Wildlife and Management Log

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 Lots of the stories have more info and pictures in the Buzz section of the Wheatland Farm website.

We keep this page as a rolling archive, looking back over the past 12 months at Wheatland Farm. Older entries can be found here: 2019 partial archive, 2018 or the 2017/2016 Wheatland Farm Wildlife Sightings and Management Archive

July at Wheatland Farm

19 July First common darter of the year spotted – actually 2 at the wildlife pond. And just for the record, pics from the wild flower area in the old farmhouse garden – with chicory and birds foot trefoil.

16 July Gatekeeper butterfly – first of the summer seen here at Wheatland Farm.

15 July. Mowing orchard, both sides of the drive, with the brushcutter mower.

14 July Mowing turbine path, path around the trees at the side of Lower Newland Moor, and nettles/brambles near Honeysuckle lodge.

13 July – patch mowing in the field below Balebarn Eco Lodge with the brush cutter. The little alder blackthorn that suffered nibble damage may be putting out a fresh shoot from the base, and has put out berries on the stressed main stem. Once again, plenty of small tortoise shell butterflies – it’s a good year for them. Just beginning to see some birdsfoot trefoil plants amidst the grass in the patches near the chestnut tree.

12 July – dragonfly count. Newly emerged emerald dragonfly, 2 blue tail, lots of azure and common damselflies, 6-20 emperors (at least 1 egg laying), and a golden ringed dragonfly, plus one brief glimpse of a chaser type dragonfly. Patch mowing in the lodge field – the main southern ‘late lawn’ and the bit near Beech Eco Lodge hot tub pond.

9 July Hand weeding around Balebarn Eco Lodge, in the parking spaces.

8 July trimming overhanging branches along the lodge path.

5 July Planted out ‘hand reared’ phragmites – some in the trough in the farmyard barn, some in the lodge field corner field. The cut stems planted earlier in the year all died in the dry weather. Today’s plants are the ones raised from cuttings kept in a bucket of water last summer until they put out roots. Cut more stems and set them to soak.

3 July. Path mowing in the lodge field

June at Wheatland Farm

27 June Bee walk with Kim – but found only white/buff bumblebees and one red tailed bumblebee. Perhaps it was a bit late in the afternoon.

25 June. We found a hummingbird hawkmoth in the Wheatland Farm polytunnel.

23 June First emerald damselfly of the season has emerged at the wildlife pond.

21 June. Silver washed fritillary spotted near the wildlife pond.

20 June. Cows returned to Wheatland Farm, starting their summer grazing in Lower Newland Moor

19 June Chain sawing overhanging branches along the turbine walk and repairing fence posts for cow arrival, expected tomorrow. Oxeye daisies are in full bloom in the new wildflower area by the farmhouse.

18 June checking some recently spotted moths, including speckled yellow, silver ground carpet, smoky wainscot.

17 June trimming ivy from top of Otter Cottage wall to keep it out of the roof.

16 June golden ringed dragonfly at the pond. First ringlets seen. Brambles below the pond are literally humming with insect life, including a fresh looking red admiral and a pretty small tortoiseshell.

14 June Mowed the far side of the orchard, leaving patches where there is white clover or where yellow rattle have yet to set seed. On Popehouse Moor a black cap got quite cross with Maggie – presumably it was nesting nearby. A single heath spotted orchid has self sown on the bank at the far end of the pond. This is the first we’ve seen outside Popehouse Moor.

13 June: Mowed farmhouse side of the orchard. The wild strawberries are harvestable!

12 June – a largely wet day. Finished building stone gabions in the lodge field for the hand washing station. Our #30DaysWild was to sign up to a virtual mass lobby on 30th June.

11 June. A kingfisher, a juvenile we think, sat for a while near the back door. Euan, who filmed it on his phone, didn’t think it had hit the glass, but we’re not sure what else it would have been doing there… It flew off ok when it saw Euan moving.

10 June, more patch mowing in the morning, before rain set in. Mowed the turbine walk and part of the path past the woven willows – the brush cutter just about fits over the little bridge.

