• April 2008

    April’s here it must mean the start of summer monitoring
    It is always an exciting time looking forward to seeing the results of another breeding season. The research team started the summer monitoring at the start of April.  This consists of recording all birds seen and heard from a minimum of ten whole farm surveys. From these we are then able to assess the number of territories for each species. Activity started…

    • 9 Apr 2008
  • February 2008

    Winter bird monitoring.
    We monitor wintering birds on the whole farm and divide the records into field or boundary categories. The whole farm counts are completed on a monthly basis from October through to February. These counts have shown that birds at Hope Farm are not only flourishing in the breeding season. A look at some individual species reveals some very interesting trends. The mean counts of Yellowhammers rose…

    • 12 Feb 2008
  • November 2007

    Harvest results
    A slow harvest finished at the start of September when the spring beans were finally harvested with results from all crops disappointing. Wheat yields (variety Robigus) were down 17% from last year’s 10.4t/ha to 8.64t/ha. This was in line with the national trend. Spring beans (variety Syncro) averaged 2.56t/ha down from 3.1t/ha last year. There were large variations between the fields. At one end of the…

    • 26 Nov 2007
  • August 2007

    It has been a frustrating couple of weeks with heavy showers hindering the start of the wheat harvest. The oilseed rape was harvested three weeks ago. Unfortunately, the seed had a high moisture content resulting in additional drying costs. Yields were approximately 2.5t/ha. Post harvest cultivations started immediately after the oilseed rape harvest in preparation for the sowing of the wheat in September. We expect…

    • 20 Aug 2007
  • May 2007

    Summer 2007
    The weather over the past few months has continued to be extremely changeable with very dry periods in mid April dispersed with wet periods in March and May.The wheat crop advanced quickly during early spring and if the weather improves it looks as though we will have a very early harvest. Brown rust has been a particular problem within the crop. This is a concern considering that the variety we grow (Robigus…

    • 4 Jun 2007
  • March 2007


    Following several weeks of unsettled weather, including several inches of snow, we are currently waiting for the ground to dry up enough for us to plough in the spring beans and apply the first nitrogen to the oilseed rape.

    The crops overall are looking good, if slightly too advanced. The one exception is a few areas of the oilseed rape that were severely damaged by slugs in the early autumn. The contractor sprayed…

    • 1 Mar 2007
  • Record year for breeding birds

    The calculation of the Hope Farm farmland bird index, based on the 19 species that comprise the Government's quality of life farmland bird indicator, shows our populations have increased by 63% in just seven years since purchasing the farm.

    The species that contribute to the farmland bird index are the corn bunting, goldfinch, greenfinch, grey partridge, jackdaw, kestrel, lapwing, linnet, reed bunting, rook, skylark…

    • 23 Dec 2006
  • Bird monitoring

    With the breeding season monitoring finally completed at the end of June we have now turned our attention to analysing the results.

    Our biggest highlights of the year have to be the confirmed breeding of lapwings and grey partridges.

    Two large lapwing chicks were seen running around our two-year set-aside field for most of June before departing whilst a covey of grey partridge chicks were seen on one of the margins of…

    • 30 Sep 2006
  • Lapwings arrive on the farm

    Breeding bird monitoring started in April and we have now completed the first five Common Bird Census surveys on Hope Farm. The highlight so far has to be the appearance of two pairs of lapwings, which have been displaying over our largest field planted with spring beans. We are currently keeping a close eye for any signs of breeding.

    Early indications suggest that the number of territories of skylarks and yellowhammers…

    • 30 Jun 2006
  • Clean water... more birds?

    Despite the driest January on record, we have been busy creating our new wet features at the farm. Created by broadening and constructing bunds in some of our watercourses and ditches, we aim not only to improve the feeding opportunities for a range of key farmland birds like yellow wagtails and reed buntings but also assess their value in tackling issues of diffuse pollution.

    Nitrates and phosphates added to fields in…

    • 31 Mar 2006
  • Wildbird cover on trial

    Wildbird cover (also known as wildlife seed mixtures) is recognised as a valuable habitat for wintering seed-eating birds. The availability of this habitat through the new Environmental Stewardship Scheme is expected to increase the area of this habitat in future.

    However, as with many agri-environment prescriptions, we should never stop trying to improve their environmental delivery whilst devising new ideas. 

    For this…

    • 22 Dec 2005
  • Bird numbers hit new peak

    As the breeding season of 2005 draws to a close, our monitoring has shown that it has been another great year for breeding birds at Hope Farm. 

    Measured using the Farmland Bird Index, a nationally recognised measure of breeding bird trends on farmland, our populations have increased by a massive 56% in just the six years since purchasing the farm. 

    This is of course against a backdrop of national populations having shown…

    • 30 Sep 2005
  • How big is YOUR drill?

    With the new Entry Level Scheme now available, the size of your drill could be all important to helping the scheme make a real contribution to the economic and environmental bottom line. 

