Continual Monitoring of Bird-Friendly habitats on Farmland

Stewardship Margins – Oi, get off my land goes the cry! (unless of course, you are granted permission as a somewhat fortunate Bird Surveyor)

 

Hopefully, my header informs you as to the blog content of this briefest of posts. Having said that, I reveal something at the end that will no doubt surprise some folk reading this.

 

It’s approaching that time of year when I complete my final analyses and conclusions from my various Bird Survey undertakings. So, below I bring a brief assessment from my latest site visit, from just this past week. The actual figures reproduced below merely provide a snapshot of a broader picture from said landholdings.

One of the primary skillsets that strengthen the confidence levels of any birder or moreover, a bird surveyor is his ability to detect individual species by sight and by ear. Such a skill is not readily acquired but even then can be practised and perfected by anyone willing to take the time and effort. Let’s move on now to some fact reporting courtesy of what my eyes and ears taught me.

 

  • The 17th October site visit brought about a day list of species seen or heard of 35 including probables. Visit four of four at this site during this season.
  • Of the 35 species detected, just over a third are listed as Red or Amber-listed on the present Birds Of Conservation Concern
  • A collective bird tally estimated some 250 (when rounded up) individuals, this total excluded any corvids, pigeons, gulls and gamebirds present on the landholdings.
  • Regarding the figure mentioned above, the total number of individuals witnessed currently residing on the threatened species list was some 60 percent (i.e. approximately 150 individuals overall). What a beautiful total concerning species of conservation priority!
  • Approximately half of the above total were represented by just two species (the Linnet and the Skylark) – More on these below.

 

The above as stated previously only represents a snapshot of the broader aspects of what these landholdings offer the birds at this time of the season as it is merely one visit of just over four hours in duration. Only last year, did I count 63 species in another section of this same large-scale farming game-rearing enterprise. This total came about from having undertaken eight surveys over the course of the year.

Another view of another conservation margin. Margins might be tight when it comes to most businesses, but these things work wonders for our birds and other wildlife

 

Finally, some personal conservation evidence for anyone looking to boost their Linnet and Skylark numbers on their farmsteads or other landholdings.

 

Linnet

These red-listed birds eat mainly small to medium sized seeds, although it is unclear as to what their young are raised on. BWPi also implies they probably take fewer invertebrates than any other west Palearctic finch apart from Crossbills. Access to a succession of available arable weed seeds throughout the year will go some way to help sustain this songbird on your landholdings. Waste grounds and areas of rank growth are immensely valuable to Linnets, as once again, chemical inputs will limit their feeding opportunities.

 

Skylark

The Red-listed Skylark is a much-studied species. Despite this, its current declining status is often overlooked as where such birds exist; they do so in seemingly large numbers.  Suitable cropping regimes alongside the provision of various conservation field margins could be suggested as beneficial to this species and they also likely play a vital role at the chick-rearing stage. The downside is that chick-rearing often coincides with the need for in-field activities such as harvesting or crop-spraying. Give a Skylark six or seven weeks between your various in-crop farming activities and they might just be able to raise a brood or two in any given season. Skylarks are also helped by leaving small bare areas of ground and short sward patches for feeding in, along with longer grass for nesting. Such birds alongside numerous others also incorporate grass into their nest building activities, so maybe leave some lying around for them. If feasible, a quick mowing of these grassy patches in say, April, could be recommended as a way to boost songbird’s nesting productivity in general.

A typically Autumnal scene somewhere out there in the green and pleasant lands of the United Kingdom.

As ever, I thank my readers for taking the time to listen to my rambles; you can, of course, continue to access my Facebook updates by clicking on the Red Admiral butterfly icon below.

naturestimeline Education services – “A conservation professional sharing his personal perspective on breaking news stories from the world of nature alongside his own accounts from the field.”

and

PS! For those left wondering what the surprise element to my findings was, well I’ll repeat it below.

The estate in question is a “large-scale farming game-rearing enterprise” in part, although this only represents part of its overall income. Whatever one’s thoughts on the shooting industry or even the role of larger farming enterprises versus small-scale farming, this estate certainly has its conservation measures working wonders. Our countryside matters, birds matter and farming for conservation matters most for all.

Encouraging better care of the environment

Newbury Weekly News article scan 20/04/17 – Country Matters (Andrew Davis) – Click on the image for a better close-up.

