Wildlife on our Smallholding.
We are very keen on Ornithology, Wild Animals, Insects, Butterflies, Moths, Native Trees, Shrubs, Plants etc.
We have several species here. The most common variety here is the Pipistrelle. They mostly hibernate from November till March. We get great pleasure watching them, mainly from April till October. They follow the tree lines and ditches. Feeding on the midges gnats etc, which are in plentiful supply here. We have a very large type of bat which hovers like a Kestrel. Some times we see 3 or 4 at a time, even as late as November. Without catching it I am not sure how to identify it. If there are any bat experts in the area reading this, give me a call or send me an email on how to identify it or better still come and have a look in the late Summer months.
Due to living in the countryside these are unfortunately not a rare site. We have land drain ditches, of which they live in the banks. When ditch gets full after heavy rainfall there entrance holes get flooded, so they look for alternative accomodation which is very often under sheds etc. They have very sharp teeth and can gnaw into a shed within hours. When you watch them whil;st they are washing and eating they can actually look very attractive.
We have a lot of these very attractive little animals, often see them flitting through the grass. We leave corrugated sheets on ground for them, of which they build nests under. In the winter, I am sure they are very grateful. The Kestrels, Tawny owls and Barn owls here find them a great source of food.
We are over run with foxes. I used to run my poultry free range, but due to numerous fox attacks I no longer do so. I now keep my poultry in fox proof pens. At one time foxes here, would only attack in the hours of dark or first light, but for the last few years will attack any time of day or night. I think this is due to the increase in fox population caused by the decline in fox hunting. Foxes here have even bit the tails of my new born lambs. Even though they have caused me problems, I still think they are a beautiful sight (especially a vixen with her cubs at day break in summer). In Autumn and Winter the sounds of them calling is fascinating.
No longer a common site here. Unfortunately the decline is due to the motor car running them over. When it rains they often go into the road in search of food. As roads and cars increase, population of hedgehogs decreases. I am lucky if I see 5 a year now. Going back 20 years, I would see them most evenings after dark through the summer, sometimes with young in tow. The sound of Hedgehogs mating is amazing, they sound just like human beings.
We are over populated with rabbits. In the Winter, Spring and early Summer months they thrive very well. Unfortunately late Summer and Autumn every year they are plagued with Myxomatosis. Transmitted by fleas and mosquitos. This is a severe and usually fatal viral disease characterised by swelling of the mucous membranes and the formation of tumour like tissue below the skin. This Very Cruel Disease was introduced into West Sussex by Man in 1953 to control the rapid increasing population of rabbits. By 1955 ninety five percent of the UK rabbit population were dead. The natural predators we have here, that control some of the rabbit population are Foxes, Stoats and Weasels. I may consider a few rabbits for the pot myself. After all, by controlling the population it should reduce the risk from the Myxomatosis, as infected rabbits also pass the disease on from rabbit to rabbit. It always seems to hit here when the population is very high.
We see them here quite a lot. They feed mainly on the rabbit and brown rat population. I saw a stoat recently with a rat in its mouth being mobbed by a magpie, it was a fascinating site.
Not as common as they used to be here. We see the odd ones in the ditches and the pond. They have a lovely round face, unlike the brown rat.
We see them here quite often, sometimes in the summer with their young following behind, this a beautiful site. Our cat Thomas came home one day with a weasel in his mouth, I thought the weasel was dead, so I removed it from Thomas;s mouth. It turns out the weasel was only pretending to be dead. It spun its head back on me like a snake and two very sharp teeth bit into my finger. This was a very painful experience.
Birds using our bird table regularly at present Autumn 2021 as follows.
Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Great Tits, Long Tailed Tits, Willow Tits, Nuthatches, Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, Greater Spotted Woodpeckers, Blackbirds, Robins, Hedge Sparrows, Wrens, Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Chaffinches and a Grey Wagtail so far this month.
We have a huge population here. We have several nest boxes for them, which are all occupied in the nesting season. They even use the nest boxes in the winter for sleeping quarters. They usually lay their eggs in April, so that hatching coincides with the caterpillar and grub hatch. That way the parents can feed the chicks well. We watch them from our window flying to and from the nest box bringing food about every 90 seconds.
Birds of prey.
We have Kestrels, Sparrow Hawks and Buzzards that we see nearly everyday on site. Occasionly we have a pair of Merlins. We see a Peregrine Falcon here 3 or 4 times a year (it comes for the Wood Pigeons). Once whilst I was on my mobile phone talking, I saw the Peregrine taking a dive from a great height, it smacked a pigeon that was flying about 20 foot from the ground. It was a magnificent site, feathers went everywhere. Before this, I had only seen this happen on television programmes. The Sparrow Hawks, kill quite a few Wood Pigeons here also. They also wiped out the 3 pairs of collared doves we had and they kill a lot of our blackbirds. In the winter months we sometimes see the odd Hen Harrier flying through. I have only once seen A goshawk here, it was passing through. Birds of prey that have been here, that dont belong is a Gyr Falcoln and a Harris Hawk at seperate times. They both had jessies on. The Harris Hawk was here for 2 days, it had took a shine to my chicken pen. The Gyr Falcoln here for 1 afternoon, flying from tree to tree. Obviously there keepers had lost them for sometime. In both instances I heard later that they had been re united with their owners.