Over 60 local volunteers
Volunteers feed seed, scattered thinly on the ground, on a rota from October to May, to cover the hungry gap. New volunteers always welcome – to feed, do surveys, or help with logistics! Do come and join our friendly group of volunteers.
Farmland birds are used as an indicator of the general quality of the farmed environment because birds sit near the top of the food chain and trends have been well monitored by the British Trust for Ornithology since 1967.
Farmland bird populations have declined by almost half since 1970, due to a variety of factors, including changes in farming practices. The Farmand Bird Aid Network works with local communities and landowners to feed farmland birds, monitor their populations, and restore habitats, enabling farmland birds to thrive naturally.
Oxfordshire’s Nature Recovery Network The overarching ambition of DEFRA’s 25 Year Environment Plan is to ‘leave our environment in a better state than we found it and to pass on to the next generation a natural environment protected and enhanced for the future’. The plan highlights six key areas for action, one being to establish a Nature Recovery Network. This will protect and restore wildlife, as well as providing greater public enjoyment of the countryside; increased carbon capture; and improvements in water quality and flood management.
The first stage of the Nature Recovery Strategy has been completed with the creation of the network map. The map brings together existing and new information on the most important areas for wildlife in the county and identifies pathways within our landscapes where there is realistic potential to link existing natural assets. Building on Oxfordshire’s established Conservation Target Areas, the network identifies new ‘core’ and ‘recovery’ zones. Farmland Bird Aid Network’s sites are in the prime areas for nature recovery. The charity would like to work with more landowners in these key areas to connect wildlife corridors thus giving farmland birds a chance to thrive.
Intensive supplementary feeding can substantially improve poor performance of birdseed crop plots in supporting farmland birds throughout the winter, particularly during the late winter ‘hungry gap’ when seed availability on the birdseed plots is otherwise exhausted. For further reading click below to the pdf on the report on the intensive supplementary feeding and how its improves the performance of wild bird seed plots in provisioning farmland birds throughout the winter.
What has worked best at our Farmland Bird Aid Network sites.
We have found the methods below have been the most effective at our feeding sites:
Thick hedges with lots of scrub at the base for shelter and nesting. Also, a few tall treesfor perch points, as many farmland birds are shy and like to perch high.
Beside the hedge, keep the grass low or even bare soil so it’s easy for the birds to see the food, flit down and feed.
Seed mix – best to feed crushed wheat/barley grain, millet and rape seed daily from October/November to May.
Pest-proof bin to store the seed mix near the feeding site.
Feed daily by hand – early morning if possible – we do a rota with someone feeding a day a week. We trialed some automatic feeders – sadly the seed was spread too thickly and in a small area so we learnt it’s best to scatter by hand!
Volunteers survey the site – we survey for farmland birds once per month from December to March.
Mesh cages can stop pheasants, pigeons, etc eating the seed. Yellow hammers will feed in the cages but linnets and skylarks would not enter them.
We are always learning, please do share your advice with us. Thank you
Farmland Bird Aid Survey 2020 – 2021
Click image for more information
Declining farmland birds
Farmland Bird Aid Network helps declining farmland birds – many are on the Red List The number of farmland birds in the UK has declined dramatically since the 1970s, falling on average by 48% across the country, while some species such as tree sparrows and corn buntings have been reduced by 80%.
The Red List. This is the highest conservation priority, with species needing urgent action. Red list criteria includes: A species is globally threatened. Historical population decline in UK during 1800–1995. Severe (at least 50%) decline in UK breeding population over last 25 years, or longer-term period (the entire period used for assessments since the first BoCC review, starting in 1969). Severe (at least 50%) contraction of UK breeding range over last 25 years, or the longer-term period.
Linnets (Red List)
Linnets are found on farmland wherever there is a plentiful supply of seeds throughout the year. The UK population of linnets fell by 54 per cent between 1970 and 1998. This is largely the result of loss of seed sources on farmland. Key points Boost seed food by providing uncut areas, a wide mix of crops, stubbles or seed-rich wild bird cover crops. Create thick, thorny nesting cover in hedges or by retaining areas of scrub, gorse or bramble.
Read more on Linnets and how to help them here on the RSPB site.
Skylarks (Red List)
The UK skylark population fell by 54 per cent between 1970 and 2001. This decline was largely caused by the move from spring to winter cereals, as well as by intensified grassland management. Key points Provide suitable nesting habitat on arable farms using spring cereals or skylark plots in winter cereals. Skylarks can nest successfully in late-cut hay meadows, or silage fields which are not cut before late May and subsequent cuts are at least seven weeks apart.
Read more on the Skylarks and how to help them here, on the RSPB site.
Tree sparrows (Red List)
The UK population of the tree sparrow declined by 95 per cent between 1970 and 1998*. This is probably because fewer seed and insect food sources are available to them on farmland. Tree sparrows nest in holes, traditionally in old trees, hedges or farm buildings. Protecting these nest sites is vital. *Data source: British Trust for Ornithology Key points Use low-input crop management, field margins or wetland features to create insect-rich habitats. Use over-wintered stubble or wild bird seed mixtures to provide seed food throughout the winter. Ensure there are nesting holes available in trees and farm buildings, or use nest boxes.
Read more on Tree Sparrows and how to help them here, on the RSPB’s site.
*Data source: British Trust for Ornithology Key points Maintain short, thick hedges and ditches with wide margins for nesting. Flower-rich margins are better for insects than grass margins. Do not trim hedgerows before September, as the late nests of yellowhammers are the most important for overall productivity. Ensure there is at least one good seed food source throughout the winter.
To work with volunteers and landowners to provide supplemental feeding through the hungry gap.
To expand the network of interconnected feeding sites.
To promote beneficial hedgerow and land management.
To facilitate participation in environmental schemes and other initiatives that result in reversing the decline of farmland birds.
To monitor bird populations to demonstrate the effectiveness of supplemental feeding and/or habitat regeneration.