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Now you can stay at White House Farm wildlife site and experience this special place through dawn and dusk.

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Nature Notes: First Impressions

Geoffrey Abbott shares his first impresssions of White House Farm wildlife site.


It was a beautiful autumn morning, at the end of September, when I paid my first visit to the reserve. This was my induction, with a view to writing about the farm and its wildlife from time to time. The immediate impression was one of a beautiful area of countryside – meadows of different character used for grazing and for hay, with mature hedges, trackways and woodlands – with many signs of careful conservation management. We met the grazing herd of beautiful British White cattle, surely one of the most attractive of all the breeds. 


September is too late to see the meadows at their best, with the wealth of wild flower species encouraged by the management system. I particularly look forward to seeing the several species of orchids in the spring and early summer. There were a few flowers still showing, however. The Fleabane, with its flat yellow daisy-like heads, was still in flower in, of course, the Fleabane Furrow. This flower prefers rather damp situations, so is often found in ditches rather than in open meadows like this. In the same meadow was the smaller but more unusual Common Centaury, which is bright pink and with small star-shaped flowers arranged in flat clusters. Despite its colour, Centaury is actually a member of the Gentian family, as a close inspection of its flowers will reveal.   


The birds at this time were all resident species, mostly in the hedges and woodland. There are bullfinches in the thick hedges, very obvious if you see them clearly, with the bright rosy breast of the male. In fact they can be quite skulking and hard to see in the thick hedges. A brief sighting shows the bright white rump rather than the colour, but the best clue is often the call, a quiet thin piping note, very distinctive once you know it. The tits in winter are usually found in mixed groups, moving through the trees and bushes. Among them were many peoples’ favourite, Long-tailed Tits, with their unusual pink, grey and white pattern, tiny body and long, thin tail. As usual, they were unafraid and approaching quite close. Two prominent calls among the tree were those of the Great Spotted woodpecker, a short, very loud ‘chick’ sound, and the Nuthatch, a loud repeated ringing call. Higher up over the woods and meadows a Buzzard was soaring, an increasingly common sight in Suffolk.


Good crops of berries such as Hawthorn augur well for the birds in the winter. In fact there is a whole sequence of berries through the season, ranging from the Elder early on to the Ivy well into the next spring. On my visit the Ivy was only just beginning to come into flower, when it is invaluable for late-feeding insects. Among these were a few Peacock butterflies which will rely on the nectar to see them through their hibernation. Famously, the various thrushes make great use of the berry crop, and I look forward to seeing the winter-visiting Redwings and Fieldfares.  








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