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As autumn reaches its peak, Daylesford’s Environmental Scientist Tim Field gives us an insight into various sightings from around the farm and tips on the wildlife we need to look out for as the season for hibernation closes in.

“Now is an excellent time to see wildlife on the farm. The peaks of activity around dawn and dusk are at a civilised time, there is a frenzy to stock up on the gluts of wild fruits, seeds and nuts, and the migrant winter visitors are beginning to arrive.

It is also a time to consider leaving some undisturbed habitat for those looking to hibernate. Hedgehogs will be looking for a sheltered, quiet spot to form a cosy ball of leaves. Beneath a dense hedgerow is a typical habitat, so be cautious of over tidying the garden when the leaves begin to fall. It is also tempting to stock-pile a bonfire and burn it in one big blaze. This is a real threat to hedgehogs, as they find such mounds of dry brash a tempting spot for the winter. To avoid causing harm to our fast declining hedgehogs, it is best to start the bonfire in an adjacent position and transfer the brash bit by bit. If you come upon a ball of leaves, do leave well alone.

We had a magnificent encounter on the wetland this week. The bough of a rotten tree had fallen onto the fence, threatening to allow free access for our livestock to Stow-on-the-Wold. Shunting the tree back over the fence where it belonged, some of the woody debris fell away to reveal the broken tree limb was crawling with lizards. The rotting vegetation attracts many invertebrates that are a staple food for the lizards, whilst the undisturbed woodland edge and open wetland provides space to sun themselves; an important feature for cold blooded reptiles.

Down at the wetland we are seeing the wader and wildfowl numbers growing; at this stage some will just be passing through and some will be our summer residents. As we settle into winter the numbers will peak when freezing temperatures drive birds from the colder north and east, as they look for unfrozen water bodies to continue feeding and roosting.”

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