In order to deliver effective on-farm conservation, it helps to know what you have on the farm to start with. By keeping track of species over time, it can also show if your efforts are being successful. This is often easier said than done, as although something like a lapwing is relatively easy to identify, some of the rarer plants and insects are much harder to spot. This is where experts like ecologist Graeme Lyons can help. In this blog post, Graeme tells us about the first in a series of surveys he is undertaking on a farm in the Eastern South Downs Farmers Group and some of the surprises he finds along the way. More information about Graeme’s work can be found in his blog – The Lyons Share.
Just one Prickly Poppy but lots of Rough Poppy. This is one of my favourite plants.
And in the Wealden part, lots of Corn Spurrey.
And I really like this shot of Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet.
Three species of orchid (Fragrant-orchid, Common Spotted-orchid and Pyramidal Orchid). MASSES of Common Rock-rose.
In the pockets of chalk-grassland, Omaloplia ruricola was locally frequent, a nationally scarce chafer. Not the best shot but you can see the variability here.
And the tiny Crytopcephalus bilineatus.
The site has dozens of territories of both Skylark and Corn Bunting. There was even a Corn Bunting holding territory on the Weald part of the farm, something I have not seen before. No doubt due to the population size on the top of the hill. Supplementary winter feeding and bird friendly stewardship options are really working. In the Wealden part, a Cuckoo was heard and a family of Nightingales seen with at least one fledgling spotted!
What’s really interesting about this is after being fully booked by the end of January, my first full year as a freelancer, I soon lost half of my work by the end of March. Yet by May, much of it came back including some entirely new jobs. This one being a new job I would have had to turn down this year but due to Covid 19, I was able to take this job right on my door step! The fact the day was sandwiched between TWO twitches made it even more magical, my first in years. The Red-footed Falcon below was on the way to the site but the Blyth’s Reed Warbler was a lifer at Beachy Head in the evening, my first new British bird in three years. Definitely one of the best days natural history in 2020. I can’t wait for the next visits, with five more planned, is 1000 species possible on this amazing farm? I think so.
I love surveying farms, they are often full of surprises. Over the last 20 years, I have surveyed many farms, rewilding projects and nature reserves and one thing that is so important to remember is that they are all different. Not just between treatments but all farms are different from one another, all rewilding projects are different from one another. A one size fits all approach does not work. Neither does seeing anyone of these treatments as the answer to our problems, that’s is a binary thinking trap, they are all important. If everyone did the same we would have a huge loss in diversity. That’s why a spectrum of different approaches is so important, most of the interesting stuff happens in the grey areas and not the extremes. And without detailed and repeatable survey work, we are just uninformed doing what we think we should do without any real understanding, a bespoke and informed approach, in both space and time, is vital, as no site ever stays the same. My new motto, since I heard someone say it on the radio, is “Embrace complexity and nuance”. Something that is sadly not popular in the days of social media, snap judgements and binary thinking we find ourselves in.