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’s Devon eco lodges. Older entries can be found here: 2021 partial archive, 2020, 2019, 2018 or 2017/2016

June 2022 at Wheatland Farm

6 June a lovely early spotted orchid is flowering in the meadow in front of Beech Lodge – and not in the same place as last year’s flower (though nearby). Patch mowing the lodge field and also the Wheatland Farm orchard, on the house side. The apples are beginning to form!

3 June, the frog exodus from the wildlife pond below Balebarn Lodge has started! First emperor dragonfly seen at the pond. (Alongside plenty of azure damselflies, and some common red).

2 June mourner bee seen on Popehouse Moor where we’ve started scything the hemlock water dropwort

May 2022 at Wheatland Farm

30 May – we started scything the driveway, beginning with hemlock water dropwort, which we need to keep under control. The rest will be done in patches over the next few weeks so as to keep the habitat varied and the impact restricted.

27 May clearing the path we call the Evie Avenue between Balebarn Lodge and the treehouse. At this time of year it gets immensely overgrown very quickly.

25 May Nuthatches nesting in a hollowed out tree trunk on Popehouse Moor – the parents come frequently to the nest hole with food.

24 May – the baby robins are often feeding on the driveway. We hope they can fly faster than the delivery vans drive. Patch mowing in the orchard. Some yellow rattle is coming up, and plenty of hard heads. But the toppled apple tree has finally died, and needs clearing. Male bullfinch in the cherry tree eyeing up the tiny fruit. Common blue butterflies in the field below Balebarn Lodge. What looks like it might be otter spraint was found on the fallen tree at the entrance to Popehouse Moor SSSI. Last week a guest reported seeing a large dark animal swimming in the pond in an otter-like manner.

23 May – Cut the labyrinth with the hayerette. Meadowsweet is growing in one of the nearby patches.

21 May – the mower is back from the South Molton repair shop – so patch mowing in the meadow in front of Beech, Honeysuckle and Nuthatch Lodges, and the pond field below Balebarn Lodge.

14 May speckled wood butterflies now out. Large red damselflies at the pond.

9 May small copper in the lodge field. Mower to repair shop.

7 May Dark edged bee fly seen near the farmhouse. Trimming the fig tree by the recycling centre so we can paint behind.

6 May ragged robin is in flower, stitchwort abundant, but also red campion. Patch mowing, including the bit just in front of Honeysuckle Lodge, which hasn’t been done for a full year at least. Also the brambles under the oak, and the track to the turbine field. The fluff from the willow trees is drifting in the air like snow. There is a big patch of bugle in flower near the hot tub drainage pool in the lodge field – probably benefiting from the dampness.

Bugle in the meadow in front of Wheatland Farm's Devon eco lodges

5 May lots of cuckoo flower in patches in the turbine field (and frequent sightings of orange tip butterflies). The mown rush patches are green with young rush, but there’s also plenty of birdsfoot trefoil pushing through, in stark contrast to the surroundings.

March 2022 at Wheatland Farm

9 March clearing last year’s growth from the wildflower area in the old farmhouse garden – we probably should have done it earlier, but it doesn’t seem to be too late. Right at ground level the perennial plants like birdsfoot trefoil are pushing back through. We also took the brush cutter mower to the ‘long lawn’ area by Balebarn Eco Lodge, and the area where we’ll soon be reinstating the labyrinth for 2022.

8 March: Took the scythe to two of the wettest rush patches in Wheatland Farm’s turbine field, where at the end of last year we were able to cut with the brush cutter. Already, fresh rushes are ‘rushing’ back in, so it’s worth cutting them before the rest of the plants get going. A snipe flew up from some of the denser rush patches.

1 March: plenty of daffodils now out.

February 2022 at Wheatland Farm

17 February: We have had to fell another storm-vulnerable ash tree along the lodge path, before the forecast bad weather.

16 February: more willow management by Balebarn Lodge. A bumblebee was out and about – a queen white tailed bumblebee. We hope it finds shelter before the bad weather forecast for later in the week.

15 February – marsh tits at the feeders again.

14 February – a beautiful fox walked across the patio at the farmhouse at lunch time.

10 February the snowdrops are in full bloom now.

4 February – a barn owl was hunting over the field in front of Balebarn Lodge as dusk fell and a few wagtails came in to roost in the reeds.

January 2022 at Wheatland Farm

26 January we’re getting the mower out in this dry spell, as the ground has dried a little. Around the eco lodges we’ve done a first cut of the patches we keep short until late in the summer. If we’d been able to do them late in the autumn they might not have needed a cut in January, but the mower was out of action.

