At Hope Farm we count birds in every month of the year.  The breeding numbers are key, but the winter figures are interesting and tell us something about the feeding conditions for those hardy species that stay with us through the winter.

A few days ago the December count was done at Hope Farm by a gang of counters.

In December 2000, soon after we acquired Hope Farm, the count, of 22 species, and including wood pigeons, was of 203 birds.

This week, there were 2075 birds of 44 species - quite an increase.  Even if you exclude wood pigeons (c600), pheasants and rooks (c150) there were over 1400 birds on the farmland.  That's actually a 10-fold increase in a 10-year period.

Species of note include 199 yellowhammer, 172 skylark, 61 linnet,  27 bullfinch, 137 redwing, 37 grey partridge, 1 corn bunting, jack snipe and waxwing.

Bullfinch and grey partridge counts are a record for any winter count.

Jack snipe and waxwing (grrrr!) are new species for the farm.

Hope not Hype!

  • Thank you very much Mark       number 2 yes my point perhaps meant that farmers could do it on the scheme but lets not forget that not all general public wildlife friendly so not all farmers are going to be even though it looks as if they get lots of money unfortunately it is not enough to cover all the cost of paperwork and especially the disruption of having a beetle bank in the middle of a field with all the disruption to implements.Number 5     Sounds as if i am being critical i think but not the case,i think your partner gets in my opinion a better deal than is usual between landowner and share partner which is what i would expect for what you desribe a slightly awkward diversion.Neither of these comments meant in a critical sense just found it extremely interesting that you at Hope Farm cope with what is mostly called intensive farming and proved to get extremely good increases in lots of birds because this is the only way to do it,farmers are not going to take lots of backward steps losing money in the process and making more work for themselves.The difficult part is getting your results known in the right place.      

  • 1) no

    2) except most farmers are not doing beetle banks or nectar-rich margins although these are options in the schemes.  That's part of the problem as I have pointed out in this blog many times.  And it isn't a criticism of farmers - but it is a criticism of the schemes.  Let's hope that defra changes things quickly.

    3) yes, that's right

    4) yes, if we want to do anything that is outside of the normal then our contract farmer gets paid for doing them

    5) not sure I understand the question, but basically our contract farmer probably sees us as being an interesting but slightly awkward diversion from the rest of his business!  But I'm guessing.

  • Think your last comment needs more answers as it raises many questions 1)have you now any fields of set aside 2)the small areas of beetle banks and margins are exactly which schemes are getting all farmers into 3)the majority of the farm is managed intensively with your partner who obviously needs to get good yields for his income and obviosly having a partner means he has a significant input 4)do you if you want any special things done on the farm compensate him in any way shape or form 5)do you agree that perhaps the reason he seems to get a particularly good deal financialy is to farm as the RSPB would like him to.Look forward to the answers.  

  • bordercollie - I don't think that we ever did anything specifically for bullfinches but I would guess that the rows might (I only say might) be a factor in attracting them.  Or - it might be a fluke!

    mirlo - well that's a fair point.  Our use of set-aside would count as de-intensification because the previous owner used the set-aside land to grow industrial oilseed rape (as was allowed).  So we introduced set-aside as set-aside and that made quite a difference in the early years.  Then use of agri-environment schemes with nectar-rich margins and beetle banks is taking a very small area of land out of intensive production too.  And we have monitored some invertebrates - but I'm not quite sure exactly which and how often - I'll find out and see whether there is a blog in that subject.  Certainly we've looked at butterfly numbers.

  • Mark

    I am interested to know if the farmland at Hope Farm has been de- intensified somewhat to achieve this increase in bird numbers and species. I would also like to know if you have been monitoring invertebrates over the 10 years as this would be a brilliant way to show whether biodiversity of birds is strongly linked to invertebrate biodiversity and abundance