9 June Much of the day patch mowing in the field below Balebarn Eco Lodge.

8 June. Nuthatches have fledged and seem to be in the trees as a family party along the lodge path. Blue tits have left the gate post. For #30DaysWild we were enjoying hawkbit, which has sprung into flower in the parched grass near the fishing pond.

7 June blogged about pheasants for #30DaysWild. There has been a male and 3 females in the lodge field recently, but then a big patch of feathers appeared. It wasn’t us that ate it!

6 June Brimstone larvae are eating through a young alder buckthorn outside Beech Lodge. But when I went back for a better photo, they had all gone – a bird must have found them. Other young plants still have caterpillars though.

5 June. At the pond, 3 or 4 small tortoise shell butterflies were fluttering along the wildflower bank – it’s notable as some years we hardly see 3 or 4 all year. Ian is installing an outside sink in the lodge field. We will be filling gabions with rocks so we provide a bit more habitat heterogeneity at the same time.

4 June: Blue tits in the gatepost by the farmhouse are nearly ready to fly.

3 June, finally a wet day. The met office say the recent dry spell is the biggest shift in rainfall compared to the wet winter since 1862.

2 June. Ditching near Balebarn Eco Lodge. There are many dragonflies and damsels at the pond now – 5 or 6 emperors and 4 or 5 four spot chasers plus lots of damsels. The emperors are egg laying. Hand weeded the concrete in front of Balebarn.

1 June. Continued cutting the bank at Balebarn Lodge. #30DaysWild started with our Southern Marsh Orchids

May at Wheatland Farm

31 May Bee walk to day. Started scything the bank at Balebarn Lodge. Skippers are suddenly quite numerous.

30 May A hedgehog came snuffling around the patio by the farmhouse at about 10pm.

29 May First large skippers are out and about.

25 May Emperor dragonflies at the pond, and also four spot chasers (both firsts for the year). Broad bodied chasers also on the wing, a beautiful demoiselle up by the house, plenty of azure damselflies, a few common damselflies, large red damselflies, and a single blue tailed damselfly. Watered the vetch seedlings. We are seeing burnet moths now, and still plenty of butterflies.

24 May. A very yellow butterfly seen fleetingly near the wildlife pond – too yellow for a brimstone, but isn’t it a bit early for a clouded yellow? The blackbirds above the door at Beech Lodge have fledged, thankfully. Cut phragmites and plonked it in a bucket – we’re hoping it will put out roots as the dry weather has put a lot of stress on the cuttings we planted, and they may not take.

22nd May, unknown dragonfly dipped down to the pond – probably an emperor – but we didn’t see it for long enough to be sure. Ian finished the new pontoons at the wildlife pond and noticed clouds of red creatures in the water. Not sure what they were.

21 May mowing patches in the lodge field (and later at the community trees in Winkleigh. Broad bodied chaser at the wildlife pond below Balebarn Lodge

20 May Ian working on pontoons at the pond.

17 Dragonfly at the pond – not sure which kind as seen too briefly. Thrush chicks getting big now.

13 May planted vetch seedlings into mole hills in the field below Balebarn – grown from seeds collected from local hedgerows. But with this prolonged dry spell, we’re not sure how well they will take.

12 May mowing the orchard on both sides of the driveway.

10 May Large red damselflies at the pond in greater numbers now – and 2 demoiselles, though we’re not entirely sure which species.

9 May, a bat was flying by the wildlife pond mid afternoon – unusual

8 May Azure damselflies now at the pond. and about 6-20 large red damselflies.

7 May mow Otter garden. No dragons or damsels at the pond today. Mowed the labyrinth

6 May Ian mowed paths, Maggie collected molehills. Cut and replanted 2 batches of phragmities, moving them from the wildlife pond to the corner of the lodge field. But if it remains dry they may struggle to root. The moorhen has chicks.

4 May 1 back pack of spot spraying for creeping thistle.

2 May patch mowing in the lodge field

April at Wheatland Farm

30th April – it rained!!

