Red List Bird Species found at The Hawthorns

December 11, 2012

Following from the previous article which provided an introduction to the RSPB Volunteer and Farmer Alliance Project 2012 at The Hawthorns, this report is going to review some of the Red List Bird Species identified during the survey.  The Red status birds are those of high conservation concern and are species which have undergone more than a 50% decline in UK breeding population or range over the last 25 years, a historical decline from 1800-1995, or are species of global conservation concern. The RSPB also uses the amber status and green status lists but the species that cause most concern are those on the red list.

Ten Red status birds were identified at The Hawthorns during the survey.

The list comprises of:

Cuckoo, Dunlin, House sparrow, Lapwing, Linnet, Skylark, Song thrush, Starling, Yellow wagtail, Cirl bunting and Yellowhammer.

One of the reasons to account for the range of bird species on the farm is that many species rely on well-managed hedgerows and scrub habitats. Wide field margins are vital for birds to find insects to feed their young in spring and summer. The margins here at The Hawthorns demonstrate an excellent insect source through the number of species present, notably the whitethroat (amber species), yellowhammer (red species) and the willow warbler (amber species).

It was exciting to note that lapwings (or peewits, as they are sometimes called) which are red species were present on the farm. Lapwings look black and white at a distance but in good light it can be seen that they have a greeny purple sheen on their back. The male is characterised by having a spiky crest on his head.  In the breeding season lapwings prefer spring sown cereals, root crops, permanent unimproved pasture, meadows and fallow fields. They can also be found on wetlands with short vegetation.

Linnets were shown and briefly discussed in the last article about the RSPB Volunteer and Farmer Alliance Project 2012. They also belong to the red status bird list. The male linnet has a pinky patch on his head and breast during the breeding season. They are very dependent on seeds and even feed seeds to their small chicks. Oil seed rape which is grown on the farm provides a major food source for these birds and fallow areas can also form valuable seed sources. Wild bird seed cover which can be found on the farm is also enjoyed by these birds. Linnets like to nest in areas of scrub or thorny hedges which includes brambles.

The pictures shown here are again taken from the RSPB website.

Farmland Birds at The Hawthorns

September 20, 2012

The Hawthorns took part in the RSPB Volunteer and Farmer Alliance Project 2012 this summer. This was undertaken by a local RSPB volunteer and provided a survey of the birds breeding on the farm. The project began in 1999 and now over 6,000 farms in the country have been surveyed providing a wealth of information to the RSPB and farmers. The RSPB volunteer is provided with training so that the surveys can be conducted with confidence and then carries out three or four early morning surveys between April and June.

The RSPB volunteer called at the farm one evening to discuss the area of the farm, studied maps and took advice as to where the most habitat rich locations were situated. He then outlined that he would be undertaking three or four (very) early morning surveys. After each survey we would be provided with a species list of birds spotted that day. At the end of the survey period the results would be analysed and a map produced showing the location and behaviour of the birds seen throughout the project. The results are made available for conservation purposes and help contribute towards the Bird Conservation Targeting Project (BCTP) and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) atlas.

To date results have shown that Environmental Stewardship for birds has resulted in a drop in the decline for farmland species in the local area.

It was encouraging to see that some of the bird species were seen and heard on all of the four survey visits this included Blackbirds, Blackcaps, Blue tits, Buzzards, Carrion Crows, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Dunnock, Great tits, Greylag Geese, Lapwings ,Linnets, Mallards, Robins, Skylarks, Stock Doves, Swallows, Whitethroats, Wood pigeons, Wrens and Yellowhammers.

The RSPB website is very useful and can help you identify birds by using the following web link http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/birdidentifier/form.aspx

Here is a brief overview of some of the species noted above.

Blackcaps

Male                                                      Female

Blackcaps are more or less resident in this area of the country. They tend to favour sites that have woodland and dense undergrowth including areas of scrub. The male Blackcap has a particularly attractive song.

Chaffinch

Male                                                      Female

The chaffinch is one of the most common birds found in Britain and Ireland; nevertheless it is still a joy to see around the farm. It is able to live in a wide range of habitats and can often be heard if not seen.

Chiffchaff

Chiffchaffs are quite small birds, usually being about 11cm in length. They are most distinguishable by their song and their dark coloured legs. Chiffchaffs like habitats with trees and shrubs.

