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.

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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.

A kind winter thus far in the UK

What a difference a year makes. At this midway point through Meteorological winter 2016/17, the weather so far has been much kinder than last year. December 2015 was horrendously mild, bad for wildlife in that most things were out of sync, the natural world in the UK at least didn’t know whether it was coming or going.

 

It was also bad for farming at this stage last winter, crops and grass were growing vigorously, and diseases and pests were prevalent, meaning more chemical expenditure down the line for struggling farming communities. We need winters like those of former years to return occasionally to restore some balance.

 

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This one thus far has seen a very typical Temperature setup locally with a reasonable tally of Air frosts when skies cleared by night, although precipitation has been somewhat with December proving very dry when compared to the average as the image below states.

 

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Personal Weather Station Monthly Climatological Summary for December 2016

 

As you’ll notice upon reading the above article from the Newbury Weekly News dated January 14th, 2016, phenology events, i.e., those signs from nature bore no resemblance to most years past, way before climate change processes steadfastly took a grip on things. The winter of 2016/17 thus far has been kinder to the farming community and consequently nature itself, as far as I am aware from what I’ve read and heard about in the press. Here’s to the rest of the winter, playing ball too then. I do feel for our European neighbours, though. January 2017, in particular, has so far seen brutal cold in a significant number of places as the following link to a recent BBC article indicates.

 

Icy weather in Europe causes more hardship and chaos

 

A couple of phenology events which need updating to my records database are the 1st instance of flowering Hazel catkins on the 15th January and 1st flowering Snowdrops around about the 13th January.

 

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.”

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Another core business objective – Developing the brand on Social Media

To a Social Media Marketer or person trained in SEO and other Social Media activities, brand building, content management and publishing comes as part of their day job. As for myself, an individual one-person entity, I have to do all of the above with limited funds and resources. In fact, so far I’ve tended to do this alone, learning or making mistakes as I go, which is nothing new to me as I’m largely self-taught in everything I undertake. I will check up on the consistency of what I want my brand and blog pages to promote, on a monthly basis. In fact, today I did just that by analysing my insights on my various Social Media platforms. The following excerpt being taken from my Facebook page.

“Having just gone through my latest monthly insights and as a result of my broader social media analyses, I am pleased to confirm the consistent growth of both my pages here at naturestimeline and naturestimeline.StandUp4Nature. I am not currently in a financial position and moreover do not view it as a viable option right now, to partake in any paid advertisement of my pages. The progress of brand “naturestimeline” is truly only possible with you, my followers engaging with me and by your “word of mouth” exposure to other interested parties. Nonetheless, as I expand brand exposure and ultimately achieve more business opportunities, I may eventually consider the prospect of paid advertising. As my audience grows, those of you reading this become all the more important to me, so do share your thoughts with me, send me ideas, provide some opportunities for general chit-chat, whatever. Below is a snapshot of just how you, my followers, have played your part in allowing me to develop naturestimeline over the past year. *to make more sense of the figures within the spreadsheet screen grab, simply expand the image to full screen. The data is courtesy of my Facebook Insights and as such, private data issued to me directly from Facebook hence I’ve made the data deliberately small.

All the best wishes and any questions, please DM me.

Tony William Powell and naturestimeline.”

 

 

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Facebook Insights statistics for my pages at Naturestimeline and Naturestimeline StandUp4Nature January-November 1st 2016

 

As ever, you can 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