28 April – a blackbird has 4 eggs in a nest right above the door to Beech Lodge. We can’t disturb it – maybe they will make it to fledge before lockdown lifts.

26 April. A song thrush is sitting on eggs in the woodshed.

24 April. We picked up the branches Ian cut from the willows along the western side of the lodge field and burnt the brash.

23 April. Just 15 wagtails on the wires at dusk now. We burnt the bonfire pile on Lower Newland Moor, checking carefully for reptiles and burning bit by bit to keep the footprint small. It’s good to get it done before the grazing season.

22 April. First dragonfly/damselfly of the year spotted at Wheatland Farm – a large red damsel at the small scrapes in the field below Balebarn. Interestingly, it was 11 May before we saw this species in 2019. Also several lovely moths on the timber cladding at Balebarn. Plenty of butterflies around too – saw orange tip, peacock, brimstone, red admiral and a small white today. And in the polytunnel there are usually at least 3 species of bumblebee at any one time. Common carder, red tailed, early, buff tailed are all common.

20 April. Lots of patch mowing today.

18 April. Ian saw a Holly Blue butterfly in the lodge field – last year we saw one on the 9th April, but they are not that common at Wheatland Farm.

16 April. Spot spraying creeping thistle and curled dock with grazon. Not a pleasant job, but if we don’t, they quickly get out of control – a legacy of previous over grazing and mismanagement. Some areas we will simply mow repeatedly, but some need a bit more active management. Plenty of butterflies around – peacocks, whites, and of course plenty of orange tips now. The lady’s smock is in flower in the lodge field – their larval food plant. Here’s a post from a previous April.

15 April. Sadly, yet more ash needs to come down along the lodge path, because of ash die back. We are fostering tree seedlings that spring up in the gaps. Ian did some chainsaw work today while the lodges remain covid-empty.

13 April. Ian cut back the grey alder that has started forming a line of trees alongside the wildlife pond below Balebarn Lodge. Ponds always want to return to woodland! We have put the trimmings on the brash pile by the pond side – good habitat for overwintering creatures and especially reptiles. Mowed the far side of the orchard with the brush cutter mower.

12 April. Took the scythe to brambles encroaching from the trees between the lodges, and also behind the little pond that takes the Beech Lodge Hot Tub water.

11 April. Speckled wood, green veined white, tree bumble bee are all new species for the year. Did a bee walk. Ian cleared brash from around the lodges.

10 April Collected molehills to use to grow tomatoes! Wood anemone I planted out earlier are now flowering – and the clusters appear to be thriving.

8 April Pollarding willows near the swings and slide in the lodge field- and using the stems to make a hurdle fence in our garden.

7 April Cutting rushes fringing the wildlife pond below Balebarn Lodge with the scythe, then burning them on the recently cleared bramble patch.

6 April. Raven croaking overhead. Mowed some of the established patches and cut back some of the willows near Balebarn Hot Tub. With no guests any time soon, it’s a chance to take them down a bit and get more light to the red willow we want to encourage behind.

5 April – Swallows first seen here at Wheatland Farm, 2020. Also, a black cap is singing in the willow trees, and by the pond up to 4 peacock butterflies were to be seen tussling mid air together, and a brimstone flitted by. A walk around the farm found the primroses on Popehouse Moor in full bloom. Here’s a pic of the patch, for reference.

3 April Mowed labyrinth – hope to grow some birdsfoot trefoil in the gaps where we’ve taken out thistles.

2 April Phragmites are just showing new growth. Used grazon to spot spray some docks in the Lodge field and below Balebarn. Cleared bramble from the new wildflower area near the polytunnel – it encroaches fast. Chicory and birdsfoot trefoil are already showing here, as is yarrow and of course plenty of ox eye daisy.

1 April – a garden bumblebee seen at the polytunnel. Planted out several tufts of wood anemone – grown from local (Hollocombe) seed and found in a neglected tub when clearing out behind the polytunnel. These are now in the woodland fringe between Lower Newland Moor and the Lodge field, on both sides of the gate.

