Wildlife and Management Log

Wood sorrel at Wheatland Farm

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.

May 2019

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.

Dingy skipper butterfly

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.

9 May Dingy Skipper, and a  mourning bee ( again seen near Otter Cottage)

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.

April 2019

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.

March 2019

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.

14 March grey heron fishing at the top pond between Otter Cottage and Balebarn Lodge

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.

February 2019

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.

January 2019

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.

2 January, winter is the time for tree management. We’re clearing willow we had to cut down to ensure it didn’t fall on Honeysuckle Lodge.

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.

December 2018

27 December, marsh tit at the farmhouse bird feeders.

26 December bats still coming and going from ‘Peter’s Barn’ – you can see them in the Christmas lights.

14 December, barn owl seen along driveway at Wheatland Farm.

12 December, survey walk with Shanti Smallwood from the Devon Wildlife Trust. A wader flew up from the pond, but was gone before we could be sure of ID.

09 December marsh tit at our neighbour’s feeder.

07 December snipe put up from the hedgerow between the wildlife pond and Lower Newland Moor, marsh tit at the farmhouse feeder.

November 2018

26 November visit by Shanti Smallwood from the Devon Wildlife Trust to discuss further opportunities for culm restoration and to have a look around Wheatland Farm.

21 November 10-15 blackbirds feeding on the fallen apples by Honeysuckle Lodge at any one time, and usually joined by a couple of fieldfares and a half dozen or so chaffinch.

19 November Goldcrest feeding like a humming bird on the Scots pine at the top of the drive – the country’s smallest bird! Fieldfares have arrived.

18 November, tree creeper and a late red admiral butterfly in the Wheatland Farmhouse garden

17 November, kestrel hunting in front of Balebarn Eco Lodge. No dragonflies spotted at the pond today, despite the sunshine. Did the tawny owl survey on the veranda of Nuthatch Lodge, but none heard during the 20 mins (heard other times in the week though).

11 November. Still one common darter dragonfly at the Wheatland Farm wildlife pond, and a red admiral butterfly fluttering around Beech Eco Lodge. Lovely sunny day – we are marking the armistice. Tawny owls calling in the evening.

9 November. Pulling nettles along the driveway.

6 November. Scything the bank in front of Balebarn Eco Lodge so grass is short for the coming snow drops.

5 November. Two woodcock on Popehouse Moor SSSI – highlight of today’s bird list, also including: Blue tit, Great tit, Coal tit, Marsh tit, Nuthatch, Goldfinch, Blackbird, House Sparrow, Dunnock, Robin, Jackdaw, Crow, Magpie, Woodcock, Herring gull, Moorhen, Chaffinch, Wren

3 November. Red admiral still to be seen in the Wheatland Farm garden, feeding on the fallen apples. Tawny owl survey this eve but none heard in the set 20 mins.

October 2018

30 October. Still three common darters at the pond, but no southern hawkers.

29 October. First significant frost at Wheatland Farm this year. Is that the end of the dragonflies? Heron landed at the fishing pond at dusk.

27 October. Cows go back to Higher Punchardon Farm

24 October. Commmon darter and southern hawker dragonflies at the wildlife pond, including one egg-laying female.

23 October. One patrolling male southern hawker dragonfly at the wildlife pond

21 october. Southern hawker at Wheatland Farm wildlife pond

18 October. Southern Hawker dragonfly hunting in front of Honeysuckle and Nuthatch Lodges (and a lone dragonfly at the wildlife pond). Guests say a great spotted woodpecker has been coming to the feeder at Nuthatch – ‘We’ve never seen one so close’. The reed buntings are becoming more visible in the reed beds as autumn goes on. There are still red admirals feeding on the ivy. The power company is back to do more trimming under the wires.

17 October buzzard watched on the ground in front of Balebarn Eco Lodge. Nuthatches and coal tits on the feeders.

14 October, second Tawny Owl calling survey for the BTO – female heard during survey – there are plenty around other times too!

10 October Red Admiral, Small Copper and Small White butterflies, Common Darter and Southern Hawker dragonflies. Mowing patches in the eco lodge field and in front of Balebarn Lodge. Also cutting long patches in the Wheatland Farm orchard.

7 October southern hawker and common darter dragonflies still active at the wildlife pond – coming right up close!

5 October the ivy is in full flower and is literally frantic with bees and other flying insects.

4 October. Parties of long tailed tits becoming more obvious as the autumn sets in – 8 in the willows and on the wires by Balebarn Lodge at coffee time.

