Patience – virtue and necessity

After the earlier wet and cold spell and the more recent hot, near-drought-like weather, the long wait for the wildflower meadows to grow is finally bearing fruit. At the end of last week we saw the very first of this season’s wild Orchid flowers and over the weekend they have begun popping up in ones and twos all over the North and South Paddocks.

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Literally the first Orchid of 2018 – a real cause for celebration!

Apart from a few Field Buttercups, these provide virtually the only food for meadow insects just now and the grasses are still stunted and, with the exception of Timothy,  lacking their seed heads. However, it’s all there in waiting – Yellow Rattle, Ox-eye Daisies, Yellow and Purple Vetch – hanging on for a much needed drop of rain. Despite the dry, dusty nature of the paddocks, we are finding both frogs and toads in secluded places around the camping pitches.

Butterfly and bee numbers are still low but we did enjoy a special treat yesterday when we spotted both sexes of the lovely Orange Tip Butterfly around the Wildlife Pond- a first for Greenhillock. Even better, they were accompanied by the first Damselflies of this year (again, both sexes) and some pretty Green-veined White butterflies.

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A Greenhillock first – the lovely Orange-tip butterfly (male)

Other animals and birds have been quietly getting on with things so we have fledgling Blackbirds, Tree Sparrows, Robins, Yellowhammers, Rooks and other bird species noisily clammering for food from their busy parents. Best of all has been the clever female Pheasant who has successfully reared up to eight chicks under a gorse bush in the Den Zone despite the busy den-building and bush-craft activity going on within feet of her!

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Two of a batch of Pheasant chicks brooded and hatched under the noses (and feet!) of the many children enjoying Den Zone activities

I am sure that when I next put finger to keyboard, there will masses to add to the list of wild things to see and enjoy here at Greenhillock. Bye until then.

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Surprise, Spring sunshine!

Well, I finally emerged from blog-hibernation a couple of days ago so welcome to this first post of the 2018 season. The sun is finally shining, we saw the first Swallows of the year yesterday and our early 2018 camping guests arrived over a busy Bank Holiday weekend so I am under some pressure to put fingers to keyboard to let you know about what’s happening on the wildlife front here at Greenhillock.

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Winter is a tough time for raptors – male Sparrowhawk searching for a meal in a Greenhillock snowstorm

The cold winter (you might have seen our Facebook pics of a huge snow-plough digging us out!) and prolonged wet early Spring have impeded the growth of our wildflower meadows and slowed down the emergence of insect life and bird nesting. However, there is finally warmth in the soil and we expect the meadows to spring up at a pace so that can enjoy the first wildflowers very soon. Eagle-eyed guests have already spotted the first bats, found a tiny Toadlet and collected the first hatched egg shells – Blackbird and Starling.

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Grey Heron feeding on first frogs to emerge for mating – what an opportunist!

Not many insects on the wing yet but we have seen Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock butterflies and numbers of queen Bumblebee are feeding themselves up and seeking out ground nesting holes, so nature is on the move. I recently heard a lone summer visiting Chiffchaff singing in its usual location at the Wildlife Pond and the dawn chorus is building daily in volume and variety. A treat just now is a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming on a Beech Tree in the North Paddock to attract a mate.

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Tiny Toadlet found onsite this weekend – first of the year

As our rich and bio-diverse flora and fauna emerges with the warmer weather, we hope you’ll join us as camping and camping guests to share it with us.