Also planted out last year’s devils bit scabious plants, grown from local seed. These have gone to the late lawn in front of Beech Lodge and into a patch below Balebarn Lodge.

Mowed patches of soft rush on Lower Newland Moor, where it is starting to dominate again. If we do nothing we’ll be back to the situation where we needed the Devon Wildlife Trust to come and help us weed wipe. So used the brushcutter to mow ‘spots’. We have not cut into the really densely rushy and very wet bit where birds might nest, but have picked areas where tussocks seem to be taking hold where they weren’t before. We have tried to record the position, though not entirely sure how accurate these readings are:

Rush Spots Lower Newland Moor
DiameterLatLong
550.872975-3.926653
550.872847-3.926472
550.872753-3.926643
1050.872716-3.926964
550.872670-3.926313
550.872435-3.926814
550.872323-3.927374
450.872639-3.927801
550.872820-3.927758

Found a small tortoiseshell butterfly on the wing in this field. Also used the brush cutter on the patch below the wildlife pond – need to reduce docks and thistles here, and stop bramble advancing.

Mowed the garden side of the orchard with the brush cutter, so keeping the grass long but in check.

March at Wheatland Farm

29 March pollarded some of the young trees near Beech Lodge, as with no guests looks don’t matter much right now. So we lowered some of the fast growing alder. Also took down some of the ‘goat willow’ now becoming rather large near Balebarn Lodge. Making them lower and bushier will keep them out of the overhead wires and help shade out unwanted nettles etc on the old manure pile.

28 March. A bumble bee survey (all within our own property, so no lock down flouted). Hairy footed flower bees are out and about. An early bumblebee and 3 buff tailed bumblebees plus one seen flying too high to identify. 2 snipe, one on Lower Newland Moor, one on Popehouse Moor. Cutting some patches in the pond field with the brush cutter – this time including the ‘left several years’ bits, especially where they are starting to go to bramble by the pond itself. Also, topping old stems and tree saplings in the wildflower strip alongside the pond, just to the north of the mown path.

27 March Tree creeper in the orchard. Burning the cut brambles on Popehouse Moor.

26 March. Marsh /Willow tit seen by the back door. Cut another bramble patch on Popehouse Moor – there is plenty of work there to do. At present, you can still see into the patches and be sure there are no nests. A frog hopped away as I was cutting, peacock and comma butterflies are around, and dark edged bee flies (could see the wing pattern in photos).

25 March bee fly nectaring on forget me not by the farmhouse, near the bank where the mining bees are numerous (up to 10 at a time). Not sure which species, as it didn’t hang around long enough to see close up.

24 March. Clearing up the previously cut brambles on Popehouse Moor, and burning them. Fire almost got out of hand. Peacock butterflies, a raven croaking chiff chaff calling.

21 March. Mowing patches in the field below Balebarn Lodge, for land management purposes as much as aesthetics, as cornonavirus means most guests are cancelling. But not the wildlife!

20 March. Finally, some of the grass is dry enough to mow with the brushcutter. We did the orchard patches, and the late lawns in the lodge field.

19 March. 5 new bird boxes put up around Wheatland Farm. More evidence of something eating frogs at the wildlife pond, but nothing notable on the camera.

18 March. Nuthatches are mudding up the opening hole of the nest box by Honeysuckle Lodge. Here’s a link to last year’s brood.

17 March. Planted 5 new whips of alder buckthorn, food plant of the brimstone butterfly – two between Beech Lodge and Nuthatch Lodge and 3 at the edge of the field below Balebarn Lodge.

16 March. First Chiff chaff heard singing – on Popehouse Moor. It was a beautiful sunny day, and a brimstone butterfly was flying near Beech Lodge. Another butterfly, with dark underwings, so perhaps a red admiral, was flitting about near Balebarn Lodge. Maggie was bramble bashing low growth on Popehouse Moor, near the entrance. Further along, long tailed tits were nesting in gorse. Maggie also beheaded a few thistles near the labyrinth, and a red tailed bumblebee queen flew up, perhaps disturbed from hibernation. Buff tailed bumblebee queens are becoming more routine sightings on sunny days. The corona virus is dominating the human headlines, but spring is unfurling oblivious to the disruption.

