old country lawn

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Going Batty in the Woodland!

Anyone walking in our woods last Saturday night might have thought that filming was going on, of a macabre outdoor operating theatre;  serious people with protective clothing and rubber gloves stood around, headlamps glowing, lighting up the tiny specimens which they passed between them, under the gaze of a group of awestruck bystanders.  The experts handled their fragile captives efficiently and kindly, measuring dimensions, recording sex and physical attributes, and attatching minute identification tags.  At first the only remarks to be heard were 'look at that nipple!' or 'this is a big one' and the shrill squeaks and, in one case, screams of the feistier specimens, snapping and showing their sharp teeth and idiosyncratic ears.  This dramatic scenario was explained clearly and entertainingly by David Lee, whose tremendous enthusiasm and knowledge of the subject kept his audience rapt and amused for a good couple of hours.  67 bats from our batboxes had been processed, comprising Bechsteins (with many breeding females),Pipistrelles, and, a first for us here, one large Noctule, who screeched and grumbled throughout, before shuffling grumpily back up his tree and then gracefully winging away.

A wonderful evening's walk and talk, evidence of the dedication of a very special group of people belonging to the Herefordshire Mammal Group.
Unfortunately heavy rain at 10pm meant that the Harp traps had to be taken down, so we don't know what else we might have discovered - but we plan to hold more such evening walks next year.

Monday, 4 August 2014

News about a new Walk to be held here at Old Country Farm, led by
Denise Foster
Bat Co-ordinator, Herefordshire Mammal Group

Old Country Wood is hosting a Bat Experience Evening being run by the Herefordshire Mammal Group (HMG) on Saturday 9th August (19.30 pm till late).  Old Country Wood has a long term bat box scheme of 100 boxes scattered around the wood.  These boxes are currently being used by one of the UK’s rarest bats, Bechstein’s Bats.  A box check during the day will hopefully seek out one or two individuals for us to see in the hand in the evening.   HMG will then be placing traps around the wood to catch other bat species, starting at sunset which is 20.45 hrs.  This bat research  is part of a Herefordshire Woodland Bat Project comparing deciduous woodlands with plantations to determine what species favour each type of woodland and to gauge the amount of bat activity within each wood.    All bats caught will be identified and various biometrics taken for the project.  This is a good opportunity to  experience bats close up which is out of range for most people.

This event is weather permitting.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Next wildlife walk on Saturday June 28th at 2.30pm is 'The breeding habits of Bird of Traditional Orchards'.

  This walk promises to be very interesting indeed and will be led by Ben MacDonald, who has been visiting these orchards for several years to observe and monitor our breeding birds.  Ben is a natural history film-maker, working currently for the BBC's Natural History Unit, having recently worked on Springwatch, The One Show, and various other programmes.  He is extremely excited about our spotted flycatcher population this year!  Please come along for this walk and talk and find out more about the teeming wildlife in our orchards!
Refreshments will be provided after the walk.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

A small but enthusiastic group showed up for Gerald's fascinating talk on the botany of marginal areas recently.  We were well supplied with a plant list of 90 different plants, and succeeded in spotting a good many of these, including 'Town Hall Clock', Pignut, Wood-dock, Goldilocks, Mouse-ear Chickweed and Marsh Orchid.  Gerald's erudite researches and humorous style kept us all enthralled so that two hours passed very quickly.  Many thanks also to the members of Ledbury Naturalists and documenters from Bringsty Common for their contributions.  It was quite magical after all the recent cold and rainy weather to dawdle home  through the beautiful 'back meadow', a patch of unspoilt grassland near the old sand-pit, a place thats full of wild-flowers thanks in part to the current management regime.  We all now await Gerald's new book with some impatience!

The next walk is on Thursday evening, 5th June, 6.45 (its going to be fine!) and will be looking at Moths and their habitat.  This is something not to be missed!

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

The Farm Walks Programme for 2014

Gerald Dawe begins this season's walks programme with 'Botany on the edge', a look at edges, hedges and margins.  I look forward to another helping of Gerald's entertaining humour and knowledge.  The walk is to be held on Saturday 31st May at 2.30pm, with refreshments to follow .

Peter Garner and Tony Simpson will present 'Moths and other Insects and their associated plants' on Thursday June 5th at 6.45pm, a new topic for us when hopefully the evening will provide plenty of airborne examples to examine.

Ben MacDonald, our frequently visiting ornithologist, is to give a walk and talk on the weekend of June 28-29, in which I have no doubt he will speak about his work in our traditional orchards monitoring and observing woodpeckers and other birds, providing them with nest-boxes and subsequently filming them. Exact time of this event to be announced.

In early July we will be holding another 'Bat evening', when we will tour the farm buildings an neighbouring fields with our friendly experts and their machines which translate the bats' calls.
This is a popular event and I can testify that the amazing sound of the Lesser Horseshoe Bat in particular is quite addictive! Will's barbequed sausages are also rather nice!

On 9th August we shall be hosting a day organised by Dave Lee and Denise Foster explaining their work monitoring Bats, to which the public is invited.  This is a rare chance to see not only some interesting mammals and their habitat but to learn from some very dedicated and knowledgeable people. The details will be put up on the blog in due course.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Spring 2014

Its been a strange winter here on the farm - we spent much of the Autumn working on our large traditional apple trees, many of which needed urgent pruning, not only to deal with fallen branches and to improve their shape but to remove the enormous growths of Mistletoe which have taken over as the winters become warmer and wetter. Its even harder work than we remembered! involving straining one's eyes in the winter gloom to identify which branch to cut, stretching up as far as possible while balancing the telescopic saws, trying to stop the debris and sawdust going straight into your eyes, and avoiding the heavy growths as they crash to the ground! Then the gathering up and dragging to bonfire sites at suitable places in the orchards... The plan was to carry on after Xmas but the weather soon saw to that! So we only did about half the necessary work, and missed having the bonfires altogether. However, many birds (dunnock, blackbirds, robins) are very grateful, building early nests in the huge heaps of cuttings! So, no bonfires now until autumn.
The twisted, springy apple branches and fleshy mistletoe are not suitable for chipping - but fallen willows are, and we have laid down a good area of home-made chippings around the Studio as a thick mulch to suppress weeds and provide a nice floor for the picnic area.
Sadly we lost another huge old oak tree in the gales, as well as many older apple trees. Alot of tidying up and replanting to do!
The fence in the orchard behind the Lighthouse had to be replaced, and this time we opted for a cleft chestnut paling fence to divide the grazed orchard from a woodland edge, and were delighted to find it being made by coppice workers locally just outside Bromyard. It was no more expensive than anything I could find online, very strong, and should last a long while. Best of all, it is flexible and so looks beautiful in its setting. If you need nice home-grown and made fencing, look at Say It With Wood

Meanwhile dormouse and bat monitoring has continued through the winter and the Herefordshire Mammal Group is planning three special days here this summer, one of which is open to the public. If you'ld like to come along and learn more about the small mammals being studied here, and about how the scheme works, the date is August 9th, and it will be free, with refreshments. More details will be posted on this blog in due course. You'll also find details of upcoming walks in Botany, Insects, Woodpeckers and Bats!