While some farmers take cuts of silage as early as May, we leave our meadows to mature to allow ground nesting birds to hatch and raise their young, like this curlew chick on the right.
Had he been born in the field beyond the far wall, his mother's nest would have been mowed weeks ago!
One problem with too much fertiliser being applied to growing grass, is that smothers the wild flowers. We try to minimise that, while accepting that we still have to grow enough fodder to pay for the land in the first place. At Keer Falls we accept a certain loss of production in exchange for some less productive grasses and wild flowers like these harebells on the left.
The drawback of that is that we are then swamped in rushes and other weeds, that need to be controlled, or they will take over the farm and make it worthless for farming and we still have to earn a living. So we do have to control weeds and our preferred method is topping, or mowing grazing land to knock back the weeds. That however is a danger to ground nesting birds and small animals that can't or won't leave the path of the mower. So we take the time to search these out and protect them wherever we can. Like this leveret on the right, that appeared late in the season and which we spotted before we topped, or these lapwings on the left that we left until they had flown before we topped the field in which they hatched.
One of my favourite plants, a tiny little parasitic plant that feeds off the roots of grass and flowers early in the summer, the lousewort (on the left). A horrible name, for a very pretty flower. Like so many British plants, it was named because it resembled a louse and in the past people believed that God made plants look like the problem that they were meant to cure. They rarely did fulfil that use though.
Where I can, in hedges and margins in particular, I like to leave nettles for the caterpillars and we've planted a few buddleia for the butterflies, so imagine our surprise when we put a moth trap out one summer night and caught a monster of a moth! It turned out to be a lunar moth, Actia selene. This is a none native whose giant caterpillars graze on downy birch. With no mouth parts in the moth stage, it could not survive long in the wild and the only purpose of the moth is reproduce. How the moth got here, we don't know, but it was in such good condition that we can only suppose that it was released illegally. Releasing none native species like this can cause terrible damage and so, quite rightly, it is against the law, so we could not re release it.
In the same trap, along with loads of other species, we also found some poplar hawk moths. We have poplars and they seem to be doing very well and as this is a native species, we did of course release them, along with all the others.