8 March more evidence of something eating frogs down at the pond. Wildlife cameraman Mark Smith says in Scotland otters dismember frogs… could we have an aquatic visitor? It’s a bit gruesome, but for the record, here’s what the carnage looks like.

7 March pruning back the copper beech in the old farmyard, so as to give the apple tree there more light. Two more bumblebees spotted. One was clearly a buff tailed bumblebee, the other appeared to have a black tail, so not sure what that was. Perhaps a trick of the light.

5 March parties of goldfinch still coming to the teasel heads.

3 March. Dry enough to mow with the brush cutter, so did parts of the orchard on both sides of the road. Buff tailed bumblebee queen nectaring on winter flowering honeysuckle near Beech Lodge. Still some wet days ahead.

February at Wheatland Farm

27 February buff tailed bumblebee queen flying in the sunshine.

26 February – something has been eating frogs at the pond – a good number (>10?) of ripped apart frogs in the shallows by the eastern reed bed.

14-24 February We were away. Several stormy days in our absence. But the thrushes are still singing in the dusk on our return.

8 February the crocuses have started flowering. We continue to pull typha from the fishing pond.

7 February Song thrushes in full song in the trees – spring is coming. Pulling Typha from the fishing pond. Guests leaving Honeysuckle Lodge told his they’d been thrilled to watch foxes just outside the lodge.

6 February – a sunny day, so we burnt the previously cut brambles on Popehouse Moor, far end. The actual bonfire was at SS6472609657 . Here are a couple of reference images.

After scrub clearing and bramble bashing, Popehouse Moor SSSI February 2020
After scrub clearing and bramble bashing, Popehouse Moor SSSI February 2020 – for comparison with ‘before’ image recorded below.

We also continued cutting the late lawns., doing several patches: the circle in front of Honeysuckle Lodge, the patch with the iron flowers between Honeysuckle and Nuthatch Lodges, and the section to the east of the lodge field, near Beech Lodge and the phragmites scrape.

4 February We used the new brush cutter to start restablishing our ‘late lawns’, which will be cut through the season until late summer. We hope to establish more birds foot trefoil and devil’s bit scabious here. The brush cutter has a high blade, so lots of grass is left, and just the straggly top trimmed back. Today we did the area in the field below Balebarn Lodge around the labyrinth. We also did some rough grassland management, restablishing the fire site for Balebarn Lodge, and clearing back near the phragmites scrapes in the pond field.

3 February Pulling Typha from the fishing pond by Otter Cottage. The intention is to return more open water, but to leave a central ‘island’ of typha for nesting moorhens – central in the hope that the water will provide some protection from dogs and foxes.

1 February – a spot of ongoing path weeding behind the lodges.

January at Wheatland Farm

28 January – weeding Otter Cottage flower bed – largely pulling out dead montbretia stems. Also weeded more of the lodge path.

27 January more work managing the bank beyond Otter Cottage, largely with a scythe to cut back encroaching brambles.

25 January More scrub bashing on Popehouse Moor, far end. Woodcock flew up from the woods near the entrance to the moor, and another from the fringe of the wood at the far end.

24 January. Used the brushcutter to mow the turbine walk – this is going to make ongoing maintenance much easier. Cut a trail patch of rushes around the turbine itself. It looks like this mower will make much lighter work of patch management.

21 January 2 woodcock on Popehouse Moor, and a flock of about 30+ fieldfares on Lower Newland Moor. We’re starting to cut brambles at the far end of Popehouse Moor – too wet to use any kind of machinery so it has to be with a scythe. For the record, here’s what it looked like as we got started. We knew this was a priority for this winter, but it was also recommended by the botanists from the Devonshire Association who visited Wheatland Farm last summer.

