ANIMAL COLLECTION AND NATURE RESERVE
Spring 2021 at Tredivett Mill
March came in cold and with cold frosts at night, but beautiful sunny days.
Rooks were very late, finally deciding to nest with us and at last they have settled and are building nests. The harsh north east winds seemed to put them back.
Birds seen at the beginning of the month on our feeders and table were:
As well as buzzards
All singing and calling, wheezing overhead, ravens croaking in flight and Great spotted woodpeckers drumming and jays shrieking.
We put up 15 various bird boxes from tit boxes to stock dove/owl houses. As Rab went to take down an old owl box to replace it and then renovate it, out flew a tawny owl.
Needless to say, we left it there and the same owl is still there as I write this at the end of August.
The fallow deer are still very nervous. The emu however is quite relaxed.
On the 6th March, we had a first at Tredivett Mill, a pair of stonechats, obviously migrants, were feeding in our dog exercise field. There was a very hard frost and they were feeding in undergrowth. They were gone by the next day, on to either Dartmoor or Bodmin Moor, which are equally distant from us.
The young puma, now only two month is sitting outside with his mother.
The female serval looked very heavy so we separated her from the male.
We gave three young lynx to the conservationist and rewilder, Derek Gowe.
The male tawny is hooting in earnest now (10th March), day and night and for the first time has been answered by a female.
By the 11th March the rooks have completed three nests and on the 12th jackdaws have started to use the same boxes as last year, a bit upset by an inquisitive grey squirrel.
Stock doves are now using a large box in the deer stable.
At mid-month the night temperature was still only 80 and up to 100/110 during the day time, dry and pleasant but still cold.
An update on birds seen:
Long tailed tits
On the 25th Shakira gave birth to three delightful serval kittens and as always is a good mother.
We found badger and rabbit skulls on dog walks.
New boxes were put up for our little owls and kestrels and by the end of the month the rooks had made another six nests.
I was lucky enough to witness the wild foxes mating on the same day I heard seven different chiffchaffs singing along the dog walk lane in thirty minutes.
Rab put up two viewing seats from which to watch the deer – all made from recycled posts and rails.
We planted one hundred and twenty odd trees in the dog exercise field, rowan, wild cherry, silver birch and hornbeam.
The rusty spotted kittens are doing well and beating their parents to food now.
On the spring equinox Cherry watched a pied flycatcher on our bird table another migrant and another first.
The jackdaws are making an awful mess, clearing out last years nesting materials while nut hatches are calling constantly.
On 22nd/23rd near Duchy College, only about a mile and a half away I saw our first red kite of the year.
On the 25th our first siskins of the season joined goldfinches on the bird feeders.
Birds are singing everywhere; wild garlic violets, celandine are now flowering with the primroses and daffodils.
On 29th March two Soay lambs were born, our first of the year.
Three young wallaby Joeys appeared from their mothers pouches.
On the 31st March, a male blackcap sang his heart out, another migrant.
That morning the dogs woke me early; the dawn chorus at 6am was astounding.
April came in more gently than March.
Bluebells, wild garlic flowers are out in good numbers. If you walk on the garlic, the lovely Mediterranean odour rises from the ground.
The dawn chorus is at crescendo level, led by a cock pheasant, with blackbird, song thrush, jackdaws, blackcap, dunnock, wren, rooks and chiffchaff.
Our first peacock butterfly was recorded on the first of April.
In an area near our captive ravens is a rough stretch of pasture where a good number of cowslips are out flowering and one of my favourite flowers of the spring.
On just one day on Sunday 4th April, birds seen at the Mill were:
Blue tit Mallard
Coal tit Moorhen
Great tit Tawny owl (M & F calling)
Long tailed tit Canada goose
Siskin (M & F) Song thrush
Chaffinch Carrion Crow
House Sparrow Rook
Pied wagtail Buzzard (six soaring)
By the 5th chiffchaffs have thinned out as have the blackcaps as they identify their breeding territory.
We now have five bay Soay lambs.
Several jays have been heard shrieking, again sorting territories.
Monday 5th hard frosts and a north east wind brought a cold night but a beautiful sunny, if cool, day.
The sixth Soay lamb was born, tiny with a white patch on his head.
Rusty spotted and serval kittens are doing well.
