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From farm to feeder

A good year for wildlife at Church Farm Devon

What a beautiful summer so far. Apart from the occasional thunderstorm Devon has been hot and dry. Although recently I was a little concerned to hear our local BBC weatherman using a new technical term. Instead of 'heavy showers'  the forecast was for 'dollops of rain' - he was right. Each deluge was short lived but very heavy!

This year has again been good for wildlife here at Church Farm, especially bumble bees and butterflies. And now the fields around the farmhouse are humming well into dark with a chorus of crickets and grasshoppers. Twilight also brings out the badgers, still doing well and regularly coming in for their evening snack of peanuts. At least they have not demanded an increase in 'pay' after all their TV appearances!

Our prize for the noisiest creatures go to the kestrels. While the barn owls only managed to rear two youngsters this year, the kestrels again produced four.  When first fledged young kestrels are very curious, peering out of their nest site window or sitting on top of the barn watching me walk past below. If I pretend not to have seen them when close, they seem happy to stay put.

Our bird table near the house is again becoming very active. The squirrel busting feeder is doing a great job, providing more nuts for a new crop of great spotted woodpeckers, nuthatches and great tits. Further away up the valley, our big bird table is maturing nicely. It is a three acre field sown with a mixture of spring barley, quinoa and millet. The seed is for small farmland birds, particularly the rare Cirl Buntings that nest in our valley. After raising their youngsters on a diet of young grasshoppers in midsummer, we leave the seeds in the field for their autumn and winter feasting.

Andrew Cooper, Church Farm, South Devon.