• Hope Farm June 2011


    You can’t be a farmer without talking about the weather. Articles in the farming press this week look at how the crop yields across Britain will fare in this prolonged dry period. At Hope Farm a minor miracle happened in the last week when we had some rain. Admittedly it was just 6 mm but it is better than nothing. This brings our total over the last two months to about 12mm well short of what we would like…

    • 2 Jun 2011
  • Campaign for the Farmed Environment

    The Campaign for the Farmed Environment had its first anniversary in November. The aim of the campaign is to promote voluntary management of farmland to 're-capture' set-aside benefits from a relatively small area of well located and positively managed land. It unites the key industry organisations - NFU, CLA, LEAF, FWAG, AIC, AICC, CAAV and GWCT- who are working in partnership with Defra and its agencies, Natural England…

    • 28 Mar 2011
  • Harvest and bird results for 2010


    Summer – Breeding season

    The 2010 bird analysis was completed a weeks ago and the results have exceeded expectations. Our farmland bird index now stands 201% higher than in 2000 with turtle dove and reed buntings at record numbers. The index is a collective population trend using the same 19 species as the national farmland bird indicator. Find out more about the farmland bird index.

    Reed bunting increases…

    • 25 Nov 2010
  • Summer turning to Autumn

    It's been a while since the last blog post. The summer seems to have been a good one for many birds. In late summer we conducted some early morning bird ringing sessions out on the farm, with some surprising results.

    We were amazed by the number of migrant species that were using the hedgerrows that are on the farm, as places to forage for insects and berries as well as using them as migration corridors through the…

    • 6 Oct 2010
  • 10 years old!

    During the last month, RSPB has been celebrating the first ten years of Hope Farm. In this piece I will reflect on what the RSPB has learnt from the project, highlighting some of the key stories.

    1) Increase in Farmland bird numbers

    Obviously I need to start by looking at the results of our farmland bird surveys. In just 10 years, we have seen a steady rise in numbers of arable farmland birds breeding at Hope Farm with…

    • 20 Jul 2010
  • Rain at last!!

    It’s been a fantastic few weeks with the sun shinning brightly and swallows flying around the orchard. That’s of course unless you are trying to grow crops or sow wild bird cover. We finally had some proper rain at the start of June, which was great for the wheat but less helpful for the visitors. From a crop management perspective the dry weather has pros and cons. One advantage has been low fungal disease level…

    • 3 Jun 2010
  • Starling Success

    All the occupied starling nestboxes on Hope Farm  successfully fledged 50 of the 52 chicks that were ringed and monitored for body condition, a phenomenal success rate considering the cold spring, and the fact we can't remember the last time any meaningful rain has fallen on the farm. Given this success so far it will be interesting to see if any second broods occur as this is quite rare on the farm.

    The cold start…

    • 26 May 2010
  • Monitoring Update/ Starling Nestlings

    A busy month since the last post, lots of birds are  now busy nesting on the farm and at least one brood of Robins have fledged chicks. Next week will see the halfway point of the common bird monitoring on the farm which will eventually allow us to work out population estimates for all species holding territory on the farm.

    Most of the migrants have now returned for the summer and the hedgerows are currently alive with…

    • 6 May 2010
  • Ring Ouzel and other farm sightings

    Weather for bird monitoring was much better this week (once the wind decided to drop), with most resident species now in full song around dawn. Linnets, Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings are all starting to set up territories around the farm with a noticable increase in squabbles between rival males.

    Summer migrants keep appearing with Blackcap, Yellow wagtail and Willow warbler being recorded this week as well as a small…

    • 8 Apr 2010
  • Summer Bird Monitoring Begins

    The 2010 summer bird monitoring began on Hope Farm on 31st March, over the next three months I'll monitor all fields and field boundaries once a week  to determine the number of bird territories that we have on the farm.

    With squally showers and a keen breeze it certainly didn't feel like summer for this weeks surveys. However, despite the cold conditions there is now quite a dawn chorus around the farmhouse 

    • 1 Apr 2010
  • Red Kite and other Farm sightings

    My rather muddy job of washing some of the soil samples I'd collected over the winter (to look at the amount of seed our wild bird cover has produced), was brightened up last week by some great views of a Red Kite drifting north over the farm. After a quick dash to get the "bins" from the office, it was noted that the bird had a white wing tag on the left wing and red or orange tag on the right wing, so undoubtedly…

    • 23 Mar 2010
  • The Next Five Years

    During the first ten years, the RSPB has achieved its core objective for Hope Farm, showing that increasing farmland bird populations could be achieved whilst running a profitable conventional arable farm. In fact, the results have far exceeded expectations. However, it remains clear that sadly this success is not being reflected nationally with the national Farmland Bird Indicator (FBI) best considered stable. There remains…

    • 15 Mar 2010
  • Hope Farm Sightings

    Finally some dry and sunny weather has arrived here in Cambs. Last week saw a few interesting sightings with our Barn Owls being quite evident as the evenin. A Little Owl was also observed on the farm during the day too.

