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One of the core values of Village Farm is that we view domestic and wild with equal importance and respect.

In other words we view the sheep, pigs and goats as interwoven and integral parts of the diverse ecological web of life at Village Farm.

A great example of this is what is currently happening out in the paddocks where the sheep are grazing.

Due to the fact we rest our pastures for several months between grazing means that the forage grows tall in height and dense in cover by the time the flock next enter.

In that resting period, the pasture becomes an undisturbed haven for insect life. However, when the flock enters a rested paddock the animal disturbance causes many of those insects to take to the air and fly to either the paddock in front or the paddock behind the flock.

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Insects displaced to the air by the flock

This daily mass insect mini-migration has not gone unnoticed by our feathered summer visitors. On a warm day the skies just above the flock become filled with delighted squeals and screeches as a multitude of swifts, house martins and, most commonly, swallows that swoop and dive to catch this insect feast.

As the summer months progress, so to does the increase in numbers of our aerial insect eaters as their young fledge and join them on the wing to feed above the flock.

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A family of swallows waiting for us to move the flock

In all of this we’ve noticed an interesting piece of taught avian behaviour. Due to ‘sheep moving time’ being much the same time each morning, the swallow parents have keyed in on this and have taught their young families to sit on the paddock fences and hurdles to await the daily move.

As soon as the sheep start to pile into the fresh pasture so the young swallow families take to the wing. But with so many inexperienced youngsters, cumbersome in the air in such crowded flight space, so they in turn become a ready meal for the next winged predators in the chain.

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In the case of the skies above our farm we’ve watched sparrowhawks frequently trying their luck, occasionally a peregrine will have a pop but the master swallow hunter is the hobby.

We do find ourselves cheering on the swallows as the underdog, but given that hobbies migrate as far as swallows and have their own chicks to feed; you can’t help but admire their skill and artistry in capturing their fast moving quarry.

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For us, it is a poignant thought that this varied crowd of insects, martins, swifts, swallows and in turn hobbys all are able to feed in such number due to the simple fact of when and how we move our flock. It brings home to us that we are as much of this ecosystem as any other species and our actions small as we might think, have immense knock on consequences for life around us.

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