by Dr Francis Buner, Senior Conservation Scientist, GWCT
Sitting on my garden bench at the back of my cottage garden on the Rotherfield estate in Hampshire fills me with great satisfaction and joy as I spend a relaxing half an hour after having returned from an office bound day’s work.
As I relax, I am surrounded by what must be some of the most wonderful wildlife-friendly farmland in Hampshire. I can hear an impressive evening concert of at least half a dozen ascending skylarks over an extended overwintered stubble. And I reflect that when I moved here eight years ago I could hear no more than two!
From my garden I can also enjoy the sight of ‘my’ nesting lapwing pair in hot pursuit of our local red kite that is circling over the lapwing’s plot for a potential evening meal. Sadly, one of the lapwing’s four chicks was most likely fed to the brood of Kestrels on the other side of my house - a situation confirmed by my GWCT Wetlands team colleagues who attached a transmitter to one of the chicks only a few days earlier.
Then I spot a sight that I really hoped would end my day - one of the re-introduced grey partridge pairs that must be nesting along the improved farmland hedgerow habitat. This specially created habitat consists of a 4m-wide grass margin and an additional 8m wild bird seed mix, one half of which lies currently bare in preparation of its re-establishment next week.
As the light starts to fade, the pair sneak out onto the bare strip from their daytime cover in search of a suitable spot to have a dust bathe.
Re-introduced grey partridge pair with colour-rings for individual identification. Photo by Markus Jenny.
Just next to me, in my own garden hedge, a yellowhammer is singing its distinctive ‘I I I love you’ (this is how we describe the call in my native Switzerland). It sounds like it is in passionate agreement with how I feel about the place and how very lucky I am to help shape it and be part of it.
In the coming months and seasons we will tell you more of these intimate stories and how we are able to witness them once again, thanks to wildlife-friendly farming, legal predator management and a good portion of persistence. I do hope that you will enjoy hearing about them too and that it will enable you to feel part of this wonderful wildlife journey of discovery on your doorstep.