25 Great spotted woodpecker is drumming, a bit half heartedly.

20 January Snowdrops are in flower outside Beech Lodge, and nuthatches are shrilling their spring song.

10 January, cutting willow below the power lines near Balebarn Lodge. A little sun broke through in the afternoon, and a robin was fossicking for insects in the stirred up leaves. Around 3.20 the starlings started to arrive in small flocks. Earlier in the day the fields were alive with the chatter of feeding birds, probably a flock of mixed thrushes but coudld also have been starlings.

9 January It has been wet for days, but today spirits are lifted by the sound of a Great Tit singing ‘teacher teacher teacher’. Somebody knows the year has turned

8 January large flock of noisy thrushes temporarily using the trees at the northern edge of the farmhouse garden.

December 2021 at Wheatland Farm

Woodpecker and nuthatch are frequent at the bird feeders. A few individual flowers are still out – ox eye daisies.

November 2021 at Wheatland Farm

30 November goldcrests more visible now the leaves are mostly down. We generally see them where the lodge path joins the main drive, close to the scots pines – a tree that they like.

29 November Red admiral butterfly in some autumn sunshine.

27 November Marsh/willow tits are still frequent visitors at the farmhouse bird feeders.

26 November: clearing fallen leaves from the lodge car park including giving the tarmac a good brushing, so we don’t lose this important asset to accumulated organic matter. Here we pile the leaves to the north of Honeysuckle Lodge, rather than moving them any distance.

24 November: Clearing leaves from the driveway and around the sheds. The beech leaves by Beech Lodge look gorgeously golden orange, but soon they’ll rot and mulch, making them so much harder to remove. We sweep them up and cart them to the young trees near Balebarn Lodge, where we use them as a nettle suppressing mulch.

23 November: the timber cladding for the shed repair has been collected from Mike Moser’s woodland restoration project.

17 November: Managing the leaves! A week on and it’s time to get out there with the rake again.

10 November: still nettle pulling and raking leaves

7 November – pulling nettles from under the trees near Balebarn Eco Lodge so we can mulch with fallen leaves. That way all the bugs and beasties on the leaves still get to live on, and we get a bit more weed suppression. It’s going to take many years to get rid of all the nettles though, as this was an old manure heap in years gone by. A Red Admiral butterfly was enjoying the sunshine and flowering shrubs. Bats are still flying.

6 November Guests staying at Balebarn Lodge report seeing the king fisher at the fishing pond last week – they didn’t give an exact date. Starlings are starting to use the reeds at the main wildlife pond as a roost. We get our own tiny murmuration at dusk, then suddenly they all drop like stones into the reeds.

October 2021 at Wheatland Farm

30 October sparrowhawk

Frequent sightings of marsh/willow tits at the feeders throughout October. The nuthatches and woodpeckers are busy too.

13 October – interesting caterpillar spotted when patch mowing.

6 October migrant hawker, southern hawker and common darter dragonflies are at the pond. Still seeing swallows on the Devon lanes, if not at the farm.

3 October masses of red admiral butterflies on the fallen apples. The moorhens like them too.

September 2021 at Wheatland Farm

September is mowing month – the time when it feels like summer still but you know wetter ground will be with us soon. We take the brush cutter mower out and tackle patches of rough grassland, brambles developing along hedge lines (in the turbine field) etc. This year we did a late mow of the rush patches in the turbine field just before the cows left for Higher Punchardon Farm. It will be interesting to see how well that holds the rushes in check. Southern hawkers are lighting up the pond margins with their colourful flying, and towards the end of the month, the migrant hawkers started being seen too.

August 2021 at Wheatland Farm

16 Raking up grass from the lodge field mowed patches, including the gradually reducing circle in front of Beech Lodge. Mowing the paths.

14 August Common blue butterflies seen, a male at the wildlife pond below Balebarn Lodge and a female in the farmhouse garden.

12 August beautiful demoiselle at the wildlife pond bramble bank, plus southern hawkers, emperors, azure, common, golden ringed, blue tail, emerald damsels/dragons at the wildlife pond

8 August common blue butterfly male at the wildlife pond

6 August Mowing patches in the main lodge field – leaving the cuttings for a few days where there are lots of yellow rattle seed heads. Tackling some of the patches that haven’t been cut for a year or so.

3 August small copper butterflies in the lodge field.

2 August Common darters emerging at the wildlife pond, elephant hawk moth caterpillar at Balebarn Lodge. Cutting the grass bank at Balebarn Lodge and mowing patches in the meadow below the lodge.

July 2021 at Wheatland Farm

30 July managing back the willow hedge at balebarn lodge and cutting down and clearing the ox eye daisies from the farmyard.

21 July cutting some more hemlock water dropwort on Popehouse Moor. We’ve left it a bit late again, with our busy summer for UK holidays. There are masses of butterflies everywhere – whites, ringlets, small skippers, meadow brown, a few commas etc. Golden ringed dragonflies are being seen fairly frequently at the woodland fringe this year.