    Skylarks nest and feed on the ground, in large open fields. The new skylark plots - undrilled patches devised at the farm over the last five years - make a huge difference to this bird. Allowing the birds to breed for longer and to breed…

    • 31 Jul 2005
  • Crops on the up

    As spring has arrived bringing the warmer weather with occasional rain, our wheat and oilseed rape crops have been growing rapidly across the farm. From the very sparse oilseed rape crops in March we now have a thick flowering crop in many of our fields as each plant has grown and branched out.

    Similarly, our wheat is responding to the excellent growing conditions. It won't be long until it reaches the critical 50 cm…

    • 31 May 2005
  • Making the most of new schemes

    Early March saw the launch of the new Environmental Stewardship Schemes, which includes many options which the RSPB has designed and/or promoted for some time. 

    The last few months has been spent preparing the farm to meet the requirements of the scheme and provide the three vital ingredients which farmland birds need to thrive - safe nest sites, supplies of insect food in the breeding season and a plentiful supply of…

    • 31 Mar 2005
  • January 2005

    Set-aside delivery

    Within the three-week period following the advisory group meeting, the majority of the wheat from the volunteers was consumed by a mixed flock of woodpigeons, crows and rooks with peak counts of 2,500 woodpigeons, 300 rooks and 100 crows. Despite this, skylark counts remain high with 121 present on 11 Jan.

    Numbers of yellowhammers and reed buntings, using the set aside field, are lower than in November…

    • 31 Jan 2005
  • Our farmland birds on the rise

    We have very carefully counted the number of birds breeding at Hope Farm over the last four years. We are delighted to have seen a steady rise in the birds of the arable farmland including skylarks, linnets, yellowhammers and reed buntings. These birds are the ones that have undergone such a catastrophic decline in the last 30 years.

    We have also noted a rise in the diversity of bird species making use of Hope Farm in…

    • 30 Apr 2004
  • Autumn 2003

    Crop and estate management

    The lack of rain dominated our thoughts. Less than 20 mm fell between harvest and the end of October. Very little of the oilseed rape that had been sown in late August had emerged by the end of September. Three fields had virtually no germinated seed and we decided to write it off. 

    We were faced with the option of sowing now with winter beans, waiting until the spring and sowing with a spring…

    • 31 Oct 2003
  • Spring/summer 2003

    Crop and estate management

    The dry weather (with cold nights in spring) persisted from February largely without respite through the summer. The result was slow development of the crops, reduced grain-fill but a very early, easy and rapid harvest.

    The dryness favoured the limited spring cultivation that we carried out prior to sowing some new grass margins and the resowing of the wild bird cover crops. It may have been…

    • 30 Jun 2003
  • Late winter 2002

    Crop and estate management

    The crop in the fields that are in their second year of growing wheat in the rotation had fully emerged by the beginning of November, having been sown in early October. Two of these fields had been sown with our trial to create nesting opportunities for skylarks. It was then possible to see where the undrilled patches had been created and note the difference in row width between a conventionally…

    • 28 Dec 2002
  • Autumn 2002

    Crop and estate management

    September is the start of our fourth crop year at the farm. With a three year rotation this means that the position of the different of crops across the fields is now the same as in our first year. Monitoring over the coming crop year will indicate if we have made lasting changes to our local bird populations. It could be that the changes that we have seen recently have been in response to the…

    • 31 Oct 2002
  • Summer 2002

    Crop and estate management

    It has been a go-stop-go harvest across most of southern Britain this year and here was no exception. A hot period in July got our rape harvest off to a flying start and some of our wheat was harvested before the rain came down in August. Then there was a two week gap when one field stood part harvested. The sun finally shone again and the wheat harvest was finished off.

    Our wheat and rape yields…

    • 31 Aug 2002
  • Spring/summer 2002

    Crop and estate management

    With temperatures rising, the soil drying (what a contrast to last year) and the crops beginning to lift off, the first nitrogen applications were made in early March onto the oilseed rape and some of the wheat fields. Nitrogen fertiliser was held back on the lusher wheat fields. This was to thin out some of the tillers that were unlikely to add much to the yield and, by competing with the earlier…

    • 30 Jun 2002
  • Early 2002

    Crop and estate management

    The regular thump of gas bangers is a sign that the wintering flock of woodpigeons has not dispersed yet. There have been over a thousand in the area and it has proved difficult to keep a proportion of them off one part of an oilseed rape field near a house - a gas banger sited here would not have proved popular.

    The remaining fields of rape are looking far healthier than last year when our yields…

    • 28 Feb 2002
  • Late winter 2001

    Crop and estate management

    Crop treatments came to an end in mid-October as crop growth slowed with the coming of winter. The only activity to benefit the crops from now until spring is the use of gas bangers around the oilseed rape to keep the woodpigeons off. Spring will be signalled in early March (given a 'normal' year) when the first of the nitrogen fertilizers will go on.

    The effect of different cultivation…

    • 30 Dec 2001