Farmland bird populations have been in the media since the 1980’s when the decline in numbers was first seen and recorded. A huge decline in populations of Grey Partridge, Turtle Doves, Yellowhammers, Linnet, Lapwing, Corn Buntings etc. has led to land owners and the agricultural industry changing practice and mind set, to try and reverse this decline. The success of this reverse in populations lies within the willingness of land owners and farmers to sign up to an environmental scheme like Higher Level or Entry Level Stewardship Schemes. 70% of all farmland in Suffolk is covered by one of the types of Environmental Schemes and this means that 70% of farmers are doing a bit to help the wildlife in our county.
However with all the will in the world by these 70% of farmers in Suffolk, the decline is still being recorded in certain species and more needs to be done. Farmers have the skills and the resources to put areas of wild seed mixes, pollen and nectar patches, rough grassland and new hedgerows back into the countryside but if they do not attract or help the species in decline, then the farmer needs some helping hands. Science holds the key, we need to study and investigate what the bird populations are doing and why some are recovering their populations and some still struggle. Can the farmers do something slightly different to make all populations prosper?
The members of Waveney Bird Club are doing their bit. They have started a Farmland bird ringing programme on a number of farms in Suffolk, looking at the winter foraging range of certain species. Yellowhammers, Reed Bunting, Linnet and Tree Sparrow are the target species for this project. The aim is to catch, ring and monitor the populations of these species with wild seed mixes and other feeding habitats on farms and then monitor the distance that they might travel to find another food source in winter. For this to happen, they need to re-catch a rung bird in the net again. This will then produce a control, as those birds will then start to build up a web of travel and catch records that show where they have been or come from.
The ringing is done on a winter’s day by volunteers who are fully trained by the BTO. They feed the vital statistics of sex, weight, condition and numbers into the BTO. Then, as re-catches occur, the project starts to get the information needed to fulfil the aim of the study. More information about the project can be found at http://www.waveneybirdclub.com/farmland-birds-project.asp
The Waveney Bird Club carries the cost of the rings, buying nets and poles and then at the end of the three years, they will need to fund the BTO to do a full statistical investigation into the findings. Then, hopefully, it can be published. Patrick is one of the project co-ordinators and our farm is one of the farms involved in the ringing of the species. So, when the Waveney Bird Club committee needed to look for funding, we were only too happy to help.
This has led to the launch of the Waveney Bird Club 2013 Calendar. Four club members have donated a number of their best photos for the creation of a calendar where all profits go to the project. I am one of the photographers that have the privilege of being used for a couple of months. Lucky for many, the Yellowhammers and Hedgehog star in the last two months of the calendar and not me! But it is all for a very worthwhile cause.
If you would like to help out with the project and buy a calendar, they are being sold by the club for a bargain price of £5 plus a bit extra for P&P if that is the case. The Waveney Bird Club Event Organiser is the lady you need to get in contact with on email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 01986 893311, to guarantee your calendar arrives ready for the New Year! BWB