Early on the bird table outside our bedroom window we were greeted by a pair of pied wagtails followed by siskins, goldfinches and sparrows.
Jackdaws now bringing nesting materials to boxes, some impossibly long even up to eighteen inches to go through a three inch by nine inch entry.
By Wednesday 7th it was damp and cold and dull but no frost, temperature 70 – 90 in the day time.
On the 10th, dozens of ‘elver’, young eels were in our stream. On the 12th, I saw a common lizard in the Gypsy field. The cold continued up to mid-month.
I watched courting buzzards, moving from post to post nearer each other. Later they built a nest in the top corner near the Deer Paddock.
On Durrell’s walk lane I found a Devils Coach Horse, an ugly black beetle that I find fascinating.
We started to prune all the trees in the Gypsy field, so called as we have a Gypsy Caravan stationed there.
Once all the trees were pruned and thinned we repositioned the caravan and built a fire pit and horse rail to go with it. We then cut a good central area of well cut grass, leaving all the edges of this 1.1 acre field rough and using all the logs and pruning’s to make animal haunts all round the edge. The intention is to produce a park like environment to attract blackbirds, mistle thrushes and above all, Green woodpeckers. A sedge warbler was seen feeding and nesting in the long reedy grass around the edges. Alongside this we have now connected the pig and goat field to a natural dog exercise area with hard cut exercise areas surrounded by natural meadow grass and the trees we planted earlier.
The month continued cold but the last hard frosts were on 17th and 18th. On Monday 18th we spotted a clouded yellow butterfly very early, not normally seen ‘til May.
A pair of mistle thrushes were feeding in the Soay (sheep) field. Coincidentally, I heard a loud chirping frog like call coming from some rough brush as I walked the dogs along the mill lane I use regularly. I watched and listened and could not identify the sound easily. It turned out to be young mistle thrushes just fledged being fed by the parents.
Orange tip and brimstone butterflies were seen on 23rd April after a couple of days without frosts.
That day we drove across Dartmoor to one of our favourite pubs, the Warren House Inn, the highest pub in Devon. It was beautiful but cold over the moors. Birds seen included ravens, buzzards, meadow pipit and stonechat.
On our return we saw our first swallow.
On the next day (24th April), we saw four swallows at Tredivett Mill.
By the 26th, which was finer with a sunny with a southwest wind, there was much blossom on the trees; may, wild cherry and tulip trees.
The countryside was at its best with flowers all around including primroses, bluebells, pink campion, lovage, lords and ladies violets, celandines and wild strawberry.
Bird song was all around as well – chiffchaff, chaffinch, blackbird, robin, song thrush, mistle thrush, nuthatch, blackcap, hedge sparrow and wren. (I know hedge sparrows are now called dunnocks, but I was born a long time ago)!
Spring is most certainly here, a beautiful frog while cutting the dog walk paths and a baby robin in the drive as well as orange tip butterflies flying in the lane.
On 28th April we had our first rain for several weeks. The deer paddocks particularly needed rain.
The stock doves are sitting hard on eggs, they should hatch in May. When disturbed they fly from their nest box with a great clatter of wings.
On the last day of April there was a north east wind and a night frost but the day was sunny and warm. We spotted a fox feeding in the field opposite our bedroom as the sun went down. He was a very smart fox, almost orange in the last of the sun and had a snow-white underbelly.
May again started with a hard frost and a beautiful sunny day but rain came within a couple of days.
The dog fox was seen many times hunting over the next three days.
The early purple orchids started to flower on 3rd May, again one of my favourite flowers and after the rain, the countryside looked fresh and verdant. Bluebells were at their best when we left for Scotland which I have written up separately.
It was on the 18th May that we returned from Scotland. We were delighted to find swallows nesting in the barn. Three goslings hatched to the Canada geese on the Big Pond.
The later part of May was cold and wet and at last the grass is growing in the Deer Paddock.
On 30th we spotted goldcrests nesting on the ivy clad firs on which the jackdaw nests are placed. Simply found by watching the tiny bird, we would not normally have found the nest.
On the last day of May, Cherry saw a red kite within half a mile of Tredivett Mill and we enjoyed the birth of two lynx cubs, and in the wild young squirrels, rabbits and foxes abound.