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?
Do you have any useful ‘nature hacks’ to share?
If you have any queries why not put it in our Forum on the website and allow other farmers to answer. See here.
|NOV||Hedges||Plant new hedgerows and gap-up.||When planning your new hedgerow remember to maximise the benefit to wildlife by planting a variety of native flowering species grown from local sources. Also, try to connect new hedgerows to existing natural habitats to create corridors for wildlife. Look at what grows well in your area and plant in more of these.|
|Hedges||Think about some hedge laying to rejuvenate the hedge and improve stock proofing||It is also good to coppice species such as hazel, willow and whitethorn to create different age structures in the hedgerow. The ‘All-Ireland Pollinator Plan’ has some excellent resources on managing new and existing hedgerows for wildlife.|
|Hedges||Trim hedgerows where needed.||To best protect wildlife hedges should be cut between November-January. While hedgerows can legally be cut from the 1st of September this early cutting reduces food supply for wildlife. Ideally cut your hedgerows in smaller sections on a three-year rotation to ensure there is always some food available for wildlife. Try if possible, to leave some hedgerow uncut, this provides yet another type of habitat.|
|Flooded pasture||What ‘waterfowl’ visit your wetlands or water courses?||Wet grasslands, alongside rivers in floodplains, can provide really important feeding habitats for thousands of ducks, geese and swan that spend their winter in Ireland.|
|Woods||As dusk falls or dawn breaks you might see the woodcock, a beautifully patterned bird, who’s marking camouflages it well.||A secretive bird but being out and about on the farm late in the day – look out for these along woodland edges.|
|Plant some trees like alder and willow to stabilise eroding banks.||Alder coppices well and the wood makes excellent charcoal (and gunpowder!). Everybody knows the Sally (Willow) – a really easy tree to grow!|
|Garden||Hang up some bird feeders in quieter areas of the garden or yard, near to a hedgerow or somewhere they can fly back to for safety.||If you have any spoilt grain, putting this out say near a good hedge on a regular basis in the harsher winter months will feed a lot of wild birds.|
|DEC||Woods||Winter is the time to plant trees as they are dormant now.
|Try to source local native trees as it protects the local diversity. Larger native trees can include: Oak, Ash, Alder, Aspen and Birch (silver and downy). Small trees/ scrubs can include: Blackthorn, Hazel, Hawthorn, Holly, and Juniper.|
|Keep an eye out at night for the Barn Owl – easier to see in winter as there is less foliage.||Mostly found in the south and midlands. Likes to breed in farm buildings and will use special bird boxes.|
|In late Winter, the ivy berries provide a food source for the birds right through hungry gaps till March or even April.||Ivy provides precious shelter for hibernating butterflies and other insects. It gives some small birds a place to huddle together to keep warm on winter nights and helps them survive until spring (long tailed tits, wrens). Ivy can be left on trees except where there could be safety issues – along roads, close to houses…|
|Tillage||Flocks of Yellowhammers may feed in fields with winter stubble. The South and East is their main distribution in Ireland – the tillage areas.||Also look out for other seed eaters: Linnets, Green Finches, Reed Buntings, Bullfinches, and for Sparrowhawks feeding on these smaller birds.|
|Ponds||If you have a pond on your land, floating something like a ball on it will keep it unfrozen for longer, giving wildlife an open water supply in any freeze over.|
|Woods||It is a good time to see what deadwood you have and to keep it. Standing dead wood provides important nesting site for hole-nesting birds and some insects (solitary bees etc.).||If wood is fallen can it stay where it is or if in a bad position moved somewhere out of the way? Dead wood in semi-shaded conditions is good for fungi and invertebrates. Standing dead wood rots from the inside out and lying dead wood from the outside in, and so support different types of life.|
|JAN||Hedges||Depending on how mild the winter is, you may start seeing the Primrose flowering from late January||The Latin name for Primrose – ‘prima rosa’ means ‘First flower’.|
|Pasture||Depending on your location and the suitability of ground and weather conditions, you may be spreading slurry around now, so please think about safeguarding water courses from run off.
|Field margins and good buffer strips can really help protect wildlife in streams, rivers and ponds. Fencing along watercourses can help prevent both water pollution and bank erosion. See our information on watercourses for more information here.|
|Make a home for the solitary bees. These bees aren’t like honeybees which live in hives. As their name suggests, they make their own nests and lay their eggs in tunnels, such as in dead wood or hard soil.||Have you got some old, untreated timber lying around? Just drill some holes (between 2-6mm diameter) a couple of inches deep in it, and either hang it up or leave it as is, and you have made a potential home for the solitary bees! To be most successful, it needs to be off the ground, over a metre long and facing south. A bit later on, observe the solitary bees fill the holes of the ‘bee hotel’ with eggs & food and then seal the entrance with mud or pieces of leaves.|
|Woods||Woodlands will spread if you let them – do you have the space for a bigger woodland area?||It is a good time to think about this as you may be considering woodland or hedgerow management. Allowing a buffer of vegetation to grow along the edge of your woodland will improve its value for wildlife. No need to plant trees – they will come if you give them time and space (so called ‘natural regeneration’). This area creates a gradual change from bigger trees at the woodland edge to smaller trees and then shrubs giving way to grassland. In addition, if you have space, linking up wooded areas or expanding from existing patches of woodland will make a real difference. See our woodland management for more information here.|
|It is a good time to look up any wildlife management projects or other supports for special habitats or species on the farm that may be struggling locally or nationally.||Birds like the Hen Harrier and the Curlew have special projects trying to help them along. There are also projects trying to halt the loss of species in aquatic habitats, for example, the pearl mussel, crayfish, and salmon. There should be plenty of good advice out there for these species and often there will be grants to help.|
|Tillage||Any stubble left in a field, especially with remains of the crop and the weeds that grow in it, can be a good source of food for wildlife.||This is especially true if the field is not cultivated until the spring. Many species benefit from unsprayed stubble particularly the Linnet, Skylark and the Hare.|
|Everywhere!||Care for your soil. It is the basis of everything for your farming produce and productivity. Among the many benefits are:
Improved soil aggregate stability
Crop and grassland resilience (to drought/flood)
Reduced weed pressure
Adherence to Statutory Management Requirements
Avoidance of pollution issues
|Do not leave soil exposed or susceptible to erosion.
Avoid poaching, pinch-points, trafficking and rutting.
Nurture the soil and build humus – give back (healthy) nutrients.
Add species diversity to your sward.
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.