Winter is usually a time for hibernation, keeping warm and waiting for the lighter days ahead, but not for some wildlife found on Waitrose’s farm in Stockbridge as some have left signs of activity during the winter season.

Kath Hernon, Biodiversity Officer on the Leckford Estate, has been making the most of winter by surveying the few species of wildlife that are easier to monitor during the colder months.

Kath and her team have made two rather rare discoveries over the past couple of months. The tiny Harvest Mouse and the elusive Brown Hairstreak Butterfly.

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Kath said: “Having only been on the farm for the past 18 months as the first biodiversity officer, it’s been brilliant to start surveying new species where previously there haven’t been any recordings.

"This means we can help and support the wildlife more easily, providing for their needs and encouraging more wildlife to flourish in our hedgerows, grass margins and around the grounds of the Leckford Estate.

“Our ambition is to build on our wildlife corridors across the estate, making our farm a bustling home for nature, something that our founder, John Spedan Lewis was passionate about.”

Andover Advertiser: Brown Hairstreak ButterflyBrown Hairstreak Butterfly (Image: Ian Kirk)

The Harvest Mouse thrives in tall grasses and other vegetation including reed beds and ditches, cereal field margins, tussocky grasslands and hedgerows.

The generally accepted survey method is to look for their abandoned nests at the end of the breeding season when minimal disturbance to the animals can occur.

A mixture of solitary non-breeding nests and larger summer nests were found this winter in one of the estate’s grassy field margins.  Now that presence has been proved, a systematic sampling approach will be implemented to establish distribution across the wider estate.

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This is a key finding for the farming team at Leckford, as it has been suggested that the presence and abundance of harvest mouse nests in arable landscapes can indicate to conservationists the quality and health of such agricultural habitats.

The Brown Hairstreak Butterfly is a little trickier to find as adults rarely come down from the canopy tops in the summer season, so surveying them can be incredibly hard.

However, females fly down to lay their eggs on Blackthorn, the eggs then overwinter in this stage. Excitingly, eggs have been found on a new area of the estate not previously surveyed.

Hedgerows around the estate are carefully managed on a three year rotation and are only cut during the winter periods, to reduce disturbance to breeding wildlife and encourage new flushes of growth and retain seeds and berries as winter food resources during the colder months.