As you will have noticed we've had some rain. The barrage of Atlantic lows have come a good month later than last year which is good, but the effect is similar - wet fields under foot and extensive flooding. This combined with the grass growth dropping off has meant that over the last week, all of our cattle have moved from outside to inside. Its been a pretty good grazing season for us (nearly 8 months) so we cant complain. In fact with everything else thats happening we should be rejoicing! In order to get off to a good start next year I'm keen to look after our soils, so heavy cattle churning up mud is a no no. However the cost of keeping cattle in doors is high so many are tempted to out winter cattle. With our current numbers and system this isn't currently an option, so its a few months indoors eating our hay and silage.
But I would hate people to think I dislike the floods. They are a key part of the year and the land. Farming in such a dynamic landscape is exciting and interesting, and the floods provide lots of benefits. Whether you are a budding canoeist or lapwing, the changed landscape offers a whole range of niches to explore whether for fun, food or a safe place to shelter.
Over the last week we have had lots of avian visitors to the floods. These include hundreds of lesser black backed gulls (noisy), hundreds of black headed gulls (acrobatic), 200 plus lapwings, canada and greylag geese, little, cattle and great white egrets (the full set), grey herons, snipe, starlings, a flock of Widgeon (very nervous) and a couple of shoveler ducks (magnificent). And these are only the ones that I've seen - I am sure the teal are about but I haven't yet seen or heard them. The farm bird list for November stands at 51 species so far, I reckon that can get to 55 or more.
A couple of notes about the lapwings - whilst I love to watch starling murmurations, I reckon that lapwing murmurrations are awesome. At the begging of the week we had some large flocks wheeling round and round at about 7.30am right over the floods. When the sun catches their white underside it makes a great contrast to their black wings - really interesting to watch. Last year we had flocks of 200 and I mentioned them to a bird recorder friend. He has been carefully recording numbers for many years. He told me that for years flocks of lapwing under 1000 he scarcely bothered to count. Now flocks of these size are rare, and to me unimaginable. This scenario is called 'shifting baselines' we get used to what we are used to, and if we were never exposed to 1000 lapwings we might not miss the fact that those 800 aren't there - which is dangerous.
Anyway on a positive note, I think the number of redwing and fieldfares about must be a bit of a record. Waterhay carpark hedges are literally stuffed with them - why not go and have a look - the water is dropping.