Wildlife notes from the Farm

Latest wildlife update from Nicholas Watts from Vine House Farm in Deeping St Nicholas…

Our wildlife has enjoyed the moist summer, certainly we had several Lapwings reared late that wouldn’t have been reared at all if it had been a dry summer. Blackbirds are still pulling worms out of lawns to feed nestlings and that doesn’t happen in a dry time.

Perhaps the biggest winner on the farm have been the Moorhens nesting on the ponds near the farmhouse. In the April newsletter, I talked about my dwindling population of Moorhens – three years ago we would have had 16 Moorhens wintering on the second pond, two years ago there were only 12 and last winter numbers were down to six. Total numbers wintering here do include birds from other ponds.

Not wishing for another species to disappear from our garden, we built a further floating house on another pond, so that they could build two nests. This means that predators would not be able to see the sitting female in the house. Both nests are on their third brood and those young are all being reared successfully. The first and second broods are helping to raise the third brood in both ponds and so they are being well looked after.

A week ago, a nest was built outside the floating house on the edge of the pallet. This was used for brooding the latest young birds from the third brood, mainly at night and when it was raining. The net result is that we have more than 16 Moorhens to winter with us so building them another floating house definitely helped.

I am sure that everyone in the village will have heard a Cuckoo around this summer and I thought I would find eggs in several Reed Warbler nests, and I found over 50 nests. However, I only found one nest with a Cuckoo’s egg in it, and once it hatched it ejected the other Reed Warbler eggs the nest contained, to ensure its own survival.

In the past, young Cuckoos have had a very poor survival rate as they get too heavy and in windy weather the reeds or the nest give way. The young Cuckoo lands in the water and cannot survive. I kept a close eye on this one, especially as it was well up in the reeds, I put the nest in a wire cradle and bunched several reeds together. The Cuckoo hatched on July 9th and fledged on July 29th, which was the day before the windy weather arrived. Its foster parents had to work extra hard as it was in the nest for eight days longer than a brood of Reed Warblers would have been.

I was asked whether I should have saved the Reed Warbler eggs or taken the young Cuckoo out of the nest but to me this is an example of evolution at its best. How could it have evolved and how long would it have taken to evolve? It is absolutely amazing and the way that the Cuckoo manages its migration, stopping to fatten up in various places before it crosses the Sahara and the Mediterranean, how does it know to do that? Just mind blowing. It is diversity at its finest.

Don’t forget to look us up at the Bird Fair, I will be attending all three days and we will be on our usual stand. Our trailer for seed collection will be in the red car park.


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This entry was posted in Collyweston, Environment, nature, Outdoors, Weather, wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

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