Meet the Neighbours
get close to nature on a wildlife-friendly farm holiday...
There’s always something to see or hear on a wildlife-friendly farm holiday in Cornwall!
Managed sustainably, our small farm is a haven for living creatures of all shapes and sizes.
So, as well as the general baaing, clucking, quacking and cock-a-doodle-dooing from the farm animals, keep your ear and eyes out for the following…
With their distinctive drumming sound, you’ll probably hear the greater spotted woodpeckers before you see them. They live in the trees along the entrance track but regularly come down to the bird feeders in the front garden for an easy meal. Both male and female have a bright red rump but the males can be identified by the red patch on the back of their heads.
Did you know the classic twit-twoo call of the owl is actually two different birds calling to each other? The female calls ‘kewick’ and the males reply “hoo-hoo’. Living in the trees along the track and behind Stable Cottage you can regularly hear them calling each other in the evenings and early mornings. One spring, we had a cute fluffy owlet who stationed herself resolutely in the middle of the driveway and had to be carefully moved every time someone wanted to come in or leave!
You’ll probably hear this majestic bird of prey’s call before you spot them. Watch them as they glide effortlessly across the field, scanning or small mammals and an easy lunch in the grass below. There’s usually 2 or 3 working together, spread across several fields. When not hunting, you can often see them resting on the fence posts, waiting for some action.
Every April we eagerly await the return of the swallows from their winter home in Africa. They always set up camp in the barn, raising several broods and making a mess of Graham’s tractor (he doesn’t mind). When we had the new barn doors made we included holes, like toothless gaps, so the swallows could fly in and out freely. You’ll see them swooping gracefully across the field or lined up on the electricity wire, singing their little hearts out.
We used to have huge numbers of starlings here, from autumn through to spring. Their numbers have reduced somewhat since the bird flu regulations came into force, denying them their twice daily rations of corn, stolen from the hens. There are still enough here though that we can enjoy a mini-murmuration most mornings and evenings. The noise when they all congregate in the trees before take-off is incredible.
If you hear strange noises outside your window at night it may well be the hedgehogs courting! When they’re not feeling amorous, they can be found wandering the garden in the dark, hoovering up worms and beetles. Despite their little legs, apparently they can cover 12 miles in a night. Hedgehog numbers have fallen by half in the last 20 years alone, so they’re very welcome visitors to the farm.
We have a large population of wild rabbits, many of whom live in the bank that lies between the woodland and the field. You’re most likely to spot them in the goat paddock, where they help keep the grass down (and drive our dog to distraction). Watch out for their fluffy white bottoms disappearing into the undergrowth.
Voles & Mice
The Cornish hedges, built of stone and earth are a haven for small mammals. We also leave the grass to grow long in the meadow and around the margins. The resulting tussocky mounds of long grass and seedheads provides cover for mice, field and bank voles. Invertibrates love it too. All are a vital food source for the buzzards and owls.
You’ll often see foxes sauntering up the lane and around the fields, sometimes with a rabbit in their mouth. Dawn and dusk are the best times to catch a glimpse, as that’s when they’re often out hunting. But in the spring, when there are cubs to feed, they can be seen during the day too. They’re our least favourite wildlife on the farm to be honest. In the past they’ve killed quite a few of our chickens, which is why you’ll find them all protected by electric fencing now.
Birds, Lots Of Birds!
We have a wide variety of birds visiting the farm. Bullfinches, greenfinches, chaffinches and goldfinches are all attracted to the niger seed in the bird feeders. Sparrows and dunnocks squabble in the bushes, awaiting their turn. Blue-tits, great-tits and coal-tits all love the mixed seed we put out for them. And the robins and blackbirds hoover up everything the others may have dropped on the ground.
If you’re a very early riser you may be lucky enough to spot a deer or two roaming the fields surrounding the farm shortly after dawn. Roe deer are the most common in Cornwall. About the size of a goat, they tend to be solitary. If you see a herd they’re more likely to be the larger red deer, who roam around 10km a day.
Butterflies & Moths
See how many different species of moth and butterfly you can spot whilst you’re here. There’s an abundance of red admirals and painted ladies and a few more unusual ones. You’ll find an identification book in your cottage. My favourite I think is the pretty marbled white. There’s a huge buddleia bush in the drive, which may be why there are so many!
The woodland behind Stable Cottage is awash with pretty bluebells in May. The smell is amazing. On and around the farm you’ll find plenty of wildflowers, such as red campion, primroses, wild garlic, cranesbill, sea pinks, herb robert, celandine, blackthorn, elderflower and the good old dandelion, hated by gardeners but much loved by bees, so always welcome here.