildlife pond. Ian attending a rush management event at a local Devon farm. The brambles are in full flower – the insects are loving it.
24 June Painted ladies (buttterflies) have suddenly arrived in this part of Devon. Emperor, broad bodied chaser, azure, common blue and blue tailed damsel/dragonflies at pond. Red admiral butterfly on driveway.
23 June – a wet day in Devon.
22 June First small tortoiseshell butterfly of the year seen at Wheatland Farm. Large skippers also on the wing. Emperor dragonflies are now at the pond, and are ovipositing (laying eggs). Common Darter, Broad Bodied Chaser (dragonflies) and common blue, azure, large red, and blue tailed damselflies are all to be seen.
21 June Happy Solstice! The wild roses are flowering at Wheatland Farm. Black tailed skimmer dragonfly seen in the field below Balebarn Lodge.
20 June lots of bumblebees on the marsh thistles, and one unusual one – could be a very pale version of a male early bumblebee.
19 June our #30DaysWild for today is a training day with the Devon Countryside Access Forum – exploring the Pegasus Trail.
17 June A dark bush cricket jumped into the hot tub and needed rescuing. The annual toad and frog exodus is just beginning at the Wheatland Farm wildlife pond.
14 June Scything a few more patches of grass along the driveway, but leaving birdsfoot trefoil in particular, so it can flower and set seed. Rather bedraggled peacock butterfly elicits sympathy for everyone nearly finished with their GCSEs
12 June scattered some lousewort seeds from Popehouse Moor on Lower Newland Moor: 6542609842, 6451609850 ,6448609849, 6446209845, 6452509850, 6457009839 and at one place in the turbine field: 6458409981. Feeding Wheatland Farm’s favourite blackbird for 30DaysWild.
11 June A bowl full of birdsong at Wheatland Farm
10 June A moment for admiring thistles.
9 June The Devonshire Association’s botany and entomology sections did some surveys at Wheatland Farm. We don’t have the full lists yet, but we know a nationally scarce spider turned up, a hoverfly that lives in ants nests, and lots of good culm grassland flowers, including plenty of Wavy St John’s Wort.
8 June Spotting long horn moths in a near by hedgerow Grey heron at the fishing pond.
7 June Making ‘bee hotels’ – starting a bee wall at Wheatland Farm. A hobby seen overhead – hunting dragonflies??
6 June Spotting a water shrew at the wildlife pond
5 June Poppies for DDay remembrance
3 June Plenty of patch mowing in the lodge field. And the first meadow brown butterfly of the season at Wheatland Farm
2 June Water stick insect at the Wildlife Pond
1 June #30DaysWild starts today! We’ll be going wilder than ever, with lots of #10WildMinutes thrown in for good measure.
31 May first large skipper butterfly of the year at Wheatland Farm – seen on Popehouse Moor. Woodpecker seen at the Nuthatch Lodge feeder.
30 May Barn owl hunting over Popehouse Moor at dusk (10pm)
28 May dragonflies and damselflies becoming common at the pond – and starting to lay eggs for next year!
27 May Great Spotted Woodpecker nest on the boundary of Popehouse Moor
26 Good to know Wheatland Farm still has hedgehogs!
21 May dingy skipper again seen near the pond below Balebarn Lodge. Not especially pretty to look at, but worth noting for its scarcity, hence picture. Azure and blue tailed damselflies. Brimstone butterflies, orange tips, speckled wood.
20 May a sparrow hawk took something from the conifer in front of Otter Cottage.
19 Banded demoiselle spotted below the wildlife pond. Four spot chaser, and azure damselflies also on the wing, plus large red damselflies. The sparrows are busy at the pond catching newly emerged damselflies in mid-flight.
18 May beautiful demoiselle, large red and azure damselflies on Popehouse Moor.
16 May four spot chaser newly emerged at pond. Small copper butterfly – first seen for this year. Peacock, whites, orange tip also seen. A few teneral damselflies, probably azure.
14 May. Wow! Red Kite seen overhead at 4.10 pm. These are still fairly unusual in Devon.
13 May large red damselfly and a male and a female azure damselfly. Brimstone, peacock butterflies.
11 May, large red damselfly at the main wildlife pond below Balebarn Lodge, plus 2 other damselflies not identified. Peacock, orange tip, and green veined white butterfies are about. Lots of common carder bees on Popehouse Moor (on lousewort) and on bugle behind the lodges. Squirrels in the owl box in the lodge field, more’s the pity.
10 May 2 mallard familes now with chicks – 14 in one brood on the main wildlife pond.
5 May Dingy skipper spotted near the wildlife pond. The first we’ve seen at Wheatland Farm.
3 May Common Lizard spotted sunning itself near Balebarn Lodge! Patch mowing. Yellow rattle is really pushing up now.
2 May there is a squirrel in the owl box on Popehouse Moor.
1 May – a ‘mourning bee’ spotted near otter cottage. These striking black and white bees parasitise the hairy footed flower bees we have living in an old cob wall.
