Wildlife at Rutland Bio

Flowering Thyme is smothered by bees

Flowering Thyme is smothered by bees

The dozens of wayside and woodland flowers, meadow grasses, thousands of trees, the scores of herb varieties growing in the fields and the few ponds at Rutland Biodynamics support a remarkable web of permanent, semi-permanent and visiting wildlife, indicative of the biodynamic health of the farm. The following is probably an incomplete list of those we have seen:

Insects

“Just as the queen can be associated with the brood nest, the drone can be associated with all the foragers. The drone fertilises the queen; the foragers fertilise the plant world at large. It is not merely that they carry pollen. The bees, and other higher insects, are to the plants as male is to female. The life of mother earth comes to expression in the plants. From above the higher insects bring to the plants the stimulus, so that seeds may germinate in the coming year.” (Excerpt reproduced with permission from: The Bee by Bernard Mansfield, first published In Star and Furrow, Journal of the Biodynamic Agricultural Association, Issue no.110, Winter 2009)

Well hidden and often forgotten about, the insects, worms and microflora and fauna are the pivotal species upon which the fertility of the land depends. Look after the balance of insects and the land will look after you. The insects are, of course, the most numerous – too numerous for us to count, but most spectacular being the Emperor and the Hawker dragonflies and the damselflies. The varieties of bee are amongst the most important and it is re-assuring that most summers witness a bee colony somewhere on the farm. Amongst the butterflies counted, are included:

small tortoiseshell, comma, speckled wood, brimston, red admiral, painted lady, peacock, cabbage white, marbled white, meadow brown, gatekeeper and small copper.

Reptiles

Grass snakes are abundant on the farm and have their favourite winter hides; visible mainly in the height of summer, they are an indicator of the health of the insect world as well as helping to control slugs and snails. Common toads and frogs are seen most seasons. Both the rarer great crested and the palmate newts have been seen following very wet seasons and are probably present now, even though we come across them less often in these hot summers.

Birds

This is a long list, partially because, apart from all the garden and farm birds, our ponds are just about big enough to attract visitors from the world famous Rutland Water Nature Reserve, less than a mile away. One of the celebrated Red Kites (a bird with an enormous wing span) has been seen over-flying the farm and herons and sparrowhawks are commonplace. A pair of stunningly beautiful mute swans have made their home here the past three summers (07-09) and we are looking forward to their young one-day. Many Canada geese have hatched here over the years and return each year, having made the return trip across the Atlantic. Barnacle geese have visited but didn’t stay. We have been graced by a barn owl for the past four years and tawnies are a frequent site (and night sound). Grebes are occasional visitors and at least one of the varieties of duck, including mallard, wigeon, gadwall, tufted, pochard, and shoveller are present most days of the year, whereas coots and moorhens are virtually present all the time.

Terns and gulls follow the tractor in the autumn and are often seen at other times, circling higher and higher, looking for the tell-tale signs of interest far and wide. Lapwings too, are seasonal visitors in large numbers and pigeons and collared doves abound.  Rooks and Crows stalk the hedgrows and magpies too. Despite these, in and around the garden, we have seen yellow hammers and tree sparrows (sometimes in huge numbers), blackbirds, thrush, pied wagtails, robin, wren, blue tit, great tit, green finch, chaffinch, goldfinch and in May 2009, a male  woodpecker, resplendant in his flashy finery. Clouds of starlings whirl the sky at times, and cuckoos and skylarks vibrate the air with their characteristic sounds.  Snipe and woodcock are sometimes seen with  pheasant and partridge most days.

Mammals

Here spring to mind the sightings of roe deer, muntjac deer, brown hare, badger, fox, weasel, stoat, ferret, brown rat, rabbit, grey squirrel, doormouse, fieldmouse, shrew, mole and pipistrale bat that we live beside, with our dog, horses, cows and the occasional sheep.

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