A number of my clients, in fact, the vast majority can probably be classed as Stewards of the landscape. The scanned copy headline as taken from my local newspaper, the Newbury Weekly News back on April 20th this year, talks about an uncertain future for farming post-Brexit but from somewhat of a positive viewpoint (pleasing to see). More broadly, it speaks of what Brexit might mean for the Agricultural sector and its subsequent management (i.e. environmental stewardship) of the UK countryside as a whole. Collaborative approaches such as river catchment conservation projects, farmer clusters and farming/science-led directives will all help guide our way in future and I’m sure will be getting deservedly media attention as a result. The article replicated below taken from the very same newspaper cutting is from Nicola Chester and speaks of the yearly differences she witnesses on her patch (North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty*) and the need to assess such changes.

 

Newbury Weekly News article scan 20/04/17 – NATURE NOTES (Nicola Chester) – Click on the image for a better close-up.

 

Speaking of assessments or continual monitoring as we should perhaps name it, I am dead keen on undertaking bird surveys as you will realise from past blog posts. In such instances, I have been known to offer up occasional snippets of useless useful information on one’s bird communities on people’s landholdings from time to time as well. Here I will kick off with some basic conservation approaches which might work on your farm, country garden or local park or wherever you might reside. Two bird species starting with the letter B. The currently thankfully common Blackbird and our somewhat rarer Amber-listed Bullfinch.

 

Blackbird conservation guidelines from Tony William Powell and naturestimeline

 

What you looking at! So says, Mr Blackbird (Turdus merula)

 

  • It is widely accepted, when hedges are left to bear fruit or seeds, they benefit a number of species, the Blackbird being one of them. Of course, this requires a minimum of a two-three year management plan in which time, the hedges are unmanaged, although the dense cover potentially arising from this is a crucial ingredient in bird survival rates. Admittedly, inaccessible field and hedge boundaries do produce a larder for wintering birds and other wildlife. Blackbirds are especially tied to hedgerows for nesting in and according to BWPi**, their primary food types are insects and earthworms. By boosting the in-field soil structure, so that it produces more organic matter, which in turn provides higher earthworm densities are also likely to assist the Blackbird populations, longer-term.

 

Bullfinch conservation guidelines from Tony William Powell and naturestimeline

 

An Amber-listed species of conservation concern, a first-year Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)

 

  • Currently, Amber-listed, the Bullfinch is particularly vulnerable to food source limitations and never likes to feed far from cover. Fruit tree seeds and other weed seeds feature heavily in their diets, and they are particularly fond of the keys on the Ash, which is sadly now increasingly threatened by disease. A tall and dense hedgerow in which to nest is a critical component in Bullfinch breeding cycles, and they are especially fond of hawthorn and blackthorn. The Bullfinch normally avoids contact with people, so a lack of disturbance seems integral to its successful breeding attempts.

 

 

Never be afraid to contact me off page should you wish to know more about my services or more generally, my obsession for protecting and enhancing the bird and other wildlife communities of the United Kingdom.

 

Best Wishes and until next time.

Tony

 

As ever, you can continue to access my Facebook updates by clicking on the Red Admiral butterfly icon below.

naturestimeline Education services – “A conservation professional sharing his personal perspective on breaking news stories from the world of nature alongside his own accounts from the field.”

and

 

* could be deemed as my patch as well when time permits

** as published by Birdguides, the Birds of the Western Palearctic interactive

One of naturestimeline’s core business objectives – Freelancing

A quick blog of perhaps several to highlight where and how I intend naturestimeline to develop over the coming months and years from a business sense and also from an educational viewpoint.

My working background

Freelance Professional – Short-term contract worker offering Bird Surveys/Desk Research/Work from Home Office services

 

Visiting Researcher and professional Ornithologist/Field Surveyor

 

Undertake ad hoc visits to clients who need any of the following tasks completed in relation to assessing the natural environment.

 

  • Have the ability to detect the presence of any birds and other wildlife residing on their land. I am well known for my skills in identifying birds through their calls and songs. I have been practising natural sound recordings for more than 25 years.

 

  • Provide an evidence base comprised of abundance and distribution of all bird species and or other wildlife making use of their land. I have been undertaking such studies for many years both in a voluntary capacity and in paid positions for repeat clients since 2014. 

 

  • Visit as many times as deemed necessary and provide datasets which gather enough information to provide an excellent evidence base. The landowner can then choose whether he or she acts on produced evidence to enhance his or her landholdings for the wildlife.

 

  • Provide a detailed systematic analysis of my findings via spreadsheets and associated reporting services. Examples can be made available through direct contact via my Facebook details or email.

 

  • Where appropriate, in my own time, I will also input these findings onto the British Trust for Ornithology’s BirdTrack system. In doing this, I hopefully provide the BTO research scientists with further evidence to add to their existing knowledge base which they can act on in the name of conservation.

 

 

See you next time.

 

Best Wishes

Tony Powell

 

 

 

 

naturestimeline Education services – “A conservation professional sharing his personal perspective on breaking news stories from the world of nature alongside his own accounts from the field.”

and