Nature: Species that flock to a ploughed field

We plough the fields... and gull species are some of the first to enjoy Nature's bounty.

We plough the fields... and gull species are some of the first to enjoy Nature's bounty. - Credit: Ian Burt

Nature: Pam Taylor watches the sequence of species which visit a newly-ploughed field

The field outside the kitchen window is turning green again. For several weeks it was bare earth, but now the first signs of new growth are appearing, in neat little rows. Since the field was ploughed back in October, it's been fascinating to watch the changing wildlife as the habitat evolved.

The field has been grass for many years, with one or two hay crops being harvested from it each season. Recently though the sward has becoming rougher with wild species invading the commercial mix. Only one hay crop was taken this year, then in September the field was sprayed and the grass killed. The first wildlife to arrive, following the plough, were the black-headed gulls. Keeping close behind the tractor they were keen to feed on anything brought to the surface. A flock of crows, mainly jackdaws, was also quick to move in for the feast.

It took several days before I noticed the pheasants and pigeons returning, then most of the gulls seemed to lose interest and disappear, although the jackdaws stayed. About a week ago I looked out to see two large, brown shapes a little distance from each other on the ground. As one flapped up, flying a short length low over the ground, the brown shape became a buzzard. The two birds of prey did not appear to be hunting, but instead were playing a weird game of tag across the field. As soon as the first bird approached the second, the second bird would fly just far enough to put the same distance between them as before.

Finally, just as the first green shoots started to show, I put up the kitchen blind one morning to see a red deer stag walk purposely across the middle of the field. He looked neither right nor left, then disappeared into the trees. Two younger stags followed the same route just one day later and they too seemed full of confidence. Yesterday a single buzzard was on the ground again and although it repeated the short, low flights witnessed before, I saw no sign of its mate. This morning I was mystified however when, for no apparent reason, a sparrowhawk flew down to perch on the ground.