To continue the saga of Braeburn Farm, I’d like to introduce you to some of the non-avian wildlife to be found there. As a vegetarian, I’ll admit I was originally a bit reluctant to go there, but I must acknowledge that the farm management does many things to give the cattle a good life.
They keep their herd of Red Devons (Bos taurus) to about 300 animals and allow the calves to reach the age of at least 3 years. Some cows and bulls are allowed to grow much older (10-12 years or more) and they enjoy a peaceful life before they go to market, rotating through the farm’s varied habitats, which include meadows and fields, ponds, woods and creeks. No pesticides are used in the habitats and the vegetation is allowed to grow as naturally as possible. Farm manager Nick said that when it is time to shift the cows to a new pasture area, he just calls them. The older cows know that they will be enjoying fresh and different veggies so they follow him willingly, leading the rest of the herd along.
My visits in June and July showed how this farm is cultivating biodiversity among plants and wildlife. The fields were dotted with thistles, white clover (Trifolium repens), red clover (Trifolium pratense) and many other plants.
Brown-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) Moth mullein (Verbascum blattaria)
Bees and butterflies were abundant, showing that the farm’s methods are good for the pollinators.
Clouded sulphur (Colias philodice) Clouded skipper (Lerema accius)
Least skipper (Ancyloxypha numitor) Sachem skipper (Atalopedes campestris)
Cabbage white (Pieris rapae) Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus)
Leaf-footed bugs (Leptoglossus phyllopus), margined leatherwing soldier beetles (Chauliognathus marginatus), bees and various species of syrphid flies (also known as hoverflies and often mistaken for bees) were exploring the thistles.
Margined leatherwing soldier beetle
Eastern carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica) Syrphid fly (Sphaerophoria)
Common oblique syrphid fly (Allograpta obliqua)
Syrphid fly (Palpada vinetorum)
Elsewhere, the nymph of a wheel bug (Arilus cristatus) moved along large leaves.
It pays to look down at your feet as you wander through the fields in the early morning. The grasses are covered in tiny webs that glisten with water droplets. Underneath are the tiny red dwarf sheetweb spiders (Florinda coccinea) that may show themselves if you stay very still.
In the vegetation below you can also see other insects, like the Spur-throated grasshopper (Melanoplus), or the Forage looper moth (Caenurgina erechtea).
Various dragonflies and damselflies balance on grasses and sometimes alight on the ground (the former hold their wings out when resting and the damselflies fold their wings along their bodies).
Halloween pennant (Celithemis eponina)
Double-striped bluet damselfly (Enallagma basidens)
Widow skimmer (Libellula luctuosa)
Common whitetail (Plathemis lydia)
At the creek crossings, you may see a common sanddragon dragonfly (Progomphus obscurus, a lifer for me!), paper wasps (Polistes) or a viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus) having a drink or looking for a mate. The viceroy mimics the monarch but can be distinguished easily with the line crossing its wings horizontally when you see it rest.
Walking through the fields, you may also occasionally spot a mammal although they are not as easy to see as the other wildlife. As I trudged around a pond, this white-tailed deer fawn (Odocoileus virginianus) was startled from its hiding place – showing off the part of its anatomy for which the species is named and looking as if s/he was sporting a very large feather.
On one outing, Nick and I spotted a couple darling raccoon kits (Procyon lotor), who wasted no time scurrying for cover when they spotted us.
The farm is a great place to spend quality time outdoors. You can contact the farm management to schedule a visit and they will instruct on which fields and areas are open for visitation. And if you should wander by mistake into a field with some of the cattle, you needn’t worry as the Red Devons are likely to walk away or just watch you as they are a placid breed. I hope that Braeburn Farm becomes a popular birding and wildlife observation area so that we can continue enjoying visits there.