Wildlife On The Farm – July 2018

Wildlife On The Farm – July 2018

Seems ages since writing the last snippets with the summer break but plenty to mention this month. Lots of new arrivals on the farm over the past couple of months. Firstly on the first of June last year the Shelducks had 9 ducklings, which was a first for the farm.

On the first of June this year they’ve done it again but had 11 this time! Last year they lost most of the brood within the first couple of days probably due to predation from Crows, Magpies, Foxes etc. I didn’t see much of them after the first day and wondered if the adults took them away from the area where there may not be so many predators?

On June 12th the Little Ringed plovers had at least 2 chicks. This species have bred around the lake before but not for the last three or four years so it was nice to see them being successful this year. I was hoping the Ringed Plovers would also nest as there had been two pairs present for quite a few weeks and on one occasion I saw a pair mating! It wasn’t until July 21st that at least two tiny fluff balls were running about!

A new breeding bird record for the farm. Lapwing chicks are really cute, Ringed plover chicks are really, really cute!

Ringed Plover
Ringed Plover on the Ivel Valley reservoir

I borrowed some technical Bat recording equipment from the bat group. You can fix it to the car and drive or just carry it on you and it records every bat call and exact location and when downloaded you can print off a map with location of every bat heard and species colour coded. The first night I walked from home, down park pailings, along Mikes wood, down to the stream, up the field, across the park and up North lane and left it recording in our back garden for half an hour. Lots of bats recorded of three species, Common Pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle and Natterers bats. On the second night I drove and walked around the farm, this time loads of bats again but of four species, both Pipistrelles, Noctule and Daubentons.

While I was recording I just happened to be standing under one of the owl boxes erected on the farm. I thought I could hear something inside – A couple of weeks later the farm arranged for a bird ringer to come and hopefully ring some youngsters. When the ringer approached the box the adult bird exited the entrance hole but, unfortunately all that was inside was a dead juvenile owl which looked like it died many weeks ago! I did mention that there was another owl box a hundred or so yards away but that didn’t look like it was used but worth a look. Even the ringer said it looked unused as there wasn’t any muck or pellets underneath, but when she undone the hatch there was two Barn owl chicks! Another new breeding record for the farm. The first chick ringed was quite big, she said it would be leaving the nest within a day or two and the second chick was a lot smaller and wouldn’t leave for another week or so. – So we caught them just in time!

Other birds seen on the farm include Green and Common sandpipers, Little and Great crested grebes, Little egrets, Pochards and a single Common Tern dropped in one day.

But I had the biggest surprise on the evening of the July 24th. Even though it was a bit dull and drizzly I thought I’d have a quick look to see what was about the farm and lake. Two smallish waders caught my eye and although they were the other side of the lake I could see they were reddish in colour. I wasn’t too sure what they were so I took a few long shots of them but luckily something spooked them and they flew straight towards me and landed right in front of my pick up where I got some good pictures and could see that they were Knotts, aka Red Knott. It wasn’t till I read some recent Beds bird records that I realised how scarce they are in Bedfordshire, I think these two birds are only the 3rd and 4th Knott seen in Beds since 2012! Both of these birds were in summer plumage which makes them even more special as they are normally only winter visitors to our shores. It’s hard to believe but probably these two tiny birds were breeding in Arctic Canada only a few weeks ago! One of the birds stayed for four days and I’m sure it looked healthier when it left? The Beds bird recorder was really chuffed with the record and pictures!

Written by Dave Parsons, Wildlife Photographer for Ivel Valley