Linnets

Male                                                        Female

Male linnets acquire pinky patches on their head and breast during the breeding season but loses the colour in the winter months. They belong to the finch family and are a common resident in this area.

Whitethroats

Male                                                      Female

The whitethroat can often be seen between May and September and is characteristic of scrub, hedgerows and bramble covered ares. They eat insects and berries and overwinter in Africa.

The pictures shown here were taken from the RSPB website. The results here form a small part of the RSPB Volunteer and Farmer Alliance Project 2012 at The Hawthorns. More information on the bird survey and species identified on the farm will be released in a short time.

Conservation at The Hawthorns

November 22, 2009

For the past decade The Hawthorns has been involved in environmental projects.  The farm entered into The Countryside Stewardship scheme in 2003 with an agreement lasting ten years. The reasons for doing this include gaining recognition for existing good working practices, obtain funding for additional works and encourage native fauna and flora to be restored to the countryside. This was a project that was originally initiated by the Countryside Commission to improve the environmental value of farmland thoughout England.  As a result of the Countryside Stewardship scheme The Hawthorns has undertaken replanting of the old apple and perry orchard, replacing missing trees with local varieties of apple, pear and plum.  Approximately one kilometre of hedgerow have been replanted using traditional species such as holly, hawthorn and blackthorn. The pond has also been restored, dredging it to return it to its original size and creating inlets for ducks and wildfowl.

By restoring these habitats, wildlife species also benefit because they have somewhere to live and survive.

Old and New Trees in the Orchard

Old and New Trees in the Orchard

One of the fields has been left fallow for ground nesting birds to have an undisturbed habitat. Due to mechanisation and the move to Autumn planting many of these birds have suffered and their numbers have declined dramatically.

One of the environmental features that have been included as part of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme are field margins. These are strips of ground that are left uncultivated between the hedge and the crop and are between 2m  and 6 m in size. These margins provide wildlife corridors for a range of wildlife species including hares and barn owls. They are also havens for wildflowers because the field margins are not sprayed with herbicides which kill them off and the strips are not mown so the plants have an opportunity to seed.

Giving the new plants a good start

Giving the new hedge plants a good start

In addition to the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, The Hawthorns signed up to Entry Level Stewardship Scheme in 2005. Anyone who owns or manages agricultural land is able to join. This is run by DEFRA- The Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs. This scheme replaces Countryside Stewardship and Environmentally Sensitive Areas (another environmental scheme).  You are issued with a Handbook and can pick environmental management options to undertake on your land. Each option, such as pollarding trees (this is when willow trees are cut off at head height to encourage new growth and stop the tree splitting and getting disease) is allocated a number of points.  The scheme is non-competitive, so as long as the total of points you accumulate is equal to 30 points per hectare over your whole farm then your application becomes an agreement.  All agreements are paid a fee of £30 per hectare.

Initial Results of Soil Structure Survey

November 8, 2009

As mentioned in a previous blog, the adoption of direct drilling techniques should, in theory, bring about an improvement in soil structure.  Dr. Nancy Oakes suggested the first step to looking at soil structure was to assess the bulk density.  On the 28th September a number of soil cores were taken across the field and the bulk density measured. The bulk density of soil is inversely related to the porosity of the soil. The more pore space in a soil, the lower the value for bulk density and so is a good indication of soil compaction.  Three fields were sampled – Cobb Hill, Lime Street and Roundmoors.  Cobb Hill was drilled in Oil Seed Rape, Limestreet was left as stubble awaiting sowing with winter beans and Roundmoors was drilled into Winter Linseed.  As Dr. Nancy Oakes indicates in her report, the absolute accuracy of the figures is less important than the comparisions between fields and drilled / undrilled areas.  To see the report click here  Hawthorn soils results 1 .  After passing through the field with the Claydon there is normally 7 inches of undisturbed soil between the drill legs hence the measurement of bulk density in the drilled area and between the drilled area.

This is what should happen !

This is what should happen !

Perhaps the most interesting question raised was whether the drill shatters and loosens the soil between the drill rows and so allow  the crop roots to penetrate  and make use of the nutrients or if we just end up with large areas of compacted, relatively underused soil inbetween the drill rows.

directdrill process

Dr Nancy Oakes - soil density

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