    Around 60 Golden Plover were roosting on site in one of the wheat fields on the eve of 1st March, the same evening also saw 3-4 grey partridges being very vocal.

    Four fly-over Mute Swans were the 59th…

    • 8 Mar 2010
  • Signs of spring on Hope Farm

    Having taken on the research reins at Hope farm during the winter, I've not had chance to update this blog as I'd have liked, from now on I plan to add some sightings info and commentary on the happenings regards research on the farm.

    Whilst out on the farm this morning, was fortunate enough to watch 6 Brown Hares chasing around and indulge in a small bout of fisticuffs. Skylarks have begun to sing in earnest…

    • 25 Feb 2010
  • December 2009

     Record November Count

     A promising start to the winter bird counts with staff recording a record total number of birds for November. This was in part thanks to 230 yellowhammer, 60 linnets and good numbers of chaffinch and greenfinch. This is a marked improvement from the first count I helped with, back in November 2001, where the total yellowhammer numbers struggled to reach 30. A single corn bunting, woodcock and five…

    • 9 Dec 2009
  • The Campaign for the Farmed Environment

    The launch of the Campaign for the Farmed Environment is on 5th November. The aim of the campaign is to promote voluntary management of farmland to 're-capture' set-aside benefits from a relatively small area of well located and positively managed land. It unites the key industry organisations - NFU, CLA, LEAF, FWAG, AIC, AICC, CAAV and GWCT- who are working in partnership with Defra and its agencies, Natural England…

    • 26 Oct 2009
  • Birds numbers hit new high

    The 2009 bird analysis was completed a week ago and the results have exceeded our initial expectations. This year’s figures are incredible with record territory counts of yellowhammer(39), skylark(44), grey partridge(5), whitethroat (48) and starling (19) recorded. The most startling increase though has to be linnet which rose from 18 pairs last year to 33 this. The overall Hope Farm Farmland Bird Index has now risen…
    • 2 Sep 2009
  • August 2009

    Wheat Harvest

    A couple of day's frantic activity is coming to the end. It took all of seven hours for the contractor to harvest the wheat on Monday. With two combines, it is over before you know it. I was beginning to get frustrated waiting for the moisture levels of the grain to reduce but our patience has paid off because we were able to put it straight into the stores without the need to dry. Yields not surprisingly…

    • 19 Aug 2009
  • July 2009

    First Breeding Barn Owls

    A great story to start this post and a first for the farm. We have added barn owls to the list of birds that have breed at the farm. This makes it the third species of owl to breed at the site after Little and Tawny. I took a group out at dusk last week and it was magically to see the adults hunting so effectively across the fields. They are seen regularly, at dawn and dusk, around our field…

    • 4 Aug 2009
  • June 2009

    Our Carbon Footprint

    One of the challenges for farmers over the next few years will be how they adapt their businesses to Climate Change. Farming contributes 8% of the UK's Greenhouse Gas emissions including about 39% of methane emissions (largely produced from animals), about 67% of nitrous oxide emissions (fertiliser) and 1% of carbon dioxide emissions.

    A changing climate presents a number of opportunities and challenges…
    • 1 Jul 2009
  • May 2009


    With the breeding season well under way, 2009 has started positively. The migrants started arriving in the middle of April with early sightings of wheatears, swallows, whitethroats and lesser whitethroats augmenting the regular skylark, yellowhammer and linnet songs. The early nesting birds such as song thrush and starling are now feeding their young.

    We have 18 boxes of starling chicks this year, and from the office…

    • 19 May 2009
  • February 2009


    The beautiful snowy weather at the start of February has now thawed leaving the fields extremely wet and muddy. Undoubtedly this will delay our farming operations this spring and it will require several weeks of dry weather before we are able to sow our spring beans. We have managed to complete the planned hedge cutting during February. We aim to cut our hedges predominately on a three-year rotation to provide…

    • 21 Feb 2009
  • December 2008

    Wheat yields reach new highs

    As we head into Christmas, it is time to reflect on a busy end of the year. Harvest, which now seems along time ago, went relatively smoothly.  The wheat and spring beans were harvested on the 31st August with better than expected results. Our winter wheat averaged 11.6t/ha the RSPB’s best ever and 36% higher than last year. Yields for the spring beans were a respectable 3.4t/ha whilst the oilseed…

    • 15 Dec 2008
  • August 2008

    Harvest starts

    It has a busy time over the last few weeks. Harvesting started on 28/7/08 with oilseed rape obliterated within a four hour period by the contractor’s two new combines. Yields, estimated from the combines, show that the broadcast rape outperformed the minimum tilled rape however because of heavy wood pigeon damage neither are particularly impressive. Light cultivations started the following day on the fields…

    • 14 Aug 2008
  • May

    The migrants are back. After a slow start, due to cold weather, numbers of whitethroat, yellow wagtail and swallow recorded are now close to last year’s numbers. Highlights so far are the two lapwing displaying and six yellow wagtails on one of our spring bean fields.
    Twelve of the fifteen occupied starling boxes have now hatched and the adults are now frantically hunting for leatherjackets and grubs in our…

    • 8 May 2008