20 July Patch mowing in the field below Balebarn Eco Lodge – cutting strips into the long grass that is now going brown, so we don’t end up with a whole field of dead grass in September. It is notable that the patches we kept mown last year, but let grow this year, are now full of birdsfoot trefoil.

19 July sparrowhawk in the orchard, barn owl screeching at night. Guests in Balebarn Lodge last week reported watching a barn owl hunt the field. Common Darters are emerging at the wildlife pond. Cutting long grass along the Wheatland Farm driveway.

14 July guests in Honeysuckle Lodge are enjoying watching a young fox cub that comes right to the lodge lawn. Patch mowing on Lower Newland Moor with the big mower. The recent dry weather means it’s possible to try to cut the wetter patches.

6 July we are seeing young robins flying around the farmhouse patio now.

5 July Ian mowing paths. Added some ox eye daisy seeds to the rough grass outside Honeysuckle Lodge. The forecast rain will wash them down, hopefully.

4 July Guests are still reporting seeing barn owls hunting over the lodge field.

2 July goldfinches have a nest with nestlings in the young aspen just outside the bunk room at Beech Lodge.

1 July patch mowing in the field below Balebarn Eco Lodge, especially below the wildlife pond.

June 2021 at Wheatland Farm

29 June tree bumble bees still using their nest at Beech Lodge

28 June Ian tackled the ivy wall at Otter Cottage, stopping it going into the roof space.

27 June sycamore trees are developing seeds. We’re patch mowing.

25 June Guests leaving from Honeysuckle Lodge say they watched a couple of barn owls quartering the lodge field earlier in the week.

23 June Some patch mowing, while the sun is out. Maggie did some more scything of hemlock water dropwort on Popehouse Moor. It’s always a question – tackle the dense stands to ‘reclaim’ some of the more diverse flora, or concentrate on the edges, and the odd pioneer plant, so it doesn’t spread further? We think the later, first. We are a bit earlier than last year… but perhaps not early enough. Our #30DaysWild was hovering sparrows at the feeder. The chiff chaff nest has been pulled out – but it was empty a few days ago so the young probably fledged. Badger? Fox?

22 June The moorhens on the wildlife pond have a new brood. Golden ringed dragonflies are hawking over the meadows, and emperors and four spots are at the pond. Our #30DaysWild post was reflecting on this year’s butterflies at Wheatland Farm (well, so far, at least).

21 June – the longest day, but a bit of a damp one.

20 June Poppies are in bloom, along with the usual oxeye daisies.

19 June Patch mowing in the eco lodge field – and seeing toads leave the cut areas. They generally don’t seem to get caught by the mower blades.

18 June A guest leaving Otter Cottage says there are lots of baby froglets and or toad-lets leaving the wildlife pond. So this year’s exodus has begun! A male great spotted woodpecker brought its chick to the feeders at the Wheatland Farmhouse.

17 June The robin that tried to nest in Ian’s workshop, and then again right by our back door, has live young in a nest built into the cob where the hairy footed flower bees breed. But since it’s not their peak time of year we think everyone can rub along.

15 June Painted ladies are around – but these aren’t quite the first we’ve seen this year. But talking of firsts, we found a scarce chaser at Wheatland Farm – the first recorded sighting in North Devon, according to the Devon Dragonfly Recorder. There was also a golden ringed dragonfly hawking over Lower Newland Moor – Wheatland Farm’s turbine field. The potential chiff chaff nest is now empty.

14 June We’ve been using the drone to check out the rush mown patches in the Wheatland Farm turbine field, and see how the cows grazing is going.

13 June Found a cucumber spider on some stonework near the eco lodges.

11 June The cows returned to Wheatland Farm for their summer grazing – loaned from Higher Punchardon Farm. This year there are 8 young animals.

10 June small tortoiseshell and green veined white butterflies in the lodge field – we are doing some patch mowing so not everything goes over all at once, but mowing at this time of year is always a tough decision. We try to spare individual flowers that have not yet seeded (some cuckoo pint) but also know that the reason we have such a fabulous meadow is that it gets mown in patches….

9 June Flame carpet moth at Balebarn Eco Lodge – resting and camouflaged against the concrete.

8 June: we’re pleased to have found 22 southern marsh orchids in a patch on Popehouse Moor SSSI. But we also note there are young willows growing there, which will need cutting back. It’s also dragonfly time again at Wheatland Farm – we saw the first emperor dragonfly at the pond and also the four spot chasers and broad bodied chasers.

