These last few months have been very stressful for many people as we have had to adjust to dramatic lifestyle changes, some of which have been incredibly tough, and we are hoping that easier times are around the corner for us all.
Our farm crops are all suffering the stress of this long drought period, and they are all trying to save water the best way they can. The hot weather, combined with many days of really high winds has really reduced the relative humidity of the air. The wheat is showing significant 'leaf curl' - an ingenious way to reduce the plant surface area and hence evaporative loss but we are really hoping rain is on it's way. It is incredible to think that those are the same plants that survived drowning during the severe flooding we had in the Autumn! The real extremes of weather that seem to be becoming 'the norm' are certainly a challenge and no two years are ever the same.
How Quiet It Has Been...
Most noticeable has been the incredible peace and quiet that we have experienced since lock-down. The calm sunny weather, no background traffic noise, no aircraft in the sky (our farm sits quite close to the flightpath into Southampton Airport) only the sound of birdsong, and the odd tractor rumble when Richard is out working. The quiet conditions reminded me of 2009 when we were visited by Sir Alan Titchmarsh (he wasn't a 'Sir' then - just Alan) and his camera crew. They came to film a documentary about the summer season and our sunflowers in particular. The filming took hours since they were constantly being thwarted by background noise; traffic hum, motorbikes and aircraft all added to what was a very windy day. It would have been a lot easier this year - although I am not sure how they would have coped with our mellifluous skylarks singing their hearts out. Here are a few old photographs of the day the film crew came to Street End Farm. We were a bit star-struck!
As you can see the sunflowers were barely out when he came, which was a real shame, but that was the scheduled day for filming, and they weren't able to change the date. The photograph in the bottom right was a just a few days later.
Skylarks in Abundance
Regarding skylarks - they have been in abundance on the farm this year and the birdsong has been beautiful. They like our open farmland, and the fields where we sow our spring crops for our bird seed business are ideal breeding and nesting sites for them. Skylarks advertise their territories by spectacular songflight. They only sing as they rise, then they hover, go silent and parachute back to the ground. Richard came across a skylark nest so took a photo to share with you. You may not be able to see, but there are 4 grey/white thickly spotted eggs hiding in it.
LEFT: The skylark. RIGHT: Skylark nest on the farm.
Skylark populations are in serious decline (in fact they are on the UK conservation status red list) and they do need to rear 2-3 broods per year to maintain their numbers. This is where the problem arises; their choice of nesting site is influenced by the height and density of the crop; not too dense (they often use tramlines) and an ideal crop height of 20-50cm. So you see, they need spring grown crops to offer them enough vegetation, but not too much. They are also very vulnerable to ground prey. This year they are nesting in our millet and our canary seed, and we are trying hard to protect the nests. It's a tough life being a ground nesting bird.
I have taken some extremely amateurish video/audio of the skylarks on the farm (with my iPhone) which you can hear here if you would like to enjoy. Sorry about the wind noise.
Ideas for Father's Day - 21st June!
If you are still searching for a nice gift for your Dad, we love these new wireless wildlife observation cameras. They are WiFi-enabled HD cameras. Download the free 'To See' app and never miss the action again, as wildlife motion will trigger push notifications to your smartphone.
As a gift from us to you, we will include a FREE 32GB Micro SD disc with the camera - so Dad can get going straight away! (There's nothing worse than not being able to play with a new toy until you get the 'non-included 'extras.)
Free 32GB Micro SD card included - you won't miss the action ever again!
£149.99 - Find Out More Here
Introducing the Nature Oasis Bird Bath
One thing that gives us most enjoyment is watching our garden birds splashing around in water, especially during hot weather. Dad might enjoy it too?
We have this lovely Nature Oasis Bird Bath on offer. It is lightweight and made from a new sustainable material called Polyboo - recycled plastic and bamboo. The birdbath measures 30cm diameter - so will find a home in the smallest of outdoor spaces.
It also comes in an attractive box - so we think it will make a lovely gift.
Lightweight, recycled material. Easy to clean and frost proof. Nicely boxed, with a decorative design and weighs 1kg.
Buy an Oasis Bird Bath Here
Set in stone?
We have been using the opportunity of the dry weather to repair and replace large areas of concrete in front of our grain store. During harvest, tractors will reverse into the grain stores with trailers full of grain, and the concrete will help keep the whole process really clean, and will prevent mud (since it will inevitably be raining at harvest!) being dragged into the store.
Sorry I'm plain!
Just an update on packaging. The huge and unexpected demand for our 4kg bags of bird seed meant we ran out of our branded bags really quickly and we have had to use plain white polyprop bags as an emergency measure.
It won't be forever, and our new bags are en route, but we are sorry our customers have received 'the plain guy'! But at least we were able to supply our bird seed - which we know everyone is loving, and we have had so many amazing comments from our customers and their feathered friends 😊 - so thank you for that.
Struggling with squirrels and starlings?
Top tip: due to the current crisis, supply of these ground feeder guardians has been interrupted - BUT I now have a small stock of the NARROW mesh Guardians, so if you are in need, don't delay because they are likely to be sold really quickly. You can find more information here.
Buy One Here
Well, that's all from me this month. Please take care of yourselves as we move onto the next phase of living with COVID-19. Enjoy your garden birds and thank you so much for being our customers.
With very best wishes,