Cold frosty mornings and icy puddles remind us that winter is still with us and spring will have to wait a while yet. In fact, the now more seasonal conditions are somewhat welcome on the farm after what has been a mild winter so far.
Though the grass on the higher meadow was, quite rightly, not for budging, the winter wheat had started to prematurely grow taller. A weather related “pull-back” will stop the crops becoming too advanced and allow a more normal progression into spring, thwarting the designs of pests such as aphids, which can survive mild winters and be a problem later in the year.
I have noticed with much excitement, that there is an increase in barn owl activity. Evidence of their meals is being much more readily discovered, even if this seems rather distasteful to some of my colleagues. This can only be good news for the owls and their breeding chances, and also perversely for the voles that the nocturnal predators feed upon, as they go hand in hand. The main feeding area would seem to be some tufty grass located behind the cricket bat willows, left un-cropped specifically for the benefit of wildlife.
Standing amongst the silence on Lillywood wrapped up warm and crunching the crisp white grass underfoot, I pondered the ravens. They have been quiet for a few days and may well be busy with nesting duties after treating us to their aerial displays. Even in the stillness though, there is soon distraction when the cool bright sun adds some welcome wintry warmth and clears away the lurking mist. I was struck by a pair of soaring sparrow hawks, distracted by the anxious screech of a hungry Jay and as startled as the rabbit I accidentally flushed from under the very dormant hawthorn. Motionless a few moments more, a pair of dapper bullfinch issued their plaintive low noted scold and a greater spotted woodpecker tapped beetles out of dead wood high in the branches of a tree. Despite the noticeable brightness in the plumage of these birds indicating their readiness for spring, I suspect that for now it is winter still, on the farm.