Here is a season by season guide to spotting different nature & wildlife on your farm.
It is just a start, we need your help to build it up – please send in your ideas and help us create a rich calendar for what is on the farm and practical notes on how to enhance it: firstname.lastname@example.org
|NOTICING NATURE – AND SOME WAYS TO HELP IT!||ADDITIONAL PRACTICAL NOTES|
|INTRO||As the farming year unfolds, are you keeping your eye out for what wildlife appears on your farm?
What flower or bird brings you joy as the seasons change?
What can you look forward to appearing this month?
What wildlife might be on your land?
What more can you do to encourage it and enhance it?
Here is a month by month guide to help you farm for nature!
|This is just a start – please help us create a rich calendar to celebrate and support farming for nature!
What have we forgotten?
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|AUG||Hedge||Berries in the hedges are ripening||Brambles, blackthorn, crab apple, hawthorn and other shrubs will all soon be weighed down by their autumn load. These berries will be important food sources for birds such as thrushes, blackbirds, starlings and smaller birds going into winter.|
|Pasture||Plant a herbal ley?||This native grass-wild flower mix sown now increases the value of the area for wildlife, especially pollinators. Ask your seed merchant for prices.|
|Tillage||Create beetle banks.||Use a plough to create a ridge of earth about 40cm (16inches) high and 2m (about 6.5 feet) wide. Sow with tussock and mat-forming native grasses, timothy, cocksfoot, fescues. To allow wildlife to move to and from the bank, the distance between it and the field boundary should be less than 25m. These banks provide a habitat for many beneficial insects and nesting birds|
|Pasture||Can you find space to allow some tussocky grass and wildflower seed heads to remain uncut through winter?||Allowing tussocky grass and wildflower seed heads to remain, in field margins, along tracks and roadside verges, and in gardens, will provide food and shelter for invertebrates and other wildlife.|
|Hedge||In late summer look out for Honeysuckle.||You can find this sweet-smelling pink or white trumpet-like flowers peeking out of hedgerows or climbing other plants in woodlands. This plant attracts bees during the day and moths by night, so keep an eye out for both on these long summer evenings.|
|Let the Ivy grow in the hedgerow as a key source of nectar for the pollinators.||Some people worry about ivy growth but unless its causing real damage leave it be. It’s great for all the insects it attracts.|
|Hill||The colours of the Heather will be best around now.||A hill side of heather – what could look better!?|
|SEPT||Hedge||The bramble gives up its bounty.||What’s better than a blackberry and apply pie?|
|Pasture||Last chance to admire the Swallows and Swifts before they make their return trip to Africa||As we say goodbye to these birds, we can say hello to many more. Lots of birds visit Ireland in the winter.|
|Ponds||Autumn and winter are the best times to build a pond for biodiversity.||Avoid construction work in very wet weather as this can damage the soil.|
|Ivy flowers late in the year.||It’s a key source of nectar for the late pollinators.|
|Wildflower areas should be cut back once a year in the Autumn.||Allow the plants to flower and set seed first before topping or cutting. The cuttings then need to be removed to avoid enriching the soil. This is very important as wildflowers grow better on poorer soils.|
|Pasture||On the heads of Thistle and Teasel you may also spot the bright yellow and red of the goldfinch snacking on the seeds.||Leaving these seed-bearing plants into the winter provides food for lots of birds.|
|Ponds||Autumn is the ideal time to do maintenance work on a pond.
|Excess silt can be removed from ponds between September and November. This should be done in small sections over a 3-4-year rotation. If silt builds up eventually it chokes out the aquatic vegetation.|
|Winter is the best time to do any watercourse management.||Some streams will be too small for fish like trout, but all will have a community of mini – beasts. Light and shade are very important for this community to thrive.|
|OCT||Pasture||Whooper Swans arrive- listen out for their honking voice which can sound like an old-fashioned car horn!||Arrive from their breeding grounds in Iceland to spend the winter in the mild and wet Irish climate in wetland areas.|
|Pasture||Geese arrive on our shores and wet grasslands. Do they come to you each winter?||Ireland is really important for some of these visitors like the Barnacle goose, the Light-bellied Brent goose and the Greenland white-fronted goose. Accidentally disturbing these birds, moving them on while they are feeding or roosting, can really affect their body condition ahead of their breeding season in Northern climes.|
|Pasture||Allow tussocky grass and wildflower seed heads to remain uncut through winter to provide food and shelter for wildlife.||As the days continue to shorten, the value of autumnal vegetation in field margins, along tracks and roadside verges, and in gardens, for wildlife should not be underestimated.|
|Fieldfares and Redwings are snacking on earthworms and berries.||These thrush-like birds come to Ireland for the winter.|
|Tillage||Wild bird seed and other crops like fodder radish or weedy winter stubbles will be providing valuable food for birds and small mammals.||These crops will feed small birds such as the yellowhammer, skylark and linnet & mammals that themselves will feed predators like Kestrel and Sparrowhawk and even the rare Hen Harrier.|
|Hedgehogs are beginning to hibernate.||A Hedgehog entering hibernation builds a ragged, ball-shaped nest made from grass and autumn leaves. A well-built nest may be vital to survival as is choice of nest site. Ideally the nest site should be sheltered and safe. A site deep in a thick hedge (or under a shed) brings obvious benefits.|
|Hedges||Ivy is a vital source of food for pollinators ahead of the winter.||If you can leave Ivy in place, it will be of great benefit to nature.|
|Woods||Bats and birds may roost and nest in your woodland, particularly in old or hollow trees.||Resist the temptation to tidy up trees too much. Older trees or broken limbs might be really useful for wildlife.|
|Garden||Rake up leaf litter into a pile and leave over the winter months for moths and butterflies’ larvae.||Earthworms will break down the leaves to enrich the soil over time. If leaves need to be moved, move them into an area where they can be left alone for wildlife such as Hedgehogs and foraging birds.|
Farming For Nature Offers Best Practice Guidelines and Actions to take on different land types here.
This is body of work is supported by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and the Marine, and National Parks & Wildlife Service.