Wednesday, 8 June 2011
Farming and wildlife
I spent a few days in Spring staying on an island farm managed by my friends Mike and Val. It's wonderful to see how much wildlife gathers around livestock, to feed on spilled grain and to nest in the farm out-buildings.
The rich grazing land also supports lots of insect food for the birds. And because there are always people working around the livestock, the wildlife becomes very tame. I sat watching and listening to the starlings displaying, as they ran through their repertoire of impersonations. There was the mew of buzzards, honk of greylag, piping of curlew, and the alarm call of a blackbird, all pouring from the beak of one bird.
The livestock affects the landscape directly too. The cattle poach up the marshy ground, increasing the variety of dry and wet areas. Lapwings nest among these hummocks, beautifully camouflaged, the incubating bird like one more mossy mound.
I tried to travel all around the island on my visit, but was constantly drawn back to the farm-buildings by the inspiring mixture of wildlife, domestic animals and human activity.