3 October. Southern hawkers – lots of them still. Common darters ‘in tandem’, and one migrant hawker at the pond (see image). A few small coppers, some speckled wood and red admiral butterflies. Buzzards and ravens calling overhead.

1 October. Small coppers, red admirals, southern hawker, common darter. Nuthatches on the feeders. Burning some of the cut rushes on Lower Newland Moor.

September 2018

29 September Bat detector returned to Chulmleigh. Comma and red admiral butterflies enjoying fallen apples. Lovely fly agaric toadstools spotted by the ‘magic pond’ on Popehouse moor SSSI.

26 September clearing bramble behind the Wheatland Farm eco lodges. Devon Wildlife Trust Bat detector collected from nearby Chulmleigh. One common blue butterfly still flying. Kestrel spotted hunting in front of Balebarn Lodge.

25 September, coppicing a willow that has exploded out of the bank behind Honeysuckle Lodge. Comma butterflies, red admirals, small white butterflies. Swallows still about, feeding over the lodge field and wildlife pond. Still hearing a chiffchaff occasionally.

24 September mowing patches north and south of the chesnut trees below Balebarn Lodge. Red admiral, speckled wood butterflies. Migrant hawker and common darter damselflies still at the pond. A southern hawker dragonfly spotted swooping on a butterfly – could have been a small copper.

22 September, Andrew topped some of the rushes on Lower Newland Moor.

21 September, storms brought down a young apple tree in the orchard behind Wheatland Farm farmhouse. Everything a bit blown about, but still seeing speckled wood, red admiral and comma butterflies, and common darter dragonflies.

19 September. Pulling bullrushes again, this time from northern pond edge (field below Balebarn Lodge). Southern hawker, migrant hawker, common darter. Small copper butterflies.

18 September, kingfisher on the fishing pond. Pulling ‘bullrushes’ from the northwestern part of the wildlife pond.

17 September, sparrow hawk wheeling over the lodge field. Southern and migrant hawkers.

16 September, migrant and southern hawkers at the wildlife pond, and a southern hawker hunting in the orchard. Red admiral, small copper, small white and speckled wood butterflies to be found.

14 September – heard the kingfisher from the farmhouse bedroom early this morning, and saw it later. If you’re staying in Otter Cottage, listen out for its distinctive piping.

10 September, tree creeper in the Wheatland Farm orchard. Nuthatches on the feeders. Kingfiisher on the fishing pond. Migrant hawker, common darter, and southern hawker dragonflies (and finally a decent picture of the southern hawker…).

09 September, small copper, red admiral, specked wood, small white butterflies. Common darter, migrant hawker and southern hawker dragonflies. Sparrowhawk and Buzzard.  30-40 swallows and house martins feeding over field below Balebarn Lodge. Cut back nettles to side of path leading to Popehouse Moor.  Cut grass under trees by Beech Lodge.

07 September, small copper, common blue, small white, red admiral butterflies. Dragonflies still on the pond – migrant hawkers, common darters, a single southern hawker and one lone emerald dragonfly. Heron still around. Hedge trimmed the phragmites on the western side of the wildlife pond while water level still low, leaving plenty for roosting birds. Mowing lodge field – established patches.

06 September, heron at the fishing pond. Power company here at Wheatland Farm to cut trees under high tension lines. Coppiced one ash in the corner of the lodge field and proposed other cuts on other days.

05 September, Kingfisher spotted, comma butterflies, small copper and common blue butterflies all still to be seen around the wildlife pond below Balebarn Lodge.

05 September, circular patch in front of Beech Lodge mown for first time this year. Cuttings removed.

04 September, first reed bunting spotted in ages – recently they’ve all been house sparrows. A sign of the changing season? And a hedgehog in the farmhouse barn.

03 September Badger caught on wildlife camera

02 September orchard patches re-mown – will have some birdsfoot trefoil added and be mown long in 2019.

01 September patch between sweet and horse chestnut trees and main path (field in front of Balebarn Lodge) mown for first time in 2018, cuttings removed. We will add some birdsfoot trefoil seeds to his patch, collected from elsewhere on Wheatland Farm.

August 2018

30 August – taking advantage of the continuing low water level in the main pond to transplant some phragmites plants to the new scrapes near Balebarn Lodge.

18 August Spectacular flights of house martins feeding in front of Beech Lodge and over the lodge field in front of Balebarn Lodge

17 August Lovely toad found hiding out in the wood stack!

16 August Dragonflies are shifting seasons at the wildlife pond. Here’s what’s around now, and Wheatland Farm’s dragonfly species list for 2018 (not really expecting to top 13 now!).

