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four spotted flycatcher babies (you can just see the fourth behind the middle one) the day before they flew

We waited with bated breath for the rare Spotted Flycatcher to return this year. Our swallow numbers have plummeted and we feared for the flycatcher. On the 15 May we heard a familiar ‘tich tich tich’ outside our bedroom window – and sure enough there he was safe, well and nest prospecting. Surprisingly he settled for an extraordinarily sensible nest site too, in the apex of a small open fronted barn-shed outside the kitchen window; one that’s well protected and safe from predators. His mate soon joined him. We had a ‘birds-eye-view’ of all activities – nest building, clutch laying and sitting, hatching and feeding. Last weekend there was huge excitement and activity from both parents as they encouraged their fledglings out of the nest on their first flight. A success! Hopefully they will manage a second brood too. Watch this space.

Another rarity – the Lesser Butterfly Orchid. We found a small group of these rare and beautiful flowers in Hannaborough moor. Aren’t they something?

narrow bordered bee hawkmoth

narrow bordered bee hawkmoth

Manic, hectic, non-stop – and I’m not talking about the frenetic cutting and carrying of silage or the persistent hum drone whine of tractors, mowers, foragers, bailers and wrappers filling the air 24/7 as most of my neighbours rush to take advantage of the warm, dry weather – but of Robert’s weekend schedule. As you are, no doubt, totally aware…it’s been National Moth day, night and weekend!

chimney sweeper – a moth whose food plant is pignut

You may have gathered through various comments in other posts Robert has a keenly developed interest (obsession?) with moths – trapping, collecting, recording, rearing and photographing – the last he does with enviable artistic flare and skill. So the last forty-eight hours has been one continuous merry-go-round of places, locations and venues from first light till the early hours of the morning (most things moth taking place during the most unsocial hours). Moth traps have been set, county moth gatherings have been attended, special sites have been visited, recordings have been made and moths – ordinary-extraordinary, exquisite-dowdy, day flying or night flying – have been found, noted and documented, whilst friends, acquaintances and strangers have been persuaded, cajoled and curmudgeoned into participating in one form or another.

mother shipton – can you see the witch’s face?

I’ve cherry picked. Choosing to accompany Robert on the more social affairs, and during the hours when most self-respecting moths are tucked up sound asleep in some cool dark hideaway, safe from marauding predators, apart, that is, from the occasional unusual treasure – such as the narrow bordered bee hawkmoth.

I’ve snatched a hasty conversation with a pal on a log in an orchard whilst traps have been set and electrics wrangled with; sipped tea in the shade of a wild rose after a walk around a stunning triple SI in search of the rare Marsh Fritillary butterfly; and been refreshed with a glass of ice cold wine in the dappled sun of early evening having trekked across the moor for supper. I have also had time to enjoy the extraordinary beauty of our flower meadows which are at their peak and taken pleasure in watching and observing the stock as they contentedly graze and relax in the early summer sunshine. A perfect June weekend.

ragged robin in dillings

for heidi – our only lunar moth – a lunar hornet moth, not as impressive as yours!

Locks Park Farm

Thanks for visiting my blog. All entries are presented in chronological order.

I have a small organic farm on the Culm grasslands near Hatherleigh in Devon, with sheep and beef cattle. I've been farming in the county for more than 30 years. I've set up this blog to share views on farming and the countryside - please do give your thoughts.

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The Campaign to Protect Rural England has helped set up this blog. We want farming to thrive in England, and believe that it is essential that people understand farming and farmers better in order for that to happen. Paula's views expressed here are her own and we won't necessarily share all of them, but we're happy to have helped give her a voice.

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