When our bird expert, Dr Richard K Broughton, came to Honeydale just before Christmas, he noted that the main birdfood/bumblebird plots had been almost exhausted, so the 250 Linnets from the previous month were down to about 25 on the whole farm, most of which were feeding on the mustard, which was almost the only seed still available. The small plot containing some Phacelia was attracting a flock of Goldfinches.
One of the rape/brassica strips had ripened and already been cleaned out and skylarks were still loving the sainfoin stubbles in the north field, with a dozen counted there. But many birds were already looking elsewhere for food, and the hanging feeders were quite busy with Chaffinches and Reed Buntings and a handful of Yellowhammers.
Since the new year, the sown plots have been exhausted and our bird enthusiast, Elliot, has begun the second year of the supplementary winter feeding experiment. We are supplementary feeding with 10kg of seed every day and the birds have stopped visiting the sown seed plots and are now heading directly to the supplementary feeding areas, where food is broadcast on the ground and left in hanging feeders/hoppers.
The aim of the supplementary winter bird feeding project is compare the effectiveness of growing wild bird plant mixtures, compared to regularly distributing extra supplementary bird food. It’s too early to draw conclusions until we have at least three years of results, but we are noting increased numbers of Chaffinches and Linnets and have sighted two barn owls, though Yellowhammer numbers are down for some reason. Richard has been back this week and spotted a visiting green sandpiper on the natural flood management ponds. They came last year too, so it’s great to seem them returning.
Since we’ve been purposefully catering to farmland birds, the tally of species noted on the farm has already risen significantly, from 44 to a 74, and we are hoping to see these numbers continue to increase.