I'm sure the usual farmland bird species all had a good breeding season as I saw good numbers singing, holding territory, carrying nesting material or food for young. These include Yellowhammers, Reed buntings, Meadow pipits, Linnets and Skylarks. I actually found a Skylarks nest with 4 eggs and kept an eye on it and all 4 young fledged. The young of all 3 species of Wagtails were seen catching damselflies around the lake so they also had a good season.

Other species of birds seen with young include Lapwing, Mallard, Coot, Little Grebe, Moorhen, Green Woodpecker, Kestrel and Buzzard. Male and female Kingfishers seen regularly on small reservoir near pump house, must be nesting not too far away. Hobbies seen occasionally catching dragonflies around the lake with 2 seen together on one occasion so l think they too were nesting locally.

In the past Great Crested Grebes have tried to breed on the lake but never got past the building of the nest stage. This year they actually got to laying 2 eggs before in a period of rough weather the nest got washed away. They rebuilt the nest and again laid 2 eggs but this time I think the eggs were predated by Black Backed Gulls.

Reed Bunting on the Ivel Valley farm

Reed Bunting on the Ivel Valley farm

We did have one new breeding record for the farm though. Last year Shelduck did try to nest in a badger sett but got disturbed. Although I didn't find the nest this year the pair had 9 ducklings with just 2 making it to adulthood. This is actually quite a good record for the farm as last year, 2015, there was only one record of them breeding in the whole of Bedfordshire.

This year we have had 2 more bird species to add to the list. On May 3rd had a single Barnacle Goose drop in for a day and on July 25th a pair of Egyptian geese for one day. Mammals, a few Badgers caught on my trail camera but didn't seem to be as many Cubs or actively as recent years. Muntjac seen as usual but Chinese Water Deer seen more recently on the farm and around the village.

Hare numbers seemed lower than normal and odd sightings of Fox and Stoat. The daylight sighting of the Noctule bat was very unusual and it caused quite a lot of excitement when I showed the pictures at the Beds Natural History Society members Christmas meeting in the mission hall. It wasn't the best year for butterflies and dragonflies but I saw all the usual species even if in lower numbers but according to the dragonfly recorder the Common Darter dragonfly I recorded on Nov 28th may have been the last dragonfly seen in Bedfordshire this year! Seemed a good year for Orchids as I found Common Spotted and Bee Orchids around the lake and Pyramid Orchids in the field next to Chicksands wood.

Some highlights from my diary:

Jan 19th: 24 Pochard on lake, Loads of Yellowhammers, Reed buntings, Linnets, Skylarks, Meadow pipits,
Feb 24th: Watched Kingfisher catching fish.
Feb 26th: 200+Lapwing, 50+Golden plover and 220 Greylags
March 2nd: Snipe.
March 7th: 2 Stonechat.
March 11th: 3 oystercatchers, 4 G C Grebes, 20 Teal, 4 Pochard, Tufted duck, 60+ Lapwing, Kingfisher, 2 Kites and various Buzzards, March 15th, 2 pairs of G C Grebes displaying.
March 21st: Pair of Shelduck returned.
March 25th: 100's of Toads and loads of Frogspawn.
March 31st: First Sand martins and Chiff chaff of year.
April 3rd: Pair of Gadwall on lake.
April 4th: First Swallows of year. 2 Little Egret.
April 5th: 2 Redshank! Only second time I've recorded them on lake.
April 12th: Little Ringed Plover dropped in, have bred around the lake in previous years but now the lake is maturing and vegetation growing up it’s now not suitable for this species.
April 13th: Noctule bat, 11 am! Watched it hunting for half hour or so.
April 14th: First Wheatear of year.
April 19th: Pair Oystercatchers mating! First Yellow Wagtails of year. Pair Little Grebes.
April 20th: Various baby Lapwings running about.
April 22nd: First Swifts of year.
April 29th: Greylags have 1 gosling.
May 3rd: A single Barnacle goose, a first for the farm!
May 8th: First Common Sandpiper of year.
May 9th: Grey Wagtail feeding young. Linnet nest building.
May 15th: Arctic tern drops in.
May 16th: Found Skylarks nest with 4 eggs. Mallards and Coots both have young.
June 1st: Shelducks have 9 ducklings. Pair Grey partridge!
June 2nd: Shelducks, only 5 ducklings left!
June 3rd: Shelducks, only 3 ducklings left!
June 4th: One and only Cuckoo of year.
June 5th: Hobby chasing Swallows and Martins over lake.
June 27th: 2 Arctic tern, G C Grebes nesting, just 2 Shelduck ducklings left!
June 30th: Chinese water deer, Common blue and Emerald damselflies and Large Skipper, Marbled white, Meadow brown, Ringlet and Small Heath butterflies July 1st, G C Grebes laid 1 egg.
July 3rd: 2 Hobbys catching dragonflies
July 5th: GC Grebes have 2 eggs.
July 10th: Grebes nest washed away.
July 14th: Grebes started new nest.
July 21st: Grebes laid 2 eggs! .Common and Ruddy darter dragonflies.
July 25th: 2 Egyptian geese dropped in for day. New record for farm.
July 26th: Lesser black backed gull taking an interest in G C Grebe sitting on nest.
July 27th: Grebes nest deserted and empty.
August 3rd: Brown hawker dragonflies egg laying.
August 5th: Common and Green sandpipers around lake.
August 24th: 4 Whinchat, Stonechat, Wheatear, Green sandpiper, 230 Lapwing, 195 Greylag, Teal, Gadwall, Pochard and Tufted duck.
August 26th: Little Ringed Plover dropped in to refuel on way back South.
September 12th: Migrant hawker dragonflies mating.
September 14th: 320 Lapwing
September 26th: Last Hobby of year.
November 28th: 2 Snipe. Common Darter dragonfly, last one of year.

Written by Dave Parsons, Wildlife Photographer for Ivel Valley