Finding farmland birds
Britain’s farmlands goes hand in hand with some of our most beautiful and melodic indigenous birds. However, changes in traditional farming techniques and habitat loss has meant our feathered friends have been in rapid decline in many places.
Skylark populations have more than halved since the 1980s and Linnets and Corn Buntings have unfortunately found a place on the red list of endangered birds.
Bucking this downward trend is Sherborne Park Estate, which has shown how sustainable farming can help welcome these traditional birds back to our farmland.
Sherborne Park is working hard to preserve the birdsong in its fields and parkland. Where traditional sustainable farming techniques work to improve soil quality it has been seen to improve key habitats in which native species can thrive.
Parts of the Estate have been dedicated to create habitats in which the birds can safely nest, feed and breed. As a result, endangered species, such as the Corn Bunting, Skylark and Lapwing are beginning to make a comeback.
What to look out for:
This songful bird can often be seen perched upon a hedgerow, singing its joyful melodies. Its bright yellow head and underbody makes it stand out from the crowd and will surely brighten up any countryside walk.
Sadly, in the UK the Yellowhammer has seen a 50% decline in the past 25 years and it’s now red listed on the RSPB list of endangered birds. This is largely due to dwindling food supplies and the mismanagement of their habitat - hedgerows. However, by maintaining hedgerows, ditches and margins for nesting and ensuring a supply of seeds and insects, this fine sight of summer can be seen at Sherborne Estate.
This stout, dumpy bird is often found perched on a hedge, post or wire and has characteristic dangling legs as it flies. Look out for them on the Estate’s designated ‘songbird’ posts.
Unfortunately, the changes in farming landscapes and the lack of insects and seeds for them to eat across the UK has meant numbers are diminishing.
They love open farmland in the summer months, but find refuge in winter by snuggling up in stubbles, weedy fields and cattle yards. As ground-nesting birds, they rely on grass cover. On the Estate, designated grassy margins, which also provide food in the form of spiders and insects, have encouraged the Corn Buntings back.
Prepare to be serenaded by the Skylark’s beautiful song. You’ll likely catch this discreet bird whilst it chimes as it flies.
Intensive grassland farming and the use of pesticides has caused their drastic decline, as they don’t have enough food to survive. Farmers are making space for nature - leaving unplanted patches for Skylarks to land and nest, allows protection for this vulnerable species. As a result, Skylarks have been filling the skies once more with their sweet music.
The strong numbers of farmland birds are good indicators of the general environmental health on Sherborne Park, as it shows the bird’s needs of insects in summer, seeds in winter and a safe area to nest are being met. By sensitively farming the land and preserving Britain's rich tapestry of traditional landscapes, these winged wonders are once again beginning to grace both land and sky with their presence.
" Many of our farmland birds are in crisis, and the government needs to come good on its recent promises for the environment in order to turn the tide. Populations have declined by more than 50% since 1970, while pressures from climate change, pollution and a lack of suitable habitats continue to take their toll."