28 April common carder bees feeding on lousewort on Popehouse Moor. Roe deer spotted there too. The blue bells are out in the woods. Today’s bird list includes: black bird, wood pigeon, chaffinch, great tit, blue tit, crow, pheasant, wilow warbler, chiff chaff, dunnock, song thrush, bullfinch, goldfinch, wren, nuthatch, robin, tree creeper, black cap, canada goose, magpie.
25 April barnowl calling to the east of farmhouse.
23 April pretty streamer moth spotted in the woodland on Popehouse Moor. Not rare, but striking. This species feeds on dog rose as a caterpillar.
20 April it looks like the stoat has taken to stealing eggs again. George spotted it running past the house and found an empty chicken egg shell.
19 April peacocks, brimstones, small white and speckled wood all flying. No damselflies yet though. Willow/Marsh tit near the house carrying nesting material.
18 April Heron on the fishing pond in the early morning.
17 April Orange tips, a comma or two, speckled wood and peacock butterflies in the field below Balebarn enjoying a sunny afternoon. Swallows drinking from the pond, and perhaps catching St Mark’s flies, which have emerged on cue. Patch mowing in the Lodge field and below the pond.
16 Hairy footed flower bees are nectaring outside Otter Cottage.
10 April willow warbler and black cap (female and male) seen for the first time this year. There’s still a male reed bunting at the pond, and a red/pink day flying moth went fluttering by – not sure the species though. Garden bumblebee spotted near Otter Cottage – bringing Wheatland Farm to at least 5 species of bumblebee (tree, early, garden, red tailed, buff tailed – maybe one other too).
9 April bat survey started (3 nights) near magic pond.
8 April Holly blue seen on ivy by Otter Cottage – first of year. Burning cut rush and bramble on Popehouse Moor.
6 April Small white butterfly seen in front of Beech Lodge – first of year.
5 April Snipe again seen on Popehouse Moor, but this time near the ‘magic pond’
4 April snipe still to be seen on Popehouse Moor. Cutting rushes and low brambles.
3 April there’s a long tailed tit nest on Popehouse Moor – looking fresh. Speckled wood, orange tip, a comma, and plenty of peacock butterflies have all been seen in recent days.
30 March first swallow seen at Wheatland Farm this year, though they’ve been about locally for a few days now. The nuthatches are taking an interest in the nest box outside Honeysuckle Lodge.
29 March Marsh tit in the young trees outside Beech Lodge. Heron on the pond by Otter cottage. Peacock butterflies flying in pairs. Red tailed bumblebee queen seen. Bats are flying in the evening (and we’ve booked another bat survey for April).
27 March Mowing patches in the field below Balebarn lodge, including below the pond. Giving some patches a ‘first cut’ – where they’ve been unmown for a couple of years. Includes strip south of the top path and a section near the main path. Mow sections where birdsfoot trefoil seeds sown last year. Cut some rushes below Balebarn to create a fire pit. Cut back brambles over the start of the drainage ditch so it can be dug out. Peacock butterflies are on the wing. Another species of bumblebee – B. pratorum spotted gathering pollen near the farmhouse.
26 March Burning brash on Popehouse Moor where Ian previously chain sawed willow Cutting back encroaching bramble and burning. Mow orchard. Mow parts of Wheatland Farm lodge field incl. some long sections, incl. near the chess table site.
25 March. Three species of butterfly on the wing today, peacock (pictured), brimstone (too fast for us!) and comma (pictured). First worker bumblebee spotted, and there seems to be a nest by the door to the turbine room. We have been cutting brambles and soft rush around the wildlife pond.
21 Chiffchaffs now singing at Wheatland Farm.
20 March. Surprisingly, put up a snipe in the lodge field. We thought they’d abandoned Wheatland Farm for their breeding grounds. Nuthatches are investingating the nest box by Honeysuckle Lodge, and another behind Nuthatch Lodge. Ravens calling from the scots pine near Wheatland Farmhouse.
19 March cutting some more rush around wildlife pond. Some more bumblebees spotted. Tree bumblebee and buff tailed bumblebee. Or is it a whilte tailed bumblebee? Tricky!
18 March scything brambles at hidden pond so there’s a path and so the ferns don’t get completely smothered. March Red tailed bumble bee queen spotted. No picture though.
12 March chainsawing willow on Popehouse Moor, to stop it encroaching on the culm grassland, south eastern section.
11 March burning cut brambles and willow brash below the wildlife pond.
9 March plant ‘old man’s beard’ – the native clematis, so it will scramble up the veranda at Balebarn Lodge.
8 March chain sawing split ‘crack willow’ below wildlife pond to keep it off the fence. Path cut through the brambles below the pond, but brambles kept on both sides for birds and fritillaries. Soft rush cut around southern end of Wheatland Farm wildlife pond. Cutting fallen willow taking light from the small pond below Balebarn Lodge, where we want phragmites to thrive.
