News from Vine House Farm

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Whinchat by Derek Moore

Whinchat by Derek Moore

The Wildlife Trust's are grateful to have a partnership with Vine House Farm. For every bag of bird feed you buy, up to 5% of the profit goes to the work of The Wildlife Trusts in the UK!. Here's what they've been up to this month...

The star visitors of the month to the farm were two Whinchats. I saw them on July 15th and they stayed for three days. I see a Whinchat about once every three or four years and have never seen two on the farm together. They are a small bird about the same size as a Robin and are related to a Robin. They breed in the North West of England and Scotland; they would be on their way to Africa, south of the Equator, to spend the winter.

Star bird of the area was a Caspian Tern which appeared on the nearly dry gravel pit, in Baston Fen. It stayed for most of a day but was gone the next morning. Annually, only around two Caspian Terns are seen each year in the UK, so no wonder a crowd soon gathered at the gravel pit that Saturday afternoon

The breeding season is now over for most birds, but some pairs of Tree Sparrows will go on until the end of August. Swallows and House Martins will go on into September. They are able to feed their youngsters later than all the other insectivorous birds, because they live on the last stage of the insects life, the flying stage.

The breeding season is ending, because insects have reproduced, the adults die off and by September there aren’t enough insects around for birds to feed on. Their progeny winter as eggs or larvae and they will hatch out or wake up when the correct temperature is reached in the spring. Wood Pigeons will continue to breed as long as they have a source of grain, which they mix with water to make pigeon milk, which is regurgitated to their young.

Who would have thought 20 years ago that there would be Ravens in Deeping Fen? They have been around now for at least two years and are one of a growing band of predators we never used to have 30 years ago. On the farm this summer I have seen Ravens, which must have bred locally, whilst Marsh Harriers and Buzzards have bred on the farm. Kites are seen every day in the sky, so they will have bred locally too. Carrion Crows and Magpies are everywhere and there are plenty of Foxes and Badgers around too.

One of the main reasons this has come about is due to the pheasants that have been reared all over the country for commercial shoots. Apparently 40 million of these half sharp pheasants are released into the countryside every year. They get run over, they get ill and get wounded by shooters which provides all those predators that I mentioned with a surplus of food and any animal or bird that has a surplus of food will increase in numbers.

There is one more species that I haven’t mentioned, the Lesser Black Backed Gull, a very smart looking bird that we are seeing more and more. They have had plenty of food from all the outdoor pigs in Norfolk all through the year and also the afterbirth and dead young Common Seals that are breeding on the out marsh in the Wash. 3,000 pairs have nested on the outer bund in the Wash for the past 20 years and now they have spread inland with 40 pairs nesting at Deeping Lakes this year. They are everywhere and they require food such as carrion, live animals and birds as well, whatever they can grab. With modern agriculture being unfriendly to wildlife, every car being a fly swatter and all these predators about no wonder our farmland birds are declining.

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