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Spring on the farm

April has was cold, dry and sunny, as you probably noticed. We got the cows out at the end of March but saw very little regrowth of grass due to the cold and lack of moisture. We have also have had to feed them hay each day, to stretch out the grass, which is pretty unusual thing to do in the spring. What has been very interesting is that we have had a lot of migrant birds with or just adjacent to the cows, calling in on the way to their breeding grounds. These have included Redstarts, Wheatears, Whinchats, and lots of Yellow Wagtails (the first time I have ever seen them in the spring). The winter visitors have also hung around longer with flocks of up to 150 Meadow Pipits. They are there and concentrated due to an abundance of insects around the cattle, dung and exposed soil, in an otherwise unseasonably cold wider countryside. We also had a brief visit from a fine looking male Pied Flycatcher. This is a bird of ancient woodland so was probably on passage to the Forest of Dean or Wales.

Before and after - cattle feed one day (the left), becomes bird foraging area the next (the right)

Mobile bird hide

Our spring calving herd have all calved and the calves are growing rapidly. As I write this we had the first part of our annual whole herd tuberculosis test yesterday with the second part and the result on Friday. It involves getting all 161 cattle in, 4 people and the vet for about 4 hours, twice, with each animal injected twice and skin thickness measured. On Friday the vet will measure the skin thickness at the injection sites and look for reactions (lumps). Fingers crossed we will get the all clear, but you can never be sure.

Cow 1018 who was 12 on the 29th April, with her latest calf

April is also the month our fritillaries normally appear. After a poor year in 2020 and only one flower, it was with relief that they appeared and flowered in really good numbers. Also because of the low temperatures they have lasted longer than normal and the flowering period has been extended. I'm afraid for the second year in a row we are not doing any fritillary walks here, but do go to North Meadow - they still have a truly amazing display, with some only just coming out, this coming weekend why not go and visit. Finally I was very pleased to find a couple of Green Winged Orchids just emerging last week. The green wings refer to the green stripes on their sepals - this distinguished them from Early Purple Orchids. May is a great month for orchid spotting - why not go to your local wildlife trust reserve and hunt them out, Lower Moor / Clattenger Wiltshire Wildlife Trust is highly recommended.

Snakes head fritillary in our Long Field at Waterhay March '21

An emerging Green winged orchid at Waterhay


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