As the weather changes and becomes more wintery much of the wildlife on the Estate becomes dormant or even disappears to sunnier climes.
Saying that I’ve seen scabious in flower and even bumble bees feeding only last week – stocking up before they commence nest building. There’s even a lone and confused dandelion in flower on my lawn today.
In the previous blog, Ade mentioned being fortunate in seeing a barn owl whilst out on his perambulations with Spike on the Rathfinny Trail. Owls have been really active on the Estate over the past few weeks. On my Twitter account (@rathfinnyrich) I post up to date sightings and musings and recently added a dire pixelated image of a barn owl. This was soon re-tweeted by a professional photographer who is associated with the BBC’s The Hunt series – they were NOT asking me for advice! The barn owl is a beautiful pale silent hunter of our arable margins and is only really viewed by early risers, like Ade and Spike, or from the edges of your car headlights on a country lane.
The owl which is making itself known in the vineyard at the moment is the tawny. Possibly less conspicuous but vocally in a different league to the barn owl. The barn owl is termed a screech owl because it…… screeches. The tawny has the original owl twit twoo call. Bearing in mind the female calls ‘kewick’ and the male responds with a ‘hoohoo’. So it’s a two bird call. Over the past few weeks the birds have become very territorial and the owl cacophony has even woken me up (which I don’t mind, but they also woke my wife which is a whole different ball game!) Even my two year old triplets can now distinguish the call – their pronunciation of Strix aluco is a work in progress.
No smoke without fire….and of course cake is always needed
We have commenced our winter programme of managing the scrub (hawthorn, blackthorn etc) on our chalk grassland banks. This is mainly done to allow the rich flora space and light to develop whilst also providing valuable habitats for birds and butterflies for example. Our thanks go to the South Downs National Park Volunteer Ranger Service and the Rangers themselves for their recent efforts. Over twenty volunteers turned out to assist us in the much needed conservation effort – I was very happy, mainly because Fay (SDNPA Ranger) supplies really good home baked cake.
Earlier on this month we were delighted to welcome the Lord Lieutenant from East Sussex and his guests for dinner. Our chef produced a wonderful meal from locally sourced produce and our staff completed the excellent service to the usual Rathfinny high standard. The 60 guests made great use of our event space but being a dark autumnal evening they could not really enjoy the stunning views from the Tasting Room.
Teasing glimpse of the menu and the Winery set up for the guests
Whatever the weather, I still manage to get a few miles in on the mountain bike and Cycle Seahaven are a great local bunch who have loads of organised rides. I do feel somewhat of a wimp meeting them at the Flint Barns café at the weekend for a ride (it is only ¾ mile from my house). But the café is open and it would be rude not to have a delicious cake and I know for a fact that professional riders love to have a decent coffee before a ride, so why not me?