7 June Yellow flag irises at the pond just beginning to go over, and finally damselflies are emerging.

6 June Longhorned beetle climbing up a glass window

5 June a nest on Popehouse Moor, low down in tussocky grass, is probably a chiff chaff nest

4 June . Found a white ermine moth in a bathroom at the Lodges, and Barrie started an out of the window species list for #30dayswild

3 June Large red damselflies have emerged at the Wheatland Farm wildlife pond

1 June Hawthorn is in full bloom – a bit later than some years.

May 2021 at Wheatland Farm

31 May large red damselflies at the pond.

28 May great spotted woodpeckers are frequently at the feeders

23 May It’s a wet day and there’s a very bedraggled robin in the kitchen

19 May poplar hawk moth

18 May Green carpet moth seen on the driveway. Not rare, but pretty. Fresh looking too. Mowed the turbine walk and pulled nettles around the dragonfly. One azure damselfly (female) at the pond but nothing else. Transplanted some ox eye daisies from the polytunnel into the grass below the wildlife pond, where they should thrive even with mowing.

17 May Patch mowing in the lodge field and the pond field. We will bring some new patches into more regular mowing this spring, as when they get really tussocky we lose the diversity and the aesthetic appeal. It’s always hard to decide what to cut, especially balancing cutting now when spring flowers are showing against knowing that if we only have spring grassland there will be few flowers later in the year. Some where birdsfoot trefoil is showing strongly we will continue to cut because it does well in grazed pasture, and can be allowed to flower later.

15 May Kingfisher at the fishing pond. Three newly emergent damselflies at the wildlife pond (azure).

13 May Sadly, the robin’s nest by the back door has failed, and the robin is looking bedraggled. Something must have got it, possibly a stoat or cat.

4 May The marsh/willow tit coming to the feeder is probably a marsh tit, as we finally got some pictures and you can see the white spot on the beak.

10 May plenty of orange tip butterflies now flying.

2 May There is a robin’s nest in the ivy at Otter Cottage

April 2021 at Wheatland Farm

29 April Marsh / Willow tit at the feeders.

28 April Marsh / Willow tit at the feeders. There are baby moorhens on both of the big ponds.

26 April Brimstone seen flying – the first for this year actually at Wheatland Farm. Here’s what the cut phragmites patch looks like a few weeks on – it’s certainly bouncing back. The tall reeds at the back are what we left on this western side of the main wildlife pond. We plan to cut it next winter, and maybe some on the other side of the pond too, depending on what’s using the growth as a winter roost.

25 April. We think we’ve found Himalayan Balsam on Popehouse Moor, by the stream. Only a single plant, and we’ll be pulling it out and keeping a close eye on the situation.

We disturbed a deer on Popehouse Moor, or rather it appeared to be returning for its evening accommodation from neighbouring farmland, since it was late in the day. There is a clear ‘smews’ from the oak on Wheatland Farm’s southern boundary to the stream area, near where we put up a deer in the morning recently.

24 April, when cleaning Nuthatch Lodge a Large Red Damselfly flew up from its basking place near the front door – third seen this year. Interesting that it was away from the ponds. The Robin in the workshop now seems to be feeding young, but we haven’t actually looked for fear of disturbance. We just keep dolling out the mealworms, but softened in water now.

20 April Large Red Damselfly in the Lodge field. We used the new drone to take some images of the mowing patches in the turbine field, for reference.

19 April: Working with Alex strimming some loose bramble on Popehouse Moor, but checking carefully for nests first – did find a dunnock nest in one patch so left well alone.

17 April – first Damselfly of the year spotted – a Large Red Damselfly seen near the little scrapes in the pond below Balebarn Lodge. Speckled wood butterflies are flying too. Patch mowed the field below Balebarn Lodge, and Ian did the paths. Took the big mower and topped the rushes in the last 3 circles in the turbine field, making the most of the dry spell we’ve been having.

12 April song thrush seen carrying nesting material, and George says he thinks a tree creeper is nesting in the old wood shed. Ian and Maggie cleared some broken floating bullrush from Wheatland Farm’s main wildlife pond.

11 April Raven calling over the lodge field.

10 April, first swallows seen over the farmyard at Wheatland Farm – so time for the annual celebration cake!

8 April. The workshop robin appears to have started brooding – we think there are 6 eggs now.

4th April – bee walk with Kim and Euan. Section 1, a buff tailed queen. 2. red tailed queen, 3. 1 unknown (flying) and a red tailed queen 4. 1 unknown flying 5. unknown flying, buff tailed flying, 2 white tailed bumblebees on willow. In this section we also saw the first orange tip butterfly of the year and a common lizard. 6. 2 red tailed bumbles 3 buff tailed queens. 7. 1 unknown. 8. 1 buff tailed queen and an early bumble bee – quite a haul overall.

2 April – first red admiral butterfly of the year near the lodges, and the chiff chaffs are singing. There are swallows in Devon, but not yet at the farm.