15 August Painted Lady Butterflies are around – though not so common this year.

13 August, weasel spotted at the back door of the farmhouse again, and a common lizard found basking down by the wildlife pond.

12 August migrant hawker and southern hawker dragonflies around the wildlife pond – most of the emperors have gone now.

03 August, weasel photographed by the back door.

July 2018

29 July Common blue butterflies are on the wing again.

24 July recently dug ‘scrape’ to treat hot tub water near Beech Lodge planted with a few Phragmites transplanted from the wildlife pond. This scrape is designed not to hold water, but just to hold it back a while. We will be emptying the hot tub water here and hope to grow some extra reed bed patches. This scrape could be the first of several in the lodge field.

23 July Dark bush cricket climbing the wall!

20 July clouded yellow butterfly seen at the Wheatland Farm Wildlife Pond

15 July pulling some Typha from the pond.

5 July silver washed fritillaries, commas and small skippers abound.

03 July Here comes the digger! We’re making some scrapes in the field below Balebarn Lodge. We hope these will become mini reed beds.

June 2018

Wildlife posts gathered together in 30DaysWild 2018

21 June Barn owl spotted in the orchard – happy mid summer!

05 June labyrinth cut in the field below Balebarn Lodge, top patch on eastern side. Laybrinth itself will be cut short, ‘walls’ left long, and the rest of this patch ‘cut long’ until autumn.

May 2018

23 May – Tawny owls are seen outside their box in the lodge field.

20 May Bluebells!

19 May Cows arrive at Wheatland Farm for summer grazing

7 May we spotted these fox cubs playing

April 2018

29 April baby robins are fledged and out of the nest in lodge field, still being fed by parents. The robin eggs in the poly tunnel haven’t  hatched yet though. Overcast, so the orange tip butterflies aren’t so active, sometimes allowing for close up views. Bird count today included a reed warbler, the first of the year.

28 April A kestrel has been hunting the lodge field frequently over the past 3 days and a moorhen is sitting on eggs on the wildlife pond. The canada goose nest failed though.

21 April first Speckled Wood butterfly

19 April first sightings of Brimstone and Orange Tip butterfies, a bit later that last year’s sightings.

19 April we think it must be a female sparrowhawk eating the pigeons – there’s been another kill just outside Balebarn, with feathers everywhere.

12 April First swallows return, and we celebrate with a cake

Early chiff chaffs and the odd willow warbler

March 2018

31 March Buzzard found dead on the boundary between Wheatland Farm and the Old Shippon. Probably the bird we’ve been seeing sitting in trees a lot recently. Sent to the Predatory Bird Monitoring Service at CEH for analysis (CEH Reference 20179).

30 March, snipe and some kind of sandpiper on Popehouse Moor (when not being disturbed by the Eggesford Hunt!).

28 March Nest watching – there’s a dunnock nesting in the farmhouse garden, blue tits in and out of the old piano in the barn, and goldfinch nesting in the ivy opposite. Please don’t disturb!

27 March first bats spotted at dusk, roe deer in the field in front of Balebarn Lodge.

26 March first white tailed bumblebees on the wing

Foxes hunting in the daytime during the cold snap.

Chiff chaff spotted.

February 2018

Lovely hare lolloping down the road towards Wheatland Farm from Winkleigh late one night.
February bird list – yellowhammer, wren, woodpigeon, woodcock, treecreeper, starling, snipe, robin, reed bunting, redwing, raven, pied wagtail, pheasant, moorhen, marsh tit, mallard, magpie, long-tailed tit, jay, jackdaw, house sparrow, great tit, great spotted woodpecker, goldfinch, goldcrest, fieldfare, dunnock, coal tit, chaffinch, carrion crow, canada goose, buzzard, bullfinch, blue tit, blackbird.

Recent birds: big flocks of mixed starlings and thrushes, the usual suspects at the feeders (nuthatches, great spotted woodpecker, robins, blackbirds, blue tits, great tits, coal tits, sparrows, dunnocks, goldfinches). Jays feeding in the fields. Nuthatches have started to be noisy again – must be thinking about nesting.

January 2018

Plenty of birds at the feeders, greater spotted woodpecker, goldfinches, robins, several diffent tits (blue, great, coal).

Frogspawn on 28th – could have been there a while too. Other people say they had frogspawn much earlier

Trouble with Eggesford Hunt on 6th January

Looking for older entries? Try the 2017/2016 Wheatland Farm Wildlife Sightings and Management Archive