Today’s blog by Derek Gruar, RSPB’s Senior Research Assistant, gives us the latest results for the winter bird count at Hope Farm, Cambridge.

These result go out with many thanks to the intrepid surveyors braving extremely soggy conditions underfoot. Luckily that wasn't enough to deter them and the first fieldwork of the year was carried out late last week, with the second winter bird count on Hope Farm for 2020/21. 

A total of 1563 individuals of 44 species were seen on the farm compared to 534 from 30 species in January 2001, with thirteen Farm Bird Index species compared to seven in 2001. Details in the table below along with how the count ranks compared to previous January counts.

Highlights were the numbers of yellowhammers, reed buntings and linnets were using the supplementary food provided as part of our agri-environment scheme. Around 80% of the total of these species were observed at the two feeding areas and in a field that was cover cropped, illustrating how these interventions are important in sustaining bird numbers. This month also saw the highest January count for goldfinches on the farm too.

We were treated to 145 yellowhammers in our latest survey (c) Ben Andrews

The in-field conditions were appalling (for surveying) with standing water in many fields, this may account for the lowest January numbers of skylarks since 2001, coupled with the absence of direct-drilled oilseed rape in our crop rotation.

The farm held high numbers of wintering thrushes with redwing (228) and fieldfare (214) feeding on hedgerow fruit. A small group of six golden plover were on one of the fields in the ASSIST trial field, a lone woodcock and six snipe were also recorded. A flyover raven and a Chinese water deer (rather apt given the blustery conditions) was a potential first for the farm, both were notable sightings.

The final winter count will be conducted in February and the 20/21 winter farm index will be produced following that survey.

The January rank form a league table and show where the results from the January 2021 survey would fit for that species when compared to previous years. E.g. Goldfinches are ranked 1st which means that in January 2021, we saw the highest number of goldfinches out of the previous 21 surveys carried out on the farm.

If there’s an equal sign before the figure, that means there were equal numbers on previous counts which usually happens for some of the less numerous species. E.g. three kestrels were seen in January 2005 and again in 2014.

Farm Index Species

Jan 2001

Jan 2021

January Rank

Kestrel

1

3

=5th 

Grey partridge

0

27

5th

Lapwing

0

0

=4th*

Stock dove

0

7

  6th  

Woodpigeon

217

61

18th 

Skylark

15

21

20th

Jackdaw

0

6

=12th 

Rook

0

1

=17th 

Starling

8

44

6th 

Tree Sparrow

0

0

=4th

Greenfinch

17

1

=17th 

Goldfinch

0

30

1st 

Linnet

0

102

6th

Yellowhammer

1

145

9th

Reed bunting

1

38

8th

Corn bunting

0

0

=5th*

* Lapwing and tree sparrow were only recorded on only three previous January counts, and corn bunting only on four.

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