Today we also started clearing the bank of the fishing pond near Otter Cottage – where last year we found a mourning bee. This is something we do every year to keep brambles in check. Today we found what we think is a harvest mouse nest – we’ve found these around Wheatland Farm before too. We suppose it could also be a dormouse nest – but it didn’t seem quite big enough. Found about 40cm off the ground in bramble and rose, made using montbretia leaves. Definitely a woven nest, but also definitely empty.

We mowed the grass at Otter Cottage too. The smell of freshly mown grass….OK in its own way, but it’s not very January…

20 January a hare and 2 foxes seen on Popehouse Moor. We were burning the brambles cut back on 9th.

19 January tree creeper seen near Beech Lodge

18 January a snow drop is out by Beech Lodge, but most of them have not yet pushed through. A couple of daffodils are in flower by the pond next to Otter Cottage.

17 Winter clearing work by Balebarn Lodge, and in the undergrowth we found this enormous puff ball. We wish we’d seen it last year when it was fresh. The ‘size nine’ is for scale! The main task for the day was to cut the willow below the power lines. It’s always been the plan to keep these low.

Gigantic puff ball spotted January 2020 at Wheatland Farm, Devon

12 January planted an ‘Old Man’s Beard’ – a native clematis, at Honeysuckle Lodge.

11 January, still working on weeding the lodge path.

10 January burning some of the brambles we cut back from near the car park.

9 January cutting 2 patches of brambles on Popehouse Moor, towards the western end.

2 January: Cutting the red willow back on the wildlife pond island below Balebarn. Last year we left this too late, and a mallard was already nesting, meaning we couldn’t give the willow their ‘haircut’. We have used some of the willow in the lodge field, alongside the track at the western edge, where it will hopefully produce some winter colour in due course.

December at Wheatland Farm

29 December – saw a butterfly briefly in the sunshine near Balebarn Lodge. Can’t be sure what it was, possibly peacock. We were out enjoying the Devon sunshine too, and tidying up some of the dead plant material near the small ponds.

25 December, sowing some poppy seeds in the lodge field. Wheatland Farm’s Christmas guests are enjoying the sunshine, with the windows open.

24 December We’ve spotted daffodil leaves poking through the leaves along the driveway.

14 December starting the annual task of weeding the lodge path.

7 December – Despite being busy cleaning, we are on high alert as a friend of a friend called to say the Eggesford Hunt were out just to the North of Wheatland Farm.

6 December 3 snipe on Lower Newland Moor

3 December A red admiral butterfly is enjoying winter sunshine on the ivy by Otter Cottage. We have started clearing fallen leaves from the track through the lodge field, and from the seasonal pond area, so they don’t kill the grass.

2 December 5 snipe seen on Lower Newland Moor

November at Wheatland Farm

28 November. Whoo Hoo! We won Silver in the Devon Tourism Awards for Ethical, responsible and Sustainable Tourism.

26 November. Some more unknown fungi species to note, all from Popehouse Moor, spotted as we checked camera traps.

23 November Eggesford Hunt meeting at Kingsland. No notice given to us by the hunt, but thankfully no incursions either.

22 November having to take the afteroon to check the boundaries of Popehouse Moor, and look for disturbance to fox and badger setts, as we’ve been alerted to a Eggesford Hunt meeting at Kingsland tomorrow.

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 these are some kind of wax cap. 

October at Wheatland Farm

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. There was a small puff ball in the woods today.

15 October Fungi in the orchard. Unkown species.

Unknown fungi, from the Wheatland Farm orchard, 15 October 2019

11 October Pretty Pink fungi – we don’t know what kind, so are recording them here. They were poking up through leaf litter near the lodge path.

Fungi growing near the lodge path at Wheatland Farm, 11 October 2019

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.

September at Wheatland Farm

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. 

August at Wheatland Farm

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.

Elephant hawk moth caterpillar at Wheatland Farm

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.

July at Wheatland Farm

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!

7 July Awesome bumblebee activity on the poppies near the Wheatland farm house

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.