Bees are too busy for the beach

It’s summer at Beer Mill in Clawton and the temptation to head straight to the nearby beaches around Bude should definitely be indulged but take a day or just an hour to sit in the garden. Wander the nature trails, close your eyes and listen to the true sounds of summer; the bees and insects busy about their lives; use your sense of smell and get close to the flowers and the hay; look into nooks and crannies to find the hidden colours and observe the lifecycles of the wildlife around you – tell us what you find, we miss things every day so extra help from guests at Beer Mill is very welcome.

As we have just passed midsummer’s eve the ponds are teaming with wildlife, so have a go at pond dipping – at first glance there’s nothing in the net but mud? 

Take another look …….ferocious carnivores of the pond, the great diving beetle! Froglets, toadlets, newts (yes many do survive the attack of the predators) scatter at your footsteps, dragonflies and damselflies cling precariously to stems while drying their wings ready for the final stages of their lives (keep a look out for empty exoskeletons on the grasses around the ponds)

Wise birds love Beer Mill!

An evening sitting in the garden of the Stone Barn at this time of year can be very rewarding from a wildlife watching point of view, especially with a chilled beer, glass of wine or a cup of tea – as dusk falls the creatures of the night get busy: brown long eared bats, pipistrelles, and 5 other recorded species of bats set off on their nightly hunting forays, flitting around the garden and hedgerows in pursuit of their prey – tiny insects and moths. 

 If you are lucky you might glimpse one of our beautiful barn owls glide through the garden at about head height on the hunt for voles and mice – they have babies to feed and it’s the young owlets you will hear with a harsh, rasping and persistent call from nearby.

 

Hedgehogs forage on the edges of the garden looking for beetles and slugs – yummy, keep an eye out for them on the approach track if returning late.

For some it is time to fly south and our warblers begin to leave, what so soon! For others it’s the perfect time to have their young; plenty of rich meadows to feed mothers and long grasses and undergrowth for hiding newborns. Both roe deer and red deer thrive here and give birth during summer months although they can be spotted on the trails all year round.

From mid August onwards we feel the gradual change beginning as the first blackberries ripen in the hedgerows – the first ones are always delicious and the best and a great source of food for many hedgerow dwellers and feeders – our dormice, wood mice, voles and harvest mice are eating non-stop in this time of plenty. The blackberries are followed by rosehips, haws, elderberries, sloes and more - it’s a foragers bonanza.

Before you know it, mostly because we are so busy harvesting in the veg plot that we don’t look up, it’s September.  The swallows are gathering ready to leave and the last of the warblers have gone. 

The nights begin to draw in and the trees begin to hint that autumn is coming but not before offering us their bounty of sweet chestnuts, hazels, beech mast, acorns and conkers – who can resist?

 

October, November, December

Hooray, we’ve passed the equinox and it’s autumn – no I am not off my rocker (yet)! The sea is at its warmest and best for swimming and surfing, so we are guilty of nipping off to the beach for an end of season dip.  The leaves begin to turn beautiful autumn hues and fall to the ground providing a crisp warm carpet for so many invertebrates. The hibernators, bats, hedgehogs and dormice are fattening up before going into hiding.

Meanwhile the red deer stags gather to decide dominance, although the camera traps have revealed footage of stags of various ages getting along quite peacefully when hidden in the woods. The females also gather and find cosy, sheltered spots to settle down at night with their young.

This is now the best time of year for surveying for dormice and harvest mice nests and reporting our findings to Devon Wildlife Trust and the Devon Mammal Society. 

These small mammals play a vital part in our native ecosystem along with the bank and field voles, wood mice and shrews – yet so little is known about them, how many there are, where they still survive. We have learned so much by volunteering and getting involved in these projects.

Without these little creatures we don’t have the owls or many of the other top predators like the illusive stoats, weasels and even true polecats all of which have been recorded here at Beer Mill.

Sightings of all these exciting animals are a matter of luck, but tracks and signs are always around if you know where to look and keep your eyes open!

Easier to find are the animals which move a bit slower but they are no less exciting. Many moths and butterflies overwinter in various stages of their metamorphosis, some of our favourites are caterpillars like the elephant hawk moth…

Caterpillars and our other invertebrates are a vital source of food for many of resident bird populations, although the elephant hawk moth looks like quite a mouthful even for a robin!

And so the year draws to a close with a picture of our favourite Christmas bird but surely not without a snowy picture? It snows surprisingly most winters but rarely lasts….a great excuse to curl up beside the log fire and wait for the year to start all over again.

The Robin: Britain's favourite bird

And so the year draws to a close with a picture of our favourite Christmas bird but surely not without a snowy picture? It snows surprisingly most winters but rarely lasts….a great excuse to curl up beside the log fire and wait for the year to start all over again.

Please note that The Conservation Zone is only accessible by guests staying at The Barn at Beer Mill. If you'd like to come and stay here - in any season - Click here for further information.

 

A Year in the Wild: January to June. Click here to view nature's winter and spring delights to Beer Farm between January and June.

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