Birds

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 window, I can see that the parents are being kept extremely busy bringing earthworms and leatherjackets. This dry period has been challenging for this ground probing species with the birds travelling further to find food. We have individually colour ringed 48 chicks, which we will monitor very closely over the next few weeks.

Hope Farm Regular Donor Open Days

We had a busy weekend hosting 170 of our regular donors. It is encouraging to see how enthusiastic they are about the project. I firmly believe that the Hope Farm project continues to produce some amazing results, strengthening the RSPB’s ability to demonstrate that commercial farming can go hand in hand with increasing farmland bird numbers.

The members who visited were shown some of the areas we manage to provide the 'Big three' – a safe nesting site, and plentiful supplies of insects and seed feed. These habitats include skylark plots, pollen and nectar mixtures, wild bird cover and grass margins. In addition, they examined some of the latest research for species such as yellow wagtails and starlings, and learnt about techniques for improving the way we manage grass margins and our water features. Find out how you can become a regular donor.

Crops 

We are desperate for rain. In East Anglia, we had under half the average rainfall in April and the start of May there has been no improvement. The spring beans, which were planted at the end of March, have struggled in this dry spell and there are incredibly large cracks appearing in the fields.

On a more positive note, the oilseed rape, which has been in full flower for the last few weeks, looks to be the best crop we have grown for years. Broadcasting the crop, this year has paid dividends, as most of the drilled crops in the locality looked poor this autumn. The wheat will receive a second fungicide later this week primarily to control the yellow rust within the crop.

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