Throughout the seasons, a wealth of wildlife can be found on Rushett Farm and the adjacent woodlands and commons. So close to suburban London, this area is an amazing hotspot for farmland species and all kinds of animals that depend on the rich habitats here.
From late winter through to summer, the song of the Skylark can be heard above the fields, as they float upwards in a song-flight. Yellowhammer can be heard singing from hedgerows and trees alongside the fields. Their characteristic song is a great part of our countryside and it’s a species in decline, so having this striking yellow bird present here in small numbers is great! Lapwings are another amazing species on the farm and can be seen twisting and diving over the ploughed fields. A few pairs nest here and they can be seen forming larger flocks in the winter.
Out of the various birds of prey, Buzzards, Red Kites and occasionally Peregrines are seen soaring over the farmland and woodlands as well as Kestrels hunting in the area, or if you're lucky, perhaps the fleeting view of a Sparrowhawk pursuing prey. In the summer the Eurasian Hobby (which breed in the area) can be seen catching dragonflies and small birds over the woodlands and open areas.
Pheasants are relatively common on the farm and you may jump in surprise when you accidentally disturb one in the long grass as they clumsily fly off with loud wing flutters and calls. At dusk and early mornings during the spring you may be fortunate to hear the beautiful melodic song of the Nightingale in the Malden Rushett area or from the thick blackthorn bushes on the commons, though very elusive by nature, they make a fantastic array of sounds from within the vegetation.
Wooded areas surrounding the farm are home to a whole other host of other wildlife. Roe Deer are secretive but sometimes venture into the open, along the many trails that criss-cross the area and sometimes even onto the farmland. Some classic woodland birds found here in Ashtead/Epsom Common and the Prince's Covert
woods include Tawny Owls, Woodcock and all three British woodpeckers, including the extremely secretive Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, which remains hidden most of the year. Seasonal birds like the Garden Warbler, Lesser Redpoll, Common and Lesser Whitethroat are found throughout and a Cuckoo has been holding territory on the common for the past couple of springs, only for a short while before heading back to Africa in the summer. The Epsom Common Stew ponds and various other small ponds dotted around the area hold the stunning Mandarin Duck, which nests in tree holes.
One of Britain’s most iconic mammals lives in the woodlands surrounding the farm, the Badger! They form a large complex of sets which are home to family groups and during the summer as the days get longer, they emerge earlier, sometimes over an hour before sunset.
Overall, Rushett Farm along with the commons and woods in the area, are fantastic locations to go on walks or bicycle rides while keeping watch for what might be about and during the seasons you may encounter some of the species mentioned above.
Have you taken any top shots of birds on the farm? If so, be sure to tag us in them!