7 March move black thorn whips from orchard – 3 to centre of lodge field. Several more to the northern boundary of Lower Newland Moor, where we’d like to develop more south facing blackthorn. Mowed patches in orchard where we hope birdsfoot trefoil will take hold.
4 March chainsaw falling willows at the top of Lower Newland Moor. Scythe brambles along fence line. About 200 pied wagtails gathering on the wires to roost at the wildlife pond below Balebarn Lodge. Going out at night is hazardous – every step seems to risk squashing a frog or toad.
2 March about 500+ starlings suddenly descended on the Wheatland Farmhouse garden, stayed a few minutes, then were gone! Planted out some flower turfs containing oxeye daisy plants into the lodge field (long grass section just north of the southern track).
1 March Ian put up a couple more bird boxes, and a bat box in the main bike shed.
21 February – a Red Admiral butterfly has come out of hibernation for the half term sunshine! We mowed the long lush grass (not the daffodils) in the orchard, to knock it back a bit before the yellow rattle germinates – we hope.
20 February – the night time is alive with croaking frogs making a determined effort to get to the pond on time.
18 February – moved young trees, mostly blackthorn but one oak, from orchard to lodge field, western side.
17 February – cut red willow and replanted in lodge field, western side.
13 February – this time we did a proper count, and estimated about 240 pied wagtails using the wildlife pond vegetation as a roost! We were also charmed to see the first bumble bees of the year. Frogspawn in the hot tub waste water pond (moved to the corner pond as hot tub one dries out).
12 February – more bramble bashing at the Western side of the Lodge field. Ian felling diseased ash behind lodges.
9 February at least 60 pied wagtails getting ready to roost in front of Balebarn Lodge this evening.
8 February, felling two more infected Chalara / Ash Die Back ash trees behind Beech Lodge. One had developed a major split vertically in the trunk. Also clearing brambles from the overgrown path on the west side of the lodge field – important to do this before birds start nesting.
7 February large flocks of starlings and mixed thrushes, mostly redwings.
2 February bird watch list: blackbird, blue tit, buzzard, crow, chaffinch, coal tit, dunnock, fieldfare, goldfinch, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, greenfinch, sparrow, magpie, moorhen, nuthatch, pheasat, redwing, reed bunting, robin, snipe, pigeon, wren.
1 February, a snow day! Lots of animal tracks, foxes, rabbits and badger.
31 January Frogspawn! In the corner pond of the lodge field.
28 January One lone bat flying at dusk in the lodge field. About 50 pied wagtails gathering to roost near Balebarn, and about 30 sparrows doing the same in the Otter Cottage ivy. Trimmed the willow in the ‘Evie Avenue’. Cut some grass patches in the Lodge field – two circular patches near Honeysuckle and one near Beech Lodge, plus the area between Beech and Nuthatch Lodges. It’s anticipated most of these will be allowed to grow much longer in the summer, with other patches then being cut.
25 January – planting the re-landscaped farmhouse garden with wildflower seeds from Emorsgate seeds. Planting the replacement apple trees in the Wheatland Farm orchard/garden.
24 January – collect replacement apple trees from Thornhayes nursery for orchard, to replace trees that are seriously cankered or have been blown over.
22 January – starting to clear brambles on Popehouse Moor, near pedestrian entrance.
21 January – tawny owl survey found tooting males.
17 January about 70+ pied wagtails gathering to roost by the fishing pond and on the wires.
14 January – no tawny owls heard during the survey, but they have been heard in the week. Barn owl hunting over the lodge field.
11 January, 50+ pied wagtails lining up on the overhead wires before settling down to roost in the reeds around the wildlife pond.
10 January 1 hour birdwatch turned up 21 species: blackbird, robin, blue tit, great tit, sparrow, wren, dunnock, pigeon, magpie, crow, moorhen, song thrush, starlings, chaffinch, kestrel, buzzard, pheasant, yellowhammer, great spotted woodpecker, nuthatch, snipe. Birdwatching walk identified several other trees that need management where they have fallen on fences.
9 January, weeding the path behind the lodges and using Algon, an organic path cleaner (contains the same acid as in vinegar) to knock the moss back.
1 January Happy New Year! NY Wheatland Farm bird list so far: blackbird, robin, blue tit, great tit, coal tit, sparrow, wren, dunnock, pigeon magpie crow, moorhen, goldcrest, gold finch, tree creeper, collar dove, song thrush, starlings, chaffinch, reed bunting, buzzard, pheasant, pied wagtail, tawny owl calling this evening.
Looking for older entries? Try the 2018 or the 2017/2016 Wheatland Farm Wildlife Sightings and Management Archive