Wild, Weird and Wonderful

Since my last blog, things have been very busy at Greenhillock so I have had to rely on our keen-eyed guests to report interesting wildlife finds. Well, they haven’t disappointed!
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Willow Warbler (www.arkive.org)

We have had two further sightings (with photos) of the baby Hedgehogs among the camping pitches, both in the late evening. Lots of people have commented on the large numbers of Willow Warblers in the hedgerows, their presence announced by the insistent, repetitive call of the fluffy yellowish-green fledglings. 
Our pond dippers have been finding increasing numbers of immature Newts and both Frogs and Common Toads have been seen feeding in the meadows. Amphibian find of the month, however, has to be a  splendid male Common Newt spotted by the Parfitt Family on their camping pitch in the South Paddock. Although they spend half of their year out of the water, we rarely see these lovely creatures, less still get to photograph them, so this is a real treat. Thanks guys.
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Handsome male Common Newt in camping pitches (Credit: Parfitt Family)

The purple flowers of the late-flowering Knapweed are attracting lots of bumblebees (at least five types have been identified) and butterflies – we currently have Peacock, Small White, Red Admiral, Ringlet and Small Tortoiseshell. Bug hunting has become more popular than ever and young guests have been finding an interesting range of mini-beasts. Without doubt, the best insect find this week is of two Great Wood Wasps. These huge insects are rarely spotted and are quite harmless, despite their fearsome Hornet-like appearance. What looks like a deadly sting at the rear of their abdomen is actually an egg-laying tube (ovipositor). Well done to the guests who remained calm enough to bring them to me for identification!
 
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Great Wood Wasp (nearly two inches long!)

My sole contribution is that of an early morning Snipe at the Wildlife Pond. I can also report the safe hatching of a new family of Swallows in the roof of my tractor shed. The parents are kept very busy catching increasing amounts of insect food over the North Paddock.
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New life in the sunshine

After a few days of heavy rain, when all self-respecting birds and insects hid in the grass and hedges, this week’s sunshine has brought new life to Greenhillock. The number of bumblebees has noticeably increased and a new batch of butterflies, mostly Small Tortoiseshell, has been feeding on the Scabious, Knapweed and Self Heal flowers in the meadows. A few of the colourful Burnet Moths can be seen most days on the meadow flowerheads.

Burnet Moth on Knapweed flower

Burnet Moth on Knapweed flower

Second broods of Bluetit, Great Tit and Tree Sparrow clamour noisily to be fed whilst Blackbirds stretch out their wings in the sun to help clean their feathers. Large mixed flocks of Swallows and House Martins have been soaring high in the air as their prey insects rise with the thermals. The resident pair of Sparrowhawk fly daily along the hedgerows in search of their avian lunch and just now numbers of Willow Warbler can be seen and heard in the South Paddock, particularly in the Den Zone.

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A Garden Bumblebee steals the Blackbird’s sultanas – note its enormously long tongue!

The Wildlife Pond is also heaving with new life and most of our pond dippers are catching newts, water beetles and larvae. The meadows are hiding lots of froglets and Common Toads can be found under many stones and pieces of fallen wood.

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Near-perfect specimen of Small Tortoiseshell butterfly sunning itself on a drying-up cloth

We are in the process of building a new Bug Hotel and this is something that camping and glamping guests can help us with.

Summer Sights and Sounds

Last weekend, one of our camping guests spotted (and photographed) not one, but two, baby hedgehogs in the South Paddock meadow! This is great news as it proves that we have at least one resident breeding pair.

Apart from that, things have been a bit quiet on the wildlife front at Greenhillock. The unsettled weather has kept down bee numbers although we have seen at least three different sorts of bumblebee in recent days, including one huge Garden Bumblebee using its long tongue to extract nectar from Honeysuckle flowers. Butterfly numbers are also quite low although the emerging purple Common Knapweed flowers are attracting Small Tortoiseshell, Small White and Ringlet, among others.

The Wildlife Pond is now buzzing with life and most of our enthusiastic pond dippers are finding Common Newts, Leeches, water insects and larvae of all kinds. Sadly so far this year, Dragonflies and Damselflies have been conspicuous by their absence.

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Greenhillock Guide Beth helps pond-dippers identify what they have found

Many of the hedge nesting birds have produced a second brood. Blackbirds and Song Thrushes can be seen at dawn and dusk feeding young in the meadows and the nest box on the Field Kitchen has noisy young Tree Sparrows about to fledge. Groups of Swallows and House Martins swoop low over the tents on their feeding flights. Goldfinches are singing musically among the trees and there are still lots of Warblers to be seen and heard – the one-note call of the Willow Warbler is most noticeable in the Den Zone. Best on the bird front this week has been a guest reporting hearing an early-morning Snipe calling. These birds are becoming quite rare in the area so this is very good news.

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An adult Snipe visiting the Home Paddock

As Summer moves on, Greenhillock wildlife is changing but there is always something interesting to see and hear.