Scottish Wildlife Trust members and friends visited the wildlife friendly Newmains Farm near Reston for an afternoon’s walk.
Our first stop was to examine part of a field sown with a wild bird seed mixture which will provide food for seed eating wild birds throughout the winter months. With modern farming methods as soon as many fields are harvested they are immediately cultivated and resown with the next years crop of wheat, barley or oilseed rape, with the result that stubble fields are seldom a food source for wild birds during the lean winter months.
This wild bird mixture included some cereals, a great deal of flax whose seeds are an oil rich food source, a few sunflowers and species whose flowers are also great for pollinating insects as they are rich in nectar. The hedges on a nearby lane have been allowed to grow tall to provide shelter and protection for small birds and in winter the astonishing number of about 700 Yellowhammers have been counted, along with large flocks of Tree Sparrows, Reed Buntings and a diverse range of finches, all attracted by this nearby food supply.
We then visited several ponds which had been created around 2002 and 2004. The ponds are several feet deep and have islands which provide a safe nesting area in summer and are ideal for waterfowl roosting and sheltering in the winter. A flock of around 300 Teal have been attracted in the winter along with other ducks, geese and Snipe.
A selection of waders drop in on passage and Moorhen, Coot and Mallard are regular nesting birds. A remarkable total of 168 species of birds have been seen on the farm.
We saw a selection of damselflies on the pond side vegetation and the larger dragonflies were darting about hunting insects. An astonishing 17 species of damselflies and dragonflies have been recorded on the farm. The flowers around the pond and in the surrounding rough grass included Yellow Rattle, Red Bartsia and the Bur-reed which caused quite a bit of interest with its unusual, round, green, spiky seed heads.
On our return journey along the old lane a good number of butterflies were supping the nectar on flowering Buddleja with Peacock being the most abundant and there were good numbers of Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral.
The final part of the afternoons walk was along a section of the old Chirnside to Reston railway where the bankings are overgrown with brambles and scrub and provide good shelter for songbirds and then on to another pond created for wildlife. The farmer must be congratulated on his efforts to provide a safe sanctuary and well stocked larder for our wildlife and it would be great it more farmers followed his example.