Habitat Generation

Habitat Generation

Last winter we created a new hedge bank on the farm as part of our Countryside Stewardship commitment.

While locally sourced wildflower seed was sown into this fresh earth to help establish a grass, herb and flower mix of local genetics and native species, the first flush of opportunistic colonists of the bank is somewhat surprising and has left me scratching my head to work out where they've come from! This is a great sight and, in very practical terms, exactly the result we wanted. 

However, the blooms are not delicate like the native hawksbeards, trefoils and scabious. They are vigorous non-native flowers typical of a headland seed mix. Blue Tansy (Phacelia tanacetifolia) is a North American plant which is commonly sold in garden centres and agricultural seed supplies for nectar­-rich planting. It is currently drowning in a weight of bees, gorging themselves on the rich nectar held within. The current thought is that the earth used to create the bank had the seeds of this plant through the straw brought in for winter cattle bedding. This pre­loading of good quality dung certainly accounts for the subsequent strong growth!

While I was checking recently I saw something tremendous. Perched on a stem in the bank was a carnivorous dung fly sucking a drone fly dry. At this time of year our lambs are really bothered by flies and so every time one is removed by a natural predator, Peter raises a toast! It might seem naively inconsequential to remove just the one, but if this predator/prey interaction is being played out a thousand more times unseen, every few minutes, with buzzing patrols of house martins and swallows joining suit, then the outcomes are far more significant for the welfare of the livestock than is first appreciated.

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