Great Barn Farm

Today saw the start of what I think might be a really interesting and rewarding wildlife relationship: A friend who I met through conducting Norfolk Symphony Orchestra, having discovered my interest in wildlife, asked me if I would be prepared to do some surveying on her farm. She’s very keen on regenerative farming and building good wildlife habitats alongside any commercial farming – something which is, of course, absolutely vital if we are to start to re-wild the UK and fight the effects of climate change and loss of biodiversity. I was – understandably – very interested!

And so this afternoon I drove over to Great Barn Farm to discuss the project with Sarah, the owner. She has some bird surveying already being undertaken by the RSPB, but it’s a large farm and there are areas that aren’t yet being covered, and she’s also keen to see what other wildlife, including flowers, mammals and moths, is around. Hopefully, with help from Brenda and James, and by using things like my thermal camera and a camera trap, I can help with building a database of sightings which might – over the course of time – help inform some decisions about habitat creation.

lapwing – one of many declining farmland birds which careful regenerative farming can really help

Today we did a tour of the farm: The scope for wildlife habitats is pretty immense and Sarah is clearly very aware of the possibilities for encouraging a variety of species. Very near to the main farmhouse we drove along a field margin and Sarah mentioned that this was an area where they had little owls. Suddenly – literally just after we had been discussing this – I glanced at the hedgerow to my left and there, not more than three feet away, was a beady-eyed little owl looking back at me. I had the vehicle window down already and this was the closest view I have ever had of a little owl!

Further on in our tour I glimpsed a bird of prey over the nearby woodland and realised it was a goshawk. This really is a rich and varied habitat already and it’s great to know that the owner wants to make it even better, trying to encourage farmland species that have been in sharp decline for years; things like corn bunting, turtle dove and even perhaps stone curlews.

I did manage one new bird species for 2023 on my visit to the farm: house martins were wheeling about over the farm house.

It’s a large area to survey, but I hope to be able to visit fairly regularly and begin to build up a map of the abundant wildlife. Watch this space!

New species for April 21st:
Birds: house martin