Birds, bees, bugs and animals are our constant companions. One of the  glories of the past decade has been the increase in raptors, growing from rarely-sighted to always there.

The vineyards have slightly different raptor presences; both are over flown by buzzards but one also stands below the wing shadow of red kites. We’ve learned to tell them apart by their calls, the “Kee Kee” of the kites , the “mew” of the buzzards or by the distinctive shape of their tail feathers when they are in flight.

Last year we had a pair of nesting Hobbys to keep us company , hunting field mice and voles whilst we worked.  It’s a stop-and-stare-don/t breathe thrill to see them using the trellis as lookout perches and amazing to be able to be within three meters or so of this visitor from Africa. Kestrels and sparrow-hawks are often seen too.

At dusk come the owls: shouting over the vines: Barn owl, Tawny owl and Short-eared owl are frequently heard and sometimes seen.

Less exotic birds range in size from the grey heron fishing the ponds for newts , froglets and small fish, through the grape picking pheasant , partridge, duck , from the endlessly squeaking moorhens to the mix of nuthatches, greater and lesser spotted wood peckers, green woodpeckers, wrens, tits, finches, robins, mistle thrushes  , blackbirds, starlings and the legion of small brown hedge birds that are always there.  Our vineyards are busy places.

Key to the food chain are the field mice and voles who like the meadow grass headlands and alleys and appreciate the bramble berries, hips, haws, seeds along the margins.  Rustling about amongst them we have plenty of insect life, beetles of all shapes and sizes, spiders in myriad forms, ladybirds, lacewings, and my favourite: bees.  When I have nothing better to do, I do a bee count.  Apparently there are about 24 species of bumble bee in England  and our vineyards are home to  at least eleven of them.   We are also abuzz with honeybees, mostly in the hedgerows and often see their cousins, solitary bees : the leafcutter and mason bees, tawny mining bees and the Colletes bee. Come autumn our ripening fruit attracts wasps: the smaller English wasp is more common (thankfully) than the larger continental wasp but we see both  of them and a few hornets.  We tend to run away from those – just because they are bigger and more scary.

Larger mammals are often seen, rabbits abound ( each vine wears a netting “sock” to  keep the bunnies from chewing the vine trunks) , foxes trot past even the smallest, newest bunnies nose in air, deer are often seen on the perimeter, looking longingly in.  We fence deer out of the vineyards (fencing is about 99% effective, the deer could jump it – a 12 foot leap is well within their capabilities and our fencing is nothing like that high – but they prefer an easier life , mooching though surrounding fields and woodland instead. I have heard stoats and seen weasels,  seen badger tracks, found bat droppings and know there is a lot of life we just haven’t identified yet – lots to look forward to.