Nature at the Farm
If you feel like stretching your legs a little further than the animal enclosures, you can explore the whole farm site by following our nature trail. Download a nature trail map here. There is a Wildlife Guide to accompany the trail which you can buy from the farm shop/cafe for 50p.
It’s not just the sheep having babies! Sit and watch the trees and hedgerows to see all sorts of birds dashing back and forth gathering food to take back to their young. Listen carefully, and you might hear the high-pitched “cheeping” from the hungry occupants of a nest. Some butterflies will have emerged from hibernation and be looking for mates so that they can lay eggs. The small tortoiseshell caterpillar loves nettles, so we leave plenty of big clumps for the adult butterflies to lay their eggs on. The pond is springing to life. Look for frogspawn or tadpoles, or the newts that eat them!
If you have any suggestions for nature events that you’d like to see at the farm, please email email@example.com
Photos: Paul Wilkins (Robin, Orange tip, Palmate newt), Arnstein Rønning (Nymphalis urticae Aglais)
The best time for wild flowers! These love grassy meadows where the soil isn’t too fertile and provide lots of nectar for all the butterflies and flying insects. Swallows and house martins have come all the way from Arica to spend the summer here; you might see them swooping around catching flies. Later in the evening the bats will come out of the woods to catch moths. Most baby birds have left their nests, but you might see the fledglings being fed by their parents on branches and in fields. Around the pond, amazing dragonflies might come right up and look you in the eye! If you stare into the water you’ll see pond-skaters, water snails and water beetles.
Photos: Paul Wilkins (all)
Most of the flowers have turned into seeds or berries, which provide food for the birds now that there are fewer insects. Squirrels might be gathering the hazelnuts that grow on the farm. In the morning look down from the farm to see a soft blanket of mist hanging over the city, and a sparkling sheen of delicate silk on the grass shows where money spiders have been busy spinning webs in the night. This is the best time of year for fungus; look on branches, rotten logs, amongst the grass, or in the woods. They come in all shapes and sizes, but the part you see is only the fruit – the organism has been growing in the soil or wood all year! Take a magnifying glass – it’s amazing what you see when you get up close.
Photos: Paul Wilkins (Coprinus plicatilis, Small stag’s horn), George Scarisbrick (Guelder berries, Rose Hips)
Nature isn’t so easy to spot now that all the creatures are saving energy and trying to keep warm. Cheeky House Sparrows steal the chickens’ food, and Robins watch the volunteers gardening – just in case they uncover any tasty worms. Badgers and foxes don’t hibernate, so if it snows you might see their tracks leading across the fields. Smart-looking fieldfares and redwings usually stay out in the countryside, but if it gets really cold they’ll visit the farm (and your garden maybe) looking for food and water that isn’t frozen. Even in January you’ll see signs of the spring to come; on sunny days birds will already be starting to sing to attract partners in their smart breeding plumage, and checking out suitable places to have their nests.
Photos: Si Griffiths (Fieldfare), V. Bern (Fox), Paul Wilkins (Blue Tit), Trish Steel (Ivy)